Clay robotics: the future of architecture is happening now in a Chilterns farm

0
Clay robotics: the future of architecture is happening now in a Chilterns farm
Slippery entrance … The Other Room III, one of Guan Lee’s projects on the farm, since filled in / © Guan Lee

In an old barn in the rolling Chilterns, white globules drip from the rafters, while strange fungal forms erupt from the floor. In a shed next door, coils of grey clay spiral upwards into chubby stumps, like a line of elephants’ feet, while robotic rumblings can be heard through the wall. As horses roam among mysterious objects scattered in the fields outside, it looks as if this innocuous farmhouse in the Buckinghamshire banker-belt has been subject to an alien invasion, overrun by sculptural parasites.

“We’re not quite sure what this place is turning into,” says Guan Lee, the jovial proprietor of Grymsdyke Farm, an architectural research centre that has evolved in the leafy idyll of Lacey Green over the last five years. “We don’t really have a plan – but I suppose that’s the beauty of it. People come with their own projects and contribute ideas, and it all goes off in a new direction.”

Teaching on architecture programmes at the University of Westminster, the Royal College of Art and the Bartlett at UCL, where he completed his own PhD last year, Lee conceived the farm as a live lab for experimental making, a place where students can do more than their cramped school workshops allow.