NAVIGATING METRO-LAND | London, England | Unit 21 | 2015
THE OFFLINE PARK | London, England | Unit 21 | 2015
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Owning surplus land along their railway route, The Metropolitan Railway started to develop housing estates on these sites encouraging suburban living outside of the industrial city centre, in turn boosting season ticket sales along their extension line. Between 1915 and 1932, the Metro-land advertising campaign sold these housing estates as “the closest countryside to London”, in the process hugely influencing London’s urban sprawl. Baker Street, their most centrally located station, was branded as “the gateway to rural arcadia”.
The Guide to Metro-Land, published annually, was filled with nostalgic imagery and narrative, including information on nearby golf links, schools, inns and caterers to the estates, as well as suggested walks and rambles (“with no need for enquiry or map”) – a wealth of information to shape and picture your dream life in suburbia.
This project aimed to use the guides, posters and published leaflets of the campaign as data sources to inform a new mapping of Metro-land, understood from the viewpoint of a prospective Metro-land homeowner and resident.
The Offline Park, Barbican Station
While the Metro-land campaign defined the city centre as grey, ‘urban’, the place of work and the outer fringes as healthy, ‘rural’ and fit for your dream home, the Offline Park project aimed to subvert these understandings of ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ by re-interpreting the activities and qualities of suburban Metro-land and re-introducing them onto the Barbican station air rights space, by typical definitions a tight ‘urban’ site; enclosed by buildings on all sides and open to the working London Underground platforms below. The project is driven by the aim to create an artificial, yet ‘rural’ utopia. In addition, as the park sits directly above working platforms, limitations on construction schedule and access to the site informed a lightweight tensegrity and component-based structure.
The interior of the park forms a large Faraday cage, allowing visitors to escape bombarding work emails and phone calls while within and enjoy the sound of birdsong created by strolling along the park’s pathways. The inflated ETFE landscape of the park become soft ‘grassy’ knolls to play and explore, at times dropping to form suspended rooms to enjoy a cup of tea, while a layer of pneumatic roof cushions become the rolling golfscape of a driving range. Visitors can also ascend the inflatable ‘church’ tower, peering out over the surrounding buildings and across the city.
An accompanying Design Realisation report focuses on the design of key ‘moments of tranquility’ within the park through physical testing of the park’s geometry and careful articulation of materials; such as creating the illusion of sunrise, sunset, or of happening upon a lake. The Offline Park, crafted of plastics, steel and copper, returns the Barbican to ’rural’ arcadia, allowing local city workers and visitors to, for a brief moment, escape to the undisturbed countryside.
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A pack of Offline Park postcards:
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