At the rite of passage into the adult world teenagers are possessed, particularly viscerally, by the relative world. The body is a vehicle for sensory physical, mental, emotional and spiritual experience......From this perspective imagine the profound, mysterious transformation happening at that time. The environment is seen through the vale of visceral fascination which flips from the sublime to the morbid - ecstasy to paralyzing pain - excitement to boredom. As extremes of emotion are experienced, so the transition point in the middle is filled with confusion and uncertainty. Feeling........awkward / nothing fits in with demands / wants to change the world / can't bare fixedness / the body is changing at a rate never before seen / new sensory organs come on-line.
Could a building reflect and help reconcile this transformation we all go through? A place they could feel 'at home' in - when the 'home' which they have loved throughout their life suddenly becomes alien - when the one place of security and protection becomes a restriction and the people you love who live there appear all too well defined. A building which offers security and familiarity, domestic in scale, but with unusual freedom - stable and yet free. A building which expresses duality - two opposing forces / geometries. The geometry of the site context containing a rebellious form which cuts through the site in a gesture of defiance. The site context provides a solid, familiarity.....a comforting brick environment with the almost domestic proportions of the Victorian shop and the Coates School building.
The new building follows the existing urban geometry and forms a similarly proportioned three story end elevation to Jersey Street. Although the Pickford Street elevation is 'longer' in scale and more akin to its neighbouring MM2 development, it is still 'polite' and sensibly adheres to its contextual geometry.
Inherent within the placing of the main accommodation at the back of the site, is the lack of a presence on Great Ancoats Street. The solution is to slice a link though the gap between the end of the Coates School and the gable of the MM2 apartment block, terminating at Great Ancoats Street as the point of entrance. The form of this link manifests itself as a 'leaning' wall wedged between the existing brick containment which continues on to slice though the orthogonal main building. In cutting the main building a triangular, double height, vertical space is formed, the stair cascades up the side of the wall completing the journey of circulation, always in relation to this 'rogue' angular gesture. From a conceptual perspective this rogue element will fuel a synergistic relationship with the centre and its not so old, not so square, visitors.
The main accommodation building is orthogonal, rational and simple in its expression, this is to provide an overall stability and will enhance the juxtaposed angular sliced leaning wall. The windows are all orthogonal too, but are spaced in a random way. Again, this is to balance all the right angles, too many aligned grids can feel oppressive.
The people who ‘are’ 42nd Street have become particularly adept at dealing with the desire to self harm, to cut in order to express or release powerful overwhelming forces. Inherent within this desire is the notion of balancing, curing with like for like, violence cancelled by violence.
Leonard Cohen wrote the lyrics: ‘There is a crack in everything - that’s how the light gets in’. To release this building from its completeness as a ‘box’ a 17M long glass slot slices through its core - that’s how the light gets in.
Such vulnerability as this must be protected at all costs, it’s what keeps us straying too far from ourselves. Four steel Sentinels stand guard, they demand / inspire your attention and clarity of heart, before you pass into this modern manifestation of sacred space.
Once inside be prepared for the unexpected: tapering stairs, angled rooms, leaning walls, a corridor to nowhere - and wardrobes which are passages to the psychologically protected land of one to one therapy.
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