Paxton Folly addresses ice as the defining element of the skating trail. It exploits and harnesses the permanently freezing conditions of the site to allow for the casting of ice, and manipulation of its aesthetic qualities as a building material.
Based on simple and modular construction techniques a humble and familiar glasshouse-like form is glazed with panes of ice. It is smooth and flat on the exterior like glass, however its interior is lined with richly textured, crystalline and moulded ice forms. This varies the transparency of the ice, modulating and refracting the light entering the building, offering unknown prismatic and optical effects within. Like a geode cut open to reveal its glittering insides, the beauty of cast, faceted ice is exposed on the inside of a simple architectural form.
The development of the Paxton Folly stemmed from the artist’s fascination with light and optical effects, and ambition to express the naturally occuring elements and conditions of the skating trail. Together with the architect team, the possibilities of using ice as panels within a glazing system were explored, which presents a new quality of fragility of a ‘glass’ that relies on its frozen environment.
Paxton Folly would be constructed from a metal framework, using standard sections as used in greenhouse construction. The framework would be constructed off-site and delivered in several assembled pieces to the river trail site, the largest member length being 3.4m.
The pre-cast ice panels would slot into this framework. They would be cast in a flexible negative formwork, which would be made from a material such as silicone. This would allow for easy removal of the frozen panels from the moulds, an accurate form and smooth finish. The freezing conditions would allow the water-filled formworks to be simply left outside for the panels to be cast and then stored before installation.
To maximise transparency of the material, distilled water can be used. Each panel would have a wire mesh cast into it for strength and safety, however casting technique and variety of panel forms/textures could be developed and tested during the technical development of the project before going on-site.
The modularity of the design means that the same panel type can be used throughout the whole structure, with the exception of a few special panel types to achieve the rounded roof at one end. The form of the ice is controlled, yet we wish to express the natural qualities of the ice and each panel would still be unique.