Barbara Godel

 

Barbara Godel bgodel1@sheffield.ac.uk


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PROJECT 1 | CAVERS’ RETREAT

In collaboration with Ralitsa Chobanova


Located at the mouth of Peak Cavern, this project aimed to provide shelter and a place to rest for cavers returning from expeditions. The building is located in the fork between the footpath and the stream, at the point nearest to the cave mouth for optimum views.

Due to limitations in space, the interior is kept simple and functional, providing two showers for cavers to use after expedition, a place to wash and store equipment, eight beds, a small kitchen and an eating/dining area. The boxy form of the building contrasts the natural forms surrounding it.

At first we intended to suspend the building from the rock, bridging the stream. However, that solution would have been difficult and expensive, and the advantages offered – stunning views over the stream and into the cave – could be achieved more easily. Instead, we incorporated a cantilevered window which hangs above the stream.

Concrete is the main material employed, however vertical timber cladding has also been used on the north and south facades – the ones seen when approaching – to help the building blend into its surroundings. It’s only when close to the building that the west façade becomes visible, welcoming and intriguing with its two-storey window. The onlooker can see right through the cantilevered stairs and the twin window on the east façade, and onto the stream and foliage-covered slope behind it. The orientation of the building, as well as the overshadowed nature of the site makes the large windows appropriate for this project. The entrance faces south, towards the cave mouth, to welcome weary cavers returning from expeditions.

Upon entering the building views towards the village (south) and the cave mouth (north) are very limited due to careful positioning of windows. It’s only upon ascending the stairs and completing the journey through the building that a wonderful 270° vista is revealed in the form of the cantilevered window, made so much more powerful by having been hidden all this time.

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PROJECT 2 | BLIND DATE WITH A BOOK


Manchester’s Northern Quarter is a social hub full of bars, restaurants and cafés bustling from breakfast until late into the night. In the midst of this, a library provides a space of quiet and reflection, a place to take a break from socialising and be alone for a while.

This library is also aiming to rekindle the passion for reading among Northern Quarters most prevalent demographic, the young adults. Blind Date with a Book is a project which originated in Melbourne, when a small bookshop decided to quite literally stop their readers from ‘judging the book by its cover’ and introduced a collection of items wrapped in paper, with only a few keywords written on the front that the reader could choose by. This library takes the idea even further, creating a space where readers can sit down with a coffee and immerse themselves in the first few chapters, in order to decide if they would like to take the volume home, or try another one. The process of selecting a book at random and then discovering it without any preconceptions is designed to evoke anticipation, excitement and delight.

The building is divided into four areas: the reading café, the basement staff room, the mezzanine reception and the library on the 1st floor. The ground floor façade has been moved back, creating an overhang. This stops the sunlight from entering the café while still allowing the passers-by to see inside through large front windows. Inside, semi-darkness is maintained, with reading lights creating personal bubbles around every reader. The careful use of light in the ground floor allows them to get lost in a book and forget the daily rush around them. A seemingly random assortment of furniture makes the individual spaces more personal, allowing the customer to pick their favourite table, couch or armchair.

The staff area can be glimpsed through the glass dividing wall, and this is where books are processed and repaired, covers and title pages wrapped in paper, and keywords assigned and inscribed on the fronts. From there, a service lift will take the items to mezzanine level, where a member of staff will be available to shelve them. This is also where books can be issued and returned, and library memberships acquired.

The sun flooded library creates a sharp contrast to the dim café below it. Laminated timber ‘fins’ are used to diffuse the sharp sunlight entering through the skylights; creating a cheerful, uplifting atmosphere. The volumes are shelved at random, so there are no genre sections or ordering method. Instead, bookcases form a maze in which the reader can lose themselves and find the perfect book.

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PROJECT 3 | FLEXIBLE HOME


Burngreave is a post-industrial area of Sheffield where crime lives amongst a close-knit community. Poverty is visible in all-around, but so are community centres, social groups and volunteering actions. While families make up most of the demographic, young adults seem to gravitate away from the area, possibly due to lack of appropriate housing or entertainment.

The main goals of this project were to provide housing which would appeal to both young adults and families, in order to attract the former group into the area whilst not alienating the current residents; and to integrate the existing community spirit into the proposal.

Flexibility is a valuable advantage for both of these target groups. Youngsters moving into their first home often yearn to make it personal and truly ‘theirs’, but that is rarely possible when renting a property. Families inherently require flexibility in respect to spaces, as children are born, grow up, move out, and as grandparents become ill and need to move in. These dwellings meet the need for flexibility by providing an open-plan layout and wall panels which can be moved at will on the 1x1m grid system. Only the entrances, stairs and bathrooms have fixed size and location, but even those can be adjusted at a later date due to the use of timber frame structure which is much easier to modify than, for example, loadbearing masonry. Flat roofs allow for future extension into second floor, and the simple grid plan means that the dwellings can be joined or divided if necessary.

Since internal layouts can change, the required window and door location might too, so external walls are formed of prefabricated panels which clip onto the frame and can be changed by a contractor or even a skilled resident as necessary. This also allows the residents to change the cladding or interior wall finish and the type, size and depth of windows, creating a more personalised experience. The timber columns are expressed on the inside, where they can be used for multiple purposes such as bookshelves, window seats, desks and built-in cupboards. This maximises storage space, a feature which is especially important in the smaller dwellings, or in case of numerous residents.

The green courtyard provides space to socialise and for children to play, but also plots to grow vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers. A greenhouse is also designated for this purpose, and ample storage space has been provided for gardening tools, bikes and barbecues. Since this kind of flexible, ‘DIY’ living scheme is likely to attract creative and crafty individuals, a permanent market stall has been provided for the produce as well as any items made by the residents – baked, preserved, knitted, carved and painted goods being just some of the possibilities. Access is also provided from the neighbouring community centre into the courtyard, opening the possibility of sharing the plots and market stall with other members of the local community.


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