As earlier promised, I wrote I'd do a post on my final project for the semester. Now due to various activities during the summer break, and generally being busy most of the summer (and at times, just plain lazy), I have, as you may have noticed, really delayed this post. But we just officially started our second school year and our third semester, so I believe it is time to start posting on the blog once again. With that said, here is the final result of my second semester project.
Before I proceed to explain my project, here is a quick briefing to the goals of the assignment. Our assignment was to design a "bathing complex" on the little Swedish island of Hven. This so called bathing complex was to feature a sauna building, a stairway that connects the beach to the top of a cliff, a bridge that leads out to the water for swimmers, a few tiny "cottages" for changing clothes and swimwear, and finally, the odd one out - a sundial as a sculptural element.
The theme I chose to work with in this project, was the contrast between the man-made and the wilderness of nature. This theme was chosen in order to illustrate how we can build in harmony with nature, despite building with shapes and masses that stand out greatly from those seen in nature. More background story on this can be read at the former post to this project. Anyway, the first two elements of the bathing complex that I'll comment on, are the bridge and the stairway to the beach. First of all, I decided to make these as one long continous element, that stretches from the top of the elevated area, through a forrest, and finally into a bridge that slowly sinks down to the water. This pathway was to be designed in polished wood, so its surroundings could be reflected, while also illustrating a man-made pathway, which is so thoroughly crafted, that it stands in great contrast to its wild and untamed natural surroundings. The entire pathway is a perfect highway-like straight line, that cuts through the forrest, but minds vegetation by having gaps and holes in its structure where there are trees and bushes - this to illustrate how it minds nature, and to symbolize a harmony between the man-made and the natural, despite the great contrast in form and shape. The two pictures above are renderings of the pathway throught the forrest and the swimmers' bridge.
The next element, is the sauna house. Once again, I've stuck to the man-made vs nature contrast, and decided to give a really iconic (almost sculptural) man-made shape to the house. It is, as you can see, extremely simple in its shape, and the proportions have been thoroughly specified, to illustrate those of a classical V-roofed house. The whole building is made of polished wood, which once again reflects its surroundings. Furthermore, the only light opening is at the roof, thus giving the building a very solid and somewhat mystical shape, which adds to the contrast effect I tried to achieve. The sauna is shown above.
The interior is just as simple, except that the walls here aren't polished like the exterior. As you can see, light comes from the opening above, where the shadows of the leaves and branches of the trees outside are projected on the wall of the sauna. The interior in itself is a man-made oasis, that is completely isolated from the forrest, so I choose to have the leaf and branch shadows as an element that acts as a reminder to the natural surroundings of this sauna escape. The sauna building and the pathway through the forrest are connected as a complex, though not directly - The sauna is intended to be a bit hidden from the path, so it provokes the curiosity of passer-bys. The idea of these three elements being combined, is to create an area in the forest and beach, which are intended as an abstract experience that explore the contrasts between the man-made and the natural, while also giving a rather different sauna and bathing experience. The above image illustrates the sauna's interior.
Moving further up north on the island, to a beach right next to a small fishing village, is a different bathing experience. Unlike the contrasty nature vs civilization experience given in the forrest further down south, this beach is intended for a more traditional beach experience. The only addition to the coastal landscape here, is five concrete cottages for swimwear changing. These cottages have the same shape form as the sauna, but instead of openings in the roof, they have them on their sides instead. These openings are so close though, that no matter how you stand on the exterior, you can't look in, assuring privacy to those inside. The shape and arrangement of these cottages is inspired by a few small harbour cottages at a nearby fisher's harbor. I chose concrete here, because they first of all are placed next to one of many old abandoned bunkers on the island, and second of all, so that the interior can be kept cool during the warm summer months, when swimmers are most likely to use these cottages. A section of the cottages is shown above.
And now to the final element, the sundial. After several discussions with our professors and my classmates, I concluded that despite several active and monumental areas on the island, Hven didn't have a defined central area for meeting and activities and such. I decided therefore to define such a place by creating a monument of the sundial. The result was a sculptural shape, which featured four metal lines. Each of these lines pointed towards the four largest cities in the Øresund sound, where the island is located (Copenhagen, Malmø, Helsingør and Helsingborg). This was to illustrate that the island of Hven is in its way a center for the entire sound, despite its little size. This sculpture was furthermore placed in a low pool, where one would be able to dip one's feet for a little cool-down, and it would also be surrounded by a round bench that circles around the monument, in order to create a hang-out and meeting spot with seats and such. Above is a facade drawing of the monument, and below a plan.
Having explained all my ideas, it's time for a quick resumé of the critique I was given. Despite rather positive reception from most of the teachers during my process, the comments were different at the ending critique. We had a guest critic, who was very uncertain about how these elements were connected to one another. We were told that we didn't have to have any direct connection between the different elements, but perhaps she wasn't told of this. Another teacher was critical towards my choice of material in the first three elements, especially the short-lived glossiness of the polished wood. I have to admit, that he is most right in this comment, and without maintanance, the whole concept of contrast in the forrest would quickly fade away, leaving a questionable effect to the whole idea. The most criticized element though, was the sundial. I have to admit that my skills with designing monuments are minimal, and this was my very first attempt, but I didn't expect the critique to be so strong. It was pinned out as a, and I quote, "a cheesy Soviet-era monument". It's a shame they weren't more precise as to why it has failed as a monument and an element that defines a central area.
This whole project has been a great experiment for me, since I'm used to working after a more logical and functional method, rather than this sort of abstract/mystical experience. I don't regret trying it out, but I have also learned by this attempt, that my strength lies in my more functional sort of work. With that said, I believe all that needs to be said, has been said.
- Andy Minchev