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Kirkgate Retirement Village

Part 1 Project 2008
Neil Cooke
Leeds Beckett University UK
The weather worn stone which surrounds the site is a poetic reminder of the passage of time and man's own mortality and humble place along side nature. In its interest in and engagement with the patina and character which emerge through the passage of time, the design attempts to establish a respectful and coherent relationship between the site, the building and its users.

The sectional perspective illustrates the omnipresence of the looming St Peter’s tower - paying homage to the real icon on the site. The roof structure is designed as a contextual gesture to the plant life which inhabits the winter garden. At night the glowing louver system lights up the shimmering undulating stainless steel facade to make a beautiful public art installation for people taking an evening stroll through the now well lit church grounds.

The translucent church with a singular light source inside seeks to represent the spiritual presence experienced in this locale with St. Peter’s at the epicentre. Just as the celestial glow fades as you get further from the church, so too does the feeling of tranquillity. It is these qualities of the site which have informed the orientation of the winter garden to maximise the benefits of this spiritually healing aura.

Instead of trying to pay homage by replicating materiality, form, orientation or proportionality, the external façade treatment seeks to pursue its own form, texture and function with elegance and subtlety as its main objectives. The steel fins become gradually more undulating as the façade moves south away from the city - as if the metal has absorbed the dynamic city flux as documented in the psychogeographic drawing at the outset of the design.

The apartment model is made of plaster as a substitute for concrete, and is an exploration of the physical properties and limitations of this material. The weather hewn forms are subtly stylised so as to carve out ergonomically embracing spaces which would cater for the complex routines and habits of an elderly person.

Neil Cooke

In the Third Year projects, students synthesize, in the design of a building in an urban context, the knowledge and skills gained during the Course.
The brief, (adapted from a brief issued by the Anchor Trust) suggested sizes and types of dwelling units, types of ancillary accommodation, and the relative area of residential accommodation which would be needed to support the ancillary accommodation.
The site (identified by tutors as potentially appropriate for a hypothetical retirement village)is immediately to the west of Leeds Parish Church and awaiting redevelopment. Only the end-buildings remain of a terrace facing eastwards directly onto the churchyard. (Neil proposed the demolition of these buildings). Students were encouraged to study the plans of English villages. Bordering or passing through the block (of which the site forms part) are pedestrian walk-ways with a village-like scale. Neil's project supplements these with a walkway traversing the block on the north-south axis, creating a central crossroads. (Villages commonly developed around crossroads.)
Neil's observations of the weathered stonework around the Parish Church (part of the process of site-analysis) have led to reflections on the parallel process of human ageing and the sensitive and imaginative conclusion that the softness of "eroded" forms might have a role to play in the creation of a safe environment appropriate for the elderly.
His project is notable for its artistry and the lively approach (delighting in metaphor, simile and analogy) which is equally apparent in the drawings and models which communicate it. (The adjacent city is jumbled, dynamic and threatening (as wordlessly communicated in the drawing.)) (The Parish Church is an urban beacon (as Neil's model shows us by making it a source of light)). (Structural trusses can be like the leaves which grow in the winter-garden below them.) (THe development could feel more village-like because of the introduction of a crossroads.)
Neil's presentation provides only an edited version of the holistic coverage (including studies relating to environmental physics, structures, construction, landscaping etc.) which he undertook, and only partial evidence of his industry, energy, commitment and breadth of exploration.


Mr Gary Hornsby
Mr Steven Morant
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