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The River Severn Eelery & Smokery // From Profligacy To Decency

Part 1 Project 2013
Charles Proctor
University of Bath, UK
Profligacy, a recklessly extravagant or wasteful conduct in the use of resources.

This word not only epitomises humankind’s relationship to nature and the planet, but more specifically towards eels themselves, the subject of this project. The eel then stands as a symbol of our collective separation from life’s innate cycles. A position that not only endangers life itself but fundamentally diminishes our very humanity.

Gloucester is fortuitously located along the 5000 km migratory path of the illusive and mysterious freshwater eel. Each year its occupants celebrate the eels’ arrival at springtime with festivities and lucrative sales to Japan. Their future however is in question; stocks have depleted to 5% of what they were and the species is now deemed critically endangered. Do we ignore the potential threat of extinction as either irrelevant or an inevitable consequence of evolution or rather should we interrogate our interaction with nature, asserting a renewed stewardship of eels, to halt their demise and restore the cultural, metaphysical and economic nourishment to sustain the city?

The project endeavours to address this dilemma by facilitating the understanding of eels through both research and importantly - experience. The building’s programme intertwines the threefold journey of visitor, nurturer and eel around the aqua-cultural processes, ultimately concluding in a smokery and eatery. The witnessing of this overtly visceral sequence is deliberately intended to provoke an ethical judgment on the process itself.

The building’s form echoes the curvaceous shapes of eel traps used at the mouth of the Severn and the long roofed sluices on the wetlands of Salisbury. A structural veil creates the entrance and covers a sluice thereby creating an interplay between the domain of human and eel, light and dark, terrestrial and aquatic. At a technical level the building creates its own symbiotic relationship with the river, harnessing its flow to drive water through the sluice and once utilised, providing further nourishment to the wetlands surrounding it.

The proposal fundamentally seeks to change our perceptions of nature through character of the eel, re-evaluating the tension of city and wilderness, the overall theme of the studio brief.

Charles Proctor

Mr Martin Gledhill
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