Tag Archives: architecture

marvellous modernist: the Isokon building.

I wrote about the wonderful Isokon Gallery for Museeum.com. You can read the article, here

 

 

from the archive: lessons in modernism.

If I could be anywhere this coming week it would be Palm Springs for Modernism week and the Palm Springs Art Fair. Palm Springs is of course a modernism enthusiasts’ delight, with its plentiful single and split level homes, all shifting planes and open plan layouts, with big glass sections and cantilevered floors.

Instead, I’m rediscovering the work of one of my favourite proponents of the style, the Melbourne architect and writer Robin Boyd. His work and in particular his writing were hugely influential on me growing up in the suburbs of Melbourne. His two key tomes – Australia’s Home and The Australian Ugliness – defined for me everything that was wrong with suburban living.

One of his best known works is Walsh Street house designed by Boyd for his family in 1957. It now houses the Robin Boyd Foundation and remains in its original condition.

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Furnished with pieces designed by Boyd’s contemporaries – Grant Featherston and Clement Meadmore (whom I once met, and visited his home in NY) amongst others – it demonstrates the design principles championed in his books, utilising an introspective layout, with the main house and a separate children’s pavilion facing inwards toward a central courtyard. (This was in direct contrast to the usual model of building a suburban house in the middle of the block).

The finishes are bold and intense – deep, saturated colours and dark-painted brickwork walls; rich red woodwork, glimmering mosaic and even copper (how very contemporary…). Floor-to-ceiling plate glass, soaring ceilings and clerestory windows ensure light and nature are ever present.

An (almost) fitting substitute for a trip to Palm Springs…

Walsh Street House via Photographs, Eve Wilson

the tractor shed.

It’s been a good long while since I’ve been here, so I’m starting with a project we completed late last year. I’m very much looking forward to regular postings again.

The Tractor Shed involved the conversion of a dilapidated tractor shed in Hertfordshire into a 4-bedroom home for an artist, including two generous studio spaces.

Approaching the house from the north, the simple, bold openings of the elevation are evocative of the original building with its giant barn doors; the entry though is not here, but through a small porch recess to the side where a last glance of the landscape can be seen through a corner window before entering.

An unfolding sequence of spaces of different scales are tied together with unexpected glimpses between rooms and strong connections to the landscape. On entering the hall, light filters down through rough-sawn oak slats into the hallway below from a skylight at the apex. The dramatic scale of the barn is fully revealed in the main studio and open-plan kitchen. The lowered ceiling height in the adjoining dining area is intimate yet expansive, opening onto the garden and landscape beyond. Adjacent to this is a cosy snug room with deep heather-brown walls, a raised timber floor and wood burning stove. A traditionally proportioned living room with a large picture window to one side is centred around a wood-burning stove set into a herring-bone brick lined recess. Oak floor boards are used to line all surfaces of the the stairwell; this immersion  is interrupted by a glimpse through a cutout slot down to the seating nook below. Split landing levels at first floor allow generous raked ceilings in bedrooms to the south and two smaller scale bedrooms to the north. Eaves are utilised for the most intimate spaces; a dressing room with a slot window down to the main studio and a hidden mezzanine.

A restrained palette of materials is left as natural as possible and evoke the building’s industrial past – polished concrete floors to the living spaces downstairs, an oak-faced plywood kitchen, and solid oak floors upstairs. The  original precast concrete frame is left expressed rather than hidden, and is seen at different scales as one moves through the building. Timber used for the exterior cladding was cut from trees felled from the client’s own land, which he blackened using a blow-torch – after scouring YouTube videos for instruction – creating a soft, variegated effect. 

Tractor Shed by HeathWalker Studio.

Photographs: Adrien Fouéré (@weareurbananimals)



forest house.

Reminiscent of house of 150 trees, this beautiful forest house is situated in a rural region of Gent. Contemporary yet traditional, the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which celebrates the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, is clearly evident here. Other influences include Frank Lloyd Wright, Carlo Scarpo and Andrea Branzi, who was a friend of the architect owners, Eddy Francois and Caroline de Wolf.

The house, as an extension of its environment, utilises natural, earthy materials. The vertical mullions of solid timber separating the floor to ceiling windows rise like tree trunks; the earth-toned, raw brick floor has the outdoor quality of a forest floor. Concrete soffits line some ceilings, others are wood with exposed beams continuing the line of the mullions. White plasterboard walls float beneath. Skinny brick walls with deeply recessed mortar joints to add texture, become the structure both inside and out.

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Forest House, Gent, by Eddy Francois and Caroline de Wolf.

Photographs 2,3, 6,7,8: Jean-Luc Laloux; image 1,5: Sarah Blee; all others, unknown.

peter’s house.

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I uncovered the beautiful interior of this converted garage whilst researching materials for the transformation of an agricultural building into a residence.

As with all good design, inspiration comes from the context and fabric of the original building, in this case raw brick and blackened steel. A narrow site and desire for natural light has prompted a glass walled atrium to be cut through the three floors. The clever placement of dark mirrors throughout has created a striking effect; not light and bright but spacious and theatrical.

The beautifully considered material palette includes concrete used on vertical as well as horizontal planes, clean, white and grey terrazzo forming the kitchen island and bathroom fittings and walls, and super-wide Dinesen oak floorboards used three ways – as a floor, as a wall, and as a ceiling lining. The blackened steel is used as both perforated panels flanking the stair, and as a wall lining in the double-height kitchen.

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Downstairs, furnishings and curtains are strong of form and bold of hue – deep purples, bright reds and vivid yellows show to great effect the form of such classic furniture as the Pierre Paulin Groovy chair and the Rietveld designed Utrecht armchair.

By contrast, the bedroom and study are softened with full height curtains, in a perfect shade of nude blush.

Peter’s House, Copenhagen by Studio David Thulstrup, via

Photographer: Peter Krasilnikoff

serpentine summer.

One of the highlights of summer in London for me is the annual launch of the Serpentine pavilion. Every year, an internationally renowned architect is invited by the Serpentine galleries to create their first built structure in the UK. My personal favourite of the pavilions over the years was the pavilion of Oscar Niemeyer, not least because I managed to score an invitation to the opening night party that year.

Bjarke Ingels’ 2016 pavilion is a beautifully sculpted mass of slender, fibreglass boxes, stacked to form a twisting, tent-like structure. But also this year, four Summer Houses have been added to the program. These architectural follies offer a contemporary interpretation of an adjacent, 18th century Neoclassical summerhouse, Queen Caroline’s Temple. They are on show until October 9th, after which they will be sold off and disassembled. They are for sale, here, with prices ranging from £95,000 to £125,000.

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The Summer House of Berlin studio Barkow Leibinger is designed ‘in the round’ and out of plywood, conceived as a series of structural bands. It’s fun to traverse and sit amongst, with its curving ribbon of wood hovering overhead and twisting back around forming places to rest.

Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi’s summer house is the most literal interpretation of the neo-classical summer house, offering an inverse replica of the original temple in form and proportion. Using prefabricated building blocks of rough sandstone, the composition takes the basic elements of architecture – a room, a doorway and a window – and forms a simple, elegant shelter.

The summer house of Yona Friedman comprises a series of metal rings of differing diameters that can be disassembled and re-assembled to form various compositions. Some of the voids are filled with transparent polycarbonate, most are open. It’s not so much a shelter as a backdrop for display.

Asif Khan has designed his Summer House as a series of undulating vertical posts, whose forms appear to enclose and open up to reveal the view beyond as one passes through. The ground is conceived as a continuous gravel landscape, punctuated by stepping stones. The sound of the gravel offers another dimension to this summer house, which has a wonderful fluidity and to me is the most successful of the four. Though don’t expect it to offer any shelter from this country’s inclement weather.

Serpentine Summer Houses, Hyde Park, until October 9th, 2016.

All images, Iwan Baan, via The Modern House; feature image, owl’s house london Instagram.

 

colour play in barcelona.

Located in a typical, turn of the century apartment building in Barcelona is this vibrant interior. Little has been done to alter the layout over the three floors, and views through to the outside are not evident. However, clever cut outs have been created within, offering unusual angles and vistas through from one level to the next.

The most striking element, though, are the colours. Deep forest green, pale salmon, strong white and cobalt blue are used to stunning effect on adjacent as well as distant planes. The result allows each surface to take on a sculptural, stand alone quality, whilst still working together in a sort of Escher-style sum of parts. A surrealist sky above a bathroom void draws the eye up. The overall effect is mesmerising.

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Apart from the vibrant paintwork, decoration is restricted to the typically colourful tiled floors of the era.

I also love the way colour blocking is used in this interior.

What do you think of this combination of colours?

Casa Horta, Barcelona by Guillermo Santoma. Photography: José Hevia

 

 

a toulouse townhouse in grey.

Enhancing the original character of a house whilst creating a concordant, contemporary addition is a constant design challenge. Here, in a townhouse in Toulouse, it is achieved through beautiful, minimal detailing with seamless junctions, an interesting mix of decorative mouldings and plain, unadorned surfaces, and the use of flat, monotone hues.

The materials palette is restrained but varied – rich, walnut cabinetry in one room contrasts with natural birch veneer in another. But the palette overall is reined in using similar mid-tones – the grey oak parquet floor adjoins a pale grey, seamless resin floor; a brushed stainless steel kitchen island cube takes on the colour of the adjoining mid-grey walls. There are two aesthetics going on here, one minimal and one ornate, where the old meets the new. They come together beautifully with these sophisticated grey hues, all in a matt finish to add softness. Floor to ceiling windows with simple frames draw the eye to the beautiful landscape beyond.

Joinery is beautifully detailed: a niche within the kitchen cabinets is lined in pale birch veneer contrasting with the deep grey of the cupboard fronts; in the bedrooms, entire walls of storage are seamlessly integrated. Freestanding elements are simple and monolithic – a black glass shower cubicle, the kitchen island unit with its perfectly mitred edges.

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Furniture comprises simple, bold classics such as the angular Jean Prouvé dining table and chairs, and the fabulous mid-century Charlotte Perriand bookcase.

How different it would look if it were finished in shades of white throughout, not just in the bathroom. I think the mid-tones give it a richness and sophistication and work effortlessly with the surrounding landscape. What do you think?

Townhouse renovation, Rue du Japon, Toulouse by RMGB architects. All images, RMGB.

Via Yellowtrace

 

fabulous finds – at the chapel.

We bumped into At The Chapel by accident, on a pit stop whilst travelling home to London from Dorset. Either that, or we were drawn there instinctively, because as soon as we stepped inside we were captivated. Set within the rigorous stone walls of a Grade 11 listed former chapel, the interior is a design delight – contemporary without being cold, restrained without being minimal. It’s also a clever mix of bakery, restaurant, wine store, club room and guest rooms, so that there is always somewhere to eat, somewhere to sit, somewhere to chat. The atmosphere is buzzy, but not bustling.

The owners are Catherine Butler and Ahmed Sidki, who have built and run the place themselves. Ahmed is an architect and cabinet maker, who also runs a furniture workshop (bowwow.co.uk) and incredibly, has designed and built everything here. Using a palette of natural materials – reclaimed timber of different textures and tones, bronze, stainless steel, and concrete – he has created functional, beautiful pieces: chairs, tables, stools, the bar. Against the simple white background, everything is strong of form and perfectly placed. The rooms (there are 8 in total) add white marble to the palette, bringing an element of luxury. For me, the aesthetic is spot on.

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As much as I’d like to think we discovered this place, we are not alone. Bruton is becoming something of an outpost for all things creative, with Hauser & Wirth opening here last year (with the most stunning landscaped garden); a marvellous vintage homeware shop, Phillips and Skinner, which is full to bursting with fabulous finds (I was in vintage heaven); and now a new lifestyle store, Caro, which featured in this month’s Wallpaper magazine (link, here).

At The Chapel, High Street Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0AE

Feature image + photographs 6,7,8,9, At The Chapel; all others, owl’s house london.