The boathouse by Matthew Trzebiatowski

The architect Renzo Piano has said that every architect should design a boat. Piano has done just this, as have other prominent architects and designers such as Louis Kahn, Alvar Aalto, Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Philippe Starck, and John Pawson. In his manifesto Vers Une Architecture of 1923, Le Corbusier devoted a chapter specifically to ocean liners. He was extolling the virtues of their sleek dynamism and urged architects to follow the modern industry refined and machined aesthetics that these objects presented.

Boathouses - Stewart Island, New Zealand

Boathouses - Stewart Island, New Zealand

The boathouses shown here, perched delicately at the edge of Golden Bay on Stewart Island in New Zealand, do not shelter the sorts of ocean liners or yachts designed by the architects mentioned above but rather more humble vessels. These structures are straightforward sheds, unadorned and elegantly crafted, minimum, but not minimal. Le Corbusier described an image of the Canadian Pacific ship Empress of France as “an architecture that is pure, crisp, clear, clean, sound.” Sleek forms, portholes, or the banded fenestrations derived from ship bodies do not compose these boathouses however this description applies perfectly nonetheless.

An instance of integration by Matthew Trzebiatowski

The example exhibited here of visual and performance integration is in a space for yoga practice. There was a desire to incorporate the available sunlight while obstructing the direct view outside and to conceal all mechanical and technical elements that serve as potential distractions for the practitioners. The gently distended ceiling is held back from the wall, providing a reveal that contains the recessed air supply diffuser. Staggered fluorescent strips provide the evenly distributed reflected light that emerges from this slot.

Yoga Deva interior perimeter wall - Gilbert, Arizona

Yoga Deva interior perimeter wall - Gilbert, Arizona

White, translucent panels of extruded polycarbonate are positioned adjacent to the exterior windows and diffuse the natural daylight while preventing direct views into, or out of, the studio space. The connection of the panel to the floor provides a consistent, crisp line by which to terminate the flooring.

 

Yoga Deva wall detail - Gilbert, Arizona

Yoga Deva wall detail - Gilbert, Arizona

The depth of the skin by Matthew Trzebiatowski

Glass is a remarkably versatile material. In contemporary architecture, there is often an emphasis on the glazed opening, and it is achieved, commonly, with as minimal an expression of attachment or adherence as possible. The adhesive technologies that currently exist, coupled with tempering ovens that can put out enormous individual sheets of glass, have supported this trend. An interesting counterpoint to this is the Coach Flagship Store in Tokyo’s Omotesando (OMA).

Coach Flagship Store facade - Tokyo, Japan

Coach Flagship Store facade - Tokyo, Japan

The concept for the two story façade is to create multiple product display vitrines of reasonably small proportions with laminated, translucent glass as shelving on the interior of the space and expressing them outwards as louvers. These modular display units are stacked in a herringbone pattern and secured with thin steel frames, painted white that recede into the overall depth of the façade.

Coach Flagship Store facade detail - Tokyo, Japan

Coach Flagship Store facade detail - Tokyo, Japan

By the hand by Matthew Trzebiatowski

One of the most excellent publications about architecture is a German magazine, simply titled DETAIL. It is one of the few publications that focus on the building assemblies that make up the work of architecture. The magazine recreates every drawing from the architect’s original and made into a consistent and legible format that pairs with high-quality photographs comparing the completed situation to the elements concealed. It is easy to image how they would reproduce the iconic drawing of the handrail from the Kimball Art Museum.

Handrail detail drawing; Louis I Kahn Collection, University of Pennsylvania

Handrail detail drawing; Louis I Kahn Collection, University of Pennsylvania

To be permitted to hold an original drawing such as this, with white gloves, and being able to see clear alterations, edits, and added notes communicates so much more about the intent (and at times, the compromises) of the proposition than a ‘clean’ reproduction ever could. The feelings provoked by encountering great architecture, I have discovered, are also stirred when embracing the drawings that lead to their creation.

For the hand by Matthew Trzebiatowski

Handrails and guardrails at stairs or level changes offer a particular moment in buildings in which we purposefully touch the architecture. The intent of the architect is clearly apparent in these assemblies, and this interaction between visitor and detail can commonly be memorable.

Handrail; Salk Institute - La Jolla, CA

Handrail; Salk Institute - La Jolla, CA

In this example from the Salk Institute, the connection of the handrail to the square baluster bars is by a concealed weld. The square stock is the only component that is allowed to transition from diagonal to horizontal, turn corners, and return to the ground. The graspable surface of the handrail only exists in straight segments parallel to the stringer. The handrail itself is a stainless steel angle that has one of the legs tipped with a solid stainless steel bar; welded and ground clean to unify the two components. The round bar is small; too small by current code requirements and is not particularly comfortable to grasp. However, in lieu of a firm grip the hand gently pinches and glides along the surface of the angle leg. The patina from the oils of numerous hands is evident in the touch and even in this image.   

An elegant mechanism by Matthew Trzebiatowski

I have been collecting images, making sketches, creating drawings, and pondering the essence of building details. Take this example:

Screen latch; Edo Castle - Japan

Screen latch; Edo Castle - Japan

This is a latch that locks down a wood partition that screens the light / view to an adjoining courtyard in a historic Edo Period structure in Japan. The mechanism is elegant, operates flawlessly, and it is unadorned or cluttered by the use of multiple materials. The vertical bar rises out of the slot in the sill base and the cross bar slides over to hold that vertical bar in the open position. The screen is then free to slide effortlessly along the wooden sill track. The wear and patina are delightful. How may fingers have operated this lever over these many years?