The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The Winds that will be howling at all hours
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for every thing, we are out of tune;
It moves us not – Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus coming from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
Situated at the northernmost portion of Preston Park, and to the south of Preston Village, the site is sandwiched between an 18th century manor, and the busy A23 road. It is a green oasis with some of the oldest elm trees in the UK.
After experiencing the great elm trees that inhabit the site, I looked to the past to find examples of trees as sacrosanct, and found paganism. Historically, the Anglo-Saxon pagan religions convened at an ‘irminsul’ [pictured], for ‘moots’ where they practiced their faith. In fact, St Wilfred was attacked by pagan adherents on the Sussex coast in the year 666. After some digging I found that a modernised version of this faith still exists, with Brighton as the spiritual centre for the UK scene. There are several organisations that practice this faith, including ‘Brighton Pagans’ and ‘Pagan Village UK’. I propose to provide a physical outlet for these clients that acts as a commune with several self-sufficient functions.
To express the atmosphere that the proposal aims to create, I produced two collages from my own photographs that discuss the experience and discovery that I felt upon visiting the site; one from a fabricated interior, and one from a fabricated exterior. The former examines the fantastic canopy of foliage from the elm tree, but in a Turrellian context the tree becomes the visitors’ focal point. The latter examines a magical moment where my friend found a niche that led into the hollow of a tree, except in this case it is the entrance to what seems to be a building.
This drawing illustrates the power of the elm tree as a centrepiece for the entrance, and as a place to sit and contemplate the nature. Here is where the natural and urban environment merge. The steps work to naturally accentuate the tree while providing somewhere to rest.
One of the aims of the project is to blur the line of threshold between the outside and inside world, with the trees acting as a sort of buffer zone between the two.
The Pagan Commune exists to be a thriving self sufficient community that doesn’t ostracise itself from its neighbours, but rather integrates into the neighbourhood at whole. It exists to fulfill our basic needs through food, conversation and a roof to sleep under, ideally for those who are most in need of it. All of these ideals are transmuted from ancient pagan practices, which have been translated into the proposal’s design language, whether through ancient runes or simple principles of environmental harmony. It doesn’t aim to shock or ‘stand out’ but rather to gently express that it exists.