Event> Eva Hagberg & Roy McMakin Talk Design in Berkeley

West
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
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Roy McMakin's True House is one of 24 notable projects featured in Nature Framed. (Courtesy Tom Fowlks)

Discussion: Eva Hagberg & Roy McMakin
University Press Books
Berkeley, California
Thursday, September 8, 2011
6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

Writer Eva Hagberg’s new book, Nature Framed: At Home in the Landscape (The Monacelli Press, 2011, $50), has a granola-crunchy-sounding title, but the architecture inside is as sharp as it gets. From a delicate floating house on Lake Huron by MOS to Anderson Anderson Architecture’s acrylic-clad Chameleon House in Michigan, these houses are not, for the most part, about blending in.

Among the 24 projects included in the book is True House in Seattle by artist/furniture designer/architect Roy McMakin, who also recently published a monograph titled Roy McMakin: When is a chair not a chair? where he details his often-whimsical furniture designs from the past 30 years.

Catch both minds at Berkeley’s University Press Books for a discussion on design this Thursday!

As Hagberg said in her intro, “These buildings reflect an interest in the environment, in assuaging global warming and living an ecologically salient lifestyle, but they take it an architectural step further. These houses are not particularly green, or sustainable, or environmentally-minded; their approach to an idea of nature is viscerally aesthetic, practically connected. They are attached to rocks, to outcroppings, and to cliffs. They rest on meadows, prevailing over the trees around them, prioritizing their views, and their rights to the land.”

The following is an excerpt describing Roy McMakin’s True House.

Roy McMakin
True House
Seattle, Washington
2005

On the top floor, his side of the room features an uninterrupted windowpane while hers features a series of operable panels; a roofed porch below extends the habitable space all the way outside. (Courtesy Tom Fowlks)

Roy McMakin’s house for a couple of Seattle art collectors is a study in tension and contradiction, view and enclosure, expectation and experience. It is a building that curves one hundred and eighty degrees, and a structure that is at once bulky, blocky, and aggressively situated on the landscape and utterly quiet, controlled, and carefully sited in the neighborhood.

A living room opens up onto the porch through a generously sized sliding door that lets people out and nature in. (Courtesy Tom Fowlks)

McMakin, an artist whose work encompasses houses and furniture, and whose aesthetic is one of searing intimacy and poignant meaning, describes the house as a curving envelope that protects and shelters you. “You walk down to it and you’re enveloped by the house,” he says of the hidden-away street entrance. “Then you step in and you get the surprise of the vastness of the piece of land that it’s on, and the view outside.” He describes it as a shift from house as shelter to house as panorama.

French doors and floor-to-ceiling windows overlook a hill heading down toward Lake Washington. (Courtesy Tom Fowlks)

The 180-degree shift is experientially imperceptible as the house is fragmented into different zones—living, dining, kitchen—with each one marking another curve in the plan, while massive back windows chop up and frame the view from inside towards the lake. McMakin points out how unaware visitors typically are of shifting their orientation so profoundly, partially because, he says, they’re just looking at the view.

A covered porch extends the outdoor dining season for up to ten guests. (Courtesy Tom Fowlks)

“The front and the back facades exist as a seam in the landscape,” McMakin says, explaining the difference between the simple and elegant front entrance and the purposefully and exuberantly clunky back window wall. Upstairs in the master bedroom is a microcosmic example of that seam: the wall overlooking Lake Washington features two types of window. One is gridded and open-able, trading a vista for the ability to form an actual tactile relationship with the outside, while the other is a flat plane of glass that has to remain closed, but that provides an uninterrupted view. The expression of two types of relationship to nature—one physical, one visual—is part of what makes this house such a profound expression of that complicated desire to get closer to the outside, while still controlling the relationship.

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