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A Model Image

A Model Image.





Located in a suburb of post-industrial Turin, once the ‘Fordist world’s most prototypical town’, the proposal is for a campus university sited within the endless 20m x 20m concrete grid of Fiat’s behemoth Mirafiori plant (1939). The proposed high-speed railway link between Lyon, Turin and Budapest is seen as a driving agent in re-establishing the city and its traditional expertise in manufacturing within a wider European context. The project is an exploration of the open-plan, balancing the generic with the particular by interweaving new programmes and functions into the repetitive matrix of the existing concrete frame.

The design focuses on the sectional distribution of the master plan, with workshops, offices, lecture theatres and public squares at ground level, and housing, communal facilities, nursery schools and shared gardens inhabiting the building’s roof. Occupying a site equivalent in area to Turin’s historic centre, the project envisages Mirafiori as a new city quarter articulated by the shifting presence of production, research, commerce and living.


The images above depict an installation built as a 1:500 representation of the site. Conceived as a simple armature, the model afforded a large-scale, neutral, three-dimensional surface that momentarily held the light and colour cast by a moving, digital projection. I was interested in how this plain surface could take the role of both narrative device, upon which the dynamic history of the building’s conception, construction and early operation could be retraced and re-recorded, and serve as a framework within which to test differing scenarios for the site’s re-inhabitation.

Reflecting on the experience of making this installation, I have now come to realise that what had started out as process of historic site analysis, drawn to scale and illustrated through light, had become (quite unintentionally) suggestive of a proposed architecture. Experienced at 1:1, the installation produced a dreamy environment of diaphanous surfaces, coloured light and whirring sound. Whilst the subject and intent of the installation was still historical, it no longer just retold but ‘produced’ a shifting architecture, temporary in nature and formed through the lightest touch of light, colour, diffraction and shadow. Exploring this disjunction between intent and outcome a bit further, I can now recognise that through the initial planning, fabrication and composition, activities that at the time I only understood as a means to an end, I had already made a series of decisions about the installation’s form, scale and materiality. The subsequent processes of animation, projection, filming and finally editing footage and sound together, added further faculties of decision, critique, editorship and importantly chance or accident. Each, in turn, contributed an iteration – an opportunity to reflect, develop and transform – which, slowly but surely, transformed a representation of the past into a proposal for the future.

Alastair Browning is a member of the Auckland Castle team at Niall McLaughlin Architects. His thesis project FIAT-Mirafiori, undertaken whilst studying with Unit 17 at the Bartlett and tutored by Niall McLaughlin, Yeoryia Manolopoulou and Michiko Sumi, has been selected as one of 11 highly-achieving postgraduate projects from across London’s architecture schools to exhibit at the Architecture Foundation’s Futures in the Making Exhibition.

Futures in the Making is being held at Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Twenty Tottenham Street, London W1T 4RF ( Until the 28th November 1.45 – 6pm)



The Furthest From The Floor

Imagine a room without a roof, where the sky can be seen and the seasons read. This room holds the capacity to frame dazzling colour and scaleless formation, silent motion and subtle evolution.

What if a roof challenged these things, and set out to generate a drama quite of its own?

Often we witness the world at eye-level alone. Much of our urban landscape positively encourages us to do so. Yet it is sad if, on the occasion we raise our eyes to the ceiling, we are not enamoured with what we find. It is often height that offers the best opportunity for expression. With height comes volume and the potential to present the greatest manifestation of depth and structure.

Our practice explores the roof and the complexity of a soffit as an ongoing theme. The notion of the exposed rafters in a barn has influenced the design of the soffit in our gallery at Auckland Castle. We are developing an array of rafters that create density yet delicacy in their mass when tightly multiplied. Though the roof is low, its lowest point occurs just higher than your fingertips, creating a definitive datum between the world of rafters and the world of exhibitions. This effect is further enhanced by the muted nature of the walls to increase the feeling of overhead awareness.

As contrast to this, your gaze is directed by the vertical piers that surround you as you move through Bishop Edward King Chapel in Oxford. Slowly they rise, higher and higher, until they meet the ceiling, at which point orientation is adjusted and the piers fuse with the weave of rafters. It is pleasurable to witness something simple become something complicated. Height offers the opportunity for elements in the space to take you on a journey. They “pick you up” at eye-level and carry you up to the roof, where often the brightest or darkest environments exist.

The requirement to defend from rain leaves the roof little choice but to protect, as efficiently and simply as possible, granting the interior more freedom for expression. And why not, when you consider where most building users will stand? However, as our towns and cities become denser, the roof, as seen from its surroundings, becomes an increasingly important issue to address.

The two examples I have given construct varying degrees of interest, leading me to suggest that it is possible for a roof to respond to that drama in the sky with a drama of its very own.


Katherine received a BSc Degree from the Bartlett in 2008.  In 2007, she was awarded The Henry Herbert Bartlett Travel Scholarship and the UCL Expeditions & Travel Grant to conduct a construction project in Kampala.  She joined Niall McLaughlin Architects in 2012 and has worked on London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, St Cross College in Oxford, the T1 Argent Building in London and Jesus College in Cambridge.