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A small book looking into the potential of carved space.


  • Forward/ acknowledgements

    This book is a compilation of my sketches, photographs, collected clippings and writ-ings from the last ten months. Over that period I have visited and experienced many new places and journeys which have infl u-enced and reinforced my ideas and stance on architecture.

    I would like to thank Helen OConnor, Fer-gus Purdie and the rest of the material unit for their support, inspiration and laughter throughout the masters year.


  • Dunnottar Castle September 06

    I visited Dunnottar Castle on a rainy and windswept day in late September to learn about tower houses and their important ar-chitectural and sculptural qualities.Early types of Scottish tower house, such as the keep at Dunnottar Castle exhibit some qualities of excavated or carved space.This defensive fortifi cation stands like an eroded outcrop of rock on the landscape and appears to be solid and elementary from the outset. The few irregularly placed openings, appear to follow no rules and conceal the internal layout behind the mass of stone. In fact, these seemingly immovable boulders are hol-low with walls of varying size up to four metres thick on some elevations. The unusu-al, indeed incredible size of their walls is an obvious consequence of their task, to be masonry armour protecting the grand living spaces within.

  • left Sketch of Dunnottar castle on its rocky perch. The rock on which Dunnottar Castle stands might have been designed specifi cally to permit the building of the most impregnable fortress in Scotland. Sheer cliffs 160ft high almost completely surround a fl at area over three acres in size. The rock itself was once joined by a narrow fi n to the mainland, but even this was carved away to ensure access along it was not possible.

    Right A Sketch on approach, its started raining. Unfortunately I was in a t- shirt and sandals and not really prepared for an exposed cliff top in September...

  • left View from the beachRight Quick sketches of the castle and views famed by its openings

  • Far left Image taken inside the eroding shell of the tower house

    Left The staircases through the tower house and other buildings at Dunnottar Castle were on the whole dark and disorientating however the journey often culminated in a view to the surrounding landscape which re-organised the experience. The openings at the top of the stairs to me became a device that pulled and enticed people through the enclosed dark spaces.

    Right The most interesting spaces occur between the inside and the outside carved within the massive fortifi ed walls. These hidden spaces bore through mass allow-ing light into the interior and are often called poch spaces or pocket spaces

  • Left Thinking about these carved cavity spaces of Dunnottar and how they were con-ceived in sculptural terms suggests a sim-ilar king of space making but the result of some sort of inverted casting process. Floor plans of the tower house carved out of Polystyrene...

    Right Sketches for tower house casts

  • Interal volumes have a concrete presence on their

    own account.. as though they were formed out of a

    rarifi ed substance lacking in energy but most sen-

    sitve to its reception (luigi Moretti)

  • I maintain that some architects are structure-minded, and others cavity- minded; some architectural periods work preferably with solids, others with cavi-ties. (Rasmussen 1964)

    Left Images from inside the hollow posi-tive tower house cast

    Right The captured solidity of space, the negative cast

  • Left Sketches for a enclosed staircase. To explore qualities of an enclosed staircase a a space was designed within the restric-tions of a narrow gap site in Dundee. The idea was to cast the space of the site as solid to fi nd its volume and mass, then re-cast the space with spatial inclusions and connections between the front and back.

    Right Image through the completed cast

  • Cave Dwellings Brantme- France December 06On a recent trip to France I visited inhab-ited troglodyte dwellings in the Brantme, a small market town in the north of the Dor-dogne. The town sits in a narrow steep sided valley between a limestone escarpment and the River Dronne. The limited space for expansion has forced some of the towns residents to carve their homes out of the rock and build within some of the local caves. The rock known as millarge, is a gritty limestone that is slightly harder than tufeau so there was considerably more effort applied in its ex-traction. However there are signifi cant ben-efi ts of a harder stone, in that fi ner details can be carved and the fi nished dwellings are more resistant to frost weathering.

  • Left Sketch of the entrance to carveddwelling- Brantome. Dec 2006

    Right Sketch of BrantomeOverleaf The contrast of the light lime-stone and the dark excavated spaces.

  • Left Sketch of a house in Brantome. Shows the relationship some houses have with the escarpment. Dec. 2006

    Right Photo showing the same relationshipOverleaf Most obvious observation in Bran-tome was the successive darkening of space to the rear of the dwellings and the chang-ing effects of light and the amplifi ca-tion of sound and smell. These changes and warmth of space created a safe, homely atmosphere.

  • Left Me within in the vast shell of a former dwellingRight The carved spaces have various uses

  • Collected clippings and PrecedentsThis part of the book takes the form of im-ages capturing the essential qualities of carved space, that over the last year have appealed to me. Throughout history, primitive peoples have made use of caves for shelter, burial, or as religious sites. These are most notable in the deserts of eastern Turkey, Eithopia and North America where whole communities moved into natural rock formations. With little alterations to the natural spaces they found that they could live comfortably, sheltered from harsh winds and extreme temperatures found outside

  • Left Photo showing the relationship of the tuff cone to the surrounding landscape.

    Right Horizontal slices of a tuff coneFar right interior of tuff cone

    Carved spaces are an extreme expression of the merging of architecture and place. The tuff cone dwellings of the Goreme in the cappadocia region of Turkey are an interesting example of this relationship between inhabitation and landscape. The cones were originally sculpted by nature and range in size from the size of a tent to that of a small skyscraper. The tuff cones are riddled with natural spaces but were subsequently worked into by the in-habitants. The example shown is the ap-partment of Simeon the Stylite in the fi fth century AD. The lowest fl oor contained his oratory, above it were his living quarters with a carved fi replace and furniture made of stone. Some of the larger tuff cones have up to sixteen fl oors arranged within the one rock with connecting stairways and ramps between levels. (Rudofsky 1977)

  • The Church of St George in Eithopia is another interesting example however unlike other sites this was not a naturally cre-ated volume but hewn from solid rock of a sandstone cliff. The main mass of the church was initially carved straight down creating a sunken courtyard, then residual mass was carefully hollowed out creating internal spaces with intricate details

    Far Left Aerial shot of church.Left Image showing the scale an intricacy of the church

    Right view from site

  • It is possible to plan a building as a composition of cavities alone but in car-rying it out the walls will inevitably have certain convexities which will in-trude on the obsever in the same way the pillars in the Carli Temple do (Rasmus-sen 1964)

    Left Cave temple at carli India. the tem-ple was hollowed out of rock

    Right Horizontal slice through temple

  • Left/Right Dalyan Temple, Turkey

  • Left lycian tombs, Myra, Turkey.Right Foxholes, Taiwan 1940

  • Wemyss Caves- March 07Paul and myself took a drive around Fife one day in March visiting his site and places he used to kick around as a kid. The impressive caves and carved spaces at Wemyss were the highlight of the trip. These Caves have two large entrances and two passageways, one a short one through the end of which was an opening so that the ladies from Wemyss who gutted the herring in Buck-haven could walk home safely when the tide was high. The space was really interesting with shafts of light piercing the interior dramatically, animating the space.

  • My journeys to the isle of Portland 2006

    I visited The isle of Portland twice last year the fi rst to take part in a sculpture course for three weeks over the summer to learn how to stone carve and secondly to chose a site for the design project in No-vember. I travelled by train from Dundee, which took the best part of a day from door to door. The journey itself was really ex-citing from passing through unfamiliar towns and desolate landscapes to the gritty urban sprawl of London.

  • All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept,

    For miles inland,

    A slow stopping curve southwards we kept.

    Wide farms went by, short shaddowed cattle,

    and canals with fl oatings of industrial froth,

    a hothouse fl ashed uniquely: hedges dipped,

    And rose: and now and then the smell of grass displaced

    the reek of buttoned carriage cloth.

    Until the next town, new and nondescript.

    Approached with acres of dismantled cars.

    (extract from Whitsun Weddings by Phillip Larkin)

  • The Site -isle of Portland 2006

    My intention at the start of the year was to develop a design project as a means of testing and contextualising ideas of carved space.


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