As part of the Primary Capital Programme series of art commissions, London based artists and EXYZT fellows Nicolas Henninger and Sara Muzio will develop an art work for May Park Primary School, Easton, Bristol.
Nicolas Henninger and Sara Muzio are part of EXYZT, a collective, architectural practice originally founded by five architects, Nicolas Henninger, François Wunschel, Phillipe Rizzotti, Pier Schneider and Gilles Burban, who studied together at La Villette School of Architecture in Paris. In 2002 the architects formed the practice around the idea of 'building and living together'. This approach means that EXYZT not only design their projects but also build them, erecting temporary structures and creating social spaces that are programmed in consultation with local user groups. Since their first project in 2003, the collective has slowly grown into a network of like-minded people who come together around certain projects and include a graphic designer, plumber, DJ, photographer, woodworker, electrician, web designer, cook and writer. Exyzt have made installations and interventions in a number of cities including Paris, Venice, London and São Paulo. Sara Muzio and Nicolas Henninger have collaborated since 2006, leading on UK based projects for EXYZT.
For the commission at May Park School, Nicolas Henninger and Sara Muzio are developing a project entitled ‘The Hide’, to be situated in the woodland clearing behind the school. Comprising of a small sculptural building made of timber on concrete foundations, the main element of the structure is based on a ‘zome’ - the repetition of a geometric form (eg triangle or diamond) in double helix pattern, which is based on the golden section and echoes structures found in nature. The zome structure will be visible from the inside, however outside ‘The Hide’ will form more of a sculptural mass made up of frames which will be fixed together along their edges at two points. Over this structure okoume plywood panels will be fixed and waterproofed to allow for a final layer in the form of a free form cladding, also out of timber battens, to be fixed over the entire boulder to create a graphic design.
The structure will allow daylight in at discreet sections enabled by using transparent glass, including sections where children can use the structure as a hide, to look out onto the wildlife including an area currently occupied by a badger set. The door of the structure will be painted in blackboard paint so that it can be used as a signage or as a noticeboard to announce activities taking place in the wood, or to be drawn on by the children, or as support for teaching activities. The artwork should also integrate existing outdoor seating and a new storage structure for outdoor class room and camping activities which are popular with pupils at May Park.
This commission is funded by Bristol City Council and is due for completion in 2014.
“We want to build new worlds where fiction is reality and games are new rules for democracy. If space is made by dynamics of exchange, then everybody can be the architects of our world and encourage creativity, reflection and to renew social behaviours.”
EXYZT’s manifesto proclaims it as a ‘platform for multidisciplinary creation’ whose aim is to challenge the view of architecture as an independent field of practice. Instead, they embark on experimental living ventures built collectively. The collective conceive and organise each project as a playground in which cultural behaviours and shared stories relate, mix and mingle. Each project strives to involve different constituencies of the local community in a social network that is invited to inhabit a temporary space.
EXYZT typically choose empty sites or buildings in the city, acquiring them temporarily with the permission of the owner and transforming them with simple structures and mobile units that have a DIY aesthetic and are cheap and easy to build. Although EXYZT's projects seem very informal they are heavily curated, by creating links with local inhabitants and specific user groups they design spaces that can be appropriated by them through organising specifc workshops and events. Whilst projects such as the Southwark Lido and the Dalston Mill in London have been extremely popular, EXYZT have so far resisted the temptation to transform these into permanent amenities. It is in fact their temporary nature that seems to be a key component in their success, ensuring that no space is completely appropriated by one dominant user group. EXYZT's working method, and production of temporary reversible architecture informed by theatre and performance, shares many similarities with that of the Berlin based Raumlabor collective.
Sara Muzio is an architect and film director who has been working with EXYZT since 2006, when her film La Cancha was showing at the Venice Architecture Biennale at the same time as EXYZT built the Metavilla in the French Pavilion. As part of EXYZT she created the Southwark Lido in 2008, the reUNION Public House in 2012, and The Lake in 2013, all at 100 Union Street in Southwark, London. Having lived, travelled and studied across Europe and Latin America, Sara has a precise sensibility in cross-cultural approaches to cultural, social and economic development, with a particular focus on the metabolism of cities. Sara’s extensive body of research and cultural production – including films, books and large-scale public installations – combines excellence in design and aesthetics with an in-depth understanding of cultural, social and economic exclusion. Sara’s projects contest, re-articulate and counteract different forms of marginalisation in imaginative and compelling ways.
Nicolas Henninger was born in Alsace in 1975 and graduated as DPLG architect in Paris in 2003. He has lived and worked in London since 2008. He co-founded EXYZT in 2003 to explore other ways of practicing and experimenting architecture. EXYZT's manifesto claims that, “ A community of users actively creating and inhabitating their environment is key to generating a vibrant world”. Since then, Nicolas Henninger has led a numbers of projects with EXYZT in Europe. Amongst them, the Metavilla with Patrick Bouchain for the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2006; the Southwark Lido in London, commissioned by the Architecture Foundation for the London Festival of Architecture in 2008; and the Dalston Mill with Agnes Denes, commissioned by the Barbican Gallery part of “Radical Nature” exhibition in 2009.
School - May Park Primary School, Coombe Road, Eastville, Bristol BS5 6LE
This commission is part of a series of public art commissions curated and managed by Arnolfini for the Primary Capital Programme (PCP); a Bristol City Council and LEP,(Local Educational Partnership) initiative designed to transform aging primary schools across England into state-of-the-art learning environments over the next 15 years. More information on Arnolfini’s involvement here.