What is a shadow gap?

A shadow gap – a mysterious dark place between two plains…

A recorded episode of Grand Designs introduced me to shadow gaps. Apparently the gaps had cost £10,000 in the house in question. One of the patrons questioned the wisdom of this architect led spend and that left me wondering, just what are shadow gaps?

Well, it turns out they are a grandiose term for a space between two surfaces. For example between the frame of a set of shutters and the window frame / wall against which they are installed (as in the photograph below) or between a plastered wall and a door lining. By leaving a narrow gap, the two surfaces ‘float’ apart rather than being butted up tightly together. The gap will usually be in shadow and when properly executed is both attractive to the eye and practical in that it leaves a gap to allow breathing, contraction or expansion. Also, where installing a new surface alongside a pre-existing one the shadow gap introduces a margin for error and removes the need for exact millimetre perfect measuring. This can be seen in the photograph of the shutters I installed retrospectively in the barn below – a relatively quick and easy job, made much easier by the gap between the wall and the shutters frame.

From Shutters

The Stirling prize 2012 winner – the Sainsbury Laboratory

The 2012 Stirling prize was won by a outsider, the Sainsbury Laboratory…

So the Stirling prize was won by what seemed to be a long shot. I think two things blinded me to the potential of the eventual winner – the Sainsbury Laboratory. The first, the association with a supermarket (boo-hiss), or at least with the family that setup the supermarket. The second, the fact it was a lab, just how interesting can a laboratory be?…

Well, seemingly very interesting, very motivational and very inspirational, both as a piece of architecture and as a place to work. I must admit that my initial impression of some of elevations was that they were a little third-Reich (albeit a softened, gardened third-Reich). Having taken another look, with newly opened eyes, I have one thing to say…

I wish I worked there.

The Stirling prize 2012

I think that this years Stirling prize has some exciting projects on the shortlist…

Although high brow architecture prizes aren’t my usual territory, I think that this years Stirling prize has some exciting projects on the shortlist.

Best if we pass over the Olympic stadium, which looks so much like so many other stadiums to the lively Lyric Theatre project. Highlighted on last nights BBC2 Culture Show, this looks to be a lovely, well designed quality development, informed by function and form rather than vanity and ego. I also rather like the bomb-shelter chic of The Hepworth, rarely has concrete looked so lovely.

The shortlist is well worth a look on ribastirlingprize.architecture.com

Art – design – form – function #FrankLloydWright

I was rather taken with this Frank Lloyd Wright observation…

I was rather taken with this Frank Lloyd Wright observation that succinctly encapsulates the relationship between art and functional objects.

Art is a discovery and development of elementary principles of nature into beautiful forms suitable for human use.

With reference to contemporary architecture, I think that the ‘beautiful forms’ part is too often overlooked in all but the most high-end projects.

User Centred Design: Towards a New Sustainable Architecture

I’ve previously mentioned the design ethos of Dieter Rams…

I’ve previously mentioned the design ethos of Dieter Rams and this blog post on blacktansa.blogspot.co.uk made for a delightful reintroduction User Centred Design: Towards a New Sustainable Architecture.

This quote from Dieter Rams contained in the post draws a really important line between designer and artist…

A designer who wants to achieve good design must not regard himself as an artist who, according to taste and aesthetics, is merely dressing up products with a last-minute garment. The designer must be the “gestaltingenieur” or creative engineer.

The phrase creative engineer sums up the hands-on grittyness coupled with blue-sky thinking that is required of a good designer.

Dieter’s 10 commandments of what constitutes good design are well worth listing…

Innovative
Honest
Useful
Long lasting
Aesthetic
Thorough to the last detail
Understandable
Environmentally friendly
Unobtrusive
As little design as possible!

The blog post goes on to make some interesting points in regard to user centered architectural design, that is design that requires the designer to…

…create spaces specifically designed around the needs of their users, which reinforce the cultural and philosophical values that they hold. They are not interested initially in what the building will look like, but how it works and what benefits it will bring in terms of reinforcing their values and how it will deliver measurable improvements in the way they conduct their core activities.

The post continues with a call-to-arms for…

a radical new sustainable architecture, moulded and shaped to satisfy the needs of its intended users. It will be rational, logical and inherently beautiful and most importantly, capable of responding to the massive challenges that our society faces.

…that is User Centred Design through which we can establish a new Sustainable Architecture.

Worth a read.