Public Territory design studio M SC 1 | Te r r i to r y in Tr an sir t
POTEMKIN VILLAGE T H E P O LY S T E R E N E C I R C U S S C H O O L
Georgia Syriopoulou | 4247108 FALL 2012 | Tutor: Filip Geerts
The design project set out without a site and without a program. Loosely located around the wider area of the train station of Noorderkempen in the Flanders, in the margin of the high-speed railway line between Paris and Amsterdam, it became a task of dealing with the condition of being in the middle of nowhere in particular; a task of turning a â€œpotemkinâ€? site into a real one.
The project deals exactly with the act of making a settlement, of settling in, of creating a site in the middle of a seemingly continuous territory of fields, farms and infrastructure. Making use of the equally transcendental character of the program, a circus campus accomodating nomadic circuses and fairgrounds, the project suggests the identification of the infrastructure as the first level of anchoring the program and the manipulation of the ground as the second. Staying close to the train station, the project is constrained in the triangle between the different types of infrastructure: the railway line, the roundabout and the streets.
Surprisingly enough in the Flanders there already are 20 circus schools scattered around the region. There is also a very serious and organized institute called Circuscentrum, the Flemish Centre for Circus Arts that is occupied with the communication, promotion, organization and regulation of the circus arts and circus schools in the Flanders.
The program therefore is an addition to the network of circus schools in the region: a circus campus in Brecht. In the context of institutionalizing the circus the project further stresses this condition by introducing to the program the nomadic circus and fairground, by definition temporary and non-regulated settlements that however have their own internal structure and organization.
The project begins to exist with the excavation of the ground as a gesture of creating a site for the program to settle in, both the permanent and the temporary one.
The permanent program includes the polysterene circus school, the pneumatic performance stage and the water tower that functions as an energy backup for the fans supporting the pneumatic dome during times of high use. The temporary program is given space by the exca vation suggesting its distribution on the site. The excavated roundabout potentialy accomodates the nomadic circus tent and the shallow excavation of the site defines the confines for the settlement of the nomadic fairground together with its infrastructure; the trucks and the living vans.
The framing of the program becomes the persistent aim of the project throughtout the different scales: from the enclosement of the whole fairground, to the enclosement of the building, to the enclosement of the acrobatâ€™s body.
THE PERFORMANCE SPACE The performance stage settles in the excavation enclosing the spectators. The space is covered by a transparent plastic pneumatic dome 26m in diametre reinforced by a steel cable net. The building is designed to serve the function of the pneu. The entrance of the spectators in the performance space cannot penetrate the dome therefore entrance is made from underground upwards. Rotating doors function as airloks against air pressure loss when people enter. An important aspect of the building is the fans installation and the air intake and distribution system that keeps the dome inflated.
THE Polysterene circus school
the program voids
The circus school follows the concept of framing the program in a more intimate scale: the body of the acrobat in all its different states; enclosed between pressed earth and polysterene foam. The school stands on the edge of the site excavation which continues inside the building itself. Actually the spaces are shaped as excavations out of the soil and the four foam blocks. Cement reinforced adobe, meaning the sandy earth itself dug out of the site and treated accordingly, forms the lower part of the building. The upper part, seemingly inpenetratable and rigid on the outside, is a complex network of routes and training rooms â€œfloatingâ€? inside the polysterene blocks, creating a cavernous and labyrinthine environment as if a wierd fairground is trapped and moulded in it.
The polysterene blocks are cut in a CNC milling machine in parts that are then assembled on site, glued together, tightly bound together with the help of inner steel cables traversing the material and the joints at the passages connecting one block with another. In the end they are sprayed with a layer of glass reinforced plastic providing with rigidity and endurance.
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The focus in the enclosement of the human body is drawn to extremes by providing every single space, from training room to toilet, with its spacial formulation. Nothing is a leftover; every space exists as an autonomous entity.
In the basement, around the main training arena, a complex of showers, baths and massage spaces appraises the ritual of cleansing the body.
The ground floor is articulated as a space inbetween two excavations: of the ground and the foam volumes hanging above. The training arena and the dome dug out of the foam dominate the space and define the circulation. Pressed earth as ground material and the voluptuous surface of the foam are separated by a narrow slit.
Indoor spaces are locally enclosed by glass maintaining the idea of the intimate enclosure of the program while an openair public route connecting the excavated site with the upper part traverses the building on the verge of the arena.
THE CIRCUSCENTRUM REPRESENTATIVES view of the fairground and circus from the meeting room
th e HE A D M AS T E R The Headmaster’s office and the meeting room where he meets with the Circuscentrum Representatives become the “eyes” watching the main training arena the first and the fairground site the latter.