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Under Pressure

Part 2 Project 2011
Jayesh Mistry
University of Nottingham, UK
A new political institution is a long overdue island meeting place in which dialogue and discussion will be encouraged to develop in. The proposal aims to provide a representative voice for Portland by providing appropriate architectural settings that range from the informal café and landscape; the semi-formal meeting rooms, offices, exhibition spaces and library; and the formal assembly chamber, - the official space of the council chronicler.

Portland by nature is inherently independent; its virtual isolation from the mainland ingrains a sense of freedom into its residents. District-level council reform during the 1970’s saw the creation of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council. As a result, Portland’s authoritative role has grown to a point where its autonomy has all but transferred over to the mainland. Whilst some are comfortable with the current political situation, others are more outspoken and believe local decision making policies and community responsibilities should be given back to Portland.

The focus of the project deals with the relationship between heavy institutional political order and informal, grass-roots level activism and ‘pressure-group’ organisations. These top-down/bottom-up tensions and political metaphors find architectural translation in the scheme’s massing, programmatic associations, spatial character and tectonic order. The rituals of the grand assembly chamber have an interplay with the table-talk chatter of the café directly beneath; a low, exposed concrete soffit bulging to the domestic warmth of the timber coffee-table and its everyday affairs. This space aims to provide an atmosphere of debate and observation – similar to the tradition of the eighteenth-century coffee house in which pamphlets and political initiatives were routinely formulated. The chamber space itself is a combination of an emanating centrality and pressures drawn from the site; it is seen as an embedded residual fragment, a square volume compressed from active elemental and human agencies that relate to its unfinished context.

The institution re-activates a historically saturated site as a place for gathering and debate. The architecture acts as a background that seeks to amplify and materialise the authentic voice of Portland, the future preservation of its culture and traditions, and possibly help towards re-instating power back to the island.

Jayesh Mistry


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