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Abstraction: Camden U3A

Part 1 Project 2009
Benjamin Kee
Sheffield Hallam University Sheffield UK
By viewing Camden in it's larger context (1:5000) it is possible to separate each element out into individual components. Major elements of Camden are separated to reveal the spaces ‘left over’ or interstitial space. These are the places we all inhabit on a daily basis creating a chance encounter with something familiar. These spaces must be explored in order to understand public behavior outside the urban grain. Whether they are taken as a concept, literally as building footprints or as spaces within a structure, they can become an important insight into our urban fabric. This project analyses each aspect and looks where it can be more appropriately used.

The main aim of the U3A is to encourage integration within the town for all ages. The creative spaces within the Campus are open to the public, acting as galleries, and workshops. Students at the U3A work inside the temporary spaces, and exhibit their work on the outside allowing the public to view their work. This creative space will act as a hub for creative individuals in to area to meet with the U3A students encouraging social interaction. The flexibility of these temporary spaces creates a constantly changing atmosphere, allowing different activities to take place.

A private area has been created for classrooms across the pool, allowing people to work in privacy. Across the pool is an indoor garden, blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior, creating a safe winter garden within the campus for the U3A students.

The bridge that crosses Kentish Town Road creates a link with the previously underused Camden Park. This allows visitors to pass through the vibrant Campus building through into the Peaceful secret garden away from the hustle and bustle on Camden Town.

Form, light and materiality are extremely important to the scheme. The extensive use of the framework adds an extra visual dimension while rationalising the creative spaces and organic interior garden. The two large masses containing the private areas break up this structure adding solidity to the framework. The materiality of the design routes the building into the historic industrial area of Camden.

Benjamin Kee

This project invited students to design a campus for the University of the Third Age (U3A) in Camden Town. They were asked to imagine a building that promotes learning for an ageing population as an entitlement and core constituent of our society, communities, friendships, self-fulfilment and well-being. The site mediates between the Regent's Canal, Kentish Town Road and the North London Overground railway.

Ben's proposal demonstrates a sophisticated urban approach, which links Camden Gardens and the canal, based on both empirical and creative research. The design process involved the development of a range of unique spatial propositions – appropriate to their discrete functions both experientially and practically. The resultant design is poetic yet robust, and the distinct and well-handled representation reflects these qualities. The marriage of tectonic experimentation and an awareness of materiality generated a unique and relevant U3A proposal for Camden.

Prof Sam Vardy
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