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Interior Matter

Weronika Walasz

From the beginning of my architectural education, an important part of my design approach has been processuality and multi-sensory experience of space. I always imagine architecture in a movement as a sequence of spaces perceived and experienced by its visitors. I have kept in mind that a building not only exists as an isolated monument, but also to develop an active relationship with people. In my practice, I tend to focus on the sensory, poetic and narrative aspects of space.

Prior to my time at RCA, I studied Architecture at Wroclaw University of Science and Technology, where I graduated with a thesis project titled “Hi-Fi: Sound Spaces”. The project is a criticism of soundscapes in contemporary cities and proposes a variety of acoustic spaces as a way to rediscover the potential of hearing.

Studying MA Interior Design at RCA gave me an opportunity to explore the human side of space. Interior Matter Platform, especially the theme ’Material and Performance’, developed my understanding of the relationship between human behaviours and man-made environments, whilst focusing on the important role of materials in design.

Degree Details

School of Architecture

Interior Matter

The project - placed on the process of time, decay, collapse, death and life - explores the relationship between humans and everyday materials. The research focuses on physical experimentation to investigate material properties, lifespan, and decomposing qualities.

The exploration started from a fascination with aging materials and their forms of deterioration. The main focus of the early research comes from both criticism of the common desire for novelty in design and an appreciation towards changing, growing, decaying and deteriorating materials. The project is focussed on materials that are durable yet impermanent, those that evolve to provide memorisation and the capacity for storytelling.

The design proposal located in Grain Fort Battery derives from the material investigation. The material usage focus on building a continuation between new and former residents. It allows for creating marks, signs, traces, and bruises. The new infrastructure merges episodes of temporary inhabitation creating a growing collective memory, gathering layers of inhabitation, overlapping events and stories. The proposed structure creates a sensation of existing in two realities: present existence in the retreat and Gilles Deleuze’s idea of virtual reality coming from conscious or subconscious acts of encoding the past. The space acts as a storage medium providing abstract evidence of the past which comes alive with every individual finding sense and meaning to it by understanding, imagining, and enriching the past.

Documentation of destruction processes

The research started from a fascination with aging materials and their forms of deterioration. The main focus of the early research comes from both criticism of the common desire for novelty in design and an appreciation towards changing, growing, decaying and deteriorating materials.


Ephemerality scale

The Ephemerality Scale is a methodological graph allowing for a translation of the abstract concept of impermanence and ephemerality into measurable values. The graph focuses on the comparison between the lifespan of materials and the time needed for basic physiological processes to occur. This creates a familiar reference point to analyse the lifespan of materials.


Woodblock
Woodblock
Documentation of destruction processes

Materials can reveal both the environmental condition of which they occupied and a history of human inhabitation. This is evidenced with how materials succumb to natural forces such as erosion as well as being subjected to intense human usage.

The woodblock found in Durdle Door, on the beach of the southern coast of England, is a perfect example of the dialogue between the human and the natural. The distinctly square shape of the perfectly crafted wood cube became deformed over time. Autumn growth rings were washed out by the strong sea waves. The splits and cracks appeared radially as the wood shrank and dried whilst being exposed to the sun. The nail stuck in the piece corroded as it was impacted by the seawater, leaving marks of rust on the wooden piece. The signs of destruction on the surface come from an interaction of people with the woodblock.

The woodblock illustrates a unique ability of materials to store information and record the past. In this case, the potentially undesirable process of deterioration can reveal interesting and intriguing stories of both the natural world and human civilisation.

The project is focussed on materials that are durable yet impermanent, those that evolve to provide memorisation and the capacity for storytelling.

Grain Tower Battery: location and details
Grain Tower Battery: location and details

The Grain Tower Battery is located in significantly unstable scenery, sitting in the middle of cascading waves and the changing tides of the North Sea. The building is an interesting case of military architecture that is succumbing to destructive processes after years of natural exposure. Decommissioned in 1956, the building is in the process of slow decay and entropy, proving the fragility of even durable materials. Harsh marine conditions as well as seawater accelerates the process of ageing and decay.

The building became a vehicle to test ideas of memorisation. It is a mediator between materials and human perception. The proposed design has a complex light net of steel entwining the massive decaying structure, which refers to fragility and volatility of memory. The approach towards the building is not logical and consistent. The design is fragmented. It creates a series of perspectives, snapshots of vivid moments connected by bridges and platforms.

The design provide the basic facilities needed for a marine retreat but its functional strategy is based on the analogy of human memory. The three main spaces refer to three different kinds of long-term memory: episodic memory is a memory of personal events and is represented in the project by private living units and communal areas, semantic memory concerns facts and general knowledge and is represented by the reading tower, and procedural memory is in relation to the memory of motorial physical activities, for example, swimming or dancing, and is embodied in the form of a studio space.

Materials Investigation I
Materials Investigation II
Wood deterioration
Wood deterioration
Leather deterioration
Leather deterioration
Metal deterioration
Metal deterioration
Steel patination
Brass patination
Copper patination
Metal deterioration
Metal deterioration

Metal, leather and wood were chosen to proceed with a series of experiments imitating the action of marine conditions and human activity to understand the potential of materials as memory storage. 

Metal is an intuitive choice in a marine environment as it corrodes rapidly in a salty environment. Three main kinds of metal were chosen to explore the phenomena of rust and patination. Steel, copper, and brass were treated with salty water or salty breeze using different techniques, which led to the emergence of different colours, textures, and patterns.

Leather is a material used commonly in relation to the human body, therefore the research focused mostly on an exploration of mechanical erosion by creating friction, like rubbing and sanding, as well as its potential to absorb natural oils coming from contact with human skin.

Wood is a material highly sensitive to the natural forces of nature. It was tested under the action of UV lights, as well as mechanical erosion. The oxidisation of different wood species was explored, like pine, sapele, mahogany, walnut, and balsa.

[untitled]

A retreat is a place where people appear for a short period of time. Briefly after they move out and disappear from the retreat, the memory of this specific territory and events that happened there often disappear with the witnesses. The material usage focus on building a continuation between new and former residents.

The new infrastructure allows for creating marks, signs, traces, and bruises. It merges episodes of temporary inhabitation creating a growing collective memory, gathering layers of inhabitation, overlapping events and stories.

[untitled]
[untitled]

The proposed structure creates a sensation of existing in two realities: present existence in the retreat and Gilles Deleuze’s idea of virtual reality coming from conscious or subconscious acts of encoding the past. The space acts as a storage medium providing abstract evidence of the past which comes alive with every individual finding sense and meaning to it by understanding, imagining, and enriching the past. Every new inhabitant takes part in reconstructing interrupted memory of the space.

Material Assemblies

The building, with the selection of materials and their deterioration process, serves as a canvas capturing the movement of people and natural processes within the building. It is creating a collective memory of people visiting It. It is as organic as human memory. It grows and builds up; changes every time people access it; shows the passage of time and gathers layers of signs of people living within it.