ADS5: Camping in a High Rise
Jonny grew up on the coast in the South West of England, in Torquay, Devon. He received a First Class degree from the University of Nottingham (BArch), after being nominated for ‘Portfolio of the Year’ in his first year, and jointly developing the winning design for the Saint-Gobain led ‘Multi-Comfort building standard’ competition in his second year. From there, he went on to work at CookFox Architects in New York City - the city he will be returning to upon graduation (when the Covid-19 pandemic allows) having met his fiancée Genny there. The latest step in his journey was arriving in London to complete the two year MA Architecture programme, where he spent a year with ADS3, and his final year with ADS5.
I spent the majority of the Covid-19 lockdown back at my parents home in Torquay, having ‘escaped’ London just in time. And now reflecting on my different projects in my architectural education so far, I think I have been inspired consistently by three things throughout. Firstly, the coast and the slower pace of life that comes with it, as well as the calming, healthy or peaceful connotations associated with it. Secondly, my relentless optimism, that leads me to want to design spaces of positivity, that encourage, that lift people up in their daily lives journeying through this world. And finally, perhaps most importantly, my own faith in God, that I have relied on through the highs and the lows. These things have all infiltrated into my work, and have led me in one way or another to want to design spaces that have an effect on the human, individual scale.
I have explored themes of wellbeing, of reflection, and of togetherness, all of which have reached their climax this year, in designing my final project, ‘The Refectory: An Urban Monastery’. This final year in ASD5 at the RCA has combined my favourite methods of working - which is a great way to finish my architectural education - hand drawing, large scale model making, and photography (and a newly found favourite - real-time rendered film). I had started developing the project with the idea being to create a space that eliminates hurry in a city that (quite literally) never sleeps, New York City … but then the global pandemic happened - and the city finally slept. Initially, I thought perhaps the current health crisis somehow undermined the themes of my project. However, in being forced into isolation myself during lockdown, along with the rest of the world, I realised that in fact the themes I was exploring were even more crucial at this time. Within ‘The Urban Monastery’, I have focussed on themes of reflection, of contemplation, and of peace, asking how someone can have an encounter of something bigger than themselves upon experiencing a space. This question is something I would like to carry forward in my future career and put into practice, wherever that takes me and whatever form it is in.
The Urban Monastery: In Context — Situated in the the East Village neighbourhood of Manhattan, the low-rise surroundings and tree canopy of Tompkins Square Park allow you to rise up and out of the city on climbing upwards within the monastery.
Floorplans — The structural grid is ubiquitous throughout the building - apart from in the outdoor terraces and prayer space, when there are breaks in the stubborn grid to allow a new experience within the space. The infill - the walls and the floors - locations change depending on the spaces use, suggesting that what ever the future use of the building, it could easily adapt to suit that specific need.
Elevations — The double height terraces are visible here, that alternate from corner to corner on every other floor. Certain openings are filled in, becoming walls, for example around the perimeter of the rooftop walled cloister, curating the views of the city and the atmosphere in a particular space.
A City with an Absence of Timber — New York City is built for efficiency. The grid iron plan - whilst not unique - was made specifically to make life easier; easier to navigate, easier to build on, easier to section up. The Refectory: An Urban Monastery takes the grid and stretches it, making the journey along it and through it the important part, not the part you get over as quickly and efficiently as possible. Until recent global events, the city thrived off being the city that never sleeps, and this takes a toll on people over time. In fact, ‘hurry’ and ‘rushing’ can quite easily take over our world, leaving us run down without even knowing it. I have chosen this city as my site because I think it is a place that could benefit from it most, the elimination of hurry.
‘The Refectory: An Urban Monastery’, is an exploration into answering these questions, and applying the findings to the generic typology that is the high rise. Monastic traditions and conditions have provided guidance for the design of The Urban Monastery, in both the programme and the physical design of the building, but in places I have intentionally flipped these traditions within the design - most noticeably being the vertical design of a typically lateral typology - with the goal of pushing the boundaries of what both the monastery and the high rise as a typology are capable of spatially. Whilst important even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the themes of reflection, contemplation and rest are more important now than ever, and I have been exploring how different elements of the design can alter one’s perception of a space, transforming it from just a room with a function, into something bigger - physically, mentally and spiritually. The idea of ‘rest’ is not designed into our cities or buildings with the importance that it should hold, and the Urban Monastery aims to tackle that with a first small step. It does so through the programme - as an Urban Monastery, an adapted version of the traditional monastery that blends the monastery we all know with a form of retreat, and aims to fit into shorter periods of time within our urban life - and through the structure, that explores the globally untapped potential of the timber high rise in a city of concrete, brick and glass. The hope is that from this project, I can continue exploring what it is that creates a space of stillness, and discover how these atmospheres can be implemented within all the different details of spatial design.