Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bookshelf: Little Houses

This June marks the tenth anniversary of Ghost Lab, a unique workshop hosted by architect Brian MacKay-Lyons on his farm in Nova Scotia and in honor of the occasion, there is a new book about the project. It comes out today. For fans of both vernacular architecture and modern design, this is a spectacular read. It includes essays, historical images, photos, and sketches of the first nine Ghost labs, which brought students and architects to this remote coastline on the Atlantic for an intensive retreat. MacKay-Lyons is a principal in the firm MacKay Lyons Sweetapple in Halifax, and his firm is known for its stunningly pragmatic, aesthetically beautiful homes. I interviewed Brian last week about Ghost and his architectural philosophy and you can read that Q & A by clicking here.

The above is an image from the first Ghost Lab in 1994. Participants built a home over the stone foundation of an historic house, clad it in a translucent sheath, and lit it from within, creating a glowing monument to Nova Scotia's vernacular architecture. I wonder if Brad Pitt saw this and referenced it for his Make it Right Foundation project, which used pink structures to simulate the rebuilt ninth ward:

This week also saw Tom Kundig winning the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Architecture Award for 2008. Like MacKay-Lyons, Kundig combines materials and pragmatism to connect his buildings to the landscape. He can create simple houses that honor the topography and the user, and he makes small seem absolutely elegant. His work is, hands down, some of the best I've ever seen. A book of his work is available through Princeton Architectural Press (they also published Ghost).

Kundig's Delta Shelter in Washington State, pictured above and below, is a modest 1,000 square foot retreat in the woods. The exterior 10’ x 18’ steel shutters can be closed simultaneously using a hand crank (last image)