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Part 1 Project 2001
Lynton Pepper
University of Bath | UK
Culture Smuggling>>

Manifesto_ a long-term plan of perception alteration and organic urban regeneration through the unconventional means of subversion, smuggling, intrigue, psychology, sub cultures, sub-sub cultures and finally failure.

Swindon_ Dull

_Everyone’s perception of Swindon appears to be that it is one of the blandest places in Britain. Upon visiting, this seemed to be the case.

_It appeared that any obvious interest lay solely in the one shop deep shopping street. A walk down any side street would place you in a no-mans land occupied with sporadic car parks and Kevs. This was a film set façade high street where the thin line of pedestrian interest immediately evaporated as soon as you permeated its boundaries.

_An attempt to find excitement in Swindon led to the discovery of an old manila envelope full of yellowing newspaper clippings concerning, over the years, the discovery of networks of medieval tunnels that run beneath the old town. Stories of smuggling by the infamous Moon Rakers, hidden golden alters that were brought down by the monks during the reformation period, explorers seem running away from the tunnels, and ghosts of dead smugglers were told. Truly 1960’s Avengers excitement. Hidden excitement.

_Analysis of Swindon today revealed that the contraband good of today was not liquor or religion, but culture. Swindon hides it success in technological development, its underground optical networking systems, its success. It holds the largest collection of twentieth century art outside the Tate in Britain, although two thirds is constantly hidden underground and the rest displayed in an unsignposted, unremarkable building outside the main town on a hill.

_An element of subversion had to be injected into Swindon. Culture would be smuggled through New Town just as Liquor through Old, using the perfect cover story_ the knowledge of Swindon’s untamed blandness.

_A program was constructed to smuggle culture just behind the high street under the noses of the everyday activities of the populous. A series of parameters were set up to locate the ideal positions for the Perception Subversion Centres in these peripheral spaces, which were then linked together to form a complex network of non visible, heat tunnels that ran through the New Town. The heat would be ‘borrowed’ from the air conditioning units that populated these peripheral spaces and run under the paving causing subliminal routes along the ground when raining or snowing, or purely by the felling that something else was going on when you cross a line of people feeling their way across the high street into low pedestrian interest areas.

_Each P.S.C. would have its own program causing intrigue and bonding through the unknown as identical holes begin to appear overnight of which the council deny all knowledge of. Or as the rumours die down, when they are filled by a prefabricated black, light absorbing, door less, rubber boxes which appear familiar in there proportion [the bar of soap, the fridge etc], yet in a strange context and position and which appear to be of no purpose but to simultaneously try to blend in to its surroundings and perversely stand out. A contradictory, curiosity object. Subversion of the norm.

_One day, as part of the ever-changing network of heat tunnels denotes a container to be open, the skin folds back to reveal light and an acute, unrevealing glimpse into its function. After weeks of curiosity overcoming the fear of the unknown, you enter to discover a 3D curvilinear Tardis effect sub space that is one huge led monitor, furthering the effect of spatial confusion. The container contains an interactive technological art gallery, each internal skin different to the next set by certain parameters. Glimpses through punctures in this internal skin where function permeates subliminally give the impression that something is occurring between the internal and rubber external skin in the area of structure, storage, and servicing. Access to this area is provided through a fold in the internal skin which is rather awkward and narrow, furthering the sense that you are not meant to enter this industrial feeling sub-sub space. This sub-sub space produces another sub culture to the technological art culture of the consumption function of the inner skin. It produces a space for deviant behaviour, a place of safety deposit boxes and illegal gambling.

_A diversification of the cultural fabric of the population of Swindon. It is somewhere that only the inhabitants know its secret. A new sense of community.

_If over a long period of time, rumours may cause the P.S.Cs to become attractions, causing small shops to form in there vicinity, altering the pedestrian interest contour map. As you cannot smuggle in a populated area, the container shuts down permanently and a new one built further out using the same parameters and program as before.

>>Through the failure of the containers to perform their task, the urban thickening of Swindon is achieved.

Lynton Pepper

The setting is Swindon, which has been described variously as being among the fastest growing towns in Europe (FT) and as one of the most boring towns in Britain (Miranda Sawyer - Park & Ride), Swindon is looking forward to becoming a city.

Each student developed their own brief, discovered a site or sites and proceeded with their design project independently but aware of others.

This operation was called : CONSTRUCTING A CLOUD - the fabrication of a multiplicity of independent particles moving at varying velocities in relation to each other - a collective form, constructed from individual actions, continually changing in time.

This student's network project which insinuates high tech media culture into central Swindon's backyards is exemplary, and particularly engaging because of the disarming possibility that it is ultimately successful at the moment of failure. This is an architecture of MUTE form and VIVID action. An architecture of PROCESS which persuasively suggests a sequence of operations which can achieve what the many British towns which became programmatically thinner in the 20th century struggle with - the timely revitalisation and thickening of the social milieu of the town centre with minimal means, architecturally and economically.

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