Inside architecture’s “underground galleries”

Written by By Laila Ismail, CNN Architects always look for new ideas to innovate and reinvent — and the building known as the former Thames Water boiler house in south-west London is a little…

Inside architecture's "underground galleries"

Written by By Laila Ismail, CNN

Architects always look for new ideas to innovate and reinvent — and the building known as the former Thames Water boiler house in south-west London is a little hidden gem.

The dilapidated former boiler house in Wimbledon, London. Credit: Courtesy Christopher Wade

Originally built in the 1930s, the small structure — made from timber and steel — was used to power the region’s largest power station and boasts a ceiling that’s just 2.6 meters high. However, its gloomy nature was the perfect setting for the installation of caged dancer and belly dancer works — both choreographed by French-Algerian artist Rachid Taha — the Pavilion of Light.

“The city of London is steeped in the history of maritime, dock and water ways. This building now becomes another aspect of these spaces,” said Christopher Wade, who designed the installation for the Nelson Clement Moore Foundation.

When the exhibit first opened in June 2018, Wade recalled seeing “the outside crackle with energy — this wonderful, pristine space, black and cluttered inside.”

Britain is known for being an architectural stronghold — we even have our own “Your home in the square mile” slogan. Perhaps London has been the scene of other notable outside-the-box pieces. Over the years, the city has seen exterior work incorporating pop-up pop-sizes, showcasing unexpected items in temporary installations or subjecting the art deco architecture to their unconventional “like it’s new” nature. Here are a few of the best.

Artist Tim Evans built an acoustically transparent cube in Docklands, UK

Pooling Practical Life

In 2017, London architect Mark Blakely and designer Timothy Elias team-up to create “Pooling Practical Life,” a 12-story row of cubes designed to absorb sound like their predecessors do with light. The building, completed in the East London neighborhood of Gateshead, may at first blush seem strikingly similar to the Dome of the Americas or the Bankside Power Station — but it boasts a unique edge, thanks to its “void puncture” sound panels, which create a midi-height vibrating space to remind us of those used to operate the world’s oldest practical seaside lifeboat.

Worthless World List, a creative home decor installation

Go Accessible, a citizens-led initiative to re-decorate London’s Victorian architecture as accessible to people with disabilities.

“Worthless World List” and “Watching The Architecture,” both created by Taiwanese artist and architect, Z Hsin Yim, shed a more playful light on our built environment through playful installations featuring televisions, gaming consoles and shopping malls.

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