RIBA Boundaries

RIBA Boundaries

United Kingdom, 2019

Nothing to Declare

The edge of a building, the edge of a city, the edge of a country.

Nothing to Declare proposes that the RIBA gallery become a site of investigation to consider the materiality of an edge. This proposal is filtered through two practices: Roz Barr’s work as an architect with a commitment to the materiality of structure; and artist Henrietta Williams work revealing invisible boundaries in the city. Our collaboration will be rooted to a research process that sets out to activate the RIBA archive. A built installation will be worked closely to a projected film, outside of the gallery space a program of walks is proposed to introduce the audience to the sites explored within the films. Through operating at different scales and through different disciplines we encourage the audience to explore what a boundary, an edge, might be.

Two opposing floor to ceiling facades line the gallery space. On one side a façade of Portland Stone is abstracted into white chalk, acting as a signifier of the edge of a building. This façade, designed by Roz Barr Architects, will relate to three buildings that relate closely to the RIBA archive. Facing this is a rougher hewn surface of chalk, acting as a symbol of the edge of a country drawing to mind the white cliffs of the South Coast of England. The structure and detailing of the built forms are central to this proposal, that sets out to explore the physical and material boundaries of our interpretation of an edge. We propose the carving of the chalk wall and façade would be made by craftsman Philip Surey, who collaborated with Roz Barr on the gold gilding of the interior at St Augustines.

Projected on the gallery wall will be a film that traces a narrative arc through the RIBA archive, stone quarries on the Isle of Portland, the white cliffs of England’s south coast, and the crafting of these materials into the final installation. The visuals will focus on the way that materials form our human readings of a boundary. The solidity of the stone edge of a building façade set against the careful movements of a drone delineating the White Cliffs of Dover as a line from above. A unified soundtrack will play within the gallery space: the roar of waves breaking at the base of a cliff, the sounds of a quarry forming building materials out of natural rock, the voice of the craftsmen.

As a final element within the gallery space we will program an archive area. This will present Roz Barr’s drawings of the façade design alongside rarely seen RIBA archive material. Outside of the gallery space we propose a program of walks at locations to engage new audiences to consider an edge: a wander along the Seven Sisters cliffs, a tour around the façade of a specific building, a walk uncovering the route of London Wall. At this moment of rewriting what a nation’s boundaries might be ‘Nothing to Declare’ encourages us to think beyond form. Instead we ask the visceral question of how the body might operate within the material space of that edge, both inside and outside the gallery.