Tag Archives: Architecture

Trip to E1027, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. Architect: Eileen Gray

History     

1924: Villa is designed by Eileen Gray (with Jean Badovici)
1927: Building is completed
1932: Eileen Gray leaves the house
1937-39: Le Corbusier marks the walls with murals; Gray is displeased at his intervention
1951: Le Corbusier builds Le Cabanon next door
1960: A patron of Le Corbusier, Madame Marie-Louise Schelbert, buys E1027 at his behest
1956: Jean Badovici dies
1965: Le Corbusier has a heart attack and dies whilst swimming in the sea below
1976: Eileen Gray dies
1982: Madame Schlbert dies and a Swiss doctor (Dr. Kaegi) buys E1027
1996: Dr Kaegi is murdered in the villa by his gardeners
1999: Municipality of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and the French Government buy E1027
2008: Restoration begins on now dilapidated villa

The Trip

On February 12th 2011, our party visited the site of E1027 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera. Before the trip, we studied drawings and photographs of the villa; however, there is a sense of tension and uneasiness to the place that only becomes apparent once there.

Noticeably, the villa is held between two massive and opposing forces of nature. To the north, densely inhabited and rugged cliffs surround the building, dramatically signifying the capitulation of the land to the Mediterranean. By contrast, the sea itself is flat and endless.

Looking along the coastline, modern mansions can be seen occupying the most exclusive sites. Each manages to conspicuously convey the prosperity of their owners, yet the ubiquity of their designs fails to create any valuable architectural forms. It is hard to reconcile this current setting with the peace that attracted Gray to choose the site.

At the villa itself, aesthetic disquiet is further felt. This time it is by Le Corbusier’s Cabanon, which provides an overpowering and disconcerting architectural accompaniment to E1027. Perhaps synonymous with the designers’ relationship, Le Corbusier’s studio and hostel sit uncomfortably at the shoulder of Gray’s villa. It is also noticeable that Le Corbusier’s Cabanon has been meticulously maintained, whilst Gray’s building, like her legacy, has until recently been left neglected.

Thankfully, the restoration of E1027 is underway, scheduled for completion in 2011. Work to the dilapidated shell is almost fully complete, although the progress to the interior remains hidden. Sadly, the motivation behind the restoration, as a final bitter insult to Gray, is at least in part to protect Le Corbusier’s illicit murals.

By Stuart McKenzie

Pont Street – Steelwork in

The steelwork for the new mezzanine in Pont Street was installed last week by ISM Design. The space is starting to take shape after a long period dedicated to party wall issues, landlords’ permissions and adjustments to the proposed scheme.

We’ve been asked by our client to renovate this flat by creating a new mezzanine, offering more floor area and an open space underneath. The existing flat was a “modern bachelor pad” that needed a few adjustments to fit our client requirements and create an atmosphere better suited for living and studying. We’ve proposed a new column free mezzanine providing a big living and dining area underneath. We’ve allowed natural light to go deep inside the flat by having generous full height areas in front of the windows.

The next step consists of completing the floor and the ceiling for the new mezzanine, a glass balustrade with timber handrail and a purpose made curved nosing on the edge of the mezzanine designed specifically to reduce the structural impact of the steelwork.

by Olivia Desroches

Sketch

Sketch n 1. A hasty or undetailed drawing or painting often made as a preliminary study. 2. A brief general account or presentation; an outline.

To examine its definition, the sketch marks the beginning of a study; it is only a humble opening to be forgotten and improved upon. Perhaps though, and particularly in the context of the design process, it goes beyond the beginning and is of much more value in its own right.

To deconstruct what it is may possibly be an oxymoron of what it actually is; it can be a number of things, most often at once. Nonetheless, some of its qualities are highlighted below.

Portable

When travelling, the casual tourist carries a camera because it is convenient way to record things. Likewise, the sketcher need not be unduly burdened. To sketch, all you reasonably need is an inexpensive pencil and a piece of paper. The equipment, therefore, can be with you at all times (wherever you may be).

Analysis

To be able to put on paper what your eye sees, you have to be able to understand what it is you’re looking at; you have to look closely. Therefore, much more than the photographer with their camera, the person who has looked and drawn, comprehends in far greater detail what they have seen.

The idea

Design is not done extempore. Indeed the process of design is complex and non-linear; however, to the designer or artist, the sketch can be an instrument for starting to develop an idea. It might, in an instant, record the essence of an idea and become a constant source of reference as a design develops.

Communicative

The designer does not live in isolation. Neither does the design. Therefore, along its way, the idea must be told to others. The sketch communicates an idea to others at a point in time. It can immediately be developed, then amended again. It is not precious.

Conversely, the longevity of the sketch is seen in Le Corbusier’s five points of architecture, the most enduring record of which is arguably the explanatory sketch. This creates an interesting contradiction between the act of the sketch, which is in itself momentary, and the record of the sketch, which has, in effect, become permanent.

The case for the sketch is far reaching; it is not just as described above, but an aesthetic, emotive and even magical device as well. So perhaps then, it is the inherent flexibility of the sketch that is its strength; it is something that is simultaneously informative, a giver of pleasure and a democratic platform to record the thoughts of the mind.

You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.” John Singer Sargent

By Stuart McKenzie

Journeying to flood stricken region Jampur, Pakistan

As consumers in a market economy we take much for granted, including our ability to select from a wide range of goods and services. As mass consumers (and by default waste producers) we fail to appreciate the value of things and see only the (monetary) cost. It is only when confronted by disaster that we begin to appreciate the true value of even the most basic of human needs, such as shelter, food and sanitation.

During the Christmas break I had the opportunity to experience first hand the devastation caused by a natural disaster. Travelling as an aid worker with the London based charity Ulfa Aid I was able to visit one of the flood stricken regions of Pakistan.

Ulfa (meaning to connect hearts and minds) is explicitly non-partisan, with no political or religious affiliation. The charity provides assistance to disenfranchised groups who receive little or no assistance from either political parties or religious groups.

Ulfa Aid established contact with Professor Muhammad Syed Awaise, a respected Orthopaedic Surgeon and Social Activist. He along with his medical team, Foundation for Health Care Improvement, are renowned for their humanitarian work, and have been providing free medical treatment and aid to displaced people, especially in the flood district of Jampur.

In addition Professor Syed Awaise is also the Vice Chancellor of three Universities: the University of Lahore; the University of Punjab, and; the University of Multan and Bahawalpur. This provides access to additional resources which have also been deployed to assist in the aid programme.

When the floods first struck in late July 2010, the Universities immediately undertook a survey to establish which regions were the most badly affected.  They concluded that the village of Jampur was the one most in need of support. Jampur, known locally as Gopang, is in the district of Rajanpur, which is a 6 hour drive from the city of Lahore.

The land around Gopang is relatively undulating and is typically used for dairy pasture and subsistence farming. When we arrived the land was blanketed in silt from the receding waters of the mighty Indus river, which passes by some 3Km from the village. The villagers informed us that during the floods the waters swelled to reach between 2m and a staggering 5m above ground level; at the time all they could do was run to the safety of higher ground, where they eventually pitched some make-shift tented shelters. Indeed until recently these encampments could only be reached by boat. The waters have now mostly receded, although some large ponds still remain as testimony to the cause of the destruction.

As we approached the village we stopped off to see the universities base camp; a basic block house with beds, medical supplies, and cement. It was refreshing to see a volunteer base that was simple but effective; no wasted expenditure on fancy 4×4’s or 5 star accommodation for volunteers. A basic clean building that is cost efficient and effective, ensuring all the money and aid reaches the people without a ‘middle man’ or unnecessary administration costs. Professor Awaise and his team had already started digging the foundations for 20 homes, which were allocated to specific families.

The purpose of our visit was to meet with each of the families affected by the floods and to establish with them their needs, and the needs of the wider community. After an intense round of talks with the heads of the village and the various University teams it was agreed that a range of new facilities were required, including a medical centre, a mosque and a communal area. We had also observed that geographically Jampur is a centrally located within the flood region district and would be an ideal location for a school. Consequently this too was added to the list of facilities to be provided, all of which would be financed by Ulfa Aid.

Further rounds of business talk were held in Islamabad with a company who manufacture prefabricated housing units. The system is basically an insulated expanded polystyrene sandwich (EPS) panel on a lightweight steel structure, which come with a 30 year guarantee. The main advantage of the system is its high strength to weight ratio. It also performs well under extreme conditions such as earthquakes, high winds, storms, fires and extreme heat and cold. The housing units have low maintenance costs and are designed to be disassembled, flat packed and moved to a new location if necessary.

 We had the opportunity to sit inside two of the completed structures; a two bedroom unit with bathroom and foyer and a one bedroom with similar amenities. The temperature difference was immediately noticeable, providing respite to the dense chill of the Pakistan Spring. The internal finishes were tidy with straight walls and neat corners. Over 1000 of these homes have already been successfully constructed in Kashmir to re-house those dispossessed by the earthquake of 2005.

 During our discussions with the house builder we presented our proposals for the redesign and expansion of the village. Having agreed the layout the contractor has now committed to an incredibly tight delivery programme with the housing expected to be completed by February 2011.

Deprived of all the basic human need that we in the developed western economies take for granted the people of Gopang maintain a remarkable positive outlook on life. Although swathed in blankets to protect them from the intense cold of Spring, the children were a vision of beauty; full of wonder and admiration at their visitors. They were so polite, kind and funny and seemingly oblivious to their condition. Every child deserves the basics of food, shelter and love.

I don’t think I’ll ever get their glowing faces out of my head, and it’s a constant reminder that these children need our help, no matter the political or religious climate; the poor shouldn’t be left to suffer due to no fault of their own.

By Aminah Babikir.