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The Architectural Trio: Edition #20
In the week when I found out architects often design rollercoasters, making me even happier about the degree I chose, there was a lot of top quality architecture on display. It was hard to narrow the list down to three, but I have managed it. I’m also hugely excited to announce that in September I will be visiting Copenhagen and Seville, spending a few days in each. I will no doubt be taking photos, exploring the architecture and blogging from both, so look out for those posts. That’s enough general updates, lets get onto the architecture.
Forest Mews, England, Robert and Jessica Barker
Forest Mews consists of three houses that occupy the site of the architects’ former dwelling. The project seems quite different from many others in London, so I was intrigued to find out more about it. The architects will live in one of the properties, so interestingly they were designing their own home as well as two others. This situation throws up some interesting questions, such as how personal should the designs be? And how much larger, if at all, should the architects floor area be? The three houses are designed intelligently to balance privacy with a sense of community. All of the living/working areas face inwards to the open courtyard and are extensively glazed, creating an open and friendly dynamic. However, regular piers define dedicated patios for each house, a creative and thoughtful touch. The more private areas are situated upstairs, with skylights and angled windows bringing light into the interiors. In terms of materiality, typical London brick has been used along with blackened steel fenestration. Much of this is currently uncovered which I think looks fantastic, but with time as the plants grow up the trellises the facades will become more green. This will also look great, as well as adding to the privacy of each home and linking the walls to the paving pattern which is based on Jessica’s wedding ring. These units dare to be different to the Victorian terraces behind them, hidden away from potentially judgemental eyes. However in my opinion this more modern, yet still sensitive, London townhouse type should be celebrated. Robert and Jessica Barker have done a brilliant job of combining their own personal home aspirations with attractive and considered architecture for potential buyers.
Groupe Scolaire Simone Veil Building, France, Dominique Coulon & Associés
The atmosphere created by this design of a primary school and nursery in Paris is described as “joyful chaos” by the architects. Schools should contain extensive and vivd interest in their design to grab the attention of the pupils, and this school has that in abundance. I attended a secondary school which lacked joy in its design and it was bleak to experience day in day out. I can imagine how excited the children must be to engage with this building, with its irregularly arranged blocks, crazy angles and bright colours. Fragments of clashing orange and pink paint dominate the spaces, punctuating junctions and hollows in the solid walls. Wood bark batons clad the exterior facades, adding another layer of dynamism to engage the pupils as well as passers by. Classrooms are more subdued to balance the loud communal spaces which is appropriate, creating a more tranquil atmosphere to encourage focus and learning. Hopefully the staff will be as enthusiastic and thrilled with this school as the pupils, fostering the next generation of confident and ambitious architects and designers.
Grow Box, America, Merge Architects
This property sits within a garden containing more than forty types of Japanese Maple tree. The surrounding landscape was a key influence on the design, affecting the form, placement, and materials. The house is essentially a weathered steel cube with cut outs to bring light into certain areas. Normally I dislike the use of weathered steel, in my opinion it tends to look ugly in its context, especially in urban areas. However here it is an inspired decision. It complements the surrounding tree bark, and helps to impose the property in its visually complex natural setting. The form also helps the house to stand out due to its strong geometry. Despite looking harsh and strong on the exterior, the interior is light, welcoming and airy. The architects made a point to create a strong view out to the gardens from every room of the house, which must be a lovely experience as you move through the building. Also, the centrepiece rain/snow collecting light well which contains a single white Himalayan Birch looks stunning with the clean lines of the bright white interior. When selecting projects this week my mind tried to tell me I disliked this project due to the cladding, however my general grumbles regarding weathered steel have been blown away by Merge’s thoughtful and creative approach to this strong domestic block.