Festival of Britain 1951-2011 opens this weekend

The Festival of Britain’s 60th Anniversary starts this weekend on the Southbank Centre. The summer-long festival is packed with events and exhibitions including BCA’s own installations on Power and Production. BCA has collaborated with photographers and filmakers to celebrate British makers and inventors, and new ideas in production.

Black Country Atelier’s Eureka Britain installation, one of  three by BCA at the Festival, features makers in their working environments:

Black Country Atelier Festival of Britain 1951-2011 Eureka BritainWayne, former race mechanic: building a reconstituted racing car

Black Country Atelier Festival of Britain 1951-2011 Eureka BritainJoel, mechanical technician: testing “hot lips” rocket engine

Black Country Atelier Festival of Britain 1951-2011 Eureka BritainMerlyn, inventor: refining low energy glass furnaces

Black Country Atelier Festival of Britain 1951-2011 Eureka BritainGilo, designer: prototyping high speed helicopters

Black Country Atelier Festival of Britain 1951-2011 Eureka Britain Southbank Centre

BCA’s Euraka Britain installation re-used an old gantry found in a steel fabrication yard in Shropshire. (photography: Georgie Clarke)

Over the summer there will be a number of events marking the 60th anniversary of the original festival; including a “Power and Production weekend” in August curated by BCA – more on that to come! We’ll also be uploading new features/interviews with the inventors we met.

Drop by and see us at the Festival!


A sneak Festival of Britain peak

BCA’s exhibition is in 3 parts. Eureka Britain, a series of portraits of makers and inventors at work in unexpected places of innovation, including kitchens and sheds and The Industrial Estate, a fly-poster installation depicting the modern industrial landscape at the edges of our towns and cities and Production Line, a series of short films tracking traditional to subversive production methods.

Here is a trailer of Production line.

Bow to the Bowyer

Professor Adrian Bowyer is a 3D printing guru. This is not an exaggeration. Adrian invented the RepRap, a low cost open source rapid prototyping system that is capable of producing its own parts.We had the privilege to meet him to take his portrait and interview him for our Festival of Britain exhibition. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:Adrian Bowyer RepRap for Black Country Atelier

Who is using the RepRap?

The vast majority of people using RepRaps are in individual homes, though some companies have them as well. It’s moving the whole idea of manufacturing into the home in the way we have already done, for example, with music production and photographs. It used to be the case that we would put rolls of film and send them off in yellow envelopes. Now we have an entire photographic laboratory in our houses. If people have the ability to make things in their own homes, then people can almost divorce themselves from the conventional industrial route and start making their own manufactured goods.

Do you think that cheap 3D printers and 3D scanners herald a new industrial revolution?

We are supposed to have had two industrial revolutions already. One that people noticed and one that people didn’t. The one that people did was the one that happened at the end of the 18th/ beginning of the 19th century but in the 1950s computer control of industrial production was introduced and from the engineers perspective, that was as radical a change as the introduction of the steam engine.  I suspect that if 3D printers lead to a radical change in the way that things are made, possibly leading to people making their own items rather than buying from factories, the change will be experienced as an acceleration rather than a bolt like in the 19th century revolution.

Is anyone from the wider community making anything wacky with the RepRap?

More far-fetched than having a machine print itself which was the initial idea for the project? There is a one guy in the United States who made a model of an entire gothic cathedral! No practical application but it’s beautiful. Lots of people make puzzles and devices that operate in non-obvious ways. Things with 3D gears. Anyone can make up puzzles and cubes themselves.  People share what they are creating on the web. We have a website called thingyburst where anybody can upload designs.  It’s like music sharing for real objects.

What are the next steps for RepRap?

As it’s an open project, people are taking in lots of different directions. Some people are trying to make smaller, more precise machines. We are trying to make a process where we are working with metal in the same way as plastic. The difficulty is that when you work with plastic and melt it, it’s still fairly syrupy and sticky. If you melt a metal, it is like mercury and will flow anyway. So what we are trying to do is to allow for that fact and make the system so that it can work with metals as well as plastics. I have a research student who is working on that right now.

BCA at Southbank Centre’s Festival of Britain

We are thrilled to announce that BCA has produced an exhibition for the Southbank Centre’s 60 anniversary of the Festival of Britain! The original festival in 1951 was a post war ‘tonic for the nation’, an extravaganza along the Southbank site that showcased British inventions and ingenuity of the time. 60 years on and elements of the festival like the Skylon are remembered as landmarks of architecture and technology.

We were invited to interpret the theme ‘Power and Production’ which took us on the road with photographer Georgie Clarke and filmmakers Visitor Studio to meet local and west country inventors.  We have met some amazing people who are tinkering away in kitchens, sheds and castles!

The four month long festival starts next Friday so we are busy preparing to install the BCA exhibition and film on site.

BCA at Vittoria Primary School

We just finished our workshop with Vittoria Primary school (part of Architects in Residence). We worked with kids aged seven to eleven, over the course of 4 Fridays, to make shapes and spaces out of milk bottles. The kids amazed us with what they came up with! Here are some pictures…

Black Country Atelier BCA Design Architecture Architects in Residence

BCA worked with students to design and make their own building blocks using recycled milk bottles

Black Country Atelier BCA  Design Architecture Architects in Residence 2The “castle” we built together

Black Country Atelier BCA Design Architecture Architects in Residence 3Other shapes the kids came up with: (above) a “person” shape and (below) “cross” shapes

Black Country Atelier BCA Design Architecture Architects in Residence 4

Watch out for the Architects in Residence/BCA exhibition in May 2011.

Architects in Residence

We’re very excited by news that Black Country Atelier will be involved with Architects in Residence – a joint RIBA, CABE and Arts Inform project – running workshops with primary school kids to explore design and architecture.  Many pupils have gone on to study architecture after being involved with the programme, and we look forward to working with our school over the coming months. We will keep you posted on our progress here.