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Dundee Foyer

Part 1 Project 2009
William Cairns
Edinburgh College of Art Edinburgh UK
The Foyer project in Dundee is a place for vulnerable, homeless young people which provides shelter and education within a community, so they can re-integrate into society.

The Foyer is designed around three principles, modesty, community and humanity. I took the initial attitude to create a place that, through its modesty of scale and materiality, could feel comfortable and accessible inherently, yet could also be personalised and made unique, allowing a new resident to the foyer to encounter and engage with it on their own terms.

Always within the design I have tried to provide for the needs of the Foyer residents specifically, which may have led to quite an austere building to public view, but one which fosters a real sense of community within. A fairly large educational facility was specified, and I have provided spaces such as a Trades Workshop and Working Garden as well as more traditional educational spaces. I believe that by providing spaces in which people can not only learn new skills but also create new things and be responsible and proud for those things, a sense of connection to the people and place naturally follows. In this way the resident’s education can help them grow and stay with them when they return to their place in society.

Spaces for inviting social interaction, such as along the accommodation corridors or within the walls of the courtyard provide an environment in which more organic and trusting relationships can form, whether it be between a counsellor or a friend. Consequently, the accommodation is specifically designed to form smaller units within the whole. Each room has a semi-private space directly outside in which people can sit, gather and socialise.

I hope that the trust and friendships built through experiences gained here will be the invaluable knowledge that guides the resident, who comes to the Foyer with so little, back to a place where they have a little bit of the society which most take for granted.

William Cairns

The name ‘Foyer de Jeunes Travailleurs’ appeared after the second world war in France as a response to the large scale rural-to-urban migration. They were urban centres providing very basic accommodation, canteen and recreational facilities for young French people. Subsequently in response to worsening conditions for young people, characterised by unemployment and low economic activity the government invested in a modernisation programme of Foyers, and this brought a shift in focus towards the promotion of social inclusion and ‘insertion’ or induction into the adult world and labour market.
Within the context of the bleak economic climate of the early nineties, and a growing recognition of the cycle of homelessness and unemployment, the UK foyer movement came into being. The common sense philosophy clearly struck a cord with housing associations and local authorities, who began to establish wide-ranging partnerships to develop and run Foyers.
In Dundee, unemployment is high, incomes are low. The Foyer facility provides transitional living accommodation and associated support in life and work skills for homeless members of the community between the ages of 16 and 23, of which Dundee has a higher proportion than the Scottish average.
The proposition is to design a Foyer on a back land site within the cultural quarter of the city. The project extended beyond the building itself into the surrounding fabrics and surfaces. How could the desirable degrees of privacy for residents be reconciled with the need to connect with the neighbourhood, to develop ways in which relationships with local business and cultural activities could build bridges? How could a small room provide mental sustenance, comfort and privacy, but at the same time promote conversation and interaction? How could a building help to repair damaged souls and promote new directions? How an institution could be humanised?

Malcolm Jones
Mr Mark Walker
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