Machina Loci


Palimpsest Public House

Urban installation/event for the Barbican Estate in London, part of Open House London and the London Festival of Architecture.

Funded by a grant from Arts Council of England and supported by AIA UK Chapter. 20 July 2008 (LFA), 20-21 September 2008 (Open House London).

The Palimpsest Public House project was the first opportunity to test the idea of 'clearings' and explored the performative possibilities of a particular place through site specific art installations engaging the public in thought provoking collaborative activities.

The installation brought four public houses ('pubs') which had been destroyed in WWII bombing back to life for a weekend. The Barbican Estate was designed in the 1960s as a new community for over 2000 people following modernist principles, disregarding the former street pattern and separating vehicle and pedestrian traffic vertically. The resulting raised public realm is largely unused.

Focussing on the lack of 'inhabitedness', PPH employed relational art strategies and the creative potential of hospitality to introduce opportunities for engagement. Using the history of pubs as vital social spaces, the event sought to question the meaning of public space in general, and within the Barbican Estate in particular as well as to offer unexpected ways to experience public space. In line with my interest in encouraging physical engagement, each pub offered a different creative activity: drawing and writing, sculpting, moving and eating. These activities explored overlaying layers of history on contemporary space; questioning responses to public space and re-experiencing space through movement and making. The activities highlighted issues of scale, architecture, ownership/entitlement and social behaviour in public space including appropriateness. Each palimpsest pub had a digitally collaged pub sign.

Team formation and preparations formed part of the project as did painting and urban yoga workshops held before the main event. My original ideas for the pub activities were refined collaboratively with a team of volunteers including among others: Reuben Barker; David Rosenberg and Elena Chestnova of Velorose; Leo Cornall; Dani Ellis; Tracy Strassburg; Konosuke Kitta; Dave Loder (who developed and executed the Red Cross pub activity); Hitesh Parmar; Geneva Rosett-Hafter; Lori Sherman and Richard Spencer.

Overall: badges, map, postcards, t-shirts
Bell Inn: tarpaulin, straw bales, sand, table chairs, pub umbrella, sign
Red Cross: red gaffer tape, red chalk, plastic buckets; sofa and chairs, sign
Peacock: rubber yoga mats, table and chairs, sign
Black Horse: sign.

Pub signs were 900 x 1200 mm digital images printed on rigid plastic board and hung from steel stands constructed of scaffolding poles and connectors.


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