Do not let the IKEA-yellow exterior fool you — the multifunctional Agora Theatre, is not displaying home furnishings, but bustling with performances and new media works. It is located in Lelystad, the capital of the province of Flevoland in the Netherlands. The city, established as recently as 1967 and known for its controversial and forward-thinking city planning, is boldly building its center, the Centrale Zone, according to a master plan by West 8. In turn, West 8 is known for planning a vast array of exciting 'cityscapes', including a luxury village near Moscow and the waterfront revitalization project in Toronto.
The Agora Theatre building is the work of UN Studio, a group with theater, museum and art establishment expertise. The building itself is worth a visit, even if no performances were taking place (previews are already taking place). The tranquil cafe, open during the day, offers beautiful views of the square outside. The startling pink curving walls of the staircases resemble magnificent silk ribbons. And the deliciously red concert hall with its unusual wall surfaces will give you something to look at, even in the rare case that the performance doesn’t interest you. This is one building that will change the vibe of the city, both day and night. By Tuija Seipell.
The holiday home or summer-house by definition, is a building constructed with a strictly defined personality. For the temporary inhabitant, it is to provide a sense of escape without abandonment, and leisure without effort. It’s very existence is to promote feelings and moods not experienced in our everyday lives. A temporary euphoria squeezed between four walls for a period of the users choosing. It is a social engineer’s architectural dream.
This idea of temporary elation has existed for centuries. But the concept exploded with the onset of modernism and the twentieth century. A newly emerging middle class sought escapism from the polluted cities while still enjoying the comforts of their newly industrialized homes. A Modernist belief that experience was shaped through design spearheaded the mass-production of seasonal dwelling. Le Corbusier described buildings as “machines for living” and architecture was bent to supply the petit bourgeoisie’s need for leisure and relaxation. Buildings were simplified, historical references and ornament were removed in favor of promoting the beauty of modern materials and construction. Concrete and its featureless character became the material of choice in the construction of buildings throughout Europe and North America. Their homogenous appearance celebrated by Brutalist architects but condemned by post-modernists for their flagrant disregard towards the social, historic, and architectural environment of its surroundings.
Today, this form of design is considered to be archaic in its principles. Concrete is seen to be aesthetically vacuous, and is used structurally rather than visually. Instead, glass facades and organic materials are a building’s ornaments. But a team of architects in Austria have resurrected the ideological trappings of modernist thinkers to create a unique and eerily beautiful interpretation of the holiday villa. Set on lake Millstatter See in Austria, this four-story villa is an ode to the idealism of the holiday homes of old, but simultaneously sits in the avant-garde.
Much of the design was adapted from the hotel that stood previously on the original plot, and can be seen in the bold and unrelenting expanses of concrete. But rather than mask the commanding stretches of grey matter, the team have embraced and adorned the blank walls to become a key part of the building’s persona. The vast expanses complemented by materials that not only enhance the concrete’s authority, but also mimic it in character. Pale, smooth furniture occupy the inside, while white decking and exposed brick-work dominate the outside. The effect of which, can feel arresting at first, but develops a strange allure when looked at up close.
The building is a prime example of the brutal, unrelenting style of design from the 1950s, but the overhaul of ideas has transformed it into a testament to the contemporary. The fluid transition between interior and exterior, coupled with the large openings throughout the build, allow nature to flow through the cold interior, giving it a warm and organic feel. While the geometric shapes of the building draw imposing silhouettes on the lake and the surrounding countryside.
The minimal material concept; structural concrete in combination with white painted wood and metal surfaces, lends the building a monolithic character. But the upper floors of the building have an intimate, personal feel that doesn’t compromise the need for personal space.
It’s a building that screams arrogance and in places can feel a little soulless. But the sheer audacity of its form juxtaposed with its purpose as a leisure facility, offers an intriguing concept that hasn’t been seen since Modernism dared to challenge the purpose of design and the human condition. By Matthew Hussey
The “Chalet” is by far the most famous product of Swiss architecture. The wooden dwellings with sloping roof and overhanging eaves, are as much a part of the Swiss landscape as the Alps themselves. The single storey bunkers traditionally served as seasonal farms for dairy cattle in the summer months, and haven’t changed much since these humble beginnings.
But high up on a mountain pass in the Bernese Oberland, a new type of seasonal home has emerged as a stark contrast to the timber heavy squats the country is so famed for. With its back turned to the harsh northerly winds, this contemporary take on the log cabin straddles the vistas to the south via a huge five meter glass pane that invites the landscape to fill its vast, open plan spaces.
Swiss planning regulators favor lots of small, pokey windows, this house is anything but. Rather than shielding its inhabitants from the outdoors, the house embraces the mountainous terrain, with large glass doors opening out onto the wooden terrace that appears to float alongside the house.
With its elegant, concrete slab base, it juts out into the landscape like a beached vessel. The domineering fireplace runs through the core of the building, dragging its brutal lines from the basement to the roof three floors above.
Up the handsome open-tread staircase the bedrooms and bathrooms blend into a continuous passage that invites you to keep moving. The large, panoramic windows throughout keep the house light and airy, while the double insulated walls and thick wood decking keep the cool temperatures out. The sparse furnishings and sleek lines are a bold statement that matches the buildings unrelenting exterior. Rather than cluttering the house with gaudy ornaments and stuffy fixtures, it plays on the sparse landscape it so elegantly sits in.
Traditional chalets have a tendency to shy away from the landscape, sealing off its inhabitants to the beauty of the environment it inhabits. This building however, embraces the countryside with an unyielding arrogance and swagger. Perching precariously at the tip of a mountain, it stares boldly at its surroundings. The interior eschews its contemporary credentials with clean, simple lines and muted colors. But at the same time, it feels traditional, homely, and welcoming. A small homage to the portly abodes that continue to dominate the Swiss landscape. By Matthew Hussey