Myself and Hayley Sheldon have completed this thesis project under the Contentious Heritage research strand of Continuity in Architecture. Within Contentious Heritage we consider buildings, sites, and structures whose current condition has been formed by the activity of occupiers, interventions of architects, and societal trends of their lifetime. Through this thesis project we have explored the contentious heritage of the abandoned Denbigh Asylum in particular.
This thesis has considered ‘How can differing approaches to adaptive reuse be tailored to commemorate the memories, and expose the scars present in the historic building fabric of Denbigh Asylum?’. The process of this research has resulted in a design proposal for a Denbigh Conservatoire hosted by the former asylum site. This programme was generated with the intention of providing a cultural destination within the town that provides a location for the National Eisteddfod in North Wales.
Key themes we identified in our initial research, including the site’s axial nature, a system of circulation that controls the interaction of inhabitants, and the idea of the site as a microcosm of Denbigh, have been carried through our proposal as design concepts. Our interventions have taken different approaches dependant on the condition of specific fragments of the Main Range and the site as a whole to ensure the most appropriate strategy for adaptive reuse is applied. The resultant proposal comprises a series of authentically old and authentically new elements, celebrating the positive memories associated with the asylum, exposing the traumatic and with the intention of recreating a feeling of wholeness within the fragmented asylum remains.