One idea that J_spy wants to explore in this project is the color of light. Sunlight is invisible, but if you have been in historic buildings in Madrid, Paris, or Rome, you know the light has a color. The warm golden hue of sunlight is because the sun's rays bounce off the stone of these historic buildings and then project a colored hue of light. Most modern building have thin walls that don't have any opportunity for the sunlight to bounce off a material before entering the space. In The Tim Burton Project, J_spy wants to explore ways for the sunlight to bounce into the space off weathered steel to gain a warm hue to the light. To give the sunlight character.
The Tim Burton Project
At J_spy Architecture, we sometimes experiment with design ideas on self initiated projects. This research project we are calling The Tim Burton Project, a fictitious country house that is to be inhabited by Tim Burton. As always, J_spy will explore design ideas that are part of our firm's DNA, but adding to the mix is our impression of what type of house would be ideal for Tim Burton. Our goal here is to explain why we made certain design decisions to give insight into how J_spy designs our projects.
When designing a ground up structure in the country, there are so many potential options for the size and shape. One of the first decisions we made for this project was to build a tall house with the living space at the top and the bedrooms on the lower floors. Looking at Tim Burton's movies, we see a recurring theme of the protagonist being high up. The sketch to the left is a still from Edward Scissor Hands where Edward's house was up on a high hill looking over suburbia. This is the view of the outcast separated from the rest of society. We are making the assumption that Tim Burton's art is self referential, so we wanted to create opportunities for the living space to have sweeping views of the country side.
With a decision to make the house tall, with the living space on the upper floors, we needed to design a stair experience that is worth the trip. Our solution combines J_spy's love of light and defining creative ways that light passes through to the interior of the space, and our impression that Tim Burton has a fascination with mechanical devices. Many of his movies have conveyor belts, gears, and Rube-Goldburg type contraptions. Below is a sketch from Nightmare Before Christmas where the final fight scene involves a mechanical torture device. As a result of these ideas, J_spy designed the stair to wind it's way around a machine of rotating steel disks that are reminiscent of the interior of a clock. The disks rotate slowly at varying rates to adjust the path of the light passing through the machine, so the light quality varies continuously. Always the goal of J_spy's work is to design spaces that we would want to experience, and we would love to walk up and down this stair.
What material would a house be for Tim Burton? There are some rather dark and gothic representations of buildings in Mr. Burton's movies, but our goal wasn't to try and mimic that aesthetic, rather to try and interpret Mr. Burton's personality into a modern house design. Given this, we took our inspiration from Mr. Burton's love of the beautiful and broken. Many of his characters are depicted as damaged, decayed, or broken, but loved as beautiful. Materials can decay and be beautiful, so for this project we used weathering steel as the primary material of the house exterior. This steel begins life as grey steel, and slowly decays with contact to weather into a rusty orange. We used this material at both the exterior and interior of the house design, so this variation of decay becomes apparent. At interior spaces the steel will rust only partially, where as at the exterior, it will turn a saturated orange.
The floors and ceilings of the project are mostly concrete to best compliment the weathered steel. In addition, J_spy views durability in architecture as environmental sustainability goal. The average newly constructed USA home last between 70-100 years. If not well designed, and deserving of the required maintenance, some of these homes would probably age in less time than that. J_spy hopes to be part of projects that are built to last hundreds of years, but even more than material durability, projects need to be designed well enough so people in the future want to preserve the project. We look at the Brooklyn townhouses, or further afield, very old houses in Europe's cities, that are still around and relevent. The energy and materials used to construct those houses are still a benefit, and by not tearing them down and building new, society is saving our limited material and energy resources.
J_spy purchased The Art of Tim Burton book which is a testament to his love of drawing. Before he was a famous director, he used drawing as a way of expression. Given this importance of art, we designed a studio space for Mr. Burton's house so he has a place to create. Architecturally, we noticed the main characters in his movies tend to be in an attic type space, from the still on the right from Frankenweinie, to Edward Scissorhands, and the barber shop of Sweeny Todd. We took this theme into the design of the studio space of the house and made an "attic" space on the top floor of the design. We specifically designed the studio space to be architecturally distinct from the main body of the house. This was a nod to the traditional attic space, but also a symbol of the outcast high up separated from the rest of the world.
The materiality of the studio attic was another anolgy for decay. An ancient Japanese technique of burning wood to protect it from further decay is still used today. The exterior finish of the studio uses the burned wood that crackles into a pattern akin to a crocodile skin. We think Mr. Burton would have no problem torturing the wood boards with a flame to achieve the desired look.
Finally, being an outcast means living with others can be a bit trying. We are inferring that Mr. Burton might want to have space to get away from worries for a while, so we created a subterranean space that could have been transplanted from a roman ruin or a Swiss bath house. It is a space removed from the world above, a quiet and introspective space. It is also reminiscent of a dungeon, which based on Mr. Burton's fascination with classic monster movies, might be a good thing.
What J_spy is showing with The Tim Burton Project process is a peak into our design process. As much as there might be an initial design idea from a first meeting, the best designs are a process of discovery and evolution. We tell our clients that the initial design phase is the most important part of the project and it is better to spend more time on the first design phase to make sure we have the best solution, because the rest of the architectural process is all about realizing that design. For J_spy, our favorite projects are when we get to work with clients who enjoy the journey as much as J_spy.