Project description

Contrived from a desire to produce purpose, imagined to bring joy to a charged landscape, this proposal is an address, an effort to carefully construct a proposition for the reclamation of Ocean Terminal Leith. Catalysed by the concurrent ecological and economic crisis’, the project threads disparate yet quietly connected narratives, building incrementally to a schema aimed at forcefully challenging the contemporary clamour for the sites destruction; it is at its heart, an attempt to playfully compel others to speculate on possibilities beyond that which can be seen. Branded as a tober, the schema’s title subtly embraces this lively ambition, clutching a dual meaning. It is a reference to the site of a fairground; a momentary condition; a place in which a form of fantasy brings life to the waste ground upon which it sits. It is also though, a reference to the act of winning a fight, an action registerable as a declaration of intent. A tober then can be considered a place of protest and play, a momentary construction designed to be formative to community and revitalising to place; it is a composite assembly aimed to suit a purpose. Through conversations, readings and engaging with situation, the schema aspires to mirror the tenets of its title, crafting a proposal welcoming of flexibility, embracive of possibility and ephemeral in appearance and nature; the proposition aims to catalyse permanence rather than being an effort of permanence itself. The consequence then is a schema that is suggestive, it is an invite to gather, it is an effort to encourage a moment ‘between the world of building and the world of inhabitation’, recognising that in this lies a potential for expressions that engage ‘the staging of situations’, the fertile fields of intentions and mishappenings, and for fleeting moments of make-believe. Plainly, the schema suggests possibility, it emboldens the imaginary, it is an attempt to construct a landscape filled with resilience and joy.

First Movement: A 'happening' is a moment, a structure that is ephemeral in appearance and nature. The architectures presented here typologically concur, offering themselves as monuments to protest, mechanisms to disrupt what would otherwise occur; the 'happenings' are facilitators of protest, they offer height, shelter, space to gather, places to play.

The occupation of Ocean Terminal, the Tober, occurs in three movements, a triptych of stages, choreographed to allow for an immediate burst of action, intense occupation and community engagement beyond the here and now. To begin, three structures appear, ‘The Immediate Protestor’, ‘The Objector’ and ‘The Present’, tasked with beginning the protest. The structures invite protestors to climb, to gain height, to remove themselves from the ground upon which they once stood. This action is filled with purpose, it is an attempt to disrupt removal, it is an attempt to allow for a permanent presence on a non-permanent site.

Looking across the site, the three towers mark the beginning of the protest.
Looking across the site, the three towers mark the beginning of the protest.

Second Movement: Following an initial impulse of activity, the ‘fairground’ begins to fill the Tober, it begins to take shape. As this happens the focus shifts, the emphasis moves from the immediate to longevity, structures appear designed to support use, namely; The Veiled Observer, The Lookout, The Quiet Poet, The Attendant and The Debater. Each serves a different function, however, collectively their role is the same; to preserve interest in the debate, in the protest, in the efforts to save the site. Significantly the arrangement facilitates considerations of expanded horizons; horizons not limited to the boundary the 'happenings' sit within. Plainly, the architectures begin to look outwards, engaging in conversations with the wider urban scape.

Ways of Seeing, John Berger: “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognises before it can speak. But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it.”

The Attendant [scale 1:25].
The Attendant [scale 1:25].
Architectures for a fairground [scale 1:25].
Architectures for a fairground [scale 1:25].

Throughout the production of the happenings there has been an intense and concerted interest in the relationship between structures. Principally, this has been informed by precedent, a function of recognising the power inherent to existing architectural languages. Common across all forms has been the importance of in-between spaces, the 'auras' of structures, understanding that these spaces are fundamental to our understanding of the structures themselves. Whilst a number of figures proved significant in the development of a personal mode of representation and understanding, John Hedjuk, Stan Allen and James Stirling facilitated an initial spark and interest in this area. The project is indebted to them and the work that they have produced.

Third Movement: Following two stages of occupation, the third moment of the development provides a momentous shift, a move from protest to play, the 'fairground' takes on a new life.

The Facilitator, the final structure, enables this move through providing a conditioned space, a space versatile in both form and function. The Functionalist knows its purpose, it is aware of the role it holds. Importantly, the structure becomes the focus for events, activities radiate from it, the site gains a life throughout the year.

Whilst such proves significant the act of protest is not forgotten, the original structures stand strong, resolute in both function and form.

Early massing looking to understand the relationship between structures.
1. Early massing looking to understand the relationship between structures.

Material Reclamation: Gathering, making visible the invisible. As a retort against the infinite material culture of the archetypal studio project, the proposal seeks to understand material history, it attempts to trace the life of the materials that present on the project whilst also imagining a future beyond the moment. Such proves similar to reference, with one attempting to trace the path between one idea and the next, the stimuli to the response.

Embracing this understanding that architecture is a ‘corpus of inherited ideas’, one can begin to see the proposal in a different light, one can understand it as a contemporary expression of both material and notions, it is a playful attempt to bring together histories, to produce stories that signal the importance of recognising a life before and after that which presents.

[David Kohn “The drawing is an enigma, suggesting multiple possible encounters but ultimately concealing them from view”.


1. A material catalogue presented. The quadrat offers a framework, a method, an order to the survey of the Scottish reclamation market. Similar to the proposal, the fragment becomes a means of understanding the whole.
1. A material catalogue presented. The quadrants offers a framework, a method, an order to the survey of the Scottish reclamation market. Similar to the proposal, the fragment becomes a means of understanding the whole.
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