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a PhD in live projects and architectural education

Rural Studio at the V&A: “there’s a statement in there somehow”

This is a floorplan of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, indicating the locations of the seven built installations that make up 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces. Being, as I am, on top of the throbbing pulse of London’s architecture scene, I only discovered the exhibition at the end of a long weekend, while killing a few hours before heading back to Heathrow for my flight home. (What can I say; the V&A is on the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow and has free luggage storage in the cloakrooms.)

1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces invited 7 architects to construct small architectural interventions throughout the museum. Nineteen paper and model submissions to the call for entries, including the seven that have been built, are on display in the dedicated architecture gallery. Of the seven built structures, while it was far from the most enthralling or entertaining, the most interesting to me was the ‘woodshed’ designed and built by students of Auburn University’s Rural Studio (application rendering below).

The ‘Woodshed’ is a monopitch open-ended structure built of unseasoned thinnings – immature timber harvested from commercially managed forests to allow stronger trees to grow taller and straighter. This suggests a material of inconsistency and distortion, but the structure is stoically angular. Despite the opportunities for exploring the complimentary characteristics of seasoned and unseasoned wood, such as joints that shrink into one another for structural tightness and rigidity, the entire stucture is made up of 49 identical monopitch frames, assembled alongside one another to form the shed. Their expected shrinkage is managed by the inclusion of five threaded rods, drilled through the length of the shed, which can be tightened during the course of the exhibition.

Rural Studio director Andrew Freear and student Danny Wicke explain the installation in this short video, one of seven produced to compliment each structure.

The Rural Studio is no stranger to exhibitions located firmly in art galleries, but for a studio so rooted in the social obligations of architecture as practice, profession and product it is always a provocative experience to encounter their work so removed from any meaningful context.

1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces continues until 30 August 2010.

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