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Clear Magazine, (continued)

Craftsmanship, in the traditional sense of work in wood or stone, may not be the a quality of Van Duysen’s distinctly modern designs that first come to mind; however, it is precisely an attention to detail and profound understanding of materials such as concrete, glass, and steel, and new technologies that allow his pure and minimal aesthetic to take on their essential and even totemic qualities.

He describes his design process as a reductive progression from raw material to an ordered and purified point of stable geometric equilibrium. This allows his work to resonate with an inner substance lacking in other minimalist designs. The movement toward the essential is carried out from his conversion and expansion for an industrial office structure, Concordia in Waregem, Belgium to a linear yet sensual chaise lounge for B&B Italia. Van Duysen’s signature of balance and cohesion between form and function, decoration and structure, effuse these works with a serene monolithic quality that transcends their size and utility. The prolific activities of British architect Buckley Gray and his young architectural practice have brought a fresh wave of modernism to Britain’s urban landscape. In addition the firm has moved beyond the city proper and considered the habits of the upwardly mobile urban professional. So far a concept only, The Rural Retreat reinvents the weekend cottage for a generation of city dwellers that appreciate contemporary design at an affordable price. By using an existing mobile home park concept and reconceptualizing it to include two modules that retain the basic dimensions of a mobile home. The modules are reconfigured to create separate living and private spaces and are connected by a courtyard that offers the one thing traditional parks don’t privacy. A retractable roof over the courtyard between allows the outside space to be used all year round and combined with a floating deck, can fold to enclose the windows allowing total security while the retreat is unoccupied.

And back in the urban center proper a recently completed project, The Q Building is a significant addition to Gray’s work that concentrates the driving principles and aesthetic behind the architect’s activities. The £2.9 million building will play an integral role in changing the face of the neighborhood. The Q Building, employed considerations of space and livability that began with The Rural Retreat but were allowed to mature in this five story development in East London.
The Q Building is a mixed-use apartment dwelling, located in the up-and-coming city of Stratford and situated among the area’s central shopping square. Gray’s luminous glass structure is framed within layers of natural materials that present an attractive alternative to single-family housing.
Livability, privacy, and comfort command the building’s features. All twenty-seven one and two-bedroom apartments come equipped with an external terrace area. A faÁade of timber, glass, aluminum and dark concrete blocks serve to maximize daylight into the flats while maintaining the comfort and privacy of its inhabitants. The building is clad in iroko-slatted louvered screens of natural anodized aluminum that serve as an exterior ‘curtain,’ allowing occupants to directly adjust levels of light and privacy.

Not limited to only large scale projects, the firm also scores recognition for their smaller projects such as the redesign of Britains Channel 5 head office to coincide with a re-branding launch represented most dramatically by the change of the channel’s trademark from Channel 5 to five. Gray’s thoughtful design unified the new aesthetic with practical considerations and inventiveness that created a strong dialog between the new brand and the interiors.

As well, the firm employed creative design solutions for a Bar Room Bar concept that was limited by budgetary constraints. The existing fit-out was removed to reveal a strong industrial aesthetic of galvanized steel ductwork, steel beams and concrete floor. The industrial feel of the building was retained, and the exposed concrete, steel and ductwork sit in contrast with new, large scale, finely crafted objects, providing light, seating and finishes. The objects take three principal forms: seating ‘pods’, inflatable ‘clouds’ and a wall dividing front and back of house, punctured by openings for bar, food service and DJ booth. Buckley Gray and his cohorts are in the process of capturing the young British architectural imagination with their innovative projects that enhance our living, working and playing experiences while crossing class and cultural boundaries.A concern for new modes of living in the twenty-first century and alternative housing is also found in Keenen/Riley Architects and Proun Space Studio’s 2003 prototype for an urban house in downtown Miami’s Design District.
This conceptual project was designed to address American urban living by using the “court-house” type of dwelling that has been a form of housing since early antiquity. This idea of multiple single-story units facing a central courtyard was also propagated in the twentieth-century as a solution to working class housing. Mies van der Rohe in the 1930s saw its potential as an alternative to the homogeneity of mass housing blocks. A similar model dominated the postwar housing schemes of the Case Study House program in Southern California, even the later mass accessible designs developed by merchant builder Joe Eichler and others echoed this theme.

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Copyright © 2008 David Shearer   
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