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Design and Access Statement Campus Centre for Retreat . Cardiff University Thomas Wakeman .Welsh School of Architecture 2013


Statement of Need: Proposal: On-Campus retreat centre: a multi-use space to accommodate for gatherings, pastoral care, multifaith activities, contemplation and reading. The centre it so sit alongside other university accommodation, providing an unparalleled environment with out-of-hours access to cater for the needs of a multinational and multifaith student and staff community, as well as providing connections with the greater Cardiff community. The building must accommodate for a range of different activities which will vary in scale and profile, from large gathering space for religious ceremony, performances and open-day events to individual cellular spaces for private prayer and reflection, also communal facilities spaces for receptions, classes such as yoga and meditation and refreshments. The building will therefore need to be highly versatile and able to adapt to the inherent range of environmental, practical and social requirements that come with the different activities occurring in these spaces. PS Arkitektur

Sheppherd Theatre, CAT

Zen Retreat, Architect: Gary Gladwish

Narus Inokuma and Hiroko Karibe Architects

Toronto Multifaith Center

Functional and Aspirational Requirements:

For many international students, students with special needs or disability and students from diverse religious backgrounds, starting university, sometimes in a new country is an exciting and enlightening opportunity, but it can also be an overwhelming and perplexing experience to those unfamiliar with the cultural and environmental ramifications of the new place they are living. The centre must provide an impartial environment, a sanctuary within which people can temporarily escape the academic environment as well as the general busy, hectic stresses of modern life in a UK city. The building should create a sense of ‘removal’ from the immediate environment, allowing people to become acutely unaware of the strong cultural qualities that typically define a place, religious reference or sense of hierarchy. These qualities can often be prohibitive or structured to accommodate some more than others. The intention is of a level playing field whereby our attention is taken from the everyday career-driven, money-oriented and materialistic. The building should be the embodiment of the simple, physical, existential and spiritual needs common to everybody’s well-being. With a strong focus on the physical environment: the elements, light, sky, weather, ecology, earth and water, the building will provide a suggestive space where individuals can feel united by common ground and free to express themselves without feeling alienated as a minority. To reflect this concept, the interior of the building must portray a vision of simplicity and functional form, removed from unnecessary excess, reckless design ‘statement’ pieces or visual complexity. A refined material palette must provide simple solutions, driven by functional components, the range of durability required, the desired longevity and the environmental quality to be achieved. As such, the built form must be economically justified in the sense of lifespan, truth to materials and environmental credentials. From an original budget of 1 million to a revised 3 million, the extra funding does not aim to provide scope for a more lavish architectural response, but instead caters for additional complementing use types previously unidentified by the university. These in themselves invest higher capital costs, but provide much greater value for money within the annual running of the building. As well as this, it will fund a strong emphasis on integration with the outside environment beyond basic landscaping, providing well-designed, ‘garden spaces’ that can be enjoyed and utilised throughout the seasons. Substantial additional expenses identified during the analysis stage in relation to site preparation, access and mechanical requirements, as well as works to adjoining buildings, parking, services e.t.c. to facilitate the new accommodation have also been considered in the application for a revised budget.

Site Selection and Design Philosophy

West Buckland School

Aerial view of Site

Site B Showing Boundary & South-West Block

Site B is the preferred choice for construction of the new building. Located in a courtyard between the School of Music and Aberdare Hall, comprising two historic red brick buildings completed in 1893, and connected by an arched walkway, forming the primary entrance to the site. Included within the Cathays Conservation Area, the proposal is to demolish the 60’s accommodation block to the south west, opening up a prime plot, bordering the boundary of Queen Anne Square. The site is chosen for a number of reasons. Firstly, the nature of the building suggests a need for quiet and contemplation and a strong connection with the outside environment. This site naturally meets these requirements providing the ideal setting, set back from the main road, with very few outside sources of disruption. The site is particularly inward-facing, with strong boundaries. For many projects, especially those with a commercial focus, this would propose a significant challenge, but is fundamentally well suited to the secluded and understated nature of a retreat centre. Borrowing from the original concept stage, the design philosophy is to utilise lightweight construction methods, highly appropriate for intermittent use, low thermal mass and air-delivered heating and environmental control. Sitting in strong contrast with the surrounding heavyweight brick buildings, this is not only a practical and budgetary incentive, but fundamentally appropriate to the feel of the space. Unlike traditional places of worship, often iconic buildings of solidity and permanent internal layouts that feel as though they will remain unchanged for many generations, this building should instead be a testament to a changing, multinational and multifaith society. The building should be a reflection of change and progression, to feel very much ‘of it’s time’, designed not as a monument, but as a space that can facilitate change, adapting during its lifetime, and designed with a strong consideration for user interaction and the materials and finishes important to that user. The design philosophy is heavily influenced by the Zen style of design, adapted as a Japanese concept promoting the importance of the ‘meditative state’ and contemplation over ritual or study of scriptures. Although the building must be designed to accommodate ritual worship and individual expression, the idea that this is a place where everybody is able to contemplate and reflect under the same roof whilst going about their daily activities acts


View To Arched Entrance (A)

Music Library Patio

Rear of Aberdare Hall and 60’s Addition

Early Concept Sketch Scheme

to unite many different cultures with a common ground. Traditional Zen style buildings, although striking and beautiful, are fundamentally very simple, very lightweight, often timber and surrounded by screens with a strong connection with the outside elements. The buildings sit, poised over a firmly grounded foundation stone, which often extends into the immediate landscape as rocks, boulders and pebbles designed to represent the hills and geology of the greater landscape. Wild mosses, ferns and grasses weave between these heavy ground elements, often with a focus on a pool or steam, representing the impermanence, fragility and constantly changing nature of the environment we inhabit. As opposed to hard landscaping, manicured lawns and formal planting, the landscape must be unkempt, rough and able to naturally evolve with minimal maintenance. The main structural elements of the building should be driven by necessity and function, with simple connections and structural solutions used in favour of the complex or highly engineered. The majority of the structure will utilise efficient timber framing comprised of small sections, with steel elements where required. Components such as walls will be constructed from cheap and readily available materials, and doubling as storage and acoustic partition. Elements such as floor finishes, doors and glazing, furniture and the special components that must resist heavy user interaction, and those important to the activities taking place can be more hard-wearing and higher spec. For example, envelope walls and ceilings can be simple plasterboarded finishes, structural elements left ‘as they come’, with minimal use of decoration or ornament. Shadow gaps should be used around frames and special components, with clear boundaries between the small number of different materials. Floor finishes may be of polished concrete or polished timber, according to traffic or activity with glazing creating an unobscured interaction with the outside: floor to ceiling in communal spaces, and focused or carefully orientated in private or secular spaces. Lighting is of great importance, and the overall scheme should use both natural and artificial light with equal importance, with the building potentially used to a high extent out of hours. Lighting should be subtle and not overbearing, but the overall effect creating a strong sense of drama. For example, it may not be necessary to evenly light the entire space, but rather highlight particular areas, with strong use of shadow and low light to the peripheries. To separate the different parts and uses of the building, so they are visually connected, but at the same time private and acoustically isolated, internal rooms may become sculptural elements in themselves, incorporating religious objects and artefacts where needed, with rooms appearing as pieces of sculpted furniture. This creates a feeling of domesticity within such a large building envelope without being too literal. This also takes the impetus away from the items and furnishings placed within the room, promoting a space that feels greater than the sum of its parts. Exterior courtyards placed internally in plan, with lightwell gardens which separate indoor rooms by outside space will create excellent acoustic separation, whilst visually uniting different parts of the building and bringing large volumes of natural light to the interior plan.

Site Considerations: Programme Constraints and Opportunities, Access, Logistics and Part L:

Cambridge School of Architecture

Site in relation to main campus street and buildings: connects periphery to main centre

Kyoto Ryonji Temple Moss Garden

Site Access Routes

(B) Rear Works Access Via Boundary Wall

Existing Parking Lot Holding Area

(A) Main Gated Entrance

Placing the building on this site opens up great potential for the school of music to coexist with additional performance space and refreshment/restaurant facilities, ensuring year-round occupation and a strong source of revenue outside of passers by and minority groups. This coincides with the university’s long term development strategy for expanding the campus and better integrating its peripheries. Economically, the approach to balancing materials between those that are purely practical and structural, and those integral to user interaction dictates where the budget will be concentrated most heavily. Frame, cladding and structural elements must be use cheap, readily available and sustainable materials in a practical and low-maintenance way, in small enough sections for access to the confined site, but prefabricated wherever possible to minimise waste and construction time. Softwood should be chosen over hardwood, therefore timber elements should not be exposed to the exterior, with steel elements used where connecting timbers. The interior design may therefore want to dominate the user’s attention away from the structure itself, only revealing glimpses of the building in carefully chosen areas. On the exterior, a durable, sustainable cladding material should be chosen, potentially incorporating or future-proofing for energy generating systems. As the site has restricted access with a narrow archway which will form the primary access route for the final building as well as day-to-day construction access, an additional access point will be made through the wall connecting the rear access road for infrequent and bulk deliveries of materials. Negotiations will need to be made with the council, the telephone distribution board relocated and upgraded, and hoarding erected. Following asbestos removal, demolition and excavation materials from the 60’s structure will be used to grade the adjacent music school car park, creating a temporary site holding area and office. No access is to be made through Queen Anne Square, and justification may be made to creating a minimal frontage to Queen Anne square, which would otherwise be competing with the Georgian style detached houses and generate undesired disruption to the local residents. The building should instead front, with main glazing into the interior courtyard. The existing arches and red brick buildings offer huge potential for glazed connecting structures, possibly for communal circulation and cafe/retail space, which will require considerable attention to detail and sympathy to the listed building fabrics. Strong consideration needs to be placed on service access and storage space in the basement, where space is at a premium, and the additional mechanical and acoustic requirements for performance-use considered from the outset and designed in to the building. The nature of the construction dictates that BREEAM very good/excellent status can be aimed for, with an impetus on sustainable materials, local ecology and low heating costs. This will be achieved using air-delivery heat generated from a heat pump system using borehole loops on the confined site, with simple, user-friendly and zoned controls designed to work around inhabited periods. On completion, it is essential that an ongoing management and monitoring process is maintained to ensure long-term efficient operation and that the building is performing for its users in a positive and beneficial way.


Design and Access Statement Thomas Wakeman  
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