If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller…

Projects in Cartmel and Venice

This year we have studied two locations, one home and one away. Both have a direct connection with sanctuary and with water. It is fabled that Cartmel Priory was founded in a place where fresh water flowed in opposite directions, and Venice, for whom water is not a problem but a theme, was originally a refuge for those locals who were driven into the muddy lagoon by barbarism, brutality and heresy.


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The aim of these projects was to find a formal solution to a site specific problem through the medium of contextual analysis, choice and manipulation. Ordinary things contain the deepest mysteries and the architect needs to have the capacity to condense the artistic potential of the region while reinterpreting cultural influences, for the building to show a great understanding of both place and tectonics, but also to be totally relevant to the twenty-first century; an architecture that uses contemporary technological and is suitable for the needs of today. This means not resorting to pastiche, but designing buildings and interiors that are visually and operationally applicable to the present day. It is almost thirty years since Kenneth Frampton wrote of the importance of Critical Regionalism, Rowe and Koetter composed Collage City and Rossi recorded The Architecture of the City, and although these ideas, which emerged as a reaction to Modernism, are more than a generation old, they are now more relevant than ever. One of the most pressing concerns for today’s society is how we engage with the existing situation in an appropriate, environmentally friendly and sympathetic manner. The pursuit of strategies for carbon-neutral buildings and places combined with issues of sustainability and heritage are central to all forms of design practice. The vernacular can offer great possibilities, after all, we have for centuries dwelled upon the problem of how to create controlled and conditioned environments for social relationships in buildings. We live under the same sun, shelter from the same rain, and resist buffeting from same wind as our ancestors, and yet within contemporary architecture we devote ever more resources and seek ever more complexity in solving these problems. We believe that less attention should be paid to the gratuitously flamboyant one-off project and more focus placed upon the appropriate. We search for inspiration in the normal and we take encouragement from the familiar. We seek to enhance rather than to overwhelm, we are inspired by the strangeness of the everyday, the unfamiliarity of the commonplace. We seek to establish our position as individuals in a dialogue with the common ground. We look, not just at the design of buildings, but also at the territory around them; public space, shared space, collective space. We investigate how a relationship between constructed form and controlled space can be established. The development of form is a one-by-one practice, a building is composed of diverse concerns and different horizontal connections can be uncovered, using the situation as the compositional driver. Programme evolves from the specific character of the site; it is something that emerges as the form of the building develops. Within a school of architecture, to construct has two different meanings, the first is the more obvious concentration upon the technology of the design, to understand the nature and ontology of the construction, to be aware of how and why a structure is built as it is. The second meaning is the production of the methods of communication. Evans claimed that “recognition of the drawings power as a medium turns out, unexpectedly, recognition of the drawing’s distinctness from and unlikeness to the thing that is represented, rather than its likeness to it, which is neither as paradoxical nor as dissociative as it may seem.” We believe that it is important that intent is shown as well as proposal. Context has dominated the design process; therefore it should play an important role in the communication. If the proposal is one element among a structure of objects and moments, situation will command.

Remember Reveal Construct