lost artefact

Axonometric view of the guest hut, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

The small and compact guest hut further explores the Four Square Grid composition. Its initial perception of temporality enables a certain degree of formal autonomy and architectural purity. Limitations of the site become secondary as the clearly defined volume forms an independent relationship with its surroundings. Eventually decided to be permanently embedded within the setting, the object becomes a lost artefact amongst the woods in the depth of the territory.

  • Commission – undisclosed.
  • Programme – guest house.
  • Location – Saulkrasti, Latvia.
  • Building area – 50 m2.
  • Status – it’s complicated.

The Character of the Place

Initial situation - a woodland, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Initial situation, Saulkrasti, 2018

The seaside town of Saulkrasti is a community settled in a fragmented topography that celebrates a passage between the civic and the natural. Its stretches of uncontained topography contrast the eerie sameness of the built environment, making the periphery a setting of dual context. We find our site amongst the woods, isolated from the already established built fabric. It is a space for a new beginning, a space of transition.


Site plan of the guest hut, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Situation plan

While the setting is fragile and calls for a sensitive spatial composition, the guest hut is at first tasked to be a temporary structure – the inaugural part of a larger development. As a temporary structure, it would initiate the synthesis of a new future landscape where placemaking is at the heart of its substance. The guest hut is thus introduced as an object autonomous in form and meaning.

Eventually, the guest hut was decided to be a permanent object within the future landscape. It would oppose the absolute purity of the architectural context. To counter Steven Holl, the setting would then embrace the formation of spaces and the formation of objects.1

1 Holl, S. (1991) Edge of a City, Pamphlet Architecture 13 (New York: Princeton Architecture Press), p 9.

Four Square Grid

Plan of Izumo-taisha shrine in Izumo, Japan, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis Plan of Izumo-taisha shrine in Izumo, Japan

The small object is based upon the structural pattern of Four Square Grid which enables the archetypal square plan to have an equal spatial composition. Divided into four proportionate sections, the arrangement of spaces is guided by the principle of diagonal spaces and the central axis of sunlight.

While defining its intimacy of unexposed spaces, the object draws inspiration from the ancient Shinto shrine of Izumo-taisha in Izumo, Japan. The apparent symmetry and centrality of its layout are surrendered to the principal partition that makes the organization of the shrine asymmetrical and functionally off-centred. Its spaces become hidden from one another, its flows are highly individual. The spatial approach of the guest hut creates a clear vector of diagonal spaces that are retained from the objects’ centrality.

Diagram of compositional and programmatic organization of the guest hut, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis

Compositional and programmatic organization

Spatial Organization and Structure

Erwin Heerich’s Turm in Museum Insel Hombroich, Neuss, Germany, 1987, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis Erwin Heerich’s Turm in Museum Insel Hombroich, Neuss, Germany, 1987

It is the spatial articulation that gives the composition its autonomy from structural expression. The technique, therefore, acts as the basis for form. The Four Square Grid establishes a link between open and closed spaces. Closed areas are hidden and off-centred, their character is not revealed. Open areas establish a sequence of clear visual communication. German sculptor Erwin Heerich (1922 – 2004) spatially argued the question of diagonal sequence within his Turm (1987) pavilion in Museum Insel Hombroich where the idea becomes the material of a specific problem. As in Turm, the guest hut’s composition confronts its geometry and liberates the margins for spatial freedom. Two independent spatial characters are thus formed through the Four Square Grid.

Internal flow axes advance towards the external threshold space and ensure visual continuity. Their order is asymmetric, it maintains a unified geometric articulation throughout the complex whole. Despite the visible deviation of its elements, the nature of expression remains dual within the object. Spaces made marginal become central once more.

Exterior view of the entrance façade, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis
Interior view of the area in between functional zones, studio substrata, Reinis Salins, Igors Malovickis