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Transient Connections : River Tyne Aquatic Research and Education Centre

Part 2 Project 2010
Reah Booth
Northumbria University Newcastle | UK
Transient Connections ; River Tyne Aquatic Research and Education Centre

The Tyne today bears little resemblance to the river with which nature endowed the ancient kingdom of Northumbria. It’s transformation from a shallow stream, studded with islands and shoals and winding between wooded banks, to a great artery of traffic and a thriving centre of industry despoiled much of its natural beauty.

The environmental architecture characterises a new clean and fertile era for the river; instead of polluting the watercourse like the industries of the past, it co-exists and breathes new life into the tyne; protecting, rehabilitate and improving the river’s health, and the tributary streams and watercourses through scientific research and education.

The scheme is borne out of discourse in relation to Critical Regionalism; the scale and character of the architecture recalls the industry on the Tyne that has been familiar to the people who have lived and work on the river. The language is reminiscent of former industries that existed at Newburn: the coal staithes and conveyors, suspension cables that transported coal from Newburn to Ryton and the shipbuilding further down the Tyne at Wallsend.

The River has changed its position many times in its past due to changes in geology, flooding and man-made intervention. In response the facility is dynamic: the building is suspended over the river on a moveable rig that maintains contact with the river despite changes in the river’s course, it is future- proofed, supported on hydraulic jacks and is able to be lifted when the river is swollen.

The building resides geographically in the territory between the city and the country. One elevation faces the industry of the hinterlands of Newcastle, the other faces the idyllic settings of Wylam and the NorthTyne. The facades are therefore treated differently, the one facing Newcastle is mechanical and dynamic altering to changes in light, and internal functions etc. the one facing Wylam is fixed, taut and transparent to maximise the quality of the view.

Reah Booth

Memory and Meaning in Newburn- transcient landscapes

Reah’s scheme to design an aquatic research institute for Newburn, Newcastle, is an architectural tour de force that takes its material and formal inspiration from the industry that has been the backdrop to the Tyne since medieval times. The building is borne out of notions of Critical Regionalism and contributes to the sense of place and a genius loci that is quickly being eroded by the building of poor quality within the vicinity of the river. Conceived as an dynamic structure that moves across the Tyne the building also serves as a bridge: a gathering structure in the Heideggerian sense that draws two country parks together that have complimentary and contrasting facilities, which otherwise would remain separate.
Reah’s building is appropriately scaled to the monumental structures that have existed in and around the river since the industrial revolution; she does not however neglect the importance of detail- this aspect of her work is handled with careful sensitivity. The external landscape around the facility is handled lightly, not wishing to upset the self-seeded fauna, and animals that have chosen this site as their home. The building is conceived as an industrial relic and yet suggestive of a bright future for the Northeast, it is a blue print for future facilities that help to re-establish the sensitive eco-systems that have been, and continue to be, damaged by industrial processes. Reah’s building is autonomous and derives its power and heat from the Tyne through hydro turbines.

Reah’s draws beautifully; her illustrations combine hand drawing, painting and the use of the computer; she manages to evoke an architectural reality that has a sense of nearness and an atmospheric accuracy.
Paul Jones

Mr Paul Jones
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