Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Astronomer's House:

"Buried, deep in the stars, the Astronomer lives in a matrix of subterranean spaces - entombed and enclosed yet still harboring views to the heavens."

There were several elements or ideas from Vermeer's 'Astronomer' which struck me and which i wanted to incorporate into my design. They were: the overwhelming sense of isolation, solidarity, and business - he appears to be buried in his work and books - i represented these ideas in my design with extreme ideas of entombment, complete enclosure and alienation from the world or any other worldy distractions; achieved through not only the fact that he is entombed, but more subtly through the solidity of base and land around him - visually, they relay ideas that there is a very definite barrier between him and the rest of the world.

Other, more visual elements i took notice of in the painting were the rough, textured elements which play an integral role in its composition and which are emphasised by the strong horizontal lines present. To represent this aesthetically, i used stacked balsa sheets to create my model, gradually building them up from the base - this gives the walls an interesting, textured effect (as well as further emphasising its solidity). Doing this, i was able to manipulate the sheets so that they jutted out in a very ordered manner to form elements of the building such as the stairs, bookshelf, desks and benches. These linear components are juxtaposed to the angular forms of the copper and this is heightened by their extreme contrast in materiality.

I chose to employ copper and balsa in my model as i viewed them to be quite naturalistic - but for different reasons. The balsa, obviously, as it is timber, and the copper as i envisaged it ageing, becoming greener over time and increasingly overgrown and one with the landscape. This relates back to my ideas of entombment and enclosure - wherein the astronomer will eventually grow old with the structure. Further articulating this idea is the 'carved from earth' nature of each of the spaces - which is clear in the plans and sections where no wall thickness is evident, only the interior barrier with earth surrounding.

Lighting and windows are integral in my design - especially considering there are no doors. Throughout each of my spaces (astronomy room, bookshelf, bedroom and bath) i try to provide a different ambiance, created through a varied utilisation of natural light from above. Employing overhead lighting also provided an opportunity for some high ceilings and double height spaces, which was in accord with my ambition to create a sense of space whilst still maintaining the solidity of the structure and its base.


1:50 PLAN



Johannes Vermeer - The Astronomer (1668)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009