The easiest thing to do is to select the obvious materials for their standard uses, such as glass for windows, but to get a design that really stands out and delivers a unique solution we need to consider materials in different ways.
While travelling this summer I was reminded of the beautifully subtle but relatively rare use of marble for windows. Examples of marble panes for windows can be found in historic ecclesiastical architecture (churches, monasteries, etc), particularly in Mediterranean countries. Although I had heard about this use whilst at university and proposed it in one of my student projects for a museum, I had never seen any real life examples before this summer.
Jaca, in the Spanish Pyrenees and the heart of the Aragonese kingdom, has several examples of buildings with marble windows. Two of these examples really stood out to me, one modern and one historic. I then did some research into marble windows and found a few more examples to share. As the images in this blog piece show, marble windows, create a gentle light source and striking patterned visual effect which can be breathtakingly beautiful.
The cathedral of San Pedro in Jaca is an historic building with most of its apertures paned with marble. The official website for this church doesn't mention the windows and the use of marble, perhaps as it isn't seen as anything particularly unusual in churches of its era and in this region. The marble used is white with a fine grey vein, similar to carrera marble. The internal light this creates is dimmed, soft and warm. It doesn't let through as much light as the stained glass usually seen in churches but it has a calming effect and is peacefully beautiful. As you can see from the photograph the light levels are very low so when the camera light levels are set to show the interior it's not possible to see much of the detail of the marble. Conversely when the light levels are set to show the marble, the interior is too dark to see anything in photo. At least this was true with my very basic photographic equipment - my mobile phone.
The modern example of a marble window screen was in the refurbished museum at the monastery of San Juan de la Pena. The original baroque facade of the monastery includes a circular marble oriel window. This historical feature was perhaps the inspiration for the large gallery of marble screens within the original cloister. This space is now used as an art gallery and the cream marble with striking highly contrasting chocolate brown and caramel toned veins create a bright and subtly decorated space, with the controlled light levels perfect for viewing and protecting art work.
Historically marble was used instead of glass as a single sheet built into the window aperture or set in a frame, but this doesn't work very well thermally so for modern uses thinly cut sheets of marble tend to be used as internal window screens or incorporated within a system using double glazing. In the monastery refurbishment the screens are set about a meter from the external fully glazed envelope. The glazing system provides the thermal skin of the building while the marble sheets create a decorative and sunlight controlling screen.
The external aspect during the daytime of an historic marble window is like looking at an area of marble wall. They look the same as a much thicker piece of marble until you can see light falling through it. At night the effect seen internally during the daytime in sunlight is reversed as electric lighting will create a glow seen outside.
Away from the med in northern europe the light levels are not as strong, so using thin-cut marble is most effective orientated so that sunlight can fall on it. In spaces where a lot of light is not needed, such as those for prayer or meditation, or is undesirable such as for storing and displaying light sensitive objects such as books and art works, marble can be used to both control the daylight while creating a striking decorative interior.
There are some particularly striking mid-century examples of marble windows and two that I'd love to visit are the Yale University's rare book library and the Pius Church in Meggan, Switzerland.
Yale University's Beinecke rare book library has no windows at all as its walls are made from translucent marble. This lets in light while keeping the books protected from the sun. The marble is set within a light grey granite framework which gives a sense of solidity to the walls and sets up a strong rhythmic pattern of repeating squares which is echoed in the book storage. Built between 1960 and 1963, this library was designed by the architect Gordon Bunshaft, who worked in the large architectural practice of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.
The marble used is white, grey-veined, Vermont marble cut to a thickness of approximately 3cm.
A modern ecclesiastic example is the Pius Church in Meggen, Lake Lucerne, Switzerland. Here the marble is set into a slim steel frame to form the external walls. There are no other windows and the light created is so unusual and desirable that this church is a popular local tourist attraction, and a place where many people choose to get married. Built between 1964 and 1966, this church was designed by the relatively little known architect Franz Fueg.
The marble used is Penthelian Dionysos marble cut to 2.8cm thick and in panels of 1.5x1.02m. To create an effect of columns of marble, the panels were carefully selected and cut from the same block for consistent veining. This marble appears as white with grey veins until seen with light shining through, when more depth and colour is revealed.
Marble is a premium material because it is long lasting, durable, beautifully decorative and each piece is unique. The process of selecting and cutting marble thin enough to be used in this way is also specialised and costly, but this almost magical effect is well worth its cost in the right place.
Did you see any beautiful architecture during your summer trips? Have you used marble or seen it used in any interesting ways? Would you like to use marble as a light source in your project? Let us know in the comments below.
Thank you to all clients, colleagues, collaborators, co-designers, friends and family for helping make 2016 the most successful year that iarchitect has had yet.
It has been filled with many achievements including:
This year has also had many memorable moments such as:
It's been a fantastic year and I hope it has been for all of you too. Lets hope that 2017 brings more of the same.
Best Christmas wishes to everyone.
Part 1: Which Architect?
This is the first part of a series looking at working with an architect throughout a project. I'm going to give you my top tips for how you can get the best from your architect.
I often get asked for advice on how to choose an architect. There are so many factors to consider and all architects are different, so how do you choose the one that will suit you? This post gives you my top 5 things to consider when selecting the architect who will turn your dreams into reality.
1. Is an architect really what you need?
Obviously as an architect I'm a little biased here and can see benefits for architects to be involved in all types of design work! However, there are often other designers or construction professionals who might be better suited for the particular type of work that you are looking at having done. Here are some examples where you would choose another building professional over an architect:
2. What kind of architect do you want?
Architects have similar training so develop ways of thinking that they tend to have in common, however, we are all human each with our own biases and idiosyncrasies. I believe that the most important thing about architecture is creating spaces for the people who are going to use it. For me people's enjoyment, comfort and ease of use comes first. Some other common primary drivers for architects are:
Consider which kind of architecture most moves you and discuss this with the architects you are considering. Ask which buildings they love and why to get an understanding of the aspects of architecture which are their primary drivers.
3. How involved do you want your architect to be?
Architects work in different ways and some will do the initial design and pass the rest of the project onto a team in their office, possibly outsourcing some work, while others deal with every aspect of a project themselves, or maintain a close eye on work done by an assistant or junior architect working alongside them. Ask your architect how they work and who works with them.
4. What have they done before?
An architects portfolio can show you what types of project they have experience of and areas of specialisation. All architects work to brief and within budgeting, legal and technological restraints so the designs may not show all that your architect is capable of in design terms, but they should give you some idea. Ask your architect what it is about the designs they are showing you that they are most pleased with and conversely what would they change about the designs if given the freedom.
5. Do you feel relaxed, comfortable and confident with your potential architect?
You're putting a lot of faith into your architect who is going to interpret your needs and desires, creating a life-size three dimensional semi-permanent representation of these that will cost a fair amount of money to build. It's probably best that you feel some kind of connection and that your architect “gets” you, as a common understanding is going to be key to delivering a built result that will suit you.
If you'd like to see if iarchitect is your best fit to design your project give us a call.
Has this been helpful? What criteria will you use to select your architect? Comment below.
Early in 2015 I visited our client at home in Bramhall, Cheshire. We sat around the kitchen table to discuss our clients wishes for their home and what they needed for their project. Now a completed extension, this blog is a review of what we achieved with this project in a small space on a tight budget.
"I needed some professional drawings for a small extension to my kitchen and advice on building regs, etc. I had a rough plan with my initial ideas and someone to build it but needed some more accurate plans that my builder could build from. The house is 300 years old so nothing is straight!"
The planned extension was small needing to fit in a lot of functionality. The brief included:
As this was a small project, not requiring planning permission, of traditional build and our client had a competent builder in place, it was possible for the project to progress with only our sketch design. The client and builder made all decisions on detailed design, although we were available should our support be required during construction. Building regulations were dealt with on notice by the builder.
Although the space was limited we managed to create:
"I really enjoyed our discussions and solutions and everyone was really excited by the plans. The extension took 5 months but it is now finished and we have the final sign off certificate."
If you want to make a massive difference to your life with some home improvements let us know and book your own Home Design Workshop with iarchitect.
"It is gorgeous, really gorgeous and has made a massive difference to our lives. Thank you so much for the design - you did a fab job."
Next week on Thursday 28th April, I'm looking forward to taking part in a lively and interesting debate. We will be discussing the latest developments, innovations and trends in architecture design and BIM, Art and Architecture, as well as forecasting investment opportunities.
If this sounds like your cup of tea then I look forward to meeting you there.
I'd love to hear what you think about the latest developments and innovations in architecture design and BIM, art and architecture or what you hope to be investing in next. Let me know by commenting below.
On the drawing board at the moment is Northenden War Memorial. We are looking at conservation works to the landscape along with improved access.
Here we share with you some images of the memorial - past, present and future.
Northenden War Memorial 1922
This is an artists impression of the war memorial taken from The Stockport Advertiser, April 28th 1922.
Northenden War Memorial mid 20th Century
This photograph is of Durham Light Infantryman, Brereton, blowing the last post during a Remembrance Sunday service, exact date unknown.
Northenden War Memorial 2015
A recent photograph of the memorial following Remembrance Sunday 2015, showing the memorial site in need of a little TLC.
Northenden War Memorial future
An iarchitect sketch of the proposed new level access route, new safe steps and wild flower poppy planting areas. Also proposed are refurbishment works to the crazy paving to level the surface and drain away the puddles.
If you have any old photographs of the Northenden War Memorial we would love to see them. Please email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alongside short term help, by donating time and money to those affected by the latest floods, these home improvements will help over the long term, especially if you live upland of flood risk areas:
Although most of us were not directly affected by the terrible floods we have seen recently, it's likely that more of us will be affected by flooding in the future, as the water tables rise. In the short term, even if our own homes are not in need of expensive and exhausting clean up and repair, we are all still likely to be affected indirectly as insurance premiums increase and the cost to the tax payer of flood defences and repair rise. We all need to take action.
What actions will you be taking to stabilise the water table in your area?
“In recent years the hard landscaping around the memorial has become very uneven and the steps have started to collapse. More and more people attend the remembrance services each year and many have restricted mobility so it is important to repair the paving and create a new ramp up to the podium for those in wheelchairs and needing easier access. Especially important now as we build up to 2018 and the centenary of the end of World War 1.” said Stephen Morrison, Secretary of The Northenden Branch of the Royal British Legion.
Helped by the conservation team of construction professionals, Project Architect Jane Leach of iarchitect, Landscape Architect Elaine Cresswell of reShaped, and Quantity Surveyor Fiona Hull of Construction Q, they will research the history of the memorial and design a new ramp to be built in the existing memorial garden. The team are seeking help from the public to see what the memorial looked like when it was built.
If you have any old photographs of The Northenden War Memorial please email them to The Northenden branch of the Royal British Legion: email@example.com
Design Your Home Vision
The Design Your Home Vision Checklist will help you kickstart your home improvements.
Download yours with the button below to get your home project off to a great start:
Get started with the free Design Your Home Vision checklist.
Jane Leach, principal architect at i-architect