Advanced Design Studio: McLaughlin
Whitechapel Community Center is an immigration center servicing an evolving immigrant population in the borough of Tower Hamlets and greater London. It addresses the issue of democracy as an opportunity for the underrepresented to be represented. Built conceptually and spatially off the scale and idea of one voting booth, the first threshold into the building is composed of a series of permanent voting frames. Each consecutive space doubles in size and program and accommodates offices niches, classrooms, meeting spaces, and a long assembly hall. The hall sits above the initial voting booth signifying the collective voice. The building’s poche follows a similar pattern of growth as the voting frames thicken to allow bookshelves, small closets for chairs, circulation, and restrooms. The construction sequence aligns with the logic of the building’s concept as it is composed solely of wooden panels and slats.
The booths support elections of various scales from presidential elections to the chairman of the Bangladeshi Merchants Association. The building investigates the idea of democracy as a true collective voice of the people as visitors and users are combed through the fin-like building from the booth into the long assembly hall. As the façade of the building becomes a machine for democracy to occur on a regular basis, the procession of casting a vote, walking through the booth, into or past the line of sequentially growing spaces, and emptying into the large assembly hall reveals how the individual voice transforms into a part of the collective identity.