Point of Reflection
I have been reading Re-Readings: 2 : Interior Architecture and the Principles of Remodelling Existing Buildings, by Graeme Brooker and Sally Stone. It has introduced me to some amazing interior spaces that have been developed. I have learned how strategies and methodologies have been put in place for each design and how the main three strategies of Insertion, Installation and Intervention are considered for each design. These three strategies have helped me understand how a design begins and then develops into a design proposal. I have chosen a few from the book and some of my own to research further by analysing and making sketches, finding diagrams and I have recorded it all here in my learning log.
To firstly give you some context, in 2008, The Why Factory who were a newly established research institute, accommodated the top floor of the Faculty Building of the Technical University but shortly after moving in, a fire destroyed the building. As a result the historic building was renovated to accommodate the institute. The Why Factory is a three storey bright orange structure positioned in the covered courtyard of the School of Architecture and was designed by MVRDV and Delft University of Technology. The spatial design allows for independent research to explore alternative possibilities for the development of cities in particular and of our Planet in general, by focusing on the production of models and visualisations in the studios hidden within the orange structure that doubles as an auditorium. The steps of the orange structure act as seats when exhibitions and ceremonies are held. The structure has a distinct orange colour and has become a landmark within the buildings. It has been designed and placed deliberately off-centre to enable space for the exhibitions and ceremonies to take place. It’s bright orange colour identifies it as an independent research centre with the Faculty of Architecture Building.
My research confirms that this design comes under the Installation category. It becomes an Installation because it co-exists with an old building. This design has become a very distinguished structure, enabling it to provide rooms and seating, making it a multi functional space.
A large installation can be constructed to sit quite comfortably within an existing space such as an internal atrium or courtyard. Balance needs to be achieved between the magnitude and scale of the new element and the size of the open space that it is to sit within. Too large and the equilibrium is upset and the space appears to be cramped and too compressed to meet the needs of the users. If the installation is too small it is overwhelmed and can appear to be inconsequential. The position of the new element also needs to be considered, inevitably there will be space left over and surrounding it. If the sizeable installation is simply placed in the centre of the room, then there is little hierarchy within the adjacent area. If the object is positioned off-centre, this leaves different sizes of horizontal space to accommodate a variety of distinct uses. Vertical positioning is also something that needs to be considered especially if the installation is to be occupied. If the users can access the top level of the installation, they can develop a completely different relationship with the upper areas of the existing building than they would otherwise have from ground level. The Why Factory is a three storey bright orange structure positioned in the covered courtyard of the School of Architecture at the Delft University of Technology. Local architects MVRDV designed it to house the independent research unit which was actually founded by the practice. Studios, meeting rooms and research facilities are carefully hidden within the orange ziggurat, while the large steps up the exterior of the structure allow the whole space to be transformed into an auditorium. The steps, which act as seats, are also used for presentations, exhibitions, and even graduation ceremonies. The central location and distinct orange colour means the installation has become a landmark within the complex of buildings, and as such also functions as a beacon or way-finding device. (Brooker and Stone, 2018:30)
I have sketched an image in perspective using a pencil on paper. I coloured the orange structure using an orange felt pen and outlined some areas in black fine liner to give these areas definition. This task gave me a detailed idea of the structure sits within the existing space. The original part of the building is brick and the structure sits within an aluminium frame connected at the sides and above, which was formerly a courtyard. The frame houses the lighting, the air conditioning unit and projector device and looks less permanent as it’s the type of construction used on a building site but it bridges the gap between the old and new forms.
I wonder how the space would feel without the aluminium structure, if it was enclosed within a tiled roof? The three storey orange structure would still sit where it is placed and the spaces within it would still function. The area around the structure would also function as it does, but would it feel different? Understanding the reasons behind the design helps me also understand why the aluminium structure was made, but if that was to be removed then you would see the orange structure with a backdrop of brick walls and victorian windows, you wouldn’t have skylights in the roof so this would make the space darker. Observing the space as it is, makes me feel alive, the colour is invigorating. The design is thoughtful because it has functional rooms within it and a functional floor space around it.
I found some more photographs online showing the structure from different angles and the breadth of the space surrounding it. What a fantastic and fun design, a building saved from demolition, a space where like minded people can come together and develop their design ideas. With brick on three sides and floor to ceiling glass on one other, I wonder what the acoustics are like? Brick is a hard surface which allows noise to bounce off and reverberate, but it won’t allow much noise to transfer through. Glass however, will still act as a barrier but not so much, and so many aluminium poles with I did search online for the answer, but no luck. The space is also used as informal work space which is facilitated by a strong wifi connection which can be accessed via sockets within the seats. Developed to be able to adapt to a wide variety of uses, it seems to have achieved this, but has its own distinct identity within the orange floor space. A bright vibrant space for students to design buildings, making models, which they can also store within their tables. The tables have also been designed with wheels to be moved aside should the space be needed for an event.
The images above show the location, surrounded by both commercial and residential buildings with easy access to the building. I can see lots of positives with this design. It demonstrates how old buildings can be given new life by adding a modern structure. The design sits in a former courtyard and has the pleasure of sitting beside the old building, that has been standing for nearly 200 years. It shows definition not only with modern building materials but with the bright orange colour itself.
My second choice is Astley Castle in Warwickshire. It is a 12th century castle, once the home of an aristocratic English family, stood as a ruin since the 1970’s after a fire wiped out the hotel that once occupied the building. In 2007 architectural charity The Landmark Trust launched a competition for the structure to have a holiday house designed within it, the winners were Witherford Watson Mann. They designed a two-storey house sitting within the existing sandstone walls and used clay brickwork to infill the gaps in the structure, showing contrast between the new and the old structures.
Astley Castle’s renovation is an example of Intervention, because there’s an existing building which has been changed by adding new elements, so it no longer exists independently. The crumbling walls of the 12th century building now has new life breathing within it, supported with laminated wooden beams as the new floors and ceilings.
Four bedrooms, with space to sleep eight people, occupy the lower level of the house. An oak staircase leads up to the first-floor living room, where the architects have increased natural light by adding two new windows. Below is a concept model in cast plaster, showing how the Architects have pieced in new walls, lintels and roofs to tie to the remnants. New larger windows have been inserted upstairs to increase the use of natural light. The house is now available for rental through The National Trust organisation. Imagine staying in a building that first existed in the 16th century and was crumbling to the ground, then saved by The Landmark Trust and English Heritage before being restored lovingly and carefully by people who care for the existing shell, creating a home within the porous and incomplete ancient walls, a continuing story of a historic building.
My third example of the design strategies is of an Insertion of a new timber structure within a dilapidated brick and stone shell. Hugh Strange Architects transformed an agricultural barn in Somerset into a family archive building by inserting a new timber structure. The building is located on a working farm amongst a mixture of barns and sheds dating from the 19th century, which now provides an office and store that houses the client’s architectural and family archives.
The building was stabilised and repaired with the remaining front and gable elevations carefully repaired. The shell was then constructed of a single layer of solid wood without insulation, external cladding or internal lining. The cross-laminated timber panels provide insulation and thermal mass, creating a stable internal environment for the archive in terms of its temperature and relative humidity.
The agricultural barn is an example of Insertion, because there’s a new element built to fit in an existing space. The purpose of the new building has been designed to house an archive of light-sensitive drawings. Below is an image of the remains of the derelict building, parts of which have been retained for memory’s sake and a model of the farmyard buildings.
The farm is still a working farm today and it is not somewhere you would expect to find a private architectural archive. Above the archive floor is the owner’s office and residence, it’s been designed incredibly well using the lined plywood to protect from the low winter temperatures and heat of the summer months, creating a stable internal environment for the collection of archive drawings. The buildings are made from cedar, ash and beech using timber felled from the surrounding woodlands, below you can see an aerial photograph of the farm and the surrounding farmland and woodlands.
Now that I have researched 3 different strategies which apply to 3 different designs, I will reflect on my research and how each design differs or resembles each other.
The story behind why the The Why Factory design was initially built caught my attention because of the sad circumstances behind the reason to build, but the opportunity to create a design for this research institute wasn’t wasted. In a place where research explores alternative possibilities for the development of cities, by producing models and visuals, the space seems perfect. Being forced into an interior space through nobody’s fault can be disastrous. But this group of designers embraced the courtyard area by building a 3 storey orange wooden structure which offers lecture halls, meeting rooms and research rooms. Building upwards allows for these spaces within each floor. To paint it orange is just the icing on the cake! I agree that this design becomes an Installation because it co-exists with an old building but I would also argue that it could also be classed as an Intervention because the new element is existing alongside the old. Having said that, this exterior structure looks temporary and could be disassembled if needed, so I wonder whether the new element has to be permanent to be called an Intervention?
Astley Castle is an example of Intervention, because there’s an existing building which has been changed by adding new elements, so it no longer exists independently. This design could also be classed as an Insertion, where the new building has been built to fit in an existing space. Astley Castle and the Somerset Agricultural Barn are very similar in design, in that they both have new elements built within old and existing structures. There are definite differences between these two designs and The Why Factory but all three are new buildings. The Why Factory sits independently within a glass and metal frame structure but alongside an existing building, the space was once a courtyard. The orange wooden design is a perfect design for this space, with a few floors allowing for space to be used within but also giving chance for the floor to be used in lots of different ways, a brilliant multi-purpose space that’s not restricted to individual rooms within a building. Astley Castle and The Agricultural Barn have both been designed with the existing building in mind, to enable the existing structures to be kept in situ means considering what materials can be used and how they can be implemented without disturbing the buildings that have stood for years before them. It is far too simple a job to just knock down the crumbling walls and rebuild on the same site. This is damaging to the history of the building and would mean that these materials would probably end up in land fill. Using the existing structures in this way tells a story of the materials that were used and how it would have looked when it was first built, a much more interesting and appealing property to visit and stay in. It will also reduce the emission of carbon by not creating more new materials, obviously new materials are needed for the new building within the old but it will become more energy efficient with current standards and by preserving our history it will encourage other people to do the same. By repurposing and regenerating it will enhance today’s social and historical value, all buildings have a place in our society and communities and by preserving them, and as designers, we can become even more imaginative whilst being kinder to our planet. It’s important to consider how we feel when entering a building and if we can experience a space within an existing space and consider how the older building would have been built and the materials used, we can have a better understanding and appreciation for that building, this will encourage the implementation of good design strategies rather than bulldozing and starting again.
(Brooker and Stone, 2018:30) https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucreative-ebooks/reader.action?docID=5806927 (accessed 21.3.23)
Fig. 1 – The Why Factory Structure, Delft, Netherlands https://www.mvrdv.nl/projects/64/the-why-factory-tribune (accessed 21.3.23)
Fig. 2 – My own sketch and coloured drawing of The Why Factory structure Walker, T (2023) Photograph of sketch [Image] in possession of: the author: Stoford
Fig. 3 – Photographs of The Why Factory floor space https://www.facebook.com/BKTUDelft/ (accessed 21.3.23)
Fig. 4 – The Why Factory location images https://www.google.com/maps/place/The+Why+Factory,+2628+CN+Delft,+Netherlandsfirstname.lastname@example.org,4.3709934,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m6!3m5!1s0x47c5b5ece2841bb1:0xfbf349f09e82d9a9!8m2!3d52.0060356!4d4.3709934!16s%2Fg%2F11bbrlc941 https://www.mvrdv.nl/projects/64/the-why-factory-tribune (accessed 21.3.23)
Fig. 5 – Astley Castle in Warwickshire https://www.dezeen.com/2013/07/20/astley-castle-renovationby-witherford-watson-mann/ (accessed 5.4.23)
Fig. 6 – Concept model in cast plaster and interior image of Astley Castle http://www.wwmarchitects.co.uk/projects/astley (accessed 5.4.23)
Fig. 7 – My own sketch and watercolour of the exterior of the building Walker, T (2023) Sketch with pencil on paper [Image] in possession of: the author: Stoford
Fig. 8 – The agricultural barn insertion on a working farm in Somerset https://www.dezeen.com/2014/03/05/hugh-strange-architects-archive-farmyard-barn/ (accessed 7.4.23)
Fig. 9 – A section drawing and photograph of the agricultural barn https://www.dezeen.com/2014/03/05/hugh-strange-architects-archive-farmyard-barn/ (accessed 7.4.23)
Fig. 10 – A photograph of the remains of the derelict building, a model of the farmyard buildings https://www.architecture-plus-detail.com/-/dam/ad_45_cs_uk_archive-in-somerset/pd16492/original/ad_45_cs_uk_archive-in-somerset.pdf?v=0 https://www.atlasofplaces.com/architecture/drawing-matter-archive/ (accessed 7.4.23)
Fig. 11 – An aerial photograph showing the location of the farmyard and surrounding woodland https://www.atlasofplaces.com/architecture/drawing-matter-archive/ (accessed 7.4.23)
Fig. 12 – My own sketch of the exterior of the building Walker, T (2023) Sketch with pencil on paper [Image] in possession of: the author: Stoford