With hotel conversions in historic sites often ending up being rather soulless, the balance struck between modern-day tastes and needs, as well as history, is just right at the Fontevraud Abbey’s new hotel. The soothing and sleek design leaves room for the historically charged interiors of one of the vastest monastic sites from the Middle Ages, to continue be the focal point of every space. The four-star Hôtel Fontevraud replaces the previous three star hotel (which closed in 2012) situated inside the Abbaye de Fontevraud (founded in 1101 AD). Located in Anjou, France, the UNESCO World Heritage Site was once the burial site of the English King Richard I or ‘Lion Heart’ as he came more famously to be known, which visitors can see today through his recumbent statue, as well as those of other Plantagenet family members, situated in the heart of the abbey.
The private elevator landing opens into a tall vestibule, tapering upward to a seamless rectangular oculus which provides a view of the sculpted summit of the adjacent skyscraper. From the elevator vestibule, the floor slopes gently upward, passing under the twisting shaft of the stairwell to arrive at the main level of the penthouse. The stairwell shaft ascends through the full height of the penthouse, visually linking the entry hall with the structural glass floor of the attic four stories above. The stair itself wraps around the stairwell. The facetted surfaces of the stairwell converge on apertures, trimmed in mirror polished stainless steel, which provide views into and through the stairwell from the surrounding spaces. At the third level a structural glass bridge traverses the stairwell shaft passing through stainless-trimmed openings at either end. The original riveted steel structure – clad in intumescent paint- threads through the faceted stairwell slipping through apertures into adjacent rooms.
Skyhouse Entry & Stairwell, New York, United States, by David Hotson
The new addition is a gentle intervention that emerges quietly from the canopy of a beautiful, mature lemon-scented gum tree. “With sensitivity to the site’s inherent strengths, the design embraces the preservation and integration of the established tree allowing it to remain the dominate feature on the property.” says B.E Architecture. Covered outdoor spaces are literally built around the gum tree, encapsulating and framing the trunk. Timber-clad columns recede into the background and a fine line of glazing opens to the densely planted side yard for continuous access to the natural environment from within the interior spaces.
An upper level sits in the branches of the tree floating above the bottom structure to provide a unique treetop setting overlooking views to the Sydney Harbour. “The roof is treated in a considered stone so that it is more like landscaping adorned with the scattering of fallen leaves.” Preservation of the tree required the structure be physically light. Built on a steeply sloping site, the expansive addition made from thin concrete includes an underground parking garage and a large suspended pool, without damaging the tree’s root system. The suspended platform also provides a generous planted area creating obscured views of the house.
Hopetoun Avenue Residence, Vaucluse, Sydney, Australia, by B.E Architecture
Two volumes of light – one warm and one cool – one projected to the expansive horizon and one toward the canopy of the desert sky. The 2200sf Dialogue House is a gestalt instrument for touching the full range and specificity of this light, this “place” – day and night, season to season and year to year. At the base of Echo Mountain the main living volume is elevated above work, guest, and the car, furthest from the street on a lateral pinwheel brace of charcoal masonry walls that extend cardinally capturing the site.
The exterior surfaces of the pinwheel walls as well as the main volume absorb and reflect light akin to the “desert varnish” that coats the volcanic geology of the Phoenix Mountains turning silver, red, purple-brown-black during the day only to collapse into silhouettes at night. Thus, “life after work” is simultaneously supported by the apparent thickness and thinness of light. The interior of the street volume is plastered cool white, half terrace – half cool water as a retreat from the city within the city where one can only can see sky. Wind and water activated light is refracted onto the interior surfaces by day and most dramatically at night which provides an animated foreground to the skyline and distant horizon beyond.
Dialogue House, Phoenix, Arizona, USA, by Wendell Burnette Architects
Living spaces feature wide panoramas toward ocean below, while concrete and vegetated walls remind of the rocky and forested setting. On its exterior, the structure visually blends with the wooded context by through its moss-covered roof. Additionally, the topography has been manipulated to control groundwater flow through the site, while being momentarily captured in the courtyard’s pond. The residence’s composition takes influence from the dynamic and irregular qualities of the rocky site. A scattered arrangement of concrete walls act as the main organizational elements, while at times clad in black fiber-cement panels. The resulting spaces provide a range of separate moments of connection to features surrounding the house, including a small tidal basin off the kitchen nook, a ledge of moss covered rock in the bedrooms, and a view back from the court to a swath of deciduous trees. The climax of openness to the site is experienced from the living room, which features floor to ceiling glass curtain walls toward the pacific.
Tula House, Quadra Island, Canada, by Patkau Architects
Photography by James Dow, Patkau Architects
Due to its proximity to the rugged and sloping creekside bank to the west, the house was subject to strict environmental and geotechnical conditions, including a required setback from the top of the bank that pushed the building’s foundation eastwards. The resultant footprint was awkwardly narrow, so to gain back valuable space, a portion of the main and upper floor is cantilevered back out past the foundation, allowing the native creekside vegetation to grow up, under and around as an uninterrupted, wild, forest floor. This reclamation of space is clearly pronounced in the dining room, where it projects fifteen feet out past the concrete foundation wall. By eliminating window frames and extending the glazing panels on all three sides of the room, past the floor and ceiling planes, the space dissolves into the adjacent forest canopy and provides framed views though to the ocean beyond. Tucked into the hill, the front of the house is deceptively modest in scale, set off by the large mature cedar that anchors the front yard. The topography of the site reveals itself as one descends the exterior stairs adjacent to the forest and follows the exposed concrete wall to the main entry. Continuing through to the interior, the wall rises up seventeen feet to help frame the bright circulation volume, with stairs leading to the upper floor and down to the main living spaces.
Russet Residence, West Vancouver, Canada, by Splyce Design
Photography by Ivan Hunter
Pletz lamps blend modernist geometry with a traditional sense of material and craft. Each lamp combines a lathe-turned, hardwood base, hand-rubbed finish, and dyed components. Quality brass hardware, a dimming fixture, a 10-foot cloth-covered cord, and a premium linen shade complete each lamp to produce an heirloom-quality piece. Pletz is the husband and wife team of Aaron & Heather Shoon, and operate from a studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Pletz Lamps, by Aaron & Heather Shoon
Photography by Elliot Black
With its spaceship-like design, rock and sci-fi melodies and innovative resonance soundboard, MusicMachine 2 (MM2) boldly goes where no music box has gone before. Underneath its futuristic guise, MM2 features all the traditional elements of a beautifully-crafted, high-end music box made by Reuge, the music box manufacturer with nearly 150 years of expertise and experience.
MusicMachine 2 is powered by two independent movements mounted on the starship’s tail section. Each cylinder plays three melodies: themes from Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Star Trek, on one ‘channel’; Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, The Rolling Stones’ Angie and The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go? on the other. Small wonder: MM2 was conceived and designed by MB&F and its songs have been selected by their rock ‘n’ roll founder and sci-fi fan, Maximilian Büsser.
One of the biggest challenges of MusicMachine 2 was in amplifying the sound. An ingenious solution was raised and developed by Jeanmichel Capt of JMC Lutherie, who created a bespoke soundboard featuring NomexTM – a type of honeycomb-structured Kevlar – sandwiched between two resonant 350-year-old spruce membranes. Only one in 10,000 spruce trees has the exceptional acoustic properties required.
MusicMachine 2, limited edition of 33 pieces in white and 66 pieces in black, by MB&F
The Barcelona show is something of an intervention, with a diagonal walkway slashing across the famously rectangular floor plan to set up a dialogue with the solitary existing sculpture in the Pavilion, Georg Kolbe’s ‘Alba (Dawn)’, which stands on a small plinth in the smaller of the building’s two reflecting pools. Veilhan has reinterpreted Kolbe’s figure in four figures of descending scale, using different materials in a homage to Mies’ simple, rich palette of glass, steel and marble. The pools have been partly built over, offering visitors new perspectives on spaces made iconic through photography, reproduction and imitation.
‘My curatorial role was focused on researching together with Xavier Veilhan about the history of the pavilion, the characters and conditions that defined its design and how we could connect with that through our project,’ Gonzalo Herrero Delicado explains. ‘It was also important for the Barcelona installation to create a conversation with the rest of the exhibitions.’ The architect oversaw all aspects of the project, from liaising with the MvdR Foundation to secure permissions to finding the local architects, MAIO, to build the final design.
Xavier Veilhan. Architectones, at The Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, Barcelona Spain
Photography by Florian Kleinefenn