As a writer, I know all too well that finding a place of true solitude in this world of perpetual distraction is no mean feat. Not only do we have to live in a constant battle with the very tools we use to ply our trade (social media is a wonderful invention if used properly, but more often acts as a gateway into hopeless procrastination), but the modern world is noisy, bright, shiny, and constantly on the move. I know I sound like I'm making excuses here, but you'll struggle to find a professional writer who doesn't struggle with distraction on a daily basis, and whilst “The Mansio” can't possibly be the answer to all of our procrastinative problems, it's at least a neat idea and a call-back to a more innocent age.
“The first reference for The Mansio is the industrial architectures seen in the northeast and northwest of England, both operational and in ruin” Matthew Butcher
The Mansio is a factory-inspired mobile structure built as a writer's sanctuary by the architectural dream team of Matthew Butcher, Kieran Wardle and Owain Williams. The idea is for the building to travel along Hadrian's Wall in northern England to provide a temporary residency for writers, whilst also acting as a celebration of the region's industrial architecture. The unusual structure consists of a steel frame decked out in panels of translucent polycarbonate, and features a dysfunctional chimney stack and a set of fin-like shutters.
The structure is set to travel to several archaeological locations along Hadrian's Wall; the crumbling fortress that once marked the northern border of the Roman empire, and that we all undoubtedly remember in name alone from our school days. The London-based architectural trio named the structure after the roadside teahouses and meeting spots constructed along Roman roads, and they describe it as a “Mobile ruin,” which might sound bleak, but actually kind of makes sense when you consider that the trio hope for the structure to function in a similar way to how a Roman fort stationed on the wall might have functioned. Only the structure will contain frustrated writers, not Roman centurions.
“The second reference for The Mansio is the idea of a structure as a signpost or marker in the landscape, one that can be seen from a distance” Kieran Wardle
As well as serving as a refuge for weary penmen, The Mansio will also host a range of events run by local arts bodies Hexham Book Festival and Arts&Heritage over its six-month journey, including performances of commissioned pieces by ten writers. The project launched in South Shields earlier this month and will follow a route along Hadrian's Wall, taking in archaeological sites that include the Roman forts of Arbeia, Birdoswald, Senhouse and Carlisle Castle until September 2016.
Butcher, Wardle and William won the rights to design the structure in a competition in which they saw off studios such as FleaFolly Architects, Sean Griffith's Modern Architecture and NEON. Butcher, who is founder of Postworks studio, is no stranger to ambitious, temporary structures, having recently designed a floating weather station to monitor Essex's flood-prone Thames Estuary. The structure collects information about tide fluctuations in the seasonally flooded landscape of southern England, and was intended as a critique on the current trend for floating architecture.
“The rich history of Hadrian's Wall provide a creative foundation for the authors involved in the project, writing new responses to the ever-present issue of borders, colonisation and the unique history of this ancient Roman landscape” Hexham Book Festival Director, Susie Troup
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer, hopeless procrastinator and struggling musician from the dark heart of Kidderminster in the UK.