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House of Human Rights Cultural Centre for Amnesty International

Part 2 Project 2008
Christopher Hill
University of Bath, UK
Lincoln’s Inn Fields as a public space is increasingly fenced off and divorced from city life as the Council struggles to maintain the square.

The insertion of building upon the square presents a model for intensifying future green spaces as a more active and dynamic element in the cityscape.

The building houses a resource centre, exhibition space, offices, conference rooms and administration areas for the promotion of human rights in London.

The design is generated from a form finding process previously explored by Frei Otto and is envisaged as an underground terrain entangled between the tree roots of the square.

Christopher Hill

The Bath MArch thesis design studio requires that students produce a ‘design project thesis’ and a proposal for a building intervention that demonstrates the significance of this thesis in an urban context. Projects must pursue an agenda that relates urban thinking to the detailed development of architectural proposals.

Chris Hill’s project ‘House of Human Rights Cultural Centre for Amnesty International’ achieved a clear exploration of its thesis both through theoretical analysis and through design development, and demonstrates exceptional architectural and urban thinking. The project received a Distinction for Thesis Work.

The project analyses the existing condition and a possible future for Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London, both in terms of use and fabric. A detailed ‘emersive’ study, carried out with President's Medals co-applicant Steve Mason, revealed tensions in the meetings of various actors using this negotiated public space – taxi drivers, advocates, tourists, soup-run customers. This study illustrated also how such negotiations have effected the structures, both legal and physical, which surround the square. The analysis was then used to calibrate two design briefs that project ‘enabling’ structures to inhabit the square. In Chris Hill’s project an intense investigation of iterative design processes allowed the initial spatial and structural propositions of the urban and building programme to evolve into a flowing and efflorescent underground space.

The project succeeds at a number of levels. The urban analysis was persuasive and acute; the methodology used to develop the formal nature of the programmed room for the building (which combined advanced digital processes and DIY bathroom experimentation) was enjoyable; and the resulting intervention was represented persuasively in drawings and films. Particularly enjoyable to tutor was Chris’s endless curiosity and open-ended attitude to this complex problem, and his ability to move between urban-socialogical investigation at one level and experimentation with form and morphology at another. Important to mention also, and enjoyable to watch, was the way in which the two individual design projects by Chris Hill and Steve Mason were allowed to intertwine by the generosity of their authors, and the resulting combinition of tight coordination and lose-fit that the two projects convey.


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