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A Place for Books

Part 2 Project 2010
Rowan Mackinnon-Pryde
University of Dundee, UK
The project investigates the balanced composition of an introverted, underground precious space, and the active street above, lined with new housing and local shops. The unique context of the Ouseburn valley is approached with sensitivity: from a city scale, considered as ‘urban acupuncture’, down to material detail.

The primary building is a place for books: a gallery, archive and workshop for artsist’s books: precious space for precious objects. The introverted nature of the scheme requires a quiet architecture: an ‘anti-object’, set within a tapestry of industrial decay and regeneration:

The valley section allows the gallery to be embedded into the site, stretching along side of a trickling burn. Internal space is perceived as carving space from a solid; an architecture of subtraction. The primary elevation is the horizontal roof surface which creates the context for the public realm.

The book is a small confined concept, but the possibilities that can be contained within it are limitless; a “sequence of spaces + moments” , where one carves one’s own place amongst text + image. Taking the structure of the book beyond everyday expectations is often a goal of the artist’s book. These objects are often small and beautiful, and their viewing requires a certain care and concentration. The spaces allow for the concentrated study of these objects.

Entrance to the gallery is through a small pavilion which quietly announces the existance of the subterranean space. A long staircase leads from the pavilion down into the galleries. The initial gallery spaces are intimate, dark, becomming progressively narrower and taller as the ground level falls away, carving down into the earth, and further into the book, slowing the viewer to a concentrated quiet state. The narrowness opens, into long gallery space extending towards an external courtyard, which makes a spatial connection between the upper and lower realms. A private realm exists on a secret level: work space slots into the roof space above, along a long circulation route which becomes the archive.

Drawn from this work, ideas of reduction, the pursuit of beauty, and the dichotomy between ideal and real space, are explored in parallel studies.

Rowan Mackinnon-Pryde

The place for books proposes a context for Small, beautiful, fragile things – artists books. Necessarily this became about an architecture make a space which “concentrates” or distils, a space which slows you down and which commands close attention. What kind of presence should this building have in the city? The proposal is almost an anti-object. It remains a “public” building but it’s also enigmatic, slightly removed; not deliberately hidden but quiet, revealing itself by layers.
The overall proposal is composed of two balanced pieces, the shops and houses which repair the street and engage directly with the city, and the hidden gallery and archive spaces which form the surface of the street/square, two parallel worlds which don’t touch but exist in proximity.

The coherence of the idea is carried through from the way the proposal relates to the city, down to the resolution of technical details which in the subterranean spaces are deliberately reduced to the calmest possible of expression in order to allow the housed artefacts precedence.

The value of the project is perhaps in the subtlety of the proposal as a whole, almost denying its own presence as an object but making powerful spaces in the process; an approach which shows confidence, sophistication and uncommon maturity.


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