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as we peered through the cracks...

Louisa Preece

...the gathering darkness, the shadows under the trees, the pungent smell of the cages and the deep-throated, grumbling roars of the lion

as we peered through the cracks... Louisa Preece



Past Placelessness, ‘thinking in cinema: poetically’ [1]


En-Trance, how to re-think the banal and why bother?


Imagination, pageant arrives









Zoological Gardens





[1] (Pallasma, 2007, p.9). Film can reveal spaces for further investigation, find locations, and investigate history, in way that opens up future opportunities.The methodology for the thesis was film, which is being continued into the design project. [2] Amore, 2011, p.11. Quote from Kidlington resident on growing up in Kidlington. we peered through the cracks...[2] a plastic moment: re-creating leisure in the suburb through a thematic exploration of history and dreams

Louisa Preece // 13092824 P30035 02 May 2014


Past Placelessness


the suburban was a vision, a utopia of sorts, where children played outside, mothers kept a watchful eye, and the only thing to travel down the street was a summer breeze. Utopia is no longer accepted ideal, suburbia is now ruled by speed and transience. Therefore, it was one day proposed that a temporary Utopia should be reinserted, a fragmentary view that recreated leisure. Thus . . . ... A Pageant [of sorts] Arrives!


[1] (Offord, n.d., p. 12). The thesis observed how residents engaged with the suburban space through the exploration of the space that surrounds; questioning its uses based on what it was, what it is, and what it could be. [2] (Moran, 2005)

The Village of Kidlington,

is ‘a large dormitory suburb for Oxford’ [1]. As with the silo, there are recent histories that lie interned beneath soil, mislaid memories. All that is viewed is the surface, the ‘boringly routine’[2]. And thus a landscape is created, where the past has been erased with no trace left but the thematic naming of the new streets, such as “Maple Avenue” and “The Moors”, history becomes marginalised: an aesthetic memorial.


People represent themselves to themselves by what they are lacking or believe to be lacking. In this relationship, the imaginary has more power 1996, p.80 HENRI






Origin: ‘create again, renew’

LEISURE: TIME WHEN ONE OCCUPIED: free -time Origin: ‘to be allowed’


with the monuments of place, these, like our dreams, can present false -or at least multiple -realities 2013b, p. 96 ALAN MACE

Public space has always been where we come to appear in finery, to participate in rituals and to lose ourselves in a fantasy world where we have a role beyond ourselves 2000

Betsky & Adigard


We need to build such places not with stones and concrete, steel & wood, but plastic materials that can change at a moments notice. We need to create stage-sets in which we can appear and see at least one version of the world making sense, if only for a moment 2000 Betsky & Adigard


the imaginary has more power

‘create again, renew’

‘to be allowed’

our dreams, can present false -or at least multiple -realities

to lose ourselves in a fantasy world




noun a public entertainment consisting of a procession of people in elaborate, colourful costumes; or

an outdoor performance of a historical scene

Architects need to look at the nonplace and disrupt the spectacle in a way that illuminates the possibilities of space and acts against isolation. Events can help realise this; parades and celebrations already engage with this space, even on a momentary basis. The Pageant will develop a series of events, revealing histories, and current affairs in what seems a banal place, thus pealing back the internal; even if only for a moment. The Pageant will be a brief series of events, that draw upon history and leisure activities. Much like a procession they will be temporary, fleeting moments dispersed throughout the suburb.


Stills from a filmic exploration of Kidlington, exploring latent possibilities of space use. This method was continued throughout the project, the film constantly evolving. The footage stems from the video narrative created for the Thesis.


captures the wind when it flurries the sale flags in the forecourt of the garages, signalling a celebration of sorts. In another time the heavy breathing of horse would have been another sound along this spine road. As the Village of Kidlington is traversed, moments are revealed that stem from the memory and the possibility of the space. Each moment suggests something more, another possibility.


[1] Exploring the power of the image, of advertising, of slogans - from super markets to grassroots organisations such as Park Fiction.


We live in a culture that fabricates and mass produces images ... 2007, p.9

Posters are displayed around the suburb, these propose the events that might occur.[1]



THEORETICAL FOOTNOTE In the desire to avoid thematic it transpires that one must embrace it. The suburban is perceived as banal, yet as the Dissertation explored, dreams and history only need to be engaged with they lie dormant. In order to do this the past ideas of re-creation are explored alongside current Leisure activities. Each ‘moment’ reveals a little bit more about society. The architecture itself is both temporary & permanent, reality & fiction - overall it aims to be both theoretical and practical. In an effort to take the event toward place-making, permanent indicators will remain - thus acting as physical manifestations of the past For, in order to engage dreams and history, there must be a marker - a catalyst for the memory.


3 days 40 minutes the Pageant will manifest physically. Then, like any true carnival, when you wake it will be gone, leaving only small tell-tale traces. And for that moment, that space held magical possibilities, multiple realities and you await its return.

For to wake up to our true hopes and aspirations, first we need to excavate from the dream what is is we want to hold on to.


ForgoƩon Places Non-places Police Headquarters Housing Estate Elephant bones lie interned beneath VW estates and Ford Focuses. A Menagerie now processed paperwork about pe y crime. Campsfield House The immigra on centre is a place ignored through ignorance or indifference by the suburban dwellers. Here men [once there were families] can be found wai ng extradi on, in enclosed spaces for extended periods of me. Oxford Parkway Where the story began, with the disused grain silo, now mounds of rubble and earth pile high, awaiting the arrival of concrete and steel. A structure aiming for permanence, des ned to fail. Thus the arrival to the village from the city has irrevocably changed. London Oxford Airport Some places are re-branded and thus their ownership shi s - ‘this is no longer yours, it is ours’. Cul-de-sac Carparks Playgrounds in the street are now filled with cars, from front lawn to curbside. Horses don’t feel so safe here anymore. Car Showrooms Shiny new vehicles abound the tarmac, a small node of consumerism. Car Showroom High Street Once a bandstand and tennis courts graced the space, now a prominent sales posi on opposite the High Street; graced with generic shop units and hard paved.


began in the recent past as sites that offered ‘leisure, consumption and tourism’. In the last century there has been Oxford Zoological Gardens, now a housing estate and the Thames Valley Police Headquarters; the Sterling Cinema now a generic supermarket; and the local market, which has now been turned into housing.

Kidlington Airport London Oxford Airport

Campsfield House

Car Showrooms

Car Showroom High Street

Horse-riding Cul-de-sac Carparks Zoological Gardens Police Headquarters Housing Estate The Silo Oxford Parkway Rail StaƟon




[1] Roland Barthes explains in his work ‘Mythologies’, plastic is an everyday material, almost a ‘disgraced’ material that features in nearly all aspects of life. Ice captures a moment, encapsulating the temperature of the air, the wind, movement of the earth. Experiments with ice work in a plastic way, capturing a moment in time then melting away leaving little trace. [2] Natures patterns. [3] Frozen using plastic bag moulds.

Plastic Space

Taking a look at the everyday, one notices the canvas flags in the wind, the large super market banners, plastic bags caught in branches.

...plastic is the very idea of its infinite transformation ... it is ubiquity made visible. Barthes

It is the first magical substance which consents to be prosaic.1973, p.87-99 [1] As the Pageant sets itself up in the suburb, plastic becomes the material of choice. It offers immediacy, flexibility and is widely available. It becomes easily packed away and offers a variety of shapes.


Bear Stop

Zoological Gardens

Outdoor Theatre

[1] Experimenting with plastic forms, in an effort to emulate ‘capturing the moment’ in a similar way to ice. This way form finding is less prescribed by the author, it is left to ‘chaos’ acting against that which prescribes the suburban idealised utopia, one of prescribed planning laws, regulations.


of the Pageant, when space becomes an event, a place where the past is re-enacted, re-created.

[1] The Meadow



‘Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions.’ (Marquez, 1995, p.2)




Bungalow roofs float above a light refracting tract of water, interrupted by the splashes of children and brightly coloured rubber rings. Neighbours look angrily out the window, the noise is disrupting their TV show. At the pageant RE-CREATION is brought back to the roads - Pool-side. The Lido[1] curls around into two culde-sac’s, creating an island of three homes. These stranded homeowners stare out the window as the story unfolds, dis-believing in the thematic adventure..

[1] Kidlington lacks a public pool. This offers the opportunity to test the demand for such a space, and how it can fit into the sprawl.



[1] Michel Foucault - Order of Things (Preface) cites Jorge Luis Borges ‘Chinese encyclopedia’ which divides animals into a fictional list, from ‘those that belong to the emperor’ to ‘fabulous’, ‘embalmed’ ‘et cetera’. In this way the proposed Pageant interventions seize upon the division of architecture into these classifications. Thus the Pool-side is based upon Frenzied - ‘uncontrolled’ ‘tumultuous’







Canvas adverts are recovered from near-by super markets and threaded together to create a brightly coloured curtain. This is then supported by a scaffold that is inserted in and around the homes. A large long pool is then assembled, using above ground pool technologies. A slide is carried via lorry, this is positioned above a bungalow.

[1] SECTION 1:100 through the Lido [2] CONSTRUCTION threading canvas signage together to make plastic curtain. Sketch details about how this is attached. [3] SKETCH section showing wind passing through gaps in canvas, eliminating sail effect. [4] SKETCH elevation showing linking of canvas signage on to structural scaffold [5] SKETCH detail showing ground connection with grass - what remains is a yellowed square.





1:50 DETAILS [1] Section of curtain element [2] Plan of entrance through curtain

The plastic has become brittle due to its being outdoors, thinning in places to be a transparent membrane. This shelters the pool from suburban winds and gives privacy to the neighbours on the outer edge of the pool. The curtain sweeps over the pool to create intimated places and places that provide shade.


DETAILS 1:50 Plan - 4m cut from ground level, overlay of site plan


‘...the life of the city has moved indoors, to living rooms filled with the blare of radios and televisions, to billboards and magasines filled with celebrities and advertising...’ Los, p.250 Benning


Suddenly the pool has been dismantled, only patched up fences , stakes driven into the tarmac adding to the array of potholes, and squares of yellowing grass act as reminders. The residents walk out their homes, to the local supermarket for provisions


That and a large orange slide, still positioned above a roof, awaiting the return of a celebration.




Cool turf covers the boundaries of pavement to road, the grass rustles in the evening breeze. Lilting sounds from a lone trombone player add a deep tone to the dusk air. The wheezing of cattle grazing melts into the humm.


The turf is laid upon the concrete, turning the hard surface into a lush one. As if paved with gold, the residents descend from their homes to mingle on this new surface and watch performances from the Kidlington Operatic Society and the Kidlington Brass Band.

Using the classification, the Bandstand is based upon Tame Architecture - ‘to be cool’ ‘to be calm’ [urban dictionary definition]



DETAILS 1:50 Plan - 4m cut from ground level





bel ved

Fau x cloc k-to wer

ure uct






[1] View from Oxford road [2] 1:50 Section through Bandstand structure. Example of ironed plastic material behind. [3] To assemble, plastic bags are cut into sections, overlapped, then ironed between two sheets of paper until they become firmly attached.


On a clear morning a stage lifts from the turf, using scaffolding planks to create a raised platform. Seating is arranged to block the flow of traffic, slowing down the passage through the village centre. Orange light fills the space, as carrier bags are ironed together. The nature of the colour is Sainsbury’s plastic, its brightness filtering through a coloured light, the co-op sacks adding a dash of clear sky.



Teenagers lounge on the scaffold seating planks, faces to phone screens. Silhouetted against the setting sun a couple stand above on the belvedere, trying to pick out their house from the multitudes. Occasionally, cars redirected by the creation of the bandstand, honk horns angrily in the clammy heat of the July evening.

TEXTURE 1:100 Section of bandstand, seating & belvedere


This emerging ‘architecture of resistance’ a verb more often than a noun, celebrates dreams and the imagination without forgetting that it is made for the other, and aims at revealing depth not as homologous to breadth and height (3D), but as a significant first dimension that remains mysterious and reminds us of our luminous opacity as mortals in a wondrous more-than-luminous world. From Perez-Gomez

Models to Drawing, 2007, p.22


After the final performance, as the grass has yellowed, the fresh turf lifted from the tarmac by impatient feet. The scaffold is taken down, the viewing platform recedes, the seating is collapsed, the Bandstand is folded away. The tires of cars quickly turn the remaining turf to mud.



Zoological Garden

Strange sounds fill the air around the Police Station, hooting, rustling, laughing....Usually the space is devoid of life, private space constantly under surveillance. But now a large inflated blue shape merges with the clear sky, occasionally an owl can be seen flitting around. Bird song draws people along to a bird menagerie, the net curtains closing behind. This large netted enclosure, attached to the 16th farmhouse that once housed exotic birds. Now a robin flutters, its nest within the bounds of the temporary design. The hum of cars is not heard in the car park, but the flapping of clear polypropylene around a mass of scaffold, the transparent surface glittering bronze, beside which children on bikes career down a large dirt, bitumen mound.



[1] Using the classification, the Zoological Gardens are based upon Fabulous Architecture ‘extraordinary’ ‘having no basis in reality’ [definition from]



PLAN 1:500 [1] OwlNet [2] Bird Menagerie [3] Elephant Memorial [4] Bitumen Mound - provides viewing platform and accesses over the large fences.





Owl Net

Slowly a large blue plastic oblong is inflated. Attached to it are swathes of netting, sections tautened by lengths of rope. As the blue plastic begins to lift from the ground the ends of the netting are fixed in place... over fences, next to garages, in back gardens, across the road. Large staples fix a rebar into the earth, which the ends of the netting are securely attached to. The inflated blue plastic lifts into the air, swaying gently in the wind, caught inside are trees, lawns, people - when ready the owls are released into their net.




Elephant Bones

Scaffolding is erected in The Police car park, clear plastic sheeting is wrapped around as the site is excavated. The earth parts to reveal Elephant bones from the Kidlington Zoological Gardens, but the heat from the diggers melts the plastic, capturing its movement. The bones are cast in bronze and are mounted within the scaffolding enclosure. Light pierces through the space, refracting the gold sheen of the bronze. The debris from the excavation forms a mound upon which a view over Kidlington is available.

Models; resin - cast in plastic bags


PLASTIC [1] Barthes, 1973, p.97. Models; resin & gold - cast in plastic

Inside the memorial, light is refracted by the transparent, semi-translucent plastic that has captured some dirt from the excavation and remains frozen in the moment of a gust of wind.

‘Plastic remains impregnated throughout within this wonder: it is less a thing than the trace of a movement’ [1]


1:500 SECTION through the Zoological Garden

Light catches on the inflated blue plastic, refracts through the polypropylene of the elephant memorial.


The earth from the excavation is tarmacked, thus including it as part of the Police car park. Yet this surface spills over the fence, into the adjoining playing fields and play park, creating a tangible bridge between the disparate elements Skateboarders hog it during the sumer afternoon, careering off its undulating form.


Film Stills - working towards a film that expresses and explores the deisgn work. [1] Mace, 2013, p.96 [2] Betsky & Adigard, 2000 [3] Lefebvre, 1996, p.80

All that remains are memories of dreams, a fantastical story to tell, and the physical elements left behind, now imbibed with meaning . . .

‘...our dreams, can present false - or at least multiple - realities’ [1]

‘ loose ourselves in a fantasy world’ [2]

‘...the imaginary has more power’ [3]


In the Reflective Epilogue for the Thesis, a disruption was proposed that would engage the past and bring it into the present day. Price believes that the architect is not a provider of ‘visually recognisable symbols of identity, place and activity’ (Price, 2003, p.19) and, as Lobsinger puts it in her description of Prices work, ‘architecture invites the user to reconsider the experience of time and social interaction in the present’(Lobsinger,2004, p. 24). Therefore, I theorised that the interventions would not attempt to create an identity, rather it would expose the one that already existed. This followed on from the thesis that the places moments; such as events, leisure and recreational activities, had been identified. For example, the Cinema is now a supermarket and the Zoological Gardens are now housing and Police Headquarters. The thesis also explored smaller moments, such as watching planes take off and riding a pony down the street which are in stark contrast to the perceived view of the banal suburb and the supposed ‘non-places’ that lack a history. Alan Mace explains that history has been constructed in the organisation of the suburban, its fragmented design and the thematic naming of streets, like ‘Maple Drive’ hints at what lay before.

Reflection The design project therefore aimed to challenge this perception.Where the thesis critiques the thematic of the suburban, the design project embraces that thematic, and uses it as a tool for the critique.

Two quotes, taken from Lefebvre and Mace who had been the driving theorists behind my thesis, as they brought ideas of imaginary, dreams and reality together;

It was important therefore, to look at the ideas of leisure and recreation, and the right that residents have to the space around them. Taking the film from the thesis, I edited and added more footage, initially exploring the concepts by layering the cine film onto the present day, alongside the development of meaningful and realistic spaces from moments. Film stills captured the fantastical and these became posters that started to express ideas of the possible use of space. The realm between public and private was challenged. This took the ideas from the thesis and pushed them further, reviewing the suburban banality through the exploration of fantasy and advertisement;

‘People represent themselves to themselves by what they are lacking or believe to be lacking. In this relationship, the imaginary has more power.’ (Lefebvre, 1996, p.80).

‘We live in a culture that fabricates and mass produces images ...’ (Pallasma, 2007, p.9). Throughout the design project, ‘the image’ was always considered. In this sense, it could be seen that the development of architecture and form were not the main focus within this project.

‘...with the monuments of place, these, like our dreams, can present false -or at least multiple -realities’ (Mace, 2013b, p. 96). This led to the exploration of thematic space; Betsky and Adigard call it ‘Imagineering’, as the thematic offers the opportunity for escapism and merges fantasy and reality, usually exploiting history in the process. Betsky and Adigard’s book ‘Architecture Must Burn’ provided a platform from which the design project began to take shape. Their interest in sprawl encompasses advertising, ideas of banal and ways to react against this prescribed condition.

‘We need to build such places not with stones and concrete, steel & wood, but plastic materials that can change at a moment’s notice. We need to create stage-sets in which we can appear and see at least one version of the world making sense, if only for a moment’ (Betsky & Adigard, 2000). This expanded upon the findings from the thesis, that events held in Kidlington already provided a means to appropriate space, even if only for a moment, and the concept of time is crucial in a place that is viewed as ‘timeless’. Drawing back on the filmic inspirations, such as ‘True Stories’ by David Byrne, where the critique of the town is made through the staging of an event that celebrates ‘specialness’, the project took shape on a Pageant. This Pageant began as a procession, but became the dressing up of suburbia in dispersed fragments of urban space, again working upon ideas explored in the thesis that presented the theory of fragments being required in order to make a whole. Alongside the development of the film, experiments with form finding became another methodology. In order to capture a moment in time, the nature of ice was investigated. From this, I looked for other materials that capture a ‘moment in time’, such as plastic, thus the forms were left to chaos;

been poetic in its description and analysis of suburbia, this design project began to become bolder in its attempt to both allow for recreation and to criticise the perceived lifestyle and ‘banal’. The histories became elements that were re-made for today’s reality and, in order to engage with the space in a way that disrupts, the ‘architecture’ could not be submissive.This meant it became ‘fabulous’, ‘frenzied’, ‘tame’; Borges classification enabled the events to become an exploration of terms, of how architecture can be labelled and perceived, and how the suburb can be that also. The design has remained theoretical in its approach to engage fantasy and reality to realise the pursuits of leisure. However, it is also an aim to engage with local affairs, such as the condition of Campsfield House the immigration Detention Centre.The study of a zoo, of nets, cages and isolation hoped to bring the reality of the situation into the suburban context. The OwlNet captures houses within its encompass, the people within become enclosed for the duration of the Pageant, Pool-side isolates three houses. As well as opening up ideas of what ‘Leisure’ is and can be in relation to the present and the past, it also aimed to pull reality of existing spaces in. I believe that the project achieved its aim to challenge the idea of isolation, and illustrates this condition in relation to the disruption of the perceived banal, providing places that re-create ideas of leisure as told through the narrative.

‘Chaos is near, but we avoid it by sinking into the luxury of a form that seems to have no meaning’ (Betsky & Adigard, 2000). Processes we used included slowly melting acrylic and letting it form shapes, or casting directly into plastic bags, working against the planned, rigorous nature of suburbia. Plastic as materiality was explored in the film, looking at what already exists in the culture of consumption.The plastic canvas flags that advertise car sales, the BOGOF deals that hung on the low wall entrance to the supermarket; items that are routinely changed and always discarded. Another material employed was plastic bags, which seem to be hoarded by people who are desperate not to commit their rubbish to a life of choking seagulls or littering the ocean. Thus plastic, ‘the first magical substance which consents to be prosaic’ (Barthes,1973, p.87), provides the perfect, flexible form. Its qualities are those of slow deterioration, bright colour and banality. The structure again was informed by filmic study of the suburb, with the outside garden space being used as sitting rooms, bedrooms, kitchen extensions and most streets appeared to have tarpaulin, rubble or scaffolding strewn around. In order to frame these spaces, and to speculate more upon architecture itself, the classification system explained by Michel Faucault in ‘Order of Things’, when citing Jorge Luis Borges ‘Chinese encyclopaedia’, is used. The system divides animals into a fictional list, from ‘those that belong to the emperor’ to ‘fabulous’, ‘embalmed’ ‘et cetera’. In this way, the proposed Pageant interventions seize upon the division of architecture into these classifications. This further explored ideas of Betsky and Adigard, that ‘[p]ublic space has always been where we come to appear in finery, to participate in rituals and to lose ourselves in a fantasy world where we have a role beyond ourselves’ (Betsky & Adigard ,2000). The thematic became something that was initially used in representation, but had seeped into the underlying nature of the project.The events became theme park like in their fantastical imagery. Whereas the dissertation had

Turning the models into pieces of jewellery, this goes on to question the relationship between reality and imaginary, representation and physicality.


Amor, J. Ed. (2011) Memories of Kidlington, Volume Four. Kidlington: Kidlington & District Historical Society. Barthes, R. (1973) Mythologies. London: Granada Publishing. Benning, J. (2001) Los: about Los Angeles Berger, J., (2008) Ways of Seeing. Penguin Modern Classics Betsky, A. & Adigard, E. (2000) Architecture Must Burn. London: Thames & Hudson Bonnesmaison, S. & Macy, C. (2008) Festival Architecture. Oxon, New York: Routledge. Foucault, M. (n.d.) The Order of Things. Online available at: http://serendip. [Accessed on 20/04/2014]

Bibliography Perez-Gomez, Alberts (2007) In:Frascari, M., Hale, J. & Starkey, B. From Models to Drawing. Oxon, New York: Routledge. Hill, J. (1998) The Illegal Architect. London: Black Dog Publishing Rhodes, L. (2011) Expanded Cinema. London: Tate Publishing. Lefebvre, H. (1996) Writing on Cities, Eng. Transl. Oxford, Cambridge MA: Blackwell Mace, A. (2013) ‘The Future Has Come and Gone. In: Dines, M. & Vermeulen, T. Ed. New Suburban Stories. London, New York, Bloomsbury Academic Marquez, G. G. (1967) One Hundred Years of Solitude. London: Jonathan Cape. Offord, V. (n.d.) A History of Kidlington. Gloucester: The British Publishing Company Pallasma, J. (2007) The Architecture of Image: existential space in cinema. 2nd Edt. Hameenlinna: Rakennustein Publishing.

as we peered through the cracks...  

a plastic moment: re-creating leisure in the suburb through a thematic exploration of history and dreams

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