Addition and Subtraction

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Letterfrack concept sketch

RIBA Gold Medal winner, Sheila O’Donnell made an inspiring address to the Manchester School of Architecture as her delayed contribution to the Sinister Dialogues Symposium. She admitted that the title was the wrong way round; the process of design employed by the practice is one of stripping away before making any additions and thus the talk should really have been called: Subtraction and Addition. The unfinished Letterfrack Furniture College and the stalled Good Shepherd Convent projects formed the foundation of the talk; both projects dealt with transformation of institutions, and questioned whether it was possible for the building to retain guilt. The existing building, she explained, becomes a participant in the project, something strangely familiar.

But Shelia couldn’t also resist the temptation to discuss her own Stirling Prize contender, the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at the LSE, and where better to examine this than in the lecture theatre of one of the other shortlisted buildings…

Sinister Dialogues

Sinister Dialogues: an international symposium held on 25th September 2014 at the Manchester School of Architecture.

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This ongoing project is an examination of how an uncomfortable, terrible or destructive past of a structure can be negotiated though building reuse. Sinister Dialogues examines the relationship between the past use of a building and the new elements of remodelling, and as such, aims to highlight how negativity can be redefined within the shell of an existing structure. The project uncovers the architectural strategies of adaptation, as an alternative to demolition, and discusses the necessary decisions to be made when such a building is reused.

 The project leader, Laura Sanderson introduced the symposium, the speakers were:

German architect HG Merz, who transformed the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Berlin,

British artist Abigail Reynolds, who created a series of artworks for the Topophobia Exhibition in Liverpool,

New Zealander academic Terry Meade, who writes about violence and domestic space in Palestine,

Venetian architectural academic Margahrita Vanore, who writes about Industrial Ruins,

and MSA Principal Lecturer Sally Stone from Continuity in Architecture, discussed the interpretation of existing buildings.

 The next part of the project will take place on the 7th October 2014, when the final speaker, Irish architect Sheila O’Donnell, who worked on the Good Shepherd Laundry and Letterfrack Furniture College, will be presenting the work of O’Donnell and Tuomey in a talk entitled Addition and Subtraction.  

 

“To live is to leave traces.” Walter Benjamin.