The Factory by Ricardo Bofill 1975

 

           

          

The Modernist adage that Form Follows Function does not generally apply to building reuse projects. The form of the building already exists; the spaces are defined, the walls are in position, the roof is place and the relationship between these elements and the immediate context has long been established. Of course it is possible to change all of this; walls can be demolished, new elements constructed and fresh relationships established, but, the essence of the building will still exist. The character of the place will still be present. This is the charm of the remodeled structure; it retains the character of the original programme and inhabitants, and combines this with the needs of the new users; thus adaptation is always a delicious compromise between the two.

The vast complex of a disused cement factory on the outskirts of Barcelona was in the early 1970s, converted into an office and a home for the architect Ricardo Bofill. This extraordinary and romantic project was the vision of the young architect who had not only grown up in the construction industry, but had come of age in a country just emerging from the oppressive years of the Franco regime. It was an extraordinary time in Barcelona, a city with a vivid and progressive attitude that had nurtured such artists as Gaudi, Picasso, Miro and Dali, but in that critical post-war period also saw the rise of Brutalism. So the sight of the almost surreal complex of concrete structures, did not daunt Bofill, but apparently actually filled him with a ridiculous kind of magical hope.

The uninhibited cement works was immediately adjacent to the site that the architect was constructing the Walden Seven housing complex at about the same time. This uncompromising multi-level building-city is candidly monumental; it contains 18 towers, 446 apartments, bars, shops and two swimming pools. It actually overshadows the factory and this contrast of scale between the two structures reinforces the sculptural quality of both.

The cement factory had been abandoned and was partially in ruins, and so the adaptation process began with further demolition. This removed much of the detritus and additions that had accumulated over the years since the original construction. This defined a series of distinct spaces, which were little more than cleaned, thus the memory of the structure’s former use, the industrial aesthetic and the spatial quality is preserved in the raw concrete walls. Small additions, such as new walls to complete spaces, openings to allow for light and access, and vast amounts of greenery completed the project. It then came to the problem of how to occupy this vast edifice; distinct spaces had evolved form the process, each had a particular and definite quality. The occupiers considered the nature of these new volumes while also contemplating the activities that would happen within them. Thus a symbiotic solution was reached; one which accentuated the conditions and character of the building while ensuring that the users completed tasks in the most sympathetic surroundings. So, for example, the original factory hall was transformed into the conference and exhibition room, and with reference to the ceiling height of over 10 meters, it is called “La Catedral”. Slightly distinct from the office in the upper part of the factory is Bofill’s own home. It has the same raw quality, but is a perfect cube with a series of arched windows. The decoration is sparse yet as equally uncompromising as the building; simple very long white curtains hang from the ceiling and the floor is made from untreated timber.

Bofill did not necessarily embark upon the process of remodelling the concrete factory with a preconceived idea of how the finished project would be; rather through a process of discovery and recognition he allowed the form of the building to evolve, and the manner in which it was occupied to emerge from that.

Extract from forthcoming ReReadings Volume 2

Time and Context

Symposium hosted by Continuity in Architecture

Tuesday March 8th at 2pm in the Benzie Lecture Theatre,                   Manchester School of Architecture

Jerwood

All histories are important and all narratives are viable and relevant; the basis of historical existence is no longer seen as a sequence of Kings and Queens, Battles, Discoveries and Political Events. History can be regarded as a discourse; it contains facts, interpretations, bias, and empathy, and all history is positional; it is dependent upon the position of the narrator of that history. Historical analysis is an act of translation; the historian (whether architectural, cultural, scientific, feminist, activist, or any other of a myriad of other focuses) will not be able to view the material through any other lens than that of their own culture. Thus any history contains many different readings and interpretations.

Time and Context : A Continuity In Architecture Symposium

This symposium seeks to discuss the importance of context in relation to architecture and time.

The Symposium will be hosted by:

David Connor was one of the most expressive of the post-modern interior designers in 1980’s London. He revolutionised design with a small collection of domestic and retail projects. These remodelling projects were as anarchic as the clients that they were designed for and included the Seditionaries shop for the ultimate punk couple, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, and an apartment for the pop punk, Adam Ant. The liberation of money meant that interior design was at the time on the cusp of changing from a very proper pursuit for classically trained designers into something considerably more fashionable, provocative and at times outrageous. Connor’s enormous and expressive freehand drawings for these interiors epitomise this approach. Thirty-five years later he has completed, with Kate Darby, a much more serious, but no less eccentric project: an ecologically sound architects studio.

The speakers are:

Fred Scott was previously a visiting professor of Interior Architecture at Rhode Island School of Design and course leader for Interior Design at Kingston University. He is the author of On Altering Architecture, and he will discuss suggested practices based on the interrogation of the context, the everyday in flux, and the ideal in an attempt to identify a theory of intervention.

Hana Loftus is one of the founders of HAT Projects, a studio which has a specific focus on public and civic projects. She is an expert in public participation in urban development, and will examine two projects; the RIBA award winning Jerwood Gallery on Hasting’s seafront, and the $20,000 house in Alabama, a prototype for families living in poverty.

Hugh Strange runs an award winning London based architecture practice. He has a keen interest in precise contextual responses to sensitive urban and rural sites. He will talk about two projects: his personal residence Strange House and Studio, a low budget yet generous house squashed into an old pub yard, and Architecture Archive, a new timber structure which snuggles within the walls an existing barn.

Gianni Botsford, founded Gianni Botsford Architects in 1996. He will discuss two projects: the RIBA award winning Light House, a new-build large family house on a brown-land site in Notting Hill, London, and the Casa Kiké located in Costa Rico, a RIBA international award-winning double pavilion.

Piers Taylor (The House that £100k Built, BBC2) will discuss the work of his practice Invisible Studio, which aims to be a different type of organisation from a conventional practice. It operates through collaboration, experimentation, research and education. They are interested in going about the process of architecture in a different way – a way where clients, users, collaborators and makers are all part of the process of design.

 

Oddments and Epigrams

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Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 15.38.10 Interventions in Bollington

Continuity in Architecture and Bollington Arts Centre are pleased to present: Oddments and Epigrams. An exhibition showcasing work undertaken in Bollington by postgraduate students at the Manchester School of Architecture.

For the past few months, the college has been working in collaboration with the Neighbourhood Planning Committee in Bollington to investigate the local area in a bid to better understand the history and vernacular of the town. The partnership have been developing a plan for the town that will sustain the place for the foreseeable future, that will allow the town to grow without losing its inherent character and will facilitate a future for all of the residents, not just those who can afford to live there. This partnership will develop a masterplan for Bollington, it will identify areas that appropriate development can take place, propose designs for new buildings, suggest the redevelopment of existing structures and recommend areas for public space.

Oddments and Epigrams will include the work from two projects. The first is a research book which  seeks to interrogate the essence of Bollington by exposing key elements pertaining to its history, culture, and character. The main focus is upon the historic evolution of the town through the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries with consideration given most notably to the topography; with heroic remnants of the Industrial Revolution such as the canal and the railway, contrasting with a calmer and more picturesque local vernacular of cottage, terraces, garrets and greens.

The other project shows proposals for a series of interventions in Bollington from a project inspired by Caruso St John’s book entitled “Knitting, Weaving, Wrapping, Pressing”. The interventions aim to find a formal solution to a series of site specific problems uncovered within the earlier research. Projects include a cast golden stone, a collection of mirror reflections, a repeat print of the town using the process of devore which is a method for decorating cloth that has been developed in the area, a model of a mill which has been redefined with light, the interior of the local landmark transposed to the centre of the town, a water driven sculpture, a temporary cinema and a market day flag.

The exhibition opens on Sunday 17th January from 7pm at Bollington Arts Centre. Students and staff will be present to discuss the drawings, models and interventions. All welcome.

Sunday 17th January 7pm – 9pm

Monday 18th January 10am – 5pm

Tuesday 19th January 10am – 5pm

Wednesday 20th January 10am – 5pm

On Retaining Walls: Projects completed 2014-15

Holly Hatfield

The re-use of any architectural site, whether it be cleared and empty or still possessing the elements of previous occupation, creates a direct connection with the past. This adaptation of the existing situation is a strategy that establishes an explicit relationship with history and context, not just of the building and its immediate surroundings, but also with the society that constructed it. The reading of a building or site can uncover a layered and stratified narrative. The understanding of the inherent qualities and conditions of building or site can provide clues to the redesign of the place. This knowledge can be used to activate, liberate and instigate a new future for the situation. Kenneth Frampton, talks about the need for architecture to have the “…capacity to condense the artistic potential of the region while reinterpreting cultural influences coming from the outside”, for the building to show a great understanding of both place and tectonics, and to “…evoke the oneiric essence of the site, together with the inescapable materiality of building”.

ON RETAINING WALLS
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 wall combined with 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 town, the quality of the light in the streets, the coldness of the damp and windswept spaces, look through those twinkling windows of the enclosing buildings, what would be happening in these spaces?

I like to confer nobility on an interior, make sure that no window, door or sequence is taken for granted. Knowing how to construct space is fundamental. Sometimes positioning a wall at an angle is enough to capture and reflect more light. You can bring tension into an environment simply by adding something ‘out of scale’ like a door that’s bigger than all the others in the same room. You might draw attention to a door or window frame, or enhance the relationship with the exterior by inserting a carefully designed window. This is what nobility means to me: non-obviousness, care over detail, intelligent economy.
Umberto Riva

A Sword Decorated with Myrtle Leaves*
This year CiA pursued projects in two locations, one at home, the other away. The Sixth Year investigated the city of Granada in Southern Spain; a city situated below the imposing palaces of the Alhambra, on the confluence of four rivers at the foot of the permanently white-topped Sierra Nevada mountains. While the Fifth Year project was situated in the somewhat neglected Victorian seaside town of Colwyn Bay. It has evolved into a crushed conurbation compressed between the steeply sloping Pwllycrochan Woods and the massive transport and infrastructural links, which effectively cut the town off from the beach and therefore the sea.

Taken from “Buster Keaton Goes for a Stroll” by Frederico Garcia Lorca 1928

Continuity in Architecture 2014-15
Staff: Sally Stone, John Lee, Steve McCusker, Gary Colleran, Dominic Roberts, David Cox. Students: Laura Baker, Sarah Capper, Adrian Coelho, Helen Cross, Michael Crozier, Tom Dewey, Joe Fowler, Holly Hadfield, Laura Hayes, Adam Jones, David Rhys Jones, Bryony Lee, Paschalia Paschali, Viet Pham Tuan, Samuel Rutter, Zain Toma, Sam Beddingfield, Hannah Bellerby, Suzanne Coong, Kristian James, Jana Kefurtova, Doug Meadway, Raluca Pop, Bryony Preston, Ketil Rage, Dragos Silaghi, Alexandru Trofin, Katherine Valentine

More from Continuity in Architecture can be seen here

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: