So, eventually, this afternoon, my materials arrived by courier. I can’t tell you how much of a relief that was to see the big black shiny car arrive with them.
I had all the boxes pre-cut and scored back in the UK, I actually got them cut by my local picture framer – keeping things rural – so all that was required for them was to fold and glue. I think I got up to about 10 an hour in the end. Just as well – there’s a total of 84 if I did them all. Fortunately I over ordered so I could pick and chose the sizes as I went along.
The final piece is drawn from both the Cumbrian vernacular style of building and dry stone walling, and the modern off-the-peg architecture of rapid growth in Shanghai.
Cumbrian stone walling – or to be more precise, Lakeland walling, is distinctive in its relatively ordered lines of rough stone. Dry stone walls are traditionally built from field stones – loose stones cleared from the land for agriculture. In upland areas this is an abundant source of free, ready material. The shape of the stones, and the consequent build style of the wall is dictated by the local geology. Lakeland walls are made from fairly flat rectangular stones whereas walls to the east of the county in limestone country the stones are much chunkier and warmer in colour.
Drystone walls are built without mortar and stand up by being cinstructed of two sides leaning against each other. Wallers will start with a pile of stones and piece them together like a jigsaw. Traditionally once a waller has picked up a stone, he must find the right place to put it before taking another. You never put a stone back on the pile.
In contrast, there is nothing natural about the high-rise conurbations in Shanghai. As one of the fastest growing cities on the planet, the authority and developers are under increasing pressure to build somewhere for everyone to live. his has resulted in off-the-peg designs for entire neighbourhoods. The designs not only feature the tower blocks themselves, but are a modular plan for micro communities so each plan factors in sufficient green space, parking, convenience shopping, laundrettes, restaurants per head of occupant. They may be identikit, but they are sustainable identikits. Looking out at the assortment of blocks at night is a little like Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ – without the murder I hope. A mass of little coloured boxes, each containing an individual, with individual stories. Boxes with a hint of what’s inside.
So, now I have a big stack of varios size boxes, all that remains for them is to piece them together in a sturdy way. I think I’ll start with a box at a time and find a place for it before picking up the next one. Sounds like a plan for the morning.