Festival of Extreme Building 2006-2007 / by Claire Farrell

Festival of Extreme Building

Birmingham, 2006-2007

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

FXB was an experimental arts and architecture project that took place, occupied and transformed urban wasteland in Eastside, Birmingham in 2007.

Artist. 100 artists participated in FXB

FXB occupied a piece of wasteland in Birmingham city center’s Eastside district. Numerous artists and architects were commissioned to work together and produce experimental structures to be exhibit in public space. The festival evolved over a 4 month period into an organic open air gallery of unusual 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.

Art collective Pudelskern Space Agency from Austria, made up of artists/architects Nina, Horst and Georg, also bought their innovative work ‘Calla’ chair concept to FXB. Pudelskern are interested in public space and how the public use it.

Events & exhibitions.

Some of the events featured at FXB included a workshop with architect Will Alsop and Matthew Bolton College Fashion students to design a ‘fashion house’. BBC Blast –a 3-D modelling workshop led by artist Leroy Henry. And as part of Architecture week 2007 FXB welcomed the ‘The Natural House’ project in sustainable building introducing the Clay Build Technique (CBT) to the UK. Five artists were commissioned to create new works exploring the materials used in clay building and/or the themes of sustainability and community.

The commissions took place in five locations, Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Shropshire and Warwickshire.

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. Richard and Judy even requested to visit the site but were beaten to the post by 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.