Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Place, Craft and Community

“…between tradition and modernity there is a bridge. When they are mutually isolated, tradition stagnates and modernity vaporizes; when in conjunction, modernity breathes life into tradition, while the latter replies with depth and gravity.
--Octavio Paz, Nobel Lecture : In Search of the Present 
Last night's guest lecture event at University Colorado at Denver was a presentation of "Ideas & Things" from Brian MacKay-Lyons.  It had been almost 8 years since Brian and I had last hung out--the previous being back in 2007 for the AIA Colorado Convention in Vail, and then nearly 10 years before that at Ghost 8 on his farm.  We both appeared a bit older to each other [and hopefully wiser] with Brian having his hip replaced this past spring, and me approaching mid-thirties with a growing family.  It was a good reunion.

The new work that was presented included a re-purposed house design that was transformed  from his firm's submission for an un-selected competition entry for the Fallingwater cabin competition.  The new rendition is a bit more "fancy"--complete with lap pool and a chimney built entirely of stacked stone from a nearby quarry. This is one of the rare houses that Brian has designed that will be above $125 per sf, and he expressed his interest in living there once it is completed.  

The new age Architect = Artisan + Artist + Activist

Brian MacKay-Lyons

MLS un-selected Fallingwater Cotage design submission...

...gets tweaked and re-purposed...

...into a new home on the Nova Scotia coast.

Some of the more intriguing topics centered around the idea of "achieving the banal" is his projects--in other words: creating the feeling that they had always been there.  This of course requires a profound understanding of the local material culture, landscape and climate.  For instance--Brian alluded to the fact that he does not include roof overhangs or gutters on his houses due to the fact that there are over 250 freeze/thaw cycles per year but it doesn't typically stay cold for a long period of time.  Ice dams and strong uplifting winds near the coast would quickly show why deep eaves and overhangs do not belong in the Arcadian climate.  Also--wood is a very prominent and cheaply available local material in Nova Scotia, not to mention that almost every tradesman in the area is a master woodworker.  Lastly--his houses are typically situated on top of hills.  This not only provides spectacular views of the ocean horizon, but is typically the flattest place on the site to build.

The banal Box house: first sketch and final product

Box House: b&w

There were also some exciting glimpses into his upcoming book titled "Local Architecture: Building Place, Craft and Community".  It includes work by lots of Architects within this line of thinking as well as his own.  Brian wanted me to stipulate that he was not allowed to choose the main title nor the cover photos, which is something book publishers never tell you when you set out to create a book.

Available for pre-order here.

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