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Repository in Hay-on-Wye

Part 1 Project 2010
Tom Atkinson
University of Lincoln Lincoln | UK
“Believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The non-existent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired” _Franz Kafka

“As long as there is a single copy, a solitary typescript of my final draft, then my spontaneous, fortuitous sister and her medical prince survive to love” _Briony Tallis

The project started with these quotes by Franz Kafka and Briony Tallis [a character in the book Atonement by Ian McEwan]. It began the inception of an idea to design a place where people can go for this very reason, to live and fulfil a desire through the means of literature.

The first line of enquiry led me to a derelict ice factory in Grimsby, used as a location to film significant scenes in the film remake of Atonement. A strong sense of romanticism was present and its affect on the film clear, developing a notion that the factory held an ability to manifest literature, and in turn manifest places of literature, leading me to Hay-on-Wye, “a town of books,” to select a site suitable for such a place to existentialise ones desires.

Located adjacent to Hay Castle and in the centre of over 30 second hand and antiquarian bookshops, the building programme looked to achieve levels of public and private spaces, suitable for their purposes yet allowing their users to dictate their own levels of interaction with others and the town around them. The building comprises of living, writing, printing and binding spaces over 3 levels, with other shops and then a private underground archive which breaks the surface in a public space in front of the building. To its primary users the building acts in the form of a B+B where they reside during the course of them writing their desires in literature.

The repository aims to achieve a rich alchemy of narrative informed design as well as being critically informed by contextual and environmental aspects. Paradoxically, the building assimilates with the town but stands out as an architectural icon creating intrigue and curiosity, attracting visitors to use its traditional functions inherent of the town’s history.

Tom Atkinson

The studio brief asked the students to reflect upon the advantages and disadvantages of narratives in the architectural design process; the values of fiction and fitness for purpose.

The student’s initial investigation, which included the romantic ruins of Grimsby docks, the film Atonement, and both Franz Kafka’s and Bruno Schulz’s dark and idiosyncratic writing, led to the formulation of the main design project: the repository of single copy manuscripts in Hay-on-Wye, the town of books.

The submitted project cleverly blends reality and fantasy. It translates a combination of narratives into a feasible and context-sensible building, dedicated to the full process of creating more stories. It is a retreat, a publisher and a storeroom. The entire building structure, internal walls and staircase well, are an elaborate timber book shelf. The rusty exterior envelopes an intricately picturesque interior. The resulting spaces generate an inexplicable atmosphere (achieved by space volumes, proportions, natural light and choice of materials), designed to stimulate the visitors' creativity.

The scheme is designed with flair, sensitivity and attention to detail. A clear idea develops all the way through, with a consistency of quality. It is a success functionally, aesthetically and critically.


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