People, Places, Things
Sam Jacob Studio for architecture and design
is a collaborative practice that makes
buildings, places, strategies and objects.

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The Electric Nemeton

SJS have completed a new installation for Granary Square titled The Electric Nemeton. 

The Electric Nemeton draws on the origins of the Christmas tree tradition, referencing the forest groves that acted as gathering places in Celtic culture.

Reimagined here with geometry, colour and light it becomes an abstracted forest grove. Part tree, part spaceframe, it creates a space to walk through, a stage for social life and a sculptural object in Granary Square.

It is formed by a series of modular tree-like pyramids held 4m above the ground on metal column-trunks. Timber sections are used to construct the tree-structure, with stretched coloured net panels forming its canopy. Lighting effects accentuate the structures translucent qualities. 

These simple materials – scaffold net, timber joists, galvanised steel – expose the construction process while their layering creates something more magical. As you move around, the structure is sometimes more see through, sometimes more solid. Its colours fade and bleed from one to another.

As a big, elevated structurally expressive roof, it creates a space for things to happen underneath, a little like the great engineered sheds of Kings Cross and St Pancras stations nearby. 

The Electric Nemeton is also a take on the traditions of merging architecture and nature around the winter solstice – from the palm leaves used in ancient Egypt and by Romans as Saturnalia decorations to the druidic use of mistletoe and fir trees we bring into our homes. Here, the trees become a kind of architecture themselves, but also architecture with forest-like qualities.

As public space has taken on new significances during Covid-19, the Electric Nemoron contributes a little more to the possibilities of winter life outdoors. A structure that itself is an event, somewhere to explore and a platform for open ended use. 

Like all winter tree traditions whose symbolism is intended to ward off the darkness and act as a gesture of hope for the return of the sun, the Electric Nemoton also expresses an idea of hope for the return of our social and public lives.  

Commissioned by King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership

In collaboration with AKTII (engineering), DHA Designs (lighting design), Jamps Studio (fabrication)

King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership / Argent