The point in my third year Final Major Project was that it was personal; everything was a personal choice from the building itself to the functions and design of the space. I choose the collection of three bottle kilns in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, which are renowned for their participation with the pottery industry.
Burslem is one of six of the ‘Mother towns’ that were collectively a fundamental part of the pottery industry and its process. The introduction of the Clean Air Act has since seen trade relocate outside of the city of Stoke, and new technologies come into play that would take over from the need to use a bottle kiln within the pottery process. The pottery industry is practically non existent in this area, and as a result has had detrimental affects on the town and its community. The area is predominantly industrial sites and waste land that has been abandoned over the years and left to deteriorate, and the kiln site is a classic example of this. Therefore, this special building; 1 of 47 left still standing in the country after over 2000 being demolished, I wanted to use to give back to the community that it sits in. I wanted it to improve the lives of the community and the area overall and for it to be a positive step towards the future of the town rather than it being a monument that represents a negative thoughts from the past. I had throughly researched into what the town was missing out on and what it needed to be improved, and as a result decided that the kilns would become a community focal point where not only tourists could come along but residents also. Each kiln has a different purpose to serving the community. Kiln 1 is a small scale cinema space which shows current releases from the box office as well as historical short films on the building, the site, the pottery industry and processes. The idea is that you attend with your friends and family and that it is just your own personal group in the intimate space watching the film. Kiln 2 has a cafe serving bar on the ground floor with seating and WC facilities in the extension built around the kilns which serves tea, coffee, refreshments etc. and above on the first floor and on a separate mezzanine level are 2 spaces where Burslem School of Art students can exhibit their own work. Burselm School of Art are in immediate proximity to the kilns; the kilns sit at the bottom of Bournes Bank and the School sits at the top of the bank. Kiln 3 pays homage to the heritage of the kilns and is an interactive exhibition that teaches visitors about the building and its history behind it. Each level within the space represents a significant point in the buildings history and imagery is used to show exactly what the surrounding area looked like at that time. Each level also represents a different stage of the pottery process, which allows the visitor to understand the process by interacting with the material and also take home a souvenir. Because the pottery process is so long, on each level the visitor would leave behind the piece of clay they had been working on for it to be fired etc and leave it for a future visitor to carry on working on. Therefore the souvenir that is collected from the top of the kiln would actually be a souvenir that other visitors and people from the local community had helped to create.
I choose the buildings to work with not only because they are such unusual structures, but simply because of the principle behind it; I don’t believe that any building should be left to ruin, no matter of its situation there is always the possibility to breathe some form of new life into it. This project has been a clear example that a limit cannot be put on what can be worked with, nor what can be deemed ‘useful’ space.
I wanted the redesign of the kilns to be simple yet make an impact and have a long lasting impression on the visitor. I wanted it to celebrate yet be sympathetic towards the existing structures. I like design that is simply beautiful, design that is understated yet screams to be looked at, and elements of this have been portrayed within this final piece.
Interior Design to me resembles creativity and exploration; it allows the opportunity for space to be enhanced and the atmosphere to completely change. It makes way for new experiences to take place and emotions to unravel; this is what fascinates me most about design and what encourages me to continue to design space.