19 August 2012

Interact with the spaces in which we live n. 3 - by Enrico Mercatali and Vanessa Passoni

The new column of
 Taccuini  Internazionali

To understand the domestic spaces
where we live


by Enrico Mercatali and Vanessa Passoni


With a double East-West approach
we will better understand the environment
in which we spend much of our time

In this third article Taccuini Internazionali, after treating some methodological and historical preambles  in the previous ones, starts its survey of the quality of domestic spaces, some of which were chosen by our readers.
We intend to keep analyzing, in our future articles, one house at the time, by examining its rooms and the spirit of its whole, describing the architectural and furnishing characteristics at first, then its merits and faults from the point of view of the inhabitants’ psychology and health; for now, we prefer to keep considering various environments, belonging to some houses that have different typologies and functionalities: a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room, a dining room etc..

In the previous articles we have introduced the topic by showing how important it can be for man to live in an environment being appropriate for his mental and physical health, which, according to western thought, means avoiding the stress caused by a wrong setting of the plan, or by the bad conditions of its external exposure, linked to the surrounding environment; we have eventually made a parallel with the Yin-Yang eastern thought and practice. 

We have then considered some houses realized by the “Masters” of architecture, in order to show that these positive effects on their stereometries and their furnishings and fittings don’t necessarily come from pure appearance or fashion, but rather from other factors usually less pondered by both planners and buyers: they have rarely been able to understand, before starting with the construction, how suitabile the location could be for them to put down roots.
We have started from the biggest names of modern architecture and their most well-known houses in order to show these theories, which have just partly explained the “clear fame” of their architectures - so conspicuously published after they were submitted to the critics and the international public: many faults have been detected, not only by us but by their very owners, both during and after the building process.

Today we want to start a different examination, less related to these works’ chronicles or history due to the excellence of their self-representation in building art; we will show you some small environments randomly selected from the web, from trade or custom magazines, or suggested by the readers themselves: 


Kitchen loft New-York

This entirely white environment, with a luminous full-lenght window characterizing and defining it, has drawn its inspiration from a “machine à habiter” of rationalist origin. Even its considerable depth and the double height of the living room seem to draw on Le Corbusier’s Unitè d’Habitation. The wide glass wall, which appears to overlook a loggia with some greenery, facing in its turn a courtyard of adequate proportions aimed at granting privacy and intimacy, is not enough to do justice to such a faulty distribution of functions: the kitchen would have been perfect if placed in the corner (not visible in the picture) on the lower floor, next to the living room and far from the glass wall. A bedroom would perfectly fit this position, especially if it was partially convertible to a small office, from which to get a bird’s-eye view on the whole room’s volume.  This way, from the less private parts of the house, we could have safeguarded the intimacy more peculiar to the other rooms. It must be said that such a long flight of stairs should never separate two strongly interconnected spaces like the kitchen and the living room. Pretty sad, finally, those two seats for eating without looking in each other’s eyes, but gazing into the distance, indeed staring into space. 

The clean geometries and the really wide glass wall allow a strong access of Qi energy in the living area of this loft, whose real actors are light and space. Since the raised kitchen has water and fire at its disposal close to the wall, they don’t disturb the zone below, but instead of focusing on the convivial sphere, the most fashionable american style has been followed, by privileging the idea of a voluminous central service counter. Thus, the kitchen becomes too rectangular, the heavy Yin influence ends up turning into a too cold Yang, reducing the dining area to an isolated and reflective station rather than a space for collaboration and sharing.  


 Kitchen in Stockholm

This glimpse of nordic flat highlights and emphasizes the traditional distributive structure of the house, which separates the rooms designed for food preparation and consumption from the living room. The long view, with a wide full-lenght window at the bottom, strengthens the idea of a great availability of space and a pleasant freedom of movement. The almost obsessive use of white colour (even the wooden floor) and the dominant choice of Ikea furniture (included the beautiful natural beech table close-up, maybe the best piece of furniture ever produced by the swedish chain), does not prejudice the sense of comfort obtained when imagining yourself in this environment. More than for functional reasons (like food smells and vapors spreading over the house), a door (preferably sliding) seems to be necessary between the kitchen and the other rooms for a psychological matter. When the family gathers around the table at mealtime, the long telescope view over the full-lenght window is certainly annoying.

The Qi energy is able to enter this kind of houses, by exploiting both the long corridor and the wide windows located in every room, in a very strong and imperious way. The rooms must thus have a strong personality in order to receive it. The kitchen is realized with rationality, the elements of water and fire placed in a position that doesn’t interfere with the other room’s areas and allows a good creative organization of the environment and a sharing of the place. 
The choice of cold colours, a Yin element, dissolves in the aggregation area which becomes highly warm and homely by playing on theYang quantity of light and wood. Because of the very strong influx of Qi, coming both from the door and the window, it is advisable to assign the seats right alongside of the wall to little kids. The choice of a flooring of this kind involves much upkeep. The light is certainly privileged, but it compels the inhabitants to follow strict rules in order to keep it clean and efficient.


 Dining room in Mandeville

The picture of this amazing high-value dining area has certainly been realized by an expert (given the diagonal light cut that brings dynamism to its atmosphere and the moving chandelier, useful as well for this purpose), and by a professional planner. Every element is perfectly calibrated and harmonically proportioned to the others. The corner glass wall, wide and so well-integrated in the room thanks to its wooden parts, highlights, at lunchtime, the totally natural landscape, which is also reflected by the huge painting in the middle of the only wall. The big curtains also provide the needed privacy, during the evening hours, at dinner time. The furniture in its whole does not look too heavy, despite the massive bulk of the chairs, made comfortable by the full-leather mighty padding and their stability. Great luxury and plainness together, both intended to promote the excellent family business. 

This is definitely a dining room, but this house was designed for people of great power and everything in this room aims at obtaining respect and authority toward its owners. The Qi energy is controlled by the wooden elements in the glass wall, which is the out-and-out wall of the house and whose glass corners reduce the powerful Yang mark of the building. In the picture of this room, more accustomed to big business than to delicacies tasting, it’s interesting to see how the photographer immortalized the chandelier “on the move”. This choice reduces the pragmatism of the furniture, being apparently comfortable but really massive, and of the wooden ceiling, still strongly Yang, which doesn’t favor the artificial lighting during the night.


 Dinig room – loft in Milan

Everything that composes this environment, despite the effort put by the photographer into giving balance to the composition, does not seem to result from great professional abilities. It is a dining room, but who could tell the function of this room and furniture, if it wasn’t for the table and the seats around, lacking moreover any personality (three chairs made of metal tubular, one wooden chair with little stuffing, one long monastic bench)? It might as well be a lounge of a pharmaceutical society, or the meeting and talking place of a pompous clinic, or again an interviewing point of an advertising agency. One thing is certain, should anyone stay here for a period of time, he would feel really uncomfortable; a basement where draining and water pipes correspond, on the ceiling, to a small “Murano” (for exorcizing their negative effect?), and where the only escape from the prevailing decorum, well rooted in the black and white square floor, is the miserable small bowl on the table: for whom? For what? Who knows! (maybe the mystery was in the planner’s intention).

In this room, situated in a basement, the choice of mantaining the old laboratory-looking structure and a chessboard floor of strong personality creates a really rich and luxurious atmosphere despite the room’s minimalism. The decision of keeping the pipelines exposed entails the presence of various elements (water, gas, air etc.) to be balanced through a structural intervention. The fullness effect is increased by the pipes cage on the ceiling, which is strengthened by the element of fire coming from the chandelire’s shape and employment. The glass walls are another Yin element, strengthened by their metal composition which contributes to the room’s stagnant atmosphere. The Qi energy moves with difficulty in these rooms, despite the wide windows reflected on the door, from which it can have access. This feature makes the room more suitable for a being a storage than a house. 

Living room – loft inStockholm 

This wide environment is attractive at fist sight: every single element arouses interest, starting from the really comfortable corner seats, the corner fireplace, the library, the ancient painting with its golden frame, the easily accessible dining area. Everything looks perfect. Even the loft emerging on the right, which suggests new space-time delights. But there is something wrong: no visual access to the outside besides the sky, or the surrounding building’s top, which make you feel short and compressed. This way, despite the room’s immensity and numerous “distractions”, the roof would hang like a heavy fan over the inhabitants if it wasn’t for that exit on the left, with a step that probably preludes a terrace. 

This room has everything you could possibly desire. A wide space for handling the living area, walls where to lean the furniture, wooden floors and a corner fireplace, wide windows to convey light and Qi energy as much as possible, on the only condition that this room is not used for sleeping, working, studying or focusing for whatever reason. The triangular shape of the ceiling, linked to the element of fire, is the distinctive feature of temples and churches of any worship. The more peaked the building vault is, the better its shape conveys the present Qi upwards, reason why these places are considered suitable for praying. The choice of filling up every free corner of the room in a very luxurious and massive way is probably caused by the ethereal feeling you can suffer when temporarily staying in this environment. 

Enrico Mercatali - Vanessa Passoni
Milan, July 2012
Traduzione dall'italiano di Penelope Mirotti
Pubblicato nella versione inglese il 19 agosto 2012

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