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Edinburgh Literature Centre

Part 2 Project 2010
Matt Mackinnon
Edinburgh College of Art Edinburgh UK
“In the mansion called literature I would have the eaves deep and the walls dark, I would push back into the shadows the things that come forward too clearly...”
Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

In considering this centre for literature, I have been thinking about the act of reading, of engaging with books. With the continued rise of digital media, this project aims to reinvigorate the physical experience of books. The architecture is intended to elevate the book and create opportunities for reading to be a thrilling and personal experience. Like the literature it serves, the building’s varied spaces for engaging with the written word are waiting to be explored and interpreted by the individual. The building can be quiet sanctuary or shared landscape.

Reflecting on Calton Burial Ground’s atmosphere of solemnity and introspection and the timeless nature of the historic stone boundary wall, moving through the Literature Centre is a journey of calm shadows and framed views. The building does not dictate how it is to be used, instead acting as a canvas for a Phenomenological exploration of a personal landscape. You pause when you find the space where you want to read. A sunny courtyard. A seat with a view of the street. A bustling cafe. A sunlit terrace. Among dark bookshelves. Under a tree.

The personal and communal aspects of experiencing literature are polarized between the two main elements – the copper cube of the Book House serves the shared experiences such as book clubs, cafes or lectures, and the embedded Library gives opportunity to be alone among others. The two elements are gently linked by the Courtyard, hidden from the street, a further extension of the building’s experiences.

Themes of mass and perforation permeate the scheme, from the skylights of the library and the windows presenting framed views, to the interaction of the quiet copper cube of the Book House with the site’s historic stone wall.

The building should be mysterious, peaceful, vibrant and genuine. It should become its own place in the city.

Matt Mackinnon

The ‘Contemporary Architectural Intervention’ unit encourages students to engage more holistically with the existing built fabric of Edinburgh. Matt signed up for the unit and proved to be a committed student, displaying considerable motivation whilst striving for high standards in everything. He is thoughtful in his approach, articulate in his manipulation of tectonic form and responsive to the complexities of working within the city’s World Heritage site.
He adopts an iterative approach to design, simultaneously working through a succession of detailed scale models, free-hand sketches and computer renderings. An appreciation of literature (and its evocative power) pervades his work and is reflected in his thesis on national identity.
Matt is eager to take on new intellectual challenges and enthusiastically accepted the invitation to undertake an M.Phil in Architecture. He attained the highest marks of his unit for this design work and was the obvious choice as ECA’s candidate for the annual President's Medals competition.

Mr Mark Cousins
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