Midnight at  the Oasis: Laurie Chetwood at London Architecture Biennale 2006

24 May , 2011  

Laurie Chetwood's Urban Oasis at LFA 2006

It’s called Urban Oasis. On first impression, that’s an odd description for this 35 foot sculpture sitting in the heart of London’s Clerkenwell Green. It could just as easily be described as an alien wind machine. Designed by architect Laurie Chetwood, this eco-friendly tree-like structure has provided welcome relief from the heat and stress of overheated London life of late. It has a wind turbine on the top and ‘branches’ which open and close with the sun. These branches generate power from the attached solar cells. The branches also collect whatever rain water is available and uses it in turn to irrigate plants encased in their own test tubes.

The aspect people find the most appealing, or even just plain enjoyable, are the little pods which you pull down over your head. You are immediately supplied with cool air and soft music filters into your own little stress-free world.

‘It’s about fun and giving something back to the environment. I specifically wanted it to touch all the senses, but most of all to give people a chance to get away from everyday life and have some fun, if only for a brief respite. Frankly, it is just a high-tech version of the ancient idea of an oasis as a place of rest and peace and to gird yourself for surviving what is yet to come. Every morning, piped birdsong starts the day as it should otherwise naturally begin,’ says Laurie.

But in the opinion of most visitors, it is at night that it really comes alive. The light show using energy stored up during the day is nothing short of spectacular. It actually reacts to the movement of the people around it. ‘It flickers and pulses and really reminds me of the Northern Lights,’ he notes. And the Oasis is about to go on tour. Quite astonishingly, the shows will start at the three party conferences. Maybe it will work some of its magic on the gathered politicos and even result in some sensible decision making affecting all of our futures. Let’s hope Tony Blair enjoys the show!

Photo: Ken Sparkes. All Rights Reserved.
Shot on location at Clerkenwell Green during London Architecture Biennale 2006, the forerunner of today’s London Festival of Architecture. Here’s how the feature looked in Spaces magazine magazine.

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