In order to understand the sound qualities and atmosphere of various locations within my proposed site, I have taken a number of sound recordings as documented below.
On the above annotated site plan I have highlighted the noisiest areas of the site (red), this happens to be along the more exposed eastern region of the site and is perhaps due to the open nature and the large car park to the south offering no protection to the wind.
Surprisingly, the central tomb in the ruin was louder than expected along with the southern access point and along side the church (orange). These areas where I expected them to be more peaceful were actually louder, perhaps due to the surrounding architecture which causes sound to reverberate/become amplified.
The most quiet/peaceful areas of the site were the northern entrance and around the westerly edge of the ruin. This is a much more sheltered area of the site due to the adjacent buildings, trees, topography and ruin itself.
Overall the sound recordings feature a lot of birdsong, which is evident in most clips. Pedestrian and some light vehicular traffic can be heard in places. Where the recordings are in an open area, the main sound is that of a strong wind which gives a sense of the environmental qualities on the day of recording.
I have learnt from this activity that the site currently offers many ‘sound environments’ – from open and breezy to sheltered and calm. There is a lot of birdsong which highlights the site’s ecological/habitat importance. There is little sound of traffic which was surprising meaning overall the site is relatively quiet given its urban context.
There is a plethora of materials on site, including ancient and more recent masonry. The masonry tells many stories: in places it is reused from the nearby Roman Wall, some of the masonry to the priory would have originally been coated in plaster and some of it is in-fill repair work. The newer masonry is on the adjacent Church of St. Botolph. The many layers of technique and history remind us of the passage of time that the site has witnessed.
There is a clear contrast between the brick sizes, the narrow red brick is typically Roman (likely reused from somewhere in town), there are rough flint stones and newer London stock brick. The range in colours is also interesting as it denotes material and period. Some brickwork had been defaced; I even spotted a brick with ‘JAKE’ carved into it – not me I promise!
Following a few visits to my selected site for D4 (St. Botolph’s Priory, Colchester) I have made some sketch-studies of the ruinous building. The ruins fascinate me; although you can’t see the building in its former state, you can use your imagination to see what would have been: windows, doorways, high-level walkways.
It is important for me to understand and appreciate the existing so that I can use this to inform my proposal on site.
With the intention of exploring the concepts of ‘time’ and ‘place’ through architecture in this academic year, the site was crucial in ensuring that I can develop a scheme that responds to this theme. I have chosen the grounds of St. Botolph’s Priory in Colchester, highlighted in green below and located south of the ancient walled Roman city.
I have carried out initial site documentation and research, the next step is to develop my project brief and define the user group for a more focused approach to the project.