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City Music and Health

Part 1 Project 2000
Nancy Peskett
University of Cambridge Cambridge UK
The project proposes a music recital venue and community music centre on the periphery of Edinburgh's Old Town, along the site of the c16th City Wall. Celebrating arrival to and participation in the social life of the city, it explores many meanings of the word boundary. Edinbrugh's resurrection as Scotland's parliamentary capital inspired me to explore the historical city – its topography, historical landscapes and the fantastical popular legends and stories they embody – in terms of the new civic identity that is being sought. Sketch studies, made on linear strips exposed the narratives that continue to take place in the narrow streets that cut through the city.

Lying on an historic greenfield site, the music centre draws on the notion of the unbuilt landscape as a powerful element in the sense of a civic and Scottish identity: interior spaces expose the city wall and geology; roofs become walkable terraces supporting a new route through the landscape. The music rooms are contained within a copper-clad wall breaking free from the original city boundary. The brief celebrates social interaction through music-making and listening, from its most intimate to most public levels, restoring a new significance to a forgotten site between old and new town.

Nancy Peskett


Studio 4 has been concerned with the contribution that architecture can make in establishing a welcome invitation for those who feel peripheral to the perceived central stage and concerns of the city. In the way that the Fringe theatre has established its place in the Edinburgh Festival we too wish to acknowledge the potential contribution of those on the fringes of society. For the homeless, drug rehabilitators, victims of abuse, actors and artists, the poor, and others, we proposed two related projects; first a small Urban Café and then a Community Health Centre. Edinburgh was chosen because of its wide range of public spaces, the drama of its terrain, a strong tradition of urban theatre, manifestations of civic pride as represented in its architecture and the complexity of socio-political struggles between classes and cultures. There are fine buildings but urban decay erodes the health of the fabric and the people.

We worked in the Old Town focussing on the Grassmarket and adjacent areas as sites for restoration of both city and body. A space with an ambivalent role in the City, the Grassmarket has a colourfully theatrical history as a market place, a site for both medical care and crime, a gateway for royal state entry as well as departure via the gallows. As compared to the civic spaces along the Royal Mile, the Grassmarket embodies a sense of grassroots ownership and belonging, especially with its makeship provision of day centres and shelters between burgeoning tourist and cultural facilities.

The Urban Café was sited on Candlemaker Row – central, but on the Grassmarket margins. The brief invited the provision of internet facilities for all participants, but the homeless in particular can gain from having an email 'address' to help integrate them into the urban infrastructure of job opportunities and financial assistance.

For the Health Centre a choice of two sites was offered, within and without the Mediaeval walls; both on steep pedestrian routes linking both upper and lower levels and upper and lower social strata: Old Fish Market Close is a mediaeval wynd linking Festival Fringe offices to a drop-in shelter with a three storey municipal staff car park between; Grannies' Green lies below the Castle and outside the Flodden Wall. Both sites fall 20m and had much potential for community integration. One adjoined existing inner-city housing estates, night shelter, theatre, nursery and Parliament Square on the Royal Mile; the other adjoining Malcolm Fraser's new dance centre, a sports café, and a range of community workshops. The brief emphasised the need to situate any new proposal within the immediate and wider cultural, political and architectural contexts.

The promotion of health was viewed by the studio in the broadest terms with the help of specialists ranging from NHS governmental advisers to artists and actors working with children and the mentally ill. We learned that community health and well-being are assured not only through traditional and complementary medical attention but also through engagement with creative and physical activities such as music, drama, art and sports. Thus each student proposal is based on unique personal research into their selection of medical and cultural issues, encouraging social integration and health maintenance rather than crisis management. This studio aims to put the human being centre stage and we seek our architecture to be, at once, enabling, restorative and poetic.

2000
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