The Space is a new facility for the charitable Trust 42nd Street. 42nd Street is a Manchester based charity that strives to respond to young people’s well being, confidence and, if necessary, mental health needs and this is reflected in the variety of services on offer and the dedication of the counsellor’s support provision. The Charity has operated in central Manchester for 30 years.
The facility provides support services to young people under stress. The facility includes administrative accommodation for the Trust’s support workers and staff, as well as providing drop-in facilities for young people in need of support. The spaces on offer include welfare, one-to-one and group spaces and attempts to break down the barriers that can exist between those in need and those willing to care.
The Space has been created through a Client process driven by change management and a desire to create a legacy.
At the rite of passage into the adult world teenagers are possessed, particularly viscerally, by the relative world. The body is a vehicle for sensory physical, mental, emotional and spiritual experience. From this perspective imagine the profound, mysterious transformation happening at that time. The environment is seen through the veil of visceral fascination which flips from the sublime to the morbid - ecstasy to paralyzing pain - excitement to boredom. As extremes of emotion are experienced, so the transition point in the middle is filled with confusion and uncertainty. Feeling awkward / nothing fits in with demands / wants to change the world / can't bear fixedness / the body is changing at a rate never before seen / new sensory organs come online.
Could a building reflect and help reconcile this transformation we all go through? A place they could feel 'at home' in - when the 'home' which they have loved throughout their life suddenly becomes alien - when the one place of security and protection becomes a restriction and the people you love who live there appear all too well defined. A building which offers security and familiarity, domestic in scale, but with unusual freedom - stable and yet free. A building which expresses duality - two opposing forces / geometries. The geometry of the site context containing a rebellious form which cuts through the site in a gesture of defiance. The site context provides a solid familiarity.....a comforting brick environment with the almost domestic proportions of the Victorian shop and the Coates School building.
The new building follows the existing urban geometry and forms a similarly proportioned three story end elevation to Jersey Street. Although the Pickford Street elevation is 'longer' in scale and more akin to its neighbouring MM2 development, it is still 'polite' and sensibly adheres to its contextual geometry.
Inherent within the placing of the main accommodation at the back of the site, is the lack of a presence on Great Ancoats Street. The solution is to slice a link though the gap between the end gable of the Coates School and the gable of the MM2 apartment block, terminating at Great Ancoats Street as the point of entrance. The form of this link manifests itself as a 'leaning' wall wedged between the existing brick containment which continues on to slice though the orthogonal main building. In cutting the main building a triangular, double height, vertical space is formed, the stair cascades down the side of the wall completing the journey of circulation, always in relation to this 'rogue' angular gesture. From a conceptual perspective this rogue element will fuel a synergistic relationship with the centre and its not so old, not so square, visitors.
The main accommodation building is orthogonal, rational and simple in its expression; this is to provide an overall stability and will enhance the juxtaposed angular sliced leaning wall. The windows are all orthogonal too, but are spaced in a random way. Again, this is to balance all the right angles, too many aligned grids can feel oppressive.
The Victorian Shop
This existing building has already been structurally refurbished. Once additional funding has been secured, the intention is to install new windows which follow the old glazing fenestration pattern and use it as an entrance to the centre and a place to meet for a coffee. Kitchen, disabled toilet and shower facilities will be placed in the existing lean-to structure. It is also the intention to use this space for hanging cycles to aid in the promotion of green travel.
The space between the Victorian Shop and 'leaning' wall is an external courtyard used for an outdoor coffee and meeting. To protect this space there is a dynamic, sculptural wall constructed from steel cladding sheets painted white. In the day the upper part of the wall pivots open and transforms into totem like structures allowing more of a connection with Great Ancoats Street and letting the South sunshine into the outdoor space. At night the sentinels pivot back and act as a more conventional security barrier.
The people who ‘are’ 42nd Street have become particularly adept at dealing with the desire to self harm, to cut in order to express or release powerful overwhelming forces. Inherent within this desire is the notion of balancing, curing with like for like, violence cancelled by violence.
Leonard Cohen wrote the lyrics: ‘There is a crack in everything - that’s how the light gets in’. To release this building from its completeness as a ‘box’, a 17 metre long glass slot slices through its core - that’s how the light gets in.
Such vulnerability as this must be protected at all costs; it’s what keeps us straying too far from ourselves. Four steel Sentinels stand guard, they demand / inspire your attention and clarity of heart, before you pass into this modern manifestation of sacred space.
Once inside be prepared for the unexpected: tapering stairs, angled rooms, leaning walls, a corridor to nowhere - and wardrobes which are passages to the psychologically protected land of one to one therapy.