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Smithsons' Obelisk sculpture finds new home at Somerset farm

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Organisation Drawing Matter has installed Alison and Peter Smithson’s Obelisk at Niall Hobhouse’s Shatwell Farm in Somerset

The farm, owned by architectural historian and Drawing Matter principal Hobhouse, is home to several contemporary buildings loosely based on a masterplan by Cedric Price from 2004. Drawing Matter champions the process of architecture through collecting, archiving and commissioning.

Obelisk was originally conceived in 1984 for an urban site in Siena, then reworked in 1994 as a woven spiral called the Inlook Tower, a playful reversal of Patrick Geddes’ Outlook Tower in Edinburgh. Another chapter in the work’s history saw it erected on the estate of Hadspen House, Castle Cary, in 2002, thanks to patronage by Hobhouse.

Speaking on Obelisk’s relocation, Lucas Wilson - grandson of the Smithsons - said: ‘Niall is a hugely generous patron of architecture, and Drawing Matter is putting architecture at the forefront of a discussion which champions the work of great architects without agenda. It is a real privilege to work with Drawing Matter, and with our collaborators and installation team, to ensure that my grandparents’ designs remain relevant.’

Later this year Álvaro Siza’s Columns (2014) will also be erected later on the site. Columns was originally commissioned by the Royal Academy of Arts as a site-specific installation in the courtyard of Burlington House in London, as part of the 2014 exhibition Sensing Spaces.

Cast of bright yellow concrete, the ensemble is made up of three columns, one of which lies on the ground with its capital beside it, the second stands without capital, the third with its capital intact – approximating the birth of the column. Columns has already had a second home at Hauser & Wirth Somerset in Bruton, and is due to join the Shatwell family permanently by the end of the summer.

Columns will be sited by Shatwell’s Dairy House by Skene Catling de la Peña and the Archive building by Hugh Strange Architects. A hundred metres to the north, Obelisk stands in open ground between two agricultural buildings, Cowshed and Haybarn by Stephen Taylor Architects (see AJ 21.02.13).

Architects currently working on commissions for the farm include Siza himself in collaboration with Hugh Strange, as well as Florian Beigel and Philip Christou, and Dublin’s Clancy Moore Architects.

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