Bristol’s floating harbour is one of great engineering ingenuity and has an underlying history which many residents are not aware of. The floating harbour once used to be part of the tidal river Avon which would change it’s water levels twice daily due to the gravitational forces of the Sun and Moon which affect tides. The fluctuations between high and low tide would however make transportation and trade difficult, gradually reducing the popularity and the industry of trade of the harbour. William Jessop’s proposal of reconstructing the river in 1802 was the solution to the problem which left the harbour very muddy and dirty, a change which very quickly became noticeable due to the bad smell coming from the in situ silt which was deposited within the river bed level and the harbour’s banks. Isambard Kingdom Brunel engineered the so called Underfall Yard in 1832 which consisted of a series of sluices which provided a water management system to filter out the excess mud from the floating harbour back into the tidal New Cut River. This water strategy together with a longing for past fashions inspired the creation of a utopian manifesto scenario and a consequent design development of the scheme into an Interpretive Centre as means of interpreting the site’s history and surrounding.
The proposed architecture sits within the former Spike Island in Bristol which undergoes a transformation from Island to an archipelago of Islands.
The scheme takes the city back to its tidal roots but in a more controlled manner to allow the visitor to experience the effect of the tide over time; it becomes a register of time and all the consequences of decay and ruination that come with it. The architecture is built into the landscape and unravels in a series of varying heights and responds differently to the tide at different times throughout the day.
Just as the archipelago is fragmented into island bodies, the architecture being proposed has the ability to reveal itself or be partially concealed depending on the level of the tide and thus provide different experiences to the visitor and user.
Mr Jonathan Mosley
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• Entry Date: 09 September 2013
• Last Update: 09 September 2013