Antonino Cardillo's design of the Birnbeck Island in Somerset
This architectonic complex is born out of the pre-existing piers and buildings developing into a system of pathways. Like a big naval vessel, a curved shape embraces all the diverse elements of the composition, substituting an old concrete platform with the new basement building. Constructed five metres beneath the main pier, it is accessible from a ramp near the main gate of Birnbeck Island. Its sequence of flexible spaces links all the buildings on the island from below. The vessel design counterpoints the new tall buildings, in plan strategically oriented following the double orthogonal reference system created through pre-existing signs. Two different materials divide these building surfaces: concrete at the bottom and planking at the top. The method of occupying the void synthesizes diverse traditional architectural layouts (tower, linear, cantilever and city gate). In each of their narrow frontages, at the top, a big window marks the seascape creating a panorama like multitude of lighthouses. Moreover, these primary volumes are written through several unconventional signs that communicate to the outside the different spatial situation of the interiors, according to an “urban” poetry that makes a complex stratification of meaning.
Each episode, however, appears transfigured and its being in the complex renders it something else, acquiring for it new meanings. Each part resonates in another constructing a stratified reality, as in an ancient village where life and time leave tracks on the ground.