The Way We Live Now

Symposium: Thursday March 9th 2017, 2-6pm

Benzie Lecture Theatre (403) – Manchester School of Architecture

The nature of the home has, over the last generation, radically changed. Many of us are no longer able to live, or even desire to live in comfortable three bedroom homes with small gardens and parking for two cars. Shared housing, co-housing, communal living, affordable housing, multi-generational living, adaptable homes, downsizing, up-scaling, homes for life, are all relevant issues and pertinent to the way we live now. This needs to be combined with a sympathetic reading of place and culture to introduce alternative views, difference, variation and change

This symposium will present a collection of talks and discussions about the impact that the twenty-first century life has upon the domestic environment.

SPEAKERS

Malcolm Fraser

Ranbir Lal: RLAD

Robert Evans: Evans Vettori Architects

Jane Brake and John van Aitken: The Institute of Urban Dreaming

William Mann: Witherford Watson Mann Architects

Chair: Sally Stone

Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter describe “the city as a didactic instrument” a place in which a desirable discourse can be formulated and it is through these investigations that the evidence for the argument of redesign is collected. The reading and understanding of the message of the city or of the individual building provides the basis for the discussion and eventual agreement that is the process of remodelling.

The Atrium

Dining Hall, Trinity College, Dublin: De Blacam and Meagher

The interior of the Dining Hall at Trinity College in Dublin was severely damaged by fire in 1984. The exterior of the rather neat classical building built in 1760 by Hugh Darley survived relatively unscathed, and much of the panelled refectory was saved, but the atrium needed completely rebuilding. De Blacam and Meagher conducted the restoration work and also made two notable interventions. The first was the rather extraordinary decision to construct a full-sized replica of Adolf Loos’s Kartner Bar in the former Senior Common Room above the Dining Hall. The second was to insert a somewhat timeless structure to support and organise the atrium. This elegant three-storey timber installation is composed of an exposed frame, which supports a series of long screens. The sequence of balconies provides access to the different levels, while the long timber shutters can be closed to allow for privacy and acoustic control. The rhythm of the structure has a direct relationship with the size of the timber beams, which are necessarily large to accommodate the great span and the vast weight that they have to carry. The simplicity of the structure is complimented by the robustness of the elongated shutters, which are smooth on the atrium side and show the frame and diagonal bracing on the balcony side. The effect of the tall timber structure and randomly open shutters is quite dramatic, and somewhat reminiscent of Shakespearian performance spaces. The structural rhythm of the interior appears to be completely appropriate to the simple classical language of the building especially the open ceiling of the atrium.

From forthcoming ReReadings Volume 2

Discharge/Recharge

Title: Discharge/Recharge
Location: Bergkamen, Germany
Former Function: Apartment Block
Date: 2013
Architect: Office for Subversive Architecture / Christoph Rodatz

Buildings are often taciturn; they can be secretive, reticent and unforthcoming. They can be solid and impenetrable and it can be difficult to understand the nature of the structure. The interior can be awkward too; walls can be much greater than simple partitions. The organisational method can mean that, by virtue of a circulation system that discourages interaction, spaces that are immediately adjacent to each other are hidden, inaccessible, and uncommunicative. Gordon Matta-Clark questioned the relationship between the spaces in a building, when with just a chainsaw; he cut holes into the body of the structure. Projects like Conical Intersect, which was literally a conical shaped aperture cut through two townhouses in Paris, immediately established a relationship between the previously separated adjoining spaces, and also provided a view into the street outside.

The Office for Subversive Architecture, who operate somewhere between art and architecture, also produce massive scale installations using complete buildings. The consistent aim of OSA has been to develop untraditional approaches to reinterpretation of the architecture in the city. Their projects deliberately cross boundaries between art and architecture, varying from minimal or moveable installations to the construction of actual buildings and urban or spatial strategies.
One such project is Discharge/Recharge, which was part of the 2013 Urban Lights Ruhr Festival. This installation, which was completed with artist Christoph Rodatz, was an architectural performance of light and sound that focused upon a tower block in the centre of the city of Bergkamen. The building, which was simultaneously a landmark and an eyesore, had been unoccupied for 15 years and was due to be demolished at the end of the project. The tower was painted black to ensure the total absorption of light, an act which was also symbolic of the obliteration of its life. At nightfall it became the screen for a laser projection performance. This exhibition depicted the narrative of the building’s structure. It showed where the great elements of construction were hidden behind the facades, the hollow three-dimensional nature controlled by the surrounding walls, how the leaves of the floor-plates lay one above another, the position of the stairs that linked the individual apartments together, where the rubbish shoots were positioned, and ultimately it simulated the process of destruction. A radio station positioned on the top of the tower simultaneously broadcast interviews with former inhabitants; it told their stories of occupation.

The evocative and dramatic project made visible the previously concealed structural nature of the building, it showed the complex arrangements of elements and it exposed the system that organised the occupants. It revealed the story of the tower block.

From forthcoming ReReadings Volume 2

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.

 

Projects in Grange and Venice

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We’ve finished another extraordinarily rewarding year with our fine thirty-plus students on the 2013-14 MArch course. Under the umbrella title of ‘Littoral Inspirations: Encounters with the Lagoon’, Year 5 studied Grange-over-Sands in the South Lakes, while Year 6 engaged with an old friend: Venice. The year began with an Erasmus-funded international workshop in Venice (called HAULuP) working in the Arsenale district, collaborating with the Universities of Granada and Venice to produce 11 propositions for intervening in this unique industrial setting.

The aim of the year was to produce carefully considered projects set in an interstitial urban zone of saltwater marsh, where land meets sea, and where people connect the two realms economically, socially, and politically. Architecture can facilitate the exploration of identity through the examination of the specificity of the context in which it is embedded. The constructed environment is often charged with narrative content, certain elements come to the fore, while others are more modest, unassuming, but no less important. These mechanisms tell stories, engage the imagination, and enable through the construction of space, time and sequence the development of new forms and places.

What follows is a selection of projects documenting the outcome of the exercises.

Lauren Green

Lauren Green 

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Matt Arnold

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Becky Prince

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Charlotte Rosier 

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Jenna Kinsey

Abdullah Umar 

Abdullah Umar 

Tom Bend

Tom Bend 

As ever, we have many people to thank – people who collaborated, cajoled and confronted, all with the shared aim of producing the best from tutor and student alike. Chief amongst those we’d like to thank are Gary Colleran, Gary Colligan, Laura Sanderson, John Lee, Dr Alan Lewis, and Prof. Margherita Vanore at IUAV.

We now look forward to 2014-15, with the exciting prospect of student work set in Granada, Spain and on the north coast of Wales.

Procession to Preston Bus Station

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Despite the wind and the rain, the procession through the centre of Preston, from the Corn Exchange, into the Flag Market and onto the Bus station was an unforgettable experience, and in what was an extraordinary piece of luck, the sun came out just as the procession reached the Bus Station itself, thus, for a few minutes, the highly articulate modelling of the parapets was clearly expressed on both the building and the model. This project was a collaboration between MArch CiA and the 3rd Year unit: Processional Cities.

Procession to Celebrate Preston Bus Station 2nd November 2013

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Preston Bus Station has been listed, but this doesn’t mean that it’s future is secure and that we can forget about it. Great care needs to be taken when considering its future. The building could still be demolished if the council finds the right buyer for the site and can convince the government that it is in the best interests of the city for the area to be free of all existing structures and other impediments. Attention must also be paid to any remodelling of the building; the city needs a thoughtful, contextual response rather than an overpowering and gratuitously flamboyant solution.

In recognition of both the listing and popularity of the building, there will be a procession on November 2nd. The Bus Station had proved to be well thought of and important to the residents of Preston, and this is a chance to demonstrate the collective desire for a well-designed and viable future for the building.

Continuity in Architecture in collaboration with Gate 81 will make a contribution to the procession, and as with all of the activities so far, the focus is upon the celebration, recognition and acclaim, rather than aggressive and antagonistically making demands and ultimatums. Our involvement is a huge model of the building; this will be carried in sections through the streets with the intention of creating recognition and delight.

So, we will meet outside the Corn Exchange at the bottom of Lune Street at 11am on the 2nd November, this will allow us to congregate before processing along Friargate to the Flag Market at 12 Noon. Please join us.

Adaptable Modernism

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It is very sad to see that the demolition of the Sports Centre in Grange-over-Sands is about to begin. The building is/was one of a number of sports facilities that Hodder Associates created, all of which expressed a connection with context, combined with an empathy with the needs of the user. The Sports Centre and the Swimming Pool are linked but separate volumes, which rise up the hill, to exploit the light, the view over Morcambe Bay and the advantages digging the double height spaces into the hillside. The Swimming Pool at Grange has/had a modest elegance, cool calm spatial arrangement and a deep connection to its site. Within this project the reoccurring themes of Hodder’s work can be seen: that is the contrast between the lightweight or transparent elements, against the planar solid parts.

The Swimming Pool and Sports Centre was constructed in 1998, and in his introduction to the Hodder monograph, Hugh Pearman described how towards the end of the Twentieth Century a style of architecture emerged that could be described as adaptable modernism, and Steve Hodder whose practice at the time was still in its infancy, was one of the “serious young architects making their way through the stern economic climate of the 1990’s, who realised that modernism needed to be cleansed, and would be better for it”.

 

HAULuP: Heritage and Architecture of Urban Landscape under Production

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 Continuity in Architecture have just returned from the 2013 Heritage and Architecture of Urban Landscape under Productions Workshop. This international project, which was based at the Università Iuav di Venezia (IUAV), was a collaboration between the schools of architecture in Manchester, Venice and Granada. It was completed between 16th September 2013 and 28th September 2013.

The basis of the design workshop was an examination of the still abandoned parts of Arsenale in Venice. The area, which until recently, was still used by the military, is gradually being assimilated into the city. Great discrimination needed to be taken with this absorption. The city of Venice has an incredibly distinct character, and any changes must take into consideration the qualities of what is there in combination with the needs and technology of the Twenty-First century: pastiche is not an option!

The Arsenale itself is an impressive and complex cluster of boatyards, armories, and wet and dry docks, assembled around two large harbours, all of which is protected by high brick walls. It was responsible for the bulk of Venice’s naval power during the middle part of the second millennium AD. It was one of the earliest large-scale industrial enterprises in history. Even Dante was impressed by the sheer presence of the place:

As in the Arsenal of the Venetians


Boils in winter the tenacious pitch


To smear their unsound vessels over again


For sail they cannot; and instead thereof


One makes his vessel new, and one recaulks


The ribs of that which many a voyage has made


One hammers at the prow, one at the stern


This one makes oars and that one cordage twists


Another mends the mainsail and the mizzen…

As always, we started with a thorough examination of the site, its surroundings and what can only be described as a Venetian coach trip; our own personal Vaporetto ride around the islands of the Lagoon. The visits were accompanied by a series intense lectures and talks by the curators of the sites. The passion of the conservation architect can not be overestimated; the enthusiasm that they held for their subject and the remains in their custody was inspirational.

The group of students was divided into small inter-nationality group, each containing one student from each institution. This inevitably initially caused much tension. The problem of language, difference in approach and differing priorities will create anxiety and disagreement, but it also encourages cooperation, understanding, compassion and eventually synergy. And so it was here, initial distrust was gradually replaced by firm friendship. There was a great amount of professional support for the workshop, and this involvement included the architects and conservators to the Arsenale, structural engineers, architects, conservation architects, as well as two or three academics from each participating university, almost an embarrassment of riches

The students were encouraged to analyse the qualities of each place before attempting to make changes. They looked particularly at the context, that is the history, topography, geology, the very nature of the place. From this analysis they developed an understanding of how the place could be activated. They needed to feel confident that the proposals that they were making were totally appropriate to the qualities of the sites. The students all worked hard to produce proposals of great quality and worth. They endeavoured satisfy all of the often conflicting demands of the conservators, users, consultants and academics, but what was created were truly context driven proposals, which explored the relationships between the water, the buildings, the climate and the place.

This is the fourth collaboration that CiA have made with IUAV, and the second with Granada. Every year the students work incredibly hard, they put in long hours in the studio and then always an enjoyable night in the squares, bars and restaurants of Venice. And again, this year all of them embraced the project with enthusiasm and plenty of intellectual inquiry, and all were a credit to their own institution and the project. Everyone travelled an enormous distance; physically, intellectually and emotionally. The manner in which architecture is taught and discussed varies from one institution to another and certainly there were often great divides between the approaches of each nationality, but of course, there were also great similarities. This was a project that served to bring together the North and South of Europe. It showed how a love for storytelling combined with an understanding of history and technology could bind together a group of disparate and distinct individuals into a forceful united team. This was a project that ventured to create something appropriate, distinct and contemporary from the variously eccentric approaches of our enormous continent.

The design proposals can be viewed here:

Preston Bus Station

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It is with great delight the Continuity in Architecture can confirm that Preston Bus Station has been granted Grade 2 listed status. CiA have, with Gate 81, actively supported the campaign to enjoy the building, and we hope that this will mean that we can take delight in it for many years to come.

Don’t forget the planned procession to celebrate the Bus station, which will parade through the City Centre on November 2nd.

Here is an extract from the English Heritage notice about the listing:

“English Heritage is very pleased that the Heritage Minister has agreed with its advice to list Preston Central Bus Station and Car Park at Grade II. A dramatic building which combines innovation with architectural panache, the Bus Station fully deserves this marker of special recognition.

With an unusual blend of New Brutalist architecture mellowed by the curves of the roof and the sweeping ranks of the car park, this ‘megastructure’ was designed to recreate a sense of the monumental within the British town scene: it is a landmark in the innovation of transport-related buildings as well as a landmark of Preston.

 The Heritage Minister’s decision recognises the ingenuity with which the car park and the bus station are combined – strikingly uniting simple forms with the details required by a building with a heavy-duty function. It is a bus station which aspired to the glamour of other forms of travel, combining rational modernity with expressive architectural forms. During a time of optimism in progress and modernity, it was devised to provide the added facilities needed by the town as well as long-distance services made possible by the opening of the M6 and gave Preston a unique place in coach travel.

Preston Bus Station is truly remarkable; the boldness of vision, the ingenuity of the design, the attention to detail and the aesthetic impact mark it out from the vast numbers of public buildings built since the Second World War.

 Listing will not prevent changes being made, provided that the architectural significance of the building is protected. We are aware that Preston City Council faces challenges in maintaining the structure and integrating it effectively with the city centre and that, as a result, it has decided that it wishes to demolish it. We will however continue to explore with the Council how these challenges can be addressed so that the building can once again play a key role in the life of the city.”