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Part 1 Project 1999
Mark Alper & James White
Oxford Brookes University Oxford UK

This project proposes a mechanical organism which duplicates itself from an original prototype in Dagenham into the larger city of London. There it hybridises with the organic and uncontrolled tissue of urban space. All the components of the scheme remain embodied within the whole; their blueprints are built into the genes.

People are the fundamental elements of an architectural creation. They animate the steel and concrete, they provoke the space, they leave their marks and prints behind. Without people, buildings do not breath or respond, but instead become monuments, frozen moments in time. Instead, we must see architecture as existing along a time axis in which different frames of culture and texture project and define ways of comprehension.

This project, in proposing a cut through some existing urban fabric in order to permit an organic developemnt of the environment, deals above all with the issue of the 'filter'. The notion of filter is a physical one, but it is also a metaphorical being, a cultural mediation between two conditions.

A series of conceptual models and drawings led to the first proposal for a filter building in Dagenham, located between a public promenade and an Asda supermarket. At the heart of the scheme there is a library space, but one which is in fact more than it seems. It is designed to be quiet but noisy, ordered but messy, open to the public but closed to certain people. This contradictory aspect was taken also as a structural concept; the library reveals itself by taking people along a structural wall which acts both as a map and a filter at the same time. This wall is a long continuous one, running through the building and becoming a whole in itself. It forms a penetration element, it creates the circulation of the scheme, and it becomes the first physical entity of the metaphorical filtration.

The library was designed through a series of ordered sections in order to create a building that evolves around people. The result is a building that moves and leaves traces and memories of itself behind. These design sections were oil-painted onto canvas using Diebencorn's wash technique, allowing for the whole design process to be shown on each section.

By juxtaposing the library next to the supermarket, the question of commercialism was brought up. This issue was pursued further when the design was transfused by a study of Queensway in West London. A statistical and functional analysis of Queensway's shopfronts was transformed into various prototypes for commercial activities, reflected in the design as 'inner streets' which were situated between parts of the relocated library. These funnel-like streets were then used to form a new series of filters, whilst also searching in themselves for substantial ways of becoming interactive and metamorphosed. They act as hard cells, as ways of trade; they are neither inside nor outside, and they also act to filter light and social noise. They are the city within the building.

Mark Alper & James White


The project is intended as part of a large regeneration scheme for Dagenham in Essex. There are two parts of the building:

a/ a filtration device for a large commercial building, in this case an Asda supermarket

b/ a promenade which crosses the A13 to link 'brownfield' industrial land with residential

The filtration device was designed as a library sandwiched between, and connecting, the promenade with the supermarket. The library's main component became a long wall (the element containing information) which meanders through the plan and asserts itself as an internal filter. A secondary component is provided by a theatre which is playfully manipulated by the information wall, bisecting it into a proscenium theatre and a place of chance viewing created by the act of casual buying through the wall.

A second stage of the project was one of social injection and transposition. An anthropological study of Queensway in Bayswater looked at ways in which processes of selling could be used to revitalise the filtration and layering of information within the library wall. This further stage ultimately allowed the wall to convolute and tooth itself further into the existing supermarket and promenade.

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