Second year Interior Architecture and Design BA students at the UCA Canterbury School of Architecture have designed and built a contemporary Reading Room, which was installed at the Resort Studios in Margate for a week in November 2013.
The UCA Reading Room is a live project that forms part of an overarching research agenda adopted by the Interior Architecture and Design BA course at UCA Canterbury this academic year, which seeks to explore the crucial role of Interior Architecture and Design in urban renewal and, more specifically, in the regeneration of coastal towns. Projects and research activities for all three years of the course are focused on Margate on the Kent coast, one of the seaside resorts currently experiencing a revival after years of economic struggle.
The design brief for the UCA Reading Room was inspired by Margate's Georgian reading rooms, which were popular places where visitors were entertained during the town’s heyday in the late 18th century. Reading rooms were a cross between a library, museum of curiosities, games room, and a gossip hub, which hosted public events, organised raffles, card tournaments and lectures on the latest scientific discoveries. Based on this historical precedent, students were encouraged to consider the role of a contemporary Reading Room as a location for public events and discussions about current issues and developments affecting Margate.
The design brief stipulated that the installation should be modular, demountable, and built predominantly from plywood. Students designed the contemporary Reading Room in a two- stage competition, refining several proposals before a final design scheme was chosen to be developed further. The result of this process is an enclosure composed by a continuous bench supporting 22 pivoting modules that can rotate to be ‘open’ or ‘closed’ allowing for different activities and presentations to take place.
As well as designing the overall Installation, students developed the design for their individual modules, facilitating a number of activities such as: sharing and archiving childhood memories of Margate; writing and sending postcards; playing games; reading and studying; all aimed to generate debate around regeneration initiatives in the town.
The UCA Reading Room hosted a week-long series of events and talks by local creative practitioners; individuals involved in policy and development of Margate and UCA academics. Speakers included Sam Causer (Sam Causer Architects), Alex Chinneck (Artist), Dan Thompson (Artist and writer), Ratcliff/Landells Architects, Gabor Stark (UCA), Kristina Kotov (UCA), Dan Chilcott (Resort Studios) and Louise Oldfield and Liam Nabb (The Reading Rooms, Margate).
Following its stay in Margate, the Reading Room will return to UCA where it will become an archive for the students’ projects and a space for tutorials and exhibitions. During the summer of 2014 it will also travel along the Kent coast including Folkestone during the Triennial and to France in 2014 as a catalyst for cross-border discussions on urban regeneration.
UCA Reading Room is supported by ReCreate, a project funded by Interreg IVA Programme France (Channel) England.