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Convergence and Spectacle: National Fairground Archive in Ilkeston

Part 1 Project 2011
Jessica Haigh
University of Sheffield, UK
The project explores the notion of the fair as a collection of converging individual elements – showmen, rides, stalls – which arrange themselves in response to specific site conditions and to one another to create a coherent form. In parallel with the fair, the archive exists as a collection of ephemera – newspapers, diaries, fliers, film – which, originating from different points in time and space, converges on a single place to be sorted and organised.

As with the both the fair and the archive collection, the main programmatic elements which make up the Fairground Archive – archive storage of varying accessibility and public and staff facilities – are conceived as self-contained entities which converge and arrange themselves in response to the site. The Archive, in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, occupies a redundant yard at the end of an alleyway which leads from the market place, the centre of the annual fair. The Archive, like the fair, fits its individual elements within the tight backland site and is organised in layers to a hierarchy of levels of public accessibility.

The separate elements that make up the Archive reveal themselves in the form of independent two-storey corten steel blocks, united by top-glazed circulation and exhibition space. As separate pre-fabricated elements, the arrival of the corten blocks and the construction of the Archive becomes, like the arrival of the fair, a spectacle in itself. For the user, moving through the Fairground Archive is resonant of experiencing the fair, moving between events and being immersed within the building. This is particularly apparent when the fair is in residence, as the Archive acts as an extension of the fair, leading out from its centre.

The scale of the Archive building, broken down by the separate blocks which form it, resonates with the scale and roofscape of the context of the backland site. The arrangement responds strongly both to the confined site at ground level, like the fair, and to the overlooking buildings, through the height and angled roof of each block. In addition, the corten steel mediates between the materiality of the rides, and the surrounding textural red brick.

Jessica Haigh


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