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Wordsworth Archive

Part 1 Project 2000
Martyn Robertson
Newcastle University, UK
And westward took my way to see the sun
Rise from the top of Snowdon having reached
The cottage at the mountains foot, we there
Rouzed the shepherd by ancient right
Of office is the Stranger's usual Guide
And after short refreshment sallied forth.
(Prelude Book 13. Wordsworth)

Can architecture be poetic? Can poetry be architectural? The design for The Center for Romanticism in Grassmere gave the opportunity to analyse the possibilities of poetry as an influence on architecture. By reference to the final book of Wordsworth's Prelude, I established a critical relationship between the poem's structure and its narrative. This relationship is mirrored within the subject matter of the poem. The structural elements of the mountains and valleys seen through the eyes of the poet are transformed into a meaningful narrative.

The existing museum building provided a base that controlled the orientation of the new construction. This base element is eroded and new material, with its own tectonic character, is deposited on top. The site's topography and the brief put pressure on the building to fault, splitting the reading rooms and archive from the museum and galleries. The fracture paradoxically provides the unifying element for the building, being translated into a wall enclosing the stairs and lifts and into a ramp leading from the reading room to an external pool.

By simultaneously treating the building as a piece of land art which reacts to its context by geological faulting, deposition and erosion and by crafting a variety of spatial conditions, I have endeavoured to create a building which is exciting, meaningful and, above all, poetic.

Martyn Robertson

This design grew from a fascination with the landscape of the Lake District and in particular the geological fault line that runs through the site. 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. This scheme consciously engages with such themes seeing the poet's process of writing reflected metaphysically in the journey through the new museum. The energy and dynamism of the final building is a tribute to the development of the scheme through the extensive use of 3-D computer modelling.

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