In this project I was tasked with writing my own brief based on designing a museum. I chose toon focus on the existing and historical context, and to continue the theme from second year of working with unloved 50s architecture. My museum is based in my home town of Plymouth, whose urban makeup was shaped by its bombing and subsequent replanning during the Second World War. The museum, located within the brutalist Civic Centre, aims to stand up for this overlooked part of the city’s history in an attempt to educate locals on the rebuilding of the city, seen by many as having had a negative impact on the area.
The museum presents itself as an intervention in the existing Civic Centre, filling unused spaces underneath and in between. It then begins to attach itself as a parasite in the form of a lift tower that connects to the existing tower at the top below a new sweeping roof inspired by an initial design for the Civic Centre's roof canopy.
Visitors first enter to the west where a former council car park has been replaced with a water feature. A new public space is created here connecting the museum to the nearby Theatre Royal drawing people in under the podium of the Civic Centre where they enter the main exhibit.
The exhibit takes visitors through the development of the city, beginning with the initial bombing of the old city centre. Photos of the old centre are contrasted with photos of what came after, giving locals context for the places they see everyday. Abercrombie's plan is then introduced with a scale model of what he imagined along with some of the original sketches from his report.
Visitors also have the opportunity to see the development of the Civic Centre through the many models made of the development. This is followed by a screening of Jill Craigie's film 'The Way We Live' which shows a dramatised reinterpretation of the reconstruction of Plymouth, including some of the real city councillors of the time as well as Abercrombie himself.
The whole exhibition is presented in a darkened space that allows visitors' eyes to acclimatise before ascending the tower.
At the end of the exhibition, visitors enter the glass lift attached to the side of the existing tower. Inside, switch-glass diffuses and obstructs light in order to continue the darkness. Visitors exit into camera obscura, where a view of the city is projected through a lens onto a large dish creating a magical interpretation of the city skyline. This projection of the skyline is then followed by the real thing, when visitors leave the camera obscura into the daylight, where they realise they are on the Civic Centre's roof deck. The roof deck has been reinstated after being closed for over 20 years in order to display the city to visitors, fulfilling its original democratic role.
Visitors then descend in the same lift shaft, now with the glass clear allowing views towards the Hoe and out to sea. They are delivered at lower ground level to the 'city model' which changes over time to reflect new developments in the city centre. Architects and developers are able to place their own 1:100 models of their buildings in place in what would become a local version of a topping out ceremony.
The courtyard space that holds the city model acts as the intersection between the three main elements of the new Civic Museum: the museum elements themselves are housed on the lower ground floor, along with an archive of the city's architecture; above on the upper ground floor, a public space provides access to the Council House, where planning debates are held, and the planning offices to the north; on the first floor, the original two bridges that connect the Council House and South Block are used for planning meetings and more offices. At all levels, those using the building are reminded of the purpose of the building with a view to the city model, as well as a tapestry of Abercrombie's vision.
Above: Sketch visual of alternative design
Tutors: Warren McFadden and Fred Scott