Tuesday, November 14, 2017

How did the brilliant, intricate work of architect Claude Megson disappear from view?

The November 2nd issue of Paperboy magazine gives eight whole pages to Claude Megson Counter Constructions, the first ever book on the work of this important but neglected New Zealand architect. 

The shorter online version of the article is here, and asks: How did the brilliant, intricate work of architect Claude Megson disappear from view? Conclusion: 
His reassessment is long overdue. 
The beautifully-photographed book is self-published by UK-based architect Giles Reid, with generous backing from the Warren Trust. So here's your reminder that the last recommended posting date from the UK for Christmas delivery is Saturday 9th December.

Your price of NZ$69.95 includes postage and packaging. To purchase, go to:
  http://www.counterconstructions.com/ 
I hope you will take a look.





Saturday, October 21, 2017

Frank Lloyd Wright, and the importance of the built environment






Listening in this weekend to the Wright Society Virtual Summit (you all could be too, you know), I'm really enjoying hearing Frank Lloyd Wright's clients talking about their homes, and their lives in and around them.

Roland Reisley was just 26 years old when he joined a housing cooperative in Pleasantville, New York, able to commission Wright to design the community and several of the houses, including their own. "We didn't dream of approaching Frank Lloyd Wright, ordinary people don't do that," smiles Reisley today, 67 years later. But when the community founder showed Wright the site thus began "a wonderful, long, productive and happy relationship with him."

Asked what he has learned after a lifetime of living in and enjoying his Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian home — enjoying every day the nature of the design, seeing the seasons change, how the light passes through the home, Reisley sums up with a very important observation about what essentially makes good architecture:
I came to realise after many years … a pinch-me realisation, that after many years there had not been a single day of my life, even the bad days that happen in every life, where I was not aware of seeing something beautiful. I always, every day of my life, [am saying] ‘isn’t that lovely’ — whether it’s … in the morning I look up and see the way the wood is mitred in certain places, and how it contrasts with the light through the window which is either nice and green fro the trees or white with snow; and I could go on with similar awareness.     “We sit outside (in summer-time) … and look around and say ‘isn’t it beautiful!,’ ‘isn’t it wonderful!’ — every day, every time…
    Neuroscientists have observed … that living with a sense of awareness of beauty brings a sense of comfort, a reduction of stress, and these other kinds of things, that may contribute to physical and emotional health, possibly even longevity. I’m 93 years old! I’m in very  good shape for 93 years old. I like to attribute that to this sense of beauty that I’ve lived in all my life.
   It also has made me very conscious, as I talk about this house and the architecture and how it makes me feel, of the importance of the built environment generally.     “I remark these days not just to visitors but to architects as well: ’You know, these buildings are just objects. We may like how they look, we may not like how they look, but what matters is how they make us feel. When we’re in this environment, does it feel good, does it [make us] feel better, does it feel enriching. And that may or may not coincide with whether we like the way it looks. I think Wright understood that, and he created environments in which people feel good.
Not a trivial point.




[Pics from the Wright Society Virtual Summit Guide, and The Weekly Wright Write-Up]
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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Recent Project: New kitchen in home renovation



The wonderful kitchen designer with whom I often work, Leonie Von Sturmer, is far better at self-promotion than I am — and here (above) on the front cover of the latest Trends magazine is the new house and kitchen we recently worked on at Greenwood’s Corner, Auckland.

With its new roof carefully located to manouvre through council’s height-in-relation-to-boundary controls, I love the way you can relax at the kitchen counter with a beer, enjoying the birdlife and foliage of the surrounding trees through the glassed gables and dormers.

(If I say so myself), it makes for a surprisingly open and informal setting in a relatively constrained site.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Recent Project: Howick renovation

 

ConceptSketch

Among the many projects currently in the office is this one, a renovation of a mid-century modern in Howick, offering opportunities to rethink New Zealand’s modernist heritage, and to undo  some of the later “modernisations.” And, like every renovation project, it involves a bit of untangling …

LayoutConcept

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Housing: Variety through repetition

 

1_ VIEW-web

Designing a house form that works and that can be replicated to produce variety is fun, and economical, but not straightforward.

7_VIEW I-web

This project, by Organon Architecture, has 36 houses of two types; two types whose lower floors are identical and whose upper floors differ only in their orientation – and in that difference lies the difference that produces the difference: two house types in which the way they come together creates the structure of the composition, produces the interest, creates (with the simple form becoming complex by repetition and the relationship to the other repeated units) creating the relationship of composition to landscape.

2_web

Repetition means ease of assembly. Repetition means making use of industrialisation to reduce costs and waste. Repetition, here, producing variety instead of conformity.

That’s they way nature does it. That’s the way to make it work.

I think it does.

Could you live here?

5_VIEW INTERIOR-web.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Quote of the Day: “Not only cathedrals … ”

“Not only cathedrals, but every great engineering work is an expression of motivation and of purpose which cannot be divorced from religious implications. This truth provides the engineer with what many would assert to be the ultimate existential pleasure.
    “I do not want to get carried away with this point. The age of cathedral building is long past. And, as I have already said, less than one quarter of today’s engineers are engaged in construction activities of any sort. But every man-made structure, no matter how mundane has a little bit of cathedral in it, since man cannot help but transcend himself as soon as he begins to design and construct.”

~ Samuel Florman, American civil engineer, general contractor and author, from his book The Existential Pleasures of Engineering

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Quote of the Day: Form ever follows function …

 

“[T]o the steadfast eye of one standing on the shore of things … the heart is ever gladdened by the beauty, the exquisite spontaneity, with which life seeks and takes on is forms in an accord perfectly responsive to its needs. It seems ever as though the life and the form were absolutely one and inseparable, so adequate is the sense of fulfilment.
    “Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight or the open apple blossom, the toiling work horse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is the law. Where function does not change form does not change. The granite rocks, the ever brooding hills, remain for ages; the lightning lives, comes into shape, and dies in a twinkling.
    “It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognisable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.
    “Shall we, then, daily violate this law in our art? Are we so decadent, so imbecile, so utterly weak of eyesight, that we cannot perceive this truth so simple, so very simple?”

~ Architect Louis Sullivan, in his 1896 article ‘The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Rivendell et al, by Laurie Virr [updated]

 

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Architect Laurie Virr has lived and worked in Canberra most of his life, where he has been something of an apostle for organic architecture, especially that practiced by Frank Lloyd Wright.

His first house in 1969 was (and still is)

an unusual Canberra example of the late twentieth century organic style of architecture based on a triangular module. The house was Laurie’s first commission in Canberra and displays the themes he would explore in his residential projects over the next three decades: the use of massing, geometric forms and deep roof overhangs in an energy efficient, solar house.

His own house, dubbed Rivendell and designed in 1975,

is an outstanding example of the late twentieth century organic style with its massing, use of geometric forms, deep roof overhang and energy efficient design. The successful implementation of a complex geometric plan based on a hemicycle is unusual if not unique for a mid-century Canberra house. The house has been published many times, in the U.S.A., Europe and Australia. Inexplicably, it is relatively unknown in Canberra.

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The roofs and brick masses of Rivendell, looking north towards the Mount Taylor Nature Reserve

 

Convinced that government-financed housing had been a disgrace rather than a grace to the Canberra landscape, he set out to prove what was possible --

to design a house no larger in area than welfare housing of that time, 102.4m2,  but one in which the siting, the exploitation of space, the massing, the concern for the environment, and the details, expressed in unequivocal terms what I considered to be architecture.

Rivendell4
Dining area of another Laurie Virr hemicycle, at Valla Beach, New South Wales

 

Taking his brief from his wife (no architect should deliver his own brief, he reckons) and allowing the site to suggest the house that could deliver it, he began a study of hemicycle houses, first designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the second Jacobs House, and designed this passive solar masterpiece for him and his growing family. Taking his cue from Louis Sullivan’s edict to “take care of the terminals and the rest will take care of itself” he held the public spaces of the hemicycle between the orthogonal cavity brick masses housing retreats, servicing spaces and study.

VIRR-rivendell

The French doors and stationary glass on the north face of the house encompass an arc of 90o [he explains], making it an architectural expression of the problem. This is also exemplified by the walls that define the terrace and mark the extent of the glazing.

Rivendell5

Courtyard of Laurie Virr design at Murrumbatemen, New South Wales

 

Built with his own hands, he has lived and worked there –very comfortably -- ever since.

There are just two people living in the house at this time and it is comfortable for us, but there was an occasion when 56 folk gathered within and there was room for all.

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Beautiful!

[Images from Laurie Virr’s site, Canberra House, and Wright Chat.]

NB: UPDATED 15 Jan to add corrected captions.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fallingwater

 

Does this animation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘Fallingwater’ (set to Smetana’s ‘Moldau’) ever get old?

No, I don’t think it does.

 

Fallingwater from Cristóbal Vila on Vimeo.

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