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Traces at No 76 Dean Street

Part 2 Project 2011
Clara Byrne
University of Nottingham, UK
Although architecture has limited potential to directly challenge one’s identity, this thesis acknowledges the physical and psychological connectivity we have with our surroundings, encouraging interactions to be created and nourished as a means through which identity can be informed.

The transient nature of buildings serves as a reminder of our own temporal place in the world. In a ruin, the masquerade of use disappears into a recondite object, yet dense with rich histories, a ruin is a place of mysterious spirit and the intangible power of emotion. Through ruins, we can interpret a silent dialogue with the past and its inhabitants, reading the traces of characters and stories left behind.
Our identities are defined by the people and places we encounter, and our capacity to evoke both attraction and rejection of an object due to the physical and visual presence of others is deep-rooted and intensely personal. Traces of wear enable us to read the nature of past uses, playing a crucial role in our ability to interpret and appreciate our environment. Wear humanises architecture, instilling life into its inanimate form.

No.76 Dean Street, Soho, a grade II listed Georgian house, stands in a state of flux after a fire nearly destroyed it in 2009. This ruin is reinterpreted to create a safe environment for recovering drug addicts to challenge and enhance their identity, and address the innately personal issues connected with their addiction. Although a residential facility, visitors play a strong role in rehabilitation. Longer-term recovering addicts are given responsibilities that contribute to its operation, enhancing interaction between new and returning residents, enabling them to challenge established perceptions and review their lives in the context of others and ruin.

Platforms and walkways manipulate the poetic spaces revealed by the fire, creating opportunities for encounters at different levels of intimacies. It is these physical interventions that enhance connectivity of time and place through materiality and design. New interventions encourage the evolution of traces as a means of deeper interaction with No.76, and by extension, establish a lifelong connection with the building, providing opportunity for reflection on one's sense of self.

Clara Byrne


Prof Michael Stacey
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