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Continuity and Hierarchy in the Urban Block

Part 2 Project 2014
Colin Baillie
University of Dundee, UK
The re-development of Dundee’s central waterfront raises many questions about the sustainability of a new piece of the city. The culture of urban development today seems to be one of newness and instantaneous gratification of commercial interest: the current proposals for Dundee’s waterfront replace a previous effort which was only completed in the latter half of the twentieth century. Perpetual demolition and renewal has a tremendous impact on both the quality and identity of a place, as well as on the environment. How can new proposals avoid such a rapid cycle of redevelopment?

This project questions the capacity of the emerging new waterfront to function as a successful and enduring piece of the city. Specifically, this is directed through exploration of a single urban block, examining its capacity to embrace the spatially rich programme of a school. Colin Rowe’s notion of built form as poché is adopted, dissolving the institution as an “object”, into the prevailing texture of the urban fabric. In so doing, the proposal seeks to establish continuity with the structure of the traditional city, while expressing a visual hierarchy and decorum befitting a new representational building.

The city’s proposed development is laid out in a grid plan, extending existing streets to the waterfront. A new primary school, for 230 pupils is embedded within a single block, structured around a formal courtyard. The building threads out into the surrounding fabric, forming a dense cohabitation of buildings. Utilising the centre of the block for public, collective use, allows a largely commercial perimeter to be retained, maintaining economic viability and maximising the potential of the available plot.

Timeless qualities of the city are explored: street, courtyard, public square. An architectural language which negotiates between these urban conditions is sought, acknowledging their relative autonomy. From an urban perspective, the block proposal demonstrates the potential for a richer spatial structure, and articulates an urban hierarchy in continuity with the existing city: an enduring and sustainable urbanism.

Colin Baillie


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