David Kohn Architects and artist Fiona Banner have been selected to design A Room for London, a temporary installation that will sit on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall at Southbank Centre, London, during the Olympic Year of 2012. The brief for the design competition for A Room for London, was to create a room on one of the most visible sites in the British capital, where up to two people at a time could spend a unique night in an exemplary architectural landmark. The competition, instigated by Living Architecture and Artangel, in association with Southbank Centre, attracted entries from around 500 architects and artists from across the world.
Kohn and Banner’s winning design is for a boat, called ‘Roi des Belges’ which, perched on the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof, will appear to have come to rest there, grounded, perhaps, from the retreating waters of the Thames below. The idea evolved from narratives of travel and displacement in literature, in particular Joseph Conrad’s novella ‘Heart of Darkness,’ a story that begins beside the River Thames. The boat takes its name from the steamboat that Conrad himself captained on the Congo. Visitors to the boat will be invited to create their own narrative by recording their experience on board. From the lower and upper ‘decks’ of this beautifully crafted timber boat, there will be extraordinary views of a London panorama that stretches from Big Ben to St Paul’s cathedral. On arrival ‘aboard’, a nautical flag will be raised to signal occupation, with visitors being invited to fill in a logbook on the ‘bridge’ of the boat, detailing what they have experienced during their stay, out of the window as much as within themselves. This is contemporary architecture at its most playful, beguiling and thought-provoking. Alongside public booking, the Room will play host to a guest programme of special visitors – artists, writers and cultural commentators of all kinds. These ‘thinkers-in-residence’ will be invited to stay and encouraged to muse on the city at a moment in time, through writing, image-making, online postings or live webcasts from the Room itself as their own idiosyncratic entries in the logbook. Some contributions will be instantly experienced by the public; others developed slowly during the course of the year. All visitors will be offered a chance to share experiences of a night in the Room.
Bookings for A Room for London – for no more than one night – will be available through the website www.living-architecture.co.uk from 8th September 2011.
A Room for London is a cultural collaboration between Living Architecture and Artangel in association with Southbank Centre and the London 2012 Festival.