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Refugee Centre

Part 1 Project 2001
Nathan Chilvers
Kingston University, UK
My final project developed ideas conceived in the first semester: In one view the city was seen as a controlled and ideal set of districts, overlaid with efficient systems of infrastructure. Such a view is seen through the language of the network map. However, this was contrasted with the actual and real 1:1 outworking of the systems and furthermore by the uncontrolled lives of the occupants of cities. Essentially I wanted to expose the tensions and contrasts within the way we understand cities.

My response to the politically volatile issue of asylum continued semester one's concerns. Essentially I focused upon the topic's uncomfortable duality. Whilst ideally the processing of refugee and asylum seekers in, out or through a country is a political and legislative idea, this is seemingly contradicted by the alarming fragility of the human experience of actually seeking asylum.

Architecturally, I sought to evoke this idea of duality through subtle division of the building across the Grand Union canal edge along the site. Governmental and legislative areas - the institutional mass of the building, sits upon the flat roadside area of the site and are constructed along regulated structural patterns. In contrast, the parts of the building that accommodates asylum seekers splinter off this mass, clinging, floating or embedding. These areas express the discordant aspect of the issue of asylum and deny the supposed pristine regulation of the process.

Nathan Chilvers

This year, the Architecture and Identity Studio focused on the twin issues of immigration and asylum, seeking to explore in spatial, formal and materials terms, some of the contentious social, political and cultural issues associated with this growing phenomenon. Drawing on the work Nathan completed in the first semester which looked at more personal notions of identity, focusing on the body and its occupation of the city, Nathan responded to the brief's challenge in complex and innovative ways. Using the idea of binary oppositions, an important conceptual tool in contemporary thinking about immigrants and foreigners (us/them; foreign/native; inside/outside, etc), Nathan looked at the process of immigration as a split process. The regulatory bodies (government, legislation) are expressed architecturally through the dominant building on the site-massive, regulated and ordered. The more 'fragile' and volatile aspects of the human process are expressed in the secondary structures which cling to the water's edge, disrupting and infiltrating what the government would, in principle, like to see as a well-ordered, seamless process. The tension between the institution of asylum and the experience of the process are explored in ways that are sensitive, materially explicit and technically resolved.

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