Lindsey Menzies (She/Her )
I am a student from Glasgow and I have just completed my BArch (Hons) at GSA. I am continuing on to postgraduate study at the school this year.
A strong theme of inclusion and community runs across my projects this year. I have a particular interest in ensuring that any intervention would be accepted and used by the intended community group, in this case the residents of Calton. I have aimed to use architecture as a tool for inclusion, providing flexibility and variety of space in both my Urban Housing and Urban Building projects.
Barras Community Theatre
“[Theatres[ should be the new Town Squares, not monasteries” Vasif Kortun
Theatres are traditionally places for the congregation of people for social and cultural activities and are intended to be used by all. Despite this, historically they have been viewed as ‘middle class’ environments. The grand architecture of many cultural buildings, including Glasgow’s existing theatres, creates an exclusive and devisive environment. The rigidity and grandeur created by fixed seating arrangements, separate front and back of house, and extensive and lavish decoration, forms an unintentional barrier to those from more deprived areas, who are subsequently the least likely to attend cultural events.
In Scotland, theatre is often politically motivated with the famous example of “The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black Black Oil” significantly impacting Scotland’s theatrical history. This play was toured around the whole country , being performed in church, school and village halls, bringing political conversation and culture directly to the communities it concerned and removing the architectural ‘barrier’.
As a reaction to these two areas of research, I have designed a building which acts as an open, accessible and flexible space for the community of Calton which can facilitate theatrical performance, creative learning and political discussion.
The ground floor of the building acts as a room for the city, with meandering movement and varied use of the space encouraged by the porous structure. The main performance hall is not defined by fixed seating and so provides flexibility in terms of programme and users. It can be opened into the central atrium which acts as the heart of the building, allowing for further flexibility and porosity in both programme and structure.
Layers of structure create extended thresholds which should encourage people to move through and explore the buildings possibilities. Visual connection to the main spaces from the atrium will create a lively and cohesive building which puts a focus on the central space, in itself a performance area. The lightness of the structure and visual connectivity from every room, removes the barrier found in traditional theatres, taking away the secrecy and exclusive feeling of a cultural space. Connectivity and inclusivity are encouraged through programme and architectonics.
Removing the cultural and ‘class’ barrier between communities such as Calton and cultural experiences is the main aim of this thesis. Creating a space for people to learn, create, exhibit, perform and discuss all within one space will promote sharing of knowledge and understanding, which I believe is the main benefit of attending cultural events. I hope to create a building that through structure and programme will democratise the theatre and empower the community through performance, discussion and cultural engagement.
Barras District Study
This was a group project which allowed us to explore the Barras district of Glasgow and gain an understanding of what creates its unique character. Study of the area with particular focus on its change over time and its architectural and urban features revealed many elements, shown opposite, which could be altered or enhanced to help revive the once vibrant district. The observations and suggested interventions here formed a strong knowledge base for the following design projects, all located within the district.
Social Housing and Welfare Hub
City housing primarily consists of dwellings designed for the ‘Nuclear Family’- two parents and two children, typically one of either sex. This traditional idea of a ‘family’ has long since been an inaccurate representation of our society and the diversity within it, rendering the housing that supports it ineffective and unsuitable for many. The nuclear family home also promotes the separation of people from their extended families and neighbours, and its ‘copy and paste’ design leads to its commodification. The society that is formed from this, is split into small family units that can be moved anywhere in search of work, retaining a similar standard of life in each place. This, although positive for the capitalist society, can lead to a lack of community and weakened connections between families and neighbours. A rise in urban loneliness can also be attributed to this style of living.
A study of social welfare amenities in the area around the site shows a clear lack of investment in the Barras and the Calton. This results in a community which is unable to change and improve, giving residents a poorer quality of life than elsewhere in Glasgow. This is evidenced with the census information for the district. Most of the housing in the Barras is for one or two people, which contributes to the lack of community in the area. People live alone, have nowhere to socialise with neighbours and have to travel to access essential services. The removal of the local primary school has also had a negative impact on the residents, as now children have further to travel to school and have no space for after school activities. All of the amenities studied in this project would be of benefit to the diverse family types of todays society who are currently under-provided for, as well as the existing residents of Calton. The lack of amenities, alongside the issues of inclusivity with the traditional ‘Nuclear Family Home’ formed the basis of my idea for a new housing typology.
As an alternative to the traditional ‘Nuclear Family’ housing model, I propose a social housing initiative that will create housing typologies suitable for a large range of family types currently under-provided for, all with access to shared community facilities. This welfare ‘hub’ will contain essential amenities such as a health centre, dentist, library, child care, community hall etc all within easy reach of every dwelling. This hub will also connect with the surrounding districts and encourage the blending of this new typology into the wider city. Equal access to these resources should encourage the sharing of knowledge, skills and time making for a more enjoyable and social way of living.