From its inception the project required research into the geographical area, its inhabitants and the psychological impact of the place. On several levels research was carried out to determine the feasibility of the project and to create a self-directed proposal within the urban context.
The site is situated atop a massive sandstone cliff, which forms the bedrock of Manchester. It overlooks the M60, one of the busiest motorways in the UK and further on over Stockport. It sits at an intersection of many forms of transport; directly above is the flight path of aeroplanes travelling to Manchester International. It is sandwiched between the A6 road and Manchester’s famous brick viaduct that joins the city with the outside world.
A unified strategy is proposed for this site in relation to both itself and the outside world.
The idea of living a sustainable life is much discussed, but rarely the realistic foundation of any building project. Whilst buildings may proclaim sustainability in marketing materials, their realities are only veiled thus, with the core operating an an unsustainable position.
This project seeks to enable a more sustainable lifestyle in some way for anyone who wishes to partake. Rather than an overt ‘green’ building, of mud walls and log fires, this building will subtly offer a paradigm shift in supporting sustainable lifestyles. Examples include the use of concrete, not known traditionally as a ‘green’ building material, to moderate the heating of the building, incorporating a ground source heat and cooling system, using the earth’s natural resources to enable a low energy structure. Programmatically the building will accommodate function flexibly, with possibilities to adapt and change in the medium term to meet required needs. It can be used a one whole unit, for political party conferences, weddings, festivals, or on a day-to-day basis as individual parts meeting along a mediating concourse.
The whole project includes: Offices for the Green Party and Friends of the Earth: A place of political and environmental activism alongside the motorway – challenging juxtaposition.
Freecycle centre: A centre to recycle unwanted goods to someone who needs it – an invisible network of people resisting consumerism.
Tea Dance Hall/ conference facility: A hall to accommodate Restaurant and café.
The project progresses from the general to the specific through multifarious model making activities. Laser cut precision models identify key spheres of influence in the wider context. Foam massing models of the site footprint show scale and opportunity. Path and exchange are investigated along with datum and view in a variety of models. Each investigation adds a layer to the whole and a unified strategy, with each component dependant on another, develops.
The importance of the model as a tool of architectural investigation cannot be underestimated. It can reveal previous unknown realities and new ways of thinking about all aspects of architectural consciousness; structure, detail, material, light, massing, void, scale.