Founded in 1128 by William Gifford, the Bishop of Winchester, Waverley Abbey was the UK’s first Cistercian monastery. The Cistercian’s followed the strictest interpretation of The Rule of St. Benedict, which focused heavily on manual labour and more solitary life.
The Abbey now stands in ruin with few remaining structures still standing. One of these is the Parlour; a small building within the monastery that was the only place inside the walls of the abbey where the Choir Monks could communicate directly with one another. These conversations usually revolved around planning the days’ tasks along with the Abbot.
The quality of life that monks experienced was far greater than those outside of the monastery. They were healthier and better educated, being the only members of society that could read and write thanks to the constant writing/copying of manuscripts and religious documents. However, there was a further divide within the walls of the Abbey, where the Lay Brother’s, who were working-class individuals who converted to the ways of the monks, focusing solely on manual labour, not only took the same vows as the Choir Monks but also had their own list which specified that they must remain illiterate. It was these areas of research from the site that influenced both the concept, user and overall design of my Final Major Project.
Unconventional is a project that aims to combat modern adult illiteracy issues, which affect approximately 8 million adults in the UK alone. This problem comes mostly as a result of unsupported dyslexia, with 10% of the population diagnosed with the learning difference.
Dyslexia mainly affects reading and writing but can affect things like memory and organisational skills. Living with dyslexia itself has great benefits and those with the learning difference tend to be more involved with creative activities, which this project focuses heavily on.
However, for dyslexic adults who received insufficient support when they were younger, the consequences can be dramatic and in some cases can lead to poor reading and writing skills. Around 1 in 6 adults have the average reading age of an 11-year-old. This lack of assistance from a young age can result in a strong dislike, even fear, of the written word and with the introduction of technology, which has the ability not only to write spoken words but also read it out, the avoidance of reading and writing has become incredibly easy.
This project aims to combat these strong feelings, encouraging users to become fascinated and familiar with individual letterforms. It reimagines them as physical shapes that can be used as part of the relief printing process, breaking the letters down into simpler shapes so that they can be abstracted and used in more ways than to print just one whole letter.
The architecture of the scheme is also heavily influenced by typographical terms which define not only the names of each area but also the construction, circulation and even the materials used.
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