Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Spaces and Narrations Lecture 1: Tom Emmerson, 6A Architects

Yesterday's Spaces and Narrations lecture was from Tom Emmerson of 6A Architects. He started the practice with Stephanie Macdonald after they studied together at the RCA and it is now one of the leading young architecture practices in the country. Their work ranges in scale from installations and exhibition design to larger commercial and residential projects. The project that interested me the most was their conversion of 2 Georgian townhouses in Spitalfield's into a contemporary arts centre.

Exterior of the Houses - originally built in 1690 the facade and shop fronts were added in the mid 1700's by a Huguenot silk merchant and it was altered again in the 1830's when the windows were dropped on the first floor and an iron railing added. This railing has not survived but inspired the use of cast iron cladding on the back facade.

Raven Row consists of a modern gallery space in a newly built basement and refurbished historical rooms on the upper levels. Much of the building's interiors were destroyed by a fire but their damaged remains were left and they were able to restore them. Also a complete intact interior was discovered in Chicago, it had been sold to an American in the 20's and had survived in storage. The interior was returned to the building and painstakingly pieced back together over 6 weeks.

An example of a reconstructed Rococo interior.

This fireplace is part on the original house from 1690.

The materials used throughout the building such as the charred timbers on the roof lights and the cast iron on the back facade were inspired by the buildings history as well as being practical. The burning to the timber actually stops it deteriorating further and strangely protects it from catching fire again. The cast iron was more durable to wear and tear so was used at street level.

The details such as the stair and door knob were inspired by materials and form found in the building. The stair is based on an 18C cantilevered stair but was formed out of concrete instead of stone to give it a contemporary twist and the handrail is based on the shape of the existing stair.

The door knob has a thumb print in which gives it a very tactile quality.

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