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Archipelago: The Monastic Retreat

Part 2 Project 2013
Christian Walker
University of the West of England Bristol UK
200 years ago, in order to meet the economic needs of Bristol, the excavation of the new cut created the floating harbour. This major intervention diverted the tidal River Avon around the harbour, allowing trade ships to continuously float in the harbour unhindered by the previously destructive 30ft tidal range. Out of this intervention a new island was born – Spike Island – bounded by the floating harbour to the North and the new cut to the South.

Archipelago, our group utopian masterplan, proposes a further manipulation and expansion of the waterways to meet the contemporary social, economic and environmental needs of Bristol. This manipulation divides Spike Island into an archipelago of smaller islands, each surrounded by a body of water. The water defines the islands whilst acting as a boundary for the experimental activities within.

My individual design project, The Monastic Retreat, is sited on the Ecotopia island of the Archipelago. Ecotopia has been isolated from the city and allowed to succumb to the natural processes of decay and deterioration, which is in stark contrast to the adjacent experimental island – New Baltic Wharf offers residents a 24 hour fast-paced lifestyle dominated by technology, virtual reality and social networking. Whilst being a vibrant and exciting existence, it is also physically and mentally draining and cannot be sustained.

The Monastic Retreat responds to the dualities of the masterplan and the resident’s lifestyles by offering a counterpoint to New Baltic Wharf. A slow-paced sensory revival, freed from the grip of technology, where they can stay for a week or more and engage in hands-on, multi-sensory experiences as part of a contemplative monastic daily routine.

The duality also manifests itself in the building’s programme, which is divided into two cloisters connected by a continuous, protective boundary wall: one cloister for the Benedictine Monks who run the retreat alongside their monastic duties; one for the retreat tourists.

Economically the scheme falls into the wellness tourism sector, which is rapidly growing globally, perhaps indicating that our current urban lifestyles are not dissimilar to those of the New Baltic Wharfians.

Christian Walker

Tutor(s)
Mr Jonathan Mosley

2013
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