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The Academy of Life

Part 1 Project 2010
Neil Michels
University of Sheffield | UK
Britain’s demographic is shifting as it’s population is ageing. The increasing numbers of elderly people not only puts a strain on our health and welfare systems but can also mean the potential for the elderly to feel isolated from their immediate and peripheral communities.

Taking the years of knowledge gained from life experiences and giving value to them, the Academy of Life creates a peer to peer network in which the elderly can learn from one another. Based in the hinterlands around Huddersfield's canal network the project engages with its context not just as a stationary building but as a series of vessels on the canal. Allowing the programme of the building to extend far beyond its immediate surroundings; and to reuse and rejuvenate a part of the cities’ forgotten infrastructure.

The Academy itself provides a series of spaces in which people can teach and learn. Including activities such as brewing and baking, helping to bring together groups such as elderly men whom find it hard to engage with many of the care services provided currently. The academy hosts a broadcasting tower, in which programmes can be made to distribute lessons to a much wider audience. Straddling the residential and industrial divide along the canal it allows the users to engage more with the town and brings life to its forgotten spaces.

The project addresses many issues relating to ageing and care; It keeps people active within their communities, as they trade knowledge, experiences and skills with one another. It addresses scenarios of isolation, health and access to services. The Academy of life challenges how the ageing population may engage with not only one another but also their town.

Neil Michels

This project offers a Facility for an Ageing population within the Thornton Lodge area of Huddersfield. Early studies explored the implications for this changing demographic. A sophisticated programme from the initial brief of peripheral ecologies was developed which exploits the existing canal network. This strategy was thoughtful and highly inventive in terms of reading urban and social context.

The final piece of work is exemplary as not only does it offer fantastic tectonically resolved architecture but also a subtle and varied spatial sequence throughout the building. The project has real urban presence, which is an appropriate response to this hinterland setting, this works in parallel to the delightful interior sequences he has provided.

His drawings and models clearly show a student who is enjoying the process of design, evoking and engaging the themes that he has developed. This is without doubt a beautiful proposal that has both physical and intellectual presence. Overall he was awarded a 1st class degree and the work is a testament to his engagement, commitment and passion for the subject.


Mr Satwinder Samra
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