Planning Permission has been granted for our proposal for a private home on Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland. Situated on a very narrow and complex site, the building aims to become a little and cosy family home.
The minimal site width triggered a variety of architectural solutions to the family's needs. The internal layout allows for different spaces where several functions and desires find life; the thickness of the facade becomes a tool to mediate the relationship between the internal and external landscape, providing space to live and breathe in.
"While the advantages of living in confined environments are undeniable, it must be recognized that many systems and organs, including those of sense, are designed and function best in outdoor environments. The visual perception of the surrounding environment is based on the convergence and projection of images on the retina of the eye. While viewing distant objects does not require work of focus, those close, below 6 meters, require the intervention of the ciliary muscle to increase the thickness of the crystalline lens and project the image correctly on the retina..."
"Technically, the ideal environment for man is the one in which his DNA developed, that is the open spaces of the forest (...)."
...it follows that, in the vast majority of constructions, the ciliary muscle is an exercise even when staring at the farthest object. It is an unconscious effort that apparently does not create disturbances, but has no alternatives in the confined environment. "
"Hearing is structured in such a way as to better hear the sound of objects placed in front and below but is affected by the interference of reflected acoustic waves: the reverberation of acoustic waves in confined spaces strongly limits the perception of the word and its intelligibility, so much that the best parameter for the usability of an environment from an acoustic point of view is the reverberation time, that is the residence of the sound energy inside the environment, while the natural tendency of the acoustic wave is to move away and disperse without return.
Exposure to humid, cold or too hot microclimates in confined environments induces physical or emotional limitations that affect daily life(dyspnea, inappetence, low vitality, dissatisfaction), conditions that are however easily resolved with building and non-medical interventions. "
Produced by: Newmac
Creator: Colin Chee
Producer: Lindsay Barnard
Director/Camera operator: Alessandro Carpentiero
Editor: Colin Chee
Interview: Philip Kolevsohn
Illustration: Alexander Klein, 1927, Functional House for Frictionless Living
In a historic building in the Piola area, an apartment renovated respecting the traces of time, where the stuccos coexist with the design choices and the new wooden elements draw a contemporary scenography.
Neither traditional nor modern, with an eclectic style that is a combination of sedimentations, additions and overlaps. In a period building in the Piola area of Milan, the ATOMAA studio has renovated a 110 sqm apartment as a modern 'wunderkammer', in which the new bespoke furnishings have softly blended with vintage pieces and pre-existing materials.
The intention was to "create lively environments", starting from a neutral background dictated by the light colour of the walls in order to bring out the furnishings as much as possible and new wooden elements developed together with the designer Giacomo Moor.
The renovation, carried out without losing sight of the budget, is the result of a close exchange between architect and client, a thirty-year-old couple of professionals who have long been linked to designers for professional reasons.
Considering the state of affairs, represented by the beautiful volumes typical of houses of the period, the architects had the foresight to intervene in a light way, limiting the demolitions and enhancing what was there: from the plaster frames, down to details less visible, even traces of past eras. The original herringbone cherry wood floor in the living room is no exception: it had to be dismantled and has instead been restored to its former glory.
The internal distribution was created with a clear hierarchy: the large main space dedicated to the living area has been opened as much as possible and is now seamlessly unified through three portals of the same size, which facilitate access to the service spaces. In the kitchen, a part of the wardrobe camouflages one of the entrances, as if it were a secret passage, which appears and disappears completely.
In terms of furnishings, vintage furniture coexists in a casual way mixed with more recent pieces and design objects collected over time by the owners. Here a Le Corbusier armchair dated 1928 is accompanied by a recent sofa by Piero Lissoni, the "eternal" Castiglioni and Prouvé lamps are combined with an industrial table by Konstantin Grcic, in a dialogue made temporally possible by the design, not at all in contrast but simply open to accommodate various eras and styles.
the generic name for the various tools used in domestic life.
Eg. in the kitchen: some utensils more necessary in the kitchen are pots, pans and cutlery.
In artisan shops, laboratories or workshops, any simple tool suitable for working with metals, wood or stone; for example. the hammer, the chisel, the pincers, the pliers, the scissors, the saw, the file, the drill, the awl, etc.
- Vocabulary Treccani
The project is designed in an organic way, taking several aspects into account from the outset, starting with the distribution of spaces, as a tool that can simplify and facilitate the activities of domestic life. The rooms are organized through an inhabited envelope made up of a set of custom-integrated fixed furniture elements.
The walls, doors and elements of mobile furniture are removed from the construction of space and of domestic life, and only ‘structures as devices’ remain, which organize the available space with elements that can change function during the day. The house is no longer conceived as an empty envelope to be filled or decorated with objects that affirm a status, but as an ad hoc tool capable of simplifying and making ordinary and extraordinary actions and gestures more comfortable, at different times of the day, on demand.
The acceptable contemporary urban apartment usually consists of many environments: an entrance with supporting furniture; a kitchen without compromise; a snack area (which we realised functions better as an island); a dining area which has the possibility to welcome a good number of guests on different occasions; a living and relaxation area; a sleeping area in the form of an alcove, or bedroom; a wardrobe or closet; a study area for working remotely; a bathroom with a full wall shower a required services. In a micro apartment, the main challenge is to incorporate all of these elements into a very confined space.
Comfort is more
Perceptions inside the home can be changed according to the perspective of the user, allowing the apartment to be a reflection of the feelings and the mood of the person. It is important to understand how the spaces in the house have the ability to change during different times of the day and how those changes, in relationship with the natural light entering the apartment, can allow the user to adapt those spaces for different uses. The adaptability of the spaces should allow the inhabitant to achieve both private and semi-private spaces with minimal effort. This also allows the person to provide a variety of experiences within a very confined space, a freedom which would otherwise be lost if this element of flexibility was not considered.
The sensitive material choices and colour palette are vital to achieving a sense of calm in a space which can be transformed into a private sanctuary within the busy and vibrant city centre. For us it is important to emphasize that furniture or furnished elements can provide multiple functions: they define space limits and fixed scenes, but are also tool boxes and functional elements, which act as storage for items which are fundamental to contemporary urban living.
To ensure the presence of the different environments, it is necessary to work with the concept of time.
“Comfort depends ninety-eight percent on common sense and two percent on aesthetics”
- Terence Conran
Only a few uses can take place at the same time or within a close proximity to another. Most household activities are regularly carried out in fairly orderly succession. The use of the space changes following the movement of the body within it (like a glove), and not vice versa. ‘Home as a tool’ also means that the body and its life (and requirements) are at the centre of the construction of the space, with all the limits and weaknesses it brings with it.
The aspiration of comfort remains. Those who live in a house need a minimum living space, naturally well lit, a double bed, a full kitchen, a closet at the entrance for wet umbrellas, etc.
When we speak about Micro Apartments, we know that this can work only if the space is comfortable. To achieve that, it is necessary to think in a different way from the early stages of the project. A way that sees the whole picture all together, and synthesizes it.
Today, we think that the comfort of a well designed house - beautiful, flexible and functional at the same time and one that can actually improve the quality of the moments spent in it - is the real luxury experience people want, more than a place that reflects an economic status.
Produced by: Newmac
Creator: Colin Chee
Producer: Lindsay Barnard
Director/Camera operator: Alessandro Carpentiero
Editor: Colin Chee
Interview: Philip Kolevsohn
First b/w Illustration: Built-in wall storage unit with built-in bed and desk - Charles and Ray Eames, 1961
NCSU Design Library Image Collection
Second coloured illustration: from the book "Easier life" Wright
Video Link: NEVER TOO SMALL Ep47 Project link: Link
“Someone could indicate other destinations, other routes, cancel a route already taken or tell us that "all the roads here are mine", but we know that the world of wonders is still possible, in the choices we allow ourselves to make, in not being afraid to trust tastes and preferences, in personalisation, and in thinking that perhaps a home is not forever, but it is rather the memory of the home we hold that is forever.”
Sitting snug within the design district of NoLo in the north-east of Milan, Nolita is a beautifully cosy and well-lit home for travellers.
Waking up in an apartment building from the 20s has never felt quite like this. Snippets of the apartment’s history greet you around every turn, with ornate ceiling details and beautiful concrete floor tiles flowing from room to room. Sunlight beams through the apartment in the early hours of the morning, as the crisp Milan air flows through the central corridor. The birds singing from the treetops in the lush courtyard beside the kitchen detach you from the hustle and bustle of the city, virtually transporting you to the flowing greens which surround the city’s urban fringes.
With obvious reference to the book “Lolita” by novelist Vladimir Nabokov, the apartment takes on the character of being precociously seductive, much like the story’s second lead character Dolores Haze, also referred to as Lolita.
The attention to detail in this big yet simple apartment is evident from the first moment. A small light greets you with a warm embrace, turning on automatically as you enter. From this point, the central corridor, already filled with natural light beaming from the rooms along its full length, is now full of light.
When making your way along the central spine of the home, hints of colour catch your peripheral attention as you go. Each room, still with its original flooring, is painted with its own colour, inspired by the apartment’s historic narrative lying underfoot.
The rooms leading off the corridor are dressed with a double door with an ornate architrave to frame it. The walls of each room are divided; the lower portion painted in a colour which seems to flow upwards from the existing floor tiles, while the upper part of the walls and ceiling are painted white, allowing the natural light to bounce around the room. This simple strategy allows for an elegant yet relatable domestic finish, encompassing and enhancing all of the detailed characteristics of what remains of the historic narrative of the home.
The apartment is sprinkled with a number of free-standing designed furniture pieces, allowing for freedom of movement and flow. The only permanent piece of furniture is the kitchen countertop; and what a piece it is. Lightly dashed with hints of pink and white marble granules, the pink concrete worktop flows seamlessly from a horizontal plane into a backsplash and finally capped with a narrow and elegant ledge. All cast as one unique piece, this feature further highlights the attention to detail which is echoed throughout the apartment – the most agreeable discourse between aesthetic pleasure and utility.
The long outstretched breakfast bar extends towards a glass double door at the end of the kitchen, guiding you to the beautifully lit balcony which stretches almost the entire length of the apartment. A small table set for two provides an incredibly romantic setting, channeling the apartments inner "Lolita" and providing the perfect spot for a morning coffee, nestled in the treetops of the lush courtyard below.
The home as a whole, with all of its minimal yet particular design considerations, provides the sensation of full immersion into a wonderfully gentle world of Italian domestic bliss.
Located in the the district of Brera, the area consists of remarkable examples of Milanese apartment typologies and gives a good example to the contemporary lifestyle of Milan.
The apartment is situated in a dense apartment building, typical of the center of Milan. This typology is called a "ballatoio" or "case di ringhiera” - a multi-storey building with access from the balcony.
The aim of the project was to create a space that includes the contemporary functions of a vibrant European city, in order to host various activities during the day.
The functions of the space are organized along the living room’s perimeter without blocking the light from the two large windows. The use of space is optimized thanks to compact functional elements, freeing the space as much as possible, and opening to the light. The interior is formally determined by integrated furniture which encompasses different functions and characteristics. The pieces of furniture act as a spatial boundaries. The shapes of the different forms of storage are conceived based on the items they are to contain. Their positioning depends on how easily they need to be reached.
We wanted to design a proper house, despite the surface area. One result of this was the ability to use the larger furniture elements as partitions which help to divide the space. Depending on the users’ requirements, a combination of private or semi-private areas can be created using these elements to give maximum flexibility.
In an apartment such as this, where we wanted to fit more functions than are actually possible, we had to use the concept of time as a tool.
The same space becomes a different space when the light changes during the day. We looked at Japanese houses, but also at the traditions surrounding European modernism and functionalism. From the Frankfurt kitchen and the integrated furniture of Gropius, to Italian examples of Mangiarotti where in a project called “La parete attrezzata, 1965” he puts different functions together in the same piece of cabinet. Or Cini Boeri in “gradonata attrezzata, 1971” (image on right) where she puts a walk-in wardrobe just under some places to set and rest, as is the case in this example here.
A terraced bedroom in a holiday home - Cini Boeri, 1970
La casa attrezzata. Qualità dell'abitare e rapporti di integrazione fra arredamento e architettura, Gianni Ottolini, Vera De Prizio. 2005
The house ensures maximum functional comfort with a double movement, one that can open spaces and the atmosphere towards the external landscape and the other can connect internal perceptions home environment, to become a tool to create and make evident relations.
From the point of view of colour finishes, the colour of the walls tend to follow and reinforce the differences in quality of the different private spaces; from lighter to darker colour tones from the public spaces through to the private spaces. The small size of the apartment, led to the use of light colours and natural finishes. Domestic space is clear and ordered according to logical function. And it is able to accommodate different elements, even conflicting, to use as personalization (colourful chairs, books, elements of vegetation) but the overall atmosphere creates harmony.
The ambition for domestic comfort should be our main focus.
Guarigione del diacono Giustiniano - Beato Angelico, 1443
It's not only about trying to be functionalist, it's more about having different possibilities; and then choose.
The sleeping area is composed of two distinct areas defined by their heights: the real alcove with a height of 125 cm and a multifunctional free area on the side of the window. This free area can be incorporated with the living area and creates a bigger area for eating or relaxing. Alternatively, if the partitions are properly closed between this area and the alcove, and between this area and the living room, it creates a third space to be used for silent activities or multipurpose functions. The table and chairs are the only furniture pieces which have the freedom to be moved. Depending on the needs of the person/people using the space, it can become a temporary bedroom, or an office/relaxing area.
Produced by: Newmac Creator: Colin Chee Producer: Lindsay Barnard Director/Camera operator: Alessandro Carpentiero
Editor: Colin Chee Interview: Andrea del Pedro Pera
“To make the table, it takes wood. To make wood, it takes a tree. To make the tree it takes a seed ". We don't want to rely solely on easy quotes - the genius of Gianni Rodari; the voice of Sergio Endrigo; a fairy tale not only for children, one that we all still know how to hum – but the truth is that in many cases you really do need a flower.
A semi-central area of a Milan that knows how to be elegant and neighbourly, a tree-lined street that follows an imaginative line between the old and the new world, acknowledging modern buildings that are reflected in the Pirelli Tower and early twentieth century houses that, in their decorations and wrought iron, certify that European taste has also grown on these walls. Not far away, Umberto Boccioni painted himself on the balcony of his house while fields and meadows still stretched out behind him. Today the area is alive, full of shops, artisanal pastry shops, markets and smiles. From the upper floors you can see all of this and be dazzled by it, while the sunlight delicately filters through the windows, creating new and unexpected chromatic elements.
But we said you need wood, and in an apartment that, at the time of purchase, lacked nothing but personalisation and love, there was a lot of it. Fewer walls, more flexible elements, custom-made furnishings and the work of artisans still in love with their work. A living room made of colour and brightness, where vintage wood is expressed in a 1960s salvaged bookcase; in a much-desired bay window, surrounded by windows overlooking the street; in a clear wall-bookcase hiding the doors which transform the study into a room for guests. Yellow doors, like the sound of a trumpet, volcanic, impossible not to notice. The colours communicate with us and with each other, as the yellow meets the red of the library at the entrance, a mysterious birth from the simultaneous tendency to move away and ascend yellow and blue - Vasily Kandinsky would have said.
It’s impossible to forget the green. Sage or deep - that of the green Alpine marble. The kitchen and dining room allow themselves stable values: those of the green, the integrity of the marble in the kitchen top, the dignity of the bamboo in the wallpaper that defines the dining room, and a small wedding favour satisfied with itself on evenings with friends. Parquet wood floors brought back to life, the colour of ad-hoc concrete tiles, still playing between white and sage green, with elements of blue, turquoise, beige and grey notes, while, like a treasure hunt, strips are lost in the entire surface of different colours, because you are never too old to play.
Green returns to the bathrooms, this time combined with pink and a curved form: geometric figures and colour allow one to enter into oneself, to relate, to overcome the limits of a room, a destination, a definition. One last detail that is the common thread of the apartment and of an idea of harmony that is still alive: the arch, the doors, the bookcase, the rounded, soft, voluptuous objects, of a lamp inscribed in design history books, which has function and is not simply a pure decorative object. And if a parenthesis delicately illuminates the bedroom, following a flawless luminous line you take the road back to the entrance.
Someone could indicate other destinations, other routes, cancel a route already taken or tell us that "all the roads here are mine", but we know that the world of wonders is still possible, in the choices we allow ourselves to make, in not being afraid to trust tastes and preferences, in personalisation, and in thinking that perhaps a home is not forever, but it is rather the memory of the home we hold that is forever.
ATOMAA was recently interviewed by the European web platform "New Generations". The discussion covers topics such as the relationship between our work methodology and the approach towards our designs, and even our creative work environment.
"Even if the organisation of time in contemporary project processes are often frenetic, we practice the ‘Resistenza’: we take the time to discuss ongoing projects in a slow and calm manner and then make calculated decisions and even work by hand.."
" We build models to study details; we use freehand sketches to help us reason and develop ideas; we use mood boards of real material samples, which is simply irreplaceable."
New Generations is a European platform that investigates the changes in the architectural profession ever since the economic crisis of 2008. They analyse the most innovative emerging practices at the European level, providing a new space for the exchange of knowledge and confrontation, theory, and production.
"Lively, surprising, full of personality: these three adjectives are the essence of Wunderkammer, a Milanese apartment in the Piola area where the magic is revealed in the details."
Elisa Zagaria, Elle Decor
"What makes the layout dynamic and interesting is the way in which the rooms, all different in size and finish, interact with each other, by virtue of "secret passages" which we had fun hiding in the fixed furniture elements set in the walls."
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