Location: Bratislava, Slovakia
Project Work Status: Ongoing Projects
Area: 158,473 Sqm
Team: Chris Lee, Kapil Gupta, Bolam Lee, Martin Jameson
Joseph Halligan and Michelle Young
Today's so-called 'luxury' housing development is confronted by two paradoxical ambitions: how to create a sense of exclusivity for each villa and how to maximise the land for a profitable development. Often such developments end up being highly congested - despite a relatively average FAR - and incoherent as each villa competes to be more exotic than the other.
The desire for "exclusivity" in the context of private housing can also be thought of as the desire for privacy - to be away from the city, to be close to nature, to be enclosed by nature. The ultimate form of private housing perhaps is like a retreat in a clearing in the middle of a forest.
To achieve this sense of privacy and isolation, we imagine the site first as a forest, from which clearings are made for the individual villas. These "clearings" create the individual plots as enclosed outdoor rooms. This sense of privacy and exclusivity is achieved by having clearly defined plot edges. Hedges or manicured trees will form the walls for these outdoor rooms. The use of hedges as an architectural feature on a large scale is to enable a visible coherent overall form. Although it is a strategy common to formal gardens in Europe, its application for a housing development is likely to be the first.
The desire to be different in developments based on the idea of luxury and distinctiveness often results in an exotic display of incoherent architectural styles. The challenge for the masterplan thus lies in its ability to produce an architectural diversity that is coherent. We propose instead, to focus on a housing type that will both enable a coherent development and promote diversity of architectural interpretation. The courtyard house stands as a type that has persisted through the ages and across cultures. It is specific in its spatial relationships rather than its external form. The courtyard type is chosen as the common housing typology. Where the plot is envisioned as an outdoor room, the courtyard will be the semi-outdoor room on a more intimate scale.
Instead of rectangular courtyards, a circular courtyard offers a smoother circulation and spatial transition around its circumference. This type is further transformed into a spiraling courtyard type with fingers spinning off the circumference of the courtyard. These fingers create rooms orientated towards an outdoor view, framing the open spaces of the plot.
These spiraling courtyards can be further evolved to different villas and apartments, allowing different interpretation by other architects for the masterplan. Thus, the use of the courtyard type should be seen as providing a typological grammar that enables different architects to speak the same language for a coherent development.