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Monday, 27 October 2014

Building a Temple at Burning Man festival!

Friday 15th August was a very exciting day for me. I found out that I was being kept on in PLACE after working on a summer project with them. As if I wasn’t already excited enough, I was asked to work on a project with Artichoke in Derry next year with an Artist who builds wooden Temple structures at Burning Man. To research and prepare for this I was asked to be part of the Derry team to help with the Temple build at Burning Man festival in the Nevada Desert in America!  

"Love" art installation by Laura Kimpton

As a former San Francisco resident, artist, creative person, festival reveller and random experience junkie, Burning Man has always been high on my bucket list of inspirational experiences.  Burning Man is a difficult concept to explain if you haven’t been but I’ll try. It’s a festival in the desert where a temporary city, Black Rock City is created for a week. In Black Rock City art and architectural structures are built on the desert, referred to as “the playa” and burnt by the end of the week to emphasise the temporal nature of the festival; immediacy being one of their guiding principles. Burning Man has 10 key principles, which set the tone and atmosphere of the festival, which I think is one of the reasons why it is so unique. Money doesn’t exist in Black Rock City (with the exception of coffee and ice for sale), there is no marketing, brands, band line-ups.  Instead this non-monetary environment is balanced out by a gifting culture (another principle) You no more as have to think of something you need or would like and someone will offer it to you. This ranged from food, a lend of a bike, a hug, a compliment, time, an amazing indian head massage hairwash, an air mattress, weird and wonderful entertainment, as well as countless Burning Man trinkets and mementos. As they say in Black Rock City, “The Playa provides…” which I found to be very true!

Art car & mutant vehicle line up

Myself and the three other Derry crew felt like we had won a golden ticket by being asked to take part.  We made our journey from Derry to Belfast, San Francisco via Newark and hopped on the Burner Express to the Nevada desert!

We arrived with an early pass, first timers at Burning Man were separated from the crowd, made to make dust angels and roll about in the sand and ring a bell shouting “I’m not a virgin anymore!” signifying our initiation into the wonderful mysterious experience that is Burning Man festival.

Temple of Grace at sunset

We were warmly welcomed by David Best to the Temple team of 100 people made up of architects, designers, artists, builders and general volunteers who worked on the Temple for 3 weeks. We helped the last 3 days. Everyone was fascinated by the Derry project and many of them were really keen to be a part of the chosen team going to Derry for the build. We tried to explain the context of Derry, the bonfire culture, divided communities and discussed the potential of a project like this in Derry.

Temple decor team making mosaic tiles for the floor

What struck me about the Temple team was how much of a community family atmosphere had grown between them. Many of them were coping with big losses in their lives and found the Temple project a way to work through these. It was amazing to see such a diverse group of people, of all ages and abilities, full of absolute characters work together in a non hierarchical fashion and tirelessly build a Temple that would be burnt down after a week! 

Temple of Grace team 2014 & David Best, photo by David Washer

The Temple was incredibly intricate and beautiful, made from thousands of wood cut panels which then people were invited to write on and leave their messages. It was such an emotional atmosphere in the Temple, people mourned lost loved ones, singing, praying crying, writing messages This was a stark contrast to the booming techno music and exhibitionism on the main playa. 


The altar and messages left at the Temple

The Temple burn night was the last night of the festival. As Temple crew we have front seats on the sand and thousands gathered to watch the Temple burn down along with their messages to loved ones, regrets, secrets and confessions. The atmosphere was respectful, reflective and still. We sat mesmerized by the beauty of the Temple burning, watching the flames slowly envelop the structure, the colours of the flames inverting like the negative of a photograph, the heat on our faces, the wind dance swirls of dust and ash and eventually the structure spinning and collapsing.


Burning Man and working on the Temple was an amazing, inspirational, intense and emotional experience. I’m so excited about the Temple coming to Derry, if it can even create of fraction of the positivity, emotional release and community atmosphere that comes from working together on a project like this I think it will be very powerful! 

The Man burning


If you want to help #Temple2015 come to Derry, spread the word and donate to their Kickstarter campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/artichoketrust/temple

Help shape the Cathedral Quarter

Cathedral Quarter Trust (CQT) requests your participation in a survey about the Cathedral Quarter area.

The Cathedral Quarter’s cobbled streets have been home to merchants, revolutionaries and artists since the city began life as a world class centre for industry. Today it is the cultural hub of the city with a diverse population of artists working across disciplines in visual, literary and performing arts, and the creative industries. They sit alongside a thriving range of bars, restaurants and hotels, and of course St Anne’s Cathedral itself. 

Cotton Court Managed Workspace, Belfast. Credit: www.bpw.org.uk.

The Cathedral Quarter also has three Managed Workspaces, which offer office, studio and commercial spaces. CQT is eager to learn how these buildings are perceived and understood.

CQT supports the crucial balance of arts, creative industries and business interests in the Quarter, and promotes the historic and cultural appeal of the area. The Trust is asking for your participation to gather information about visiting, or living and working in the Quarter.

Please follow the link below to take part. Comments can be made about a specific location in the Cathedral Quarter by dropping a pin onto the map at that point, you can leave as many comments as you like.

Contribute at this link: https://thecathedralquarter.commonplace.is/
For more information please email info@cqtrust.org or phone 028 9031 4011.

Relaunch of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation NI Branch - Thursday 12 November, 5pm

The Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) in Northern Ireland will relaunch on Thursday 12 November 2014 at Clifton House, Clifton Street, Belfast.

Clifton House. Credit: www.panoramio.com/photo/3400930

5.00pm: Arrival & Coffee
5.30pm: Welcome - What the IHBC can do for you
5.50pm: AGM: Branch updates and voting in the committee
6.00pm: Talks from Dawson Stelfox & Alastair Coey
6.45pm: Discussion
7.00pm: Close and canapes

To reserve your place please email Kate Kendall - LETS@ihbc.org.uk.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Lecture: Modern schools in Belfast: The work of RS Wilshere | Thursday 23 October 6pm - 7.30pm

Modern schools in Belfast: The work of RS Wilshere is an illustrated talk by Dr. Paul Larmour, Architectural Historian & Reader in Architecture at Queen’s University Belfast. Dr Larmour will explore the work of the English-born Belfast architect, RS Wilshere who is best remembered for his Belfast schools of the 1920s and 1930s. Overseeing the design and construction of 26 new schools, Wilshere was recognised in his time as having designed the first modern schools anywhere in Ireland. 




Modern schools in Belfast: The work of RS Wilshere is part of Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014 a series of events celebrating modernist architecture in Northern Ireland as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queens inspired by this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale and the British Pavilion’s A Clockwork Jerusalem. In partnership with & supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council. For more information on Absorbing Modernity events please visit the Belfast Festival at Queens website.

Date: Thursday 23 October
Time: 6pm - 7.30pm
Venue: Lecture Theatre, Ulster Museum
Booking: No registration necessary. Free to attend.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

A Clockwork Venice - Life at the 2014 Venice Biennale

By: Eve Russell (PLACE - Invigilator, Venice Biennale 2014)


A Clockwork Venice – Life at the Venice Biennale 2014
By: Eve Russell (PLACE - Invigilator, Venice Biennale 2014)

Venice City  - A wannabe Venetian
image credit: Eve Russell
Spending a month in Venice working at the Venice Biennale was an exciting, educative and vibrant experience! While tarmac roads and cars dominate the urban form of most cities, green sea water filled canals and boats dominate Venice. Residents live under the magical spell of silence each night, as the noise curfew is enforced, giving the city a movie-set like atmosphere, as the dimly lit narrow stone streets float in silence until the burning red suns rises in the morning to spring life onto the streets once again.
While Venice is populated with just over 60,000 residents, the tourism culture is immensely evident from its streets. Along with the 7 other fellows working at the British Pavilion, I dodged my way through thousands of tourists while crossing over the Venetian bridges on route to work each morning. People are curious about Venice, its architecture, its geography and its charm. It is through getting lost in the narrow, shoulder-width streets of Venice that you truly learn what is so charming about the city, you see how residents live. School playgrounds are elevated above street level, bordered with colourful fencing and the buildings are reusable, adaptable and often have had more than one function in their lifetime.

“Fundamentals” – The 14th Architecture Venice Biennale 2014
Before embarking on the journey from Dublin to Venice, I found it difficult to imagine what the Biennale would be like. Upon our first day of collecting our steward passes we entered into this garden of architecture - The Giardini, where we worked at the British Pavilion for a month. The main pavilion directed by Rem Koolhaas, explores the 16 ”Elements of Architecture”, looking at key moments in history that each element has featured; showing how architectural elements often provide a platform for political proclamation, royal and religious moments and everyday life. The Arsenale hosts the other portion of countries participating in the Architecture Biennale. The “Monditalia” exhibition explores architecture across Italy, through architectural designs and the visual arts such as film and dance, using the elements such as the ceiling, wall, door and stair to display them.




“A Clockwork Jerusalem” – The British Pavilion 
The British Pavilion responded to the theme set by Rem Koolhaas “Absorbing Modernity”. Entitled “A Clockwork Jerusalem” the exhibition made reference to the movie “A Clockwork Orange”  and William Blake’ s poem, “Jerusalem”. The Modern Movement within Britain between 1914 and 2014 is explored, referencing the cause of Modernism within Britain and the journey taken until 2014. The post-war state of Britain left a lot of destruction, poverty and homelessness. This needed to be addressed and in order to move forward, people looked to new ways of designing architecture, housing and urban form. 

The introduction of Modern social housing such as Robin Hood Gardens, Hulme Housing Development and Thamesmead (which featured in the movie A Clockwork Orange) all proposed an alternative way of living. Cars and the mechanisation of buildings became a key feature in many of these new housing developments, incorporating central communal green spaces to be used by the residents, improving their quality of life and utilising the ruins of the destroyed terraced housing. Satellite towns such as Milton Keynes were developed and used to move people from the city centres, hoping to reduce poverty and provide new starts, while being connected by the “concrete” motorways.

Finding Jerusalem – what happens after Modernism?
After many of the new housing developments failed to function for their original use, because of poor building standards, health and safety issues, industrialisation and post-industrialisation, the people that inhabited them were left once again without a home, with depleting standards of living and little hope for the future in a recession. However, as Modernism in Britain grew from the ruins of a broken Britain, the ruins of Modernism can be used to construct a new future for Britain, a new hope, a New Jerusalem.


For more information on PLACE's involvement with this year's Venice Biennale, search the Absorbing Modernity programme at the Belfast Festival at Queens





Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Ulster Museum: 1914-2014: Evolution amidst Revolution

Ulster Museum: 1914-2014: Evolution amidst Revolution is an exhibition, curated by Rosaleen Hickey, celebrating the architectural history of the Ulster Museum over the last 100 years.




Featuring rarely seen archival drawings, photographs and footage of the museum, the exhibition sheds new light on one of Belfast’s most iconic buildings. The Ulster Museum: 1914-2014: Evolution amidst Revolution is part of Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014 a series of events celebrating modernist architecture in Northern Ireland as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queens inspired by this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale and the British Pavilion’s A Clockwork Jerusalem.

The exhibition opens on Friday 17 October, 6pm - 8pm in the Belfast Room at the Ulster Museum. All welcome and refreshments served. Tours take place 23 & 30 October at 1pm from the atrium led by architectural historian and exhibition curator, Rosaleen Hickey. Exhibition continues until Saturday 1 November (Closed Mondays).

In partnership with the Ulster Museum & supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council.

For more information on Absorbing Modernity events please visit the Belfast Festival at Queens website.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Fundamentally Biennale

(2014 International Architecture Biennale, Venice)
By: Eve Russell (PLACE - Invigilator, Venice Biennale 2014)

The Architecture Biennale takes place every two years in Venice, with a range of countries that have permanent pavilions in the Biennale Park designing an exhibition that responds to a common theme. The 2014 Biennale is curated and directed by Rem Koolhaas, an award-winning Dutch architect. The title he has set for this year is “Fundamentals” and the theme is “Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014”. 

Each country that has a pavilion in the Biennale Park has designed an exhibition that responds to the 2014 theme, which is show-cased during the Biennale festival that runs from June-November 2014.
The British Pavilion is being curated by FAT Architecture and Crimson Architectural Historians, who have entitled the British Pavilion Exhibition “A Clockwork Jerusalem”. The exhibition explores modernist architecture within the United Kingdom, documenting the UK’s response to the modernist movement.

This year, the British Council funded a fellowship programme for 50 fellows from various universities and organisations throughout the UK to invigilate the British Pavilion. They have also added a new dimension to the invigilating programme, with a 12-day research programme included as part of the invigilating role. Each fellow has the opportunity to design their own short research project to explore while in Venice. I am PLACE’s representative and will be invigilating at the British Pavilion exhibition for a month this summer.

A training programme took place in April this year, with 45 of the fellows meeting at the Barbican in London to embark on a series of tours, talks and discussions about the Biennale. This was a great opportunity to meet the other invigilators and learn about something we are all passionate about. The training days involved staying at Balfron Tower, a modernist residential tower block designed by Ernő Goldfinger in the 1960s, artists and residents still live in the tower.  We explored many parts of London, including other residential modernist buildings such as Robin Hood Gardens, and public spaces, Crisp Street Market and Festival of Britain Park. Stratford, the Olympic Park was also part of our exploration, seeing how Britain designs in 2014.


The Venice Biennale this year is about “architecture, not architects” according to Rem Koolhaas and will be an investigation into the history of architecture, of what has been built. The biennale not only considers how countries have absorbed modernity, but people and societies, also. Visiting the biennale is an opportunity to “absorb” the architecture and culture of many countries as well as absorbing Venice, a city literally flooded in architectural, artistic and social heritage.

For more information on PLACE's involvement with this year's Venice Biennale, search the Absorbing Modernity programme at the Belfast Festival at Queens


NI Changing Gear - Thursday 16 October, 9am - 4.30pm

The Department for Regional Development's Cycling Unit invite you to 'NI Changing Gear'. This one day event will feature international speakers exploring possibilities to transform Northern Ireland into a modern, vibrant, healthy cycling society. The opening address will be delivered by DRD Minister Danny Kennedy.

'Changing Gear' seeks to raise awareness of and encourage participation with the consultation process for the draft Bicycle Strategy for Northern Ireland.


NI Changing Gear

Date: Thursday 16 October
Time: 9am - 4.30pm
Venue: Assembly Buildings Conference Centre, The Spires, 2 - 10 Fisherwick Place, Belfast