Wonders of Weston exhibition, Weston Super Mare Rail Station, UK
Aluminium extrusion, Structural foam cores, “Super-Mirror” polished stainless steel sheet, Recycled sintered rubber
Wonders of Weston, Weston Super Mare, UK
raumlaborberlin : Benjamin Foerster-Baldenius, Axel Timm, Nicole Timm, Sabine Zahn
Situations: Claire Doherty, Michael Prior
raumlaborberlin is a group of architects who combine experimental and participatory working methods with striking designs. They subvert our expectations of what architecture should do and be.
Here raumlaborberlin speak about their unconventional approach to regeneration and how they sought out the overlooked spaces of Weston-super-Mare, drawn to Weston Market by what they called its very ‘British’ character and by the sense of timelessness once inside. raumlaborberlin developed Silly Scope, a temporary structure combining some of the features of a kaleidoscope, a pavilion and an absurd, out of place object, along with the associated project The John Cleese Academy workshops from which SPAM! The John Cleese Fanzine and Funny Foot Age, were produced in collaboration with a group of young people.
Silly Scope was first sited at Weston-super-Mare Railway Station.
In contrast to a conventional approach to regeneration, raumlaborberlin sought out the overlooked spaces of Weston-super-Mare, drawn to Weston Market by what they called its very ‘British’ character and by the sense of timelessness once inside. The market offered a potential live set, or source of props and objects, through which to explore the idea of British humour, so closely identified with seaside towns. Raumlaborberlin developed Silly Scope, a temporary structure combining some of the features of a kaleidoscope, a pavilion and an absurd, out of place object.
Silly Scope is a temporary structure which manifests the Pythonesque mode of seeing the world askew. Resembling a collapsed geodesic dome, the interior surfaces of this structure are reflective creating an effect similar to a mirrored funhouse or hall of mirrors. The structure is modular and has the potential to be moved and seen in different configurations in the future. Crucially Silly Scope is likely to appear where least expected and has been developed to encourage active participation by its users.
Weston Market provided the site in which raumlaborberlin worked with local young people and market stall holders filming sketches based on the life and humour of John Cleese and Monty Python. In the same manner in which Monty Python’s Flying Circus combined animation, performative interruption, anarchic or unexplained characters, raumlaborberlin and the workshop participants worked together over ten days to play out a series of ideas. They produced graphic elements which transformed the bare walls of the market stalls and worked together to produce sculptural objects or props from scenes in Fawlty Towers and Monty Python sketches such as the Moosehead in the hotel lobby, a rat in a biscuit tin and, of course, a dead parrot. The resulting films, Funny Foot Age, recreate some of the most famous Python sketches and suggest a link between the everyday life of Weston and Cleese’s humour; perhaps it was Cleese’s childhood observations of this town that formed the basis for some of the most famous scenes in British comedy.
Raumlaborberlin’s response to the redevelopment of Weston is an astute riposte to the sometimes formulaic style of redevelopment. The artists have developed a distinctive graphic identity featuring the iconic pose adopted by John Cleese in the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch. The site which inspired this work, Dolphin Square and Weston Market was built as one part of a much larger regeneration scheme in the 1960s and as raumlaborberlin’s project developed, the site is again about to enter a time of change and redevelopment. In this context, the imagery and graphics in raumlaborberlin’s work could be thought of as a suggested rebranding for a future Dolphin Square.