designs by the smithsons and álvaro siza re-erected at somerset's shatwell farm designs by the smithsons and álvaro siza re-erected at somerset's shatwell farm
may 01, 2016

designs by the smithsons and álvaro siza re-erected at somerset's shatwell farm

designs by the smithsons and álvaro siza re-erected at somerset’s shatwell farm
image © james morris




still in part a working farmyard, shatwell has been the site of a series of contemporary architectural commissions — loosely based on a strategic masterplan by cedric price from 2002. the projects include ‘the dairy house’ by skene catling de la pena, a cowshed and hay barn by stephen taylor architects, and ‘the archive’ by hugh strange architects. continuing the site’s creative outreach, drawing matter — an organization led by niall hobhouse — has commenced a program of installations that explores the relationship between architecture, sculpture and landscape. alison and peter smithson’s ‘obelisk’ (designed 1994) has been re-erected, while álvaro siza’s ‘columns’ will follow later this year.

‘obelisk’ shown in-situ at hadspen house
image © james morris




‘obelisk’ was originally conceived in 1984 by celebrated british architects alison and peter smithson for an urban site in siena, then reworked in 1994 as a woven spiral called the ‘inlook tower’ (a playful reversal of patrick geddes’s outlook tower in edinburgh). the object was first raised into position within the parkland of the estate of hadspen house, castle cary in 2002. it was then seen as an obelisk within the landscape, cut from oak and reinforced with stainless steel banding and cap.

the design is made from oak, and reinforced with stainless steel banding
image © james morris




now at shatwell farm, a team of specialists including lucas wilson, grandson of the smithsons, oversaw its re-erection. it previously stood on a concrete foundation, but in an experimental technical departure, surefoot — a concrete-free foundation system — has been used to simplify the installation. ‘niall is a hugely generous patron of architecture, and drawing matter is putting architecture at the forefront of a discussion which champions the work of great architects without agenda,’ says lucas wilson. ‘it is a real privilege to work with drawing matter, and with our collaborators and installation team, to ensure that my grandparents’ designs remain relevant.’

álvaro siza’s ‘columns’ exhibited at hauser & wirth somerset in bruton




‘columns’ by portuguese architect álvaro siza vieira was originally commissioned by the royal academy of arts as a site-specific installation as part of the 2014 exhibition ‘sensing spaces‘. cast of bright yellow concrete, the ensemble comprises three columns, one of which lies on the ground with its capital beside it, the second stands capital-less, while the third has its capital intact. inspired by the architect’s first response to the original courtyard setting, viewing the burlington house façade through the archway from piccadilly, these fragments refer back to the birth of the column.

the installation on display as part of 2014’s ‘sensing spaces’ exhibition
image by james harris




siza directed the choice of its location, placing the arrangement of columns within their new setting to charge the spaces around them. siza himself says that with the new placement ‘we risk doing something very interesting’ by deliberately challenging the expectations of the visitor. in their new positions, ‘columns’ and ‘obelisk’ will raise questions about the true nature and possible future of shatwell, a semi-derelict agricultural complex deep in the countryside, which has played host to a series of architectural commissions in recent years.


see some of the site’s previous projects in the gallery at the bottom of the page.

‘obelisk’ being lowered into position
image © tim abrahams

a concrete-free foundation system has been used to simplify the installation
image © tim abrahams

the installation neighbors stephen taylor architects’ cowshed 
image © tim abrahams



project info:


design: alison and peter smithson
collaborators: jim blackburn, the timber frame company cameron scott, timber design limited
engineer: john beveridge
construction: the timber frame company
stainless steel: bannell engineering
project management: lucas wilson


design: álvaro siza
engineer: sampaio
fabrication: pregaia

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