Location: Shrewsbury, UK
Typology: Research, Urban Renewal, Mixed Use (Residential + Educational + Office)
Heritage Category: Listed Building Grade II
Client: Shrewsbury Council
Year: 2019 – 2020
STOP MOTION – ARCHITECTURAL REDEMPTION
The site model demonstrates an overall concept of generating a notion of ‘architectural redemption’.
As the white represents the old and the blue stands for the new, a vivid contrast emerges among the old Victorian pitched roofs and the new Barrel vault volume.
In the site, a diagonal cut, ‘loggia view bridge’, breaks through the dark power of former Shrewsbury Prison at A wing while linking the new, and ends at ‘belvedere tower’ where an overall ‘view’ above the medieval town is taking place.
In terms of the new, 3 options of the barrel vault were testing in massing by regarding the old and the surroundings in a consistent and harmonious fashion.
Shrewsbury on the River Severn is the county town of Shropshire, England. It is a market town whose centre has a largely unspoilt medieval street plan and over 660 listed buildings, including several examples of timber framing from the 15th and 16th centuries. Shrewsbury Castle, a red sandstone fortification.
The site is situated outside of old town at the northern side of Shrewsbury Train Station, which is connected back to the medieval town centre via a footbridge over the railways. There are only 40 meters of distance and 13 meters of descent from the site to River Severn, yet due to the former function, the prison itself barely provides a view to the river or even farther to Mousefield Nature Reserve.
Absence of View
At my first visit in Shrewsbury Prison, after passing through the gatehouse, a pediment appeared, which is the reception of current Jailhouse Tour. Subsequently, I turned left to the perimeter wall, then I realized there was nothing outside came into sight except the vacant and infinite sky.
In my research, I chose three types of institution to elaborate the meanings of ‘physical wall’ in terms of monastery, lunatic asylum, and panopticon, which responds to the ‘historical inversion among institutions’. The notions of ‘wall’ are varied among those cases according to their individual characters.
CELL + OPEN SPACE + VIEW
Monastery is a home for retreating among the monks who withdraw themselves from the bustling world, and they have individual autonomy to choose this life; when it comes to Lunatic Asylum, the insanity of inmates obstructs them to live a normal life by themselves whether unconsciously or subconsciously, an outside assistance of treatment is therefore necessary; the prisoners are condemned to a punishment by their sins, Panopticon applies psychological manipulation for the controlling with a purpose of reducing the staff costs.
“How To Transform An Institution With A Savage History To Serve Its Present People?”
“Transformation of An Institution” is a generator to produce a project of “wellbeing” through a narrative of starting from people and ending for people. To immediate the “conflict” between absent inmates and present citizens is introduced via a systematic loop.
1) Notion of ‘Wall’, a critical comparison among Monastery, Lunatic Asylum, and Panopticon, was elaborated by pealing the layer of ‘physical wall’ for understanding ‘psychological wall’ inside;
2) “Urban renewal”, in terms of “Neighborhood Park”, “From functional unity To Functional Diversity”, and “Axis Of ‘Wellbeing’”, has demonstrated how to brand a town by enhancing strengths and transforming weaknesses for better opportunities in the future;
3) “Architectural Redemption” is to impose juxtaposition between the old and the new. Grade II Listed Buildings are retained for memory and educational purpose, and new barrel vault complex is to provide opportunities and “view”. A diagonal cut through former male cells at A Wing is to bridge the two directions of the axis, as well as a cardinal intervention to reveal savage history for present people to confront and forgive the negative history.
“Quintillian says, ‘when we return to a place after a considerable absence, we do not merely recognize the place itself, but remember things that we did there,’ it is possible to use this property of places to construct a kind of memory machine.”
-Anthony Vidler, “The architectural uncanny: essays in the modern unhomely”
A prototype of vertical ‘inspection tower’, which provides no ‘view’ for the inmates being watched. In design, it has been flipped horizontally into a 120 meter ‘loggia view bridge’ for bridging the OLD and the NEW.
A prototype of ‘Watching Tower’, which is normally built as a part of perimeter wall. It turns into a symbolic illustration about being able to view above the ‘labyrinth’.
AN UNLOVED, UNLOVELY, UNLOVING INSTITUTION TRANSFORMED!
A place with “view”, inside the meditation tower, is for regaining the sensible penetration above the ‘Labyrinth’ as well as revealing the beautiful panorama of town.
An axis of ‘wellbeing is selectively composed by the existing institutions and the healing scenery of nature in town, which starts from Shrewsbury School and ends in Mousefield Nature Reserve. A diagonal intervention through the site bridges the two directions of the axis.
The physical arrangement of the neighborhood park deliberately buries the unwanted scene of the massive adjacent car park. Functional diversity is to be sufficiently complex to sustain city safety, public contact and cross-use, needs an enormous diversity of ingredients. This mixture of uses would benefit the use of the park by engaging daily different schedules of the people. A building complex will be eventually located in park and gardens with the differentiation in public, semi-public, and private space responding to the surroundings. New and positive programs have been introduced for enhancing the ‘wellbeing’, in terms of ‘Education & Wellbeing centre’, ‘Museum’, ‘Pilotis – Flowing Space (Communal Space)’, and ‘Private Superimposed Program’.
Shell of the old building with grade II listed structure is preserved, the rest disoriented layout will be demolished for providing new opportunities by addressing certain sustainable strategies. The notion of ‘inspection tower’ and ‘watching tower’ is redefined with a positive purpose for remembering and revealing via ‘loggia view bridge’ and ‘belvedere tower’. The enclosed and controlling perimeter wall is selectively maintained, erased, and replaced by new duplicate perimeter wall, landscape, foyer of Prison Museum, grand stairs, pilotis, and belvedere tower respectively.
Significant of the old will be retained and carried forward, especially the arched form which should be applied in the new. Barrel vault is derived from the old arch and interpreted in a series of consistent forms to contrast the old Victorian pitched roofs. Window sills will be maintained from the original for remembering at A Wing and be lowered to let people look out at D Wing. The grim exercise yard becomes a tree courtyard overlooked by museum, education & wellbeing centre, and loggia view bridge.
More importantly, how to ensure the feasibility of those symbolic, aesthetic, functional interpretations? Rational grid is the pedestal to it. Former cellular walls are retained in the old, and the grid is to free the new for a flexible open plan. The rotated grid is grafted to bridge the old and the new in the site as well as creating a shortcut in the axis of ‘wellbeing’.
Together, these abstractions create a forecourt, a point of orientation: the old prison, a home of terror remembered as for the confinement and the punishment, with its fearful cold walls; and the open framework of a community complex is now in the bold, pregnant with possibilities. The work of ‘wellbeing’ project will never finish but we have opened the view: an institution transformed.