Rubber Bouncing Balls

rubber balls

I have a beautiful rubber ball collection. It’s a collection made with love as my husband would use up the change in his pocket to buy a rubber ball for me from the slot machine outside our corner shop. They used to be kept in our fruit bowl but then we moved and there are no slot machines in the town we now live in– antique shops instead.  So the rubber balls have been preserved in a French Kilner jar until the niblings come round and roll them around the house.

fresneau_pics

My ongoing interest in lost or forgotten industries and materials, I wondered when the first rubber ball was made. Its claimed that a Californian scientist, Norman Stingley, in 1965, by spending his spare time playing with rubber and looking at in compression – 3500 pounds of pressure per square inch, invented a bouncy, resilient rubber ball to play with.

 

rubber-ballplayer-mural-from-teotihuacanBut that ignores 1000s of years of a rubber industry and the MesoAmerican rock art that clearly shows a ballgame being played out alongside found artefacts of rubber balls varying in sizes from that period.  It is even claimed that the games were so popular that rubber factories existed to make up to 16000 balls each year.  But the game came with a price – the loosing team were sacrificed to the gods – never has winning meant so much.

oddfjclosures_smallAs an aside, Kilner jars like the one I keep my rubber balls in, are preserving jars that use rubber as part of the seal, clamped between a glass jar and top with a metal clip or sealed with a metal screw-topped and were invented and manufactured by a Yorkshire family – John Kilner & Co in the1800s. But every country seems to have a variation on this – Masons Jars, Fowler’s Vacola jar and a Weck jar.  The specialism in design of pickling and preserving jars is delightful.

Reciprocating Follies

University of Brighton Architecture and Interior Architecture students will, for the third year running, be building a pavilion in the faculty’s quadrangle to showcase their design projects at the Faculty of Arts Graduate Show 2013.

The first year we did this we explored rammed chalk walls and strawbale techniques.

Pavilion 2011

Pavilion 2011

Rammed chalk wall

Rammed chalk wall

Strawbale Wall

Strawbale Wall

Last years pavilion investigated how best to bend continuous lengths of wood to create the structure, which led us to camping for a week in local Sussex woodlands bending newly cut coppiced native English wood such as birch and larch.

Pavilion 2012

Pavilion 2012

Stripping Birch

Stripping Birch

Stripping Birch

Stripping Birch

This year the pavilion will link to the Brighton ‘Waste House’ project, a research project run by Duncan Baker-Brown of BBM architects,  looking at re-use and up-cycling within the construction industry.

The pavilion is exploring how to use off-cuts from sheet materials, such as plywood, that would usually end up in either landfill or incinerators. The roof will be based on research into lamella and reciprocating grid structures.  These are frameworks of mutually supporting beams that link multiple short lengths connected by friction alone to allow a structure to span an area much greater than the individual lengths.  Usually made of timber, these structures were first seen in China and Japan arriving in Europe in the 13th century in the drawings of the artist Villard de Honnecourt.

Because of its low-tech joints this is a system explored in both self-build projects as well as sophisticated sustainable projects. Our interest is in the possibility of finding new uses for rejected off-cuts and in making large, continuous complex structures that can be fabricated and raised by our unskilled workforce of students.

Lamella roof structure

Lamella roof structure

lamella & reciprocating structures

Lamella & reciprocating structures

reciprocating structure

Reciprocating structure

In conjunction with Cat Fletcher of Freegle we are looking to salvage much of the material from construction sites and demolition projects. In addition we will work with ideas developed in a Level 5 Faculty Option project where the students were asked to think innovatively about reusing waste materials or abandoned objects. Ideas include knitted textiles from waste cling film or CD cases as cladding systems. 

The pavilion is also featured as an open event as part of Royal Institute of British Architects Love Architecture Festival 2012

The Visit Part II

This follows on from The Visit Part I

The old Merchants’ Railway starts down at the harbour (WWII) running from Portland Castle (Tudor) up past the Verne Citadel (Napoleonic), now a prison, skirting a working quarry (1897), and ending at the abandoned Tout Quarry, now a sculpture park (1983).  We are working with The Portland Sculpture and Quarry Trust who run the Tout Quarry Sculpture Park and The Drill Hall running stone carving courses and the Living Land Archive – an interdisciplinary resource of projects researching and proposing Portland stone and the regeneration of quarries.

Hannah Sofaer and Paul Crabtree have been the most generous of hosts whilst on Portland, finding places to stay for 30 of us – including in their own houses, driving us around to meet people in their jeep, teaching us stone carving and setting up a tour around a working quarry and masonry and talks by retired quarrymen.  In exchange we have added to their archive of shared knowledge about Portland and the quarries.

studentsatthequarry

students at thequarry

stonecarvingworkshop

stone carving workshop

Supperinthedrillhall

Supper in the Drillhall

On the last evening we had an exhibition in the Drill Hall of the work completed whilst there, inviting all those that had contributed to the students growing understanding of the place. The mayor was invited who came dressed in her regalia before she changed into her other uniform – that of the district nurse.

The mayor of Portland and students

The mayor of Portland and students

The Visit Part I

I am on my way to Portland by the slow, very slow train that plods along the south coast from Brighton to Weymouth via the delights of Southampton. This trainline has a way of sucking out any romanticism that may have been attached to the locomotive industry in this country.  There are too few great train rides left in the UK. Or to be more exact, our train lines run through so of the more isolated and beautiful parts of our island, but the trains themselves are not so very exciting or relaxing.

Two of my favourite are the South Devon railway line that runs from Exeter to Totnes,  built by Isambard Brunel.  It is enticing both for its history, the railway being designed to be worked by atmospheric power which uses air pressure to provide power for propulsion, supposedly cheaper than the then alternative of steam, and the stretch of coast it hugs. The other is the West Highland Line that runs from Glasgow to Fort William.  You want to wake up in time to eat breakfast whilst passing through the beautifully bleak Scottish landscape of Tyndrum, Ranoch Moor,  Corrour etc.

There used to be a railway line between Weymouth and Portland.  Called the Portland Branch Railway it ran from Weymouth, alongside Chessil Beach down to the port and then under the cliffs of East Weares until turning up over Church Cove Ope and into the town of Easton. The line operated from the late nineteenth century until closing to passengers in 1952 and goods in 1965. For a short line, it had a complex history, built in three separate sections and operated jointly by two rival railway companies.

The Weymouth extension was built to take mainlanders over to work in the quarries of Portland alongside taking coal down to the docks for the ships.  In the other direction the Easton and Church Hope line transported stone between quarry and port.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/64/Porland_island_map1937.jpg

 

Easton Railway

Easton Railway

Some of the line can still be walked, but the line that would have run through the Port is blocked off so instead you walk up the old horse powered tramway – The Merchants Railway.

The merchants railway

The merchants railway

“This line was one of the earliest public railways in the world and was therefore the first line in Dorset. It was 4ft 6in gauge and worked until closure entirely by a combination of horsepower and a rope worked incline.  It was authorised in 1825, opened in October 1826 and closed to traffic in September 1939 although all the infrastructure remained in place until sale for scrap in 1957. It carried stone for export from the quarries high up at the north end of the Island to Castletown Pier where the stone was transited to sea going shipping.”

http://www.island-publishing.co.uk/weyrails.htm

 

Quarry Ponies on the Merchants Railway Line

Quarry Ponies on the Merchants Railway Line

The Gift Part I

Just to flesh out the context of this blog, I am an architect and the course leader of the BA(hons) architecture at the University of Brighton. We set umbrella briefs for the year and then each studio takes an attitude to it to write their own studio projects.

This year the theme is PUBLIC HOUSE.

a gin shop

A Gin Shop

http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/study/architecture/architecture-ba/BA-studios-2011-2013-public-house

Portland has little in the way of cheap, temporary accommodation. Historically, the pub would often function as an inn, a lodging place for any weary traveller. But in any tightly knit community the pub is also known fondly as “the local” and has always been at the centre of working men & woman’s lives.  The history of the pub reflects the changing working and social habits of Britain. It is the place where locals and travellers can meet – a spot to tell a good yarn in and exchange news. Our studio is using the pub as the backdrop to the change on Portland from an economy of heavy industry to a newly flourishing one of sports, landscape conservation, tourism and modern material industries.

We began the project with a 3-week workshop where each student made a beautiful gift to take to Portland. The gift became an early investigative tool by having to respond to the stories, memories, myths and folklore that the students’ uncovered when researching the fascinating history of the island. The gift could be made for a person or a place and was to be taken with us on our weeks field trip to Portland. The gift would become a conversation piece, an ice-breaker, a probe, a beginning of the students’ understanding of the place and the people.

Click on this link to take you to the students rolling blog of the project.

http://studio6brighton.tumblr.com/

The Isle of Slingers

The Isle of Portland is the site for this years Studio 06 project.  The Studio’s project briefs always start with looking at “the abandoned”, “the forgotten” or “the lost”, whether an industry, a village, a landscape, a product or a person.  We have looked at the decaying piers of the south east coast, the forgotten early UK film industry in Shoreham fort and this year we are starting with the shrinking Portland Stone industry and the deserted quarries on the island.

Portland Island Map1937

Portland Island Map1937

I have been to Portland to go climbing many times – its not my preferred venue because it is sport climbing and I love the freedom of ‘trad’, that allows you to find your own route, and place your own protection as and when it feels necessary to you. But Portland always seems to have its own mico-climate where the sun can shine through even when there is sea mist over the Dorset coastline. And Portland also has a way of fascinating an outsider – or kimberline, as it appears to have its own unique micro society, history and landscape.

Which is why last summer, when climbing there (on a wet day with time to explore) I thought it would be a wonderfully diverse site for next years cohort of architectural students. And so I started to delve into its history and am now so thoroughly immersed in it as a place, both in its past, its present and speculating about its future that I might just have to move there.

Portland Sketch

A sketch of the Island of Portland

An irreverent but fond portrayal of the Island  for the uninitiated of the Isle of Portland is Mark Steel’s in Town.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00jsykr

I run Studio 06 at the University of Brighton with Catrina Stewart and our brief this year is “The Isle of Slingers” , a term coined by T.S.Hardy, a frequent visitor to the Isle.  The name derived from the 16th century accounts of the islander’s skill of slinging stones at strangers to keep them away.  Nowadays it is this stranger that islanders want to encourage to come and visit.  The students have been asked to develop projects that will contribute to the culture and economy of Portland looking specifically at finding new uses for the many dis-used Portland Stone quarries that lie across the island.