Studio 01 returns this year, continuing to explore issues of place and character in the context of radical change. We will work in the historic East Sussex town of Rye, picking up on themes we have explored in previous years where we have run studios in Alfriston and Winchelsea.
At first sight, Rye appears to be a quaint small town, a local centre providing amenities for a rural area, and a retreat and inspiration for authors. In contrast to its present relative isolation, Rye has played an important national role during its history. As part of the Cinque Ports confederation, Rye was a crucial part of the defence and trade infrastructure of medieval England. In return for supplying men and ships in times of war, Rye (as with other members of the confederation) was accorded a degree of autonomy and certain economic privileges, such as the right to bring goods into the country without paying import duties. Today, it retains a distinctly urban character, despite having a population of only around 5000 people. This sense of place has survived in modern times in part because of the unusual geography of its location, surrounded on three sides by water (originally the sea, and now at the confluence of three rivers), and is now protected by a conservation area.
Studio 01 will imagine that Rye and the surrounding area regains its national importance. Working in a near future scenario, we will explore how the design of architecture may address radical change in sensitive locations.
To begin, we will concentrate on learning from Rye. We will study it through careful observation and explore ways for new architectural structures to interface with existing historic fabric. We will then set a scenario in which to work: The western members of the original Cinque Ports confederation – Hastings, Winchelsea, Rye, New Romney – develop as a new economic development zone and free port. As in medieval times, they will operate with substantial autonomy in economic matters, such as being free from customs duties and controls for transshipment. Incentives such as these, together with new infrastructure, encourage rapid new economic development in the area. Working within this imagined setting, you will design a major new building in Rye, addressing its interface with surrounding new developments and designing a route between the historic centre and a new high speed railway station. You will respond to the specifics of Rye’s architectural character, understanding how this can be formulated as architectural qualities for continued development rather than merely restrictions leading to conservative approaches or the atrophication of the built environment.