Contributing Monkie G Monkie
Published on March 2, 2010
When we think of modern green architecture, its normal for most of us urban monkies to dream up a very cleanly designed glass box. We think of the glass as a way to connect with the environment around us, while maintaining that safe distance, which city living grinds into us. The Chen House embraces the modern box, but flatly rejected the idea of barriers. The Firm Architects C-Laboratory, designed the Chen House to embrace the country side, building it on an old Japanese cherry-farm in North-Taiwan.
By Catherine Slessor The Architectural Review: Conceived as a meditation on the decline of Finnish rural life, the project – punningly entitled Land(e)scape – involved hoisting a trio of redundant timber barns on to spindly stilts to make them look as though they were walking out of the countryside and migreating to the city. In a final nihilistic flourish, the structures were set on fire and transformed into blazing memorials to the loss of a pastoral idyll.
Casagrande is now in partnership with Taiwanese architect Frank Chen, and together they recently completed a house in the north of Taiwan, near the Datun Mountains. Set on farmland next to a river and surrounded by tree-covered hills, the remote, rural site has echoes of the walking barns project. Yet for all its bucolic charm, the environment can be harsh, with intense heat in summer and frequent typhoon winds, componded by periodic flooding from the river and seismic activity.
The commission came from a retired couple who wanted to leave the city and embrace a simpler, rural lifestyle, farming cherry trees and bamboo. When approached to design the house, Casagrande was living in an abandoned tea factory in the area and had become familiar with the locale.
Though climate and site conditions are challenging, he regards his design as an adaptive, responsive entity, capable of ridingthem out “like a boat”. To protect against flooding, the house is raised above the ground on a platform, which also acts as a terrace, extending the living area. The main volume, which contains living and sleeping quarters, is a narrow, single-storey wedge, buttressed along its long, east side by a smaller structure housing a bathroom, kitchen and sauna.
The arrangement neatly demarcates served and servant spaces, but equally importantly it also enhances structural stability in the event of an earthquake, the smaller body acting to brace and support the larger one.
Location: Sanjhih, Taipei County, Taiwan
Site: 3890 m2 farm land, Datun Mountains
Building foot print: 138 m2
Interior space: 62,5 m2
Materials: mahogany, concrete