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Urban Housing, Old Fishmarket Close, Edinburgh

Part 1 Project 2002
James Munro
University of Strathclyde Glasgow UK
The Space of Dwelling

The design model, images, sections and plans presented demonstrate a flexible, affordable living space for a diverse group of urban dwellers. I wanted to create an aspirational but functional space which encapsulated the success of city living, that of the celebrated Edinburgh townhouse, but with a more ubiquitous twist.

My design is premised on attracting a range of urban dwellers to co-exist under the one roof. The more diverse the inhabitants the more likely the housing will work as an enriching and nurturing dynamic.

The form of the building refers to the Edinburgh Townhouse emulating and empathising with the surrounding building context. However the design has a modern agenda. Taking the icon of a skeletal fish, the design of the roof is important both metaphorically and physically. The roof is sliced, like the ribs of a skinned fish, to permit pools of light into strategically placed daylight windows while also ensuring privacy for the inhabitants. A cross section of society can live under the one roof thus transforming urban space into a more tolerant and less exclusive environment.

The clock at the nursery/coffee shop is a public space to be enjoyed by both the new occupants of the flats/townhouses and the indigenous Edinburgh folk. This open public space where social interaction occurs enhances the ìfeel-goodî nature of the area and builds a strong core community. I felt strongly that the new building should generate itsí own vitality but also complement the existing social groups already resident in the surrounding buildings.

James Munro


Urban housing is perhaps one of the most difficult student projects to crack successfully. For one thing it resists grand architectural statements and the jigsaw-puzzle making process of organising flats and circulation and the like can deter some students from pushing an idea as far as it can go. The site chosen for this project made the task even more challenging; topographically demanding and set in an architectural context of overwhelming character.

From the early stages of the design, James has rigourously pursued a simple idea and we think it is a model of design development at an almost professional level. It addresses a lot of the issues of being debated about housing (from environmental concerns to maixed-use and barrier-free access). It attempts to set a contemporary architectural character of lightweight structure and infill in a filigree manner and though it is perhaps at its weakest on the corner of the Cowgate, as a third year project delivered particularly with some very delicate and sensitive 2D CAD drawings, it is an accomplished piece of work.

2002
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