The facade of this house in the English seaside town of Margate appears to peel away from the rest of the building and slump down into the front yard.
British designer Alex Chinneck created the installation – called From the Knees of my Nose to the Belly of my Toes – by removing the facade of a detached four-storey house that had been derelict for eleven years and replacing it with a brand new frontage that leaves the crumbling top storey exposed, then curves outwards so the bottom section lies flat in front of the house.
“I just feel this incredible desire to create spectacles,” Chinneck told Dezeen. “I wanted to create something that used the simple pleasures of humour, illusion and theatre to create an artwork that can be understood and enjoyed by any onlooker.”
Located on Godwin Road in the Cliftonville area of the town, the house had been acquired by the local council and earmarked for social housing, but nothing was due to happen to it for a year and the structure was in a dilapidated state. “There were barely any floorboards, it’s very fire-damaged at the back and water-damaged at the front, and had fallen into ruin,” said the designer.
His installation reveals this dilapidated interior where the smart new facade falls away from the top floor. “I increasingly like that idea of exposing the truth and the notion of superficiality,” he explained. “I didn’t go into the project with that idea, but as it evolved I started to like that.”
Cliftonville is a district of Margate that used to be affluent, but like many seaside towns in the UK it has suffered with the changing patterns of holidaymakers. “It has social issues, it struggles with high levels of crime and the grand architecture has fallen into a fairly fatigued state,” said Chinneck.
In addition to causing delight when residents happen upon his intervention, the designer hopes to will draw visitors up the hill from the centre of Margate, where high-profile projects like the Turner Contemporary gallery by David Chipperfield are using culture as a tool for regeneration.
“Cliftonville is a very poor area referred to as being ‘up the hill’, and the culture and the arrival of artists hasn’t quite reached up the hill yet,” he said. “I was drawn to Cliftonville because it’s an area where the culture hasn’t reached and I think public art too often forgets its responsibility to the public.”
“I like the idea of surprise,” he added. “I never put signs on my work and I never give it any labels, so it does have this sense of mystery. It’s positioned in a way that you don’t see the artwork as you approach from either direction – you just see the hole in the top at first, so it’s a series of discoveries and you have to walk around it.”
The designer initiated the project himself and spent twelve months convincing companies to help him realise the artwork. Everything was donated by ten different companies except the labour, which was done at cost and paid for buy the Arts Council. The installation itself came together in just six weeks by assembling prefabricated panels.
The artwork will remain in place for a year, before the building is converted for use as housing.
Photographs are by Stephen O’Flaherty and the film is by Hazeleigh Prebble.
Read and see more over on Dezeen.