Blog post by Talia Davidi, AA Archives’ student assistant.
‘Observing recent political events it seems like cultural segregation is raising its ugly head yet again. What started with Brexit and Trump, continues these days with growing sympathy for extreme right wing parties in France and the Netherlands, to name a few. The hope of a new borderless era that the Internet and globalization brought along, seems to generate the contrary reflex – of fear. Alongside these immense and inconceivable political shifts, a parallel tendency seems to emerge – the urge to escape. We’ve gathered here a few inspirations from the archives, in case you feel the same…
‘Villa Millionaria’ is a project made by George Clay in his AA Fifth year, 1932-33. Comprised of a single villa on a island, it is a fancy getaway for those who can afford it… The mansion includes a ballroom and several garages, and would have been a much needed hideaway, considering the cruel period Europe was entering the year this drawing was made.
The perfect getaway is probably Smith’s Cairn Observatory – a 1957 student project by Janet Kaye. The observatory is a modest stone building on an uninhabited island, off the South-Western coast of England. Comprised of a spiral structure, the observatory contains a living room, wash room, a gallery and a workshop. Kaye writes that ‘The scheme was conceived as a design exercise in basic materials […] the buildings would be constructed as much as possible from local loose rocks and boulders which lie scattered over large parts of the island. … Annett (sic) Island is protected as a habitat for indigenous and migratory sea birds. It is remote and very beautiful and it was hoped that the proposed building would not detract from the ageless quality of the Island’. In addition, Cedric Price writes of the project: ‘At the time, I was infuriated by the staggering consistency of its sophisticated primitive hut aesthetic and impressed by the facility with which it was produced The elevation of the island is still one of my favourite AA drawings’ (Gowan, J. ‘Projects: Architectural Association 1946-1971’, p. 37).
Remote settlements can offer a form of liberation, as can be seen in ‘A Gentle Resistance’, a project conceived by Vidhya Pushpanathan in 2015. The project is intended for an exiled polygamous Islamic community – ‘the Obedient Wives’. Located in the United States, the building hosts this intentional commune, sheltering them from the Islamophobic surroundings. The design of the project is a collision between two cultures, using both Islamic and American motifs in order to form a new community. It is comprised from two opposing characteristics – the exterior envelope, and the carved interior spaces – together allowing liberation for women used to being dependent upon their husbands.