How do you make the most of forgotten space? That was the question posed by a RIBA competition. 26 answers are on display at Somerset House. Everything from BT Tower to a the revival of the River Fleet are covered in varying degrees of practicality. I’m afraid I lost patience with the unfunded and frankly unlikely proposals and concentrated on the venue instead.
And what a venue ….. the disused coal holes, light wells and the space under the courtyard fountain known as the Deadhouse. Water dripped down my neck as I craned to look at one the exhibits in a coal hole, not one for confined damp spaces I was fearful that the door would shut at any moment. The lightwells are really the open air corridors that run behind and below the balustrades that edge the courtyard. As you walk along glancing into long abandoned offices, you can hear merry voices from the people walking above whilst feeling completely alone.
Highlight of the morning was the Deadhouse, so called because it houses the gravestones that lay in the chapel that was destroyed to build Somerset House. It occupies the space below the Fountain Courtyard and is essentially a corridor with some wide bits that weaves its way around the space. The ceiling is adorned with pipes and the walls with the gravestones.
Somerset House do free tours and I shall be booking myself on one soon.
RIBA Forgotten Spaces 2013
4 October – 10 November 2013
Daily 10.00-18.00, until 21.00 on Thursday 7 November
Lightwells & Deadhouse, South Wing