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Experiencing Stories

Part 2 Project 2010
Jane Willars
University of Nottingham
There should therefore be a time in adult life devoted to revisiting the most important books of our youth. Even if the books have remained the same, ... we have most certainly changed, and our encounters with them will be a new thing.
- Italo Calvino, The Uses of Literature

Experiencing Stories explores the captivating world of children’s literature to identify common themes that are prevalent within; snugness, smallness, scariness, lightness and aliveness. When looked at in a different way, these themes can be considered as feelings or sensations prevalent in childhood. Furthermore, these qualities may be seen as sensory experiences that can transcend into physical attributes; thus creating a spatial experience that, for a child, is directly related to the act and ultimately the experience of reading.

Offering more than just a chronicle of forms of fiction or the arts of illustration, the outcome is intended to chart the making of the literate imagination, enabling children to find worlds within the book and books within the world. Housed within the former Odeon Cinema in Nottingham City Centre, the proposal seizes the opportunity to breathe new life into one of the City’s forgotten buildings, establishing a concept for reworking the existing fabric to accommodate new possibilities. Lying vacant and increasingly derelict since its closure in 2001, the Art Deco cinema, an eminent building of its day, was designed as a venue for roadshow presentations and played host to a variety of theatrical, cinematic and musical events. This immediate programmatic relationship of storytelling provides the opportunity to establish a dialogue which responds to the atmospheric heritage of the existing in order to combine new possibilities with old memories. The resulting architecture is one of transformations; the auditorium transforms into an dynamic central courtyard flanked by two new insert buildings and plays with the ambiguity of inside and outside conditions. Concealed behind a glazed projection screen to the rear, the fly tower transforms into a galleried library, where stories are brought to life through the magic of moving image and transient, projected light. In short, the black box nature of the existing cinema transforms to create a series of spaces in which the child - at times suddenly, and at times subtly - will find themselves changed by stories.

Jane Willars


Most student projects take place in their own minds. To encounter them, we must hold their hand, and share their journey through their own works of fiction. It requires a leap of faith. We never quite know where these journeys might take us.

Willars' project for a centre for storytelling is articulated through a series of exquisite drawings that relate her building’s programme directly to the spaces she has imagined. Her drawings are deceptively simple, and unashamedly directly appealing- demanding an immediate and emotional response from the reader.

We want to walk with her- to accept her invitation for us to wander through the spaces in her building like children might explore the pages of a book.

The project appropriately lies somewhere between fiction and the imagination, between a book and a building. She has conjured up a colourful, simple, thoughtful, surreal world, partly literal, partly visual. Her architecture looks like it might exist on a page. She has made a series of dream like spaces, real but at the same time somehow unreal. Internal spaces become external, and colours of her interventions hyper real, like the illustrations of one of her beautifully produced books.

Jane has dreamt a wonderful dream, yet it she has managed to make it seem grounded in a world that feels familiar to us. A good place, in my view, from which to start her journey as a young architect.


Mark Hines

Tutor(s)

2010
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