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Sol Septemtrioni

Part 1 Project 2008
Dean O'Brien
Sheffield Hallam University Sheffield UK
The project is a health spa within the district of Castlefield, Manchester; an area which is home to both the first Roman settlement in the region, and the thriving cotton industries of the 18th and 19th centuries. Part of this historical urban fabric includes an intricate network of canals and viaducts, which although provide a rich and intriguing setting, place it in almost constant shade.

The project explores ideas of human stress and alienation within inner city environments and is designed as a place where the people of Manchester can go to relax and rejuvenate. Realising the importance of natural light as a healing power, the dominant concept is one based on light and growth, which consequently results in a building which actively responds to its surrounding environment both physically and symbolically.

This work is inspired partly from the intent to fuse natural processes with the man-made and energy intensive reality of a health spa, but also from the desire to create architecture which reflects the technological and social maturity of the 21st century.

Dean O'Brien

This project was devised to explore architecture for wellbeing through the design of a health spa for the district of Castlefield in Manchester. The district has a rich urban character defined by canals, brick and iron railway viaducts and brick warehouses. Its social character is however less certain and thus the project suggests a spa as a civic focus to a rapidly growing local 21st Century population of city living around the edges of Castlefield. It invited proposals for a building type of our age and purposefully questioned the resource consumption inherent in spa facilities.

The architectural response in this project is original and thought provoking, reconciling the difficulties of positioning a sun and light seeking interior into the shade beneath the overhead railway and metro viaducts. Its primary gestures are derived from botanical precedents and a sophisticated study of solar orientation and access.

As a spatial response it is a grand peninsula hall and a journey through stem to opening flower (or along branches to entwined, clinging therapy buds). Its essential nutrient of light, denied from the south by the viaducts, is instead directed into the interior via a sky-reaching, sun-responsive array of reflectors forming a dramatic industrial/environmental landmark. Interior spaces look northwards through kinetic roof petals to this engineered 'sun of the north'.

Prof Sam Vardy
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