EPscope at Edinburgh Printmakers
Synthesis of Periscope and Kaleidoscope
: an instrument that channels the senses to a parallel world by way of complex mechanical and optical devices, suspended within a rubber-clad prismatic duct.
The Castle Mills EPscope is a collaboration between the artist Calum Colvin and Suzy O’Leary and Peter Smith of Page\Park Architects, exploring themes of curiosity and constraint through a visual dialogue with the inner life of the Edinburgh Printmakers workshop, physically connecting the first floor print studio with the public spaces below and emotionally connecting the industrial past of the building with its creative future. It is a response to the idea that architecture can bear witness and perpetuate the distant memories of a long-forgotten life; an archaeological opportunity for the inquisitive.
“At the inner end of the canal stands the industrial township of the North British Rubber Company, with all its modern efficiency, its bewildering technical processes and its outpouring stream of commodities necessary for the modern way of life and yet somehow harmonious with the area in which it stands.”
The NBRC office building is all that remains of this ‘township’; an operation once so vast that it could pass for a settlement in its own right, facilitating a sepia-stained version of modernity with its production of combs, golf balls, hot water bottles and wellington boots.
A fantastic synthesis of periscope and kaleidoscope, the EPscope is an obsidian duct, seductively clad in black rubber and projecting an infinity of patterns that shift through mechanical intervention and the natural movement of people, objects and light. The perspicacity of the opposing 45-degree mirrors is foiled from within, resulting in an image but not a likeness of the analogue world above; ink and textile and paper overlaid with fragments of the past, extracted from old NBRC catalogues that were uncovered during the recent reconstruction.
Cast into the bones of the building, the EPscope announces itself in the ground floor café before rising into the members kitchen above. Its black skin imprinted with fossilised relics that quietly nod to the building’s history, imploring closer inspection and rewarding those who venture to step inside with a unique and private experience that speaks to the intimacy of the restored Castle Mill Works (formerly the North British Rubber Company HQ).
This intimacy is inherent in the piece, asking questions of past life and the lives of those who once knew Fountainbridge as a thriving industrial centre. One turn of the wheel brings to life a myriad of objects once created by the NBRC’s production facility (such as rubber boots, hot water bottles and car tyres) that refract and collide with warped images of the print studio above to create an infinity of patterns that are at once obtuse and accurate, like a memory. An abstract interpretation of what the building once was, looking toward a new industrious future in care and craft.