In the Context of the Sky
R07, Jan Vondrák, 29.11.2019
Although it may not seem like it, it is difficult to find freedom in our profession. Any indication of freedom disappears by the time we hand in a design proposal. From this point on comes an incredible amount of bureaucracy, drafting and managerial work necessary, in order for everything to turn out well.
One of our adversaries, rather than partners, are oftentimes the authorities of protected landscape areas. Architectural work in these places is often stifled by harsh, nonsensical rules that don't allow for contemporary buildings. Instead these rules force one to copy houses from the brink of twentieth century, which they call "traditional". What falls by the wayside is a notion of alpine construction as a craft, with its own evolution. When an architect works with an appropriate respect for the landscape, a great piece of architecture can be built. Why then, is it necessary to insist on building replicas of centuries old houses and hide this requirement behind the pretense of landscape protection from the hands of malevolent architects?
What keeps us then from calling a fifteenth century house traditional? Why not a cave? It would be good to start looking for an escape from this archaic way of thinking, and instead, search for ways to get quality contemporary architecture back into our mountains.
There is however one type of structure that doesn't carry much of the aesthetical or traditional baggage. Its design is much more independent then that of regular housing. There are no strict requirements for these and they are unburdened with rules and regulations of protected landscape areas. It might be because their mission is far more virtuous than simply providing a roof over one's head. These are look-out towers.
The design of look-out towers is a discipline on its own. Your site is not a bustling town or a picturesque village - you don't relate to buildings. You build on the backdrop of deep forests, mist, clouds, hills or mountains. You work on the scale of an ant, but also that of entire landscapes. The only truly lasting context here is the context of starry sky. It will be here long after there's no man. Rocks, water and steep slopes define our limits but also create the environment into which we place our building. During these several years of our studio's existence, we have designed more than ten look-out towers. Some of our projects are built, some have gone cold and others are sleeping, waiting before they find their firm footing in the land between starry skies and the ground.
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