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Diploma School, Dean Village: An Undergraduate Project

Part 1 Project 2001
Liam Ross
University of Edinburgh Edinburgh UK
Slide 1

Two projects here, toward one building. The first a brief for a village hall that became an Architecture School for Diploma Students. The second a detailing project that found its way to infect a whole building.

Architecture in Historic Context: Duplicity, Crime in the City. The first project asked us to turn to Edinburgh's Dean Village, and to design a hall - a new centre for village life. This presented a problem - the picturesque industrial village has lost the trade and society that produced it, lacking shop, school, pub, or post office(?), it's notion of community is tenuous. A redemptive project? The athletic variety of building types and forms have so far been converted exclusively to flats and offices, offering an escape from the city, within the city, most conspicuously for those of the design profession. In terms of both programme and structure, the project asked us to construct a 'village' centre for a hermit city in a picturesque shell.

Architecture & Technology: The second project, on the other hand, was a straight opportunity. By magnifying, and "rendering real", we were given the chance to see how the employment of building technologies might strengthen an existing project's concept and form; might a more detailed examination of the projects real character, allow its rendering - the dramatic possibilities of the scheme - to be both more capable in stepping forward, more confident in sitting back?

Evidence of both schemes, as complete, are here presented - caught in photographs and incidental material from final presentations. Over the following 7 chapters we will return to the role of Detective / Historian, re-investing the projects with its drama - beginning at the scene of the crime, finishing Lucky Strike / Meerschaum in hand.

Article No.'s:
1: City Context, Aerial Photograph; Dean Village as an anomaly in the New town plan, a cluster of architectural practices.
2.1 - 9: Plans and Axonometrics, OHP Presentation; 'The Structural Story', development of structure along chosen section lines. Architecture in Historic Settings: Duplicity
3.1 - 3: Sections, photocopies; 'The Programmatic Story', three sectional moments from the school. Architecture in Historic Settings: Duplicity
4: Model, photograph; Diploma School Dean Village, as complete. Architecture in Historic Settings: Duplicity
5: Axonometric, photograph--; Great Hall, as complete. Architecture & Technology

Chapter 1
Slides 2 & 3
Interrogating the Ground

"The Dean Valley first strikes me - in contrast to our Beautiful city - as a place populated by rogue individuals, scattered on a rough'n'tumble ground, locked in a struggle with the base elements.
"But I'm wearing my powder-blue suit and I know appearances can be deceptive. Behind the most exotic front, I know, lurks an understandable human desire; behind every facade, just a regular Joe.
"Through nicks in restored stonework, I catch a glimpse of unbleached cotton - then the blind is ruffled by a breeze - , a shock of surgical green (the new twist on lime?), a black polo neck. Yes, The Dean village is full of Architects... "

The First question:-"How does someone from up there, build down here?", in this valley of the picturesque, among stones that appears to have been here forever? Following our metaphor - 'sympathise with the suspect'. We know who he is, and we know what he's looking for - a slice of the good life, to move on up to the straight and narrow - down here its just the more jostled, just the more momentary. If this place scares us, it scares him too - its a question first of finding the advantageous position, the points where we might be comfortable...

Reconstructed Drawing No.'s:
AHC.1.2 Model, photograph; the "Landscape of Opportunity".

Chapter 2
Slides 4 & 5
The Likely Lads

"Two's company, three's a crowd"

Three tectonic characters are developed. A first, second and third person. We already suspect their comfort in orthogonal relation-ships - for the beautiful, pattern making life of the New Town. They carve out, or hold up, multiple-use corridor-and-room plans along section lines where this appears the most tenable, the most extendable.

They are at first anchors to the site - things we can be sure of - but the more they are worked upon, the more they become things in themselves. Becoming stylised and exaggerated they behave like ostentatious characters, and we suspect them of some other involvement, some other interest...

"Liam worked with the title, Duplicity, it suggested - rather than a reading of the site - a discovered truth. This appealed to his desire to 'find' a building, a form that would appear entirely resultant. He adopted the working methods of a detective; something has happened, it was his job to find out exactly what.
"At the beginning of the project I encouraged him to write a series of extracts from a detective story, to bring out the dramatic possibilities of the site. He found a frightened character, that clings to the edge of a wall water rushing below, and trickling toward him through channels scraped by his fingers; then another, nervous, leaping back and forth over a wall, always catching his own shadow, his reflection in the dammed stream; and then one who stands tall, on the edge of a precipice - translucent from one direction, naked from the other. "

Article No.'s:
2.3 - 5: Axonometric, photocopy; from 'The Structural Story', development of characters on section lines. Architecture in Historic Settings: Duplicity (Character 3 shown)

Reconstructed Drawing No.'s:
AHC.2.1 Model, photographs; the three characters developed on, and isolated from the reconstructed landscape (Character 3 shown).

Chapter 3
Slides 6 - 9
Thick as Thieves

"It wasn't beautiful, but the face had a clear-cut, delicate quality. There was nothing in it of the petty cunning which seems to derive from the face as a whole; in this face mouth, nose, and eyes were something clearly in their own right and could stand up to being contemplated separately."

So something in our characters loves the chaos of the place, wants to put it all down to a roll of the dice. Working backward then, this is how we are to find our picturesque scene. The roll of the dice - the other involvement that we suspect- is to be the hall. The hall will be at once dependant upon the clash of these characters, and the original 'event' from which they are running.

For the users of each character - each wing of the building - the definition of its tectonic quality becomes one way of understanding - locating their position within - the building. To this end it is expressed in a distinct and separate manner. But in the central hall, each tries to take advantage of the others characteristics, abandoning the ground to build on each-other, trying to claim as much responsibility as possible. A confusion begins; is the event an opportunity provided by virtue of the characters, or are the characters an opportunity provided by virtue of the event?

Article No.'s:
2.6 - 9: Axonometrics, photocopies; from "The Structural Story", structural development of each character. Architecture in Historic Settings: Duplicity

Chapter 4
Slides 10 & 11
A likely Story...

So who is taking advantage of these moments? From the evidence we have (article No.'s 3.1 - 3) Characters 1,2 and 3 are occupied respectively by an architecture schools department of Practice, Professional Studies, and Theory.

Yes, Groan.

And it gets more predictable - for it is specifically a Diploma school - the place of exchange between the Academic and the Professional. But the characters do seem to fit their roles. A students studio that climbs from the dark waste-ground to the light, from metal-work to drafting; Lecture rooms that can turn from framing a presentation, to making a beautiful picture of the village; a crit-room which both hides its work from the village, and displays it to the city.

But what of the hall? The hall, the real place of exchange, houses those facilities shared by the school, and made available to village and city alike; Primary Lecture Room, Library, Library, Gallery, Bar, Toilets. Behind the ostensible 'work' done in the wings, behind the gregarious openness of the private institution, what happens in the masked hall of public amenities? Well, "An Architecture school is just a place for the kids to grow up in good company..", the hall is a place where the various wings of the school are open to be employed as part of Academic and Corporate seduction, so beneath the sections, 'The Finishing School for Architects' we take a few cracks at the suspected other life of the school, 'The Architect's Coming Out Ball?'

Article No.'s:
3.1 - 3: Sections, photocopies; 'The Programmatic Story', three sectional moments from the school. Architecture in Historic Settings: Duplicity. (Character 3 shown)

Reconstructed Drawing No.'s:
AHC.4.03 Section, ink on trace; "The Architects Coming Out Ball?"
Character 3 as a romance of the lofty.

Chapter 5
Slides 12 - 15
Getting inside the Suspect

"I, as I write this, am only a certainty that seeks out the words most apt to compel your attention. That proposition, a few muscular sensations, and the sight of the limpid branches outside my window, constitute my current I."

An encounter with the base instincts in the cellar, Lofty exchanges on a rooftop, and a decorous Piano Nobile; a Likely Story indeed...

The second project here - 'Architecture and Technology' - begins with an 'Apologia', an explanation of the intentions of the project, and an appraisal of their success's. My hopes for this re-investigation were clear from the outset: The question of the responsibility for the central hall, the nature of the characters interaction, was still up in the air. Who provides the floor of the hall? And what of the roof? In fact, is there a roof? The characters lumpen and figurative quality appears to be a block to their interaction, and without any genuine interaction I am left feeling pedantic - the hall is the testing ground of the project, but I ask you to like it because it is the logical conclusion of that which builds up to it. We are left with a question, in terms of architectural detailing, of how parts come together as a whole; in terms of an architectural narrative - the rendering of an ethic - of who-dunnit?

The first act was to set up parallel re-examinations of the three characters. A conversation between the three characters had begun in the final model of Architecture in Historic Context (article No. 4); through an economy of materials, like materials were re-used for different tasks in different wings. Along with the intelligible piecing together of the schools structure, we are looking for another way of understanding the characters relationships, through a sensible immersion within enclosing spaces. This had gone unexamined in "the Programmatic Story". Second time around, specifying the actual nature of the each sectional moment, we look for like concerns, and define a kit of parts from which each moment could be built. We return then, to desire. Generic concerns - to Disguise; to Reach Out; to Support; to Keep warm; to Decorate, translate to material elements - Brick Skin; Composite Beam; Concrete Wall; Ply Box; Hardwood skin. Each character is then re-constituted as an attitude toward the employment of these parts, in their intention to create a given atmospheric condition.

Reconstructed Drawing No.'s:
AT.1.21 Exploded Axonometric, ink on trace; sample of the parts as employed by Character 2
AT.1.22 Sections, ink on trace; Character 2 reinterpreted as a composition of the parts.
AT.1.23 Detail Axonometric, ink on trace; The meeting of parts and manipulation of atmospheric condition around door sill, Character 2.

Chapter 6
Slide 16
A Hall for a Ball...

To maintain their exchangeability, it is attempted to keep the individual components as distinct as possible, to know their precise role in the construction.

In this separating, another list is drawn up - that of the atmospheric quality between layers. Here they are named Warm and Dry; Cold and Dry; Cold and Damp; Cold and Wet and Windy, being coded by four tones of blue, in increasing saturation. Away from the 'centred' spaces of the character's rooms, the surrounding spaces of the clash - hall included - are opened up in these cavities. They are built up from the kit of parts as the moment decree's (now with no reference to the characters), responding to a certain structural requirement, toward a necessary atmospheric condition.

As well as their structural roles, as they enter the hall the components find programmatic roles that suit them. The concrete wall becomes the essential threshold - separating spaces of different qualities, and which these spaces turn to address - a continuous notice-board; The presentation screen comes to signify a prioritised display - It is the gallery surface in the hall, it wraps the crit-room, divides the studios, is framed by the lecture room; A hardwood skin crops up everywhere you are asked for quiet...

Articles No.:
5: Axonometric, photograph--; Great Hall, as complete. Architecture & Technology

Chapter 7
Slides 17 - 20
Letting it go

"The Participants in the dialogue die one by one, and meanwhile those who will take their places are born, some in one role, some in another. When one abandons the square, or makes his first entrance to it, there are a series of changes until all the roles have been assigned, but meanwhile the angry old man goes on replying to the witty maidservant, the usurer never ceases following the disinherited youth, the nurse consoles the step-daughter..."

And so at last, we think, the story is over. But we are faced with the problem of every who-dunnit - you can only read it once - the answer robbed the riddle. The hope though, is that in atomising the characters, we have diffused the blame - that for all the ups and downs, intentions and intrigues, we can say of the project that it is "Just some kind of a building..."

As re-designed in Architecture & Technology, the drama is left off to be taken up again by the buildings users. The department of practice climb's to the hall to see its familiar roof as an umbrella to all, but Professional Practice knows that its their lead skin that stretch over it all (but admittedly, has to look down on it from theory to find this out). The project sits back as a tangled net of possibilities, hoping that someone, someday, will come pick one up.

Article No.'s:
4: Model, photograph; Diploma School Dean Village, as complete. Architecture in Historic Settings: Duplicity

Suppositional Drawing No.'s:
AT.3.1 - 9 Elevations, ink and transtext on film; Full building broken down in to the components, along elevation lines perpendicular to section A-H.

Liam Ross

This project covers the work from two terms taught by different tutors, to different briefs.

The first project "Duplicity" invited students to consider a building with a dual life, one overt and one covert. The starting point of the brief were the Edinburgh based crime novels from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to John Rebus.

The student's project dissected the site and invented three characters, all of whom were written into the site in fabricated excerpts from a non-existent novel. The different characters evolved into built forms which took their inspiration from text, site and the idiosyncrasies of their individual programmes. The characters hung from edges, stood backs against walls and came together in, what became, a large central hall space.

The second brief "Architecture and Technology" asks students to take an earlier project and develop the relationship between concept and detailed technical resolution. The student was faced with the task of resolving how each of the three characters might be built and the investigating resultant complex geometry of the central hall. His working method was extraordinary, taking each one apart in an almost forensic investigation of structure and skin, and then attempting to resolve how the very different built forms might unite.

At the penultimate review the project was heavily criticised, the deliberate absurdities of the individual characters making for technically over complex solutions. It is to this student's great credit that he worked through this point to take on the criticism and rigorously edit the built forms without losing the conceptual strength of the design. It is a fascinating project, particularly as the student is at part 1 level.

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