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'Photokinetic' Health Centre, Plymouth

Part 1 Project 2002
Matthew Edwards
Caroline O'donnell
University of Plymouth Plymouth UK
The existence of a decaying fabric combined with a brief for a building that would ultimately promote health, spawned the concept for a programme that would turn decadence into life, and growth. The initial concept for the project came from a vision of life taking hold in a fissure of the decaying fabric: a solitary plant clinging to the crumbling masonry of a derelict building on the site. The potential for a programme that would etch itself into the existing historic fabric was recognised, a new chapter could be written into the site’s manuscript. The building would become a new inscription (but not a palimpsest), a translucent trace (imperfectly transparent) overlaying the original.

Internal spaces are made from the insertion of self-contained areas of specific use, and the creation of areas around them of ambiguous definition, infinitely changeable.

Paired hydraulic rams and dampers operate the external leaves, made up of vertically running hollow acrylic planks filled with extruded white polyethylene strands. At first light the leaves slowly fall away from the glazed skin, allowing direct light and heat energy to fill the internal spaces. As daylight levels begin to drop, the leaves begin to close, eventually forming an airtight seal against the glazed skin, trapping warm air inside the building overnight. The building appears to breathe, growing during the day, and contracting at night in a continual cycle of life.

The building is a mechanical organism ‘eking’ out an existence in the heart of inner-city life.

Matthew Edwards
Caroline O'donnell

Three particular qualities have been characteristic of the work produced by Matt in the 2001/2 session;

i. his concerns for energy and lighting performance as fundamental issues which should be expressed in the experience of the designed building - hence the diurnal wrapping and unwrapping of the Health Centre,
ii. a detailed consideration of the quality of the internal spatial experience of the design, and his commitment to exploring this through his drawings, models and 3D work, and
iii. an ability to relate the new intervention to the existing structures and materials of the site.

All these concerns, and his ability to produce a convincing technical strategy for integrating them into the fabric of the building, have produced work which is both architecturally subtle, forward looking, and contextual. These are all qualities which are highly valued in the Plymouth School.

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