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Urban: Cathedral for the Arts

Part 1 Project 2014
Natasha Ho
University of Kent Canterbury UK
The city of Rochester has strong historical influence both within the religious world and that of the fine and literary arts. Responding to the castle and cathedral’s towering forms which shoulder the proposed site, the University Campus for Arts aims to create a new cultural centre for the city. The planning and massing of the scheme echoes that of a deconstructed cathedral; a series of squares, closes and cloisters make up the approach and a ‘spire’ crowns a large atrium space: the Arts Tower. The library nave stands opposite Rochester Cathedral with sweeping vertical openings giving views to the student cloisters and framing the west front, conceived as a monastic experience. The Director’s House forms a gateway between existing cathedral gardens and a new square, situated in the footprint of the original monastic gatehouse. Various transepts make up the workshop, music wing and concert hall whilst in the summer, a sunken square in front of the hall doubles as a stage where open-air events can be held. Internally, each room has carefully constructed views glimpsing inner courtyards, studios or framed castle and cathedral vistas.

The Arts Tower is a light-weight structure, filled with natural daylight, housing sculptures, exhibitions and studio spaces. A centrally emanating structure of timber columns diametrically opposes the Caen stone facing cladding the main buildings. Weathering steel mesh covers the tower exterior, referencing the ruin of Rochester castle. Main public and student entry is via the base of the Arts Tower through which one must take both central and external staircases or lifts to reach the visual arts exhibition spaces; in so-doing, active studio spaces are passed, rooting the physical process of art within the exhibition. Whilst still creating a College experience, the Cathedral for the Arts aims to connect the student and public and embrace the city’s need for open space within the context of a religious and secular cathedral close.

Natasha Ho


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