Friday, May 21, 2010

Art & Culture: Natural Houses: The Residential Architecture of Andersson-Wise

At first glance, Natural Houses (Princeton Architectural Press) seems very specific. And it is, I suppose. It’s a very tight and beautifully published portfolio of the work of a single design firm: that of Andersson-Wise in Austin, Texas. But those passionate -- or even interested -- in a new design vernacular will do well to have a close look at the living visions of Chris Wise and Arthur Andersson. This really is design for the 21st century. And it’s not that they are the only designers bringing a new and more conscious vision to the homes they are creating. But -- oh! -- they do it so very well. The authors explain:
Our particular architecture is shaped not so much by us but by its place. By this we mean climate, site geology, and site biology: sun, wind, temperature, terrain, structure, orientation -- the things that grow and that can grow here. These elements beckon our engagement and ask for interpretation.
Or, as Rick Sundberg says in a foreword, the firm’s design “addresses the tension between nature and the built environment -- calling into question what we consider natural.”

The book that results from these thoughts -- this aesthetic -- is a series of soaring visits to Andersson-Wise designed homes. It’s an interesting journey, too. Opening our minds to the possibilities not only what can be but what, in some cases, already is.

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