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British Centre for Romanticism, Grassmere, Lake District

Part 1 Project 1999
David Cawston
Newcastle University, UK

Concept: Inspired by the nearby sight of the Lake District's mountains reflected in Grassmere Lake I made a metaphor piece which suggested the theme of solid from void (see pages 2 and 3 of portfolio).

The brief, based on The Wordsworth Trust's brief to architects Benson and Forsyth, comprised of two main elements; Museum and Archive:

The Museum was generated from the voids of the existing museum building.

The Archive is essentially three main buildings, each one orientated on the axi of existing buildings, grouped around a sunken glazed courtyard; in plan the "void" of one of the museum's "solid" boxes. The Museum and Archive are connected by a walled, semi-private courtyard used by both the Archive staff and the Museum Visitors.

In its materials and its massing, which echoes the contours of the site, the scheme seeks to be a sensitive addition to the landscape; almost a part of it. The use of existing buildings integrates the building into its context without resorting to imitation. It also creates interesting juxtapositions of old and new.

David Cawston

Clearly landscape and place making is an important theme running through much of Wordsworth's work, and indeed much of the Romantic philosophical tradition. By many he was considered a 'nature poet', who taught people how to look at and dwell in the 'natural' world; particularly important at the end of the twentieth century, in the context of ever increasing pressures on dwindling natural resources.

This scheme consciously engages with such themes seeing the poet's process of writing reflected metaphysically in the journey through the constucted solids and voids of the new museum. Creating an atmosphere conducive to 'active reflection', the design pays particular attention to refined design from the touch of a handrail, through to the detailed aspects of lanscape.

Critically reconstructing the existing museum building, the scheme manages to formulate an appropriate architectural response to the Lakeland vernacular 'tradition', that is neither bound up nor limited by reactionary thought, and that balances a need to acknowledge the past, whilst looking towards the future. These issues are of profound importance to the philosophical project of 'Modernism' and in our own response to the notion of 'tradition'.

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