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ADS1: Pomp & Circumstance

Janice Tai

Janice is graduating from the Royal College of Art with a Masters in Architecture, and is currently based in London. Growing up in Hong Kong, a dense, fast-paced, utilitarian city, whose architecture and construction are dominated by the unspoken rule that ‘form follows profit’. Witnessing how, in international cities such as Hong Kong, democratic space has somehow become a luxury, triggered Janice to reflect on types of spaces essential for public interaction. 

During her studies in ADS 1: Pomp & Circumstance with Douglas Murphy, Andrea Zanderigo, and Selina Ahmann, she aimed to address and respond critically to the socio-political crises using radical spatial strategies. One of which was to investigate the ideas through the medium of the architectural projects by Richard Rogers and Edward Lutyens, two architects from two critical moments in the UK, using these to speculate what it could be like in the foreseeable future.

Degree Details

School of Architecture

ADS1: Pomp & Circumstance

‘To what extent does public space accommodate the contrasting themes of social solidarity and collective memory? 

This thesis is focused on a controversial topic that has provoked a lot of debate in recent years. I am sure that you are aware of the tension that lies between the preservation of historical monuments and reclaiming public space for solidarity in the current political context.  What can be done in response to this?

My project creates a new public underground museum and archive of statues removed from their pedestal across London or other UK postcolonial cities and redesigns the surface of Trafalgar Square as a representation of Modern Britain.  This provokes public discussion and can be used for educational purposes to engage public exploration.  I aim to recontextualise the statues and use them as a teaching tool of British history.  The proposal acknowledges the tension between the need to reclaim space for solidarity and the demand for recognition of existing sculptures.

The National Gallery will be celebrating its 200th birthday in 2024 and at the same time, Trafalgar Square will be turning 180. Taking this celebratory opportunity, I wonder if it might be an occasion to reflect and explore the possibilities of a new function for the Square in the near future, that is to say, in 20 years time.

This led me to explore the potential of reimagining Trafalgar Square, to ask the question of whether, in a time where history is being fought over in public, an architectural proposal can foster solidarity and stimulate understanding.

Link to National Gallery urged to lead the way with statue to honour slaves

— Themes of the display can include: why are so many of these statues of military background? Why only men? Why are the statues of a similar class and race? What did they do to have themselves memorialised? Why are there so many statues of the same period? How do we feel when we look at them?
— The lower ground space acknowledges the irony between the taking down of statues and the necessity of having them as storytelling. The plan is organised on a grid and that the statues are not collected in a particular order. ThIS curatorial strategy leaves the responsibility of the narrative on the viewer themselves, which is a political statement in its own way. The object and information are provided, but the story and experience to each viewer can vary due to a free moving route.
— The two contradictory characteristics of the single square are split apart. It provides a space for an official memorial, and at the same time also provides a space for popular expressions. A contrast of a pure space of openness versus a total memorial space is created.
— At certain moments, the living people above mirrors the statue and representation of people from the past.
— It is probably safe to say that most people, if asked, would find it difficult to name the figures of these statues, sparking debates on the toppling of such. Some would argue that by erecting a statue, history will be remembered, but it turns out that it is not an effective way to do so.