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Medal Winner 2002
SOM Foundation UK Award
Serjeant Award for Excellence in Drawing

Auction House on the South Bank....

Part 1 Project 2002
Tom Holberton
Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL) | UK
The project explores the notion of a façade as a projected ‘drawing’.

An auction-house operates in a territory where art seeks universal appeal and exclusivity at the same time. The façade of such a building can become a critical object in negotiating between these divided loyalties; public and private realms; concepts of display and concealment.

At the South Bank, open and public spaces interweave with the valuable office space. This project looks to investigate possible new relationships between an external public audience and a private interior world whereby the façade will be a changing drawing that can be both wholly public and private. It must communicate on several levels, displaying to several audiences, and revealing and concealing its contents. It can betray an internal and private structure, perform an intentional display or articulate the building's surveillance of the area.

Light is a medium that can describe the façade and in considering its various attributes, polarisation appeared to be a promising source of investigation. The plane of polarisation cannot be detected by the human eye and so this could form the basis for some silent mode of communication.

The site is divided into two parts located on the north and south banks, where a traditional relationship of display and view can be resurrected between abandoned railway bridge footings. By separating components of the auction-house – the private dialogue between the two parts can be glimpsed and influenced by a curious public.

Tom Holberton

During the last year Tom was concerned with issues related to light, a consistent subject of research in our unit for the past three years. Tom handled light not only as a medium of transparency and truth but mostly as an interface, an instrument to measure and reflect the complexity of contemporary urban phenomena.

Tom’s technical investigation on innovative applications of polarised light in architecture is the backbone of his spatial explorations. His proposal for an auction house consists of a building in two halves, separated by the river Thames. The structure is sited on the banks on either side of the old Blackfriars bridge, establishing an immaterial connection between north and south London. On the south bank next to the new Tate is the exhibition hall with storage, authentication and display facilities. Exposed to the city and the general public this is a new public space, a spectacular interactive building constantly communicating with its surroundings. The large façade reveals or conceals images through a sophisticated manipulation of both direct and reflected light. On the north bank the structure houses a restaurant, the exclusive and secluded space where potential buyers make their offers; their identity and bids remaining secret.

By introducing notions of noise, participation and accident, Tom’s project brings to the surface key questions: the relationship between public and private spaces and the role that architecture can play as mediatic experience, bridging the gap between the tangible and material and the invisible and extraordinary.

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