Backpage The Bike Shed by Canan Yetmen
ike too many businesses, paychecks and credit lines in recent years, even the not-so-big-house has been downsized. Tiny houses and their offspring — granny pods, nanny pods and micro-units — are the current darlings of the design world. But in our post-recession reality, the tiny house trend doesn’t only touch our desire to do more with less, it proves that soaring and inspired design is accessible in daily life. In fact, it will easily fit right in your own backyard. In a changing South Austin neighborhood, Minguell-McQuary Architecture+Design’s Bike Shed is an addition to a humble ranch house of a certain age. In many ways the Bike Shed represents the image Austin has cultivated: young, hip, innovative. But in reality, the simple building — an object with everyday uses — embodies a much larger design ethos that takes its cues from the past even as it keeps one eye focused
In such a small space, each gesture is meaningful, deliberate and responsive to a problem or lifestyle possibility. on the future. “We try to see buildings as Mies or Khan would, as a holistic system that solves problems,” says Jose Minguell. “Any particular solution will inform the overall composition and vice versa. We believe that architectural history has evolved and that buildings such as barns and sheds carry this knowledge within them.” Originally intended as a simple storage building for a collection of high-end bicycles, its program expanded to include sleeping quarters, a kitchen and/or bathroom (it does both at the same time) as well as storage. Minguell and
Laura McQuary created a simple volume, then boiled the space down to its essence, strengthened the connection to the context and site, and created a vitality and energy through the careful, nuanced use of angles and materials. The juxtaposition flows throughout the roughly 500-sf building. It feels at once open and intimate. It connects to the original house while gently protecting its views from neighbors. It is likewise deceptively simple yet complex in its function — at once office and bedroom, kitchen and bath, display and storage. In such a small space, each gesture is meaningful, deliberate and responsive to a problem or lifestyle possibility. It takes on the usual challenge to “be flexible” with both grace and guts, daring to push the boundaries without making a scene. McQuary explains it this way, “We try not to establish hierarchies or force relationships between functions and programs of space. We like the idea of the user having the freedom to discover them. At the same time we try to define the spaces and create a strong sense of place through the volumetric and material dynamism.” If, as Mies said, architecture is the will of the age conceived in spatial terms, the Bike Shed clearly embodies the spirit of our times. But it is more than just going back to basics or dusting off truths we already know. It proves once again that less really is more. Square-foot for square-foot, the lithe and nimble Bike Shed outshines and outsmarts the looming and plodding McMansions down the street, elegantly re-stitching and re-energizing the existing neighborhood fabric. More like this, please. Formerly publisher of TA, Canan Yetmen is principal of CYMK Group in Austin.
The compact living space has ample light and tall ceilings. The kitchen is situated to the rear of the bike wall. The centerpivot casement windows allow for a seamless transition from the exterior to the interior as well as easy passage for the bikes. PHOTOS BY JOSE MINGUELL
68 Texas Architect