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Urban Rooms + Artefacts

Part 1 Project 2008
Darren Leach
University of Portsmouth, UK
The constantly developing city of Chichester has begun to disolve its former Roman city blocks. The edges of the blocks are becoming fragmented, with the loss of the corner points having the greatest impact. I felt that the proposed development site presents an opportunity to realign the city block in which it sits.

My urban strategy focuses on the block and the realignment of the street edges. Tower Street hosts an interesting contrast between a library, an object building, and the city of void. By inserting a series of glazed facades along the edge of the street I sought to recreate the proportions of the medieval street and wrap the library creating a new garden space which would contrast the new urban room.

Case study research revealed that the difference between sucesssful and unsuccessful public spaces is sun light. With this in mind I located the building mass along the east and north boundaries of the site; leaving the south free to maximise sun light and the west to communicate with the library.

An inserted stained glass canopy (reference to cathedral) floats over the Roman ruins on the south side of the site providing shelter and casting coloured shadows onto the urban surface.

I selected the Municipal Moon as an artefact of interest. It used to provide light for the Mayor as he paraded through the streets at night. The artefact informed the design of the museum in two ways; a transparent skin which provides both structure and light control, individual panels can be adjusted in transparency depending on the use of the space. Also a procession is created from the entrance to the gallery and the artefact itself.

The housing block defines the corner of the urban block. A simple concrete wall and slab structure releases the facade for a transparent glass surface. The dual aspect spaces afford views across the public space to the Cathedral. Each apartment is provided with a winter garden or balcony with sliding panels which open up the living rooms into the space and the outside world beyond.

Darren Leach

Darren Bray and I ran the third year studio that Darren Leach attended. He was a delight to teach. Mature, thoughtful, and quietly clear in his objectives, he raised the level of the studio, and naturally led group research and group strategies. Darren likes architecture that is complex and fragmented but does not avoid the work of simplifying, abstracting, and rationalising; and his designs, as realised, were extremely thorough whilst inventive and fun. In both semesters Darren took risks and pushed his work to the limits.

The studio analysed Chichester’s dense urban fabric where history hangs heavy, and proposed a contemporary urban space. The studio was particularly interested in the reality of retail pressures as well as the complex urban patterns. The brief required a new museum and housing as well as the urban space, all on a relatively small site. Darren’s work started from very complex desire lines, then found a clear simple urban strategy. However, he never let go of the complexities expressing these in a difficult fragmented architecture that, nevertheless like the best, is under laid by rational ordering and simplicity of detailing. Chichester is inherently conservative and the work is provocative and knowing.

The resulting simple urban space, complex museum, and rational housing are impressive, rigorous and delightful.

Mr Tod Wakefield
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