N°68 June — July 2017
Touristic architecture in Barcelona 24 new houses from around the globe Inside OMA: the Qatar projects
Unwind at Home A house in Poland by KWK Promes
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June — July 2017
022 Cross Section 024 Duncan Lewis / Scape Revin 026 Camp Design Tokyo 028 Game Design 030 Studio Selva Puertecillo 032 Barclay&Crousse Paracas 034 Izquierdo Lehmann Coquimbo 036 KWK Promes / Robert Konieczny Mazovia 038 Infographic 040 Tetsuo Kondo Tsurugi 042 Compagnie-O Antwerp 044 Vo Trong Nghia Ho Chi Minh City 046 Ard de Vries Twente 048 Barkow Leibinger Berlin 050 HyperSity Weinan 052 Noah Hawley / Michael Wylie 054 Allmann Sattler Wappner Munich 056 MNM Rennes 058
Barkow Leibinger Housing in Berlin Photo Simon Menges
Perspective Tourism in Barcelona
060 Rafael Gómez-Moriana discusses Barcelona’s touristic architecture: new buildings designed specifically to appeal to visitors. 070 Daniel Mòdol fights the negative effects of tourism. 074 Francesc Muñoz discusses urban tourism in the age of interchangeability.
Daniel Mòdol Photo Sergio Pirrone
082 Atelier Vens Vanbelle pursues unconstrained and personal architecture. 098 Savioz Fabrizzi tries to integrate its buildings into their surroundings. 110 Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes: My first 1,825 days as an architect. 120 Executive architects do at least half the work but often get none of the glory. 126 Jan Šépka enriches an ordinary neighbourhood in Prague with an oddly shaped house supported by a single column. 132 Kazuyasu Kochi likes to make cuts in walls, floors and ceilings. 140 Custom Tree Builders makes a living out of producing miniature trees for architectural models. 146 Immersive environment technologies are reshaping the way architects communicate with clients. 150 Chenchow Little builds a brave new beach house in Coogee, a coastal suburb of Sydney. 160 David Jenkins talks about making books, selling books and writing architecture criticism. 164
June — July 2017
OMA Office building in Doha Photo Jueqi Jazzy Li
Šépka Architects House in Prague Photo Tomáš Malý
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â€˜The apartment towers signal a welcoming suggestion, especially needed in these days of doubtâ€™ Winy Maas on the HOME towers in Mannheim, page 020
Notice Board 1
1 Vågen Linköping – Sweden 3xN — Aquatic centre near Tinnerbäck Lake, built almost entirely from wood Competition entry, 1st prize, expected completion 2021
2 Plug-in City 75 Paris – France Stéphane Malka Architecture — Renovation of existing apartment building, improving energy performance Expected completion undisclosed
3 Nicolinehus Aarhus – Denmark AART Architects — Mixed-use building divided into a residential and a commercial section Competition entry, 1st prize, expected completion summer 2020
013 4 Leeza Soho Beijing – China Zaha Hadid Architects — 190-m-tall office tower with full-height atrium Expected completion 2018
5 No. 5 Beirut – Lebanon Built by Associative Data and Marz Studio — Mixed-use building in the Jnah district, with restaurants and shops on the first two levels and offices and apartments above Expected completion 2021
6 Greenwich Peninsula London – UK Santiago Calatrava — 130,000-m2 mixed-use building featuring three towers around a 24-m-high atrium; the complex houses a tube station, theatre, cinema, bars, shops, offices, apartments and hotels Expected completion undisclosed
Rendering by Rendertaxi Aachen
015 1 5 King Brisbane – Australia Bates Smart — 52-m-tall engineeredtimber building with cafés and restaurants on the ground floor and offices above Expected completion 2018
2 Rheinturm Düsseldorf – Germany Cross Architecture — Mixed-use building with restaurants, galleries, studios, shops and co-working spaces on the lower levels; and studios, apartments and lofts on the upper floors Competition entry
3 Runavík Housing Faroe Islands – Denmark Mass Lab — 120 houses, in groups of four that share a common patio, to be built on a steep terrain Competition entry
4 Sewoon District 4 Seoul – Korea KCAP — Urban-regeneration scheme covering 280,000 m2 and comprising offices, retail, housing, leisure, education and medical services Competition, 1st prize, expected completion 2023
Renderings by Tegmark
5 Under One Roof Växjö – Sweden White Arkitekter (Klara Frosterud) — Train station and 14,000-m2 city hall; the project includes a tourist office, exhibition area, waiting room, cafés, shops, meeting rooms and municipal offices Competition entry, 1st prize, expected completion 2019
‘We tried to create something that would Manal Rachdi on the Lycée Jean Moulin in Revin, France, page 024
Desert Museum Barclay&Crousseâ€™s archaeological museum in Paracas digs into local conditions.
The museum exhibits textiles, ceramics and other cultural items native to the region that includes Paracas. Photo Barclay&Crousse
Paracas — Peru
The building consists of two volumes: one containing exhibition halls, the other workshops and a meeting room.
Text Cathelijne Nuijsink Photos Cristobal Palma
The construction of the Julio C. Tello Site Museum had been finished for a couple of years before the archaeological institution opened its doors to the public last August. The cause for the delay was a dispute between the national and regional authorities about who should take responsibility for the contents of the museum. The museum is part of an ongoing research project that you call ‘the desert laboratory’. What is this research about? JEAN PIERRE CROUSSE: When Sandra [Barclay] and I left Peru to continue our studies abroad and subsequently founded our office in Paris, we gradually
realized the enormous potential of Peru’s unique climate and landscape. When we returned to Lima 16 years later and began doing projects in the desert, we decided to use them as a laboratory – for experimentation with design strategies that would merge architecture, landscape and climate. The pre-Columbian architecture in this coastal desert region is very important to us; we can analyse it not as archaeological remains but in an ahistorical way, as buildings that reveal strategies used by previous architects during thousands of years of successful attempts to live in the desert. We analyse such strategies to determine their pertinence to contemporary ways of living and
to technologies available today. The results of our investigation allow us to propose new ways of inhabiting and building in our region. The museum in Paracas is part of this research. The new archaeology museum replaces a former building that was destroyed by an earthquake in 2007. Can you explain your strategy? First of all, because it was an archaeological site, we stayed within the perimeter of the previous museum building to avoid the need for an archaeological survey. This gave us a clear rectangular shape to work with. Next we created a very simple, repetitive element that would bring in light, ensure natural ventilation, divide the exhibition
spaces and enable technological updates. We called these elements ‘environmental devices’. Because they would be visible from the surrounding hills, we borrowed a repetitive pattern from preColumbian Paracas textiles to suggest what was going on inside the building. The third part of our strategy was to use a reddish pozzolanic material to plaster the building. It’s polished in the same way pre-Columbian vases were, and the outcome is a uniform monochromatic finish. The choice of natural pozzolan yielded the perfect colour, which blends with the barren hills and reduces the impact of the building on the desert landscape. barclaycrousse.com
The house is woven into a concrete ribbon that starts as a driveway and ends on the riverbank. Photo JarosĂŞaw Syrek
By the Way KWK Promes weaves a riverside villa into a long concrete ribbon.
KWK Promes / Robert Konieczny
Mazovia — Poland
Text Michał Haduch and Bartosz Haduch Photos OLO Studio
Polish office KWK Promes has long been known for its unconventional methods and projects. But even its charismatic leader, Robert Konieczny, was stunned when in 2007 he received a phone call with a quite extravagant proposal. The mysterious interlocutor wanted the architect to design his dream house and said that Konieczny could name his price for simply visiting the site. Luckily, it turned out to be an impressive 0.7-hectare stretch of land on the high bank of the Vistula River, some 100 km from Warsaw. Konieczny took up the challenge, although he wasn’t given a completely free hand in the design of the house. The client wanted his new home to be located precisely at the centre of the sloping plot. He also wanted it to follow the functional scheme of his previous flat and to provide generous views of the riverside. The architects responded with an innovative concept that they aptly nicknamed By the Way House. They enclosed all functions within a white concrete ribbon that stretches across the entire
terrain. It starts as an entrance road, twists to shape the ceilings and walls of the house, and unrolls as a ramp that connects the raised living room to the garden level below. The ribbon ends at the riverbank, where the client plans to build a small private marina. The 600-m2 two-storey villa has an unusual layout, with all main functions (living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom and wardrobe) occupying the first floor and auxiliary features (garage, gym and guest rooms) situated at ground level. The interiors – in a limited palette of dark brown, black and white – offer more than enough space for a few minimalist furnishings. Generously glazed windows and a large terrace that unwinds to become the meandering ramp allow for an extraordinary connection of the residence with its natural surroundings. No wonder that apart from its success as an architecture project, By the Way House can be seen as a fine piece of land art. kwkpromes.pl
Window Gazing Allmann Sattler Wappner makes the most of the views. + 12
Text Florian Heilmeyer Photos Brigida González
In 2008, the year in which Allmann Sattler Wappner Architekten won a competition for an inner-city site in Munich, the project was described as an office complex combined with retail and a hotel: a typical investors’ mix for one of Germany’s more expensive cities. By 2012, however, the demand for condominiums had surpassed the need for offices, and Allmann Sattler Wappner’s client asked the team to include apartments in its design, especially on the upper floors of two 15-storey towers that would offer residents wide views of the city and its surroundings. In order to give the project’s six buildings the appearance of an entity, Allmann Sattler Wappner laid a grid of 3.5 x 3.5 m over the entire Wohnhochhäuser am Hirschgarten complex. Initially, the grid included exterior walls with large floor-to-ceiling windows and a variety of façade claddings – plaster, tile, metal panelling – that were intended to
indicate the various functions of the programme. The result would have been buildings with a strong expression yet a slightly too slick, rather squeaky-clean look. Adding 263 apartments to the mix got the grid moving. ‘We discussed apartments with balconies or loggias, ultimately reaching a solution inspired by building regulations for the area,’ says partner Ludwig Wappner. ‘We developed a façade with elements that protrude or step back a little. After studying examples of high-rises with floor-to-ceiling windows in New York and Tokyo, we decided to work with zigzagging oriels.’ The architects distributed oriel windows over the façades in an irregular pattern that disrupts the grid. At the same time, the oriels allow the residents of a majority of the apartments to step beyond their official living spaces and, while still indoors, to enjoy magnificent views of the city. allmannsattlerwappner.de
Allmann Sattler Wappner Architekten
An irregular pattern of oriel windows enlivens the buildings’ façades.
Munich — Germany
‘One of the main complaints of visitors to Barcelona is that the city is “too touristy”’ Rafael Gómez-Moriana, page 060
On tour with Barcelona Architecture Walks, passing the DHUB museum by MBM.
Barcelona — Spain
Rafael Gómez-Moriana discusses Barcelona’s touristic architecture: new buildings designed specifically to appeal to visitors. Text Rafael Gómez-Moriana
Photos Sergio Pirrone
Agbar tower by Jean Nouvel.
Barcelona may be well known today as an urban tourism destination, but it was not always thus. Four decades ago, in the 1970s, Barcelona was a declining industrial port city in which the only tourists to be seen were occasional groups of Japanese Gaudí devotees or hippie backpackers tripping on Dalí. Queues to visit a slowly progressing Sagrada Familia construction site were nonexistent, and Casa Batlló and La Pedrera were covered with soot. Plaza Real was a hangout for junkies, and shantytowns occupied the city’s beaches and hillsides. The picture today is completely different: Barcelona is an internationally recognized urban brand, a gleaming postindustrial city with the same predictable luxury boutiques and hotel chains as any other world-class metropolis. At the same time, however, its narrow streets are so overrun by tourists and its housing so expensive that tourism is perceived by locals, according to a recent survey, as the city’s second-biggest problem after unemployment. How did Barcelona go from industrial grunge to designer chic in only a matter of decades? The 1992 Olympic Games were a
major factor, as were the rise of FC Barcelona and the worldwide popularization of tapas. But repeated visitor surveys show that it is actually the city’s architecture that attracts foreign visitors the most, especially those buildings that represent Barcelona’s modernista era. Predictably enough, an entire industry has formed around Gaudí and his contemporaries, comprising everything from specialized architecture-tour operators and venue-rental agencies for exclusive international business events to plastic trencadís knick-knacks sold alongside fake Barça jerseys in the city’s countless souvenir shops. Architectural tourism, a branch of cultural tourism, is behind much of this transformation. In the 1980s, at the height of postmodernism, the rediscovery of work by Antoni Gaudí and contemporaries such as Jujol led to the restoration and museumification of some of the city’s most important heritage sites. Furthermore, many new works of architecture were also garnering international admiration in ‘the city of architects’, as critic Llàtzer Moix refers to post-dictatorship Barcelona. It was
Barcelona — Spain
MediaTIC building by Enric Ruiz Geli / Cloud 9.
‘Touristic architecture performs a service that extends beyond property lines’ only a matter of time before a growing wave of architectural tourism would produce a new building type that would surf this wave to full advantage: ‘touristic architecture’. Touristic architecture is specifically planned and designed to appeal to a particular way of seeing: to a ‘tourist gaze’, as John Urry called it in his eponymous 1990 book. Becoming increasingly widespread as global tourism grows along with the global media that fuels it, the tourist gaze is the look we practise when engaged in leisurely travel, an activity that heightens sensitivity to our immediate environment. The tourist gaze is especially well suited to architecture, cities, landscapes and other place-making signifiers; the authenticity of place – which can be experienced only through personal displacement – is highly romanticized in our technological society. The evolution of the tourist gaze follows the mass-cultural development of travel. Historically, travel was the exclusive reserve of the upper classes, as exemplified by the aristocratic grand tour of antiquity. Mass tourism is a product of the relatively
recent modernization and democratization of travel that occurred in the late 19th and 20th centuries, when mobility, infrastructure and industrial production techniques were revolutionized and labour struggles led to more leisure time for the working forces. Tourism is a quintessentially modern invention that could not have come about without technological and social progress, and without which modern architecture as we know it would not have emerged. In his 1936 essay, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, Walter Benjamin writes of ‘the attentive concentration of a tourist before a famous building’, contrasting sight with the more ‘distracted’ sense of touch by which more familiar buildings are perceived in our everyday lives. Benjamin describes a way of seeing architecture that is conditioned by mass-reproduced media – especially photography – and the notoriety and fame they generate. Urry’s ‘tourist gaze’ is similarly conditioned by a fabrication and reproduction of certain ‘expectations’, especially with respect
to authenticity and heritage. The packaging of heritage to make it attractive is precisely what creates the tourist gaze. Touristic architecture goes one step further, directly forging future heritage. Whereas most heritage buildings were not designed to accommodate tourists but became tourist attractions over time, touristic architecture considers the presence of tourists from the start. As Rem Koolhaas pointed out: ‘Through [heritage] preservation’s everincreasing ambitions, the time lag between new construction and the imperative to preserve has collapsed from two thousand years to almost nothing. From retrospective, preservation will soon become prospective.’ Koolhaas’s ‘prospective’ form of heritage preservation effectively exists already in the form of touristic architecture. Over a period of almost three decades, Barcelona was a veritable laboratory for touristic architecture, employing it as a means to solve two urban problems: degraded parts of the city in need of rehabilitation and an overly concentrated number of tourists in →
‘Atelier Zumthor wasn’t willing to have Meredith Bowles on the Secular Retreat for Living Architecture, page 120
us draw anything’
Pieter & Ruth House Ghent — Belgium — 2016 An existing rundown extension was demolished. It made the house smaller, but it now opens up to the garden, which increased in size. The ground floor gained the atmosphere of a garage or workshop. When the wide overhead door in the rear façade is open, the living room and garden blend together. A large wooden cabinet wall – with integrated toilet and kitchen – divides the room. The dining room was raised a little. On the street side a void with a new steel staircase leads to the first floor. To enhance the ‘garage’ atmosphere, all of the pipes have been left in the open. The terrace in the garden is vaguely reminiscent of a gas pump. Photos Christophe Vander Eecken
01 Entrance 02 Dining room 03 Kitchen 04 Garden 05 Terrace 06 Living room 07 Bathroom
Atelier Vens Vanbelle
Ghent â€” Belgium
OMAâ€™s headquarters building for the Qatar Foundation in Doha.
Doha — Qatar
My first 1,825 days as an architect and a sneak peek of where I’m at 1,825 days later
Text Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes
Photos Yueqi Jazzy Li
Doha — Qatar
13 March 2007, 11:00, Beirut
16-18 July 2007, 23:15, Rotterdam
The Phone Call
First Day: 72 hours long
- Sorry, where are you calling from? - OMA, regarding your job application. Inviting you for an interview.
OMA. 3 days now. Started Monday. Wednesday now. Intense. Exhausting. Efficient? Not sure. Exhilarating? For sure.
Joy! Mental double take. OMA on the phone! Offering an interview! Soon to graduate. Have sent applications to studios around the world – based on either quality of studio or exciting city to move to.
25 April 2007, 15:30, Rotterdam
Applied to the NYC office of OMA. Not a big fan of OMA – never idolized people or institutions. Yet, someone on the phone makes it . . . very real & very impressive. Excitement!
Got the job! First step to bigger things. Way out of native, yet unfitting, Lebanon.
‘Intense. Exhausting. Efficient? Not sure. Exhilarating? For Sure’
Yesterday. Interviews. Long. Intense. Surreal day. Two interviews, then asked to wait outside. Waiting. Waiting. Freezing! Few hours. Had they forgotten? Was this a test? Finally. Third interview. After that, abrupt HR guy. - So, do you want the job? - Yes. - You start tomorrow. - Tomorrow? I still have to graduate. My last year of university. (His expression makes me feel like apologizing for this ‘inconvenience’.) - When can you start? (Sarcasm.) - August. - August is a low-pressure month; you can’t start under low pressure. You will start mid-July. Done deal. I need a copy of your passport. Any questions? - Advice on housing? (I hand him my passport.) - Rotterdam is safe. Just avoid the west. It’s full of Blacks & Arabs. Walking out, I see him looking at my Arab passport . . . I am shocked. Slightly amused. Small-town naivety in an international office? On return flight. Flipping through one of OMA’s many publications. Find grim photo of OMA office with caption: ‘Without Rotterdam, a city with no distraction, the office wouldn’t be the same.’*
Assigned to 3 Qatar projects: National Library of Qatar, Headquarters of Qatar Foundation & Strategic Studies Centre. Excited. All projects at very beginning. Yesterday thought office was on fire. Suddenly, grown men running, frantically. People whispering. Tears in people’s eyes after meetings. - What’s going on? - Rem is here. Adults running. Fear. Not normal! Normal?
20 July 2007, 23:50, Rotterdam
First Encounter with Rem Jan says: - You’re up. He wants to meet you guys. - My team already left. - You’re here, aren’t you? If Rem wants to meet, you’ll meet. Just me meeting Rem. I don’t run. Present progress & issue about façade. - Who are you to say that the façade doesn’t work? - It doesn’t work because the windows are too high when sitting & too low when standing. I built a 1:1 model prototype.
*In hindsight, this should have been my first clue. Was calm. Should I have been more stressed? He was calm. Had normal conversation. Asked where I was from. Thought this was normal. Apparently quite exceptional.
Small windows puncture all four exterior walls of the building for the Qatar Foundation.
Jan again: - How was the meeting? - I’m not sure. We didn’t solve the façade. - Did he throw any chairs? - No. - Then it was a very good meeting! →
The seventh floor of the Qatar Foundation headquarters features a sheltered terrace. The presence of the terrace makes the upper part of the building seem to float.
Doha — Qatar
115 23 September 2007, 9:00, Rotterdam
The Sea of Blue Last night 23:00: Rem arrives. Our Sea of Blue* ready. His request was: volumetric & massing studies. Hundreds of models. All different, all alike. Result: he’s overwhelmed. He changes entire design. We work all night. At 07:30, before his Shenzhen flight, he enters: - Why all the zombie faces? Who told you to change everything? *What I called the madness of endless blue foam models that filled the office. Architects play 3 roles: visionary, creator & editor. OMA is driven by massing, form & sculpture. Not flows, dynamics or interactions. We lacked vision, created blindly. Guessing what clients needed. Worse, guessing what Rem wanted. Ahead of clients. Rem edited.
16 November 2007, 17:00, plane to Doha
First trip to Qatar Kaito whispers: - Stephanie, you’re up. - I thought you were presenting this part. - You’ve done all the work in this section. You know it better than me. First client meeting. 40 men. Put on the spot. Fantastic opportunity. Eternally grateful. OMA: best people, from around the world, one place. Been 4 months now. Blessed with great team. Learning most from them. Literally feel neurones assimilating, learning, taking it all in. Just out of university. Feels like I’ve been working for years. Great opportunity. Dealing with engineers, clients, stakeholders. Learning on the job. Learning by doing. The more responsibility I take on, the more I am given. Love it.* Want more. *This was part of the problem. Most architects are passionate. Great, in principle. Does however create a culture of endless working hours, inefficiency, inhuman, not necessary. →
16 January 2008, 20:45, Doha
Crisis: Business as Usual Rumbling. Unrest on work floor. Shouts, bangs, gasps. Rem is here. Another crisis. Shenzhen project in trouble. I’m called into the meeting. Rem is spiralling: - The Shenzhen client almost fired us! You don’t know how to work with clients! They have refused your interior 5 times already. Why are you all so ignorant? So useless? I wait till he stops. - Why am I in this meeting? - You’re leading the Qatar projects, aren’t you? None of you knows how to work with the Chinese or the Arabs. All you know is Western. The projects are in trouble! - I am an Arab & the Qatar projects are on track. We’ve just come back from Qatar & they approved our submission. Sheikha Mosa bint Nasser herself is pleased. - Oh . . . well . . . what are you doing in this meeting then? Perhaps his fear is real. Do we understand our clients? Are we listening to them? Or are we imposing our solution on them? Rem is more our client than the client.* Doesn’t feel right. Trapped between Rem & the real client. *Office culture: more stress meeting Rem than clients. Office process: more effort in form than flow. Office approach: imposing vision on client, not extracting it from them.
‘Doesn’t feel right. Trapped between Rem and the real client’
Next to the Qatar Foundation headquarters, sharing an elevated plaza, is the three-storey Strategic Studies Centre, also designed by OMA.
17 August 2008, 22:35, Rotterdam
Office Waste Monday. Supposed to meet Rem. We worked all weekend. No meeting. Postponed to Tuesday. Worked all night. No meeting. Postponed to Wednesday. No meeting. Postponed till . . . It’s been a week. Not working on projects. Working on presentation for Rem. Not showing him work in progress. Need to re-package, re-polish, re-finalize. So much focus on form & representation of work instead of content. Waste of enthusiasm, effort & energy.
Doha — Qatar
8 February 2009, 09:00, Doha
16 July 2009, 10:30, Rotterdam
28 December 2009, 21:30, Rotterdam
Is This It?
Two years today. Feels more like 14. An eternity. Tough times. Good times. Been running Qatar projects. Direct contact with clients. Loving it. Clients pleased. Lots of responsibility. Exhausting. Energizing.
Shocked. Outraged. Embarrassed.
- I cannot approve this chair. - How come? It’s beautiful, high quality & suits the aesthetics. - In this Visitors’ Centre, I will receive Heads of State & Presidents. Have you tried getting up from this chair? It’s inelegant. You should try furniture before selecting it. We can’t approve desks without modesty panels* either. Another example of ignoring & fighting clients’ requests. Had this request for months. We ignored it. Rem said modesty panels were ugly. Available ones on the market were ugly. With Sheikha Mosa personally requesting it, we finally listen. Working with clients. Breakthrough. Creating custom-made desk. With modesty panel. Unique. Beautiful. *Modesty panels: vertical panels on the front of desks to hide the legs of sitting person.
Appointment with HR to discuss new contract: - About my title. I would like to move on from the title of Junior Architect. - This usually requires 3 years of experience. You only have 2. - You mean 3 years of 8-hour workdays? What does it mean when we work 16-to-20-hour days on average? - Sorry. It will be another year. In your email signature, however, please use the title of Lead Architect, since you are leading the projects. It’s better vis-à-vis clients.
New project started in the office today. Their starting point? An ‘iconic sphere’. From a concept designed years ago for another project, another client, another country. Form recycled. Copied as is. Forced onto new site, new client, new programme. I say to Sandro, my colleague: - This can’t be all there is! - It’s the same, if not worse, in all the top studios. Believe me, I’ve worked for 3 of them already. Is this it? Architecture? Not what I signed up for. Not why I became an architect. Disillusioned. →
Chenchow Little builds a brave new beach house in Coogee, a coastal suburb of Sydney. Text Elana Castle
Chenchow Little Architects
Sydney — NSW — Australia
Approach Photo John Gollings
area immediately surrounding the concrete walls, where the architects situated partially concealed living rooms, decks, verandas and stairs. Access to the house from the street is via a bridge that responds to the topography of a site that gives way steeply at the southeast corner. Entering past a garage wall, shrouded in aluminium battens, you follow two spindly, elegant grab rails that lead to a 4-m-high pivoting front door. The main living spaces are spread over the upper floor; bedrooms are on the storey below; and the basement, occupied by the eldest daughter, can be accessed independently via an external stair that begins at street level. ‘The house follows the slope of the site and is slightly elevated, appearing to fold down towards the water,’ says Chenchow. The splayed walls and cut roof comply with council regulations regarding height, massing and the retention of sightlines. ‘The clients wanted a third floor, so we positioned it within the roof.’ It’s a tentlike structure, an ingenious volumetric modulation, which feels expansive and appropriately detailed to those inside, tying in with the clients’ desire for a beachy house. Exposed white battens and timber infill panelling, painted white, underscore the coastal aesthetic. ‘We typically use only three materials in our projects,’ says Chenchow, ‘and here the native spotted gum offsets the concrete and steel perfectly.’ The organization of the main living floor can be categorized as open plan, save for two carefully inserted volumes – a WC and a pantry – that break up the space in accordance
with the brief. The key component is a floating L-shaped kitchen counter. Additional kitchen cabinetry and spotted-gum joinery enhance the sense of lightness. ‘The counter is perfectly placed in line with the view,’ he says. In fact, the views from this room are so well conceived that it’s impossible to spot a single neighbouring property. A geometric combination of solid and frosted sections of glass in the kitchen and the placement of the balcony slab block unwanted perspectives. The lightness and warmth of the upper floor are in stark contrast with the bedroom floor below, which is decidedly dark and moody in comparison. ‘This was intentional,’ says Chenchow. ‘The ambience is dark and intimate, with off-shutter concrete playing the central role from a material point of view.’ The basement is darker still. A semisubterranean concrete box, it houses a music room and a bedroom. It’s impossible to understand or appreciate the Coogee House without experiencing it from the inside. The painstaking articulation and management of all architectural elements, along with the predominance of shadow play and the changing quality of light, elevate the project from the status of an ordinary beach house to what the architects refer to as a ‘singular piece of architecture’. ‘This house really embodies the way that our clients like to live and interact with each other,’ says Chenchow. ‘It’s very specifically tailored to their needs, and I think that makes it rather special.’ _
The clients’ brief was relatively straightforward. A new, modestly sized four-bedroom home designed to embrace dramatic Pacific Ocean vistas, provide protection from the forces of nature and offer an exceptional level of privacy. But therein lies an architectural conundrum. How do you conceive and realize a house that affords expansive views yet is sufficiently insulated from a multitude of neighbouring properties? ‘The clients’ desire for privacy formed the genesis of our design process,’ says project architect Tony Chenchow, co-director of Sydney-based architecture firm Chenchow Little. ‘The challenge was to create a façade that could capture cross breezes and dramatic views but that would offer seclusion from ten neighbouring houses.’ Knowing that they risked ending up with a solid, unsympathetic façade, the team developed an appropriately layered solution. The result is a house with a hybrid architectural system of solid concrete walls that are draped in a protective outer skin of anodizedaluminium screens. ‘The house is designed in the same way you might dress on a cold day,’ says Chenchow. ‘It offers flexibility – the adding and shedding of layers to suit changing conditions.’ He’s referring to the operational capacity of vertically battened screens that can be opened or closed in varying degrees to serve the occupants’ requirements for more or less light, solar shading and the need for privacy. In addition to their practical prowess and strong visual impact, the screens possess an undeniably ephemeral quality. ‘When you begin drawing vertical lines, everything starts to look like a jail,’ Chenchow admits. ‘So we specifically chose a dark aluminium-bronze colour that reflects the light and appears golden on an overcast day. It’s easy to just choose black, but it has no depth.’ The deliberate placement of strong visual architectural elements behind the screens, such as a flight of precast-concrete stairs, creates a sense of depth and a certain scale-less quality that characterizes Chenchow Little’s work. ‘It’s not clear where all the elements start and end,’ he says. ‘For example, you can’t really register where the floor plates are, due to the translucency of the batten wall.’ Emphasizing their protective nature, the screens also form interstitial spaces within the
‘The house is designed in the same way you might dress on a cold day’
Chenchow Little Architects
Sydney â€” NSW â€” Australia
153 The dwelling was conceived as a simple solid concrete shell sheathed in a lightweight protective skin, comprising operable battened screen walls. Photo John Gollings
Entry to the house is over an elevated timber bridge adjacent to the garage. Photo John Gollings
Chenchow Little Architects
Sydney — NSW — Australia
An external stairway along the southern boundary provides a separate access from the main street frontage to the rear garden. Photo Peter Bennetts
‘The clients’ desire for privacy formed the genesis of our design process’
Exit Mark 69 Aug — Sep 2017 Photo Tim Van de Velde
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