A Resilient Monument
LocationSeoul - SK / Royal Academy - UK
A Resilient Monument is a collaboration between the practice and British Ghanian artist Issi Nanabeyin. The project has been exhibited at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism and at The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London.
Through the fabrication of the 'Resilient Monument', we explore ideas of materiality and representative decay. How can a material object move with us, bending, shifting and adapting with our evolving and complex culture? How might it engage with the emergent generation? How will it be borne from collective engagement? How will it disappear when not relevant and reappear when it is needed most? How might it be good to the earth? How will it record the living, not the dead?
Resilience has been previously understood as individual permanence and dominance, but modern times are showing us that a monument can be collectively pulled down, or thrown into a river, covered up or simply rejected. We are choosing to re-define resilience as impermanent, incremental, organic and optimistic. We will challenge the materiality of monuments by proposing a monumental practice of collaboration that uses impermanent and organic materials such as wood, thatch or chalk, that will require a level of assembly, maintenance and stewardship through successive generations in order to exist.
The new monument is not a new normal, it must remain visible and vigilant. It must rot, and it must be cared for as a fragile act of kindness and affirmation of the values it is given by those who make it.
The monument is considered as a single version of a larger idea. As a collaborative piece, our collective insights and interests have led us to this assembly.
We consider the Djenne Mosque and the lse Shrine as key precedents for a Resilient Monument. The Djenne mosque is made from clay, it requires the community to come together each year to re-plaster the surfaces - to add spaces, and repair cracks. The lse Shrine, made from cedar and thatch, is rebuilt every 20 years. This is a period sufficient for the thatched roofs to slump and rot; for moss to take control over the sharp lines of the crossbeams. We think that in using materials with a lifespan less than a humans, we leave space for the act of positive re-affirmation in each generation. A decision is made to keep these buildings in each ceremonial rebuilding.
Once it has been collectively assembled in a ceremonial act of community consensus, it acts as a temporary monument. Left unattended, it will disintegrate. It can be remade, reconfigured, added to or removed through community consultation and collective engagement. It is a monument to the solidarity of its own making.
The bones are designed numerically to represent the communities of Birmingham. Census data was used to ascertain the population of each area. A categorisation system was then used to define this numerical data into a codified formal approach using geometry. The fragile bones are wrapped in a jacket of coconut fibre thatch -a fully organic and compostable protection from the elements.