2014 Inception Award | Callum McCorkindale

The Shadow Archive by Callum McCorkindale

‘One has the impression that at heart men do not know very well what they are doing. They build with stones and they do not see that each of their gestures to set a stone in mortar is accompanied by a shadow gesture which sets a shadow stone into a shadow mortar. And it is the shadow building which counts.’
Jean Giono, Que ma Joie Demeure.

When industrial technologies become obsolete, industrial buildings are often abandoned – existing as a latent condition – and too often the remedial approach is driven by litigation and economics, rather than the conceptual frameworks of architecture, urbanism and culture.

This investigation proposes a solution for one such infrastructure in Charleroi, Belgium; the cooling tower of an abandoned power- plant. This research argues that these obsolete archetypes are ideal vehicles for the conception of speculative architectural interventions necessary for the near-future. It also argues that through their inhabitation, as opposed to destruction, community and industrial heritage can be maintained and celebrated. This research proposes that this can be achieved by introducing an avant-garde architectural program of a digital archive, providing a utopian identity to the region and enhancing the narrative potentiality of the site. The investigation argues for the role and relevance of architecture in an age of sustainability evangelism and digital-technological disposition.

The first stage of this research was an investigation into ruinated architecture, and the philosophical arguments debating the value and allure of ruins. Particularly it focused on the writings of Georg Simmel and David Gissen, who explore the connection between manmade and organic built matter as a dynamic palimpsestic relationship. This became involved as a theoretical manoeuvre to direct the early stages of the research scope. This view of the architecture becoming a progressive state performing a narrative role between environmental regeneration and structural or cultural degradation became the early research focus, which led to the discovery of the site in Charleroi in Belgium.

The second stage of the investigation was the research into reinvigorating the ruinated structure through an au courant architectural program. The function of a digital and physical data archive was implemented as a meaningful and applicable program that considered the future of the site. The narrative implication of storing digital data and physical information such as manuscripts and personal journals became a design driver and spatial organisational device, in conjunction with theoretical writings about the social and intellectual obligations of archives and libraries. The archive becomes about allowing the inhabitants to inhabit a timeline, where, at the lowest levels, are the machines required for the viewing and understanding of the early medias, as well as the mediums of the information itself, building up chronologically to the highest levels, where the current time of cloud stored media is retained. Infrastructure allows the architecture to extend, with consideration to how future media will be sorted. This stratification becomes a layering of historical information pertaining to the physical, digital and architectural.

The third stage of the investigation was the narrative consideration of the inhabitants and their architectural and experiential requirements. A narrative was created with five characters; the proprietor, the curator, the technician, the archivist and the researcher. Through this investigation, the spatial, programmatic, formal and atmospheric details and arrangements were finalised. The resulting research is a critical analysis of multiple programmatic and theoretical implications organised through an experiential spatial architecture.