MAEDA VISITING SCHOOL 2017: Furnishing the Landscape Review

by Sean Gwee, AA 2nd Year
22 August 2017 Hooke Park, Dorset   Cannibalising the installation by Andy Goldsworthy that once stood pride of place at the approach to Hooke Park, the 2015 edition of the Maeda Visiting School sought to develop a poetic connection to the installation that was deemed a health and safety infringement and had to be dismantled. The installation was reborn as the symbolic front swing gate and its sister, a platform, which offered an alternate route from the tarmac road that lead into the campus. The platform promised the walker a path less travelled, but the platform came to an abrupt halt as it ended in a sharp drop.     Continuing from the work done in the previous Maeda visiting school, this year’s program started out with relatively modest goals: reinforce the platform, remove the scaffolding which had been added as a temporary structure, and propose a resolution to the dramatic drop cliff at the end of the platform.   In a short span of four active days our team of 12 not only managed to complete the goals but also maintained the visual language first established in 2015. This involved a constant process of improvisation and adaptation. We had the benefit of hindsight to guide us in the form of Terrence who had participated in the 2015 edition. His experience served as the basis for many of the design decisions we made, this helped in making the structure feel like a singular expression.     The process was a series of steps, each taken after the other based on observations made in previous steps. There was a great reluctance to overly plan out what we wanted to do, especially regarding the resolution of the platform. Our guiding principle was to cross the bridges as we came to them.
The first thing we did was to de-bark the existing structure. This would prove to be a recurring theme throughout the workshop as no matter how thoroughly we thought we had managed to de-bark, patches of damp mossy bark would present themselves to us almost every hour. In de-barking the structure, we grew intimately familiar with its sinuous curves, gnarls and fluid form. This may have been the most important process as it gave us a deep appreciation for what we were working on and with.     Following which, we installed three new vertical support columns. This step introduced us to the structures underbelly, its inner workings.   The final step of refurbishment was to replace some of the timber decking. This step helped define our understanding of the structures overall visual language, a juxtaposition between the powerful organic form of the supports and the clean linearity of the decking.     Having finally reached the bridge where we had to propose a resolution to the sheer drop, we paused for a moment to ponder what the structure could become (this pause may have included quite a few beers and talk of swings and bells and swings with bells). In the end, the answer was to be found in the structure itself.
  At the end of the longer horizontal support lay an intriguing branch formation that almost resembled an eye. We decided our proposal would seek to frame that natural frame. By building a set of stairs leading down to a lower platform, we would emphasise the formation, creating a space for a walker to appreciate the intimacies that we had taken a week to realise was in front of our very eyes.     “I’m lost in the woods, I’m down on my mind, I’m building a still, to slow down time.” – Bon Iver   Credits: Tutors: Shin Egashira and Pedro Jervell Participants: Terrence Kim, Timothy Tan, Hwajeong Lee, Alison Cheng, Noah Gotlib, Amaya Hernandez, Joy Lai, Ran Ben Chaya, Sean Gwee, Maya Kleiman All photographs in this article are by Terrence Kim     For more information: Maeda Visiting School Hooke Park Maeda Corporation