Building on the intents set up in initial spatial studies, the final stage of the work was to compose, in intricate detail, the day-to-day lives of the site’s new inhabitants, and to rigorously construct an architecture which would support this.
The principal programme for the new community was driven by one of the oldest models of closeted societies – the monastery. The term derives from the original greek μόνος (monos) and suffix τήριον (terion), which translate as ‘a place to be alone’, and has occupied a place in the structure of religions and sects for the last several thousand years. In modern, secular cultures, the concept of retreat most closely encapsulates the spirit of the monastery – a private, protected place, to express oneself, contemplate shared beliefs or values, and learn collectively.
Students were asked to incorporate two key principles from the monastery typology – the communal residence, and the shrine space. Beyond this, each student constructed their own architectural ‘language’, derived from observation of the occupants. Materiality, spatial form and internal building relationships all answer to the same need – a perfect, private universe for a different way of life.
Proposals have ranged from an ad-hoc space for punk rock and spontaneous fabrication; a community for sufferers of young-onset dementia, in which the building takes on the duty of lost memories; a transition space in which former prison inmates can learn and develop skills to help them reintegrate with society; to a quasi-religious interpretation of taxidermy, in which all acts of surgery and decomposition, life and artifice, are mirrored in the building itself.