Every piece of wood is unique, bearing its own markings that tell the story of how and where it grew. Pine lumber with plenty of knots has some of the best character of any species, and it’s always fun to see how people use it. In this case, it’s given all the more visual interest in contrast with a much smoother, almost marking-free plywood.
Architecture firm Madeiguincho created this unusual structure as a reception and studio for a wood supplier called Diagonal Proporcional. In tribute to the company’s name, they made the building a little asymmetrical, with four defining diagonal lines.
“The 90º degree angle as the pinnacle of the project. We chose to work the model as a sculpture and object, so after many studies we reached the final geometrical shape. Since its a reception and studio we decided to let it be very minimalistic in order to let the decoration take place and fill the space as needed and as versatile possible according to the different situations.”
“The material was supposed to be resistant since it will have many hours of sun exposure, also the Portuguese climate is very hot in the summer so it needs a good insulation and no openings to the south side. The floor it’s all in Viroc panels with a matte varnish.The vertical walls are in poplar plywood to have the look of wood but still ‘clean’ in contrast with the angular walls that are in pine and have many knots.”
Those angular walls are really what make the structure stand out, both in terms of their shape and material. Don’t you think the pine brings a gorgeous natural pattern to the space?
Looking sort of like a modern version of the famous “House of Seven Gables” in Massachusetts, a dramatic minimalist villa stands tall in a Swedish suburb. “Villa Amiri” by the architecture firm Bornstein Lyckefors is one of those houses that’s bound to draw sharp divisions in public opinion: those who think it’s cool, and those who think it’s creepy.
With its stark black silhouette rising tree stories into the air, there’s no doubt that the house is a bit intimidating. Its exterior consists of extra-long vertical pine timbers stretching from the ground all the way up to the sharp edges of the roofline, making it look even taller than it is. These lines are mimicked by the slats of louvered shutters covering some of the windows, and the fence boards that delineate the property lines.
But of course, it’s the black pine tar finish that gives Villa Amiri its most distinctive characteristic. Pine tar is a traditional Swedish method of preserving wooden facades and roofs, giving them protection against rain, snow and insects. Previously, we featured a small Chilean cabin finished in pine tar, but its facade was not quite as deep, dark black as this one. Pine tar or pine rosin is 100% organic and can be thinned 50/50 with purified raw linseed oil.
Inside Villa Amiri, the architects maintained a minimalist aesthetic with lots of black and white geometric lines and shapes, lightened up here and there by wood in natural tones. The result is somewhat less somber than the exterior, but still feels like it would fit right in as the setting for a Beetlejuice reboot.
When is a beach house not a beach house? You could argue that when it’s not located on a beach, it doesn’t count. But when an architectural typology that’s almost exclusively located on the water is moved to another landscape – like the mountains of Chile – it retains the kind of breezy, open feel that lends itself to associations with salty air and seagulls. Architecture firm WHALE! took this idea one step further by basing the design of this modern pine home on the visual of a stranded whale.
Doesn’t sound too pleasing, does it? But even if the metaphor doesn’t quite work, the house itself most certainly does, unfolding in a series of stunning minimalist pine spaces directing your gaze right out the giant floor-to-ceiling windows. The three-bedroom house is set upon a cliff in the coastal town of Tunquén, looking out onto an estuary that leads to the ocean.
“The construction system is made of rigid frames, built on pine wood (2 by 6”) and distanced 95cm, where each frame is different from another,” say the architects. “However, the roof is continuous and homogenous, trapping in a single gesture the different moments of the house.”
The sharp wedge-shaped volumes of the house projecting out over the cliff enable views from virtually all angles, from the estuary to the mountains. But most importantly – check out how pine has been put to use in such a modern context. The best part is how they stained it various shades, giving it a lighter appearance on the walls and ceilings, leaving it more natural for the floors and making it stark black outside.
Setting a standard for farmhouse architecture in New England to this day, these early dwellings of Massachusetts bearing simple pitched roofs, economical lines and pleasingly uncomplicated proportions were ideal for the working Colonial classes. Though they became less popular by the end of the 18th century as communities grew more prosperous and landowners’ houses decidedly more grand, these unpretentious homes remain a distinctive part of the region’s architectural history.
This issue of the historic White Pine Architectural Monographstraces these early farmhouses from their humble beginnings, as they began to expand and grow more complex in later years. This often included additions, with the houses rapidly changing and growing new service wings “until it often ran slam into the big barn itself.”
“This was the almost invariable method on the farm, where land was plenty and the living requirements of the family itself changed but little from generation to generation… in the Colonial village or town, however, so simple an ‘addition’ met neither the needs nor conditions that were most likely to exist.”
Thomas Jefferson called George Mason, the United States Founding Father who built his family’s 18th century estate in Virginia, “the wisest man of his generation.” The Georgian mansion that Mason built near the Potomac River is a fitting legacy, remaining a historic attraction in Mason Neck, Virginia to this day. Gunston Hall has an exterior that’s classically Colonial, while the interior is a mix of rococo, Gothic and chinoiserie styles.
That’s a fairly stark contrast to the rustic, simple lines typically seen in homes of the era and those that the authors of the historic White Pine Monographs preferred to cover. All of the ornate details seen within are b elieved to have been carved by two indentured servants from England, William Buckland and William Bernard Sears, including the woodwork.
While, in the words of the authors, the house “suffered some defacements” after it passed out of the hands of the Mason family, it was restored by a later owner in 1912 and became a museum in 1949 after being willed to the state.
“Of all the seats on the Potomac River, Gunston Hall is the most well studied adaptation of the English Georgian style and presents a splendid picture of a Tidewater Virginia house. Although only a story and a half high, and simple in design, it was evidently the work of one who knew and valued the virtues of proportion and dignity and delicacy of detail.”
What does the future of sustainable architecture look like? Chances are, it’ll include a lot of wood – one of the greenest building materials around – whether used in tiny houses that reduce residents’ impact on the environment or even large-scale skyscrapers. The very first Sustainable Versatility Awards in 2012 asked architecture, engineering and design students to envision a small (600-square-foot) free-standing sustainable structure made of Eastern White Pine. Here are the three winning designs (see 2013’s winners, too!)
In first place (above) is Studio Soleil, imagined as a detached teaching studio and performance space for a piano teacher. Created by Maynard Hayden León of Harvard University Graduate School of Design, this plan uses Eastern White Pine for built-in millwork, including bookshelves lining the main space, and an acoustic baffle system. The exterior features the traditional ‘Shou Sugi Ban’ method of charred wooden siding, which protects against rain, rot and insects for 80 years.
Benjamin J. Greer of Northeastern University won second place with HOME, a modern sustainable house inspired by the traditional Northeast log cabin. Packing lots of comfort and function into the small footprint, it’s got a slatted wood facade that filters light and provides privacy. The interior is smartly laid out to make the most of the space, and there’s even a second-floor terrace.
REST AREA by Natalie Petricca of Carleton University is a striking, artistic pavilion offering an intriguing resting spot for hikers on a forest trail. Eastern White Pine stakes surrounding the sculptural benches mimic the trunks of the adjacent trees, and the seating is inclined to encourage gazing up at the branches.