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Memory and Meaning in Smith's Docks

Part 2 Project 2009
Mark Todd
Northumbria University Newcastle upon Tyne UK
Mark Todd: Marine Renewable Energy Institute

Located on the North East Coast of England, North Shields is a small town that sits quietly at the mouth of the River Tyne. Within North Shields is Smiths Dock, 30 acres of derelict and contami¬nated shipyard that dominates 500 metres of the town’s river front – a remnant of the industrial revolution that once set the Tyne at the forefront of British shipbuilding during the late 19th Century.

The thesis project at Smith's Dock proposes an institute for renewable technologies that houses research and development, educational and visitor facilities. The project reuses the existing fabric of the shipyard by sensitively placing the building within the largest of six dry docks.

The design project at Smith's Dock has been informed, but not held captive, by its historical context, an abstract interpretation of the past that places form both physically and historically. With reference to proportion, repetition, material intensity, light, water and the experience of monumentality, the characteristics of past forms and atmospheres at Smith's Dock have been embodied in the realisation of a contemporary building - acknowledging and remembering the legacy of ship building on the Tyne.

The design project strives to counteract the ’placeness¬ness’ and lack of meaning that have degraded North Shields by referencing the contextual forces of its cultural herit¬age, thus restoring meaning, identity and a sense of place.

Mark Todd

Memory and Meaning in Smith’s Docks

Mark’s scheme to design a renewable energy institute for North Shields is an architectural tour de force that takes its material and formal inspiration from the industry that has been the backdrop to the Tyne since medieval times. The building is located in the Smith Docks and Grade II industrial relic, where hundreds of ships were built over a 150 year period. Mark’s building is borne out of notions of Critical Regionalism; the building and wider landscape contributes to the sense of place and a genius loci that is quickly being eroded by the building of poor quality within the vicinity of the docks.

Mark’s building is appropriately scaled to the monumental structures that existed in and around the shipyards; he does not however neglect the importance of detail- this aspect of his work is handled with careful sensitivity. The building is conceived within a post-industrial park; this park is handled lightly, not wishing to upset the self-seeded fauna, and animals that have chosen this derelict site as their home. Internally the spaces are breathtaking; they evoke the monumental volumes of the turbine halls and the enormous hangers on the Tyne. The building is conceived as an industrial relic and yet suggestive of a bright future for the Northeast, returning the area to the industrial powerhouse that it once was, exploiting renewable technologies.

Mark draws beautifully; his illustrations combine hand drawing, painting and the use of the computer; he manages to evoke an architectural reality that has a sense of nearness and an atmospheric accuracy.

Paul Jones

Mr Paul Jones
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