Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Architectural Vernacular

I found this house on my new favourite website Lost at e minor. I like the house, floating on a lake appeals to me. I like its simplicity too. But most of all I like the curious language that architects use to describe their work. Oddly tortured. Reminded me of the Dizzy Gillespie quote: "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture." - Not entirely relevant, but amusing all the same. I was also reminded of a conversation I had many years ago with prominent New Zealand architect Pip Cheshire about building a house on a site at Piha, on the hill, sweeping vista of the Tasman Sea. We chatted for about an hour at my home in Herne Bay. Somehow the topic became Greek mythology. It was amusing, but in the end baffling. We never proceeded (though I did buy a house designed by him in Milford, on Auckland's North Shore many years later and it seemed remarkably like the sketches I had made to explain my idea. However, architects, they're a strange lot.

Mr Cheshire has a book
, recently published that I intend to get a copy of to review. Gawped through in the wonderful Unity Books, but there was a line at the checkout, so I left it.

2004-7_Floating House

The Floating House is the intersection of a vernacular house typology with the shifting site-specific conditions of this unique place: an island on Lake Huron. The location on the Great Lakes imposed complexities to the house's fabrication and construction, as well as its relationship to site.

Annual cyclical change related to the change of seasons, compounded with escalating global environmental trends , cause Lake Huron's water levels to vary drastically from month-to-month, year-to-year. To adapt to this constant, dynamic change, the house floats atop a structure of steel pontoons, allowing it to fluctuate along with the lake.

Locating the house on a remote island posed another set of constraints. Using traditional construction processes would have been prohibitively expensive; the majority of costs would have been applied toward transporting building materials to the remote island. Instead, we worked with the contractor to devise a prefabrication and construction process that maximized the use of the unique character of the site: Lake Huron as a waterway. Construction materials were instead delivered to the contractor's fabrication shop, located on the lake shore. The steel platform structure with incorporated pontoons was built first and towed to the lake outside the workshop.

On the frozen lake, near the shore, the fabricators constructed the house. The structure was then towed to the site and anchored. In total, between the various construction stages, the house traveled a total distance of approximately 80 km on the lake.

The formal envelope of the house experiments with the cedar siding of the vernacular home. This familiar form not only encloses the interior living space, but also enclosed exterior space as well as open voids for direct engagement with the lake. A "rainscreen" envelope of cedar strips condense to shelter interior space and expand to either filter light entering interior spaces or screen and enclose exterior spaces giving a modulated yet singular character to the house, while performing pragmatically in reducing wind load and heat gain.

Find out more about the MOS architectural practice. (Their work is wonderful)

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