Festival of Extreme Building 2006-2007 / by Claire Farrell

Festival of Extreme Building

Birmingham, 2006-2007

Claire Farrell (WERK) co curated and produced ‘The Festival of Xtreme Building’ (FXB) for, and on behalf of Sozo Collective.

FXB was an experimental arts and architecture project devised by Dave Pollard (Sozo Collective) that took place, occupied and transformed urban wasteland in Eastside, Birmingham in 2007.

Artist. 100 artists participated in FXB

Numerous artists and architects were commissioned to work together and produce experimental structures to be exhibited in landscaped redundant space. The festival evolved over a four month period into an organic open air gallery of architectural structures. FXB commissioned over 10 temporary structures, 22 events and exhibitions of multiple art forms including performance art. FXB installations and events occupied several sites and venues across the West Midlands, from Highgate brewery in Walsall, a public square in Brindley Place and Thinktank HQ Millennium Point.

FXB events and installations were designed to engage the general public with the built environment, providing opportunities to explore art, design and architecture.


FXB featured examples of the latest advances in building design and sculpture – the ‘Micro Compact Home’ (or m-ch) designed by Richard Horden of Horden Cherry Lee Architects (London) was habitable for the first time in the UK. Inspired by frequent flights on the business class, the m-ch applied the rules of aviation design and demonstrated how state of the art technology can be integrated into a lightweight transportable dwelling to produce an efficient, compact and desirable living space.

During FXB the m-ch installation reached 120 million people regionally, nationally and internationally through BBC World News, BBC 24 and through various other media.

FXB also featured structures the ‘T House’ by artist Colin Pearce and Architect Ranbir Lal a modular building made from one unit- a 3-4-5 triangle – where a Summer Solstice event was held during the festival and ‘The Viewfinder’ by William Schofield of Glenn Howells Architects an installation where the public could view their surroundings through a series of peep holes. One of FXB’s international commissions was ‘timepipe’ by Austrian artist Norman Brunner whose inflatable pipe installation provided an ‘interactive shopping experience’, a ‘Tribute to Mohammed Rafi Commission’ was created by artist Tasawar Bashir who created a shrine to celebrate the late Mohammed Rafi’s music.

Other installations included a ‘Mud House’ by Dave Pollard in partnership with Ramboll Whitbybird and Associated Architects a zero-carbon building produced for under £300 and made predominantly from soil; artist Peter Hadfield’s installation ‘Paper House’, a structure made entirely from recycled junk mail that had been posted through the Birmingham artist’s letterbox.

Austrian Art collective Pudelskern Space Agency brought their experimental ‘Calla’ chair concept to provide alternative city dwelling.
The project coincided with the arrival of the ‘X Nation’ who occupied the site during the festival. Before their arrival a mysterious ‘X’ projection appeared on the famous rotunda building, sponsored in kind by Urban Splash. The opening of FXB saw the arrival of a mysterious army uniformly dressed in black boiler suits throughout Birmingham, known as the ‘X Nation’.

The Event.
FXB opened in spectacular style with Kindle Theatre leading a grand procession of a wonderfully diverse selection of Birmingham’s performing arts talent as ‘X – Nation’ arriving to the site; the procession animated the site with music and dance led by Bollywood ‘Dance Masters’ Hina & Co.

The project received the highest figure of media coverage for an arts project in Birmingham to date, generating £750,000 worth of regional, national and international coverage. Marketing Birmingham commissioned internationally renowned PR agency McCann Erikson on behalf of Birmingham City Council to liaise with BBC 24, World News, GMTV, Guardian, Observer. Journalist Gareth Rubin from the BBC who spent the night in the micro compact home and reported is experience to the nation.

Birmingham City Council, Advantage West Midlands, The Birmingham Alliance, Travel West Midlands, Arts Council England, Bank’s, Lawlors, Armoury Group, Interlux Rohm, E-on Energy Services, Urban Splash, A&B, Made, Business Link, Artsites Birmingham, Sampad, Vivid, Architecture Week 2007, Fierce Ten, Scott Wilson, ISIS Waterside Regeneration, Legrand, Isg, Solus Ceramics Limited, Carillion, Severn Trent Water, Highgate, Chord, Muji, Matthew Boulton College, Adp, ERDF.