Strata and Assemblage - Beyond the Monument is the Monumental Source.
Ed Holloway and Peter Ayres
The history of this island is physically realised through continued diminution of its mass and constant subtractive process. This consequence has made Portland resonant throughout the world as matter from the island has been dispersed and manipulated to embody authority in some of England’s most iconic structures. Employed by Monarchy, Government and Institutions for centuries, the immortal being of this stone embodies the symbolic power of the rituals it protects.
The material itself, however, carries little trace of the endeavours and processes carried out at its source to create these structures and conversely there is little evidence of these symbolic languages being carried back to the island and its inhabitants.
Simultaneously, as the tip of an unscalable berg emergent as bound polyp, this land mass is revealed on a 200M year tectonic odyssey amongst surface earth, honed by the lapidary of restless elements revealed at its temporal edges, imperceptibly understood through the construction of scientific method.
We are concerned with global shifts, with a resource-based power structure that compels a dialogue between the social and political thresholds of authority as territory, and the brutal necessity for awareness of humanity’s position within an immersive and restless ecology.
The circumstances of this island:
- as earth’s infinite history;
- as the envoy of human desire for transformation, power and the sublime;
- as home;
- as niche and as bastion
- are a uniquely connected isolate offering fertile territory for speculation on the modes of our existence in physical place.
- Imperceptible passage of time vs. unequivocal determinism – Old power vs. atomized futures
- Small community vs. scale authority
- Massive excavation vs. fine articulation
- Reciprocation and the rhizome
What are the physical and social implications of materials manipulated and translated from this island returning and what resonances will they carry, and possibly subvert, from the edifices of which they were once component. Will this prehistoric island be a place of refuge for these cultural fragments or will it consume them…?
Task 1: To be presented Monday 7th October
Fragment of Portland London
You will visit London and seek out buildings that have been constructed from Portland Stone. These are manifest, you will find unique cultural landmarks and whole swathes of London built in materials from the island. Two significant records you develop of these fragments will be combined in a form/s that you will then re-place on Portland.
i) Draw and record empirically according to traditional Cartesian method your observations of the visible surfaces of your chosen fragments. These fragments will be determined by you on observation of areas that resonate with your intuitive experience. Selecting a series of stones that have been elementally constructed, these may become abstractions from their context in the way you record, elevations, sections, orthographies or projections thereof but they will remain objective representation.
ii) The other surfaces that you will not be able to see will be an augmented development of the literal record. You will speculate on the hidden matter, surface or space beyond your objective vision and through creative interpretation carry an aspect of the meaning of the fragment from its context into actuality. This could be based upon a narrative association, a relic, form or alternate sensory experience that carries an interpreted mode of the space, sculpture, building or organisation.
Each record will contribute to a pattern book for the Unit for publication and group use before the information is taken to Portland for the next task.
Object that holds place and the emblem of the earth borne eternal.
Considerations (Task 1):
The Isle of Portland as a landmass was created through unique geological events over 300 M years ago. Forming part of the UNESCO world heritage site, The Jurassic Coast, it is made up form a series of bedrock layers that typify, in a uniquely clear way the depositional formation of limestone. It is this bright white robust material that has been the predominant concern of the island’s recent population for nearly 300 years…
Following the Great Fire of 1666, there was a rush to build structures that enforced perception of London as an eternal city, a territory of international prominence as a centre of trade and culture. Wren and Hawksmoor developed neo-classicist treatise, vehicles of a propaganda to re-enforce the burgeoning power and wealth of Britain with London as its base. Portland stone was the choice of material for this message sourced from the Island that, interestingly, was the political power base of one of its propagators Sir Christopher Wren as the MP of nearby Weymouth…
- 1 Million Cubic feet of stone excavated for the construction of St Pauls from the island. In the last few years this same volume has been exhumed for the purposes of coastal defense along the Devon and Dorset coast.
An interview with with staff and students from the Kent School of Architecture will be provided shortly, about their research and outcomes from the project.
Further information can be found online at
Master in Architecture Unit 2, Kent School of Architecture
Ed Holloway BA(hons) Dip Arch M Arch RIBA
Peter Ayres BA(hons) Dip Arch ARB
The Isle of Portland in Dorset has a long history of subtractive terraforming processes, and these have left extreme physical traces in its landscape.
Human mineral industry has diminished the island from one direction, and forces of nature – primarily the sea – have eroded the coastline from the other.
The name of Portland has global resonance: The purity of colour and centuries of time bound within the stone has long been recognised by Monarchy, Government and similar institutions, who have manipulated it to embody the symbolic power of the rituals and authorities it enhances. It is found within some of England’s most iconic structures, including St Pauls, the Cenotaph, the Bank of England and Buckingham Palace.
Unit 2 began by recording fragments of Portland stone embedded in London’s iconic buildings and monuments through observation, drawing, and research. These records were then taken back to Portland to be physically repositioned in the Jurassic landscape, with each student drawing on cultural associations from both contexts to create stimulating juxtapositions.
As the year progressed, students developed individual briefs drawn from observations and study visits to both Portland and London and extended through dialogue with diverse stakeholder groups and organisations.
The students have been examining the interplay between global change and changes to the domestic landscape of the people of this island. Many have considered shifts in the ‘civility’ of a resource-based power structure that literally consumes the land that they live by. Critical reasoning has cultivated spatial and positional dialogues emerging from this understanding. It has revealed the socio-political thresholds of authority as both territory and commodity, as well as the urgent need for of awareness of humanity’s position within a resource hungry ecology.
Units 2 were encouraged to evolve their work evolved through a rigorous developmental process as praxis. Contextual observation and speculative drawing developed into a diverse set of projects.
Some examples of these are
- The merging of human and insect habitats to create ecology rich symbiotic homes
- a materials exchange speculating on the embodied wealth of the stone edifice recapitalised through storage and transformation as lagan
- Floating sentient ghost refuges to shelter fishermen over the sites of treacherous sea wrecks
- An immigration centre poised between the ancient defences of bastion turned prison and the intimate comforts of cookie-cutter citizenship,
- An epic integration of the myth of Orpheus and Persephone into an ecology of landscape, natural forces, ancient and new buildings. Tutoring of the Unit is centred on a personally tailored observational study in order to develop projects reflecting the unique concerns and talents of the individual students.
Projects are encouraged to be grounded in technical eloquence, critical through contextual observation and resonant in poetic articulation between diverse observations of multiple pasts and speculative futures.
Many thanks to our supporters this year…
Technical Tutor: Tom Bell
With thanks to: Portland Sculpture and Quarry Trust, Hannah Soafer, Paul Crabtree, Dian Cochrane, Oliver Broadbent.
Kent School of Architecture
250 Pages. Price £15.00