Duncan Webster’s hyper-scaled tipis appear with sky water gardens and solar-harvesting skins; a future world presented in historical architectural language
Practitioner: Joint 2nd Winner
In his reimagining of the 4000-year-old North American Tipi, Webster brings the form into the future with his ‘3d multicellular community of adaptable conical enclosures, linked by sky water gardens (harvesters)’. These massive structures are connected to each other via ‘Hyperloop hubs’ and, with the cones coated in a ‘graphene matrix’, its skin becomes a solar energy collector, the hyper-scaled structure conditioning itself by drawing air from the bottom and expelling at the ‘sky garden’ level.
Yet, in all its sense of futuristic potential, there is something compellingly primitive in its means of expression, mimicking the geometric forms found on cave walls and rock formations from our own ancient pre-history - a flatness and abstraction that removes it all from the real and takes it into the realms of symbolism.
The means of representation was certainly enough to capture the imaginations of the judges. Rory Chisholm, 2021 Eye Line winner (practitioner), was a fan from the start, calling it ‘a strange, investigative drawing using conventional, almost historical architectural language, which is getting rarer; and, for that reason, it ticks the boxes for me.’ Niall Hobhouse, trustee, Drawing Matter, and Kester Rattenbury, professor of architecture and cities at the University of Westminster, had more reservations about the project, the latter feeling ‘it’s trying to do something very conscious with the drawing technique that makes it intriguing.’
Ana Luisa Soares, co-founder, Fala Atelier, was circumspect about the narrative for Webster’s cones, but the two-dimensionality of the representation caught her attention: ‘I like the way he has merged his sections and plans on the same drawing; in that respect it’s quite successful.’