The client had long been attracted to an area in Thurgau close to their former home, which was well known to them during country walks. They have always lived in this region - it is where they come from. This is ‘Mostindien' (Cider-India) in northeast Switzerland bordering the Bodensee and the Rhine. It is a rolling agricultural landscape of smallholdings, vineyards and apple orchards. When a parcel of land became available to the client, it already had a house on it. The original intention was to renovate the house rather than build. However, a renovation would not have resolved inherent disadvantages and the need for .......
The clearest aspects of the new house are its function as an ordinary family house and its site. It stands on high ground overlooking the river plain of the Thur. The view south from this elevated vantage point is a panorama of mountains. The views to the north, east and west are to the immediate countryside - farmland and woods. The large southern view remains unchanged except for how the weather makes it endlessly different whilst the other views are modulated by seasonal use of the fields.
The house nestles within trees that were planted around the original house so that in summer the house is largely unseen. The family that planted these trees is to be thanked because they provide a ready made and intimate context for the house. Even in winter the trees shelter the house from view. The land on which the house is built is contiguous with the surrounding farmland, meadows and woodland. Meadow grasses will eventually grow again around the house where building works necessarily destroyed them. Because the trees that surrounding the house are mature, the ‘newness’ that accompanies much building has been avoided.
Some years before the commission was granted, the client saw an architectural model I had made. It consisted of many simple rectangular buildings interspersed with trees. I had proposed this as an idea for a place to live, make and install art. It was intended that the trees, rather than the architecture identified the place. The house I have now built is dependent on the site with its existing trees and view. These give the house clear terms of orientation. This and the simple functions of the house have influenced its internal organisation and outer appearance.
An essay concerning light could be written around the subject of architecture. Architecture, our architectural society, is an organ that reflects and absorbs all the human responses and relationships that have created our complex social, artistic, scientific and political world. Our architectural landscape defines how we see ourselves and the world out of which we derive our existence. It defines our humanity for good and bad. As urban populations grow and as architecture defines how we exist within these urban groups so it might be that the architecture of our existence will embrace all we know and how we know. But if we only respond to our own light, if we do not see beyond what we produce we will only have and be what we produce.
It has been a tradition, in the practise of architecture, to talk high-mindedly about the light as a somewhat magic entity that reveals the purpose and nature of the pursuit. The ‘concern for light’ reveals the deep humanistic troubling, of the architect seen in the forms that it exposes. Unfortunately, it is often the case that other issues, whereby light is dimmed or disappears, are by which architecture flourishes. What are exposed are dubious grandeur, a strange creation, and worse the failure of architecture to provide a humane place in the world in which people can live. Darkness indeed.