Wednesday30 July 2014

Will Guthrie - Edinburgh College of Art

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A thought provoking project examining the process of design, materiality and decay by utilising engraved Gold Scrolls as a solution to the impermanent and inherently fallible nature of digital information in the transfer of critical knowledge

Student Statement

It is the early twenty-first century, and the world continues to eschew analogue technology readily in favour of new, seemingly more efficient digital systems. Knowledge, the foundation of society, is stored in computers, and the age of the tangible, paper library is over – an anachronism of a bygone era. We are now wholly reliant on digital technology as a means of accessing and retrieving information. There is no alternative backup.

In reaction to this condition, a grand project is proposed to safeguard the rich cultural and historical legacy of Scotland. In the West Highlands, a clandestine guild of craftsmen and miners is established, reviving the spirit of the 19th century handcraft practitioners CR Ashbee and William Morris.

Miners tunnel industriously into the side of the mineral-rich mountain of BeinnChuirn, extracting gold ore. Built into the hillside is a vast workhall, into whichthe ore is brought and processed. A foundry extracts the gold in a furnace, preparingcylindrical scrolls for the inscription of information by a company of skilled engravers. Contained deep within the mountain, a hermetic repository protects the scrolls, shielding the information from the corrosive forces of the outside world.

Many centuries later - the world divested of its complex technologies - the crumbling, temple-like complex of the Cononish Guild is discovered, and the archive unearthed to reveal a vast library of gold scrolls, intelligible through a treadle-powered amplification device contained at the centre of the library. Scotland’s ancient past is revived.

Tutor statement

Designed from the cradle to the grave, Will Guthrie’s project, “the Gold Athenaeum of Cononish”, is a thought provoking piece of work examining the process of design, materiality and decay.

Based on the impermanent and inherently fallible nature of digital information, Will has explored how critical knowledge could be archived and retrieved by future generations through the use of engraved Gold Scrolls.

Through careful research, the process creates an artisans village on the site of a re-activated Gold Mine in the West Highlands of Scotland where the raw material can be mined, smelted, cast, polished, engraved and stored.

Each stage of the process is explored and developed in great detail to create a unique environment for both the artisans to work in and, eventually, nature to reclaim.

Will has consistently shown an outstanding knowledge and analysis of architectural and artistic precedents and concepts, alongside great confidence and ability in design. His initial artistic investigations into materiality developed into a clearly defined architectural narrative, which has been developed and tested to an extremely high level of sophistication, yet the proposed buildings retain a strong sense of purity and humane simplicity.

Throughout the year, Will has demonstrated great self-assurance, skill and creativity in presenting his ideas, process and final design, using a wide variety of media including prototypes, models, montages, art books and drawings.

Colin Gilmour
Architecture and the Arts Diploma Unit Tutor


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