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lines of flight

Rob St. John & Tommy Perman

Three text pieces have been installed through the Open Close Closes. Each use words which resonate with the dynamics of human movement, architectural design and urban ecologies across the site.


The text on the wall of Carrubbers Close is interspersed with marker symbols inspired partly by those used in Abercrombie and Plumstead’s 1949 radical plans for the redesign of Edinburgh city centre, and partly by the history of early balloon flight from nearby Abbeyhill. In 1784, James Tytler completed Britain’s first hot-air balloon flight, taking off around half a mile east of the closes, and landing in Restalrig. The forms of these ‘balloon’ symbols resonate with contemporary digital map place-pins and GPS waypoints; a nod to the sense of flight and possibility in the multiple (re)mappings of these paths through the Old Town by Open Close collaborators.


In Chalmers Close, two more text pieces draw attention to the ‘gap site’ flanked by the closes; an unruly urban ecosystem seeded by economic speculation, and grown by subsequent undevelopment. What has been left is a micro-niche of green space in ruderal health; an island ecology cut off by high tenements and hotels. Perhaps the most appropriate way to access this site, then, would be through another balloon landing?
Whether read as instructions or descriptions, the three texts subtly emphasise the openness and dynamism of these enclosed spaces.