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Centre for Urban Horticulture, Manchester

Part 2 Project 2000
Geoff Watts
Geoff Watts
University of Lincoln Lincoln UK
A city's hinterland is global in scale. Cities develop countless relationships between each other and between themselves and land, water and air based activity world-wide. Thus, it cannot exclusively be human or social processes that fall under the city's sphere of influence. Urbanisation also taints climate, wildlife, air quality, and a whole host of other ecologically inter-dependent processes. This realisation has helped me to evolve an approach to designing that considers these factors from the outset and strives to promote the interconnection of natural and social processes at work within the city.

This philosophy underpinned my final year design thesis. The brief that I developed for this project was for a Centre for Urban Horticulture in central Manchester. In order to evolve an appropriate and exciting architectonic language I explored the inter-related themes of 'energy exchange' and 'energy efficiency'. This was conducted mainly through the development of a photo-voltaic installation, experimentation with the use of recycled glass as concrete aggregate and by utilising CAD site model shadow mapping to help generate an efficient passive solar energy strategy for the centre. These strands of investigation were intertwined with elements of a more 'usual' site analysis and research into horticultural practices to derive an architectural design.

Geoff Watts
Geoff Watts

Holistic is often used within architectural schools to describe a primary goal for students and their design tutors, achieving a synthesis between technology, theory and design. In Geoff Watts’ case the word is very appropriate because that is precisely his achievement and the reason for his nomination.

Factory is a studio primarily concerned with the metropolitan, as such the years work was based on examinations of the urban condition. To achieve this the studio was and is grounded in the idea that open experimentation, work in various scales and mediums, exploration of languages of expression, creation and depiction are paramount.

The year was split into two projects, the students were expected to develop a continuous theme through both projects, Geoff’s scheme was particularly strong because he managed to translate the ideas, narrative and visual language he developed from his first project into the second.

The primary objective of the first project was to construct a kinetic installation. The project was principally concerned with two core themes, firstly the investigation and interpretation of selected ideas from a chosen environment. Secondly, the relationship of the performer-subject-viewer experience.

Geoff’s response was to construct an installation which incorporated ideas for the reclamation of energy and the recycling of electricity. The installation was complex and technically difficult to manufacture and operate. However, this complexity provided Geoff with a rich resource from which to develop an architectural language and narrative for his subsequent building project.

The students were then asked to select a site and apply the narrative and themes they had developed through their installation. Geoff’s scheme is essentially an urban horticultural landscape, within the confines of Manchester city centre. Dealing with issues of reclamation and the reuse of brown field sites for horticultural, environmental and educational use. Making a greener city. This may sound a little worthy, however, Geoff’s project owes more to a vision of Luke Skywalker farming for his uncle in a future world farm - littered and controlled by exquisite technology - than any existing model for such schemes.

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