In 2019-20 the Performing Architecture studio continued our exploration of the ‘problem of the High Street’. The studio shifted focus from Shields Road and New Bridge Street, Byker, and Westgate Road, Newcastle, to consider Coatsworth Road in Bensham, Gateshead and its hinterland. We set as our initial provocation, “Reimagining the High Street as the Lobby of the City”:
Though often understood as a trivial space for moving-through, the lobby becomes a deceivingly important space for ‘staying’ precisely because of its lack of definite program.
Initial Site Study of the Coatsworth Road by Will Dingwall, Year 5
Coatsworth Road is a comparative success story as a local centre in a residential area. It is at the heart of one of the UK’s largest Orthodox Jewish communities, as well as attracting recent graduates with lower house prices while still within walking distance of Newcastle City Centre. At the north end, there are a growing number of Turkish and Lebanese-owned businesses. Mosques and synagogues repurpose first floor flats, public back lanes are reconceived as communally private zones, and while these communities occupy the same geographical space, they each occupy their own version of it.
The studio began with an exploration and mapping of the ‘networks (scales and frames), borders (edges and atmospheres), and differences (uses and opportunities)’ of Coatsworth Road, before the 5th years gravitated towards a more intensely theoretical, and directly physical, engagement with as-found materials and the concept of scarcity. These led to site interventions and, in semester 2, propositions to remake the existing building fabric for new economies, alternative lifestyles, and non-human residents.
The 6th year students’ thesis projects address social issues including, ‘community trauma’ in the repeated cycles of ‘slum clearance’ and incomplete ‘utopias’; the lack of non-denominational and intergenerational, communal, gathering spaces; the importance of labour, and shared endeavour, to personal and community identity. These projects all consider time as a fundamental aspect of the design process for reimaging social and economic relationships through the built environment.
5th years: Will Dingwall, Ryan Braithwaite, Richard Taylor, Patrick Mcpartlin, Harry Cope, Amy Docherty, Ka Wai Tsang, Tom Newson, Nick Rainford