The presence of certain buildings has something secret about it. They seem simply to be there. We do not pay any special attention to them. And yet it is virtually impossible to imagine the place where they stand without them.
Zumthor, 2010, p. 16
Architecture is a significant impetus that gives form to the physical singularity of place. Certain buildings are naturally anchored to the ground and their surroundings. There is a specific relationship between site and the building that is on it. These artefacts are bound to their geographical site, becoming a fundamental part of the form and history of their place.
The history of place is always inseparable from its geography. Without both, we cannot understand the architecture that is the physical sign of this ‘human thing’.
Rossi, 1984, p. 97
Apart from foundations’ traditional function of providing a solid ground within their geographical conditions, they gain cultural values by employing time as an impetus. They become a physical trace of the footprints that either fade away or no longer exist. By marking the foundations and anchoring the building to the ground we begin to create a long term fixed relationship between a site and the building.
The site of a building is more than a mere ingredient in its conception. It is its physical and metaphysical foundation.
Holl, 1996, p. 10
Exposed ground structure can reveal past cultural values of the site and unfold its significance. Moreover, architecture that is profoundly connected with the ground it is built upon, gives the building a voice within its wider context. One of the fundamentals of the integration of the building within its surrounding is to perceive and accept the ordinary. ‘In being open to the ground, architecture will also discover a wealth of means to deal with intractable problems of its own.’ (Burns & Kahn, 2004, p. 88)
You cannot simply put something new into a place. You have to absorb what you see around you, what exists on the land, and then use that knowledge along with contemporary thinking to interpret what you see.
Ando, 2002, p. 172
Similarly, Luiggi Snozzi’s notion of the site plays a significant impact on the process of interpretation of the landscape and its integration with the site. For him, the discovery of the terrain is the main part of the design process. Through various maps, it allows him to understand the physicality of the place and to uncover other, less prominent values. (Berlanda, 2014)
‘The strata of the Earth is a jumbled museum. Embedded in the sediment is a text that contains limits and boundaries which evade the rational order, and social structures which confine art.’
Smithson, 1996, p.110
My fascination with placemaking emerged during an architectural trip to Japan. I was particularly drawn to the physical relationship between the artefacts and the terrain they were built upon. The buildings that entranced me the most, not only expressed their tectonic relationship with the earth, but also revealed the core ideas of their temporal nature. Tanikawa’s House by Kazuo Shinohara is a precedent where an essence of static is evident.
The house lies on a slope in the middle of the forest. The building is divided into two occupied areas: insulated and uninsulated. Within an insulated area there is a bathroom, a kitchen, a bedroom and a staircase. These spaces are located next to the uninsulated ‘earth room’ which follows the slope. The ground is untouched creating a close bond between nature and the man-made. The inside- outside threshold is characterized by revealed concrete foundations on the top of which ‘temporary’ timber construction rests. This earth room becomes both natural and an architectural landscape at the same time and is defined by the concrete footprint, exposed timber frame structure and a series of insulated rooms.
Ando, T., 2002. Tadao Ando. Architectural Record Magazine, 190(5), pp. 172-173.
Berlanda, T., 2014. Architectural Topographies. 1st ed. New York: Routledge.
Burns, C. J. & Kahn, A., 2004. Site Matters: Design Concepts, Histories, and Strategies. New York: Routledge.
Holl, S., 1996. Anchoring. 3rd ed. s.l.: Princeton Architectural Press.
Rossi, A., 1984. The Architecture of the City. New Edition ed. New York: Oppositions Books.
Snozzi, L., 2015. 25 Aphorismen zur Architektur. 1st ed. Basel: 25 Aphorismen zur Architektur.
Zumthor, P., 2010. Thinking Architecture. 3rd ed. Basel: Birkhauser.