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dwelling and gallery - for the collector

Anne Katrine Røien Tutor: Phil Ayres Department 2, EK Spring 2011


- abtract - design intent the function spatialites method + investigation - site - submission - references - appendix


Malta is entirely composed of sedimentary rock - compacted sediments of rock deposited over millions of years in a constantly changing Mediterranean. Reading about this dynamic geology and the creation of its compressed landscape of molluscs and algae served as an instant source of inspiration. Anywhere you go in Malta you find evidence of this in the form of fossils. During my study over the following months I will be investigating the notion of excavation and displacement of matter to enable a new structure in the bedrock and its surroundings; transforming the existing with emphasis on material behaviour and tactility. To work with this notion I will be introducing an imaginary character with needs that fit my idea of programme with inspiration from natural history and the 16th century‘Wunderkammern’

01 a, mouth; a', gullet; b, teeth; c, lips; d, alveoli; e, falces; f, f, auriculariae; g, retractor, and h, protractor, muscles of Aristotle's lantern; i, madreporic canal; k, circular ambulacral vessel; l, Polian pedicels; r, r, spines; s, tubercle; s', tubercle to which a spine is articulated; t, t, pedicellariae; u, anus; v, madreporic tubercle; x, ocular spot." -Whitney, 1911

The collector -Imaginary character Enjoys a large private collection of fossils and other natural history effects which have been passed on for generations, collected, found and bought in Malta and other parts of the Mediterranean throughout a lifetime. He has been living with, and cataloguing, the items throughout the years but needs an extensive gallery added to his premises. His dwelling becomes a microcosm of the geological Maltese landscape and the structure becomes both container and exhibit.


‘Wunderkammern’and the cabinet of curiosities

The concept of Wunderkammern began in the 16th century Renaissance. It contained universal collections - among other things astrological instruments, selections of the worlds flora and fauna and other exotic curiosities. Its replacement became the curiosity cabinets of the 17th and 18th century where naturalia began to be separated from artificialia and organised by kind. Enabling the typologies and classifications that established the foundation for scientific thought. I am introducing the Wunderkammern in my programme as an inspiration with emphasis on natural history effects and fossils. Storage and cabinets housing the exhibited items become key to the programme.


The cabinets - a transformative space ‘Continuity and fracture’ During the 1800, curators in museums started organising the exhibited items in an evolutionary order - in order to recall that the past was different to the present. In other words, different configurations promote different associations between the contained and between the contained and the container. The past as part of the present. Different ways of choreographing the space is part of the daily routine for the collector. This makes him deal with reconfiguration of elements and thereby, figuratively speaking, with time. Flexible cabinets for exhibition can serve to enable visibility between the collector and a visitor in the gallery. The cabinets become walls or spatial dividers and the openings become a part of the semi- public areas of the building. How can the collector control engagement between himself and the guests?



The curious cabinet - dwelling and gallery A space for living and a space for exhibition. The collector wants to share his collection with the public and in this way he also shares his home. Dwelling and gallery becomes one. He might have a private route through the dwelling and the possibility of private entering and exit. He has all the conveniences of a home but some of the functions such as the office might become a part of the public gallery. The gallery will be approximately 500 sqm - in which approx. 80 sqm is private. A transformable distinction between the two will be investigated throughout the project.

semi private





The dwelling and gallery as a homogenous institution. The distinction between the two programmes will at times be hard to distinguish for the visitor of the gallery. By positioning the cabinets he decides on a daily basis what degree of interaction he wants to have with the visiting guests of the gallery. In this way he might be allowing people to take a peek into his private dwelling.


The route and the objects The collector defines the routes. Through choreographing the exhibition forming; different scenarios and configurations; changing paths as a way of curating the space. The gallery should enable this by allowing him to transform the space by closing off/ opening up, putting emphasis on different objects, leading the guests, using the cabinet for making obstructions, determining the routes of the visitor.

the cabinets + artifacts

the route

the configurations

The collection Consists of fragments gathered over a large period of time. It conveys the idea of an archive with fragments of memory from different eras. Fossils (from Latin fossus, “having been dug up”) The totality of fossils, both discovered and undiscovered, and their placement in fossiliferous (fossil-containing) rock formations and strata is known as the fossil record, the study of fossils across geological time. A preserved specimen is called a “fossil” if it is older than some minimum age of 10,000 years. The observations that certain fossils were associated with certain rock strata led early geologists to recognize a geological timescale in the 19th century.


scale - spatial and temporal

The scale of a fragment of rock with a fossil embedded becomes a representation of the Maltese geological landscape. In this way, the gallery exhibits will narrate in different scales and tempi the natural history of the country. Evidence in form of home - like fragments, like a hot cup of coffee, are also representations, maybe less evident, of current occupation which can be observed through a cabinet.

The Site

The chosen site is situated in the very end of Valletta, its immediate surroundings consists of an art school and different kinds of housing in various states of decay. The topography suggests that the dwelling and gallery will exist in levels. Furthermore, facilitating access and flow to and from the building will become an important factor because of the connection between the main road, ‘Old Bakery Street’ and the sea front through the single existing passage, in the area.


13m plan outline

Abandoned housing

School of Arts


The site consists of an existing building, which will be transformed completely. On the left hand side (see photo) there is a connecting public stair with wide steps allowing people to enter and exit their apartments. On the right hand side there is a narrow sloping alley with a very limited source of light reaching it. The intent is to enhance the quality of the in-between space with emphasis on connections and accessibility of the building.

elevation, Old Bakery Street, Valletta 1_1000

Method + investigation - Placing the programme on the site will involve excavation and displacement of material. I see a reason for this, as Limestone, which is the primary building material resource in Malta, is a finite material. The method of constructing with compressed building material, I will be using, is described with following key words; block – skin armature – support displacement - void - This method of construction should relate back to the configuration of the artifacts and cabinets of the interior and form a homogenous building that represents the previous mentioned speculations in different scales and associations. This would imply that the block is representing the geological matter. The armature could be, figuratively speaking, a representation of the insides of a sea urchin supporting its skin or the support of the skin in the gallery space where the walls are space dividers and not load bearing. The displacement is relating to the archaeological element of excavation.


armature – support

displacement - void

block – skin

Submission drawings area plan 1:500 main drawings 1:100 detail/construction/materials in relevant scales spatial illustrations/images

speculative models model of site model of dwelling + gallery model of detail (optional) - all in relevant scales

References Pallasmaa, Juhani: ’Encounters’ - Architectural Essays’ Helsinki, Finland 2005 Daidalos vol.48 15.June 1993 Sous Terrain/Under Ground Rassegna vol. 87 4. October 2007 Architetture Sotterranee/Underground Architectures Bachelard, Gaston The Poetics of Space, Boston: Beacon Press 1969, 4,6 Evans, Robin ‘The Projective Cast, and its three geometries, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995 Foucault, Michel ‘The order of things, an archaeology of the human sciences’, London: Routledge, 1970 Thau, Carsten ‘ Arkitekturen som Tidsmaskine’ Kunstakademiets Arkitektskoles Bibliotek, 2010 Images 01 Whitney, William Dwight The Century Dictionary: An Encyclopedic Lexicon of the English Language (New York: The Century Co., 1911) 3: 1832 02 Duchess, shell collector. Lauren Nassef 03 Museum Wormianum, 1655. 04 ‘The Picture Gallery’ Sir John Soane’s Museum, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London 05 Maarten Kolk en Guus-Kusters, Cultivation Cabinet 06 ‘las meninas’, 1656, Diego Velásquez 07 curiosity cabinet 08 speculative models Appendix 01 convent 1_2000, 02 School of Arts 1_1000, 03 Abandoned town house Zeitún 1_1000, 04 Part of Apartment building 1_1000, 05 Old town house Zejtun 1_1000, 06 new town house Zeitún 1_1000, 07 Casa Rocca Piccola 1_2000, 08 1_500, 09, perspective drawn from memory

Map of Valletta + site

The Maltese islands and surroundings

- Appendix -

catalogue of Maltese housing

Selection of studies conducted with a fellow student showing different typologies found in Valletta, Birgu and Zejtun. In the following two examples ideas which became key to the programme are described.








Surprising inhabitation of the rock ex. 01 - Small shop in the ground level of an apartment building in Valletta. When walking in Valletta down the stairs between two street levels, doors appear on each side. Some of them are closed but peeking though the open ones you see they function as small shops. When taking a closer look to one of these shops, entering you are surprised of the unexpected and varying sizes and scale of the rooms that continue in an almost random and un-choreographed way like a small labyrinth.


Surprising inhabitation of the rock ex. 02 - Casa La Rocca Piccola, (museum and private residence) Town house situated on one of the main streets of Valletta. On a guided tour you are shown the classical baroque plan and patios of the house. By the end of the tour you are offered to take a look at the underground space that belongs to the house. To get there you are led out of the private house, still remaining in the Casa Rocca building, into the next door restaurant. Through the restaurant you walk down a tunnel – like staircase cut out of the bedrock right into an onion – shaped space that once served a reservoir and a shelter during war. The point of singling this out is that you would never have imagined this kind of situation occurring behind the façade that does not hint at what is within.

These incidents are not unique within Valletta – it became obvious that inhabiting the sub terrain and the bedrock is quite common.


dwelling and gallery for the collector  
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