Black Maria by Richard Wentworth


British artist Richard Wentworth has collaborated with Swiss architects GRUPPE to build a pop-up wooden auditorium in the atrium of Central Saint Martins art and design college in London (+ slideshow).

Black Maria by Richard Wentworth and GRUPPE

The structure is named Black Maria, after Thomas Edison's first movie production studio. Built entirely from wood, it was also inspired by both the timber scaffolds historically used in the industrial areas of King's Cross and the building-site hoardings that surround much of the area today.

Black Maria by Richard Wentworth and GRUPPE

A tiered seating area is positioned at the front of the installation and is framed behind a wooden screen, creating what the designers refer to as an "inhabitable billboard".

Black Maria by Richard Wentworth and GRUPPE

Large audiences can surround the structure during open presentations or talks, while more intimate performances can be accommodated by placing screens over the facade and closing off the space from its surroundings.

Black Maria by Richard Wentworth and GRUPPE

Two extra entrances are located on the back of the structure. One goes in at ground level, while the other features a grand staircase that leads into the top of the auditorium through an enclosed foyer.

Black Maria by Richard Wentworth and GRUPPE

Both GRUPPE and Richard Wentworth emphasise that the installation is also an informal meeeting area, where students can spend time during breaks.

Black Maria by Richard Wentworth and GRUPPE

Wentworth explained: "You have to magnetise some venues more than others so that people who feel that they are there 'by accident' are mixed with people who have a clear 'sense of purpose'. This is an obvious condition of metropolitan space."

Black Maria by Richard Wentworth and GRUPPE

Black Maria was installed in the Granary Building of Central Saint Martins this week and will remain in place until 12 March. The school was designed by architects Stanton Williams and is only in its second year of use.

Black Maria by Richard Wentworth and GRUPPE

Other recently completed timber installations include a cabin filled with coloured light and smoke and a wooden chamber installed at the Venice Architecture Biennale. See more installations on Dezeen.

Black Maria by Richard Wentworth and GRUPPE

Here's a project description from the design team:

Black Maria by Richard Wentworth and GRUPPE

Black Maria, by Richard Wentworth and Swiss architecture practice GRUPPE, is part of RELAY, a nine-year arts programme that is enlivening the new public spaces at King's Cross and turning the area into a destination for discovering international contemporary art that a celebrate the area's heritage and its future. The second commission in the King's Cross series, Black Maria, is a structure that acts as a place of meeting, based around discussion, performance and moving images.

Launching on 12 February 2013 for an initial 28 days, with the potential to be brought back at a later date, the Black Maria comprises a collection of spatial elements of varying sizes that recall an early film studio of the same name. The structure will be installed in The Crossing, in the Granary Building, the new home of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. The Crossing brings together several departments of the art school, new commercial tenants at the development, a restaurant and the public, which Wentworth and GRUPPE see as the ideal conditions to create a place of exchange.

The emphasis is on flexibility and happenstance, both in terms of the construction's physicality and in the programming being arranged around it. Black Maria sits at one end of The Crossing, facing the larger part of the hall as a kind of inhabitable billboard with a staircase auditorium behind it. The talks happen "within" the billboard, allowing for different kinds of audience on either side of it: a more intimate audience within the structure; and another potentially much larger audience outside the structure. The billboard makes use of a large door to allow events to be either closed and private, or open to the hall and public. Black Maria recalls the vital but forgotten timber scaffolds used to build King's Cross' industrial past, and building site hoardings used today. In a related sense the Black Maria is a support structure for the community activities in the hall today.

Richard, who has lived near King's Cross since the 1970's, has witnessed and chronicled the transformation of the area through projects such as 'An Area of Outstanding Unnatural Beauty', created for Artangel in 2002. Much like Black Maria, the Artangel work was an experiential one, encouraging visitors to walk into apparently unremarkable shops and alleyways around King's Cross and see them from a fresh perspective. Black Maria has the potential to transform the somewhat neutral crossroads at the entrance to Central Saint Martins into a destination where people can attend scheduled talks and screenings, but also just find a place to sit, gather, eat lunch and chat.

  • dUMB

    Really nice installation but I’m intrigued by the guy’s hairstyle in slide five – is punk back already?

  • cuneese pignolo

    It took an artist and an architect to do this?

  • Thanks Dezeen

    I work at CSM and walk by this thing ten times a day – had no idea it’s an installation. Thought it was a stand for an upcoming show. Might go and have a sit in the thing tomorrow, or maybe not.

  • Charles

    Nicely understated work.