After thirty years spent teaching and writing, I retired early in 2013 from the Chair of Architecture at Cardiff University to devote myself to exploring applications for a library of digital 'data from nature' which I had begun developing ten years earlier. This work has been featured in magazines published in London, the USA, France, Ukraine and The Netherlands, and at book length by the Italian publishers ListLab. Now, as a sprightly seventy-year-old, I have decided to seek clients responsive to my design approach and have established a studio to work on private houses, interiors and gardens. I will be collaborating with a network of experienced consultants and am seeking clients who share my ecological vision of architecture as a way of helping ourselves and other living creatures feel at home, and celebrating the vibrant matter of the Earth's crust. There is more about this in Surface Matters.
In addition to the network of consultants, I work with two full time colleagues, fellow director Joe Offside, and designer Grace Parkinson-Johns. Joe is an experienced coder who has been working with me for several years: he will increasingly divide his time between the CreateForAll suite of apps (to be launched in autumn this year) and interactive features of our houses and gardens. Grace, a young textile designer, will be working on bespoke designs for clients, and developing retail ranges of accessories, textiles, tiles and other surface finishes ('weston scarves', launched in 2010, are still available through Liberty of London and Fortnum and Mason).
I have outlined here my approach to domestic design in a discussion of my front garden (featured on BBC Gardeners' World: you can watch it here). If you find it congenial please read on, and if you are considering building a new house or holiday home, or transforming interiors or gardens, please get in touch via the contact menu
Director / Visiting Professor of Surface Design, Cardiff School of Art and Design
Each member brings particular skills to projects. I have known some for many years, as students, colleagues or professionals, and we will work in close collaboration from inception to completion. We have the skills to work from site assessment to bespoke clothes and jewellery, and will take on one major project at a time.
RICHARD WESTON Trained as an architect and landscape architect, I work as a designer and am a well-known author.
JOE OFFSIDE A coder with wide experience of designing apps, Joe is the owner of iApp Manager but currently works full-time in the Studio.
GRACE PARKINSON-JOHNS A textile designer, she will be working closely with me on bespoke projects and developing products for sale.
BOB BARTON Principal of Barton Engineers. His work ranges from glass structures to restoring the National Gallery in London.
MICHAEL POPPER Founder of M3p, building services engineers. He works with leading architects, and restored the Rothera Base on Antarctica
ENVIROCENTRE Environcentre offer a wide range of services. Their focus will be on site-specific geology, ecology and habitat development.
OLIVER CHAPMAN A former student, Oliver runs a successful architectural practice in Edinburgh and will take projects through to completion.
REBECCA PIKE Based in Teddington, Rebecca worked for several London architectural practices before establishing Studio Pike in 2013.
LEE STEWARD Lee graduated with a Distinction in MArch at Cardiff and will work with me bringing her 3D modelling skills to the design process.
H4GROUP / GUY MIDDLETON H4 is a CGI bureau managed from London and with a studio in China. They deliver stunning photo-real visualisations.
VICKI WADE Vicki consults on all aspects of planting. She runs her own LI registered practice and has won two RHS Gold Medals.
CHARLOTTE MOORE Charlotte studies at Cardiff and the RCA and is a designer-maker working with live-casting from nature.
WAYNE TUTSSEL Trained as a cabinet maker, Wayne now works mainly as a joiner but relishes the challenge of making bespoke furniture.
RUTH McLEES Ruth is a visual artist with an enjoyment of pattern and texture which she incorporates into her landscapes and portraiture.
JAN O'CALLIGAN Secretary of the Scottish Gemmological Association, Jan is our advisor on sourcing bespoke jewellery from young designers.
STEPHEN KITE An Emeritus Professor of Architecture, Stephen will offer historical perspectives on our work and act as a friendly critic.
Architecture is driven by ideas, at every stage and scale from conception to detailed design. Ideas are mysterious things, often floating into consciousness when you least expect them, and generally informed by what André Malraux called a musée imaginaire. Thanks to extensive travel and reading, teaching and writing, my personal 'museum of the mind' is well stocked. Ideas cannot be coerced into action, and I share Le Corbusier's belief that it is best, whenever possible, to force oneself to do nothing (he said for several months!) until a guiding idea emerges. Then the process of sketching, drawing and modelling can begin.
I prefer to address what architects like to call the 'particularities of place' over the 'abstractions of space', and seek to ground designs in response to a clients wishes; the sites situation, locally and on the planet; and to its natural and cultural history. Responding to the 'nature' of materials is also vital to me, and I explored the range of possible approaches twenty years ago in a book entitled 'Materials, Form and Architecture'.
If you tap on the adjacent projects you will find a brief explanation of how my approach has manifested itself across a range of architectural and other designs. Certain themes emerge, and from small houses to the Grand Egyptian Museum competition project I favour a way of configuring spaces that yields the contrasting qualities characterised by the Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck as the 'bird's nest and the cave'.
Please click on any of the adjacent images to read about projects we are currently working on.
Please contact Richard Weston as follows:
Professor Richard Weston
Richard Weston Studio
7, Mill Close,
Dinas Powys CF64 4BR
Michael Popper: www.p3r-engineers.co.uk
Oliver Chapman: www.ocastudio.co.uk
Rebecca Pike: www.studiopike.co.uk
Guy Middleton: www.h4group.com
Vicki Wade: www.victoriawade.co.uk
In my latest book, 'Surface Matters', I propose a radically new way of configuring architectural spaces that exploits the technical innovation of rainscreen cladding. It will be illustrated by projects by leading 'young' (mostly in their 40s, which is young in architecture!) practices, coordinated by my co-author and former student Phil Coffey of Coffey Architects (opposite). You can download the outline as a pdf here.
The Studio undertakes all the coding and content design for
CreateForAll. This suite of iPad and smartphone apps equips all
the family with digital tools to create everyday goods. We are
undertaking final testing over summer 2023 in preparation for a
launch in November 2023 Find out more at:
This smartphone app takes families into the great outdoors by turning their phones into detectors of 'digitally buried' artefacts. It is being developed in association with DIF (Detectorists' Institute and Foundation) and there will be a joint launch during the mid-term autumn break in English schools.
To be inaugurated at the launch of Molly's World in late Autumn 2023, the roadshow will be installed for a day in primary school and village halls. It will introduce children to the mollyapp and enable them to create mugs and tee-shirts using our dye sublimation printer and hot presses. We aim to have the main characters to be able to converse with children using AI software
We are working with inflatable specialists Studio Soufflé on three projects: the igloo for Molly's Garden and Roadshow; a Bouncy Meadow; and the Dome of the Four Seasons (described later). The meadow play structure is intended to promote awareness about the plight of meadows and to promote the use of wildflowers on brownfield sites. Ironically, its first appearance could be at a Middle East trade show...
We continue to source beautiful data for digitally printed materials, such as tiles and fabrics, and to install them when invited: the moonstone silk panels are in Edinburgh's New Town and the five- storey fluorite in the new Medical Library at the Heath Hospital in Cardiff. The images in the upper group of agates were used for the 'stepping tiles' in my garden: the linear crystals growing through the agate evoke marginal plants.
Nikon think mine is the only design studio to work with a lab-quality microscope! It not only enables us to capture details down to less than a millimetre and stich together very large files capable of covering the largest building facade, but also to take 'vertical stacks' separated by one or two microns in depths. The software processes the 'stacks' into 3D/VR files such as these shown here: from the top, chalcedony, smithsonite and agate. For a one-minute 'video tour' of the chalcedony please click here. In mollysworld, the 'Blue Agate Islands' are occupied by replicas of monuments built by wealthy bad pirates, but are now patrolled by the benign PirateshipMolly. So far we have only tested a one-point VR file (that alone took several hours to render!), but we hope soon to be able to afford having a 'world' professionally rendered.
Although most of our work is with digital images, we have a professional Zing laser that enables us to cut and engrave with a high degree of precision. Clients, for example, will be offered unique slate 'place mats' like this for their dinner table, etched with a map of the location of their home. Having a machine to play with also allows for happy accidents. On one occasion, while working with Chinese slate table mats, I set the laser to cutting, rather than engraving strength. In place of the familiar silver-grey lines a tracery of raised, golden ones appeared. A geologist-friend quickly explained. Chinese slate is notoriously weak: 70% of it is 'trapped' water, and large amounts of pyrite (Fool's Gold) are also usually present. The laser had boiled the water near the surface, and pyrite bubbled out and solidified, creating raised lines that look exquisite in raking light.
Richard Weston has the art of eliding materials and scales. By transforming minerals and crystals into wonderful landscapes, he has opened a creative gap halfway between gold panning and alchemy, where intuition, science, chance and a touch of magic intertwine, able to give thrushes golden wings. Dr Béatrice Durand, L'Architecture Avivre, No.103, 2018, pp157-71 (trans. from French)
We are working with a tourist venue in South Wales to 'reinvent' ways of enjoying landscape gardens. As this work is 'commercially' confidential I will summarise it enigmatically with these two pictures.
Supported by a grant from the US National Science Foundation, we are working with Dr Alice Banwell (U. Colorado Boulder), on an outreach project about glacial melting in Antarctica. The grant supports the development of online resources for children, which we are hoping to match with a sponsored project in public venues in such as Middleton Hall in Milton Keynes. The travelling exhibition will be based on the four highly stressed ecosystems in crisis introduced to children in Molly's World: Antarctica, Wildflower Meadows, the Oceans (with a focus on plastic pollution), and Coral Reefs.
We are seeking a site in the central belt of Scotland on which to design a 'demonstration project' to show how the network will combine its skills in developing a design. The project will be for a vacation house and studio, with accommodation and facilities to work collaboratively together rather than online.
After the success of the scarves, I decided to offer fabric for a second year project at what was then Newport University's School of Fashion Design. The responses were encouraging: the dresses illustrated are from agate (right), elestial quartz (far right, top) and an Australian speciality, mookaite. Sîan Lloyd, the well known Welsh weather presenter then invited the students to compete to design a dress for her to wear as hostess of the event in Monaco to mark the end of the F1 racing season. The winning design used a print from obsidian and Albert II, Prince of Monaco, complimented her on having the most beautiful gown he'd seen at the event.
This prototype for a travelling exhibition to introduce children to the delights of minerals and digital creation was designed to fit into a universal space: a 20' shipping container. Exhibits were held in place by powerful neodymium magnets, enabling it to be quickly assembled and taken down. Although I failed to find a sponsor it had two lasting legacies: the engraving of the cabinet of curiosities built up by the Danish polymath, Ole Worm, which became a 'model' for my home. And the idea of a floor covered with padded silk twill, which proved surprisingly resilient. It was printed from an image of Russian charoite that resembled a mauve stream, with 'rocks' turned into bean bags. The floor is still in perfect condition in my roof-space. I was concerned when the first group of children visited that they might be uneasy with being sealed in a large steel box, and so I left the doors open. They immediately asked for them to be closed, 'it's like a magic cave in here', came the very welcome explanation.
I live in a close of eight houses, which slopes up towards a main road. The front garden faces south-west and is set 900mm below the pavement. With minimal traffic, I decided I could create a private, sunny enclave. To structure the ground I deployed a 'steel cliff' to the neighbour's boundary. This consists of zig-zagging layers, diminishing in height and slotted into each other to add strength. As the earth rises, each of the three layers turns at right angles to retain small terraces parallel with the road. When the structure was installed, in raw mild steel, it came as a surprise, if not shock, to the neighbours. I chose steel that would rust naturally rather than Corten, because I much prefer the more varied surface that results as it ages. It will outlive me, and the iron-rich colour, reminiscent of a cut through a deep bed of a clay soil, seems to me to form a perfect backdrop for plants.
The images to the right show stonewalled sheep-folds on Snowdonia, the Acropolis in Athens, and the plan of the Greek colonial city of Miletus. The sheepfolds are ordered by responding to the minutiae of the local topography; the Acropolis, it is thought, by orientation to distant views; and Miletus by a grid, the first such in town planning. In the Egyptian wall painting below, a square grid has also been used to organise the design, not in a rigid way but by controlling the general disposition of the main shapes.
In my garden, a square grid is defined by the size of printed tiles which reach out across the water. In the patio it materialises as steel strips: the oblique angles of the concrete infill (from calcite rhomboids, a source of imagery in Molly's World) are framed by glass. The grid is expressed in three dimensions as a cubic steel table.
After winning a scholarship, I studied under the pioneer of
ecological planning and design, Ian McHarg at the University of
Pennsylvania, from 1977-79. We were introduced to the famous
'layer cake' method, based on mapping data from bedrock, through
soils and habitats, to climate. We drew everything by hand on
sheets of acetate to study the interactions, but now, of course,
it's grist to the mill of computer-based Geographical Information
CAD software and PhotoShop, not to mention our mollyapp!, work in layers. In designing, the layers may be actual or virtual, flattened onto a surface as in the patio of the garden, where the layers include:
This layering, plus other features, like the tiny 'planting pockets' in the Steel Cliff, create a sense of multiplicity in a small space, and together contribute to the feeling of being in a unique 'Small World'.
Layering was a key modernist tactic to preserve the 'integrity' of the flattened pictorial space - as in Georges Braque's exquisite late series of 'Studio' paintings. But you can also see something akin to it in work in some medieval tapestries and manuscripts (a current fascination). In the detail above, hints of a geometric structure are combined with the free disposition of plants, flowers, animals and birds typical of millefleur designs.
Also Rossi, an architect whose writings I admire but whose austere buildings leave me cold, has suggested that 'architecture is made possible by the confrontation of a precise form with time and the elements'. I like this idea a lot, even with gardens. British garden design tends to be dominated by the horticultural traditions of the nineteenth century, fuelled by colonial plant collecting and a growing distrust of formality. I have an essentially Classical feeling for form, and love clear geometric structures that act as a foil for the changing seasons, plants that flower and recede, and the play of light. For an example of the latter, please click on the image below to see a very short video. The two main images here show the garden a year after planting and in Spring 2023. A little 'editing' beckons, but then I reflect on another Rossi quote: 'I felt that disorder, if limited and somehow honest, might best correspond to our state of mind. But I detested the arbitrary disorder that is indifferent to order, a kind of moral obtuseness, complacent well-being, forgetfulness'.
I asked Vicki Wade, a key member of the Studio Network, to design the planting to look as 'undesigned' as possible, evoking the richness of an early successional landscape. Specifically, I wanted several single and multi-stem birch trees - she opted for Betula jacquemontii with its intense white bark - and lots of ferns. For much of the day the planting is seen, as painters say, contre jour, with light transmitted through the foliage as well as reflected back. The 'wildness' of the terraces is contrasted with the tiny rectangles in the patio and 'planting pockets' in the Steel Cliff. The latter are now mainly planted with succulents, which contrast beautifully with the colour and flatness of the rusting steel.
I have wanted a pond since childhood. My first pet was a sadly short-lived goldfish, Toby: I now have around sixty and am hardly alone in finding watching them a source of, as today's jargon has it, 'wellfulness'. They never seem to squabble, let alone fight, and appear at the patio side to be fed whenever I go out. The latest research suggest that they can recognise individual human faces. Cats have a marvellous knack of taking over any space, and their love of boxes is echoed in the pleasure they seem to take in occupying the 'cave' below the steel table. I am not generally a fan of built-in furniture, but I do like creating 'places' for daily rituals. Morning coffee (or a 'naughty' can of Coca Cola) are drunk with a daily egg custard tart, and an occasional post-work G&T has a circular shelf welded to the Steel Cliff. I live two miles from the Bristol Channel as the seagull flies and they sweep regularly overhead. Garden birds seem increasingly few and far between. Wagtails and various members of the tit family were regular visitors but are rarely seen now: sadly they eluded my camera. The bird-feeder seems to be mainly used by magpies, and in the Spring I get a healthy complement of may- and dragonflies.
This pair of breeding ducks splashed down several years ago and made repeated visits. The local vet told me they were familiar visitors to several other ponds in the village!
This roof was designed to cover a sunken courtyard in a house built in a redundant water tank on the cliffs at Cosham in Hampshire. The courtyard is framed by bedrooms and a swimming pool, and floored with bricks. These absorbed large amounts of solar energy on sunny days and reradiated it in the evening, making the space too warm for comfort. The roof is supported on a steel drainage channel raised above the paving to allow heated air to escape (in winter, the gap is enclosed with panels). The barrel vaults span between 'gutter trusses'. In the initial design the channels were of a uniform rectangular section: the idea to taper them occurred to me on a flight to the USA. Reminiscing about crossing the 'Great Divide', the irregular 'line' running through the Rockie Mountains down to the Gulf of Mexico and divides the Pacific and Atlantic watersheds, I realised that the trusses could reflect the flow of water like a river. The gutters taper to almost nothing at their centre, and widen and deepen to the edges, reflecting the flow of water and the structural forces (shear at the edges, bending in the middle). The result plays games with perspective and adds visual tension to the form. It also solved the overheating: the laminating films cut out UV light and the roof drives convection currents.
Radiant House was built, with the help of the structural engineer Mark Lovell, for the FutureWorld exhibition at Milton Keynes. The basic idea was to contain the plot by a garden wall, and make half of it habitable by a roof hovering overhead.
Internally, the parts of the bedrooms where you sleep, the low area for computers in the studio at the other end, and the kitchen and bathroom 'pods' are under low ceilings. This created a contrast between lofty and cave-like spaces.
Structurally, the roof floats on 15mm sheets of toughened glass. To prevent the 3.6m high, south-facing sheets from bending, they are bolted to a long 'louver girder', which shades the lower area of glass from the sun and transmits loads horizontally into reinforced concrete piers embedded in the brick work at each end, To complete the structural stability by preventing the roof moving sideways under wind loads, it is bolted to triangular frames that in turn are bolted to the plywood roofs over the bathroom and kitchen and cloakroom pods. Their plywood ceilings act as stressed-skins that transfer the lateral loads into concrete frames behind the plywood veneer. The house appears serene, but there is a lot of hidden work going on. You can listen to an interview with the second owner here.
This sketch design for was made for an old friend who had just bought one of two houses by Berthold Lubetkin on Green Belt land just outside the perimeter of Whipsnade Zoo. The planners were sure to oppose it, but he wanted to see if we could obtain the support of the head of the Design Panel of the Royal Fine Art Commission. This was secured, but he decided to sell the Lubetkin house and land. A long wall was set tight against the wooded northern boundary, and contrasted with the angled and curved planes of the garden elevation. The long section stepped up the site, creating a lofty living space, with a kitchen and small dining area tucked under a mezzanine floor housing the bedroom, en suite bathroom and shower room for guests. The mezzanine also displayed pieces of classic Modern furniture, and projected as a shallow, west-facing balcony and entrance canopy. The house was tiny, but the design made it feel large. From the corner of the living room you could see the sky through a section of roof that flipped up above the bed. The broad stair combined single and double-height steps to display a small collection of glass, some to be housed in frameless triangular glass 'bay windows' that offered glimpses through, out and through the lower one, then outside and back in to frame the bedroom door.
The global corporate giant LG ran an open-ended competition calling for ideas for innovative, global communication ideas. I proposed linking mini-disc players to the Global Positioning System (GPS) so that they could sense where you were and act as a tourist guide, long before mobile phones could do this. The graphic design was based on a famous 1920 poster by the Russian Revolutionary artist Gustav Klutsis that expressed Lenin's belief that the future of Communism depended on the Electrification of the Entire Country.
In 1998 Letchworh, the first Garden City, held a competition to celebrate the publication of Ebenezer Howard's book, 'To-morrow, a Peaceful Path to Reform' in which he proposed the Garden City as a way of resolving the competing pleasures of town and country living. Letchworth was founded in 1905 and wanted to begin implementing ideas that could both celebrate its centenary and help to manage typical 'urban fringe' problems where town met farming. I won second prize working with the geographer and landscape architect Kate Collins. We proposed a 'Time Walk', interventions to clarify the town's edges, and adapted an idea I was playing with to celebrate the Millennium: a scale-model 'Solar System Sculpture' centred on a primary school. This was later realised across Wales, with a Lottery grant:
This competition certainly lived up to 'grand'! It was intended to house the Tutankhamun collection and sited a mile from the pyramids at Gizeh. I proposed a platform supporting a limestone dome the same width as the Great Pyramid: 230m. The world's largest man-made solid would face off against its equivalent void. The research, conference and other facilities were housed around the perimeter of the platform, and three storeys of galleries, 125m square, were suspended from four service cores in a void where passively cooled air would gather. Mark Lovell engineered the egg-shell thin dome and hanging galleries, and Prof. Brian Ford deployed his passive design skills on the environmental strategy. To the ancient Egyptians, the stars by night and the sun by day were all important. To light the lower areas I proposed allowing sun down through a star map of voids in the dome. The moving sunspots were to be mapped over the year, and at the places of greatest intensity circular voids would be cut through the galleries to reach the reconstructed Tutankhamun tomb. The winning design, only now being completed, looks as if it belongs on a business park in Silicon Valley. This project is the best thing I've done and would, I believe, have seemed as elemental and eternal as the pyramids.
This proposal was made with the agreement of a large house-owner in Sully. In contrast to the other houses on the road his was set at an angle to the boundaries, to face a distant view of the sea (the man who built it having been a merchant navy captain). The idea was to share an area for cars at the front and build on a triangle of land framed by two long walls and overlooking a view of farmland. The planners were adamant that, lacking direct access to the road, it was 'backlands' development and rejected the proposal.
The design was a useful exercise in combining the spatial strategy of Radiant House with the lighting of the Egyptian Museum. With no windows allowed in the long walls, I introduced a courtyard/reflecting pool beneath a large circular opening in the roof, and a series of circular openings in both the flat roof and a lower ceiling level. This produced a pleasing variation in the heights of the spaces, and, when the sun shone, with what I called a 'calligraphy of light' on the floor and ceilings. Arrayed with times of day on the x-axis and months on the y-axis, I called it a 'Light Year'. This remains 'unfinished business', and I will return to it in the design of the Scottish Retreat. Rooflights admit far more light than windows, which in the age of Climate Change ought to be about views.
Shortly after being head-hunted from New York to become Head of Buying at struggling London landmark Liberty, Ed Burstell appeared on the BBC 'Today' programme. He announced a series of 'Open Days' at which anyone could present ideas to their buyers. After registering I was contacted by a tv company: the event was to be filmed as part of a six-part BBC2 series entitled 'Britain's Next Big Thing', presented by Theo Paphitis. Ed loved the 'mineral scarves' made with my 'Data From Nature' and followed the process of making them, from scanning in my studio, to printing on silk in Como, to meetings with buyers, and finally going on sale to the public in July 2010. Suddenly I was a brand, hailed by Vogue as the 'most unexpected new talent in British fashion' and declared 'an academic far cooler than Brian Cox' by Lauren Laverne! Under the direction of my business colleagues, Martin and Helen Price, 'Weston Scarves' are still selling well in Liberty and Fortnum and Mason. Brexit bureaucracy has made various outlets on continental Europe too painful to deal with for the quantities involved.
Far right: Scarf from charoite.
Left: Golden Plume and banded agate scarves.
The site was an odd, left-over area in a well-built 1970s housing project, surrounded by brick garden walls. By now Molly's World was in development and I had discovered the English inspired garden in France, the Désert de Retz: its two-dozen surviving 'monuments' include an inhabitable ruin of a gigantic Doric column. The idea emerged of making a garden for children surrounding my house. The site sloped to the south and offered no clues as to where to begin, so I decided to tame it with geometry: a circle crossed by a rectangular bar. My rooms were in the 'bar' and to the north a small guest suite and cloakroom expanded to the edge of the circle, the rest of which became a private water garden. Raised above the site by a full storey at its southern perimeter, I proposed to tuck under it a 'steel grotto' to display my minerals. Assorted attractions for children were scattered like a condensed Retz: a story-telling amphitheatre; a 'Jurassic cliff' with fossils; in inflatable 'Temple of Flora'; and a small-gauge railway leading from an evocation of the Welsh valleys in steel to Cardiff Bay, into which flowed a miniature of the Taff, like the serpentine water channel at Rousham. I sold the land at a small profit and the project laid the foundations for what I am doing now as Molly's Home.
Unable to attract interest in my 'Data from Nature' among interior and fashion designers, I began experimenting with digitally printed materials in my home. This gradually metamorphosed into Molly's Home, a latter-day cabinet of curiosities in which to hold workshops with children to test, and push to its limits, the Mollyapp.
A living-room wall is lined with paesina stone, a limestone found north of Florence. This can uncannily resemble the Tuscan landscape, thanks to manganese and iron entering the sedimentary bedding planes and a network of ultra-fine cracks created by the collision between the African and European tectonic plates that created the Dolomites. On the floor is a rug digitally woven with an image from Variscite: sadly Brinton's, who made it, no longer accept small orders. Next to this is a long tiled table in the shape of a specimen of Mexican crazy lace agate. When that was made the tiles couldn't be walked on: that quickly changed and my kitchen floor is a much enlarged detail of a Jurassic sea floor rich in 'Ammonoids'. To help store my burgeoning collection of minerals I had a 'staircase of curiosities' fitted with drawers and trays ideal for the flat slices.
After almost twenty years in place, the paesina panels in my living room have faded slightly. They are being replaced with another paesina, scanned from the longest specimen in my collection. This will extend out into the gardens at front and back. A major addition, to be installed shortly, is an aquarium made by local aquascapist (and now Network member) Ritchie Newell. The 'scape' will feature Chinese 'dragon rocks' similar to the large landscape formations that influenced the development of the English Landscape Garden.
A very old Aalto dinner table is also being replaced with a glass one. This will be laminated with a print on organza silk (less 'in your face' than the images suggest) inspired by the view down through a glass bottomed boat sailing above the Great Barrier Reef. The montage includes real shells and urchins, 'jellyfish' from a Montana agate, and photographs of the silk fish that will soon be hanging from the ceiling in emulation of Ole Worm's cabinet of curiosities.
As this picture of the crazy lace agate makes clear, I'm running out of display space: this will be remedied shortly, because I have taken to buying real 'curiosities' at auction to inspire children during the mollyapp workshops. These include delightfully decorated plates, an articulated Japanese bronze grasshopper in the jizai okimono style, meaning that it has articulate limbs (Meiji period one sell for £1000s; mine cost £30!), and a Chinese hard stone tree 20cm high with hanging amethyst 'fruits'. A very old Aalto dinner table is also being replaced with a glass one. This will be laminated with a print on organza silk (less 'in your face' than the images suggest) inspired by the view down through a glass bottomed boat sailing above the Great Barrier Reef. The montage includes real shells and urchins, 'jellyfish' from a Montana agate, and photographs of the silk fish that will be hanging from the ceiling
My house looms over the back garden, and has unsightly drainage and other 'features'. To create the feeling of an outdoor room I decided to frame a new limestone terrace (good riddance decking!) with a steel trellis, only to be told by the Network's resident historian, Stephen Kite, that William Morris's lost garden at Red House was based on the same idea. The garden is to be divided into a pleasurable hortus conclusus and a small vegetable garden. Children will be able to fix their work onto the trellis and a 'Tree of Life' with magnets, and other key elements, beginning with the provision for guinea pigs in a house that steps up onto the terrace and an enclosure that runs around two edges.
The guinea pigs in their runs are protected by steel mesh. To provide a backdrop, I will be using a very large (3.8GB) file of a wildflower meadow made with children at St Andrew's Major Church in Wales school in my village. This will be printed onto the agate panels shown in the perspective view that follows, with 'drop shadows' for the flowers that project up above the rest to add a three-dimensional quality. Along the existing fence with the neighbour, the Dibond print will be fixed to the back of the mesh, in front of a narrow strip for climbing plants and low shrubs.
As a commentary on the current Chelsea fad for urban wasteland 'gardens', small plant pots will be hung in the mesh enclosure and nature allowed to 'invade'. Shown flourishing here is a Pellitory-of-the-Wall.
In place of the fence, the bottom of the garden is enclosed by panels printed with an image from the 'sea and sky' agate shown. Various elements of Molly's World, illustrated below, fly across, and an inflatable igloo sits over a glass map of Antarctica in a 'sea' of Japanese gravel. The fused glass will appear to melt when seen contre jour. The 'rising sun' is from a delaminating mica and a round millefleurs blanket will be laid down for children to sit on. The sunspot chair will sit on the stone terrace (it will take two to move it!) and mark out the passage of sun from when it rises: I plan to breakfast there. Please note: perspective differs from more up to date plan shown above.
In Molly's World, these 'strizzate' creatures, which appear magically from paint smeared between sheets of glossy paper, occupy a world captured from calcite crystals. The friendly, but slightly leech-like, upright one will be equipped to sense motion, and as children approach will greet them with 'Buon giorno, my name is Alfonso. What's yours?' Several steel tubs will be scattered in the meadow, one acting as a large bird bath, the others containing exotic flowering plants. The steel grotto is glimpsed through a hole in the new fence and will contain glowing crystals, a cluster on a rock matrix and - with luck - lichen and mosses growing adventitiously, as they do on my car's windscreen wipers, encouraged by a coating of yoghurt.