Britannia Basin Housing


(Competition project, 1999)

A housing project for an ex-industrial canal-side zone in Manchester driven by an interest in the architectural possibilities of spatial density. The proposal takes the form of a build-up of architectural elements that respond in differing ways to the site, carrying with them specific programmatic and material conditions. The first of these pieces is a concrete ‘plate’, which is raised to provide space for an area of car parking below. As this stratum becomes unhinged from the earth, the cartographic grid that previously fixed and determined its position fragments across its surface. This scattering is registered through an array of incisions that are consequently opened within it. The concrete plate is then pinned back to the site via a set of ‘anchorages’, inhabited concrete walls that pass through the incisions. These hold all the services and wet spaces for the housing (kitchens, bathrooms, etc.), as well as acting as supports for the vertical circulation. To the anchorages, and above the plate, the ‘arkhive’ housing is tethered. Conceptually the arkhives are mobile pieces that have a contingent relation to the servicing anchorages against which they dock. They are clad with bent plywood skins patterned with a constellation of small openings. Finally, two beams of housing, the south and north ‘horizons’, span across the anchorage walls, acting as framing devices that lock the entire assemblage into position. Clad in zinc, these both respond to the elevated infrastructure of the railway line that borders the site and establish lines against which the movements of the sky are read and reckoned from within the depths of the architecture below.