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Medal Winner 2010
Serjeant Award for Excellence in Drawing

Creative Evolution - Silvertown Ship Breaking Yard

Part 2 Project 2010
Jonathan Schofield
University of Westminster | UK
“What we do depends on who we are; but it is necessary to add also that we are, to a certain extent, what we do, and that we are creating ourselves continually”

Creative Evolution
Henri Bergson, 1907.

Since the closure of the Royal Docks, Silvertown in East London went from being part of the largest dock in the world to a ghost town, a place of memory. Silvertown ship breaking yard will not only provide the local community with highly skilled jobs but through the creative process of playing, testing, experimenting and reconstructing ship elements, new individual and communal identities for Silvertown’s inhabitants will be created. The project can be categorised into three stages.

Ships are broken up through a complex process which takes place inside the breaking chamber, a specially designed channel for the extraction of elements where the lighter parts are removed first and the heavier structural parts last -- the reverse of traditional construction. Throughout this deconstruction process, elements are extracted either to be recycled through sale at a scrap yard and flea market or to be used for experimental reconstruction.

The inhabitants experiment with elements of broken ships into new potential forms of architecture. This process takes place inside the Ludic chamber of the ‘Trawler Jig’ where elements are suspended. Through a winch-and-pulley system the community are able to reposition, test and experiment with new forms of their own desired architecture.

Construction rules are defined through a library of hybrid details which outline the system, the rules of ‘the game’, but do not completely define the output of this creative process. The resultant architecture is then placed around the site by the trawler jig. As the rogue community becomes more developed and experienced, the architecture produced becomes improved and updated.

Through this highly skilled creative and evolutionary process, a new identity is created for Silvertown. The lives of the inhabitants are enriched with their creative potential achieved.

Jonathan Schofield

Jonathan Schofield’s Creative Evolution project is part of our continuing programme to explore time-based architecture through film, drawings and models. The site this year was Silvertown in East London, and Jonathan chose a particular location in the Pontoon Dock to locate a ship breaking yard. The project develops a series of architectural devices which enable the gradual deconstruction of the ships, the reassembly of their parts into new forms within a vast jig, and the distribution of these reconstituted forms as new large scale elements along the quayside.

There is an ambition to the various scales of this project, ranging from dealing at the urban scale with the placing of the architecture in the site, through the human scale of the ship parts being moved and transformed, down to the details of the jig and transporting devices which allow the operations to be carried out. This project is clearly a form of engineering architecture, inspired by the marine engineering which one finds in traditional docks and the automated container docks of today.

The representation skills Jonathan has shown in the project are remarkable. The drawings are obsessively worked, showing in plan section and perspectives every detail of the architecture. In contrast the models, conceived in part as filmic scenarios, are made of perspex, reduced down to the simplicity of forms and achieving a minimalist elegance. Finally the film that Jonathan has composed, which mixes seamlessly live-action, stop-motion model photography and computer animation has a restless beauty, showing the patterns of motion within his project.

William Firebrace
Gabby Shawcross
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