Glasgow Mackintosh School of Architecture MSA Stage 5

Timothy Khoo (he/him)


Bourdon Prize

Commonplace : Terra Firma

Commonplace : Terra Firma

The Commonplace is conceived in contrast to dominant and imposing civic forms which the asylum seeker and refugee communities continue to face. It is a non-institutional building with the concept of an “open house” – a concept that aims to build a society founded on the values of fairness, equality and opportunity for everyone in Scotland, where everyone matters and all are included.

The building prescribes a dual function. Firstly, it will accommodate programs which function to support and give agency to these communities. A resource centre, office spaces, casework support offices, childcare support spaces, language learning spaces, counselling spaces and emergency accommodation are some of the spaces which work to provide these communities with support and a sense of respite.

These small services without red tape play vital roles in the integration of these communities with the local Scottish population. The human qualities of these small and autonomous programs counter bureaucratic norms, impersonal relationships to large institutions and traumas faced by the asylum seekers. By changing the passive nature of their relationship to service programs, they will play an active role in the social institution.

Second, the building will accommodate open and free spaces for everyone to use. A series of open and transparent program of spaces is created to facilitate integrative efforts by grass-root organisations and smaller service providers. A workshop space, a cafe and bar, event spaces and urban “living rooms” will accommodate spaces where people can gather and for chance encounters to be experienced. These spaces are also powerful tools to engage diverse sections of the community – breaking down barriers between different groups.

Different levels of activities organised by the networks as well as mainstream culture and leisure facilities provide for the efforts in uniting people around a the issue of displacement and integration. These are key activities which will promote social cohesion and will build bridges between the asylum seeker and local communities. Art, music and cultural events could potentially link to larger city-wide projects which will further the intention to give visibility to the community, fostering integration and acculturation within the context of Glasgow.

Site Model 01

Map of deprivation, integration network centres and the city

Focusing on integration, this map illustrates the network of integration centres which support asylum seekers. While they are beneficial and will aid the displaced, they are mostly found in areas in which asylum seekers are housed. More often than not, these areas are found to be in some of the most deprived in Glasgow.

Proposal in context

The Public Realm

The public realms prescribe a series a projections and recessions as well as a family of entrances. These serve as informal reception nodes which are visible together from the street or from one another. This also contributes to the porous nature of the elevation which opens up onto the public street. This in turn acts as active fronts which are given over to street life.

The Semi-Private Realm

A series of enclaves with the interior open to the exterior and the exterior open to the interior inform the semi-private realms. Having free and direct access from one another gives an advantage of commanding the scene from a position of safety and strength. These elements enable the building to be both introverted and extroverted - each space has a relationship either to an internal courtyard or to the surrounding, while certain moments provide views of what is within and beyond.

The Private Realm

Indoor landscape and outdoor rooms come together to enable people to claim these spaces statically or in movement. Adaptable, human-scaled spaces with a sense of shelter and protection encourage users to feel at home, giving them a sense of ownership, rather than the sense that they are merely visitors. This enables the building to be accessible, homely, personal and comfortable, despite being in the context of a city centre - open but incorporates varying degrees of private space - providing a place of sanctuary and respite.

Ground Floor Axonometric


Ground Floor Plan




A Space for Passive Reception

A space for respite 01

A space for respite


Threshold Typology 01

Threshold Typology 02

Model - Concrete, Rammed Earth, Oak 01

Model - Concrete, Rammed Earth, Oak 02

Site Model 02