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Gaelic Archive

Part 1 Project 2011
Philip Cooksey
De Montfort University | UK
Edinburgh’s Gaelic Archive celebrates the contribution that history and heritage have made to Scottish culture through knowledge and through the age-old tradition of Ceilidh. The Gaelic Archive is the centrepiece of a secluded garden space, accessed from the Royal Mile. My aim was to create a place where people can meet as a group or individually, to indulge themselves in the richness of literature; spoken, sung or textual. Visitors can find quiet isolation and inspiration within a bustling city environment, or engage in a lively evening of music, song and dance.
The experience embraces the five storeys of the building. The three floors above ground contain the Ceilidh and reading spaces. I have deliberately devoted prime space at the top of the building to the reading rooms. This allows the space to be lit entirely through diffuse natural light, with direct light filtered through a stretched plastic membrane mounted onto a glulam frame fixed to the South façade. The resulting ambience is one which encourages quiet reflection, enhanced further by structural expression of the roof timbers and the unique visual link which the site has with the Burns Monument on Calton Hill. The two subterranean levels then contain the double height, cast concrete archive space, drawing on heavy materiality to create an atmosphere in complete contrast to that of the reading rooms.
The architectural language continues throughout the landscaping which guides visitors into the building. Portions of the ground have been carved out to create meeting and reading spaces and an entrance from the garden directly into the underground archive. Fair faced white concrete is used for its environmental benefits in a cooler climate. Hard wood is then used as a contrast, whilst keeping a monolithic aura about the architecture which encourages a sense of respect and deference in the user.

Philip Cooksey


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