February 18th, 2013
“…I would say that even in historic times documents are not always available, and buildings (monuments, vernacular constructions and public works) are themselves important texts, often providing the first and most lasting impression of a culture.”*
The voids in the urban landscape, which are created by virtue of the enclosing nature of the surrounding buildings, have great value. These gaps, spaces or holes are important, for it is these that are occupied, that the visitor or resident will visit, pass through or inhabit. The structures that surround these squares contribute to the quality of the environment. Many buildings are deformed to accommodate the purity of the square, however some can exist as pure elements even within a complex system of buildings and voids. Ideal forms can exist as fragments, and can be viewed as mere collaborative elements to be“collaged” into an urban environment, and thus, rather than exist exclusively as landmarks, can contribute to the composition of the city.
In December 2012 Preston City Council voted ‘in principle’ to demolish Preston Bus Station and replace it with a surface car park. This building is a major cultural landmark and it should be preserved and creatively adapted to serve the city. It could act as a key building and public space to make Preston accessible and temper the decay that is affecting our city, and so many other city centres across the UK.
We will explore the nature of the fragment within an historic city, we will bring the Bus Station to Antwerp, it will occupy a definite place within the urban environment, it will:
INTERRUPT the city
March 7th, 2012
Designed by Louis Delacenserie, inaugurated in the summer of 1905
W G Sebald in the opening passage of Austerlitz recounts a chance encounter and the consequent conversations that took place within the Station. He describes in detail the enormity and magnificence of the surroundings and explains its foundation…
“The model Leopold had recommended to his architects was the new railway station of Lucerne, where he had been particularly struck by the concept of the dome, so dramatically exceeding the usual modest height of railway buildings, a concept realized by Delacenserie in his own design, which was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, in such stupendous fashion that even today, said Austerlitz, exactly as the architect intended, when we step into the entrance hall we are seized by a sense of being beyond the profane, in a cathedral consecrated to international traffic and trade.”
Over the last twenty years the station has undergone extensive restoration and massive expansion, and so now contains four layers of tracks, the lowest of which accommodate the Thalys high-speed inter-city trains.
March 5th, 2012
Sally Stone has just returned from the Winter School at the University of Antwerp. This important annual event invites academics and architects to run projects upon a specific theme, this years was Transformer.
Antwerp, an important city in northern Belgium, in the north of Europe, has been sought after and fought over for centuries thanks to its sheltered position on the estuary of the River Scheldt, the mild climate and the tolerant people. The legacy is a patchwork of ancient and modern architecture in which baroque rubs up against art deco, the traditional adjacent to the contemporary and the scarified next to the ephemeral
Look, said the voice … “A vacant lot at dusk” … “Long blurry beach” … “Sometimes you’d think he’d never use a camera before” … “Crumbling walls, dirty terrace, gravel path, a sign that says Office” … “A cement box by the side of the road” … “Restaurant windows, out of focus” … I don’t know what the hell he’s trying to get at.”
Antwerp by Roberto Bolaño
the City: the Building: the Room
“One could look from the campiello through openings, balustrades, screens, and discern the garden at the other side … and behold something at once a mystery and reality.”*
Architecture is the mediator between the City and the Room. An act of translation occurs at the point where the outside meets the inside. The window, door or threshold transforms the nature of the exterior and moderates it to accommodate the interior. When viewed from the hostile environment of the outside, the interior can possess qualities that are perhaps ethereal, enchanting or reassuring.
Imagine a crowd gathering in the Grote Markt, the quality of the light in the square, the coldness of the damp and windswept space, look through those twinkling windows of the tall imposing buildings, envisage what would be happening in these spaces, picture the character of the rooms behind the facades, create this interior.
*Carlo Scarpa talking about the Fondazione Querini Stampalia
The City: We examined the particular qualities and characteristics of routes from the Grote Markt to the edge of the central area, and then back again. This analysis led us to create proposals for the transformation of the journey into a narrative; that is a collection of forms and spaces that communicated the essence of this excursion.
The Building: We analysed the particular qualities and character of the Guild-Houses that face the Grote Mark. We looked at the size, scale, materials, construction, occupation and most importantly the quality of the light.
The Room: We translated the ideas that were developed for the abstract space into a real proposal for the interior design of a space or collection of spaces within the Guild-houses.
February 15th, 2011
Staff and students from CiA have just returned from the intensive ADSL week at the university in Antwerp. This annual event is a collection of lectures and workshops by an assortment of international architects and designers assembled together around a common theme. Each unit worked with a group of about 15 internationally mixed students and this year’s theme was: Congruence.