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History and Theory Research Seminar Series: The Life and Death of the Hoverport

Dr Jacob Paskins (University of Cambridge)
When Mar 05, 2013
from 05:30 PM to 07:00 PM
Where Library, Department of Architecture
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Abstract Little remains of the world's first hovercraft terminal. Nature is slowing reclaiming the site of Ramsgate International Hoverport, built in 1969, as weeds and sand dunes encroach on the vast landing apron built on Pegwell Bay in Kent. After just thirteen years of operation, the modernist hoverport building fell into decay before it was demolished in 1992. The death of the hoverport cut a deep social and economic wound into the local area and marked a blow to Britain's ambitions as a global leader of technology and commerce. My presentation will introduce a new research project which charts the life of the hoverport from its construction during the 1960s through to its subsequent decline in the 1980s. My analysis of the hovercraft years will delve into a broad range of discourses about the production of architecture and the city, including ecological concerns, local employment, and social attitudes toward urban development. Central to my project will be an exploration of how the cross- channel hoverport raised anxieties about British national identity, especially with regard to the United Kingdom's fraught relationship with Europe and France. As the hovercraft and the common market brought the continent closer, Britain was no longer impervious to foreign influence, even before the Channel Tunnel was finally completed. When the hoverport closed, meanwhile, the loss of this major national infrastructure had a significant impact on the surrounding community. While the literature of transport enthusiasts is often content to accumulate endless lists of facts, figures and technical data, my research seeks to offer a more nuanced analysis. My presentation therefore will introduce some of the methodological approaches I intend to draw on to analyse the life and death of the hoverport. Exploring the implications of the built environment for people who were not architectural professionals, my research will assert that architecture is a social practice that encompasses more than diagrams and completed buildings. Architecture is deeply connected with economic, social and political issues on a local and national scale.

Biography Dr Jacob Paskins is the Eugenie Strong Research Fellow in Architectural History and Theory at Girton College, Cambridge. His PhD thesis (UCL,2011) was an historical study of the social experience of construction sites in Paris during the 1960s. He is a founding member of the Autopsies Research Group, which examines the obsolescence of everyday objects and places.

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