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[Re] Interpreting the Caravanserai In[n] Modern Society

Part 2 Project 2012
Samuel Johnson
University of Nottingham, UK
Aldo Rossi argued that the city should be understood through its architecture and his notion of the locus solus was used as a tool to investigate the string of inn-yards along Borough High street. Southbank Caravanserai is the result of a broad set of investigations across scales- ranging from the city, the borough, the street, the yard and the assemblage of surrounding buildings.

An Urban Mediator in the form of a detective briefcase was designed to investigate a site’s history and material presence that also projects into the future. Hand drawing was used as a tool in which to discover the historical ambiguities of inn-yards. This culminated into the design of a walk that superimposed the character of Berlin’s courtyards onto the yards at Southwark, mediated by a set of architectural instruments used to gradually uncover the richness, complexity and potential of these underused spaces.

The thesis argues for an architectural proposition which re-interprets the ancient caravanserai to suit today’s society. The building and the brief co-emerged as a response to the site – Talbot Yard, situated behind the stage front of Borough High Street. The design centres on a vibrant, adaptable series of courtyards and offers spaces of inhabitation with differing degrees of privacy, isolation or association – corresponding to types of inhabitants that range from community groups, to travellers, to retreat spaces for artists or wary urban dwellers.

The building integrates and links adjacent underused yards. It draws movement and activity into the depth of the urban block but also differentiates the character of the now joined yards. The tectonics of the building provide a stark contrast to the surrounding brick buildings, but the sensitive massing and scale in the urban context allows the building to perform as both object and background.

Samuel Johnson


Mr Jonathan Hale
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