A Poetics Of Place
Eric Parry


Office Building, Stockley Park Near Heathrow Airport, 1991. Front Facade

©E P Associates.

Rather than attempting to summarise my attitude to architecture by way of an introduction, I'll describe a series of projects and assume that my position as a member of the contemporary architectural debate will become clearer by the close of this tape. I don't consider myself to be able to be categorisable as a member of a group. My palate of materials is broad and vested in the particular context of the project. My buildings do not have therefore an immediately recognisable style or signature. But they are spatially and materially consistent. My starting point with a project is the notion of cultural situation. To understand architecture as the creation of settings for deeply-rooted archetypal situations is essential to my interpretation of form. I belong to a school of thought that has as its foundation a phenomenological interpretation of the European city as a means to understanding our contemporary cultural condition. The first slide illustrates my recently completed office building at Stockley Park. It's the first building of the second phase of the Park which is near Heathrow on the outskirts of London. The first phase was generated from a master plan by Arup Associates and the first buildings were indeed by Arup Associates. Following those first buildings, a number of well-known architects worked on the Park and illustrate a common brief being handled in various ways that deal with the problems of the skin and entrance and what is known as "shell and core building". That is to say an architecture which defines perhaps 50% of the building, leaving the larger area of the floor to be fitted out by others or by tenants unknown.


Office Building, Stockley Park Near Heathrow Airport, 1991. Plan

©E P Associates.

My building sits astride a basin of water that has been created, that flows into the canal to the south. The buildings on the Park as a whole are all orientated 9° off north and you'll see from the site diagram that the southern wing of the building is to that orientation whilst the north wing sits parallel with the entry road. This was the first rule that was broken and it enables the building to relate to its context in a closer way than some of the other buildings that are placed away from the road. The two wings split to echo the geometry of the lake and the opening up to the landscape, and form an entrance at the split. The north is set in a hard landscape and the south is set in a soft landscape, and in the middle a divide creates a cascade that falls into the lake below. Water is used to herald the threshold to this phase of the Park so that you hear the cascades as you cross the road at road level and you are, when you approach the building, you are hearing and smelling the effect of moving water which is calming. There's a lower terrace that sits on the level of the lake and this is a place to which people working in the building can retreat. The skin of the building is a panellised system of glass blocks that are bonded together with silicon beads and the blocks themselves are translucent rather than transparent, having a fibre-glass insert. That means that solar devices like brise-soleils or fritting of the glass or other devices that give a sciagraphy to the façades, are omitted to make a very laconic and clear definition between the ground floor and the first floor of what is intended to be a glass pavilion.

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