Context: Final project for Architectural Design Studio III, 2011
Dates: Aug 2010 to April 2011
Skills: Architecture Design, Storytelling, Physical Modelling, CAD Modelling
Located at the heart of the neighbourhood with the highest density of architecture firms in the world, Clerkenwell, this building houses an architecture exhibition space and cafe. The exhibition space is designed to bring the vibrancy of the architecture and design culture of the neighbourhood out of the offices and into the public realm. Meanwhile, the cafe serves as a meeting space that foster interactions between residents of the neighbourhood, architecture professionals and other members of the public.
The design consists of a series of vistas that radiate from the central atrium to pierce through the site. By weaving exposed and enclosed spaces that open up to the site’s various approaches, the design seeks to capture the attention of those passing by. In order to maintain the site as a public forum for the neighbourhood, the exterior spaces are designed to accommodate informal gatherings.
Through contoured landscapes, strategically vertical planes (exhibition panels and walls), and retention of the park-like characteristics of the site, the exhibition space is designed to draw in residents from its surroundings and encourage spontaneous exploration of the exhibition.
The use of levels and a plethora of exhibition corridors present visitors with the freedom to pave their own pathways through the site. Along the way, they are given glimpses into “hidden spaces”, such as the ability to peek into the underground gallery from the central courtyard, to stir their curiosity and urge them to explore the intricacies of the architecture.
Structures & Construction
Designed to be built with pre-fabricated concrete panels that are installed on site and Cor-ten is used for intricate, sculptural forms.
The project was divided into three phases. Phase 1 was the study of a part of the City of London to identify and explore its key characteristics through a narrative of drawings and models. Phase 2 was a site analysis of the chosen location for intervention. Phase 3 was the application of the concepts from Phase 1 to develop a programme and architecture.
1) Site Transposition and Processing Potential
A layered investigation recording the actual, historic and phenomenal features of the Northern boundary of the City of London, originally the site of the London Wall built in the 18th century as a barrier to invasion.
Emerging from this investigation are five site layers that form the underlying narrative for this project.
London’s medieval, organic road network gives rise to heightened unpredictability. The series of models and drawings explore factors that contribute to this ambiguity, such as level of familiarity, number of path options, enclosure / exposure, etc.
Intersections and landmarks (e.g. transport hubs, monuments, etc.) form urban reference points to help decipher a network of paths and manoeuvre in reference to them. Observing these nodal points reveal a radiation of activity from each of these epicentres.
Distinguishing factors, such as scale and proportion, form and material, that make a building or object appear more prominent in one’s field of vision. What is their circumference of influence?
Juxtaposition of Relics and Recent
The continuous dialogue between old and new as the urban fabric is layered with interventions from different periods of time.
Strong presence of ancient Roman Wall felt in arterial roads through the tension between form and void and echoes of past structures, such as drawbridges, gateways and forts.
2) Site Analysis
The site chosen for the intervention is located at Clerkenwell, just beyond the boundary of the City of London. The following are examples of the site analysis conducted to gain a greater understanding of the site and it’s context.
The site is uniquely situated such that it falls in the field of vision from 6 different vantage points in the surrounding area, making it highly prominent.
Residential vs Commercial
Interestingly, Clerkenwell is home to one of the highest number of architecture firms per unit area in the world. The architecture (and design) firms make up majority of the commercial activity that takes place to the south of the site. While the north is predominantly residential. The site lies on the threshold between these two types of typologies.
Private vs Public Spaces
Differentiating between public areas (roads, parks, playgrounds etc.), semi-public areas (bars, restaurants, shops etc.) and private areas (houses, offices, schools etc.) to find their respective proportions in Clerkenwell. The majority of the area is privatised due to the numerous offices and residential housing present, indicating opportunity to bridge the gap between private and public spaces.
3) The Intervention
There is a level trust we have in our cities and the overall framework they provide for way-finding, allowing users to get lost in its finer detail. On a smaller scale, architecture provides the freedom to create intriguing promenades that stimulate the users, making them actively engage with the intimacies of the architecture and thus, making architecture a tool for manipulating movement in ways the city cannot fully exploit.
The intervention phase is an amalgamation of the site's characteristics, programme and intent.
Thinking through model-making
A generative study where over twenty rapidly prototyped models (some shown below) were built to explore how the concepts of ‘Suspenseful Navigation’, ‘Foci’, ‘Apparent Visibility’, ‘Juxtaposition of Relics and Recent’ and ‘Suggested Presence’ can manifest spatially.
These forms explore the use of levels, intricacies, vistas, and focal points to channel movement and create intriguing promenades.
Each model explores a different way of bringing the initial design concepts, programme and site together.
The final design is a combination of two design languages: 1) linear planes and 2) complex geometric forms. The two together are used to create a juxtaposition between large, open spaces and intimate spaces.