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Recycled & Reclaimed: Jellyfish Theatre

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on September 20th, 2010


From “Junkitecture and the Jellyfish theatre” by Jonathan Glancey:

‘One man’s trash is another’s man treasure,” says Martin Kaltwasser, screwdriver and saw in hand. The German architect and conceptual artist is rushing to complete the Jellyfish theatre, which stands in a south London playground, 10 minutes’ walk from the Globe theatre on the banks of the Thames. To say that this building is junk would be disparaging. And yet junk, of a sort, it is.  The Jellyfish theatre, which opens next week, is being built from the detritus of markets, timberyards and building sites; from redundant school furniture, hand-me-down front doors, recycled nails and pretty much anything that local residents and businesses have contributed – prompted by a public appeal by the Red Room film and theatre company. As work progresses, ever more planks of wood and stuff that would otherwise be “landfill” have been piled up in this playground in Southwark.

Dreamed up two years ago by Red Room’s artistic director, Topher Campbell, and its producer, Bryan Savery, the Jellyfish theatre looks, most of all, like a shrine to the humble timber pallet. Until a few weeks ago, these hundreds of pallets were being used to stack fruit and vegetables in Covent Garden market. Cheap, strong and hugely adaptable, they also happen to have a distinctly architectural look, especially when flipped on their sides and turned into walls. Some will be left as they are, others clad with sheets of plywood to keep the rain out and to usher in the darkness needed inside an auditorium.

Kaltwasser and his wife and business partner Folke Köbberling are, in fact, building Britain’s first fully functioning theatre made entirely from recycled and reclaimed materials. There are no fixed plans, few drawings; Kaltwasser orchestrates his fellow builders as Mike Leigh does his actors. The building has a strong, if very basic steel frame to keep its structure in check, and yet beyond this basic architectural necessity, all else is improvised: a pallet positioned here, a sheet of plywood there, some MDF on top.  This 120-seat theatre, which fully complies with local building, fire and safety regulations, will enjoy no more than a fleeting life, however. Campbell is busy rehearsing a pair of eco-themed plays that will run from 26 August to 9 October: Oikos (pronounced “ee-kos”, the Greek root for economy and ecology) by Simon Wu, and Protozoa by Kay Adshead. After that, the Jellyfish will be dismantled, and its recycled components recycled yet again.

Read the full article by Jonathan Glancey on the Guardian.

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