Picking a site in Stonehouse

For IDAT306 our first assignment was to go to Stonehouse and search out a site to potentially build a project around. I’ve sort of jumped the gun in my ideas and I’ve had a few of them before going to Stonehouse so I knew what I was looking for. I want to develop and build on my second year project about the “social architecture” of a space as well as the physical. I thought it’d be interesting to pick two typically different locations and juxtapose the social interactions and ideas. Even though I’ve done it before I think the Roland Levinsky Building is the ideal for one of the extremes. It is a new, well funded and well looked after structure that houses people of typically high education with enough wealth to go to University. I would like to juxtapose this against somewhere at the other end of the spectrum and though I don’t know Stonehouse well, it is known as having less fortune.

I set out earlier today with Matt Gardiner to take some pictures and wander around.

The Abandoned House

We parked up near the fortress near the Royal William Yard and I soon found a disused house. Something very interesting about it was that the grounds fenced in were very unkept, bbut there was a big nicely mowed field down some ramps in front of it. I decided the wire, fences and CCTV around the house were obstacles rather than deterrents so I jumped the fence to get in close. From close-up I noticed that the doors and windows weren’t just boarded up but they were actually sealed shut with steel barricades. The light on the CCTV was flashing so it is clear that it wasn’t as a preventative measure against intruders when it was inhabited but perhaps to stop squatters and drug users from inhabiting it. I probably triggered Police curiosity taking pictures of it. View the images here

The building was very visually appealing and a stark contrast of scale and design to the Roland Levinsky Building but, being vacant and cordoned off, there’s not much social interaction with it. I’d quite like to do something with this site but it doesn’t really tie into my ideas as well. I want to compare living social use of a space rather than contrast a buzzing social space with a flatlined one.

The Resettlement Agency

Before going to Stonehouse I’d been expecting there to be some form of homeless shelter but I couldn’t find any briefly researching online. As I was driving to meet Matt I noticed that opposite C103 there was a building called the “Resettlement Agency” which sounded like it could be a homeless shelter. After visiting the house I came back here to have a look. It wasn’t open but I think it is a second hand shop that funds rehoming the homeless. I’m not sure if the shelter is on-site or somewhere else but I snapped the place anyway with the intent of going back and finding out more. I think there are so many interesting things that could be investigated between for instance, and I am vastly stereotyping here, a rich, young and fortunate architecture student with many possessions compared to an older person without a home who’s tasted the harder sides of life. What scale are their aspirations? Where would they call home? Why are they where they are? Asking someone “Why are you here” has different interpretations. It could be asking why someone is specifically in a space or why they are in a situation they are in. This will hopefully be able to provide an engaging narrative.

More Stonehouse

Right by the Resettlement Agency were some interesting buildings and places to visit. Directly opposite the agency there is the club C103, where people come and frivolously and freely spend money getting drunk in the evenings. Just round the corner there was a post in the road to stop traffic that had an emblem drawn on it by an 8 year old girl that read “Stonehouse is Number 1” with a childs drawing of happy smiling people. This post was is just round the corner from a strip club, C103, the now derelict “Dance Academy” nightclub that has been closed down for repeat drug-dealing crimes. Worst of all though the sign is directly facing a “Rooms Hotel” that curiously has an hourly rate of £15 advertised, right in the middle of Plymouth’s area known for it’s prostitution.

Quite amusingly a pub on the same building as the Dance Academy that has been out of business for years seemingly had a sign on it that was barely legible because it has been left to rot for years that reads “Under Refurbishment, Opening Soon”. I somehow doubt that.

I was only in Stonehouse for a couple of hours but it was very interesting. I got a good amount done and it often had this eery balance between being humorous and harrowing.

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