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Productive Landscape

Part 2 Project 2010
Richard Penny
University of Strathclyde | UK
Belfast Lough, County Antrim, Ireland.
HALO - A coastal Halo Therapy retreat and centre for research.


A journey through natural history.

280 million years ago when Northern Ireland was a dessert like terrain located close to the equator, the ancient Iapetus Ocean washed onto its shores and eventually became landlocked. Through solar evaporation her salt crystallised and formed beds of Halite which entombed fragments of the terrain gifting it a pastel pinkish colour. Through tectonic movement this fossil of the Iapetus
Ocean today lies sleeping underneath the shores of the Antrim coast where we excavate her to throw on roads in icy conditions. The residual pockets of space left by her 280 million year rest lie in dark silence.

Using the sea to nurture human health.

The microclimate of these spaces is by nature hypo bacterial and allergen free. Salt loves to slow down the growth of non-halophillic bacterial and fungal spores through osmotic movement, which is movement of water from a higher to a lower concentration through a semi permeable membrane. The salt-water content in these micro bodies is less than that of their environment and so they shrink. Salt also helps to dissolve mucus on the lungs into a soluble form so it can be ejected easier. Halo therapy is the use of these characteristics to treat sufferers of asthma, cystic fibrosis and other respiratory related illnesses. The United Kingdom was recently reported the leader in cases of severe ‘wheeze’ in 13-14 year olds, with treatment using mainstream methods currently costing the NHS £889 million per annum.

Industry and Culture within Belfast Lough.

Industry is now light but the Lough has a history of heavy industry and is still a major commercial port with heavy passenger and freight traffic in addition to a booming leisure industry. Fisheries include extensive mussel dredging and lobster potting. The sheltered waters of the Lough have hosted national and international sailing events based around the marinas at Bangor and Carrickfergus and both sporting and nature enthusiasts use the area for cruising, fishing, diving and bird watching.

Richard Penny

‘Halo’ is quite literally a ground-breaking project, resultant of Richard’s intense investigations into the qualities of salt. His thesis was instigated through a conversation with a medicinal chemist, and an initial interest in the ability of using salt to decelerate the growth of ‘Staphylococcus Aeurus’. Through further exploration, it became apparent that salt’s versatility could lend itself to a variety of architectural situations - including a new renewable energy source.

This thesis represents a unique, original exploration into the properties of both the mineral in question and the post-industrial landscape within which it was exhumed. This sustainable approach to context, and the philanthropic attitude of its author, is testimony to Richard’s thoroughly diagnostic approach using both critical analysis and reasoning.

Problems of respiratory illness in the United Kingdom, treatable by inhalation of salt, provided Richard with his focus. A site was selected based on differences in salinity levels and deposits of halite - located along the Antrim coast. Through Industrial activity, a consequence of this process, residual pockets of mined space (providing an inherent natural microclimate) have been exploited. The use of salt to generate renewable energy, through osmosis, would propose an environmentally sustainable strategy. Richard’s identification of a possible diverse mix of industry and culture within this context culminated in his proposals for a recreational destination, for both passive and active users.

This thesis has been nominated as it demonstrates a rigorously methodical approach to its subject material. Richard’s ability to interrogate and ultimately alter one’s preconceptions on the material of salt, and his architectural response to a residual subterranean geological environment displays a comprehensive and coherent interpretation of the brief.


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