house for a Pastor

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

The first object in the Nine Square Grid studies is a medium-sized family house on the outskirts of Riga city. Despite the project being subject to a very limited budget, spatially rich and well functioning living experience was set as the main goal in the initial design phase. In some ways, the spatial massing of the built volume is an allegory of the principles of classical architecture.

  • Commission – undisclosed.
  • Programme – family house.
  • Location – Rīga, Latvia.
  • Building area – 140 m2.
  • Status – design approved in 2018, currently under construction.
  • Budget – 150 000 € (2018).
  • Collaborators – SPOT arhitekti.


The Character of the Place

Initial situation, an empty land plot with overgrown greenery, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Initial situation, Rīga, 15.05.2017

Situated in a common Latvian suburban setting, the site can be found among a network of individually owned and developed land plots. These land plots share a common denominator – closed outer perimeter with inward-facing spatial qualities and free-standing buildings. Our site is no different and inherits the same qualities of introverted personal autonomy.

The setting represents a typology that can be considered as the New Vernacular – a situation where the market economy dictates the extent and the robustness of the suburban sprawl. The built environment is standardized; its vocabulary – materially rationalized. A thorough investigation of the surrounding context reveals that a mostly personalized setting has already been well established in the area. Autonomy towards architecture thus is permitted within the individual land plot. In such a way, architectural language free of context and pre-determined narratives enables an independent formulation of new spatial conditions. It can be argued that such an approach to self-sufficient architectural expression furthers the unique character of suburban Riga and complements the use of free spatial language that is inherently devoid of dogmas. The building becomes an object in-between generated autonomy.

Strategy

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

Situation plan

The first step of the design phase was to define criteria for successful placemaking and to study possible legal limitations. The placement of the building follows local building guidelines that suggested that the building must be placed along the schematic building lines. These conditions were considered and respected, making the first criteria clear. By placing the building along the building lines next to the road, the site develops a clear zoning pattern. The building is created more introverted in the north – towards the street, thus shielding it from the noise and the traffic. The building also becomes more open towards the interior of the site, maximizing the functional use of the courtyard and natural light on the southern side. As for the design strategy, Nine Square Grid composition emerged as the most suitable approach for spatial curation in a setting free of pre-existing context. After defining criteria for placemaking and spatial strategy for this specific site, a matrix of new Nine Square Grid structures was developed. The most appropriate organizational scheme was selected to be developed further.

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 Priest, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Compositional and programmatic organization

While establishing a balance between order, proportion and symmetry – a clear reference to the principles of classical architecture, the design of the building also aims to redefine common residential conditions. Geometric cohesion is achieved with the careful use of the golden ratio. Building’s spatial organization is enriched with the addition of several conceptual axes that together with the divine proportion form a functional Nine Square Grid composition. These axes activate the circulation around the building and establish a visual continuum between the interior and exterior spaces. Thus, the core content of the house is laid out within the whole Cartesian space. The programme is organized across the building with open, semi-open and private rooms being arranged accordingly. Private rooms are spread out across the northern – more introverted part of the building and its centre. Open – living spaces are arranged at the southern side of the building towards the inner courtyard, emphasizing the dynamics of activity in this part of the site. Semi-open spaces are located in-between open and private spaces and form a transitional area.

Spatial Organization

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

Floor plan

The organization of the interior space expands on the notion of centrality. A spatial sequence is established around the central element of the house – the core of the building as well as the path of natural daylight. The living room and dining area area in the southern part of the building which is more open to direct sunlight while bedrooms and mechanical rooms are in the quieter part of the house in the north. The kitchen, although open towards the south, retains its functional integrity by organizing the work area towards the east. The study and the entrance area adjust to the low light setting and find themselves in-between living and private spaces. The division of spatial zones is established by the presence of the movement axis that also strengthens freedom of circulation around the building. The circulation route consists of connected passageways in living and private areas that enable undisturbed movement in either zona. Since the passageways do not intersect with each other, clear dynamics of functional autonomy are formed. The main flow is organized around the building’s core with secondary – servant spaces being located directly inside of it.

Centrality

Cross section of the house for a Priest, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis
Longitudinal section of the house for a Priest, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Located in the middle of the physical volume, the central core defines the spatial condition within the building. The element, sculpted as a closed volume, separates opposing functional zones and enables secondary spaces. Additionally, the core functions as a closed light reflector that clears the central ether for the influx of natural daylight. The light is then distributed among the revolving areas with direct or indirect lighting. Bedrooms, living area and study space all directly feed off the central aperture and reflector. The central core ultimately becomes the main compositional element from which the entire programme and spatial poetry come to life. A constant dialogue with the light begins to take shape irrespectively of location, thus strengthening the notion of centrality.

Progress report - view from the children's room, looking towards the central aperture, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

13.08.2019

Progress report - view towards the hallway with core on the left side and bedrooms on the right side, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

13.08.2019

Core

Andrea Palladio’s sketch for the reconstruction of the Temple of Venus and Roma, Rome, 1570, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis Andrea Palladio’s sketch for the reconstruction of the Temple of Venus and Roma, Rome, 1570

Autonomous in form, the central core is sculpted as a freestanding object whose curvature establishes a clear relationship with the central aperture. The origin of the core can be traced back to an innocent misinterpretation of a section from Andrea Palladio’s reconstruction proposal for the Temple of Venus and Roma (1570) in Rome. At first glance, the setting drawn by Palladio did not appear as an inward-oriented apse, but rather as a freestanding object at the centre of the space. Although the study of Palladio’s section was quickly resolved, the initial idea of achieving spatial autonomy through sculpted core’s geometry persisted – a clear reference to the intuitive reaction towards the section of Palladio.

Like Palladio’s explanation of a spatial condition in the Temple of Venus and Roma, the central element of the house for a Pastor can be explained via a sequence of sections. The core maintains a dialogue with surrounding spaces by reflecting incoming skylight outwards. Parallel to outwards oriented functionality, careful curation of inside spaces achieves a very sensitive spatial condition. A series of autonomous settings are created within the sauna, washroom and shower room. The inside spaces form a dialogue with the central skylight opening – an element located in a separate spatial entity. Therefore, the core obtains duality in its ability to operate outwards as well as inwards.

Three cross sections of the house for a Priest inner core, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Façade and Geometry

Kazuo Shinohara’s House in Ashitaka, 1977, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis Kazuo Shinohara’s House in Ashitaka, 1977
Proportions and golden ratio of the Parthenon, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis Proportions and golden ratio of the Parthenon

The principles of classical architecture are fundamental not only in the spatial organization of the house for a Pastor but also in its volumetrics. The geometrical composition is strongly influenced by the proportions of the golden ratio and can be considered as a reference to Kazuo Shinohara’s House in Ashitaka (1977). Although the architectural language differs greatly in both works, Shinohara studies deep geometrical complications through a dialogue with vernacular structures. The compositional identity of the house for a Pastor follows a similar sequence of thought. Outer geometry and general elements of the building form a relationship with the traditional – common and the disciplined – classical, which has been argued to represent the language of beauty and eternity.

The outer shell of the building is divided into two large components – general façade and roof. The façade follows the notion of necessity and purges all non-essential details in favour of a series of open and closed segments. The apparent austerity of the façade enables clearly defined criteria for overall proportional and schematic cohesion. Openings carefully follow the Nine Square Grid giving continuity to internal movement axes. Closed blocks, on the other hand, form a sequence of external monoliths that highlight the compositional rhythm within the façade.

The roof is crafted as a separate element yet retains spatial integrity internally. It is a clear reference to the traditional four sloped roof – a universal archetype. In its centre lies an opening for unaided passage of sunlight. The roof is extended outwards across the perimeter of the building and covers the outer terrace, controlling the incoming direct sunlight. The overhanging structure allows the building not to overheat during the summer and at the same time receive as much winter sunlight as possible.

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

Façade proportions

Progress report - exterior view of the unfinished Southern façade, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

17.05.2019

Structure

Lateran Baptistery, Rome, AD 440, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis Lateran Baptistery, Rome, AD 440

Using geometry as a tool for overall spatial cohesion, the configuration of the building makes it possible to simplify the structural system and to integrate the notion of centrality. The centre of the building is supported by four autonomous columns that enable the rest of the spatial structure to be free from load-bearing duty. The columns form two verticals that frame the central aperture, bringing the outer dimension inside. These verticals are directed upwards and eventually escape the building through the opening, creating a visual continuum for the structure. In that way, a spatially and emotionally rich setting is achieved within the house. It establishes light as the central load- bearing element. The use of such a structural system is a reference to an essential late antiquity structure – Lateran Baptistery (AD 440) in Rome. Around its centre, an octagon is formed by eight columns that support the roof structure, enabling free passage for sunlight. The dialogue between structure and light attempts to introduce an overall balance in spatial clarity and the general course of life, forming a narrative of the Fountain of Life.


Status update on 17.08.2020 – the building is currently under construction.

Photographs by Filips Smits.

Exterior view of Southern façade, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis
Exterior view of internal axis spanning through the building, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis
Interior view towards the core and the study, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis
Interior view towards the kitchen window, upper aperture is visible, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis
Interior view from a bedroom towards the living room window, upper aperture is visible, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis
Interior view towards the living room from the study, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis
Interior view of the unfinished restroom space within the inner core, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis