Saturday, February 7, 2015

Fear of the void?

A patisserie that presents fine pastries in elegant form, topped by a concrete volume that seems to hover above – this is the impression that pedestrians gain of the house designed by Yuko Nagayama & Associates in the Katsutadai, a district of Yachiyo near Tokyo. Although the house is modestly inserted between two massive buildings, it stands out for its design and its focal point – a void between the patisserie with its appearance of a high plinth, and the apartment that seems to float above.

Architects: Yuko Nagayama & Associates, Tokio  
Location: Katsutadai, Yachiyo, Chiba, Japan
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama
Photos: Daici Ano
Katsutadai House is located on a classical Japanese building plot – namely long and narrow. The first thing that pedestrians notice on approaching is a wall rendered in a marbled effect. An entrance-like opening provides a glimpse of what goes on behind the 1.80-metre-high wall and the recessed and completely glazed "second" front – namely an exquisite scenario in which displays of sweet pastries vie for attention and entice the visitor to enter. 

The door to the shop is fronted by a peaceful covered entrance area with plantings, and according to the architect is to carry the wind and the sounds of the street into the interior. The entrance area follows the idea of the genkan, the traditional Japanese vestibule. A wooden door in the steel and glass structure that forms the front and roof of the shop leads into the patisserie itself.

The steel beams of the glass structure that floods the shop with light are visible on the inside. The rear wall of the patisserie is faced in wooden panels that reach all the way to the lower edge of the apartment, and it is behind this wall that the bake room is located. 
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama

Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama

Stairs to the apartment lead between the bake room and the patisserie to the first floor, where a pergola walk and corridor provide access to a bedroom and bathroom. 
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama

Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama
The special feature of the second floor is that half of it projects out above the patisserie, making this part of the house appear to float above the glass roof of the shop and the genkan entrance area. The living/dining and kitchen area is located in this half, and a child's room with two doors in the other.
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama
Section: Yuko Nagayama & Associates
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama
Ground floor plan
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama
Second floor plan
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama
Third floor plan
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama
Kitchen and living room
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama
Corridor to childrens' room
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama
Corridor to kitchen
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama
Childrens' room
Although the concrete volume towers above the airy-looking base in a monolithic manner, the individual parts harmonise well, contributing to a new form. In the old building, the noise of the child's footsteps upstairs could be heard in the patisserie below, and the clients asked the architect to find a solution. Accordingly Yuko Nagayama came up with a distinct separation between the apartment and the patisserie. To avoid intrusive glances the house respectfully turns its back on the neighbouring buildings, whereby the intention in the apartment was to ensure privacy. As a result, the interior areas gain their light from walkable terraces. 
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama

Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama

The structure is built in concrete and rests on structural steel posts. The three sections of the building are distinguished from each other by the different ways in which they are faced, and all materials are carefully matched and create a coherent overall impression. At Katsutadai House, Japanese design and unusual solutions have led to more than an attractive way of closing a gap in the streetline.
Patisserie and apartment by Yuko Nagayama

Projekt data
Total site: 100 m²
Building site: 79.9 m²
Gros floor area: 178.5 m²
Completion: 2013

A Holiday Among the Ruins: Astley Castle

Astley Castle in Nuneaton, Warwickshire

Astley Castle has a long, eventful history. Over the past 800 years the edifice, which stands just a few kilometres east of Birmingham, has been altered and expanded again and again. First used as a manor home, it later served as a castle, fortress and military base until finally being transformed into a hotel in the 1960s.  In 1978, large sections of the historic structure were destroyed in a fire. Several attempts to restore the castle to its original form failed due to the prohibitive cost. Eventually, salvation appeared in the form of a competition sponsored by the Landmark Trust, a foundation dedicated to saving historically valuable buildings from ruin. With a budget of 2.5 million pounds and a fine feeling for detail, the neglected castle has now been reborn as a  holiday home for eight guests. The architectural approach was the topic of intense discussion among all the parties involved, as is shown in the following film.  Architects: Witherford Watson Mann Architects, London Location: Castle Drive, Nuneaton, CV10 7QD Warwickshire, UK

Photos: Philip Vile

Project description
Astley Castle served as a place of residence for more than eight centuries: it was first chronicled in the thirteenth century as the country seat of the Astley family. A number of concepts seeking to reinstate its pre-fire state were drawn up in the 1990s, but each of them was stymied by the costs. And so for more than three decades the wind and the rain further eroded the ruin.

The solution came in the form of an invited architecture competition, hosted by the Landmark Trust. Twelve teams were asked to develop designs for a contemporary accommodation for eight guests situated within the castle’s remnants. Emphasis was placed on the historic context: the castle stands on a shallow ridge, surrounded by a hamlet with a slender church and traces of medieval field systems and eighteenth century gardens. The living and sleeping spaces are now situated in the castle’s oldest part. The historic walls are tied together by reinforced concrete lintels, buttressed by new brick piers, and protected by the new roof. This makes the walls structurally sound, but the old wounds remain open. From a distance it still gives the impression of a ruin. The shell of two magnificent rooms dating to the 15th and 17th centuries was transformed into open courtyards. Instead of bearing frescoed ceilings they now frame a view to the sky. The walls are crowned by a roof of wood whose high-performance, load-bearing structure remains hidden. The glazing that provides views to the courtyard and its once magnificent Renaissance windows is also framed in wood. From the second window in the living and dining area − on the upper level due to the view − one sees the church.

Project details

building type: cultural construction
support structure construction: mixed construction
roof construction: pitched roof
support structure material: masonry
facade material: bricks
roof material: wood, bricks
interior work material: wood, metal, steel, corten steel, aluminium, iron, copper, zinc, bronze, bricks, adobe bricks
issue no.: 05/2014

Astely Castle wins 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize

This year the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize for the best building comes of age and celebrates its 18th year. Six buildings were shortlisted for the prize – on 26 September 2013 the winners were declared at an evening event at Central St Martins in London.
The winner: Astley Castle
Architect: Witherford Watson Mann Architects
Client: The Landmark Trust
Astley Castle, Witherford Watson Mann Architects
Photos: Hélèn Binet
Astley Castle sits on a site originally owned by the Astley family in the 12th century, in Nuneaton, north Warwickshire. The sensitive scheme places the new building at the heart of the old, demonstrating creativity, preservation and conservation. In a 12th century fortified manor, further damaged by fire in 1978, the architects have created a new house that allows Landmark Trust guests to experience life in a near thousand-year-old castle with distinctly 21st century mod cons.
Astley Castle demonstrates that working within sensitive historic contexts requires far more than the specialist skills of the conservation architect: This is an important piece of architecture, beautifully detailed and crafted. The decision to put the bedrooms and bathrooms on the ground floor and the communal spaces above makes the experience of the house very special as perhaps the most impressive spaces are the outdoor Tudor and Jacobean ruins.

2013 RIBA Stirling Prize Shortlist: Astley Castle from RIBA on Vimeo.