Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Interaction in Architecture

Familiarity and Connectedness

Does familiarity breed contempt or liking? Psychologists have done studies to prove both sides. Do we like people more when we get to know them or do they irritate you? If there are similarities with us in them, we tend to like them. However, here I am posting about how my familiarity of a person is starting to develop liking of his work. Also, the spaces you live in evolve as time passes by their users. I am talking about this one residence and its impact on me.

Couple of weeks ago, I took this tour "Marin Living: Home Tour', organised by American Institute of Architects, showcasing 5 homes in Marin county featuring distinct works of local architects. These homes are of different sizes and three of the houses were under 3000 sq. ft. Each house had a unique sets of criteria such as geographical, economical etc and each architect had come up with a distinct architecture for his client. I am not comparing them or talking about their designs. They all were full of creative ideas, construction details and perfect for their clients. But here I am talking about this one home which made an impact on me and the reasons for that strong impact.

The house is in Sausalito city, designed by Swatt Miers Architects in year 2002. It is a 120' long x 20' to 30' wide house sitting on slopping site with a view of SF skyline. The architect had kept the same footprint of a 1950's residence noted Bay Area modernist Roger Lee that over the years had shifted from its foundation. The new design doubles the area of the house to 2700 sq.ft and uses different materials to define private and public spaces.

Familiarity- I reached an hour early not intentionally but somehow I tend to mix up time, when I am focused on following the overall plan. ( Off the record- I have to work hard to remember the names of people who I have known and know of them very well. ) Well, that one hour worked to my advantage and I got full attention of the architect Robert Swatt and his stories behind this house and his other projects. I learned that he is working on a residential project in Delhi, India and he can not disclose the identity of the client. First I thought the client might be a political leader or Bollywood celebrity, but Robert explained the reason of not disclosing was the respecting his client's Hindu belief of not making known to public about a good task till it comes to its fruition. Yes, he was right, I remember growing up in India, we often consulted astrological charts to fix an auspicious time.
Also, he talked about the difficulties about incorporating Vastu (it is 5000 years old science of building design) in his new project. I conversed with him and become familiar with his tiny professional life. Of course, I visited the house with a keen eye and a different frame of mind. For me, this familiarity helped developing likings for his work.

Residents' Participation-Nonetheless, the house had all great elements of design. The architecture had lots of potential and the residents had a lot to do with creating a various scales of calming spaces. I could not photograph the interiors, so I used photos of architect's which were taken in 2002 and sketched the elements and furniture added by home owners/current residents on the photos below. In the entrance, the vegetation, plantings crawl very close to your foot. And to enjoy that the residents have placed a beautifully crafted chair near the window creating a perfect place.

Check out for more-
When I walked further into family room/ living room, dining room, I felt principles of Feng shui (a +3500 years old Chinese system of Geomancy believed to use the laws of Heaven and Earth).  Looking at the right side, at the end of the house, you see a water element (sculpture) just outside the ceiling to floor, almost invisible glass window and on the side in the courtyard, outside the glass door, a fire element (pit). That was exciting but in a calm, spiritual way. The architect designed the spaces where the residents had a chance to put their own creativity, that is awesome. Also, the book shelf behind the open stair created a space within a space behind the stair. The paintings were very familiar to me by an artist from Artful Homes, I have seen the photos of his or her work many times before and I can not find it right now and of course I do not remember the name of the artist. I have to be conscious to remember the names. I will work on it. But that feelings of familiarity kicks in again and I have to say- I like this home!
Designed by Swatt | Miers Architects

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