Dead End

Out of the city and down to Dungeness, the place that in the words of Jonathan Glancey ‘broods at the very edge of the map of England. It is a natural dead end.’ 

Dungeness catches the imagination like few coastal settlements. 
It is not exactly a village, and certainly not a town. 
It is neither a resort nor a place many people will feel particularly comfortable with. 
It has no pier, no amusement arcades, little or nothing in the way of rock, saucy postcards or kiss-me-quick hats. 
It has no hotel. 
It is very much its own place, a kind of willful stage set on the very south-easterly tip of England. 

I last came here over a decade ago when we were staying at Butlins up the road in Rye; we came out across the shingle and drove as far as we could into the entrance of the power station.
And Hannah took photos and made a little video through the window of Laurie’s knackered car. 
‘…the presence of the power stations has created a hybrid landscape, one that is harsh and bleak but within which a raw and undeniable beauty continues to surface’ David Chandler  

It was all almost exactly as I remembered it – bleak terrain, moody sky - though the beautiful Shingle House, where I stayed this time is a subtle addition to the sparse scattering of structures.

I walked during the day, during the black black night and in the early morning. I took lots of photos. I collected shells and stones and I made some drawings.

Night: The power station (L), the Shingle House


Stop // Frame // Spider

What a pleasure it was to see William Firebrace this week at the launch of his beautiful new book at the AA.

A decade ago, William was my undergrad tutor at the Bartlett where he encouraged us to make stop frame animations of our study site, Hastings. 
A tutor myself now, I’d been reminded of one of these recently by delicate string and plaster casts resembling wonky spiders in the undergrad studios at London Met...so I thought I'd dust them off:

Spider from alpa depani on Vimeo.

Bag from alpa depani on Vimeo.


In the Garden

Spent the day in Letchworth Garden City with the Brighton MA Students, our study site for the year; bucolic land of neat hedges and infinite roof pitches...



First day teaching on the Brighton MArch Course today.
I'm teaching on Diploma Studio 1 led by Prof. Andre Viljoen, drawing on the research conducted by he and Katrin Bohn into the Continuous Productive Urban Landscape - how can reinterpreting and re purposing relationships between landscape and architecture contribute to the evolution of sustainable and resilient urban food systems?

This year the Studio will be working in Letchworth, Hertfordshire; the first manifestation of Ebenezer Howard's revolutionary and influential social and spatial concept for 'Garden Cities'.

Our central premise is that landscape, as found in and around Letchworth, is a resource capable of enhancing resilience and addressing the town's economic decline. 

Our challenge will be to find architectural, landscape and urban strategies to retrofit this promised utopia.


Spinning' 'n' Grinnin'

Moments before Zeke and Shaolin Fantastic unlock the mystery of the crayon, they were up on a Bronx rooftop messing about with some pigeons. 

(Grandmaster) Flashback to Delhi seven years ago and sightings of pigeon fanciers up on dilapidated rooftops...

...a hangover from Mughal India when Akbar himself had 20,000 pigeons, apparently. 



Stumbled across the Imprint 93 exhibit at the Whitechapel Gallery over the weekend, what a discovery; I found the tone and pace of this 90s mail art project curated by Matthew Higgs so energetic. And more than a few times (notably reading the lonely hearts ads) it made me laugh out loud. Inside this relatively small room was an intricate mass of artwork, in the main delivered by post, for free, and unsolicited.

‘His curatorial platform was the A5 envelope; 
his production studio, the photocopier.’

It felt like a funny coincidence; just a few weeks ago I retrieved a stack of fanzines from my parents attic. That’s what the exhibition reminded me of. As a teenager I would regularly send off for zines I’d seen advertised in the back of Melody Maker (R.I.P.), Select (R.I.P.) and NME (basically dead, therefore R.I.P.).

A quid or two sent in the post along with a S.A.E, and a couple of weeks later I’d be reading someone’s lovingly assembled photocopied and stapled musical musings. It’s hard to imagine that something so laboured could at one time have seemed so immediate, so accessible.  

The zine thing seems to be burgeoning on a moment, and yet, the essential D.I.Y. factor seems to get overlooked with the term erroneously applied to highly polished publications that are unlikely to be blighted by uneven toner, wonky pritt-sticking or an errant stapler. 
And will cost you more than a quid or two + a S.A.E.


This was the week that..

..I picked up Naipaul's Guerrillas in Homerton Library
    (brilliant but bleak)
+ learned for the first time about Michael X
+ it was the 50th Notting Hill Carnival (I didn't go)
   the first of which was in part organised by one Michael X
+ I visited the current exhibition at the Photographers' Gallery Made You Look
    which featured photographs by Colin Jones of the Black House on Holloway Road
    ..which was spearheaded by none other than...Michael X.      


new moniker

for my gaff...



spent a couple of days down in cornwall - I couldn't get over how green and lush everything looked - everywhere dry stone walls were frothing with foxgloves, ferns and saxifraga,

and on a long walk along a coastal path I spied a scattering of miniature wild orchids...

with the weather holding out, we had a few lazy days on the beach too...


Sutton House

Last summer I went on an free short course in community gardening run by the properly excellent Cordwainers Grow. They got in touch with their ex-students recently about an opportunity to work with Sutton House on a growing project - specifically turning a big beautiful vintage coach sitting in the latter's grounds into a greenhouse...sounded dreamy.

A few of us met up to discuss the project, and what we thought we could do, or grow, in the space. Later, I drafted our expression of interest and later still, lo, our group were accepted. 
...a little gardening to look forward to on those long summer evening still to come..


Langley Vale

Back in January TRP and I roused ourselves from the general fug of post Christmas-time and spent a couple of late nights working on a little competition for the Woodland Trust. A very nice one actually, a small visitor centre for a woodland that has yet to be planted - the idea of a new forest nestled within ancient ones is something special. 
That was a good starting point; our building would initially exist in an empty clearing, we imagined it as a glass-y box hovering in a mist of clustered timber columns. Then, as the woodland begins to grow the columns around the building envelope dissipate into the new growth. As the trees mature, the visitor centre is no longer an abstracted forest in an empty space but a clearing within the canopy of dense woodland. 
Building as woodland in clearing > building as clearing in woodland. I still think it's a strong narrative. We were happy with the submission, a simple, axial plan, decent images…

The shortlist of three was announced today. We didn't make it. That's ok, there were over 250 entries. Perhaps the judges didn't dig our 'Don't Look Now' icy vibe...well, no images released as yet so I'm reserving all judgment until I see the chosen submissions...


Some like it HUT

JM and I entered a competition for a beach hut on the Eastbourne seafront just before christmas. We liked the idea of a simple repeating timber truss, clad in between with shiny metal shingles. Here are our initial competition boards - I thought they looked pretty good.

We got long listed. And then this week we got shortlisted - hurray - currently getting A1 boards and a model together for the final jury in March.