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ADS4: Plots, Props & Paranoia – How Architecture Stages Conspiracy

Fraser Ingram


Degree Details

School of Architecture

ADS4: Plots, Props & Paranoia – How Architecture Stages Conspiracy

We live in an era that has become obsessed with the past. Not a past of truths or realities, but one which has been orchestrated to maintain the influence, authority, and power of the ruling class. The lure of nostalgia sees architecture complicit, embodied ideologies which serve to propagate the specific, selected ideals from years gone by into the conscious of tomorrow. Conversely, architectures which challenge the current seat of authority exist as points of contention, systematically removed from the world because of their embodiment of an ideology in opposition to that of our own - a vision for a future different to the one history has supplied us with and different to that which illegitimate authorities would have us believe. 

Within the UK, few cities embody the failure of this future like the post-war Utopian experiment of Coventry. A city redesigned following the WWII raids that saw its destruction so complete that it warranted a new verb: "Coventrate”, to reduce to rubble. Unlike other cities which experienced similar levels of destruction, such as Dresden, Warsaw, Hamburg, and chose to rebuild as exact facsimiles of their former self, Coventry’s rebuilding accepted the reality of its past by building a city of tomorrow. A decision with which the city has dealt with the consequences ever since. 

In the decades following its reconstruction, Coventry became radical – arguably more so than any other city in the United Kingdom before or since. Like elsewhere in the UK, this radicalism came to a head in the decade of the 1970s, in which Coventry gave birth to organisations like the PEOPLE Party and witnessed the creation of the Lucas Plan – socialist movements that were some of the first to advocate zero-growth economics, decentralised governance, and socially beneficial production. Free from the weight of history thanks to a built environment which was freed from the baggage of the past, the residents of the city were able to think rationally about the world ahead. As such, the progressive socialist mindset fostered by the city’s rebuilding, came to exist in the people who called Coventry their home. For a brief time at least, its freedom from nostalgia nurtured progressive ideals.   

The Lost City of Coventry acts as evidence of alternate future, one that has been collectively denied to us by our own history; a project which looks to preserve Coventry’s cultural heritage – a heritage of radical socialist thought brought about through the conditions of change, not paralysed by the mourning of it. Composed of three strategies to be commenced this January, the project re-frames Coventry’s accolade as the UK “City of Culture 2021” as an opportunity not for memorialisation but for further destruction, subtraction, and relocation. As such, it serves to reflect on what culture means today and provide optimism in the face of a world increasing fearful of what tomorrow may bring.

Proposing a re-development manifesto for Coventry in the years ahead. Represented by looking back through the documents, drawings and imagery in which it came about.

Demolition Darts - A development devise which acted to democratise the future development of Coventry city centre through the fairness of luck.

Coventration, To Reduce to Rubble - Coventration involved the complete destruction of all previous building at a given location, with raw material instead re-used in local infrastructure and council funded transport projects. A strategy that proved vital for the completion of the nearby HS2 line in the year 2035.

The demolition of Coventry Point 28/04/21 - The act itself was orchestrated as a public celebration, the ultimate architectural sacrifice for the greater good of society.

Relocation - In collaboration with local authorities based elsewhere in the country, listed buildings were exchanged, sent on loan or permanently relocated to alternative locations. Provided evidence could be supplied that they were of better use elsewhere.

Civic Centre 4 Roll Out - Relocation was introduced to coincide with a national ad campaign to inform the people of Great Britain that Coventry could be ‘Sent to them’.

Reimagination - Residents throughout the United Kingdom were able to apply to Coventry City Council in request for socially beneficial solutions in their own locality. Solutions derived from analysis carried out on existing architectures within Coventry city centre, to ascertain potential alternative uses along with the possible re-configurations of the existing structure.

Socially Beneficial Solutions - Where possible, outcomes looked to maintain the design integrity of the previous incarnation, in order to teach the people of the Great Britain that preservation should be of ideas rather than objects. The strategy also went to support the then government drive of net zero by 2050.

One renowned example of Reimagination is that of the former grade 2 listed Central Library, previously the Locano Dance hall and Tiffany’s night club. Following its selection in 2031, detailed analysis and structural testing took place to ascertain potential alternate uses in-line with the existing Local Development Framework. As such, the Reimagination that took place in the summer of 2032, chose to re-purpose the former library into ‘Coventry Care’. A rest bite centre for the elderly, particularly those suffering from dementia.

The Reimagined building, existing as a patchwork between the two, maintained many of the architectural elements of the previous structure, yet also used it as a collection of components on which the construct the new facility.

The technique of presenting common things in an unfamiliar or strange way, conversely served to enhance perception of the familiar when residents returned to their own home. A crucial counter-measure in slowing the rate of regression in degenerative brain disease. Importantly, all buildings that undergo this process must remain the potential for Reimagination at some unknown future date. Simply put, it is what Coventry needs now, not what Coventry may need in its future.

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