Sophie Richards

20 MINUTES AT THE BARBICAN | London, England | Unit 21 | 2015

A POLITICAL ENCLAVE | London, England | Unit 21 | 2015

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20 Minutes at the Barbican

 

Sound creates an invisible architecture, which greatly influences our experience of a space, without physically announcing its presence. It is a force which defines both the internal and external, designed and aleatory spaces within the city, but due to its unpredictability, is often discounted from the design process.

 

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The project is an exploration of sound and its ambiguous boundaries, shaping our interaction with and within a given environment. An initial investigation interrogated the soundscape of The Barbican Centre, having identified it as an urban and acoustic enclave. A twenty minute audio recording of a chosen route through internal and external spaces within the complex became the basis for a drawing of the sounds which come to define the space. Through documentation of individual sounds, their definition, volume and location, a system was devised to translate the audible experience into legible notation and, furthermore, architecture.

 

The Barbican: A Political Enclave

 

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The Barbican Underground Station was greatly damaged in the Blitz bombings of World War Two. Prior to this, the site provided an arcade, housing a parade of eateries, including a coffee house. Inspired by coffee houses of the fifteenth century, primarily located within the City of London, and then known to be hot beds for public debate, open to all people of all social classes, the proposal looks to create a political enclave above the Barbican Underground Station.

 

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An initial site investigation identified the key visible elements of the proposal as the underside of the proposed building, seen from the platform, and as slivers through openings in the facade of the buildings on the neighbouring, Long Lane. These sight lines were then manipulated to create the building form, through a series of coding processes extracted from the initial sound mapping exercise undertaken in project one, retaining elements of the sight lines based on a pre-developed formula.

 

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Acoustically, the design seeks to engage Underground passengers in conversation, creating a dialogue between the inhabitants of the building, and those waiting on the platforms of the station below.
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This is achieved by the insertion of large funnels, which, based on their wavelength, filter the sounds of human speech from the sounds of the Underground trains. The funnels act as politicians of sound, to transfer and filter relevant sound andconnect the independent constituencies of the building and the platform through debate, disintegrating the social boundaries of location and the physical boundaries of the building fabric.

 

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The proposal is designed to include a series of spaces for political discussion and education of varying degrees of formality. It includes a debating chamber, library, polling station and radio station, orientated around a central coffee house. Each of the spaces has been designed with a critical acoustic character, which began to manipulate the volume and form of the internal space.

 

PLAN AT 20.5M

 

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The proposal looks to investigate the role of sound within our political system and how an illusion of transparency and equality can be manufacturedby interpreting and dissecting the cacophony of our urban environment. The project seeks to discover an architecture that is descriptive of sound and capable of encouraging and manipulating political debate.

 

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