Three Projects – Forager, Troubadour, Artist.
The brief was for a centre for foraging in the Gleadless valley area in the southern suburbs of Sheffield. The valley is home to a variety of different wild ingredients of which the centre will thrive off to introduce the locals of nearby Newfield Green to the concept of free food. Initial ideas for the design of the centre all started from the earthy nature of the site, and the overlooking residential buildings. The centre demanded a building with large spaces, but for me that ran the risk of alienating the centre from its original concept. Because foraging is a very primal activity and a large, commercial building would surely fit uneasily and unappropriately for the task, such deliberations lead me to delve the building into the ground itself, where a single, small landmark on the surface would be the only mass of foreign building in the stark landscape that could be seen above ground.
The brief was for a theatre in the Sharrow area of Sheffield. What struck me about the area was its charm and stillness when it was just two streets back from Ecclesall Road, one of the larger high streets in Sheffield. The area was more of a sleepy countryside Hamlet than a district of Sheffield. And yet as a district of Sheffield it is but an island in itself, bound and united with an independent community and high street. And as for a theate for the area I could see no better specialisation than for folk music, because folk music is very literally the people talking.
The theatre is all housed within a tent that stands as the skin of the building. The bones on the inside are set into two blocks, one being the theatre and the other being the services to the theatre, the bar, toilets and even a place for travelling performers to sleep and wash. During the day the tent and this latter block make use of the floor space as a cafe. The theatre is a brick mass that users must walk around as soon as they enter the inside space. It is a functionless form during the day and the presence of night under the sun that the tent lets through. At night the brick form is opened up as the seating and performance space, the bar still runs and the space outside acts as the foyer.
The third and fnal project was set in Heeley which is an area in southern Sheffield. The area is well connected to Sheffield and the outside but the busy roads that allow this priviledge divide the area up and the quiet suburban dynamic is shifted to a more chaotic transient one. The high street damage, speckled with closed shops and litter was a cause of this and the people of Heeley seemed disengaged with any sense of community.
The housing I designed in the end was for artists which would include a studio for them to work in too. There were homes of two different types, single and family and were designed appropriately to meet the specific needs of both. The single houses gave up the whole of their dwelling as one set space separated by mezzanines so that the living and work spaces could be linked. They are tied together but set apart by the different height differences that each level makes up. The family house sees a large open plan ground floor artist studio/master bedroom where the parents are able to compromise their life and live with their work to whatever extent they wish without compromising the lives of their children. Thus, all family life is hoisted above the ground floor to the first and second floors.
On site the rows of housing takes a hard embrace upon the North side of the pavement to allow as much North light into the studios as possible (the required light for artists as it does not change throughout the day) and to buffer from the busy road. Passers by are encouraged to look into the studio to see the work going on. An art classroom on site is also included for Anns Road Primary School which sits just on the other side of the road. All of this is sat within a landscaped sculpture walk for the pedestrians of Heeley to use as a short-cut through the site.