Heaton Hall: A Palimpsest (2017)
  • Rachel Siobhan Tyler | London

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  • Heaton Hall: A Palimpsest (2017)
  • Rachel Siobhan Tyler | London
  • Colour, texture, language, and the photograph, act as signs in these ‘site-writings’, which point to physical and sensory features of sites- whether these be architectural, artwork or emotional or philosophical concepts. The use of an ‘index’ questions what it is to ‘write’ site.

    Heaton Hall: A Palimpsest investigates the temporal, indexical and physical provisions of care, conservation and heritage in a publicly owned country house, designed by James Wyatt (1746-1813), in Heaton Park, Greater Manchester. Heaton Hall: A Palimpsest puts forward the argument that an interdisciplinary research methodology can create a non-hierarchical assemblage of evidence which can offer a more subjective, yet nonetheless rigorous architectural history. The work is contained within a hardback, screw-post bound book, containing original hand screen prints and block printed endpapers. Conceived and produced in collaboration with Carys Briggs of, these prints are hand screened printed with reactive dyes and the endpapers were created using hand painted blocks in South Bermondsey, London.  Every print is an original mono-print and therefore each edition is unique and unreproducible. These prints point to the colour and texture of the site and are assembled alongside original photographs (taken by the author), archival imagery, and quotations extracted from the archive, which act as further pointers– to the significance, physicality and emotional meaning of the site. The back of each page is stickered with a quote, chosen to reflect my own reflections on provisions for care and conservation. The book is designed to be undone, rearranged, deconstructed, displayed, performed, read aloud, or read silently. With each resituating new meanings and associations are created, beyond the author’s own intention– the indexes rupture and become dynamic–generating a more inclusive and accessible reading of architectural history. The work seeks to reveal hidden narratives and expose patriarchal modes of production in academic and conservation practices in this, for now inaccessible, public site.


    As a writer and artist I work across multiple disciplines, including fashion, cultural and historical geography, fine art, disability studies, urbanism and architectural history. My work focuses on heritage; public and cultural spaces; knowledge production through engagement with material culture and archives; colour; accessibility and relationships between the city and clothing. Collaboration with others is key to my practice. With Thom Murphy and Olivia Pietroni as New Power Studio I curated and produced the British Fashion Council funded show Birth Death Marriage (2012), which was later featured in North: Fashioning Identity, at Somerset House: London. (2017). I trained in Fashion at Middlesex University, London, and received an MA Architectural History from The Bartlett School of Architecture, University, College London. During my studies at The Bartlett I participated in Prof Jane Rendell’s module Theorising Practices/Practicing Theories. My master’s thesis, supervised by Dr Polly Gould and Prof Jane Rendell, further explored key principles of site-writing and incorporated my own original artworks within the thesis, this work was published in Building Ruptures, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London: London (2017) of which I was co-editor. With Lili Zarzycki and Joanne Preston, I co-curated Site-Writing: Gutter/ Margin/ Index (2017). This exhibition of performative writings, readings and curations brought together multiple ‘site-writings’ and was exhibited at The Bartlett School of Architecture, Newcastle University and Folkestone Triennial (2018). I am currently a doctoral candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London as a part of the technē AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership, under primary supervision of Prof David Gilbert and secondary supervision of Dr Sasha Englemann, 


    Jane Rendell’s site-writing module offered a valuable opportunity to conduct my research in collaboration with tutors and students who recognize the complexity of arts and humanities research which functions beyond conventional disciplinary boundaries and scholarship. I developed a ‘palimpsestuous’ method, which combines an interdisciplinary and creative practice-based approach to writing about architecture and archives. Site-writing engages with the limits of criticism and the situated presence of the critic. It is important for me to continue working within this space, which is somewhat at odds both with distinctions between traditional scholarship and practice-based research, and disciplinary edges. 

    index, Manchester, archives, heritage, significance


    James Wyatt (1746-1813), Heaton Hall, (1772), Greater Manchester, UK. 

    Rosalind Krauss, ‘Notes On The Index: Seventies Art In America. Part 2’, October 4: 58 (1977). 

    The Burra Charter: The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance, (2013).

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