Pierre d'Avoine & Colette Sheddick
Redressing – the badlands of southern England
The landscape of southern England has been subject to great transformation and change, still much of it may be experienced as rural countryside. There are few completely new settlements, even the new towns of the postwar period were generally extensions of existing settlements and were built mainly to the north of London. The scale of change has increased dramatically in the 20th century. Road and railway infrastructure has sliced up the land, even overriding landownership rights of the aristocracy if necessary. The pragmatics of constructing major transport infrastructure has revealed different building types and land use in surreal juxtaposition. It created the conditions, in the latter half of the twentieth century, for the extension and development of London especially along the motorway corridors – an expanding force-field of airports, hypermarkets, business parks and leisure centres, barely held it check by green belt legislation which is now increasingly challenged.
We aim to focus our attention on the landscape to the west of London – defunct Middlesex (now part of Greater London), Berkshire, Wiltshire and Somerset through which the M4 motorway passes, and are concerned as much with the prehistoric landscape, as the successive transformations of the land that have taken place since the Roman occupation over a thousand years ago. We propose to study sites that we call pocket landscapes, where despite the best endeavours of planning legislation and before the advent of the conservation movement the land was developed in a piecemeal way; where global ambition overrode the concerns of small communities, leaving once rural settlements stranded within the hinterland of airport expansion, villages isolated within land taken over by the military, farms engulfed by industrial development and the grounds of stately homes given over to motorway services. Cultural changes and the indifference of communities to what has gone before has seen places such as Avebury in Wiltshire, one of the most important prehistoric landscapes in Europe, overlaid by medieval and subsequent settlement. We are interested in the ruins and landforms left by previous generations, and the potential to work generously on landscapes and environments that have been degraded through misuse or owing to the passage of time.
Our interest is in the design of a space and place for gathering and as a focal point for the immediate and wider community. The programme invites you to consider the design of an environment and its use and purpose within a wider context extrapolated from the pre-existing conditions of the site. Design development of proposals will explore issues of scale considering also the necessity for intimacy and a sense of nearness in terms of landscape, building and the interior, using ethnographic procedures, detailed material studies and carefully judged means of representation.