[transient collection] tangible temporality
University of Nottingham
2010
Final Undergraduate Project

After several site visits over the course of 3 months I began an investigation into a plant growing predominantly in the relatively sheltered, southerly salt marshes on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent. After substantial research into the Isle of Sheppey’s salt marshes one abundant plant, which turned a vibrant red throughout the site visits, became the focus of the investigation. Through the research Salicornia, commonly known as glasswort, became historically evident for the Isle of Sheppey and in the process of making glass. These factors began to underpin the projects focus and narrative.

Salt Marshes

Salt Marsh Dock

Bridge to Mainland

Obsolete Industry

Isle of Sheppey South Coast

The south coast where the glasswort was observed is also occupied by several industrial sites. The environment comes across as a fairly desolate place where the exposed salt marshes and estuary environment clashes with the backdrop of defunct and operational industry. The main aims of the project, in response to my observations and research into the salt marshes and glasswort, was to reacquaint users with the distinctive local and natural time scales, (tangible temporality), that are somewhat contrary to those of modern light mediums such as TVs, computers and phones etc. In response to the site, the aim was to not contradict the existing industrial conflict with the landscape but embrace it and develop a programme which incorporated both.

Isle of Sheppey Glasswort Salt Marshes

Salt Marshes

Site Analysis

Site Location

Glasswort

By incorporating the cyclical nature of the glasswort plant, which is dependent of seasonal, tidal and climatic conditions, into the project’s programme, the resulting design attempts to reflect and represent the environmental changes (transients) that the project is situated in. The programme developed around harvesting and maintaining the glasswort plants, (transient collection), and processing it into the compound sodium carbonate, the historically important key ingredient for making glass. Other essential materials to produce glass, such as sand, can also be harvested from the adjacent environment and stored for two glass making processes.
The first was the precise and mechanised production of camera lenses. Due to the raw way in which the materials are collected and processed from the vicinity each lens batch is slightly different, and speaks of a specific time, and conditions from when the raw ingredients originated. These lenses, as well as being sold for photographic purposes are then used to document the environment and form an archive of atmospheric and distinct photographs, to be viewed by the public.
The second process is a creation of hand made sculptures, using local, historical, glass blowing methods. Artists are invited to reside on site, giving classes to visitors and the local inhabitants of Sheppey, who once more get to visualise the different qualities in the glass, and hence the environment that created them. This side of the programme heralds back to the craft nature of historical glass production when sodium carbonate would have been extracted from glasswort plants.

Programmatic Outline

The programme is dictated by the enviromental conditions and so it too has seasons. Its functions are reliant on a sustainable collection and regrowth of the glasswort as it is entirely dependent on its continuity.Glass can also be recycled directly back into the production process and it aids in lowering the new glass’ melting point in the furnace. Therefore the programme is not only fueled by the environmental transients, but also local anthropic ones. A regular collection across the Isle of Sheppey would fuel the programme and when users visit the site household waste glass can also be brought and collected to add into the production of the hand sculpted pieces.

Plans;
1. Irrigation channels / Sand Traps
2. Factory (processes the glasswort, refines other ingredients and machines the lenses)
3. Temporary material store
4. Artist residence
5. Train (delivery of materials / people to site)
6. Furnaces & workshop (where the majority of glass craft takes place)
7. Gallery Spaces / Archives (for crafted pieces, lenses and photographs)
8. Photography Studio / Darkroom

The project’s construction is predominantly glass, a material which allows insight into the factory and archives but also reacts visually to the climatic and costal conditions, the facade constantly changing due to light levels and weathering over longer periods of time. Internal processes also produce residues, inhibiting views but further exhibiting activity, production and the transient nature of the programme. The facades also allow views out and connections back into the vast environment that influenced and dictate the proposal.

Visualisation

Cross Section

Harvester

Factory

Artist

User

Lens Artist