Dossier 1: Language & Proportion
Personal Statements: investigations into formal and spatial languages
A task to study proportional systems led the studio to develop artefacts on the work of four architects and artists: Dom Hans van der Laan, Robbrect en Daem, Peter Maerkli and Agnes Martin. These systems such as ‘The Louie’ (Robbrect en Daem), ‘The Plastic Number’ and ‘The Golden Ratio’, all provided a mathematical grid which could then be woven into with threads of poetics. For Martin, her grids were rooted in ‘a Hellenic awareness of line and proportion’, and much like the classical architecture from which she took inspiration, her works played with perspective scaling – from a distance they are rigorous and formal patterns, yet on closer inspection the imperfections in the lines read as something much more akin to the chaos of nature.
The proportions used, for example in the Plastic Number (3:4), were independent from the architects’ ideas – they were merely a rule that the architect had adopted to provide continuity in a design. Hans van der Laan followed ‘a classical tradition, he strove for symmetry (symmetria), mathematical harmony and measurable proportions between the sizes of the components of a building, from the part to the whole. For van der Laan, a house became a home only when it expressed a clear order, with each of its elements delineated as whole numbers that were clearly readable in the expression of a building’s facade – its columns, bays or windows.’
‘105cm is Robbrect en Daem’s gentle opposition to a meter.’ This is derived from the Louie system; a proportion ratio based on the single digit, odd prime numbers (3 x 5 x 7 = 105). However, in their early works, smaller interventions in existing fabric, this system rarely, if ever, appears. Instead it plays a vital role in much more recent projects where their structures are often stood alone with no physical remnants to graft onto. Here the arbitrary system gives them a way of defining perimeters, boundaries and constraints.
History and theory: László Moholy-Nagy and Christopher Alexander
The compression of patterns into a single space is not a poetic and exotic thing, kept for special buildings which are works of art. It is the most ordinary economy of space. It is quite possible that all the patterns for a house might, in some form, be present, and overlapping, in a simple one-room cabin. (Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language, 1977.)
Throughout the project the unit also researched and held seminars on pieces of literature and film, which encouraged dialogue outside and around the immediately obvious contextual topics. A film on London Zoo by László Moholy-Nagy paired with Christopher Alexander’s ‘A Pattern Language’ inspired discussions on the idea of the architect as the master-planner, as seen at the zoo where it’s claimed each habitat ‘best displays the natural characteristics of the animals’, compared with Alexander’s patterns in which the whole is the result of the addition of many smaller situations. From this students found ways to define scale and mass, working at both macro and micro levels.
Installation at Kirkton Steadings
Installation informed by Robbrecht and Daem’s ‘Louie System’
Emily Dudman: The aim for our proposal was to create a connection between the interior and exterior of the steading, and in doing so, enhance the views looking towards the Loch. Protected views are a vital factor within the planning of buildings in Craignish. To avoid intruding on the overall view of the steading, we strove to create a subtle element that could only just be noticed from afar. In aligning the wooden pieces perpendicular to the steading and finishing them with red wood stain, we allowed the external frame to blend into the view of the steading. Approaching the steading from an angle, the frame is more evident and directs the viewer toward the front of the structure to make sense of the object.
The interior views and orientation of the wood pieces allow the views to be directed towards the Loch from within the steading. The location for our proposal was within the eastern third of the steading where the roof was no longer in existence. The existing stone interior lintels of the steading had been replaced with wooden lintels, relating the the material we were to be using.
By reflecting on the works of Robbrecht en Daem, we created a roof structure, over a seating area where views are directed to the surrounding protected landscape.
Installation informed by the work of Peter Märkli