October 8th, 2014
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…
October 4th, 2014
Sinister Dialogues: an international symposium held on 25th September 2014 at the Manchester School of Architecture.
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.
September 4th, 2014
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.
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.
November 23rd, 2013
It is good to see the CiA students making full use of the university facilities, here is a link to the workshop site which details their process of construction
November 10th, 2013
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.
October 24th, 2013
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.
October 16th, 2013
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”.
October 10th, 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:
September 23rd, 2013
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.
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.
September 22nd, 2013
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, more unassuming, but no less important or carefully considered. These mechanisms tell stories, they engage the imagination, they enable, through the construction of space, time and sequence, the development of new forms and places.
Continuity in Architecture will examine two sites; each has an entangled relationship with the fluctuating environment on which it is situated. Grange-over-Sands sits upon the inconsistency of the River Kent at the northern edge of the vast and treacherous mudflats of Morecambe Bay, while Venice was formed upon the mosquito ridden muddy promontories which appeared and disappeared within the watery safety of the silent Lagoon.
Year 6: Projects in Venice
The sixth year projects this year will be based around sites within the Arsenale area of the city. The area provides a rich context for the exploration of an urbanism born of crisis, an experimental architecture responsive to challenging environments, a dense fabric of building and memory. As part of the ERASMUS funded project entitled HAULuP, CiA will be exploring historical sites in the Venice. This will provide the basis for much greater exploration and the definition of the final year project. Current sixth year students are in Venice attending a workshop concerned with the interpretation and protection of the Arsenale area. A choice of these sites, and others in Venice, will form the basis of their final project. Students wishing to join CiA in sixth year will have the same choice of sites and the opportunity to visit Venice.
insula /in·su·la/ (in´sdbobr-lah) pl. in´sulae [L.] 1. an islandlike structure
Insulation (cf latin) is the purposeful enclosure, conditioning and modification of a structure to allow habitation. We will explore core architectural concepts with technical roots - protection, layering, shelter, threshold – and by solving problems similar to those of past generations we will further link building propositions to history and context.
Reading List: Tafuri, M. Venice and the Renaissance. MIT Press 1995. Mancuso, F. Bruttomesso, R. Veneto Italian Life Style Scenario. Process Architecture 109 1993. Goy, R. Venice. The City and its Architecture. Phaidon 1997. Morris, J. Venice. Faber and Faber 1983. Huber A. The Italian Museum. Edizioni Lybra Immagine. 1997. Janson, A. Bürklin, T. Auftritte Scenes. Interaction with Architectural Space: the Campi of Venice. Birkhåuser 2002. Frascari, M. The Tell-the –Tale Detail. VIA 7: The Art of Architecture 1984. Los, S. Carlo Scarpa, an Architectural Guide. Arsenale Editrice. 1995
Year 5: Projects in Grange-over-Sands and Venice
It is proposed that fifth year students use the small town of Grange-over-Sands as the starting point for a series of projects, and, through the development of ideas about the relationship of public and private, the city and the interior, propose buildings for home and for social life on chosen sites in the town.
Project 1 Finding the Place: A Lexicon of Grange
Project 2 Social Performance: we will collaborate with the planning, design and then partake in a procession
Project 3 Being There: Travel to Venice. Engage in empirical research. Examine, analyse and record key elements of the city
Project 4 Buildings for Home and for Social Life in Grange
How can the relationship between the citizen and tourist be managed within the form of the town? What models and precedents exist for the architectural expression of the relationship between the private and public life of the citizen? How do we build in an environment of density, inundation and collapse?
Essays: Diverse architectural approaches to the creation transformation of space
Reading List: Site Projects by David Leatherbarrow. Critical Regionalism by Kenneth Frampton. Contextualism: Urban Ideals and Transformations by Thomas Schumacher. The Architectural Uncanny by Anthony Vidler. Let the Trumpets Roar! – The Roman Triumph by Richard Brilliant. The Rights of Retreat and Rites of Exclusion: Notes Towards the Definition of Wall by Robin Evans.
“Make way!” cried Krespel; and then running to one end of the garden, he strode slowly towards the square of brick-work. When he came close to the wall he shook his head in a dissatisfied manner, ran to the other end of the garden, again strode slowly towards the brick-work square, and proceeded to act as before. These tactics he pursued several times, until at length, running his sharp nose hard against the wall, he cried, “Come here, come here, men! break me a door in here! Here’s where I want a door made!”
The Cremona Violin. E. T. A. Hoffmann
July 3rd, 2013
“Preston has a picturesqueness of outline and a suggestion of spaciousness from a distance which distinguish it from most Lancashire cotton towns.”1
The Twenty-First Century city is a combination of two different ideas; the traditional city of streets and squares, and the modern city of isolated elements surrounded by parkland. The traditional city is really composed of spaces, which are lined with buildings. So, for example, the primary street within an urban environment is a long thin space through which people travel, which is bounded by structures that face onto this space. The shapes of the buildings are somewhat deformed to accommodate the pure nature of the street, and thus it is the space which is the predominate element of the composition. The city-in-the-park is the opposite; isolated buildings set with open land, thus emphasising the building rather than the space, which just surrounds the structures in an ill-defined manner.
Preston, a small provincial city in the north west of England is no exception; it has evolved into this awkward mixture of the traditional and the modern. Neither situation really responds or compliments the other, and so the city has grown into a collection of individual structures and spaces.
Preston is well positioned on a ridge above the flood-planes of the River Ribble. This line or edge, known as Fishergate, is part of pre-Roman route which crossed the country, and intersects at the Flag Market square, with a north-south track, Friargate, which was formed by its connection with the lowest crossing point of the Ribble. The Minster marks the eastern end of the city centre, while the train station is positioned at the western point and Fishergate is stretched between them. Close to the Minster are the open Flag Market, the Harris Art Gallery, the Victorian cast-iron covered markets and the Town Hall. These civic elements are testament to the wealth of the city.
In some respects it is a typical industrial city, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought massive expansion, and by 1867 it possessed seventy factories. This rapid development destroyed many of the mediaeval structures, but the pattern of the city centre, to the most part, was retained. Indeed, many of the small streets or weinds to the south of Fishergate reflect the pre-industrial routes and field patterns.
The “marvellously brutal”2 Bus Station was constructed to the north-east of the Town-hall and the markets. The area was at the time densely occupied with mills and terraced houses. The building is situated a couple of blocks from the Townhall, but is very simply parallel to it and therefore to Friargate. It is placed within an open expanse or concourse, which was designed to allow the buses to flow freely around the building. Pedestrians were separated from the traffic with distinct unground routes. It is an enormous and elegant 171 meters long (560ft, it is, after all, a pre-decimalisation building), and can quite fairly be described as a landmark, and therefore an important element within the collective memory of the city. When constructed it paid little heed to pattern of pattern of the place, but has become a well-loved element within the bricolage of Preston. “Some ideal forms can exist as fragments, “collaged” into an empirical environment…”3
It is obvious that its position within the city doesn’t work. The Bus Station is essentially cut-off from the centre by the Guild Hall, the St. John’s Shopping centre and the concourse itself. The relationship with Church Street is lamentable, in fact, this area of the city, which was once thriving and profitable, has become, in places, derelict. The ring road has exacerbated the problems; effectively cutting the north of the city from the centre, and thus the land to the east, beyond the Bus Station, is almost inaccessible. This is not something new, it was actually foreseen by Derek Linstrum in his mostly ecstatic 1969 review of the building: …“the failure to estimate the building’s potential as an important addition to the town’s social life.”4
Gate 81 is a series of projects that intends to raise the profile of the building, and therefore increase the chance of saving it from the intended demolition. The latest project was a one-day charrette hosted by BDP Architects, ironically the architects of the original building and the now-abandoned Tithebarn shopping centre that was intended to replace the building. Academics, and students from the schools of architecture in Manchester, Liverpool and Central Lancashire, as well as professional architects and designers attended the charrette. BDP’s chairman David Cash, who quite romantically remembered the time that BDP was still in Preston and the legacy of the George Grenfell-Baines, launched the event. Kevin Rhowbotham delivered the key-note talk, well, call-to-arms. He invoked the memory of Collage City and pressed us all to consider the dialectical opposition of the Object and the Field, and how each can distinguish the other.
Five groups were created, each contained a mixture of professionals and students, and each approached the problem of how to revitalise this area of the city of Preston in a distinct and individual way. However, what linked all of the proposals was the appreciation that the project is much larger than just the remodelling of the Bus Station; it is an Urban Regeneration problem. All of the proposals considered the link between the city centre and the building, the hinterland to the east and relationships that exist between the key elements of the urban environment.
“As in a cubist painting, where the organisational geometries do not reside in the objects themselves, the possibilities of combining various buildings within a system of order which attributes to each piece a bit of the organisation becomes almost infinite.”5
Group 1: Undivided
Preston Bus Station is shelter-like structure elevated upon strong concrete legs; this evokes comparisons with the cast-iron covered markets. This group proposed to raze the low quality structures directly next to the Bus Station concourse and thus create physical connections between all of the “roofs with legs”. The resultant public space or garden could support communal activities and also encourage public movement through the now open structure of the Bus Station, into the more formal area of distribution between the building and the Ring Road
Group 2: The Urban Arboretum Project
Preston’s Indoor Market is situated within a dark and somewhat isolated building, squashed beneath a carpark next to the Ringroad. This group considered the Bus Station as a perfect venue for the new market; it would be easily accessible and very easy to support. The areas behind the building could accommodate allotments and market gardens, while the concourse could hold performances and other communal activities. The top floor of the building also offers opportunities for growing stuff. The element of time and evolution was an important aspect of this project.
Group 3: 50 - 50 Group
This group considered the possibility of creating a direct link between the city’s cultural buildings and the Bus Station. By removing the substandard structures next to the concourse, a vista or connection could be established. This combined with moving all of the bus movement to the rear or east side of the building would create a collection of public spaces that could naturally evolve from temporary to permanent use over the course of a couple of decades.
Group 4: Going Underground
People need a reason to visit a place and therefore this group asked what Preston City Centre was missing. It is widely acknowledged that most casual city-centre shoppers follow a distinct circular route around the shops. If this circuit included a substantial flagship department store to the east of the Bus Station, that is the non-city centre side, then shoppers would be actively dragged through the building en-route. This would act to invigorate the building and any activities would naturally evolve within it.
Group 5: Artefact Park
Preston Bus Station is dramatic symbol of the city. When seen from the ring road it appears as a substantial and protective wall. This group considered the effect that extending the building would have upon the urban environment. To the north, it would recreate the connections that have been lost by the intrusion of dual carriageway, and to the south, relationships could be re-established with Church Street. The area of land to the east, beyond the massive wall could be considered as a garden of lost memorabilia.
1, Derek Linstrum, AJ 6th May 1970. 2, Clare Hartwell and Nikolaus Pevsner, Lancashire North. 3, Thomas Schumacher, Urban Ideals and Deformations. 4, Derek Linstrum, AJ 6th May 1970. 5, Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter, Collage City
June 27th, 2013
Remembering the Archaeology and Architecture workshop, IUAV, Venice, 2010