High Commendation RIBA Award for Sustainable Design
Public housing estates often face physically and socially intertwined challenges. Hostile landscaping and an inadequate provision of shared amenities result in a lack of agency and ownership for residents. The proposal addresses one such site, the New Kirkgate development in Edinburgh’s harbour neighbourhood Leith. There, public space freed up by an ambitious 20th century masterplan fails to support meaningful gathering and instead further alienates those who live there. The proposal introduces a town hall to the fragmented site, with a programme intersecting the local government and grassroots movements. The intervention aims to physically and socially tie together the disjointed parts of Leith, transforming the now desolate territory around Kirkgate into a thriving civic space.
Viewing functional public space as an essential design component, the proposal considers its preservation beyond the lifespan of the town hall itself. To this end the building is designed as a system of layers, each with a different rate of change, which may be re- configured or dismantled throughout the building’s lifespan. An external, load-bearing stone envelope forms the most permanent layer and is designed to outlive the building itself, continually framing external gathering grounds.