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Gang of Six

Interdisciplinary practice is being embraced by the architecturalcommunity, but how far can collaboration go? In a recentinterdisciplinary project in Söderhamn, Sweden, members of the group Gang of Six (formed in the melting pot of the Oxford Brookes first yearstudio) participated in a collaboration with two musicians, JohanJutterstrom and Linda Olah, two dancers, Toby Kassel and IngeborgZackariassen and visual artist, Andreas Larsson.

The central idea of the project was to produce a piece of hands-on public art in which each artistic discipline participated in the work through a full collaboration with the others. The project lasted for a week, and took place in a public park in the centre of the small town, Söderhamn. The aim was not to produce a ‘finished’ piece of work ready for performance, or public viewing, but more that the week itself was an organically evolving, unexpected and temporal production. To this end, there was no pre-fabrication of building elements, pre-composed musical pieces, or choreographed dance routines. The spatial choreography occurred on site, in an intuitive, dynamic, but silent dialogue between the artists.

For us, the mode of production in the project ‘(a) Space Revisited’ existed at the edge of the field of architecture as we knew it. The idea of constructing a methodology through improvisation and collaboration was at once familiar in concept, but alien in practice. There were no plans, sections, elevations or details at the beginning, but a set of material components, a physical toolbox, and a mental tool kit. The participants from each discipline had their own tool kits, comprising skills and experience gained from years of work in the field.

We decided to approach this brief with a system for constructing rapidly, but temporarily, on site. We chose to use a palette of materials that spoke the language of the construction site, had contrasting acoustic properties, but were modular and could be moved around in many configurations. Cored red bricks were used in conjunction with rebar, string and white fabric. As the structures would take on many different forms throughout the week, as we dismantled and re-assembled them in to new configurations, we wanted to try to leave traces of what was left behind as the week went on, so we turned to soot as a material in itself. Many of the initial structures became brick fire pits, set up through the first few days to produce blackened edges and faces, which would be visible in later constructions as remnants of a previous moment.

In a sense, the project was a week-long occupation of the park. It served to provoke the locals into thinking about familiar spaces in new ways, it was largely unannounced, and landed in the park like an invasion. It stimulated discussion, and people revisited the site throughout the week, either as daily passers-by or intrigued visitors, to find their park covered in new brick structures reconfigured beyond recognition.

Some of the most exciting moments came in working directly with the movements of the other artists, staking out positions for walls through the movements of the dancers. Returning later to stack bricks into an enclosure that was then used for its acoustic properties by a musician experimenting with the sounds of the materials. All under the eye of an intrigued audience! We were engaged in a dance over seven days that spread and moved through the park organically. We’d never produced live architecture under the watchful eye of an audience, and it was an invigorating and tense experience. For us, this was architecture as performance, and architectural choreography, in the purest sense, and opened up endless possibilities to experiment within the expanding field of architecture.

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