A Photo Real Abstraction
Who influences you graphically?
Whilst studying I was heavily influenced by the graphic styles of British Architect’s Caruso St John and Sergison Bates, especially their appreciation for material, detailing and the working drawing. Later as we began to develop our own style of graphic representation, we were constantly confronted by the abstract nature of both 2D and 3D forms of representation and the way they essentially distance the viewer from actual experience. Hence we were drawn to architects and artists who were already working with these issues.
We developed an appreciation for the cinematic approach of directors such as Kubrick and Anderson, in particular their focus on one point perspective framing, which produces scenes with a strong geometry, along with artists such as Hockney and Ruscha, where aspects of their work deal with the built environment through perspective and abstraction. A few years ago we also discovered the work of Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri, and developed a strong admiration for his ability to transfer these abstract qualities to an image, one which focuses on real conditions (built or natural), often through imagery which has limited human subject matter yet deals directly with the lived human condition.
To what extent are aerial images of your site essential in providing context to the proposal and showing the larger picture?
In essence a picture tells a thousand words, where as a drawing is often about focusing in detail on a specific element (site / plan /section) this eventually leads to the omission of detail. The aerial images speak far more about the surrounding context than we could ever document through drawing.
Your images almost seem to exist as utopian/ idyllic scenarios where nature and architectural form co-exist, does this reflect the objective of your architecture?
The objective behind our approach is heavily guided by the site and brief specific to each project, yet I believe the idyllic nature is due to the context within which we have been working. The Australian landscape is open and vast, with major cities separated by thousands of kilometres. When travelling between these cities, the surrounding landscape can differ greatly even over short distances. Lush rainforests and pristine beaches contrast powerful, rugged landscapes. These landscapes are often scattered with rural structures, which become visual scaling devices in the landscape, in a sense marking mans existence. In this setting our projects reference the contrast of scale, the vernacular building types, with the objective being to provide shelter and retreat, often from a life lived within the confines of the city.
You seize to show the inhabitants and users of these spaces, but prefer to feature animal references. Why so?
Throughout my studies I always felt uneasy filling images with ‘cut out’ people to signify use. Often there is a tendency for students to ‘over do’ it, whilst attempting to fill an image with life they actually detract from the idea behind the concept. When we began developing our own graphic approach, in order to describe our projects to clients and not tutors, we felt that it was more effective to remove the ‘cut-out’ people from the imagery yet fill the images with signs of the clients actual life. We fill each image with objects relevant to our client, hence the inclusion of their pets (or children), we believe this enables them to mentally inhabit the images, engaging with them much closer than they would if we had filled their homes with images of strangers.
What is the effect and purpose of exploring a proposal through different times of the day?
Occupation is key to many of our projects, with a handful exploring temporary (weekend) accommodation. The images often show the buildings in both closed/vacant and open/occupied states. This approach is to explain the process of the drawn out arrival, opening/revealing of the building is used as a reference to camping eg. the erection of a tent
What dictates the genre of atmosphere and backdrop for each project? (Hill House vs Pyramid Rock)
The backdrop used is always produced from actual imagery taken from the site, we may heavily edit the images yet they will always be recomposed in a manner which reflects the surrounding site conditions. A photo real abstraction if you will. The atmosphere for each image is dictated by use/program. In the case of Pyramid rock the brief was to reduce the shelter to the bare essentials, therefore the atmosphere of the images highlight the sense of safety and enclosure one would experience whilst inside the cabin, in contrast to the openness of the surrounding landscape.
This project is a private residence located in Oak Flats, a small town on the South Coast of NSW. The project is sited on the edge of Lake Illawarra, with stunning views over Burroo Bay, toward Lake Illawarra and the Illawarra escarpment to the north.
The house is for a young couple and their growing family. The brief was to create a house that responded to the clients desire for ‘a life lived outside’ yet still met all their spatial, storage and functional requirements.
The project is broken into two elements, the first, containing a garage/workshop and guest room fronting the street and the second containing the ‘public’ communal areas on the lower level and the ‘private’ sleeping areas on the upper, both fronting the lake.
The lower living area is glazed on both sides, providing views toward the decked pool area to the south and toward the lake and distant escarpment to the north, visually connecting the interior spaces with the surrounding environment. Elements such as high ceilings, open stair and a walk around kitchen/pantry all reinforce the sense of openness and the connection to the outside.
This project is a private residence located in Valla, a small village in the Nambucca Valley on the mid north coast of NSW. The site itself is situated on a small plateau, bound on three sides by valley and on one side by dense bushland. The building’s long, thin plan runs along the northern edge of the plateau, orientating itself toward the sun and views to the valley beyond.
The northern and southern façades are distinctly different, one open and one closed. The southern ‘closed’ façade is clad entirely in corrugated sheet, providing the house with a homogenous, rural quality. The numerous barns and hay sheds, which dot the landscape alongside the Pacific Highway, inspire the blankness of the southern façade, which conceals the activities that occur inside and the views of the valley beyond.
The ‘open’ northern façade is broken into three distinct blocks, one for working, one for living and one for sleeping. All three blocks are connected by a spinal corridor, which runs the length of the project and also functions as a gallery space displaying the client’s photography work. Each block opens out to the valley in a manner appropriate for the function of the room, by drawing the surrounding landscape into the interior spaces or by omitting the view to provide a sense of seclusion and privacy.
This project is a small cabin in the town of Ventnor on Phillip Island in Victoria. The project is located on 160 acres of farmland, currently used for grazing livestock. The rolling, grass covered landscape slopes down toward the harsh, rocky coastline fronting Bass Straight, providing stunning ocean views.
The building references the simple cattle shelters, which scatter the surrounding farmlands providing protection for livestock in the harsh weather conditions. When the three large corrugated sliding doors are opened, a refined glazed internal volume is revealed. Internally, a palette of warm, natural materials contrasts the buildings external, rural appearance.
The amenities are minimal, reduced to the bare essentials. One open living room and simple washing and cooking facilities are all that is provided. This approach encourages the occupants to venture outside and experience the landscape, only returning inside for shelter and sleep.
MGAO is an Architecture Office based in Melbourne, Australia. With a focus on social and sustainable Architectural projects of all scales.
MGAO engage with the tradition of Architecture, generating expression through the realities of construction, drawing inspiration from context, typology and construction technique. Working with a refined set of tools; Material, Proportion, Prospect and Light, MGAO seek cost effective building solutions through creative material choices and refined detailing, promoting the importance of quality over quantity and timelessness over trend.