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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