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The art of performance is alive, not just in dance, theatre, and music, but in our natural and built environment. For the latter, this manifests in the form of a reciprocal relationship between it, its landscape, and its user. Buildings cease to be “things in the world” and become a part of a narrative in a story that can be understood in its context, meaning its landscape, or apart from it.

As quarrying and mining are a key part of Cornwall’s history and present, whether it be quarrying for Cornish granite, China Clay or Cornish tin, Carnsew Centre for the Arts aims to represent, in a built form, the performative act of mining and excavating, through the concept of disintegration, highlight the constantly manipulated landscape.

This performative understanding of the quarry will allow the users to see the site as a dynamic. The built structure will develop over time, disintegrating into more spaces designated for all different types of arts, which will reinforce the nature of the working quarry landscape; a landscape that moves, changes, and becomes in time.

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THE SITE: Penryn Historical Town

Carnsew Quarry, currently the largest inland quarry, is located northwest of Mabe Burnthouse. The closest town, Penryn, is a lively town, sought after by students, families and tourists. The town is predated by a thousand years or more.  Some of the most predominant events during Penryn´s history are related to the act of quarrying and mining, the development of social venues, and the creation of theatre plays such as the Ordinalia and Beunans Meriasek. 

MASTER PLANNING: Reintroducing Native Species

The Restoration/Aftercare section on the W2/PA97/00831/F planning application Notice of Conditional Permission for Development submitted in 2009 states the operational authorities desire to remove all machinery and associated developments on the site to restore the land at the cessation of operations. A later notice submitted in 2006 further states that “on completion of quarrying operations the site shall be restored to grassland or any other use which has previously been approved”.

As such, the intention for the completed site is to have areas where natural regeneration of vegetation is encouraged, and others where low fertility wildflower grassland will be seeded. Taking into consideration that several species have had a high failure rate (25%) due to the exposed nature of the landscape, hardly plants will be used to increase the chance of successful re-wilding:

40% Hawthorn – Crataegus Monogyna
10% Holly – Illex Aquifolinm
20% Sycamore – Acer Pseudoplatanus
20% Blackthorn – Prunus Spinosa
10% Oak – Quercus Petrea

As the proposal to develop Carnsew quarry included the removal of hedges, which likely qualify as a national BAP priority habitat, the site planning proposes the re-introduction of these niche habitats.


THE CONCEPT: Performativity

The building takes a performative stance towards the site, interacting with the sun and the changing landscape of a working quarry, similar to how the rocks disperse and the granite breaks down. The initial stage begins with a grid that is easily carved out, just like a boulder. Studying the sun’s position, the building started to take shape when removing the necessary pieces for the user to be able to see the sun every day from the entrance of the building at 12 pm, and redistributing these as studios around the site, placed arbitrarily by choice.

Three main buildings take form during the first design stage of the project, following the sun’s path. The building is static, but performs through its shape in relation to the path of the sun, framing the sun through the entrance exactly at noon.


The viewing platform is positioned to face the sunrise and sunset year long.

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The building's structural strategy relies on a modular system of 5x5 mt timber and glulam column units from which a bigger building develops, using glulam columns for structural strength. Transferring the load to exposed structural steel, these units are connected to them through a 1”- 2” thermal break pad to avoid thermal bridging.

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THE FACADE: Copper vs Granite

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Structural Drawings 2 - Copper Cladding-01.jpg

Given the modular nature of the building, the structure uses pre-fabricated SIP panels and their respective modular frames brought to the site, ready to be assembled.

The make-up of the panels differs only on their carrier system, depending on the cladding. The modular structures with granite cladding utilise a carrier system that supports a honeycomb-like structure, attached to a panel of granite. 

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