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The Architectural Trio: Edition #16
This week’s trio are diverse and very interesting in a number of ways. The variety of architecture in this post and my other Architectural Trios got me thinking about what actually makes good architecture. It’s a huge question that everyone would have a different answer for, with some focusing on successful function, others purely on aesthetics and others on sensitivity to the site or sustainability. The answer is so ambiguous that it is impossible to answer in my opinion, there are just too many variables. Yet still, when people experience buildings they can almost immediately judge if the architecture is good or bad. What an interesting paradox it is that we are able to judge architecture, but not clarify and describe these feelings as a definition. I’ll try to explain my reasoning this week’s trio, but remember to judge each building yourself to see if you agree.
Lake Michigan Beach Cottage, America, Ramsey Jones Architects
This beach house in Wisconsin looks out over Lake Michigan, situated just 30m inland from a beach. The simple massing accentuates some ingenious touches which make the building unique and memorable. In fact, it has gained recognition from the AIA which recently granted it a design award. One of the creative decisions which was surely a early design influence is the framing of the view over Lake Michigan. A square void in the facade that defines the building’s entrance and separates the main and guest living areas also acts as a frame for the incredible view of the lake. Coming home to such a view must be wonderful, especially since the sun rises over the lake. Another novel design feature of the house is the deep beams which continue from the interior to the exterior to support the extending eaves. Since the beams sit on top of the walls the roof appears light and thin, whilst the clerestory windows admit more daylight into property along with other large areas of glazing. The visibility of the beams inside adds interest to the flat roof. This configuration is not used in many buildings, probably as it is difficult to prevent thermal bridging and a high level of craft is required, however the results in this case look fantastic. Lake Michigan Beach Cottage is simple in form, however by no means does that render it dull or uncreative. The sophistication of the ideas and craft on show make for an inspiring building that stands out against similar properties.
Roam Bali, Bali, Alexis Dornier
This communal housing development for Roam, a co-living company that gives residents the chance to move between international properties, was completed by German architect Alexis Dornier. The former boutique hotel was gutted and completely redesigned internally with new shaded communal spaces on the roof. Incorporating the existing building is commendable since unfortunately nowadays many old buildings are flattened. The most striking feature of the building to me is the development’s organic nature. Whilst greenery is incorporated extensively with bamboo, trees and hanging vines, other features and decisions tie in with the organic feel. For example, light is altered greatly through interaction with a wide selection of materials such as tin, bamboo and polycarbonate in the form of louvres, blinds and perforated panels. When these artificial interactions layer up and combine with the natural elements, the spaces become a playful mess of light and shade. The diagonal steel columns also grabbed my attention, since they are not widely used and add interest to standard tectonic frames. The 24 room development is a creative and optimistic project that reflects the newly founded company’s energy. It bodes well for Dornier’s future projects in Bali where he has recently relocated to from Germany.
Fondaco Dei Tedeschi Restoration, Italy, OMA
I was surprised to read that this historic Venetian building, originally built in 1228, is to become a department store. Over the centuries it has played a number of roles, including a customs house, trading post and post office. It has also undergone extensive changes, with the most recent being a complete rebuilding in 1930 with modern concrete technology. OMAs restoration and additions are subtle, but make for an array of playful and intriguing linear relationships between foreground and background elements. Circles, arches, diagonals and verticals all intercept one another, with different materials and coloured paint only adding to the spectacle. The gold metal engages me especially, since I recently used brass in one of my own projects and now appreciate its brilliance as a detailing material. The intelligence of OMA comes across the in clear theme they have employed in the work. The historic parts of the building are in a Renaissance style, which uses geometry and proportion to present a beautiful and balanced aesthetic. OMA’s additions also use geometry with simple shapes to tie their extension visually with the original features. However, the contemporary materials are distinct, so the new features are both the same and different to the original interior. One stunning example of this geometry is in the perfectly symmetrical roof which can be seen in the photograph above. This project has been perfectly balanced and controlled, with just enough difference being implemented by OMA. To create such contrasting yet successful additions to a historic monument is a massive achievement that shouldn’t be under appreciated.