Oct 1, 2009

'Andrew Berman', MARK #22 Oct/Nov 2009

Mark Magazine
Publisher: Frame PublishersAmsterdam
ISSN: 1574-6453

The 2008 film Revolutionary Road is a vivid portrait of post-war suburban American life that simultaneously explores the acceptable social values of the time. And while America’s cultural climate has changed greatly since the 1950s, the country’s view of neighbourhood architecture has not. In the American suburb, traditionalism reigns supreme. Long Island, New York, recently broke free from this mould with the addition of a private library firmly rooted in the tradition of today.

Built for a young couple on an existing residential plot, ‘the library is positioned deep on the property, and tucked back into the woods’, says architect Andrew Berman. ‘It’s visible from the road but still recedes into its site.’ The 150-m2 building contains no more than needed: a gardening room, a bath, a kitchen and the library. Framed in steel, finished in wood and clad in copper–which reflects the surrounding trees–the library effortlessly disappears into its surroundings.

Berman explains that in the past ‘people built large buildings on Long Island–over-scaled to the communities’ traditional scale. This library goes back to what the scale used to be.’ A 3-m-tall red door opens into the library, whose volume and shape are hard to define. Small and complex, the space–not quite a trapezoid and not quite a cone–is an ever folding envelope highly influenced by a cantilevered upper storey that juts into the trees beyond, offering a view framed by an expansive picture window that occupies much of the projecting façade.

While the library parallels Revolutionary Road in its desire to explore social values of the past, the structure is one thing the film will never be: a clear reflection of contemporary ideas and traditions.

Andrew Berman

Jun 1, 2009

'Lorcan O’Herlihy', MARK #20 June/July 2009

Mark Magazine
Publisher: Frame Publishers, Amsterdam
ISSN: 1574-6453

West Hollywood is where everything happens in Los Angeles. The young mingle with the old, the rich with the poor and the famous with the not so famous. But, above all, the area is known for being the most liberal community in LA. Subsequently, West Hollywood has flourished into a hotbed for all things cutting edge,experimental architecture included. 

Lorcan O’Herlihy is known throughout LA for his single-family homes and small-scaled housing blocks, usually comprised of basic geometries, and often sited in the area surrounding the Hollywood Hills. Accustomed to cladding his projects with inexpensive and innovative materials, Formosa 1140 is no exception. Bright, bold and bedazzled in a wide spectrum of maroon coloured panels, the residential complex is hard to miss upon passing. Surrounded by California Bungalow homes from the early 20th century, the building makes no attempt to ‘blend in’ to its context. 

The carefully scattered mix of maroon panels serves a dual purpose. First, they act as a shading device, offering protection from the ever-present California sun, while also concealing the building’s exterior circulation, which has been strung along the southern façade. Though one could argue the panels are nothing more than a beautiful veneer, thinly cladding just another rectangular box–somehow, it works. 

LOHA: Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects

Feb 1, 2009

'MRH', MARK #18 Feb/Mar 2009

Mark Magazine
Publisher: Frame PublishersAmsterdam
ISSN: 1574-6453

In the late 1890s, Americans experienced a surge of nationalism, transforming and sculpting this into a new type of architecture–the American Colonial Revival home. The LL house, designed by MRH Architects and located just outside Cincinnati, was once your typical Colonial Revival homestead. But after extensive renovation, the 70-m2 residence has been completely stripped of its interior and transformed into an outdoor seating area–anchoring the new home while keeping history alive. 

In a time where going ‘green’ is everywhere and preservationists are going to extremes, why completely gut the interior of an original colonial revival home?! 

Mireille Roddier: This is very much at the heart of the project. The clients weren't particularly attached to the existing yellow cottage, but felt they owed it to the villagers, and the historical conservation committee, to keep its external appearance intact. We liked the idea of preserving the image-thin façade, while completely transforming the interior. The volume of the original home has been transformed into an entry courtyard with an aperture in the roof. From the courtyard, the programme of the new addition spirals outward. 

Has there been a strong reaction from the neighbours? 

Before construction began it was the talk of the town! Prior to construction, a 1:50 model of the house was on display at the town hall for anyone to comment on. Yellow Springs has always been a liberal puddle amid a conservative region, and I assume there must have been voices against us–but if that was the case, the clients shielded us from them. 

How is the new addition arranged in regards to the existing home? 

The northern half consists of a primary multipurpose  area, while the southern portion is organized into  separate sleeping and bathing areas–divided over two floors and connected by a series of ramps that cumulates in the centre of the home. We created another courtyard on the opposite side of the ramps, distinct from the ‘cottage courtyard’, providing further private outdoor space for the owners. 

Were any elements custom designed for the home? 

The original cottage’s interior was made of two storeys, plus a basement and attic. once the floor slabs were torn down, the floor beams of the existing cottage were recycled, allowing us to custom design the dining table from the existing cottage’s skeleton. 

MRH Architects

Jan 1, 2009

'Abandoned Amusements', MARK #17 Dec/Jan 2009

Mark Magazine
Publisher: Frame PublishersAmsterdam
ISSN: 1574-6453

At the main entrance to each of Walt Disney’s ‘Magic Kingdom’ theme parks, a small gold  plaque above the main gate welcomes each and every visitor, subtly announcing the advent of the magical transformation about to take place. ‘Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy,’ the plaque silently whispers, reminding visitors that the world  they’re about to leave–whether it be Anaheim, Orlando, Paris, Tokyo, or Hong Kong–will slowly fade and be replaced by the magic within. This transition from reality to fantasy is one that stirs emotion and sensations in breathtakingly beautiful ways. But what is it that makes the world within a theme park’s walls so spectacular? What about them awakens the human senses in such magical ways, and leaves both children and adults resistant to their magnetic draw? 

The answer lies in the removal from reality. Inside the theme park, unexpected surprises are to be found around every corner. The new and unknown are welcomed and embraced with open arms, and the child within everyone shines through. In many ways, the theme park can be compared to ‘the city’; many theme parks encompass their own public transportation systems, civic services and even self-governing bodies. Within the city, emotions of the inhabitants run equally as high, and the unexpected is the everyday commonplace. But one small difference separates the theme park from the city; admission to the city is free. 

Many capital cites of the world–most notably NYC, Paris, and Rome–have all been transformed into full scale ‘theme parks’ in their own right. The inhabitants of these cities have become fulltime residents of the theme park their city’s tourism industry has so carefully sculpted, marketed, and pre-packaged. Subsequently, the residents and tourists of these cities have begun to coexist, leaving both in a constant brush of shoulders. One could even compare their famous landmarks–the Statue of Liberty, The Eiffel Tower, and the Coliseum–to each of the ‘Magic Kingdom’s’ iconic Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty castles, the most recognizable symbol of each Disney park. The city, like the ‘Magic Kingdom’, has been reduced to a freestanding symbol. 

But true theme parks, no matter how painstaking their attempts to replicate the culture and atmosphere of the cities beyond their gates may be, will never be able to reproduce the city’s cherished realm of ‘public space’. Nothing inside the theme park is public. Rules and regulations control visitor’s every action. The magic a theme park creates comes at a price. Behind the park’s meticulously constructed façade, one of fake castles and pristinely manicured gardens, only one company runs ‘the city’ within the park’s walls–further proof that theme parks, no matter how hard they strive, can never fully achieve city status. 

The parks that yearn for this distinction, like those of the Walt Disney Company, will probably never see their lights fade. But what about parks of a smaller scale? Parks who don’t serve to anchor a city or an airport; park’s like the Disney resorts in LA and Orlando? Some of them, like those in the pages to follow, have seen their days of prosperity at soaring heights, only to crumble and decay in the decades that follow. But while most theme parks fail due to decreased attendance and the accompanying loss of operating funds, others tend to disappear from the public realm all together, retreating to the shadows of the woodlands they so often occupy. Sometimes a fatality within the park prompts its closing. Other times a park’s shady past comes back to haunt its future–paving the way for the spotlight of negative media coverage that may soon follow. But while unfortunate events close down some small parks, other manage to dodge the bullets of extinction; leaving them in a constant game of Russian roulette, with failure and success. 

Pompeii, Knossos, Mesopotamia–at one time, these great cities had an unbridled sense of mystery, magic, and wonder weaving through their narrow streets. But somewhere the fate of these monumental cities took a wrong turn, and in the instance of Pompeii, the city’s fate proved capricious and instantaneously consuming. And even though these influential cities and civilizations of the past have crumbled under unforeseen forces, their beauty and splendour lives on. But will any abandoned amusement park ever hold the same historical status as Pompeii? Will any ever become World Heritage Sites to be studied in the future; or will they simply sit in an illicit state of decay? What happens to the whimsical world of fantasy, mystery, and magic contained within their walls once their unpredictable ill fate occurs, and the power of their magnetic draw begins to fade?  

'Sancho Madridejos', MARK #17 Dec/Jan 2009

Mark Magazine
Publisher: Frame PublishersAmsterdam
ISSN: 1574-6453

Although the fundamentals of creating wine have changed very little over the centuries, the facilities in which they are produced have undergone a massive restructuring; the design and functions of the classic winery have undoubtedly been transformed. Wineries are now a physical expression of the company–an extension of the company’s brand. Visitors appreciate being able to view the wine-making process and expect hospitality–but do these modern wineries sacrifice product for design?

A winery should be designed from the inside out to properly address all its needs–a task SMAO has successfully completed with their recent project in central Spain. The winery is situated on a prominent hill above the vineyard, which lies to the south of the building. The winery is sited on an east to west axis and is built into the hill above the vineyard. This orientation allows for minimal exposure of the north façade, creating the ideal location for the production facilities that require cooler, darker spaces where the fermenting process takes place. The south façade is exposed to the vineyard below, offering framed views to visitors and production staff alike while readily taking advantage of the abundant natural light. 

When approached from the north, the facility appears as a ripple in the landscape, because of the reflections caused by the aluminium skin that wraps a large portion of the winery. The building reveals itself on the lower portion of the south façade, exposing its concrete structure and firmly announcing its solid stance in the landscape to the vineyard below. 

Sancho Maridejos