Presences, Venice Biennale Architettura 2018

In their manifesto for the Biennale Architettura 2018, titled ‘Freespace’, Grafton Architects wrote that architecture has ‘an ability to provide free and additional spatial gifts to those who use it’, and that it can ‘address the unspoken wishes of strangers’. We were particularly struck by this idea. Our contribution to exhibition is an interactive representation of six halls that we have designed.

We constructed a table that can be turned by hand. Six objects are placed upon the table, representing six halls that we have designed. Each one has a different purpose, but they share the fact that they bring people together in a rhythmic and cyclical fashion daily, weekly and annually. Their particular uses are regulated by a calendar of events, rituals and times of congregation. Their calendars are inscribed on the outer rim of the turning table.

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When you turn the table, the light that falls upon the table varies in angle and intensity between zero degrees and fifty-eight degrees. These angles represent the horizon and zenith for the latitudes within which our buildings are conceived. By rotating the table’s surface, you can track the passage of the sun through the day from dawn to dusk. It is a manual and mechanical process. The presence of the sky vault with its wheeling constellations is given by a light overhead.

The intention of presenting these models in this way is to emphasise the relationship between the enduring frames of the buildings and the endless procession of fugitive elements that pass through them periodically.

The buildings we selected for this project are a Garden Theatre in Worcester College, Oxford, a Teaching Chapel in Ripon College, Cuddesdon, a Fish and Chip Shop on Deal Pier, Kent, a Rugby Veterans’ Hall in Limerick, Ireland, a Castle Hall and Watchtower in Bishop Auckland, Durham and a Song School in Trinity Hall, Cambridge.