The mixed-use conversion of a derelict site in Sevenoaks, by Paper Architecture with Bethan Watson, was overall winner of this year's RIBA Journal/Norbord Europe competition
Hilder's Yard by Paper Architecture with Bethan Watson
‘The year is 2022 ... the high street and small-scale manufacturing are under existential threat from online shopping, chain businesses and Brexit uncertainty. The 2020 pandemic dealt another blow, both economically and [through] trepidation over social mixing.’ This is the context in which the winners set their intervention, a prefabricated OSB insertion into a disused Victorian yard, intended to rekindle business while protecting local heritage. In a pragmatically optimistic vision of the future, the architects foresee that ‘social distancing, isolation and loss meant a more supportive commercial model appealed … businesses operate independently but within a balanced community, forging bonds and sharing creativity’.
Their scheme sees the plot converted for mixed-use in its first phase, while subsequent revenue generated by the businesses is reinvested to subsidise building maintenance with the aim of long-term, permanent rehabilitation. A brick envelope and metal roof structure remain at the site with all other defunct materials removed and retained as valuable reusable resources. The OSB insertion is a sturdy, demountable framework with flexible future uses.
‘It contrasts old with new and doesn’t sanitise or clean up ... it’s a romantic ruin in an urban setting’ Christina Seilern
Yet, perhaps the scheme’s most intriguing element is that ‘here, OSB is used to symbolise rejuvenation, subverting any connotation as boarding for declining buildings.’ Rather than simply using OSB for patching up and blocking off dilapidated areas – a sad but common usage of OSB sheets – this association is celebrated. ‘I like that they recognise that OSB can be used to board up but can also bring life to buildings,’ commented Proctor. Seilern agreed: ‘It contrasts old with new, doesn’t sanitise or clean up, inserts contrasting elements within it [while allowing it to remain] as a romantic ruin in an urban setting’. Sian praised the design for its ‘big appreciation of the existing fabric’ and its ability to disassemble, showing consideration for the ‘whole life-cycle’. The architects displayed considerable confidence to keep the surroundings in ruins, leading Loftus to describe the project as ‘wonderfully poetic and ambitious’.
Second Skin was produced in association with Norbord Europe
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