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Green Bowl Park

Part 2 Project 1999
Matthew Salenger
Architectural Association London | UK
Our Unit's brief this year focused on the study of large-scale buildings in the city of London to be placed at major transportation facilities. In order to understand how to arrange for such a major interjection, I placed the city within a gallery space in order to see London as an object, a piece of art, and as a whole. The image that grew from this idea created the notion that cities are interior spaces which are created out of both physical space (building height to street width) and mental perceptions (vast surroundings of controlled artificial environments, with nature pushed to imperceivable boundaries).

After creating various proposals studying this perception, I decided to create an interior space out of a city park. I found that parks are places of heightened control in the city because of guided paths, maintenance, and planting. In London, the city parks are neither urban nor natural because of semi-urban uses and perceivable buildings at the boundaries. My project attempted to make a clear distinction between the natural and the urban, thereby increasing the effect of both. The park that I proposed at Kings Cross would have its edges lifted up, with the city flowing underneath the lip. This duality of the experience from above and below the raised edge became the guiding force of the project.

Within my proposed park, I would place a new zoo for London. The zoo would use the concept of "visitor cages" in which the animals appear more free than the visitors do. The placement of the zoo would occur at the perimeter of the park so that from the park's center, one is surrounded by simulation of wilderness. The animals would be housed both above the park's edge, and at times, below it in order to become part of the city.

Another blending of the city and edge would occur with all of the transportation uses around the site. One example is that the raised viaduct that would bring in rail passengers from the channel connection. It would cut into the park at a particular moment, creating an urban-nature-urban view as the train becomes part of the park for only a few moments. This also connects the project to the romantic notions of train journeys throught city and countryside.

Within the varying structure, inhabitable multi-function pods hang from the steel frame under the edge in appropriate places. These hold houses, offices, hotels, therapy rooms, animal habitats, and other functions that further blend the park edge with the city. One enters the pod from the park side through a skylight, which is the only visible part of the pod from the park. After entering, the park is left behind and vast views of the city and the functions below the park edge become visible.

The structure, pods, surrounding buildings, and the two major train stations break through the surface of the park towards its edge. The control of nature gradually gives way to the city. From the center, only the romantic notions of countryside and travelling occur. As

Matthew Salenger

Jampacked City

The Unit was invited to challenge the density of inner London - Jampacked City.

The students were asked to come up with urban and architectural schemes on or next to all of the London train stations, thereby exploiting the public transport of London exactly at its nodes.

Above and beyond this general brief, each student was expected to develop their own potential in approach, process, style and design. Witty/interesting deviations from details of the brief were appreciated and encouraged.

Matt choose the area to the North of Kings Cross /St. Pancras to place a large, multifunctional development. A large park bowl rises over the city with the edge cantilevering out. This achieves a reverse of the city. The undercroft of the bowl is inhabited with commerce, stations, sports, and residential. Nooks, niches, and pockets valleys indicate a world above. The park stretches through and across the wide bowl - hiding the city behind its horizon.

Matt took on the challenge of the Unit from the start. His early investigations into the nature of park and city, which he investigated by working with scale, led him to a series of images which demonstrated a radical approach to how the London skyline could be changed. His initial intrigue with the interplay between the natural and the unnatural, and the idea of the volcanic crater image as a devise for separating the contained view from the open ended view remained constant themes throughout.

Matt is a student with a rare level of maturity and integrity, and as such was a great asset to the Unit. His work set a benchmark which encouraged the rest of the Unit, and he has a delightful personality – kind, thoughtful, and generous.

• Page Hits: 10258         • Entry Date: 08 January 1999         • Last Update: 13 April 2023