James Beckett’s ‘Negative Space: A Scenario Generator for Clandestine Building in Africa’ refers to so-called clandestine building1 practices across Africa, whereby residents expand on their living spaces by building illegal extensions onto existing architecture. Aesthetic gestures, for example, are quite typical of Modernism- designs that don’t capitalize on the full volume a structure can offer. The cantilevered roof, the extended balcony, floating facades and large, decadent lobbies – all these features are potential space to be re-appropriated, to be bricked up and put to use for the individual and collective good.
The installation is an “automated archive”, which generates architectural scenarios for such clandestine buildings. This archive contains a collection of over 200 photographs of architecture from across the continent, along with a collection of thousands of wooden building blocks, each unique. A set of two pharmaceutical robotic arms continuously, reminding of retrieval machines used in warehouses, continuously shuffle these blocks to create portraits of specific buildings.