Author : James Taylor-Foster

University : Manchester School of Architecture

Status : BA(Hons) , 2014

Advisor : Dr. Darren Deane

Title : Lithification

A building should belong to, and be born from, the earth. The sedimented, stratified layers of stone requires the layers of social history that accumulate over time and invoke a forgotten narrative that can be reinvigorated through built works. Martin Heidegger observed a “peculiar temporality” to stone. It presses down and manifests its heaviness; a symbol of timelessness that erodes with the passing of it.

This project is, fundamentally, a house for stone fragments in the heart of Manchester’s civic centre. Combining gallery spaces with workshops for stonemasonry, the building’s programme hinges around a tripartite relationship between stone as symbol, material and object. The spaces which consolidate these three spatial threads create a communicative dialogue between street and threshold, node and surface, person and occupation. Designed to activate encounters between the material fabric of the built environment, movement of people, and the intimate craft of stone carving, the scheme seeks to integrate with (rather than reconfigure) the symbolic fabric of the city’s civic heart.

The scheme, heavily influenced by ritualised occupancy both human and non-human (such as the daily, repeated zenith of falling light), distills the principle elements of a building into a collection of interdependent, intangible relationships. Volume, void and light align to create moments of lateral swelling in which the interaction of people supersedes, yet elevates and accentuates, particular formal moves.


S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
James Taylor-Foster_ The project is an exercise in how considered abstract design moves can be wrought together to become a holistic, grounded piece of architecture. Taking the theme of ‘stone' as programme, and materially subverting it into concrete, the extent to which light, texture and abstracted materiality (in this case glazed onyx) can be synthesised spatially. More than anything, the scheme is an attempt to show how an iterative design process can be exploited to create architecture that is rich with meaning yet, at the same time, carved from and into its context.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
JTF_ My second love is art history; my overarching passion, writing. Unlike painting, for example, the practice of architecture is not an immediate creative process. Whereas painters can express themselves rapidly, architects must invest a considerable amount of effort into transforming their paper dreams into something real. Writing, therefore, is my way of expressing myself as immediately as possible. I write because I’m a frustrated creative!

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
JTF_ Talking and listening. The people you meet in the highly charged environment of architecture school are invaluable in defining you as a designer. By listening and arguing you ultimately forge your own ideas with the kind of conviction necessary to really enjoy what you do.

S//A : Describe your dream project
JTF_ A subtle urban building on a site doused with light.