Sophie Tarbuck

Component Wood Blocks. Apple wood, various hard wood, letrafilm and fablon.
High Cross House, Dartington, Devon. Designed by William Lescaze in 1932


Component Wood Blocks are a part of ‘Building Blocks’, a set of new work commissioned especially for High Cross House, Dartington, Devon.


 In the summer of 1925 Leonard and Dorothy Elmhurst, in pursuit of an ideal purchased the remains of the ancient estate of Dartington in Devon. This consisted of two farms, woodlands and the buildings and grounds of a medieval Hall.


As part of this ideal they founded a co-educational boarding school, which under the direction of W.B.Curry, gained international reputation and notoriety as centre for 'free' education.W B Curry persuaded Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst to scrap the existing plans they had for the headmaster's house and instead employ William Lescaze, a Swiss-born American architect, and one of the pioneers of modernism in American architecture. It was his view that a progressive school should have a progressive architect, and the Elmhirst's agreed. High Cross Hill House was the first of the International Modern Style buildings to be built at Dartington.


The work in the two rooms at High Cross House not only references the buildings space, planes, surface, and volume but also looks at all the components that make up Dartington and a school devoted to scientific rural development and educational experiment. 



The experimental education system at Dartington focused on self-directed investigation with the object of adjusting the balance between urban and rural life. The component wood blocks are CNC routed shapes taken from the plans of the High Cross House. 


They are constructed by off-balancing and rebalancing each block until a visual balance is found, representing the experimental educational experience of building, and the school’s emphasis on experiential learning and hands-on projects.


Generations of children have spent hours building amazing creations from wooden bricks. As well as being fun to play with, building block toys are valuable instruments for learning. To construct a building, blocks must be carefully placed, balanced and positioned so as not to topple over. The process is one of trial and error, experiment and repetition. It involves the use of fine and gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, logic and creative thinking.


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