The definition of space through boundary treatments is fundamental to architecture and placemaking. Historically, boundaries of natural materials have created enclosure and signified shelter within otherwise open and wild landscapes. From the landscapes of Italian Renaissance paintings to the vernacular traditions of rural Britain, the treatment of boundaries in architecture has long been intertwined with concepts of regional and civic identity as well as expressions of the fundamental human need for security and protection.
Over a 30-year exploration of neighbourhood design and identity, Proctor and Matthews has developed a complex understanding and a nuanced approach to the roles of boundaries in placemaking. Many of the practice’s projects have focussed on the definition of settlement edges, investigating threshold conditions at the interface of public and private realms and articulating the delicate balance between inner inhabited or domesticated worlds and ‘wild landscapes’ beyond. The moments when boundaries become belvederes.
Focussing on materiality and detail, several recent Proctor and Matthew projects incorporate boundaries articulated in palettes of natural local materials. On the Island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides, gabions of local stone define a croft of two small holiday cabins, while in the Cotswold market town of Tetbury, dry stone walls corral courtyard configurations of contemporary Later Living apartments. In contrast, the studio’s design for a new regional governmental office for Homes England at Northstowe, Cambridgeshire, deploys wattle hurdles not as a means of enclosure in the traditional way but reconfigured as a light-filtering woven willow soffit to a canopy sheltering an external working area – a belvedere from which to view the surrounding Fenland landscape and the emerging Garden City of Northstowe.
Proctor and Matthews Architects will be holding an evening symposium where they will be joined by practitioners, academics and other guests for a panel discussion on the 6th of June between 6-9pm.
gallery@oxo is owned and managed by Coin Street Community Builders: www.coinstreet.org