Until June this year, I lived with an architecture student. As a result, I’ve had many discussions about the subject, mainly in relevance to my friend’s (Matt) study and practice. Its a subject that really inspires me. A significant factor in contemporary architecture seems to be the prevalence of symbiotic, bland, and ever-similar designs in all, or at least many, of our cities and towns.
Everywhere I go block after block of seemingly identical residential and office buildings spring up. Week after week.
Making matters worse, these entirely uninspired architectural works, are the very things that today’s up-and-coming affluent young-professionals aspire to own and live in.
Although I would love to be in that such a “flush” position myself, actually aspiring to reside in such a dull and everyday entity seems an awful prospect.
It has sprung to mind, because over the weekend I assisted another friend in setting up his website for a forthcoming publication, in paper and online, Disparate Magazine. I think one of the key areas that the magazine is set to have a standpoint on is potential disconnection between a place, what that place actually represents, and the actual buildings that make up the landscape; especially with regard to the urban built environment. Its a complex subject, but certainly one that I’m interested in.
As an aside, this then got me thinking about my one, grand, architectural idea. Its something that I’ve been thinking about since well before my days as an artist. I may have come up with the idea originally at school, but I can certainly remember thinking about whilst sat in my office at Hilmore House, working for Morrisons Supermarkets.
Sunlight was a precious commodity, in my eyes at least. For some of the year, for some of the daylight hours, my office would have plenty of sunlight streaming in through the windows. However, much of the time was spent admiring a shadow on the opposite side of the road slowly working its ways up the buildings. I could see the powerful and precious light, within a few meters of where I was sitting; yet it was never rarely actually reached me. I was forced to sit and wish I were sat in the sunlight.
Although the idea came whilst sitting at my work desk, in front of a computer screen, I’m continually reminded of the problem. Any town or city I visit; inevitably one (or both) sides of a street suffer in someway. Our precious sunlight is continuously blocked, wherever you are. For instance, almost all the streets in the centre of Manchester are lined with buildings so tall, that throughout most of the day one side of the street is always plunged into darkness; and its the same story in any city you choose to visit. Even smaller towns have the same issue. It even extends to residential streets; often some houses are deprived of a huge amount of their light due to shadows cast by surrounding buildings (or such like).
I was reminded of it again – and again discovered an idea that I came up with, but someone else has also come up with entirely separately – whilst watching a TV documentary yesterday. It was a programme about “the Sun”, in general, but featured a small town in Austria. The town sits behind a huge hill, and for 8 months of the year gets absolutely no sunlight (resulting in high cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder). The SAD affect is highlighted here, because the town just over the river, which doesn’t sit in the shadow of the hill, has far fewer cases of SAD. They have come up with the same idea that I had; use a series of giant mirrors to bounce sunlight around and provide it to areas that don’t receive it naturally.
Although not implemented yet, there are plans to build a network of mirrors around the town so that through the winter sunlight will be available to the townspeople.
My concept has mainly been focused on cities; I envisage setting up extremely large mirrors on the tops of city buildings. There mirrors will track the sun, and move to the correct angle so as to redirect the sunlight (visible at the top of the building) down to street level. The same could be applied anywhere though; on a much larger scale in the deep and dark valleys of the Alps in Europe (and doubtless many other similar places throughout the world). The valleys could have access to the natural light. Light that has proved health benefits.
I must develop the concept further, and get some drawings done.
Something that I’ve always loved, is “remote control”, and I think that this has shades of that in it. I used to have a train set, and the thing I loved about it was not necessarily the trains, but the fact that they could be controlled without touching them. I knew how it worked, the electric circuit was obvious to me; but somehow it intrigued me immensely. This has continued throughout my life, with many remote control toys and gadgets. Most recently my immersion in using the Internet, both for “business and pleasure” (as it were) has meant I have access to hundreds of other permutations of the idea of controlling something through a distance, or without actually touching it.
I can access my home computers from anywhere, not just the files, I have remote control of the actual computer. I can get my email sent to my mobile phone. I can control my computer through my mobile phone. I can send information to my websites through mobile, email, web. Even a BT payphone would allow me to update my websites. Adding imagery into all this, I can actually look into my own home, from anywhere in the world, and get a live picture of whatever is (or isn’t) going on there.
I think the giant street mirrors, are born from this interest in remote control. Its an almost identical “joy” that I experience thinking about it. It is even better in a way. Although all the internet and technology things are extremely clever, and that interests me no-end, the fact that a mirror is such a simple and “understood” (by almost anyone) thing I think it adds to how accessible and really “real” the concept is.