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Neighbourhood Watch

Part 1 Project 2002
Lucy Priest
Raphael Pennekamp
University of Edinburgh Edinburgh UK
My initial project modelled the Village Hall as a Neighbourhood Watch Club, but also as a space that fed and accommodated the community's desire to gossip. In preliminary designs, the building started to encourage claustrophobic interaction between its users, consequently signalling this activity to the observer.

Through the 'Architecture and Technology' component I looked more carefully at the arrangement and detailing of the access route into the hall in light of the building's role as harbourer and communicator of gossip.

Moments where public and private forcibly overlap have become the main focus, where, for example, a small glass bridge extends from the caretaker's study, spanning the public stair, leading to a balcony over the hall space. Similarly, a small kitchen and storage area, to serve the hall, visibly pushes into the caretaker's accommodation, contained by an intentionally thin wall that allows snippets of conversation and activity to be overheard. Occupation of this storage space is signalled to the caretaker when light within the space illuminates glass steps that are set in the staircase above, forming its ceiling.

The hall space itself has to address the demand for enclosure, generating a climate for gossip, whilst remaining a flexible and welcoming space for the community.

My presentation of the scheme is in the form of a dialogue, which aims to illustrate the gossipy nature of not just the community, but the building that welcomes it as well.

Lucy Priest
Raphael Pennekamp


The project developed over two terms. The first brief titled "Duplicity" and invited the students to consider a village hall with an alter ego or secret life. Edinburgh's literary tradition of Burke and Hare and Ian Rankin was the starting point- and in Lucy’s project all is not what-it seems. The second term "Architecture and Technology-conceptual realisation" feeds on the first and encourages students to consider the materials and relationship of components and junctions in a manner which reinforces the concept.

The project is for a village hall set in Edinburgh nestling on the banks of the water of Leith. Her hall doubles as a centre for the Neighbourhood Watch , but the unexpected twist is that the caretaker also spies on the users.

Lucy's work is very subtle and laced with meaning and wit. The narrative which accompanies the drawings became the driving force behind the detailed design. The building invites illicit activities and becomes a self-fulfilling centre of gossip. The form of the building altered significantly as the detailing exploration developed. The focus became the interdependence of the two programmes along a path. Walls are designed to form peep holes, two glass treads in the stair light up when people might be having close relations in the cupboard beneath, the partition is designed to fail acoustically at a specific point known by the caretaker. The exterior form also opens and closes to signify the gossip taking place within. The project exemplifies the aims of the brief and was a thoroughly enjoyable one to teach.

2002
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