Chameleons change the color of their skin to adapt to the environment. Caterpillars even take on a different shape and appearance becoming butterflies. People do the same and not only in appearance but also in their way of being, during the various stages of life. In the happiest cases, these shifts correspond to evolutions in the way of living and relating to the internal and external space of our homes.
In this period, we have seen many transformations and metamorphoses. Now it's up to us to embrace them, welcome them, recognize them and find a new daily balance. “Be the change you would like to see in the world,” Gandhi professed. Of course, the great prophet referred to the nature of people, but this aspect of transformation can be extended to any stretch of life, including living.
But how do you do it? The secret, we tried to figure it out by speaking with three architects who, on the other side of the world, have adapted some homes based on the new lifestyles, is to take a different approach to design. Alongside the specific use of materials, the design of architectural details or the choice of finishes, and a focus on people, their personality and lifestyle. Interior design as a psychological exercise...
Work-life from home life
One of the most evident changes in the last few months has been the need to make domesticity live with working life. “While the ways we work and live continue to adapt and change thanks to the environment, revolutions and technology, traditional design notions are questioned and new opportunities appear,” says Melbourne architect Matt Gibson. For him, upsetting and rebalancing the relationship between workplaces - over stimulating, populous and constantly reachable - and those of family life has always been a must. With a special eye to nature. “Working from home must become the new norm" continues Gibson, the precursor of slow easy living. Its antidote is simple, summarized in a few lines and with few materials in the Writer's Shed project. “A model to follow, an example of how simple and comfortable workspaces can be easily inserted into residences” he explains. Built as if it were a tool shed positioned in the garden of a residence in the heart of Melbourne, it looks like a childish drawing. It is a very simple rectangular plan with a 45 degree cut corner left open on the landscape thanks to an oversized window. But this low-tech, low-budget, low maintenance and self-sufficient solution has been designed with many small tricks that make it unique. Like the use of only one material. The ten-square-meter studio has a plywood structure that designs both the envelope and the furnishings. Everything is covered with an insulating membrane that also serves as fertilizer for the ivy that wraps it luxuriantly. An idea to make the study an integral and living part of the garden, but also to create a natural internal microclimate. An intimate and private space where you can recover energy, reflect and work independently from home.
Mix use community
The architect Timothy Hill of Partners Hill thought of Palladio and his Venetian Villas when he designed Daylesford Longhouse, a sui generis farm in the countryside near Melbourne. Hill liked the Italian genius above all for his ability to mix different elements of daily life - living, working, containing, doing. Daylesford Longhouse is a magical space that for the designer Ronnen Goren and his partner Trace Streeter embodies the dream of a lifetime: “to get away from the city to live in a completely self-sufficient space”. And so it is. Longhouse, a sort of greenhouse which is 110 meters long – exactly like two Olympic swimming pools – not only houses under one roof a house, a private garden, a farm, a cooking school, a stable, an art workshop. But it was also designed to recharge and survive independently. Solar energy, purification of rainwater, recycling of countryside waste, protection from UV rays. A continuous cycle, a movement of circular energies that marries perfectly with the flexibility of the design of the spaces that coexist in union made of harmonious contrasts. Internally, in fact, the rooms are divided according to a series of contrasts: large against small, old against new, agricultural against refined, internal against external. Creating a show of continuous surprises. As unexpected as the new modus vivendi of this city couple. Now happy to feel, almost surreally, in close contact with nature.
The reconquest of traditions, the rebirth of the family, the stitched connections. How important is keeping several generations together today? Only yesterday there was talk of collaborative living today of multigenerational living. How can you live together under one roof and benefit from the cultural and educational contribution that comes from meeting people of different ages? By designing interiors where private spaces remain sacred and well divided, while common spaces are transformed into squares, threshing floors and gardens, ready to connect and bring together the different members of the same family.
Warren Haasnoot and Greg Lee of Curious Practice, a design office in Newcastle, on the outskirts of Sydney, has signed Vikki's Place, a multigeneration house where there is no real division between spaces, but a fluid movement between private and common places. Vikki, the hostess, is a very open, practical and particularly in love person with oriental cultures, both for the use of materials and for the way of living the interior. And this project exactly reflects the personality of the owner. The rooms chase each other leaving free access to light and conviviality. “We wanted to respect Vikki's genuineness” explains Warren Haasnoot, “giving materiality a primary role”. In fact, all the finishes are left raw, real, exposed. Concrete in the part on the ground floor, which for flooding reasons creates a solid base for this contemporary stilt house. And corrugated steel in stark contrast to the glass and plywood for the upper floors, which ‘float’, light, in mid-air like an island in the ocean. The rooms are furnished with light and multifunctional furnishings that give further dynamism. A subtle work of balancing privacy and community, between lightness and solidity, between closure and openness. Like the one created between the three generations who have been living together under the same roof for a short time.
Even one of the most respected Japanese designers, Nendo, embraces the concept of multigenerational living with Stairway House in Tokyo, a project of pure stylistic simplicity. A project that uses common shapes and elements, perfectly engineered to dance in unison with the blowing of the wind. Behind an impenetrable facade, completely closed and without windows, the fully glazed rear wall opens, along which a long concrete staircase unfolds that crosses the three floors of the house. The staircase acts as an element of exchange, of union, of connection between families and between the various floors of the house. “A structure, which not only connects the interior to the courtyard or links one generation to another,” explains Nendo, “but also aims to expand further to combine the interior with the city”. An element of dissonance that unfolding with its unexpected angle creates unconventional small moments in which the corners ‘collide’ with the walls of the external perimeter, absolutely straight. In this sober and minimal palette, made of glass, light, concrete and nature, the staircase is a real living organism that breathes life in concrete and acts as a connective tissue. “At the same time, the staircase deconstructs and brings together the spaces” underlines the Japanese designer “and I like to think that its sculptural nature takes on many personalities. Its body is constantly transformed and conforms to the new role it plays as it winds through the housing fabric. The step becomes a shelf, a border division but also a garden and a portal that connects the internal space to the external one”.
Cover photo: ‘Confondersi per nascondersi’ by Giorgia Bellotti - Giorgibel @giorgibel. The shot took part in the 'Home' contest organized by the Open Doors Gallery in London, which the Italian photographer has joined. In the article two other works by Giorgibel: ‘Confused’ and ‘Hidden’. The stylistic key of all the works is the self-portrait, in which the artist never reveals her face. In her research, with which she investigates moods and personal emotions, the environment becomes a co-star of the scene.