Microcosms for Immersions; The Childhood Factory
The creeping privatisation of the public realm in the UK’s urban centres degrades civic life and social spaces, reducing towns and cities to an infrastructure purely facilitating consumption. Our lives are cluttered with the short-term ‘fix’ of materialism and moments not lived but viewed at the end of a selfie-stick; we begin to lose the ability to make meaningful memories and to define values. The Childhood Factory seeks to redress this.
Infiltrating the newly redeveloped Eldon Square Grey’s Quarter and occupying its roof-scape, The Childhood Factory sits above the former site of the Newcastle Fine Arts Academy. In the 19th Century, the Academy was the battleground for the hearts and souls of Novocastrians. The self-styled Intelligentsia group, with the backing of the local press, eventually won out over commercial interests, pioneering social arts practices with “Uncle Toby’s Toy Exhibition” that linked the Academy to surrounding buildings with temporary bridges.
The Childhood Factory is a glitch in the space of consumption; reconfiguring the components of commercial architecture and service ducts, it is a labyrinth camouflaged amongst the rooftop chillers. The Childhood Factory’s “Microcosms for Immersion” is a journey of self-discovery, re-establishing meaningful object attachments through evoking memories and sharing stories.
Who influences you graphically?
After physically modelling each space as a method to test and develop different atmospheres I drew influence from visual artists such as Shaun Tan and the animation ‘The Lost Thing’ to create an architecture which would seamlessly blend in but also be something lost and out of place. Internally the different atmospheres took influence from the paintings of George Shaw, always slightly off centre, captivating and reminiscent of childhood.
You talk about using the model as a narrative device which replaces essays on consumerism and attached objects- could you expand on this?
The model was a method of escapism, after writing short essays, precedents studies, sketching and spatial analysis I had constructed a systematic time-line of the nine stages in order to achieve the projects objectives but was yet able to realise the spatial qualities of each of the stages. At this point I had hit a wall and constructing models allowed me to place mind into matter. The models began as narrative constructs and slowly began to evolve into readable spaces with a sense of scale, colour, materiality, and atmosphere. The final visualisations are heavily influenced by the series of models, and only show a greater depth of realism.
To what extent and how did the conversations with other students from different cultures effect the project itself?
Our unit participated in Polyark – a triologue discussion that happened online; by Skype (usually very early in the morning!), email and a blog, we developed a three way inclusive debate and discussion, in an attempt to broaden the opportunities for each project to adapt and evolve to accept new cultures. Microcosms for Immersion’s objective is to accept and understand cultures unknown to us, we learnt through conversations with students from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in china about the importance of the moon in Chinese culture, in its philosophy, art, science and mythology, as well as in the everyday life of the Chinese people. The ceremonial gaze into the harvest moon, whose roundness symbolises unity, hope and promise. It is the hope of people to be reconnected and of ties between family and friends to be reinforced, and the promise of actively engaging in making it happen. Exchanges actively contributed towards how the project began to encourage participation, hope and promise through its inside-outside architecture, revealing the spaces behind which act as a symbolism for public participation within a prominent city centre location.
The discussion is still ongoing and I have been invited to participate in the Polyark 4 SuperMega Crit at HereEast in London during June 2018. HereEast is on the site originally intended for Joan Littlewood and Cedric Price’s Fun Palace therefore the critique will be supported by lectures, seminars, parties and live music events.
What dictated the choice of images through which you articulate the Childhood Factory?
The project became a journey of self-diagnosis and realisation which led to the antidote of sharing childhood memories, the images were dictated by this journey comprised of nine stages. Each image began to tell the narrative and often less outlandish images told the storey more fluently and coherently within the series.
What were the most important parameters when constructing the views?
Each of the views were constructed in order to portray the journey, the most important parameters for each view was to communicate the programmatic aims of each space. The entire project and its context was built in Revit and the opportunities for views were almost endless but each view had to capitalise on its part within a series of images.
How did you compromise in creating an architecture which is ‘utterly alien and of site’?
The project is an amalgam of a site-specific narrative programme and the corrupting hybridisation of standardised retail architecture components and mechanical plant, this led to the architecture being both utterly alien and completely of its site. The architecture as a parasite relied on the shopping mall below, it ‘burrowed’ and stole from it, plugging into its services, this relationship resulted in some compromise, the architecture needed to blend in and weave through the rooftop services by adopting commercial components. But the intentions were good, the architecture gave back with rainwater harvesting and its joyful moments when the balloon extractor dispersed balloons across the city as a symbol of inclusive public life.
Did you ever think of formatting the proposal so as to encourage physical interaction thus reinforcing the proposal itself?
As part of my dissertation I conducted participatory research with 17 teenage Goths and Emos. Mapping exercises revealed a unique insight into the world of the sites location and its centrality to the individuals’ identities, however there was a sense of disconnect due to the privatisation of surrounding areas targeting consumers and moving subcultures ‘out of sight’. This disconnect was the beginning of the project and informed my research methods throughout the entire thesis. There was a notion of sharing the project with those who I began the project with (perhaps through VR), there has been some interesting stories as a response to the project and that’s an encouraging start to reinforcing the proposal, perhaps the opportunity isn’t lost just yet!
Taylor is an architectural designer based in Newcastle upon Tyne and recently graduated from Northumbria University where his thesis project was nominated for the RIBA President’s Silver Award. Having entered a number of international competitions with his friend Matthew Glover the pair hope to continue this interest in the near future.