Press Release:
Reinterpreting the Primitive Hut

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2 June – 6 July 2015

Sir John Soane’s Museum

Reinterpreting the Primitive Hut (C) Sir John Soane's Museum

RA Lecture Drawings to illustrate Primitive Huts – interior perspective of a primitive hut with internal pillars and side aisles Sir John Soane’s Museum

Sir John Soane’s Museum has invited students from seven architectural units at The Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture & Design, London Metropolitan University, to respond to the theme of the Primitive Hut using Soane’s own research and materials, and then develop an installation that will sit outside the Museum throughout June as part of the London Festival of Architecture.

The students and tutors from each unit – the latter of which includes Florian Beigel, Philip Christou, Stephen Taylor, Pierre D’Avoine and the Free Unit led by Robert Mull – were given unique access to Soane’s extensive collection on the subject, including drawings, books and models that he used to teach his own architecture students. The Cass students were also provided with texts relating to Primitive Huts, such as Marc-Antoine Laugier’s 1755 Essay on Architecture.

Drawing on these materials, and with references to contemporary culture, students from each unit designed their reinterpretation of the Primitive Hut and made models to be exhibited outside the Museum from 2 June to 6 July, also coinciding with the London Festival of Architecture, which celebrates architecture throughout London during the month of June. The models take the form of 1:1 scale vertical sections, which will be displayed on plinths overlooking Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

Each model showcases a different, modern-day response to the rich history and theory of the Primitive Hut. The designs utilise ideas of craft and simple manufacturing techniques used by early man to create contemporary shelter concepts. Although the units were given the same resources, the resulting designs are hugely diverse in terms of shape and material.


The winning design by Unit 10, daytime view

On the collaboration, Dean of The Cass Robert Mull commented,

“Our collaboration with the Soane museum grew out of a conversation with Abraham Thomas and his colleagues during which we realised we had a common interest in live projects and making at full scale as a way of teaching and exploring architectural ideas. Soane’s idea of the Primitive Hut proved a provocative starting point, which challenged the tired idea of the pop up and resulted in proposals with strong material and social ambitions. The Cass wants to thank Abraham and his colleagues at the Soane Museum and congratulate our winner.”

To select an overall winner the projects were judged by an expert panel made up of Abraham Thomas, Director of Sir John Soane’s Museum, Ellis Woodman, Director of the Architecture Foundation, Joseph Rykwert, architectural historian and authority on Primitive Huts and Anne Markey of Cass Projects.

Unit 10 – tutored by Signy Svalastoga, Jonathan Cook and Edward Simpson – was awarded first place. Through their design, the students from Unit 10 aimed to explore the fundamental and timeless relationship that shelter makes in negotiating the ground and external environment, using the directness and intimacy of the Primitive Hut as a starting point. The students proposed to construct a full-size version of their design by reusing material from demolition companies around London, with the aim of getting the materials sponsored by the companies in order to reduce building costs.

On the winning design by Unit 10, Abraham Thomas comments,

“I was very impressed with the range and quality of all the entries – especially in terms of the material expression, and I would like to thank all of the units that participated. I thought that this was particularly strong in the Unit 10 submission, the overall winner, which took an ordinary suite of materials and made them extraordinary. Taking concrete and rebar, and applying a combination of polishing and oxidising respectively leaves us with a poetic reveal of materiality and a celebration of the everyday. The proposed pavilions would appear as a disparate group of fragments of ruined buildings – something that would have amused and intrigued John Soane if he were looking out on to Lincoln’s Inn Fields today from his front windows at No 13.

Reinterpreting the Primitive Hut will be on display outside Sir John Soane’s Museum between 2 June and 6 July as part of the London Festival of Architecture 2015.