house for a Builder I

Axonometric view of the house for a Builder I, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

The second object in the Nine Square Grid studies is a compact family house sitting at the edge of the Latvian seaside town of Saulkrasti. The pattern of common limitations and the task for affordable housing in a suburban context sets the rules of engagement. Quiet in external appearance, the internal fabric of the house for a Builder I opposes that of the house for a Pastor and creates a direct spatial confrontation.

  • Commission – undisclosed.
  • Programme – family house.
  • Location – Saulkrasti, Latvia.
  • Building area – 100 m2.
  • Status – design approved in 2018, currently under unguided construction.
  • Budget – 110 000 € (2018).
  • Collaborators – SPOT arhitekti.

The Character of the Place

Initial situation, an empty land plot with overgrown greenery and a small foot bridge over a ditch, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Initial situation, Saulkrasti, 2018

The setting establishes a clear character of the place with an anticipated built condition. While being in the city feels a certain way, the edge of the urban is a far more fragmented and personal context. Each plot is introverted and closed; each locale is deeply individual.


Situation plan of the house for a Builder I, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Situation plan

The site where the Builder intends to build his first house establishes itself in the context of rational individuality. The built fabric creates a pattern of introverted objects, allowing the Builder’s dwelling to accept this narrative and to formulate a strictly personal emotional condition within the object.

The suburban topography devoid of any distinctive personality initiates criteria for the design phase. An object-oriented thought becomes central in this setting and makes room for a certain way of placemaking. The building is placed unobtrusively within the site and is enveloped by a perimeter of trees, orienting eventual dynamics of the habitat inwards and intensifying the autonomy of the place.

Despite its latent placement within the plot, the dwelling is an actor in the spectacle of built context. Its introverted appearance makes a subtle shift towards internal curation where composition gains its autonomy. This is where the Nine Square Grid strategy is applied as the basis for form and precise emotional condition.

We're still thinking about this, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Chosen spatial structure

Nine Square Grid

Diagram of compositional and programmatic organization of the house for a Builder I, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Compositional and programmatic organization

The compositional pattern of the Nine Square Grid is narrowed down towards the building as an internal object. The relative muteness of the building’s exterior and the intensity of the interior carefully follow the balancing act of proportion and centrality. The immersive extent of the functional composition is apparent internally where spaces are organized according to the Nine Square Grid. The composition establishes conceptual axes that program the continuity of adjacent spaces. The arrangement of private and open spaces enables a clear organizational pattern and spatial cohesion with the ever-present visual continuum between the interior and the exterior.

Spatial Organization

Floor plan of the house for a Builder I, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Floor plan

Centrality remains the underlying theme towards which the internal space is organized. The spatial sequence follows the rules established by the Nine Square Grid and subsequent conceptual axes that guide the composition. Movement throughout the building becomes an unambiguous act as the central core guides the flow between the quiet and the open. The private rooms are oriented towards the north of the building while the living spaces towards the realm of the daylight in the south. The auxiliary spaces are in the middle of the building and function as a separator between the two main zones.


Cross section of the house for a Builder I, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

As opposed to the house for a Pastor, house for a Builder I liberates the central core for a direct spatial confrontation. The openness of the central area reinforces the intensely spatial character of the core’s physical condition. While quiet initially, the transitional area develops a certain character and invites us to gain an awareness of its physical presence where the ray-spraying opening forms a regular engagement with our senses. The adjacent secondary rooms establish a dialogue with the central aperture and embrace indirect light. The fluid ambience enriches these servant spaces which have no direct contact with the outer world.

View towards the central core area which is illuminated by the central aperture, a light beam is reaching towards the hallway, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Façade and Geometry

Rather than attempting to create an individual object within an established context, architecture’s geometric protocol recognizes the built context and further expands on it. The external volume is massed as an uncluttered body and is divided into two components – the general façade and roof. The façade avoids insignificant details and with a series of open and closed segments carefully follows the internal composition and the Nine Square Grid. The roof maintains a close dialogue with the general spatial massing internally and externally. It explores the notion of traditional Latvian four sloped roof – an element with a rich presence in local vernacular architecture. The roof structure is completed with an integrated chimney, allowing us to experience the roof as one whole.

Diagram of façade proportions of the house for a Builder I, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Façade proportions


Charles Moore’s House in Orinda, 1962, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis Charles Moore’s House in Orinda, 1962

Although the structural expression is suppressed in exchange for clear and coherent spatial articulation, construction is given autonomy from technique and retains its simplicity. The structural organization aids the massing of geometry and enables the notion of centrality. The central void is given an extended volume and thus gains its spatiality. It is supported by an autonomous network of interconnected four columns that create a sub-space within the enveloping shell. Charles Moore’s House in Orinda (1962) expresses a similar relationship between independent internal structures that inhabit the larger space, creating a series of individual encounters within a larger whole. This in turn establishes a synthesis between spatial experience and structural ability, where poetry becomes possible.

View towards bathroom. The indirect upper opening illuminates the room, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis