hughes meyer studio

'Fear is in the Detail'  
Essay and photo essay by Francesca Hughes & Gergely Kovács

Run for Cover, 
Harvard Design Magazine, Cambridge (MA), 2016.

The H2 joint – possibly the only construction detail ever whose name is not only known but also feared by government ministers – saw to the catastrophic "disproportionate, progressive collapse" of Ronan Point in 1968. The collapse constituted a loss of innocence for Large Panel Systems’ use of friction as a structural ‘glue’. Overnight, Large Panel Systems, and their attendant new typology – high-rise prefabricated housing – were rendered a political (if not structural) house of cards. Francesca Hughes’ essay, and Gergely Kovács’ accompanying photo essay, examines material from Building Design Partnership’s London archive, revealing the bizarre medicalisation of the failed building-as-body, replete with keyhole surgery and pyrotherapy, that took place as, in the full glare of the media, the diseased body was finally ‘scientifically dismantled’ some twenty years later, in 1986.

"True to Aristotle's schema, labor, laborer, and error are united in sabotage, their union, predicated by interiority and its ability to conceal. The H2 joint hid its intentions in other ways too; its behaviour evaded calculable predictability. In its transposition of J.G. Ballard's psychopathology, this tower too became a structure in which gravitational loads, courtesy of the H2 joint, were 'free to explore any deviant or wayward impulses'."

Ronan Point flats, partial collapse due to a natural gas explosion, Newham, East London

Test 02: Fire Test.