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Control Geek

09.16

Everybody knows if you are too careful, you are so occupied in being careful that you are sure to stumble over something.” – Gertrude Stein

Maybe it was the way we were taught, but we have always been interested in idiosyncratic propositions in architecture as a ground for resisting serialisation of our work. Idiosyncratic ideas allow us to develop the unique territories inherent in each project, revealing the unexpected outcomes that emerge. This strategy is as much about our will to resist preconceived ideas as it is about the possibility for infiltration of anomalies into the production of our work. Sometimes these anomalies emerge when we lose a bit of control, so we attempt to make the early stages of design flexible rather than a prescriptive process. This tactical improvisation allows us to develop the architectural idea in a multitude of media and then attempt to reconcile the inconsistencies. In practical terms, this may mean constructing models that will never see the light of day, drawing a multitude of iterative plans, or the production of fragmented collages. Collage is a quick process of assembling and subverting the relationships between context, form, and materiality, thus liberating the project from the realities of construction and constraints.

Architects often require control over the visual media associated with the design process. Presentations to clients intend to show the mastery of production, and capture architecture in a single iconic moment. Sometimes this control is misguided, expressed either as a requirement for formal simplicity or as abstract complexity. We are more concerned with generating a dialogue with a drawing’s ambiguities than just seeing drawing as a tool for implementing buildings; this enables us to discover new ground.

The dialogue between drawing techniques was explored in a house we recently completed in Mt Eden. The key driver of the early design was the Z shape Parti that divides the long, thin lot into two gardens and challenges the conventional diagram of the front and back yard of the typical suburban house. This diagram was supplemented by use of collage as a tool to investigate ideas of emotion and sensibility taking place in the building, and allowed us to rethink how spaces are built for activities. The consequence of using collage was that unexpected knots emerged for key activities of the house: cooking, eating, relaxing, and gardening. We then explored in plan how these knots could be arranged around a singular spine corridor, which expands and contracts spatially as the house form mediates the site. As the house form twists, the corners open to allow a series of connections with the gardens. The flexibility inherent in this overlay of media allowed us to find the idiosyncratic opportunities in the project.

The flexible approach to media was explored differently for a house in Dublin Downs near Lake Hawea in the South Island. The idea of a singular form clad with simple materials drove the formal qualities, which were then investigated specifically in elevational studies. This allowed us to engage in a subtle shift in the materials’ relationship to the ground and the roof form. The two competing strategies of the foundation wall and the roof form enabled a flexible approach to the programmatic and spatial requirements, as well as articulating apertures and the relationship of the form to the land.

At some point, the requirement for a flexible framework provides possible sites to stumble upon the idiosyncratic. These sites can be seen as opportunities for convergence of programmatic and formal knots that are able to be provoked. If you're not careful you may not stumble over something, or stub a toe.

Dominic Glamuzina and Aaron Paterson