Author : Paul Nelson

University : University of Lincoln

Status : MArch RIBA II, 2014

Advisor : Richard Wright

Title : Robinson’s Dichotomy

The project focuses on the character development of Patrick Keiller’s filmic study of Robinson in Ruins. The film fundamentally works on two levels:

  • on the one hand

it is a factual documentary focusing on the shifting historical changes in the Oxfordshire landscape

  • on the other hand

the film utilises and alludes to the invisible character of Robinson, through who’s lens we survey this changing landscape

The spectrality of Robinson throughout the film [ reinforces ]  this notion; the scant information the audience is given about the character alludes to the fact that Robinson is missing.

The aim of the project is to pick up the [ narrative ]  of Keiller’s character, developing a building in which Robinson is able to curate objects of interest derived from the film.

The language of the architecture, is one which reinforces Robinson’s characteristics enabling him to inhabit a building without being detected by the outside world. As the curator of his own exhibits the occlusion between public [ + ] private space thereby becomes directly defined and articulated leading to a structure which enhances the corporeality of Robinson himself.

In contrast however, the notion of isolation becomes warped by encompassing Robinson himself as ·  a direct and central exhibit or curiosity. In this sense, the [ observer ] unwittingly becomes the observed. The [ building ] is being formulated in such a way that it allows the public glimpses into Robinson’s space through the use of peepholes.

In defining the dichotomy of Robinson, we see a [ space ] which is divided into two parts which operate independently but at the same inclusively of each other.

Is robinson, in fact, an embodiment or fantasy in himself?

To lose oneself, is a trait which everyone is potentially capable of. In this sense, anyone has the ability to be a ‘Robinson’. This, therefore, blurs the distinction between the observer and the observed further,

the architecture [ facilitates ] the ability to perform either narrative.


S//A: What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
Paul Nelson_ The project focuses on the occlusion between public and private space which in turn controls the spatial layout of the scheme becoming directly defined and articulated. The separation and zoning between the two offers the affordability to develop Keiller’s fictional character through the architectural language.

S//A: What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
PN_ Cycling plays a large role in my life both on a social and competitive level; I often find time on the bike useful for architectural musings.

S//A: Most important thing learned in architecture school?
PN_ It is important to develop your own architectural language and to have confidence in your own ideas and process; other people will not always agree with you but this can be useful in prompting dialogue about your work.

S//A: Describe your dream project
PN_ This would probably follow something similar to that developed through my thesis. I like the idea of working with existing buildings and marrying the old and the new together. There is great scope for bespoke detailing and contextual design; often forming an interesting mesh of materials. Existing buildings have a history to them as well, which adds an extra dimension which can inform and add to the architectural language.