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Three Buildings for a Village and a Book

Part 1 Project 2009
Matthew Bailey
Northumbria University Newcastle upon Tyne UK
Returning the Lindisfarne gospels to the island on which they were created offered the chance to acknowledge the importance of this precious and open mined tome, whilst at the same time encouraging a place were people of different thoughts can meet and discuss issues with unclenched minds.

Three simple buildings were devised all of which use the measure of light to welcome and intrigue visitors and locals alike.

From far away golden sinews can be read in the sky and beckon strangers.

A path across the absent sea is followed and the quiet village of holy island is discovered and later a bustling village hall. This delicate timber building held by stone walls provides a centre for the village and people of distant haunts.

The hall is occupied by birthday parties and more formal gatherings where speakers and debates can be heard. A series of courtyards provide shelter from the wind and stagger back through the site offering privacy for a meeting room, office, kitchen and bedrooms. The atmosphere is akin to the open minded and calm state that permitted the creation of the gospels long ago.

Not far away a circular room for the book, positioned on the axis of St Cuthbert’s island and the priory draws quiet people through long grass to its simple door. Set just below the ground a path is worked towards its centre through a maze of funneled light that streams from above. Guided by delicate worked metals, shimmering in the gloom the gospels are eventually found at its centre upon which journeys are completed.

A single window emits light through the darkened hours, reassuring the saint his gospels are safe.

Later, after exploring the island, a warmly lit routine is discovered, visitors stop and sit finding the building occupied by the murmur of reading. The provision of a small library allows people to reason what they have heard and said.

At night light reflects off the clouds high above, and the three buildings appear on a common grid, small instances amongst larger times.

Matthew Bailey

Matt’s scheme to re-house the Lindisfarne gospels on the island of their creation is a mature and supremely understated proposal.

The scheme recognises the problems of building within the significant historic landscape of the island, and so largely focuses on the provision of community facilities within the curtilage of the village.

The gospels house itself is sited in a quiet field adjacent to the priory, and provides a conceptual connection between the now lost original timer building where the gospels were created, and the small patch of rock where St.Cuthbert spent time in hermitage. The building filters light to create a dreamlike interior quality, whilst at night the light escapes to cast a glow on the low clouds, a beacon of pilgrimage for the most significant religious document in the British isles, reinstating its purpose for the unification of a people of diverse cultural origins…………..

The venerable Bede describes the humble dwelling of St. Cuthbert on inner Farne, and it is from this that the gospels house takes inspiration. It is a simple building, circular in plan with rough timber construction protected by a simple stone wall. The gospels are housed at its heart and the visitor approaches form any angle through a labyrinthine series of spaces, animated by the top lit light wells. Protection for the gospels comes through the layering of simple materials, with the power of the enclosure now screening the horizontality of the landscape and the feeling of smallness in time and the physical world, and emphasising verticality, drawing our gaze to the heavens and to the ultimate nature of the gospels as an ‘opus dei’, a work for god……….

The scheme has at its heart an appreciation and consideration of the people who will visit and use the buildings, along with an intellectual approach and a sophisticated understanding of the experiential nature of the spaces which serves to produce a piece of work which is truly sublime.


• Page Hits: 3846         • Entry Date: 08 September 2009         • Last Update: 10 September 2009