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  • Writing Alexandra Palace: plurivocity as a methods of cultural recovery of buildings

Ainley, Rosa, 2016, Thesis, Writing Alexandra Palace: plurivocity as a methods of cultural recovery of buildings PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This thesis examines how writing can be used to retrieve what a building has lost, the layers of its cultural significance, through creative and critical consideration of past uses and current possibilities, to aid in its cultural recovery and contribute to the future use of its architecture. It posits a new means of recovery through ‘writing the building’, and develops this method of architecture writing for use in practice, education and re- search, and as a tool in the processes of regeneration. Alexandra Palace is the case study (1873; rebuilt 1875, 1988), and at time of writing, extensive redevelopment works are in process by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, following a masterplan by Farrells (2012).
Research questions
Can a building exist and have its life extended in words through recap- turing what it has lost or is missing there?
How can language articulate the immaterial traces (of uses, users and their memories) within a building in order to reinvigorate it or direct/ redirect redevelopment?
Can connections between architectural space and the interior land- scapes of its users be made manifest through writing?
Methodology
Plurivocity is part of an experimental approach to writing as methodology, developed as a means of responding to these research questions. As a method of writing the building, plurivocity is designed to respond to the building’s unique significance, to capture and represent different opinions and experiences, whether of the past or present, marginal or official. It is an imaginative method based on the factual that disrupts the categories of creative and critical writing so that each contributes to the other and then creates something different. Historiographical writing generated by the architecture in turn initiates and inspires critical, thematic and character-led writing. Using diverse materials from archival sources, interviews and chance conversations, the strands of writing respond to the building in its various iterations – the feedback loop of abduction of Grounded Theory. This feedback mechanism is a crucial element in the plurivocal model, its subject as well as method. Instrumentalising writing like this is in itself a form of reuse, a means of recovery, re-presenting (and representing), and demonstrates how imaginative writing might contribute to programming, and future uses in refurbishment of a building. The project also extends the temporal index of architecture writing to include the future. The building is alive with the voices of users, and the polyvocal form mirrors this, in order to revitalise the building, which has been destroyed, rebuilt or repurposed, even temporarily relocated.
Ethnography
 The research follows ethnographic practice in gathering information and inspiration from site visits, observation and interviews. Constructing a se- ries of ‘characters’ brings more comprehensive sources into contention. Enabling users’ experience to be documented also helps to identify the unanticipated values a building provided, for greater understanding about the use that particular communities claim for public spaces or expect them to supply. Using Hans-Robert Jauss’s version of Reception Theory, interviewees include those involved in the current physical project, along with volunteers and users, who are embedded into the category of makers of the building.
In these ways, this research and its outcome in writing practice establish another strand of architecture writing, one that suggests and emulates the building’s multiple and particular layers, creating and occupying a new cultural and historical space.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Architecture > K100 Architecture
School or Centre: School of Architecture
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2016 14:47
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2016 14:47
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/2079

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