As an architect I tend to begin a project by getting to know the person I am working with before I begin to develop a design. I desire to find out what is important to the client. Through experience I have developed an understanding for what works in certain situations and what might be an aesthetic preference. With that in mind I appreciate the fact that each person is different and tends to – see – things differently. That is what makes every project exciting and can potentially lead to new discoveries and wonderful results.
Whether I design a space for an artist or a writer something as fundamental as light can take on a variety of meanings.
For instance, what type of light does a painter prefer. Does the artist paint from life? Do they prefer direct light or a diffused light. Does a writer enjoy the warmth of sunlight on her back? What time do they write? Do they want to sit in a room in which a wall has been bathed in sun – a warm wall? Is he amused or inspired by the way light dances through the leaves of trees? If so, what kinds of trees? Or, what kind of construct can simulate the memory of light dancing through trees … (the subject of my next post). One natural element can have infinite design and experiential possibilities.
The fundamental way in which we experience light in the arena of – work – led me to examine this writing hut designed by writer George Bernard Shaw. The first time I read about the GBS writing hut was in a book entitled ” A Little House of My Own : 47 Grand Designs for 47 Tiny Houses”. Now let me just say that looks can be deceiving. At first glance this is just a simple box with a door and three windows; two of which are fixed. It has a sloping roof to shed rain and snow build up but there is a little secret hidden below. Literally. The hut is built atop a large Lazy Susan.
Now, Lazy Susans have been around for a while. Some even date back to the early 1700’s. Vanity Fair advertised a Lazy Susan in 1917, but it took the creative mind of Bernard Shaw to see it’s potential when combined with a writing hut. The idea was ingenious for a few reasons.
1. It allowed George to write in his hut without having to use an artificial light source. He would just get up (which was a good and healthy thing to do anyway) and give the hut a little turn towards the light.
2. It limited the windows needed for direct light to enter the space. This is important in cold weather. More glass in the cold months made for a cooler working space. By limiting windows to one side of the shed (with only one other window opposite the door) made it possible to work in the hut even in cooler months.
3.The direct sunlight entering the hut created passive solar heating within. Limiting the windows to the one side facing the sun also reduced the amount of heat loss.
4. Last but not least, Bernard was able to pivot the hut in the summer to create a shaded space (passive shading) whenever he desired to do so. Opening the only operable window opposite the open door created natural ventilation.
Shaw’s hut is a beautiful example of function based on nature. It might not be aesthetically pleasing, but there is a beauty to it’s functionality. For that reason I think it is an example of an honest architecture.