Laura Fiamenghi, Beril Maria Kubin, Kacper Kuczyński, Camilla Malinverni & Gian Luca Mazza @ Politecnico di Milano MSc, Architecture, School of Architecture Urban Planning Construction Engineering [Mikel van Gelderen & Elisa Cristiana Cattaneo]
The project site is located in the hear to f IJ Burg island and is a space of provocation to its highly dense urban environment. It resists to stay natural on an artificiall and. Just like the attempts of VanEyck to turn the cities into playgrounds in the 1950s, the plot persists to remain as a natural playground.
The aim of the project is to help the site bring out its characteristics and transform it into a ‘playscape’ by creating a positive impact on the island in a wider scale. The concept is based on two contradicting systems that are reflected to the two long facades of the building: the playground; space of nature and freedom, and the spatial apparatus that contributes to the built environment and works as a paradox to the freespace.
The plot creates degraded scenery from the strict border of the marina that represents the urbanism, to the natural border that represents freedom. This gradient system inhabits the dwellings on the concrete border of the marina, creating a piazza with the surrounding urban context; whereas the Architecture degrades towards the natural coast on the other side, providing Architectural freedom. Each of the proposed flat is oriented in a way that they face on both the urban and the natural coast in order to in habit the context of ‘duality’ for the users,which gives the project its quality of the two-faced God‘Janus’.
Interior spaces follow the concept and host the private spaces towards the façade facing the natural coast; and all the service spaces towards the façade facing the urban context with the marina.
The challenge of accessibility due to a length of 140 meters and a width of 12 meters is solved through the multiple entrances towards a corridor that cuts both skins of the building and enables direct access to each flat. The spaces are organized primarily according to sizes rather than functions, as interior spaces are conceived as stages for a set of different possible functions according to the areas.
What role did the drawing play in the development of the project?
Our starting point for the concept was the photo we found of the existing site, showing the two contrasting coasts; one expressing spontaneity with an irregular fading border with kids playing, other with a strict concrete border of the existing marina facing the urbanity.
The opposing coasts was our initial interest and we wanted to create an Architecture that keeps the existing quality of the site. That is why we decided to put the building on the edge of the marina coast – to preserve the existing landscape, so that it could still work as a natural ‘playground’. Through the development of the project, the initial sketch we made, creating two opposing facades that respond to the environment they were facing to, was our starting point. The sketch was the Architectural translation of the two faced God Janus and the first representation of the duality we wanted to create. In every step, we tried to improve that very first drawing more and more through conceptual models and finally through details. It is interesting to see that this first sketch is still visible in our resolved design of each flat and in the building as a whole and even on our detail drawings.
What defined the articulation of this through the axonometric, plan and montage?
Following our initial sketch, our montage was very effective in expressing our concept. We can call this montage the next step after the initial sketch. Then, we started up by drawing the plans of the flat types and the circulation inside the very narrow but long volume. The most important plan for us, expressing our Architectural idea and concept was the ground floor plan. We tried to create a ground floor where the function is not the real focus and the space can transform through time for changing needs. The features of this floor for us was the perfect way to create an Architecture that responds to the natural coast with very little Architecture that is completed by the light, temporary structure that transforms. However, the axonometries were absolutely necessary to express not just the conceptbut the Architecture of the building and how we translated the two faced God – Janus intoArchitecture.
Through the axonometric drawings, each façade and their environments are expressed, so that the contrast between the two façade is more clear to understand.
What is your take on colour?
Since the very beginning, we decided to use two different colours in our representation to emphasize the duality of our project. Each drawing then had somehow its own system of playing with the palette. The use of colour was very challenging in every type of drawing, especially in the ground floor drawings, where – apart from blue and red – we also decided to use orange and yellow to improve the representation of landscape. Within the process, we found it very interesting how powerful the use of colours can be in graphics – not only in terms of the representation, but also for better conceptual understanding.
What was your work process in terms of collecting the fragments for the computer montages?
The collection of the fragments is directly influenced by the design process of the building. All of the references, taken from art and photography, were part of our knowledge and we chose them according to the atmospheres we wanted to create inside our architecture. The process is therefore a collection of fragments, which are then overlapped, manipulated and reinvented. As we strictly think that Architecture is a discipline always in dialogue with other subjects, it seems natural to exploit the tools and representations which belong to other worlds.
How were these then composed and associated? How was the idea of stage set elaborated?
Starting from our sketches, we defined the setting of the montages and the better way to gather the collected fragments, which are then manipulated.
These imaginary stages are therefore enriched by the society that might inhabit them. The sequence of spaces becomes a series of different atmospheres represented through the artists that we recognize; such as Vucciria’s Market by Guttuso that becomes a symbol of the vibe of a chaotic and vibrant market;
surrealism and fauvism of Mirò and Matisse that shows a possible playscape inside the structure;
De Chirico’s metaphysics that represents the more defined space which could conquer the setting.
How is the element of duality drawn within the images?
The concept of duality is embodied in the image of Janus, the two-faced God. He is the God of gates, transitions, duality, who is able to use his two faces to look to the future and to the past. The building works in the same way: it is the physical object that is able to embody the two different realities of the site, an enhanced transition between a defined space and a spontaneously conquered one.
The effective building is therefore condensed and idealised through the elements of this double-faced structure: the wall and the grid. The two parallel surfaces symbolize the two completely different behaviours that the building develops according to the environment it is facing to. On one side we find the urban setting, with its long-term defined peculiarities; on the other side we discover the unpredictability of a savage space dominated both by an uncontrolled nature and the free appropriation of an already public space.
What is the effect and purpose of the white out of the architecture within these montaged images?
The will to promote the spontaneous and uninhibited development of the public space is translated into a non-defined architecture, able to become whatever it needsto. Janus looks towards the past as well as to a potential future which it cannot predict or impose. As “to build for the future means leaving a great deal unbuilt”, this face has to be simultaneously silent and powerful as a tool with which people and nature can work in a mutual relationship. That’s why this architecture is in some way the denial of architecture itself, as a white – dumb apparatus entrusted with the ones that will be able to make it speak. The white out of the architecture symbolizes what is finished as an unfinished structure developed over a pendingfuture.