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Threads of Knowledge, Sandy Row

Part 1 Project 2012
Alice Nickell
Queen's University Belfast, UK
The urban move is to strengthen the edge of the street, emphasizing the curve of Sandy Row and creating an enclosed community of buildings and city rooms. A tower placed on the corner becomes a landmark, referring back to the time when community buildings were the tallest on the street.

The architectural concept is to create an urban collection – a community of buildings, separate but connected through materiality and in plan, referring to the textile mills and factories, where horizontality was a key feature, with the movement of people and materials over a large ground floor area. The design filters and funnels people in plan and section through the building and city rooms, light through the facade and water along the architectural gutters of the roofscape.

Rather than ‘outreach’ this library will ‘in-reach’ bringing the community in. It will provide a more interactive, less intimidating environment than traditional rows of books, with free-flowing space punctured with multi-media areas.

The layout will allow the library, community and exhibition spaces to function independently from each other. The public space becomes a community of city rooms that will enhance the in-reach.

The materiality and structure of the design will incorporate steel roof construction and concrete walls. This affects how light and shadow are created in the different spaces, with light being filtered and funnelled into the library spaces, and puncturing through small openings in the concrete.

The facade concept comes from the punched cards used for Jacquard looms. This references the textile heritage of Albion Street and is appropriate for a library in that the punched cards, the precursor of computers, were used to carry information. This punctured facade controls the quality and flow of light into the spaces, and Corten steel is used as an industrial and aesthetic link to the original punched cards.

In the library spaces there will be constant north light, whereas in other spaces the soft filtered light of a grey day will be punctured by moments of intense light dancing across the surface of the walls and floors when the sun comes out from behind a cloud.

Alice Nickell


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