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Architect arrested after chaining himself to plywood tower at XR demo


An architect has been arrested after he chained himself to a modular tower during the Extinction Rebellion (XR) climate crisis protests near Trafalgar Square

Nick Newman, a director at London-based Studio Bark, used a bike lock to secure himself to a platform at the junction of the Strand and Charing Cross Road last Thursday.

According to Newman, the tower, which had cutouts to allow protesters to lock themselves to it, was built to block off police and stop them removing protesters and tents from the road. 

The police eventually used a JCB crane to remove the structure from the road – along with the three protesters attached to it. 

Newman said: ‘As I was familiar with the design of the boxes, and climb as a hobby, I decided to go up the tower, to protect the upper part of the structure, making it much harder for the police to remove me and it.

‘I chained myself to the tower, in part to provide a safety restraint in case of falling, and in part to fortify the defences.’

The recent wave of protests, which started on 6 October, attempted to shut down central London with a series of demonstrations, sit-ins and stunts. It follows a first series of protests in April, which saw more than 1,100 arrests.

The continued action led to the Metropolitan Police announcing on Monday that it was bringing in a city-wide ban on XR protests. The crackdown started on Monday evening when police cleared protesters from the camp in Trafalgar Square.

The modular structure, constructed from a series of flatpack plywood boxes stacked together, was one of around seven assembled by protesters last week.

Members of the newly-formed Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) were also among those involved in building the structures, which were used for a variety of purposes including stages, seating and lookout points.

The cutting patterns for the boxes were a modified version of Studio Bark’s self-build system U-Build, though the practice had no role in their final design.

Newman was released pending further investigation. He said: ‘This is without doubt the most beautiful construction project that I have ever been a part of. This was not about my efforts, but a crowd of people coming together, to finance, self-organise, self-sacrifice, and to deliver a built symbol of the future that they wanted to see in their city. This was truly an architecture of activism.’ 

XR protesters also assembled another tower outside Tate Modern yesterday morning (October 15), made of lightweight aluminium boxes. 

crowdfunding page has been launched to raise money for more boxes, which it claims are ‘not just a stunt’ but an ’idea for how we could build in the future: circular-economy thinking instead of large concrete megastructures’.

Signal 2019 10 16 082717

Signal 2019 10 16 082717


Readers' comments (3)

  • Well done anybody who has supported any of the XR demonstrations, especially those putting themselves on the line. We are now facing the horrific situation of the peaceful protests being banned from London. How can this happen in Britain? What has gone wrong with this country. It and thousands of other issues that are not being addressed or dealt with properly or at all by our current government, show their complete incompetence and disdain for democracy.

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  • Big up Nick Newman - excellent action!

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  • This shouldn't be architecture news...

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