Participation in rural area regeneration in contemporary China
The first thing is the last…….. With an emphasis on quality and craftsmanship ‘Last’ proposes a showroom and workshop for a maker of traditional English men’s shoes within the east set of railway arches at Valentia Place, Brixton. Early investigations, including visits to Northampton’s footwear factories, identified the importance of the wooden last in the shoemaking process. The way in which the half formed lasts are stacked as they wait to be tooled was of particular interest and the potential for this to be used as a spatial device emerged. The complex form of the last was abstracted to become a rectilinear ‘L shaped’ timber block that can be stacked to form a series of interlocking volumetric spaces. After an exhaustive study of every possible variant of how the ‘L shaped’ block form could be articulated it was possible to arrive at a spatial organisation that involved the installation of a stack of three modules within the arch. A concrete floor allowed one module to be expressed as a negative element that was partly submerged to create a sunken shoe fitting area with an adjacent product display. On top of this two timber modules were placed to house back of house staff spaces, customer toilet and cloakroom facilities (at ground floor level). A beautifully detailed timber staircase connects the first timber block to the second where the craftsman’s workspace is located on a first floor mezzanine. The overall result is the creation of an elegant composition of interconnected volumes and spaces that are unquestionably modern. A restrained palette of materials uses timber, leather and concrete to create an interior that is detailed in a sophisticated manner to reflect the quality found in a pair of hand made bespoke English men’s shoes.