The progress achieved by systematic research will give birth to a dictionary of elements that, developed further, will lead to a “grammar”.
W. Kandinsky, 1924, “Point and Line to Plane”
1. A groundbreaking architectural vocabulary
Defining the POINT and the LINE, W. Kandinsky and P. Klee have identified rich symbolic and conceptual content to these archetypal engravings. With their theoretical and painting work, the modern masters of abstraction laid the principles for a methodical composition on canvas, based on these primary Elements.
What would the content of this radical vocabulary be if, reductively in some way, it was to be extended to the "3D canvas"?
Extruded to the third dimension, the POINT, the LINE and the PLANE become a LINE, a PLANE and a PRISM, correspondingly. (see TABLE OF BASIC FORMAL ELEMENTS FOR SPACE COMPOSITION)
Each of these three new elements undoubtedly brings some aesthetic content, according to its dimensions, proportions and materiality. But at the same time, it brings some symbolic and topological content as well, according to its place, since a clear distinction is provided between the concepts of “close” and “far”, of “up” and “down”, of “above” and “below”, of “in” and out”. Therefore, a space organizing System deriving from these three new Elements is not merely aesthetic. On the contrary, being able to express archetypal meanings of architecture in a highly concise way, such a System could be a promising "tool" for a spatial composition.
2. Property identification
The floor apartment is located on the 3rd and last floor of a corner block of flats, built in 2003, in Agios Demetrios, Athens Greece. It is covered with a concrete roof, which allows an average free height of 5.10m.
It has wide balconies on both roads, NE and SW and it also makes use of the underlying floor’s terrace as a veranda. Its NW side constitiutes a partition wall between this and the neighboring block of flats and is the apartment’s only "blind" facade. The narrow streets passing by the block of flats justify the narrow openings on its facade. The view from the loft to be added is the typical skyline of an Athenian quarter.
The surface of the apartment at the lower level of the entrance is 74m2. The SW corner of the apartment is being invaded by the building’s central stairwell –with dimensions of 3,70x4,60x2,70m– whose terrace leaves an average free height of 2.20m up to the roof. Also, two free columns are crossed with free beams of the structural frame.
The cubic “tower”, standing in the interior of the apartment, is recognized as a prism and the free Structural Elements (columns and beams) running through the space as lines. Both the prism and the lines constitute Elements of the study space, a larger conceivable cube.
3. Development requirements
· Exploitation of the available free height to create a loft under the roof (including 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom) and to evolve the lower level of the entrance merely as a daytime-zone (including a living room, a dining room, an office space, a WC and a kitchen).
· Keep of the external openings in position and size already installed.
· Design of a fireplace on indicated spot, under the already installed chimney, on the northern corner of the NW partition wall.
4. Architectural pursuits
Integration of the existing prism, viz the building’s invading central stairwell, into a composition conditioning an introverted dwelling. This is managed with:
• a single transparent space, still provided with both isolation areas and gathering areas.
• rationally distributed functions in the space, still with a strong theatrical character.
• use of an abstract theoretical System (LINE-LEVEL-PRISM), which will still cooperate with the building System (COLUMN-ΒΕΑΜ-SLAB).
The building’s invading central stairwell, standing inside the apartment, at an intermediate level of the double height space, is recognized as a prism. The linear elements of the structure frame (columns & beams), running freely through the apartment, are recognized as lines. Cannot be ignored, they constitute inevitably the first Elements of the space of study. However, their integration into a composition being a pursuit, it would be enough to define a System that is not meant to hide the prism or the lines. On the contrary, the System to be invoked would project both the prism and the lines and articulate them on an equal basis with the other members of the System.
The Concept is a composition with the Key Elements of LINE, PLANE and PRISM, within the boundaries of the given space, the interior of a larger cube.
(see STEP BY STEP COMPOSITION table)
Step1 A folded to an L-section plane is inserted to accommodate 2 of bedrooms the loft’s bedrooms and rests on the concrete beams. It is lined externally with wooden panels while the linear elements of the concrete building frame (columns and beams) remain free and get painted white in order to express the building’s structural system. In the open space, under this wooden element, a kitchen, a dining room and an office enjoy the warmth of the material. Outside it, a double height space –the core of the residence– is offered for the living room with the fireplace.
Step 2 The third bedroom of the residence is located on the terrace of the cubic “tower”, viz the central stairwell. Getting lined with brickwork, up to a height, this prism creates a microenvironment close to the human scale, with a strong theatrical character at the same time. The entrance door, the only opening through the prism, is shifted to a position that does not hinder the furnishing of the living room.
Step 3 Next to the new entrance position, an economic stairway to the loft occupies just the absolutely necessary area from the daytime-zone. It is a helical staircase, wrapped around a post, another vertical line.
Step 4 The space between the prism and the L-section plane is disposed for the sanitation areas of the residence: a WC on the lower floor and a full bathroom servicing all the 3 bedrooms of the loft.
* text: Dimitris Champsas | architect (email@example.com)