The design is a starting point. it is not to be an imposition but the start of a collaborative design process expressing the tradition, skills and aspirations of the local people. it should reflect the heritage of the area and allow the development of a stronger and more confident belief in the value of the culture and history of the valley. For the project to succeed it must have the support and interest of the local people and for this it needs their involvement in the whole process, from design on to a thriving building.
The scheme presents ideas from which the design of the centre may be developed to make full use of the skills and resources available locally, coming out of consultation, observation and research. A greater understanding and detailed development of the brief, including specifics such as the nature of the permanent exhibits, studies of the viability and practicality of construction methods, as well as a deeper understanding of the spirit of the place, will allow the design to connect fully with and reflect the local people and culture.
Central to the ideas of this scheme is the creation of gardens. Once through the entrance at the upper level of the site one is in a garden with an uninterrupted view of the whole valley. As one walks down to the lower level the buildings begin to restrict the view but beyond this the gardens continue.
The perimeter wall must be about sanctuary rather than fortification. It is proposed that this follows the contours of the hillside so that it has as little impact as possible. The ground within this 3m high wall is built up by 2m to allow a path all around the site, allowing a route that is at one with the landscape. Further planting on the bank here will help to secure the hillside as well as contributing to the greening of the locality.
The proposal is to develop the lower part of the site first, with connections formed to the upper part to allow access and to use the existing topography to form amphitheatre steps. This allows for future expansion on the upper level of the site without disturbing the first phase. It also contains the scope of the works and helps maintain viability.
The proposal contains the private and semi private areas of the centre within a single storey thick ‘wall’ constructed simply, using traditional local methods and materials. The main public areas of the foyer, hall and gallery, along with the shop and tea house, are all contained in the main building.
This is also single storey but of a more substantial form, with arcades providing protection from the sun at the height of the day and warmth in the evenings.
The buildings are designed to merge into the colours of the landscape and to utilise simple forms. A simple plan allows the expression of the layered facade and deep walls allow deep and sheltered openings. The design of pierced walls and screens modifies the light, with differing levels of screening a different times of the day and seasons of the year. The massive walls retain the heat from the day and release it during the evening and night, both to the interior spaces and in the external areas under the arcades.
As well as providing the practical advantage of tempering the climate the shading gives changing light effects throughout the day, bringing variety to the visual experience within the buildings. The design of these screens and pierced walls would be developed in conjunction with local craftsmen and makers.
The merging of internal and external spaces reinforces the connection with the landscape. The foyer and tea house both afford full views over the surrounding panorama. The hall has views out which may be closed off by sliding shutters, whilst the gallery space has some views out, including through smaller window openings that may be aligned to focus on particular elements of the landscape. These two larger spaces are considered as essentially introverted according to their use, although this may change as the brief develops.
The gallery space also opens on to a courtyard, allowing a secure outdoor exhibition space. This in turn is serviced by the store and workshop.
The gallery space is initially shown as a single flexible space, although this can be easily subdivided whilst maintaining natural lighting
The simple building form, locally sourced materials and traditional construction methods lead to a building that is sustainable in its use of resources and may be made to a great extent using local labour, ensuring that as much of the investment as possible is made locally and the local population feel ownership of the centre, from inception to completion and its further success.
In more conventional terms the building is also sustainable in its use of natural resources, designed to make full use of the heat of the day, rely on natural daylight without overheating and provide the opportunity for the inclusion of photo voltaic panels for on site electricity generation. By locating these on the roof of the ‘wall’ buildings they will not be visible within the greater landscape and may be orientated due South.
When seen in the context of the landscape it is important that the building does not try to assert itself. It is intended to be simple in form and modest in its impact, as the landscape is the story of this environment. Its colour and texture should be of the landscape; shading of the elevations and deep reveals to windows means that its glass does not reflect across the landscape and the form remains simple and elemental.