Room for Maneuver: Flexible living or the architecture of both and
Today we live in a constantly changing society, which is characterized by compression and expansion. Time and space are occupied more intensively in the “always and everywhere”. “Always” stands for the condensation of time through activity, “Everywhere” stands for the expansion of mobility. This results in an expansion of the possibilities in the space-time structure, combined with the dissolution of existing boundaries and the replacement of unambiguity by ambiguity. Our way of life and the world of objects around us are affected - in public as well as in private space. We leave the rigid ties of familiar milieus and switch between different working environments. Our everyday products are characterized by accelerated reactions to changed consumer wishes and serve increasingly complex user requirements. Everyone wants more today: we want different things to be available simultaneously in a situation and enjoy the freedom of decision.
“Both and” instead of “Either or”?
The classic architectural design process, on the other hand, is first and foremost a simplification model. It is about thinning rather than enrichment: one situation is distinguished from another and ultimately the apparently better one is preferred. Variants are used to determine the optimum. It is about establishing a binding state: “Either or” is the principle, optimization stands in the way of the option. In contrast, the architecture of “as well as” is about the complexity of living due to the availability of different rooms in one place. We deal with the changeable and want to dissolve the boundaries of classical space with its frozen forms and uses. In this way we provide a multi-layered offer so that the diversity, contradictions and ambiguities of social life can be reflected in living. We are against the purism of aesthetic constriction and want an architecture of the user, not that of a final form. Our goal is a space of assembly that can be shaped by the user and that can change from one state to the other at will. We are therefore interested in an optional architecture of dynamics and evolution.
Living is never finished
The architecture designs the apartment towards its final state. However, the apartment is not an aesthetic object of admiration or symbolic representation, it is a daily instrument for the animation / housing of the room, is a catalyst for possibilities for action. For us it is the “unfinished” that makes the whole possible for the resident. We want a living space that goes beyond the result of the constructed object, that includes the potential and targets areas outside of one’s own existence. For us, at the end of architecture there is a beginning. According to Alain Guiheux, there are two architectures: “those that derive their quality from physical reality and those that derive their quality from what they enable.” Our projects rarely stipulate a clear sequence of rooms or organizations, but rather offer a functionally and formally open system. Housing is never finished. Optional rooms are defined by the current action in the room. For us, space is both: shell and space. The shell determines function and mood; with it we fix technical and space-creating infrastructures that support the possibilities in the space in between. The elasticity of the shell makes the quantitative relationship between the rooms variable. The temporary dissolution of the outer shell creates an ambivalent space for sensual indoor and outdoor experience. The space belongs to the user and is a dynamic, flexible zone. We design scope for its appropriation and adaptation.
Living between freedom and fixation
In all projects, we try to break up the usual fixed link between space, function and formal statement through new, unexpected combinations of parts of the living space and to set them in motion. It is about preventing the monotonous, the everyday, the functional bondage and the fixed expectations of living. Through optionality, the same room calls for new or different uses. Living should be experienced again and again by the user. Psychologically, the option model means an exemption for the user. The decisive factor is not only the constant, actual use of the options, but the serenity that arises when one has potential options for variation. At the same time, the optional space promotes a distance-free relationship between architecture and users. Anyone who can move their house back and forth loses their submissive attitude towards the aesthetics of their own home and experiences a sensuality of use that is not only useful, but also fun.
For us, the design of living is a tightrope walk between freedom and fixation. First of all, the design is an exact reflection of all the demands and constraints of the task. Clear statements must be made. However, the demands of users in terms of living are constantly changing: the target group grows or shrinks over time. Room sequences change with changes in use. Unclear requirements during the planning phase require the floor plan to be kept open after completion, so that the final solution can be tried out in the reference phase. The living space must include long-term or short-term variables. For us, however, changes in living space are not a neurotic “non-stop” of a disjointed acceleration society that no longer knows a beginning and an end. We propose a possible “rhythm” for each option: Seasons, temperature changes, day / night changes, or we develop medium-term cycles for change of location, change of atmosphere or function. Rhythm creates a familiar relationship between space and time for the user. Because the intervals of change remain explainable, it conveys the feeling of constancy within the changeability. The spatially unstructured space is restructured through rhythmic time. Time takes on the necessary standard of orientation in the liberated, hierarchical space. This standard of orientation is order and free flow at the same time.