London Fieldworks’ Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven, situated in Islington, took the animal dwelling idea further with several hundred bespoke bird boxes mounted in two ‘trees of heaven’ (Ailanthus altissima). The bird-boxes reflect the local architecture – that London mix of Georgian/Victorian terraces and rectilinear social housing. The London siting follows London Fieldworks’ Super Kingdom, where ‘show homes’ for animals were based on the architecture of despot’s palaces and shown by Stour Valley, Arts for Kings Wood in Kent, which LF artists Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson called ‘social engineering for animals’. The resulting Super Kingdom structures reference the off-worlds, the Architecture of Fear (as Tunde Agbola describes fortified lifestyles in Lagos), and the architecture of dictator’s palaces and gated communities such as Alphaville in Brasil.
The key characteristics of the ‘show homes’ were taken from Mussolini’s Palazzo della Civilta Italiana, which has become known as the Colosseo Quadrato, Rome; Stalin’s Palace of Science and Culture, Warsaw; Ceausescu’s The People’s House (Casa Poporului) in Bucharest, now the Palace of the Parliament. London Fieldworks.
The kitsch neo-classicism chases up the tree’s branches like a kind of totalitarian
fungus – alternatively, displaying an eerie monumentality not unlike a work by de
Chirico. Connoisseur’s of animals in architecture, in all its completist glory should investigate further.
Super Kingdom: Mussolini Bird House, King’s Wood
Photography: London Fieldworks 2009
Photography: London Fieldworks 2010
Text: Oliver Bennett