Thursday24 July 2014

Helen Goodwin - Kingston University

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The Roding Valley in east London is a diverse landscape that laces through the pilotis of the elevated M11 and plays host to high voltage lines, paddocks, football grounds and derelict munitions depots. Within this heterogeneous terrain Helen Goodwin proposes the addition of a crematorium and columbarium.

Judges’ comments

The judges appreciated the lucidity of this student’s presentation and particularly the use she had made of models as both a design tool and as a means of representation. The sense that the project had been investigated at a range of scales, from that of the landscape to the individual unit of construction was very compelling.

Student Statement

Landscapes of Memory

Part disused landfill site, part former sewage works, a haphazard pocket of open space in Woodford - part of the London Development Agency’s ’East London Green Grid’ - is transformed by the placement of a crematorium, columbarium and cemetery into a memorial park and nature reserve.

Here the dead can linger in the minds of the living amidst the wildflower meadows of a fertile yet previously severed piece of river valley that once again becomes responsive to the ebb and flow of the seasons.

By heightening an awareness of natural cycles and of the fragile beauty of these beguiling urban landscapes, their potential as valuable open space and as a constantly renewable resource within the repetitively sprawling suburban fabric is brought to the fore.

The settings for these new proposals articulate a journey taking the visitor from city to nature, grief to reconciliation, public to private, with the building sitting in the landscape as a threshold between these states and redefining a connection between the city and this liminal place.

The experience is of a sequence of poetic settings articulated by light, texture and space, settings which appeal to commonly held experiences and which mark episodes on a journey - conceptually a journey through the forest of which the building forms an edge.

The funerary chapel, with its translucent, reflective surfaces and light descending to the sunken catafalque - a ’clearing in the forest’ - marks the pivotal moment on this journey where public remembrance turns into private grief before the landscape offers itself as a reconciliatory tonic.

Tutor Statement

Helen’s thesis proposes a new crematorium situated in the diverse landscape of the Roding Valley in East London. Parts of this valley embody a manifestly Thatcherite social order - like a relic from the 1980s that somebody forgot to change. The dominance of the private car, the absence of quality public space and segregation by tax bracket leave a nasty aftertaste. But this is a superficial reading of a complex and still contested ground stretching from the borders of Epping Forest to Barking Creek. Along the way the river valley laces through the pilotis of the elevated M11, slides unseen below Charlie Brown’s roundabout, plays host to high voltage lines and paddocks, football grounds and derelict munitions depots.

Following a series of walks transecting these diverse territories, Helen set about recording this place, drawing a portrait of an abused and re-engineered pocket of landscape - at turns, bucolic, pathetic, muscular and civic - and suggesting a new role for it through her proposals for a crematorium and columbarium. The trength of Helen’s work lies in her ability to play on the existing ambiguities of the landscape and align them to the process of grieving which has both a public and a private face.

The broader landscape proposals remake part of the ground as a ’polder’. Mourners are free to scatter ashes amidst water meadows where the seasonal fluctuations of the water table are made apparent. Elsewhere, a strengthened tree line reinforces a distinct boundary between the meadows on one side and fields facing suburban Redbridge on the other. The Crematorium and chapels become a moment of intensity where this boundary is both emphasised and crossed. The emotional potential of this undervalued landscape is maximised.

The building mediates subtly between the ceremonial formality of an arcade and the informal earthiness of a pagan hut. This Janus faced building offers a range of places for grief, memory and remembrance in a way that is both reassuring and surprising.

Christian Frost and Rod Heyes


Readers' comments (2)

  • Helen is also on the final shortlist of 6 for the 3DReid Student Prize - the UK's largest practice-run prize.

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  • Great work!

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