Sometimes it’s hard to articulate the exact ingredients that contribute to the character that makes a building unique; it can be ever changing with the seasonal cycle, or it can be deeply subjective, singing directly to the memories of an individual. Working hard to define those ineffable qualities is an important part of the first steps toward altering a significant building – Once they are understood, strategies can be implemented to prevent heavy-handed or knee-jerk construction works from damaging the exact values we are all trying to preserve.
Studio 8 worked closely with the client team on Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent to document the remarkable atmosphere that exists in these Victorian factory buildings, prior to repair and conservation works that began in autumn 2012. Approaches pursued included sketching, photography, interviews, video and audio recording, all attempting to capture that energy and animation that makes the Victorian pottery production spaces so thoroughly compelling.
Attached below is a brief sound clip recorded in the Slip-House, the large factory space that marks the very beginning of the pottery production process; where clay in its raw form is delivered, unpacked and then mixed to form liquid ‘slip’, that is then piped to the casting shops in the surrounding ranges. The blungers that mix the slip to the correct viscosity revolve 365 days a year, powered by a concentration of spinning cams, buzzing drive shafts and churning belts, all the while being fed greedily by a set of suspended overhead troughs, intermittently streaming recycled slip from the making floors above back into the mixing process.
As you might imagine, it sounds amazing.