United Kingdom, 2012

Roz Barr Architects and Ramboll collaborated to provide a temporary public space at South Crescent, Store Street as part of the London Festival of Architecture 2012. The brief was to transform the South Crescent into a new public space that could also provide a new event space during the festival.

The crescent outside The Building Centre was transformed into a temporary urban park using 7,000 sandbags for 10 days as part of the London Festival of Architecture. Oculus, as it was named, was the latest in a series of temporary interventions in Store Street’s South Crescent to test ideas for the future use of this small but significant piece of public realm.

The hessian sandbags crafted a new surface, that became benches and a 120-seat amphi-theatre. Suspended above was a lens of water, hanging between the trees, creating a tension physically and metaphorically between the two components. A steel ring supported this membrane of transparent material filled with water which then distorted views of the trees, buildings and sky above.

The notion of using hessian sandbags - an object usually associated with either war, disaster or flooding became appealing. The duality of how we perceive an object and its associated application transformed into something elegant through scale and ordering was of great interest. Sandbags are a ready made object and the laying of this has connotations of a community type project where we could transform this new public space in a short amount of time using a relatively low cost material. Traditionally public squares or spaces are paved or decked in stone, or timber and so we enjoyed the idea of using a material object that is associated with temporality and is assembled in a similar manner to create this new temporary space.

We were interested in using a repeated module size, to transform the application of this material to become a new type of paving surface. The scale of the installation transforms this humble object into a beautifully crafted surface. The same material could provide a robust surface for foot traffic and also allow people to sit and gather.

To re-instate the urban connection of the North and South Crescents was a greater ambition of this proposal. To refurbish and clad the existing Eisenhower Centre on the North Crescent in unison with the new surface at Store Street would re-instate this urban connection.

Photographer: Charles Hosea