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'Transitional Urban-Rural Parallax' - Ridgeway School

Part 1 Project 2010
Jacob Down
University of Plymouth, UK
"a poetry of places in a global network (...) where human activity is explored through the places and structures we inhabit, and the routes that penetrate and link them" (Frozen Sky, by Langlands + Bells)

'transitional urban-rural parallax' was conceived through recording an experiential journey through the meshwork of human activity and the meshwork of the natural environment, between the dense urban fabric of the city of Plymouth and the fragmented suburban and rural fabrics of Plympton in which Ridgeway School is located. Weaving through these meshworks, one not merely acquires an accumulation of experiential episodes and moments of interaction, but also a physical and physiological shifting in one’s perspective. This is to be translated and utilized as a bottom-up top-down learning methodology allowing individuals the freedom to explore and experiment, identifying immanent attributes to be capitalised and amplified upon.

This is implemented through the proposed school that functions as a theoretical and material framework. Analogously to the warp and weft in a piece of fabric, the proposal acts as the warp, establishing the basic ordering. The free flowing movement of the students acts as the weft, injecting colour, pattern and energy into the proposal. Free roaming ‘learning clusters’ utilize networked interconnectivity between individuals and across all year groups collectively forming and maintaining a macro intelligence.

‘Explorational nodes’ are to be strategically constructed in and around the proposal for ‘learning clusters’ to appropriate. The free roaming ‘learning clusters’ are to be celebrated as a public spectacles, merging the boundaries between the public and private; (re)connecting the detached school with its local community, and also with the surrounding natural environment.

The project aims to challenge the current procurement of education; an imposed top-down curriculum that seeks to identify a set criteria, bound by bureaucracy. 'transitional urban-rural parallax' replaces this with a bottom-up top-down learning methodology derived through an accumulation of experiential episodes and moments of interaction allowing individuals to seek one’s own perspective through life.

Jacob Down

Jacob’s final year degree projects were completed to an eminent standard.

Independent and interdependent design and dissertation submissions were skilfully entwined to research by means of theory, praxis and empirical analysis. ‘transitional urban-rural parallax’ is an investigation into the social, economic and cultural endeavours’ surrounding the design of a new secondary school in a suburb of Plymouth.

The project re-evaluated the authoritative approach adopted as the norm in post war and BSF era teaching theory and consequently school building design. By recognising ‘the school’ as fundamental to city infrastructure and inverting the top-down approach a more respectful and optimistic solution was proffered. Physical, pedagogical and ‘coming of age’ boundaries are the exploratory means by which the design is anchored to this theory and explored in an artistic sense.

Contextual investigation was undertaken using mixed media including film, conceptual models, spatial analysis and immersion into the locality to cross reference back to education theory and the inverted top-down bottom-up approach.

Building design is recorded with a series of structural and spatial models. The study models explored the complex balancing act of; joyful innovation of form with experiential and programme activities.

With a resolved conceptual narrative, time was available for refinements in architectural language and completion of the exquisite project documents that catalogue the proposal. The scheme appears familiar and purposeful yet achieves a unique and unnaturally beautiful resolution.

Jacob was noted as an exemplary student and worthy of a distinguished nomination to this year's President's Medal Student Awards short listed finalists.


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