From Priorities to Project

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Axonometric, Collage, Hand Drawing, Model, Sketch, Students

From Priorities to Project

Jamie Stirrat



(in)-Habits: Economy Student Housing in the conflicted city of Belfast.

Cities, like dreams, In Italo Calvino’s fanciful and acclaimed novel Invisible Cities, he states ‘even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are are made from desires and fears, absurd, their perspective deceitful. and everything conceals something else. You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours…’ (Calvino, 1974)

The room on the other hand echoes this same thesis but perhaps on a more primitive level. The developing itself room is a testimony to the effects of spatial appropriation by the user through time. As the room gains meaning through occupation and use, both the city and the room coalesce: acting as a stage for human enterprise. Rather the sounds of vernacular markets rushing, commute traffic ingrained in the routes of the city, the smells of trash being lifted in the morning or the protrusion of cobblestones through footwear onto your feet; the magic of the room comes from the simply provided by its own inhabitants. The room asks a question and we give the response.

Diverging, in the context of Belfast: Capital growth has been stunted, patterns divided and its urban fabric, experimental. However Belfast, as a result, has become a safe-haven of thought, a place to reflect and most of all a place to grow. The city. driven from conflict, provides an interesting dichotomy between an incoming style and inherent pragmatism carried from the past one that is dominated and carried on namely by locals and academics that reside in the worn outdated terrace housing that the city currently provides.


Thus the set task of (in) Habits in designing suitable student accomodation becomes somewhat palpable. Through a subtle realisation of art and architecture symbolic of the past, such as ‘The Garden of Earthly delights by Hieronoymus Bosch’, the permanence of the city and the idea of its improvement becomes dichotomous to the transience of student living. Where the residence of the future becomes a playground of human activity each room a realm of its own an the journey spectrum and exploitation of primitive perception, emotion and expression.. As a result between a the world of fantasy and surrealism aren’t just a point of study they become the stage for living. Overall as a whole, the project scraps the idea of a monogamous conceptual development, treating the whole project as an interactive process, filled with influence. Working on the basis of phenomenology and immersive experience in the escapade of growing as a student and building on the strengths of Belfast on an urban scale and a human scale.

‘So with the rise of bourgeois professionalism architecture was driven into the realm of Specialisation where only the problems of how’ are important. because the of why considered to be solved once and for all. but the subjugation which succeeded so well with most human activities could not succeed with architecture. This was not because architecture had a conceptual and operative structure able to res isit instrumentalisation but precisely the opposite because it lacked structure not that when the programme of specialisation began to succeed in a world shaken by the the industrial What was architecture remained obsesses with styles. proposing a mere manipulation of signs when Blundell Jones required was a profound subversion of concepts and methods.’ (DeCarlo, 2005, p.5)




a mara…(‘Of the Sea’): A Drontheim Boatbuilding workshop and Seafood Restaurant.

As a town, Ballycastle provided an unusual situation to comprehend. Its lack of significant development since its industrial decline was somewhat underwhelming, yet provided a town of ageing heritage which in turn was understated. It’s relationship with the sea – in it’s layered  harbour and position in the wider landscape of the North Coast provided an opportunity for significant intervention.



In a search for a method of introducing the project, there was a realisation that the charisma and strength of Northern Ireland is bolstered through its natural phenomena. These are simply the places within the country where people experience the most joy – therefore it was only here it felt natural to begin working.


Thus I turned to understanding a sense of place and purpose. Place in presence, which was missing from the town and also purpose, which would take it’s place as craft – embedded in the brief. Thus looking at the wider context of the North Channel and the inherent and ancient vernacular of these coasts.

In the hope of finding an answer in what I was trying to achieve. I found that in capturing the value of context, I was able to define a working method that captured the small seaside town in both intervention and it’s representation. Moreover, the pinnacle of my exploration was The Devil’s Churn, east of Ballycastle. A natural sea cave in the sandstone mass of Pans Rock. Comprimising an inner pool separated from the open sea at low water by a lip of rock, the churn was once used as an economic and naturally ergonomic method of creating capital. With the function of the churn gone and the ruins scathed, the purpose of the intervention is now nothing more than a perpetual and ephemeral experience, curated through the relationship of rock and water – a base for thought.





Who influences you graphically?

I’ve been very lucky to have seen and been influenced by so many different sources. However, I’m sure it’s a common answer, but there’s no set source. In the past I’ve been influenced graphically by paintings like ‘The Tower of Babel’ by Peter Brugel as much as film photography or even video games I was fascinated by as a kid. Usually the influences that appear throughout my experiences previous to (immediately to months before a project starts) and during a design process. Sometimes these are artists, music, books and architects that I precedent. I think gold can be found especially in sources completely unrelated to Architecture or if not unrelated, out of the general scope of a standard design process. I try to take influences and connect them so that they can grow into their own unique representation. The plus is that influence is indirect collaboration and thus using a wide range of influence, working methods become more open to collaboration, change and development – flexible to change between project to project usually as I fall deeper, or consequently fall away from a certain set of beliefs.

How important is the sketch as tool through which you can develop and test ideas?

Apart from being the quickest method of testing, sketches from the hand are the purest medium to communicate thoughts as they come and go. Like most form of communication, through drawing, priorities are expressed and from these priorities the project is formed. This paired with its efficiency, makes the sketch extremely flexible to testing and developing a project.


a mara…(‘Of the Sea’): A Drontheim Boatbuilding workshop and Seafood Restaurant.


(in)-Habits: Economy Student Housing in the conflicted city of Belfast.

When developing a project, how do you approach the notion of its representation? What defined the types of drawings as well as their graphic language?

Like a marketing scheme, the representation of the project should represent what it is and the message it is trying to convey. I follow this belief. Some projects revolve around the idea of human experience, so I try to represent an atmosphere. Some are an experiment, a learning curve, so I try to represent a process. Some about a political message, so I try to represent a very clear idea so it is relatable and can be easily understood. Sometimes it’s a complete mix of intention and that becomes represented. In terms of graphic language, I have a recurring belief that architecture must be for everybody, so I try to make projects that can be universally understood and can maybe bring people into the process, even through how they’re represented.


a mara…(‘Of the Sea’): A Drontheim Boatbuilding workshop and Seafood Restaurant.


What role does the model play in relation to the drawing?

I always remember seeing a model for the first time and the ability it gave to empathise and understand intention. So I really have a bad bias for model. However, I suppose they are both abstractions and they are telling of different things. As they deal in 3D, Models are more inclined to tell the story of the physical (light, materiality, structure, perception), and even the fact that they are ‘constructed’ in some physical way, suggests time in 4 dimensions. The drawing, 2D, is more a reflection on the mind of the person who created it and what they created it for. It tells a slice of the story for a particular understanding (construction, context, organisation). However, they both are processed by people so they express their own priorities, in that sense they are very similar and thus when the process uses both, they can play on their own individual strengths and become a very effective tool to push a project.



What is your take on the architectural silhouette and the proliferation of silhouettes as those of skarglubbar amongst others?

I believe Architecture is formed for the majority, of who are normal people, with real feelings, thoughts, needs. Those who have an innate response to their surroundings rather than an analytical or academic approach. My primary goal in architecture is to create built work that can directly and greatly improve the lives of the majority. I tend to represent people as they are in that majority, Skarglubbar is great for this. That said, I really appreciate the use of alternative methods of representing silhouettes, just like those who use figures from paintings or even those talented enough to create their own. I believe the reason for this is that it suggests consideration, and consideration in the right direction leads to quality.



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