Born in Chertsey, Surrey in 1996, I have lived in and around this area before moving up to Newcastle Upon Tyne to commence with my Undegraduate Architectural Education at Newcastle University. Following an interrogative few years investigating the unconscious, phenomenological architecture and painterly techniques, I returned to London to work in the predominantly residential practice BPTW, based in Greenwich. Whilst honing my digital skills, I took a particular interest in the concepts of placemaking and community engagement. During my first year at the RCA, I explored the seemingly opposite archetypes of the cave and the tent in ADS1. This culminated in the 'Urban Cave', an ecologically, socially and culturally driven project aiming to popularise the use of locally sourced materials such as rammed earth in high-rise residential blocks. My Masters dissertation explored the concept of dwelling within the edge condition, exploring the chasm in human-nature relations. My extra-curricular interests include painting and sketching- with a particular passion for watercolours and oil paints- reading and long rambles in the outdoors. These, along with my clarified interest in climate-literate, ecological design, culminated in my final project 'The Choreography of Decay' which both celebrates and critically questions the urban-nature duality in a pedagogical arboretum.
To wander from London to the New Forest would take 31 hours. And well spent in order to see something curious happening in this ancient forest; a decline of its own identity. One built on diversity, self-sufficiency and deep time. So this is a project about the sampling of declining natures in the end-of-times; about salvaging them as a memorialisation project; about the active propagation of nature in the face of passive consumption; about the question of observation and ownership; and the total de-institutionalisation of natural phenomena itself. And, at the centre of this, are the complex choreographies of decay- defined by time and motion- and the project understands this as a cultural media dilemma and one that architecture can frame. Taking the New Forest as a sample, this activist research positions itself in the often violent duality of conservation vs ritualistic capitalism. So, far from championing the forest as an ornament, it explores the histories, interactions and individualities that characterise deep ecology, whether romanticised or disturbing. The subsequent architecture, neighbouring Waterloo Station, is a pedagogical space to research the processes and materiality of decay, whilst providing a radical type of rotting propagation forum. In this, it is a critique of the current conservation and mummification practices. The current climate has only heightened the demand for environmental connection, with a severe lack of urban-biodiversity. However my work poses the questions: can nature be present in the city without it being contrived? And can decaying nature repossess some ownership of the city? To the former, perhaps not. It acknowledges and even enhances the uncanniness of nature—the wonder of the vast complexity and diversity within a natural system. Through an investigative sampling of the New Forest, can an archive of the forest’s decaying individualities, both natural and unnatural, be achieved without the violent extraction of ritualistic capitalism?
To gain a vantage point, the architecture will be confined by the geometries and structures of balance, both physically and environmentally. The project is located on a precarious edge in the human-nature chasm. Therefore the architecture is not within the forest, but defines and cultivates this condition within its form, located within an urban hub such as London. The National Parks official website promotes a direct 90 minute journey from Waterloo, and therefore the site is adjacent to this. Ideal for a symbiotic architecture, a dramatic injection of life to the nature starved city dweller, the design enhances the existing colourful, and perhaps seemingly ‘unwanted’, cultures and marries them with the flora. Within the new Forest, ancient eco-systems are now jeopardised as the climate crisis is changing its natural composition. Therefore, a vital deforestation is planned to regulate this decay, and my architecture proposes a depository of these unwanted natures; a pedagogical arboretum for the species of conifer to live out their death.
By carefully scanning these species, the spaces technically and conceptually emulate their ecological conditions in order to facilitate growth and decay. The process of hand-drawing and precisely measured natures has been vital to my own looking. These drawings both translate the models into an architectural language, with the ability to scale up and down, whilst also appreciating the hyper-specificity of the branch. Then a unique tailoring can take place. And this tailoring, as in their natural habitats, take place in a series of niches. I identified a series of specific conditions under which each species thrives and decays. Considering light, shelter, temperature, mycelial relations and humidity, each niche is obsessed by its symbiotic species. Having extracted a set of geometries from the detritus, the subsequent forms playfully interact with their natural inhabitants enabling both research and recreation.
Medium:Pencil Hand Drawing and AutoCAD Technical Drawing
The majority of the site is given to a ‘propagation forum’, a kind of rotting garden. This is formed of the temporal niches, along with a Kiva to the centre of the site, acting as a unifying space which transcends age and programme.
The forest itself can be read through its existing observers: ancient trees and through curious human interventions, predominantly for conservation purposes. However, the implementation of such preservation structures raises questions. These ideas are a construct; much of the landscape was created by and now maintained by us. Urban conservationist institutions aim to archive a range of historical, natural specimens, with often imperialist architecture actualising this order and rationalisation, shoehorning the organic. Yet for what purpose are we storing these artefacts if not for their accuracy? So these propagation spaces are an institutional critique of how nature is handled in these premises.
Medium:Acrylic Paint on Canvas, Adobe Photoshop based on Computer Modelling
The architecture's form is and will be manipulated by the species and inhabitants, showing physical traces and fragments of these interactions. The forum is divided to serve the five species indicated earlier, and their position and form helps to serve their unique ecological niches. The park is under the care of the users and in this any passerby becomes a ‘researcher’, with watering stations and pastoral care, whilst longer term residencies enables mycelial scientists and nature enthusiasts alike.
Medium:Pencil Hand Drawing, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Pro
The subsequent plan is a play between permanence and temporality. The main pedagogical spaces are located to the northern tip, directly within the wider public realm so there can be a permeability between the two. This more rational form houses the research and exploration space. Rather than a series of sterile labs, it takes into account surroundings and human impact.
The activist architecture allows nature to repossess ownership over the space, altering it as they grow, decay, and are replaced by new species. Under the effects of time, the surrounding spaces such as Waterloo Station and the Southbank will be disrupted; their carefully orchestrated facade of gentrification disregarded in favour of palpable life.
Medium:AutoCAD Technical Drawing, Rhino 7 base model, Adobe Photoshop
Size:A3 and A2
The levels are blurred, creating experiential spaces of narrative as passers through wander from above, to below ground, over butts and earthworks. The direct connection between the site and the station occurs underground, forming a dramatic intersection between the urban and natural networks, housing a mycelial store.
It became clear that the head architects of decay within the forest are the fungi, which regulate the ancient forest. Ectomycorrhizal organisms such as the Amethyst Deceiver make symbiotic relationships with nearly all of their surrounding trees. Therefore a woodland can be read by these agents and the ecological niches in which they reside. These are obsessed with decay, such as the White Dapperling saprotrophic funghi, which breaks down and absorbs dead tissue, becoming a network and store of the dirty underbelly of the forest. This Mycelial Network is a vast sentient single-celled membrane, constantly in motion. Mycelial research is expanding into a possible solution to the climate crisis among other man-made issues, and so fungal research is a key player in the architecture.
Medium:Acrylic Paint on Canvas, Adobe Photoshop and Rhino 7 based model
Size:20x30 cm x2
The materiality is a vital component in both the forest and its architectural counterpart. Relics of change are scattered throughout the ancient forest, through the aforementioned natural systems and, with human occupation evident through shards of the Roman-Anglo Amphorae pottery. The 'garden' utilises locally sourced clay and metal, with adobe brick walls, plastered with lime and clay, dedicated solely to the natures, whereas the metal mesh serves the researchers and users. These materials meet at the point of relation, and the mesh can host a number of objects, becoming a dynamic working wall. Such as tiles to provide privacy, or tools for propagation.
This series of models explores ideas of balance, support, suspension and storage of decaying detritus, looking at the propagation and fostering of life through architectural form. Rather than putting the perceived perfection of nature on a pedestal, these structures are hosts; considered worlds unto themselves - non-classifiable and teeming with life.
Medium:Physical Models using Clay, Metal Wire and Natural Species
The scheme is a hybrid space, marrying science, culture and nature, with a monolithic brick research xylarium serving and bookending the ‘garden’ and nodding to the traditional entrance to Waterloo. Alongside this, it will act as a filter from the station out towards the rest of London, creating a public arboretum. It is a political critique on the certitude of death and the life in decay.
In the spirit of ‘anti-preservation’ the transient space is a momento mori, incomplete and filthy; a death-support system. The vitally deforested conifers are located directly within and next to the xylarium, offering a canopy like experience, with views out towards London, and walkways and glimpses between the public and private spaces.