Lauren Arthur Room For Thought
SchoolOTAGO POLYTECHNIC ARCHITECTURE
Room For Thought is an intimate space for the public to stumble upon, to take a moment to reflect, while connecting with the surroundings.
Second Beach in Dunedin is a secluded bay with a short, scenic walking track that stops at the base of the headland. Here one is immersed in the beauty of the environment but there is unease created by the verticality of cliffs above and below. The ritual nature of this experience is interrupted by the presence of other walkers. This led to the development of the programme; creating a place of shelter for reflection, for one to be alone and connect with the environment.
Three walls from an historic quarry, create a natural marking of an entrance off the track. These remnants of a time passed inspired a building that would appear to have always been there and will age as part of its environment, becoming a relic like the concrete remains. Thick slabs of local basalt form large steps up the gentle rise, towards the Room For Thought, forming part of the landscape. In the shadow of the cliffs, tall, angled walls reach out and draw you in through the ‘focusing passage’. The rammed earth walls appear to grow out from below the earth of the site, and the natural slope and ground covering is retained through the entry and corridor, creating a seamless and natural progression, as if the site and building were one.
On entry the roof plane is low and intimate. The ceiling is separated from the outside walls, allowing a soft glow of daylight to wash over the walls, helping to define the dark volumes. The ‘Sky’ room, is elevated from ground level, paved with slabs of dark basalt. A bench moulded out of the rammed earth sloped wall invites one to sit and lean back. Angled above is an opening in the ceiling and opposite wall, a view to the sky. The dark internal corridor leads to the ‘Sea’ reflection room, two stairs lead down mimicking the natural slope of the hill into a darker space than the first. In the low light a physical opening in the low glazed aperture, enhances the intense colours of the view out towards the cliffs and the ocean as the smell of the sea and the breeze filters through.
The materials directly sourced from the site, form connection between the structure and its physical context, blending the boundaries between natural and manmade space. Use of singular apertures in each reflection room creates centred spaces for visitors to feel comfortable to pause. Separated with thick walls and a dark corridor, these spaces are isolated together, creating the feeling of solitude. The use of small, focused amounts of daylight in dark spaces channels the visitor's attention towards the sky and out to the sea in ways not dissimilar to how the site is normally experienced, but with the feeling of comfort in solitude, something that is missing from the site currently.