Sinking House (2021)

Client: Self funded
Artist: Stride Treglown, Format Engineers, Anna Gillespie
Location: Bath, UK

Date: 2021-10-31 00:00:00 +0000 UTC
Tags: Public art, installation, demonstration, timber, floating

Ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) Architects Stride Treglown suggested we collaborate to design and build a very visible message of warning and hope to communities across the world and to focus the resolve of their leaders on the task ahead in arresting climate change. The chosen scheme was a ‘Sinking House’, a 6x3m scaled version of a dwelling which appears to sink beneath the River Avon. The structure is then be invisibly tethered to Bath’s world famous Pulteney Bridge. This is a very literal but powerful metaphor for our world being at risk. A human figure by local artist Anna Gillespie represents mankind’s last hope and completes the installation.

The structure is a timber frame stiffened with plywood panels all supported by a series of interlocking plastic pontoons which were hidden within the skirts of the house. A series of ratchet straps hold the timber and floats together and then are used to tie around the base of an arch of the 18th century bridge and tether to the structure.

As well as design collaboration our role was full Structural Engineering design, check of the floatation of the work and its interaction with the river. We produced a full 3d model to confirm material quantities and sequence of works drawings to aid the carpenters. We were also responsible for the Environment Agency application and management plan and helped in finding willing local help, most prominently Fifield Moss Carpentry who built the timber structure and had invaluable input into how the structure could be slid into the water without capsizing. All this took place within an extremely constrained programme, from inception to completion was two months. The local Bath Sea Cadets were also very generous in donating a floating pontoon and use of their facilities as a building site.

Sinking House is in place for a week before the COP26 conference and whilst it lasts. It has had a huge amount of press nationally and internationally including the China Daily press, La Stampa, Hong Kong news and Reuters as well as the BBC and Sky TV here in the UK.

All photos - Format Engineers