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Nomad Exchange

Part 1 Project 2009
Duane Harry
London South Bank University, UK
The site to me is a product of historical influences, more so abroad than at home. Whitechapel has always been a place of immigrant influx. From the Huguenot, to the Jews, then the Bangladeshi and Pakistani, Indian and Middle Eastern influence. So the area has moved from Church, to Synagogue, to Mosque and Temple. One of the remaining constants in this ever changing landscape is the market. The constant exchange of goods and services has been the base of the community over many years, always being the linchpin. I think this is because no matter where you come from the idea of market not only physically allows you to see, buy and sell things that you are used to from your homeland, but it also allow for a method or mode of life to be practised. Home away from home, this is immediate, you see your own and you develop a sense of ownership. You no longer belong to a place some distance away, but because you are able to transfer the spirit of home into a place and space that occurs in a different plane of existence. This idea is important but it also means that the community that inhabits this plane today is not likely to be the inhabitants tomorrow. Who will replace them and where will they go? Will Whitechapel remain a nomad? A nomad in time.
Duane Harry

London’s East End is a fitting location for Nomad Exchange. Situated in Whitechapel, the project lies at the epicentre of an area that has accommodated successively the influx of many new and varied communities over the past three hundred years. Though these have in turn prospered, dispersed and assimilated themselves throughout the growing metropolis each has contributed to a rich cultural residue that provides fertile ground into which the Society for Story Telling is now transplanted.

It is characteristic of this place that in addition to its strictly historical interest many are still drawn back here for reasons of nostalgia. Also for over a thousand years an open-air market, running in the main arterial street just behind which the new building sits, has brought people here in order to transact.

Nomad Exchange seeks both to sustain the continued presence of the market and to borrow on its persistence by emulating its function. So, as well as acting as a repository and reference point, it actively distributes stock and attracts contributions by informally staging live performance.

In paralleling the market it also heals the gash in the city’s fabric created by the underground railway cutting that had previously reduced the High Street frontage to thin urban veneer. The new ground plane this creates around the Exchange provides ample public space to disperse the increased footfall expected from the adjacent rapid transit system’s ticket hall and enables generous connection back into the recreational and civic facilities occupying the hinterland.

Diagrammatically the building is deceptively straightforward – appropriately just a linear narrative. However the tilting planes that define the enclosure fold up from the datum of the new public space to create both an elevated landscape and covered shelters around its fringes. Successive interactions between the inclined route inside and the facets of the skin create a rich variety of experience that is vividly illustrated with precision and immediacy by its designer as it transmutes between archive, club, stage and troubadour’s repose.


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