The Interior Architecture graduate talks us through his degree work as Dep.Art 2014 shows off some of Leeds’ most talented students.
The School of Architecture, Art and Design at Leeds Metropolitan University is currently exhibiting its Dep.Art show at Broadcasting Place, highlighting the wealth of creative and skilled talent Leeds is currently home to.
Herein lies Leeds’ reputation as a student city – not merely for all of the ‘extra-curricular’ activity that happens, as good as it all is, but because it attracts the brightest minds looking to forge their own paths in their respective fields.
One such student is Patrick Cook. As part of his Interior Architecture degree, he completed a final year project that examined the redevelopment of Belmont Row, a disused former bicycle and co-op factory in Birmingham that is entitled ‘The Belmont Revol-ution’ – a multi use space that takes in a cinema, café and at its heart the bike foundry which will deal with the up-cycling of bicycles.
And whilst it’s not directly aimed at Leeds, it turns out Cook’s proposed renovation of the structure – the last left of its kind in a former industrial heartland – is borne out of an enthusiasm that is set to take over Leeds in the next few weeks.
It isn’t just the 2014 Tour de France that has got people’s legs cycling, in fact it’s a phenomenon that has risen quite considerably in the past decade or so, quite probably on the back of the country’s athletic success in the sport.
For Patrick however, the future is very much augmented by the past. He tells of the building’s history, “it was built in 1899 and that was to produce, over the years it was open, rubber pellets and bicycle frames.”
“Then, in 1917, it changed hands to a co-operative organisation. With the outbreak of World War One there was a drop in popularity of bicycles, as there had already been a huge boom of it, so it took that natural decline. It was owned by Co-operative organisation for 90 years, then it was used for producing a range of different things… pianos, bedsteads, hosiery, storage.”
But why does this make it relevant to the work Patrick has done? It’s to his credit that he’s taken a holistic, restorative approach to the now fire-torn structure. “Each space links back into a previous use of the building.”
He explained that the whole point was “to mirror some of the use of its past, to get some context from it, and the main driver was the actual equality of co-operatives. So it was an equal piece of card, and then it was folded up in certain ways to create different forms. And then they were supported by metal pins, so each form supports another. That’s how the building works in its sensations.”
Whilst the concept is visibly impressive, there’s no doubt the work it’s taken to get to that point has been no a downhill ride. In fact, the process from brief to concept, and design to end product will often see ideas change and be amended to fit the ever evolving design.
“We started off with a hand drawing of what we’re making, so just loads of different developments” he explains. “This [central section] was one of the first bits we were told to design the detail for, really getting into the fine elements of the building. It took 10 days of development actually, but just drawing out and figuring out what would fit in this space really helped – working to plan sections and models and keep going around like that. The final CAD plans of the actual cinema detail the aluminium framework, the plywood, that’s actually rubber pellets on the inside, and rubber on the outside for insulation of sound.”
The reference to materials is important because each one used has an important function whether it’s to ensure the building reaches the correct standards as well as adhering to the past-meeting-present ethos that ushers the building into the 21st century. The sense of unity from the equal pieces of card and pins in the structure is passed through to the way the building is constructed, repaired and presented.
“There’s reclaimed timber, recycled rubber and gravel for the cycle press. Cork, because it brings reference to the handlebar tape used on bikes, we’ve got some leather in there too. There is an eco-friendly concrete and neoprene-covered cotton, which leaves a mark – it has that unity, so when someone’s been sat down, they leave a mark, each person does.”
With the hard work completed, like many students, Patrick looks now towards a future that has been given a platform by Leeds Metropolitan University and The School of Art, Architecture and Design.
“It seems to gear you towards industry, in one way or another. You could go down the MA route and start doing your architecture, or you could go into a firm and do CAD work and work your way up. Or you could do something completely different, just straight up design or some even go into theatre, as a set designer. It gives you that model making ability and spacial awareness.”
The lessons learnt are evident in Patrick’s work presented at Dep.Art 2014, as is the skill, craft and knowledge. This is perhaps an exhibition of students’ work, but it’s more importantly an invaluable insight as to the worth of giving young talent a chance to show exactly what they’re capable of.
Dep.Art 2014 is at Broadcasting Place, Leeds Metropolitan University until Friday 13th June 2014, from 10am until 4pm.