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Ariadne's Thread: The Edinburgh Book Labyrinth

Part 2 Project 2012
John Kennedy
University of Strathclyde, UK
This project is conceived as an architectural response to the uncertain future of the printed book in a digital age. Set within the context of Edinburgh, the UNESCO City of Literature, this project follows a thread through the city which encapsulates Edinburgh’s literary and architectural heritage.

This route is imagined as a path through the labyrinthine cityscape of Edinburgh, and is manifested by numerous discrete architectural additions. Book drop-boxes, meeting places, monuments, literary markers, and other spaces associated with reading are concealed across the city as follies which enrich further the intricacy of Edinburgh's urban texture.
This thesis is a response to the decline of the public library and the demise of the bookshop, proposing an economically, culturally and socially realistic setting for books in a digital age.

The labyrinth is a motif common to the imagery of both formal gardens and libraries. At the centre of the city-length route, in the Old Town, this book proposes a garden of the printed page. Hidden within a courtyard, the garden houses a library of Edinburgh’s books, together with a book shop inside a disused medieval kirk. The proposals are woven into an existing complex of literary facilities. These are reconfigured within an intricate garden of terraces through which runs a thread of water, its source being a medieval wellhead located on the Royal Mile.

Without presenting a polemic on the supposedly 'correct' media in which a book should be read, the project speculates on how architecture might be used to heighten the act of reading and, ultimately, presents the case for the cultural and social enrichment of a daily activity which architecture can create.

The project is presented by way of a large format book, which borrows both the traditional conventions of the story-book and of architectural folios, such as the Wasmuth Portfolio. Within a single volume, through a combination of proposed drawings, historical research and a fictional narrative, the book depicts a proposal which might only ever exist within a book.

John Kennedy


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