Shaking things up

Zerodegree Architecture completes 'super-functionalist' office building Groningen

by James 06 November 2010
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    The brief for this project spoke of ‘two buildings of impressive architecture; an identical set of floor plans, with spaces to be rented from 15 minutes to 15 years on limited resources, for office and scientific laboratory uses.' The architects interpreted this as a desire to create an ongoing manifesto; a principle of space use that absorbs changes rather than standing still. The interior is no exception. The design aims to ‘open up' the space to many more individuals than usual offices. What kind of ‘experience' should this building offer? The architects aimed to make Shaken Office “a place where everyone can share an experience of our current time‐space, in the belief that the experience of architecture should be open to everyone.” This echoes their wider philosophy.

    “Current architectural style is not a closed loop; an inhabitant of a modernist house can be a lover of ancient ornaments,” says Zerodegree architect Yushi Uehara. “In this context it seems as if architects are free to pick up any style, yet there are many architects who are slaves to a commodity industry that conforms to a hypothetical general public; an approach that often brings mediocre results. Functionalists of 20th century did not choose to enslave themselves. They looked for architecture that offered shelter from a fixed system of actions.”

    "Form follows function” (Louis Sullivan 1896); "Ornament is a crime” (Adolf Loos 1906); if these credos are still alive, why has functionalist architecture now become ‘unempirical’? Zeriodegree are against functionalism if it limits the architect's role within discipline of form. “I am not a formalist and I ratecontent. I aim to construct architecture of experience” says Yushi.

    Travellers passing Shaken Office on the highways see no building detail, only the monolith; twosimilarly proportioned sculptural volumes with large cantilevered floors. One feels gravity there. In doing so the architects added a mode of ‘experience' to the functionalist architecture. Subtledifferences in height - 3.6 metres for the office, 4.25 metres for lab ‐ has become the key to expressing individual experiences. The concept of stacked-up boxes obviously brought places of different sizes that can house diverse dimensions. For this the architects needed one pattern of space organisation for all floor plans. They use this principle to create one neat construction principle that requires minimum material use. The lighter the building is, the less energy it will use to maintain the internal climate.

    The design of the façade is not definitive; the façade panels are perforated steel panels which covers 50% of the ‘second skin’. They aimed to rejuvenate the functionalist architecture with an energetic form. A monolith with sensual translucency, a light body and voluptuous form, the architects call this ‘super-functionalism’, with the rhetoric ‘lightness makes a heavy impression’ at its core.

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