Xenia

 

Xenia (Greek ξενία, xenía) is the Greek concept of hospitality, or generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home. It is often translated as "guest- friendship" (or "ritualized friendship") because the rituals of hospitality created and expressed a reciprocal relationship between guest and host.

Xenia : Community Centre

Initial discussions over the brief for this project centred around the concept of 'community' and of the type of community likely to use a community centre in Regents Park. Much of the ethos of the building stems from this – the open layout, with all the main public areas easily visible from the glass entrance doors, welcome those who might be intimidated to enter.


The main inspiration for the final proposal is the work of David Adjaye at the Idea Store, Chrisp Street and the Stephen Lawrence Centre in Deptford. Adjaye's honest, practical use of ordinary materials used in interesting ways led me to a materiality of corrugated steel, timber cladding, textured vandal-proof coating, perforated steel, all on a basic timber stud frame. The concept is low-impact, lightweight, recycleable, energy-efficient.


My initial concept, for an earth-bermed, circular form drawing on tribal and nomadic 'pre-architecture' was, perhaps, too dogmatic. However, many of the ideas of yurts, tepees and a kind of 'material-efficient' construction apply to this later development.


When I took a less dogmatic approach, and designed onto the site plan, according to what the site and the conditions dictated, a second form emerged which had the materiality of the eventual Xenia building, but was artless and clumsy (see sketches). Resisting at first the idea of a long and thin building, I extended and drew out the main volumes, eliding part of the upper floor out into space, partly inspired by Adjaye's Deptford building, partly by Cecil Balmond's 'Informal' concept. The result has, albeit subconsciously, taken on several classic Modernist themes – a horizontality punctuated by the vertical south-facing screen, by strips of horizontal windows and by plain columns. Looking at the building now, I see Fallingwater and the Villa Savoie – a compliment to Adjaye's erudite influence ?


The final crit in December gave me two main ideas to explore – to incorporate curved forms and to celebrate the staircase. Whilst I resisted 'rounding off' the main forms, I developed the idea of a slightly curved staircase in an elliptical stairwell. Initially the stairwell was to have a solid wall to the south elevation, to cut down on direct mid-day sun, with glazed side-walls. By curving and glazing the main south-facing panel, and then incorporating the perforated stainless steel screen to form external shade and shelter, almost a processional route to the main entrance, the result is, I believe, a fitting contrast to the angularity of the main forms. The screen cuts down on glare and overheating, but provides interesting light effects both in the daytime and at night – perhaps an echo of my very first inspiration, Newgrange.

Concept

3D

2D

Model