Project location: Marfa, South West Texas, 30°18′43″N 104°1′29″W.
Marfa was born right above an aquifer in the Chihuahuan Desert, 100 kilometers from the Mexican border. The town was founded in the early 1880s as a railroad water stop.
In the early 1970s, the American artist Donald Judd left New York for Marfa. He gradually acquired a number of buildings in town, including an entire Army base, and filled it with art. Today, the 400 acres of the site are run by the Chinati foundation. Marfa became an art oasis, a place of story telling between the 2000 locals and art pilgrims from all around the world.
The project started in London, with the investigation of methods to measure and represent the sunlight over the course of an afternoon within the walls of the university.
We then investigated Parliament Square in London.
This public space is geographically located in between the Palace of Westminster, the Supreme Court, multiple buildings of the executive branch, and Westminster Abbey. In relation with the model of the separation of powers, we could say that it physically becomes a mediator between the different branches of the state. It has been historically the departing point of demonstrations in London. However, it was fenced off in 2010, questioning the right to protest.
The project attempts to define what is public convenience, and proposed the installation of a tall tower functioning as a toilet. The structure would harness the power of the wind to help produce toilet paper out of recycled Parliamentary bills. The intervention became an instrument of protest, as well as an exploration of the idea of solitary confinement in a very public place. Sitting on the bowl, a single opening offers to the user a view of Big Ben.
We then explored the historical, social and cultural context of the Texan border in relation with Mexico through a series of mapping projects.
Today the railroad is still in use in Marfa, trains pass by but don't stop, as the town doesn't have a train station. Every once in a while, the silence of the day is broken by the horn and mechanical noises of a freight convoy. But Marfa is also part of the Texas Eagles route, a passenger train running the 2000 kilometers that separate Chicago and Los Angeles. The 2 days journey offers a panoramic experience of the unfolding scenary in between the vertical megalopolis and their cavernous streets, and the strikingly horizontal and apparent infinity of the horizontal desert landscape.
Out of the extreme climatic conditions – high temperatures during the day, frozen nights, and strong winds – a swimming pool / train station intervention is proposed. Ground water is pumped from the Igneous aquifer underneath the town and is naturally heated by the sun to provide hot showers. The water is then treated using reed beds before being fed back to the ground. The canopy covering the public space creates a reminiscence of the night sky.
The man made landscape with its dark and cool undercroft accommodates tourists and locals while offering them a new mode of engagement. The train station becomes a space of encounters while framing the landscape and enhancing the natural rhythms.
Tutors: Jane Mcallister and Denis Balent (Studio 6 London Metropolitan University).