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Housing ideas; the design for a studio/house on the Weissenhofsiedlung

Part 1 Project 2000
Nicholas Birch
University of Plymouth, UK
The client, a disabled designer, needed her office and home intricately woven together. This project was explored through site visits and working sketch models, which generated ideas about movement and time. This led to the construction of a full scale working model of a partition screen. Building on the site of the Weissenhofsiedlung, in Stuttgart, I sought to establish a dialogue with the ideas of the International Style, and explore ways in which they may radically change our way of living today.
The design has a global application, yet it can be adapted to local building traditions and materials. It provides genuine flexible living: as the seasons pass so the layout is adjusted. The building has the potential, if viewed in quick time, to become a living breathing organism, expanding and contracting.
House "parts" can be increased or discarded, depending on the owner's financial means and physical requirements. The building reflects changing technology, as components are added or replaced.
The design offers numerous options in terms of movement and layout. Through a series of screens, capable of interlocking and moving on a grid, the inhabitant determines the configurtion of living and working spaces, creating layouts to suit a variety of scenarios.

Nicholas Birch

The success of Nick Birch's design work lies in his consistent pursuit of the parallel, continuous and integrated development of concept and material form. For his Ridgecross Cemetery Chapel, he developed and implemented a coherent design strategy, investigated contextual relationships in depth, and integrated outdoor and indoor activities, landscape and tectonic interventions. His proposal for the conversion of a listed building into a Travellers' Hostel is elegant and carefully considered (joint project). But Nick's exceptional design skills and ability to creatively question preconceived ideas and established design methods are best demonstrated in his major project for a house and studio for a wheelchair-bound designer, on a challenging site in the historic Weissenhofsiedlung, Stuttgart. This Integrated Design project functioned as a matrix for creative experimentation, and resulted in a highly innovative proposal for a house-studio in flux, a space with multiple configuration possibilities. Dealing with the constraints of the project as creative opportunities, Nick was prepared to take risks, and explored tensions between the historic and the contemporary, the permanent and the transient, the boundary and the threshold. Sustaining and continually testing a challenging design hypothesis, he put forward a truly original spatial proposition. It was the outcome of an investigation which ranged from critical consideration of contextual issues to exploration of the conceptual possibilities of a dynamic architecture, and down to the construction of a full-size part of his building. The latter helped consider the technical aspects of design, and enjoy the transformation of the labour of effort into the joy of building. Problems relating to wheelchair access were creatively resolved, and pertinent constraints were turned into new possibilities for space configuration. In response to the project's requirements, Nick's proposal for a flexible building pursued the overcoming of static spatiality, suggesting new ways of movement through space and time.

• Page Hits: 1780         • Entry Date: 09 February 2000         • Last Update: 10 May 2001