Across the country Austerity has forced schools to rethink those subjects they can afford to support. As a society we no longer place value on practical craft. Practical skills: textiles, product design, resistant materials and, surprisingly, computer science have all dropped at GCSE. This project fills a void, proposed as not just an extension but an alternative to conventional education, it allows learners to optionally engage. Run almost as after-school-clubs, various groups of 10-20 students can learn a skill, like programming, carpentry or ceramics and by joining group projects. The project relies on third age employment, bringing in professionals who have hands on experience in industry and teaching.
There is a strange void in City and Crwys road’s otherwise dense and intricate streetscape; Two buildings left fallow for more than 15 years have somehow stood amongst directionless plans for demolition. The scheme fills up these voids from the inside, creating an education and workshop space, light and open, within heavy walls. The project embraces the way these buildings already integrate into the street, wrapping access routes around them. Adaptive reuse of building is also important from the sustainability perspective at the project’s heart, it is short-sighted and unsustainable to unnecessarily raze a building to the ground; all new materials used are locally sourced taking advantage of natural materials from the Welsh Valleys: larch, fleece, slate and lime.
The void is filled using a structural grid. The crossing beams take roof load off the walls, allowing them to be perforated, whilst freeing the roof form to add northlight and headroom, reusing timbers and slate where possible, integrating services to allow flexibility over time. The void in student’s experience is filled with exposure to new ideas and a tactile understanding of material processes. We need makers in this country, from all backgrounds. Diversity of thought is essential, and skilled craftspeople are one of many answers to climate change. The scheme operates on a level of trust, as in the city farm movement or adventure playgrounds, autonomy breeds enthusiasm, so as well as programmed activity the workshop incorporates free access. A place where people can be trusted to try new things, the building allows this, an open plan with frequent overlooks between spaces, and integrated access/machine control by means of a keycard. The split site is overcome with a bridge paralleling the unusual site condition, but without hemming in the street, preserving an important view.
This project regrets not being able to talk to people, to integrate perspectives and advice. Events intervened, but to any real build, it should be integral. Access to and for stakeholders at every level of design.
Work Provided by Daniel Stone
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