The other day I mentioned that an exhibition called the British Exploratory Land Archive—a collaboration between myself and Mark Smout & Laura Allen of Smout Allen—had opened up at the Architectural Association in London, but I had virtually no photographs of the objects in the final installation or of the party the opening night.
Well, I now have dozens! I have hundreds. And I'm stoked about this thing. I might have missed the opening party, stuck over here in New York while everyone else got free drinks, but I'm out of my mind looking at these photographs! I can't believe how well it all turned out.
We literally built these models with a race car company!
We had weird environmental-sensing instruments.
We had elaborate architectural models displayed beneath perspex, showing devices the scale of cliffs silt-printing instant islands into existence.
We had 3D-printed laser scan casts of Nottingham caves.
We had an entire table-sized electrical device modeling a semi-subterranean flywheel battery, an assemblage of spinning machines that would be used for storing excess power generated by the London Array. It is entirely speculative, and it was fabricated for us by fantastic, almost unbelievably detailed printheads at Williams—
—whose advanced flywheel technology, normally saved for F1 racecars (!), served not only as technical models for us (in the process, inspiring this part of the project), but that popped up in the actual proposal.
We repurposed the idea of the flywheel by imagining it operating at the scale of a landscape, something mechanized and semi-invisible, spinning away in the marshes of the Isle of Sheppey. It would store power generated by the massive offshore turbines of the London Array, and thus act as an emergency source of light and electricity in a time of darkness.
You could think of it as a landscape-scale energy storage mechanism for greater London—perhaps for the entire U.K.—brought to you by the technology that powers race cars.
Even better, however, Williams—incredibly and possibly unprecedentedly—gave us access to their amazing fabrication facility, even manufacturing for us the project's tiny, precision-engineered, absolutely immaculate little machine-parts, like high-tech model landscapes sculpted by the nano-gram. I don't know if this has ever happened before—a race car company building architectural parts for models in a London exhibition—but, either way, I'm thrilled to be a part of it. Their work was incredible.
This part of the show—this half-underground flywheel battery for Sheppey—is also laid out like a foosball table from 2125 A.D.
And the parts themselves, printed from alumide—a mix of nylon and aluminum powder—are like mechanical snowflakes, emerging from the printer in drifts.
These were then sorted—
—cleaned up, and matched with other, colored bits.
This is in sharp contrast to their frantic, inadvertently Lebbeus Woods-like earlier state, when they were still wired together and unpolished, fresh from the fabricator.
In any case, the assemblage of various projects was all photographed by Stonehouse Photographic, who not only was on hand for the opening soirée but who also produced the massive photos you can see leaning against the wall in these images, including the huge and amazing, seemingly 3D glimpse of a sand mine beneath the streets of Nottingham. It's printed at something like 10' x 16', and could very well pass for an actual physical space you can walk into.
We—and I say "we," but it was actually Mark & Laura of Smout Allen who produced the models on exhibit, working tirelessly and impressively with a small army of assistants, including several former students from the Bartlett School of Architecture—but "we," whatever that means, considering my being stuck here in New York City, also had an opportunity to collaborate with ScanLAB Projects.
ScanLAB used spatial data generously donated by the Nottingham Caves Survey to 3D-print an accurate and frankly somewhat intestinal model of a Nottingham sand mine, an involuted compound knot of excavated spaces beneath the city here realized as a physical space.
You can see it in the images here, like something out of a Ridley Scott film, a weird, white tube of pure excavation reproduced in 3D form, like an alien worm. People looked at, read the caption, looked at it again, leaned in, and... didn't quite know what else to do apparently, sipping their free beers and staring in somewhat confused awe at this bizarre disemboweling of the earth.
There is also a "capture blanket" for decontaminating industrial sites, a strange, hulking black cloud of fabric seen hovering over one dark corner of the exhibition space—
—and there are tables full of models, featuring landscapes and buildings yet unrealized, proposed tidal mechanisms for British rivers and other intermediary devices doing architectural things at all sorts of scales, because why not? You have to see it to believe it.
More information is available in an earlier post about the project, so I thought I would really just offer some eye candy here for anyone who might be interested in visiting.
Maybe that's nobody, of course, but here are the photos. Enjoy. There are models, machines, and extreme 3D printing—and even a cameo, in the end, by Sir Peter Cook of Archigram.
The exhibition is open until December 14 at the Architectural Association, in case you're in London and feel like stopping by.