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Architecture May 2019

A Bridge to Remembering

“The bridge gathers to itself in its own way earth and sky, divinities and mortals.”

Martin Heidegger Building, Dwelling Thinking

Introduction

Competition Entry Report for Commemorative Bridge at the Irish War Memorial Islandbridge, Dublin

Gathering

Making a bridge provides the opportunity to gather the world, unifying the heaven and earth, the past and future.  It gathers up the earth, the banks and the river into a single thing.  In this location the bridge must prepare the visitor for the journey across the river to the memorial gardens.  This design brings together ideas about pilgrimage, memory and order.

Arrival

According to (Camillo) Sitte, the urban space before the church should be narrow and long, an extension of the processional route.  Here to shelter and enfold the visitor the prepared space is surrounded by stone walls that carry the engraved words of the war poets; a testament to the loss of innocence.  Water flows along each side and echo off the curved entablature to further calm the pilgrim.


Sound & Poetry

The courtyard provides a tranquil and isolated space in the busy city for the visitor to slow down.  This transition is a necessary purification process that prepares the visitor for the journey to the memorial garden.  The screening walls are formed to deflect and contain the sound of flowing water.  The concrete elements can be precast allowing their placement with minimal disturbance on the existing ground.  Openings to the rear allow the sound of birds and the wind in the trees of the nature sanctuary to percolate into the space.

Anchoring & Threshold

The bridge element is anchored to each bank with an entrance portico, a threshold that signals the crossing.  These embankment elements resolve the unique topography on both sides of the river, allowing for full universal access.  A hydraulic lift and staircase are provided inside the buttress element.  This strategy provides for a flat arrival court at +5.0 M and a flat bridge deck at +7.1 M.  This approach allows for 2.1 M clearance beneath the arch over the river as well allowing the river path on the southern shore to be uninterrupted.  These weighty anchors provide the necessary restraint for the bridge (see structural description below).  The northern portico element is also marked by a bell tower.  It is proposed that a bronze bell be commissioned as the percentage art project.

The Divided Path

In the medieval world the visitors to the great cathedrals were directed (under the eyes of Christ) to enter by one door and once their pilgrimage was satisfied, exited by the other.  These double doors are divided by the pillar that supports a Vesica Piscis above.  The porticos provide a similar choice.  The vaulted gateways are illuminated from above.  The allusions to both the Medieval Cathedral and Lutyens’ war graves motifs are not accidental.  The vaulted gateways frame the space and provide a sense of scale while providing clues to distance.



Material Character

The materials are driven by topography.  Concrete provide the material of abutment and bridge, brick the middle ground, while stone completes the entablature, extending to the structure of the bell tower.  Concrete provides defence against the vagaries of rising and falling water, marking the plimsoll line of the structure.  Brick provides tactile warmth.  The hard wearing surfaces are paved in stone, slabs over the courtyard and the bridge deck. Stone cobbles mark the crossing from one realm to another and completes the structures by capping the porticos and faces the courtyard walls.

Structure

The proposed bridge spans 45 metres from two concrete platforms.  To minimise the impact of the bridge on the environs the design carves out a narrow zone of impact.  The first stage is the sinking of piles and caps upon which the abutments will be constructed. The walls of the stair cores create a rigid box to connect the bridge.  The abutment foundation is anchored to the pile caps and in turn provides the landing point for the bridge’s arched soffit and flat parapet.

Sequence

The bridge can be erected simultaneously from both embankments using cranes located on the abutment foundations.  These lift the bridge segments into place. The first three segments are connected by joining steel cable strands together and tensioning them. The last segments can be connected using post-tension strands on-site and then lifting in place, with the final “keystone” dropped into place locking the structure together.

The bridge design balances nearly all of the self-weight of the bridge.  The tendons are located near the bottom of the cross section at mid-span, near the top of the section where bridge meets abutment, and then somewhere near the centre of the cross section at the far end of abutment or end of bridge.  Post-tensioning the tendons will pre-compress the concrete in the region of the cross section where there is tension due to bending under applied load.  Additional pre-stressing to ensure compression throughout the depth of section in the unoccupied bridge is used so that tension stress is never greater than the pre-compression.  This provides good deflection performance and long term durability.  The bridge will be built using C50/60 concrete and 15mm 7-wire post-tension strands.  At the base of the bridge we need 10×22 strands on each side and at middle 8×22 strands in total.  Additional 2-wire crossing strands, perpendicular to the main strands, will be placed 1m c/c.

Environment – Construction

The construction of the bridge relies less on disturbing and more on placement.  Aside from the piles and caps there is little disturbance envisaged for any part of the construction.  No significant excavation is envisaged for any construction with new surfaces established above or at the existing grade levels.  The arrival court is formed using cut and fill to accommodate the new levels at or near the existing grade level of the roadway.  The southern portico is accessed by a simple path, land graded either side to minimise its physical impact.

Environment – Post Construction

The post construction environment is similar to that prior to the introduction of the bridge, the mature trees (with one or two exceptions) are maintained and a nature enclave is protected (encouraged even) to the eastern side of the arrival court.  The existing river line and footpath are maintained.   The extent of the impact remains a narrow strip with limited impact outside of this zone.   Access to the bridge is facilitated using stairs, ramps and elevators.  It can be isolated or secured by decorative gates if required.


Marking Time

Marked by the sound of a bell, the sound of water, the mark of words, the echoes of people and place, this project had the ambition to enfold space and time with sound, light and words to guide and effect a change in the visitor.

 

Credits copyright reserved by authors

Design & Concept NJBA A+U; Noel Brady

Design & Engineering Bakkala Consulting Engineers; Chris Bakala, Erik Altmäe

Cost Analysis KMCS; Nigel Spence, Anthony Devane

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Architecture September 2015

World War 1 Memorial Washington DC

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“Try Again, Fail Again, Fail better.” Samuel Beckett

 

This was the submission narrative submitted along with the competition entry.

The scheme strips back Pershing Park to the bone, a clearing among the trees.  The berms and undergrowth are cut back to provide maximum visibility and access from all sides.  At the centre is a new fractured “ground” consisting of granite blocks with tomb like proportions at different elevations.  On this “ground” are 12 marble statues of infantry marching towards the “front” where tall oxidised steel sculpted “trees” represent the loss of nature and destruction.  At the end of this vista is the old “court” which is to be re-purposed as a reconciliations space.

 

And when peace comes to Flanders,

Because it comes too late,

He’ll still lie the, and listen

To the Otterburn in spate –

Wilfred Gibson – Otterburn

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General Pershing’s statue has been relocated opposite its current position to face the “front” alongside his flanking men.  While Pershing’s statue is 2 x life size the soldiers are 1.5 x life size.  Completing the composition is the chronology of the war in bronze.  Opposite the timeline is a series of illuminated beacons that display the poetry of the WWI – a reminder of the realities of war.  The space around the new fractured “ground” is to be made level and accessible to all.  It is expected that seating would be provided at the periphery looking inward to the statues.  Lighting is to be provided in the beacons, along the edges and in the joints between the granite of the new “ground” platform, in the vertical markers of the timeline and around the court and the Pershing statue

Dark clouds are smouldering into red

      While down the craters morning burns.

The dying soldier shifts his head

      To watch the glory that returns;

He lifts his fingers toward the skies

      Where holy brightness breaks in flame;

Radiance reflected in his eyes,

      And on his lips a whispered name.

Siegfried Sassoon – How to Die

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The main design consisted of

  1. Poetic Beacons – Poetry of the First World War
  2. The fractured ground – a staggered plate of granite to represent both the destruction of the ground, the mechanisation of war (tomb like proportions)
  3. The Marble Statues of the Soldiers at the front (the sleepwalkers)
  4. The “trees” – oxidised steel poles that represent the destruction of nature, echoing iconic images from the Somme and Ypres.
  5. General Pershing’s statue relocated to face the “front” towards the East separated from his men (flanking) in attack towards the end (the old court)
  6. The chronology of major events of the war cast in bronze with vertical markers
  7. The Court of resolution- armistice, the old memorial refurbished and re-purposed

 

Who died on the wires, and hung there, one of two –

Who for his hours of life had chattered through

Infinite lovely chatter of Bucks accent,

Yet face unbroken wires; stepped over, and went,

A noble fool, faithful to his stripes – and ended.

Ivor Gurney – The Silent One

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Having read the brief in some detail and thinking on the epoch changing nature of the war the design was a sparse and poetic reflection on mechanisation, death, pain and memory.  A sparse entry by the standards of the others it was invisible among the bombastic statements of many and it had no gimmicks.  It provided space for reflection and brought to the fore the war poetry that has not been a major feature of other memorials.

What in our lives is burnt

In the fire of this?

The heart’s dear granary?

How much we shall miss?

 

Three lives hath one life –

Iron, honey, gold.

The gold, the honey gone –

Left is the hard and cold.

 

Iron are the loves

Molten right through our youth.

A burnt space through ripe fields,

A fair mouth’s broken tooth.

Isaac Rosenberg – August 1914

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The opportunity to engage in open competition is of benefit to the work in the practice.  The realisation that it will not progress further is of course a disappointment.  Reflecting on this failure I am strengthened by Beckett’s mantra; “try again, fail again, fail better”.

njb  – NJBA A+U

Architecture March 2015

 Innisfree Architectural Competition Entry by NJBA A+U

View of Portal

View of Portal

THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE William Butler Yeats, 1892

 

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; 

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee, 

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, 

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; 

There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, 

And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day 

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; 

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, 

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Portal (from above)

Portal (from above)

Somewhere between the city and Innisfree the poem exists as a portal to that other life, a life lived simply, a life experienced in innocence at one with the earth, alone. It suggests that the poet dreams of a self sufficient existence, sustained by beans and honey.  This project cannot wholly answer all of this.  In all conscience we cannot truly build a small cabin of clay and wattles.  Instead a portal has been created.  Like the valley temples along the Nile we have prepared a structure to accept the arriving visitor.  As a portal it receives the visitor preparing for their landing as well as being the point from which the visitor leaves.

Structure of Portal

Structure of Portal

We have calculated that this is the most minimal point of interference where you can hear “lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore”.  The structure is a simple timber frame on steel piles.  The roof consists of a suspension system using steel wire and sail cloth (for both weathering and structure).  Beneath this translucent roof an inner cloak of raw linen is draped.  This later element is inspired by the reference to an “evening full of the linnet’s wings”.  The Linnet is so named because of its link to the eating of flax seeds.  The shape of the portal roof is wing like.  Underneath the translucent roof are two boardwalks that take the visitor on and off the island to the waiting boat.  Floating lightly above the waves the whole structure can be easily removed leaving the island untouched. (from original competition report)

Arriving at Innisfree

Arriving at Innisfree

This approach is antithetical to the creation for a folly like architecture for the purposes of the competition.  Instead it sough to get out of the way, providing a portal, a gateway though which the visitor passes form the outside world to that sacred world of the mind on the island to which the poet seeks refuge.

 

Architecture February 2014

This entry is the report submitted as part of the submission by NJBA A+U to the international competition for a centenary chapel at Glasnevin in Dublin.

place – the end “alpha & omega”
Death is an end and the beginning of things, to different believers. Located at the end of the cemetery between two railway tracks it cannot be any further along the path of remembrance. It is the last place that the suns rays fall in the day. This work attempts to draw attention, a full stop to that end by anchoring the chapel/temple to that place. The work points itself into the end space embracing a new and mixed landscape to provide space for visitors to halt their movements and reflect on the nature of life, its joys and fears.

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place – the beginning
From left to right (top to bottom) a place has been prepared to remember the paupers randomly interred with a cherry tree lined columbarium and meditation pool. This augments and parallels the 1916 memorial which in turn is augmented by a long plaza that projects into the new landscaped end of the site. Parallel to this is placed the new chapel/temple with its reflecting pool and garden. Parking is provided in neutral spaces across the front of the site to minimise their impact. This is a place of parallels of equality.

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architecture – arrangement
At the centre of the organisation is the chapel/temple. This is centred on the catafalque. Chairs are used rather than benches to maximise the individual arrangements for specific creeds. This is wrapped with a columnar space that responds to the new plaza and the large foyer. To the south a service zone for the backup functions is places. A carillon tower anchors the building to the plaza. The elements are made like four “stones” set into the landscape with a pathway binding them together.

atmosphere – light
The intention was to provide a solemn and quiet place allowing light to enter discretely as if invited. The chapel/temple (the centre “stone”) is pierced by slits in the elevation on each side. The room will be experienced differently on each visit. Artificial light will be used to augment this atmosphere using discrete fittings placed in correspondence with the main structure and in the deep walls. The stone and concrete finishes have been chosen to mute the visual spectrum to be solemn and quiet.

atmosphere – sound
The heavy stone and concrete elements are used to silence the external world. The structure of the room breaks up the sound to flatten acoustic resonance. The thick walls and roof system will include acoustic resonance panels to assist the design of the sound space of the chapel/temple.
atmosphere – temperature & humidity
A significant amount of thermal mass has been chosen to provide a stable uniform quality throughout the year. Embedded heat exchangers in the floors and walls will enable the building to be responsive to the changing seasons. The combination of concrete super structure and stone elements provides for equally stable moisture content.
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function – carillon
The carillon theme has been proposed to anchor the site and the location of the chapel/temple to this place. It is located at the entrance point for the complex to greet the mourner/visitor. Standing tall it marks the beginning also of the new plaza. This represents the first “stone” in the composition.

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function – chapel/temple
The second “stone” of the composition is the main one, the chapel/temple. As a multidenominational space it is planned to be flexible to the needs of the congregation. The space is centred in the middle on the location of the catafalque. The chairs rather than benches can be located as shown or according to the demands of specific ceremonies moved out of the way completely. This is subject to the management of the facility though. Directly accessible from the main foyer it has access on two other sides for service personal and serving clerics.
The arrangement allows for the exit of mourners to the east end of the facility into the plaza and the contemplative gardens of the work. The arrangement provides for maximum flexibility without sacrificing architectural consistency.

function – ancillary spaces
The remaining functions are gathered together as a pair of “stones”. The most important of these, the sacristy/robing spaces are placed at the eastern end of the composition with two spaces directly linked by the columnar space surrounding the chapel/temple. Next door to this a private toilet is provided along with a service room for environmental services, a storage room for a minimum of four coffins and the administration office, accessible from the secondary service entrance. To the southern side of the building this external area constitutes the service area for access by the hearse and other service vehicles. The other part of the pair of “stones” is the discrete public toilets providing male, female and universal access toilets for the use of the public. These are accessible both from the main foyer and the outside. As the last of the “stones” it frames the entrances at the front and service entrance to the side.

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function – foyer/columnar space
Connecting the four “stones” is a brightly lit columnar ringed space providing generous space for a minimum of 100 mourners with direct access to the chapel/ temple. It is close to the administration office, rear lobby and public toilets. Secondary access to the chapel temple is made available on both sides, providing a route for coffins to the south along with a link to the sacristies/ robing spaces and the universal access toilet for use of celebrants/masters of ceremonies.
tectonics
With a super structure mainly consisting of concrete piled foundations, raft floors, waffle slab roofs (to the main foyer spaces), main chapel/temple trusses the clarity of the structure is a major contributor to the character of the building. To ensure that quality is at the foremost of this decision most of this work is either bespoke or precast under factory conditions. Columns and walls are reconstituted concrete/stone hybrid and the roof is finished in either a tern coated steel or zinc.
architecture and meaning

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This work is an attempt to imbue a sense of gravitas and resonance to the making of space. Purposefully the composition is resonant of that found in St. Kevin’s chapel at Glendalough or other ancient temples. The composition is based on four “stones”, an analogy
for the landscape strategy and for the tectonic expression of its large blocks of reconstituted concrete/stone. Light enters in between these large elements conveying their quarried logic. In a field of monuments the work rises up on the same proportional grid as its graves. Anchored and anchoring the 1916 Centenary Chapel is a place of the past, for now and the future.