A unified vision is the starting point for any design process.
If we were sitting with you around a table with a glass of water, everyone would agree that the thing they could see was a glass of water. You could call this a unified vision because, from wherever they are sitting, everyone can see the same object. This should be the starting point for any design process.
To get to that point, we listen to every perspective – the client’s, investors’, engineers’, scientists’, to those speaking on behalf of the environment, politics, the local authority and the city planners, assessing and then reflecting all their needs in our scheme, as clearly as the water in the glass. Importantly, this is also what the end users would see.
A common complaint is that the initial proposal and completed building are two entirely different animals. Planners and local communities, contractors and the construction industry will be consulted post proposal and compromise the scheme. We work it the other way round so that the proposal is only completed once we have established everyone’s needs. Then we stick to them, sealing them into what we call our BLACK BOX process.
SCULPTING THE VOID
Where space and light begins is just as important as where walls and boundaries end.
Sculpting the void is our unique approach to shaping the spaces that surrounded and intersperse built forms.
Too often, public space is merely regarded as an absence. Treated with as little consideration for people as is given to objects, the spaces between buildings are filled randomly with questionable art pieces and urban furniture.
We view public space as an entity in itself, and more importantly, as an opportunity for presence. For us, architecture creates the background, and it is these engaging social areas that become the foreground.
How do you create an environment where both visitors and inhabitants feel an immediate sense of comfort, belonging or respect?
Public space is too often conceived of as an absence instead of a presence, with designers merely dressing its material boundaries with cosmetic ornament, shaping its ground with minimal landscaping and arbitrarily filling it with autonomous sculptures, benches and fountains. Public space is reduced to the neutral plinth on which art and architecture are displayed. Therefore, it is produced with little consideration for the people who inhabit it and must coexist with these forms. What happens if space is treated as an entity in itself, if its form is considered just as much as the form of architecture? This means considering the spatial networks that connect buildings, thinking in terms of relationships and not just objects. Architecture can become the ‘background’, a stage where diverse groups can become the ‘foreground’ and create their own meanings.
The cities we love are the places where we can enjoy being in the thick of it on the ground.
Cities like Venice or New York, where even getting lost can be meaningful, yielding chance meetings and exchanges of ideas. Creativity sparks and business gets done.
These are places where everyone is forced to engage, but it is to one’s benefit. It is where one has to negotiate: negotiate one’s own patch of land; negotiate one’s own route through the crowds; negotiate over the price of a pound of apples.
We aim to return symbolic meaning and importance back to public spaces, encouraging engagement and fostering communication. Once used as power statements, public spaces have become focused on consumers, designed only for transience. The public spaces of the 21st century moved the center of towns to the peripheral mega structure, airports, train stations and shopping malls, places where one has to keep moving and everybody seems to be in your way.
Mobility is the only option in these spaces, with no time to be present in any other way. The Urban Room is a quest to recover places where ‘immobility’ is allowed, places recreating a sense of well-being with others, where meeting, seeing and sharing with the community is as important as buying space, time and objects.
What is it that makes a visitor feel immediately welcome, that draws them back again and again to a particular spot to linger, to observe people going about their daily lives and feel part of something covetable?
It is not simply a sense of beauty and grandeur, impressive but overwhelming; it is the sense that life is present, that narratives are intersecting and weaving themselves into a wider tapestry of sights and sounds, of community hustle and bustle that envelops them and draws them right into the very heart of a place. A glimpse into a courtyard reveals a home. Memories of home are universal: it is the sights, smells and sounds of the household; home is sharing food and sharing stories.
Space for stories
The stories of our homes and of our lives need a space to happen. This space is inscribed with a sense not only of its inhabitants, but of its ancestors, with their cultural achievements and, most importantly, with the stories that have shaped it in the past. The curve of a road reveals the electricity lines it once followed; the shape of a square echoes the market where fruit and vegetables were sold.
Colour, sound, movement: all the excitement of celebration and shared joy and laughter on the streets from the past feeds into the present and spills out into future generations. Architecture can establish a dialogue between past and present, public and private, creating a sustainable space for communities to grow.
The architect has the difficult task of balancing the requirements of the different people that live in a development and reconciling the existing framework with current demands. The connection between successful sustainable projects is a conceptual one, and closely relates to the new approach to the public realm developed by Mossessian Architecture.
Sustainability is not a fashionable piece of jargon but a genuine design process. This is not simply a new style; it requires a completely new mindset that informs the design process from start to finish: from the Black Box to the built vision.
THE BLACK BOX
Key to our collaborative design approach is Michel’s unique Black Box process, which underpins every project we deliver.
This technique rids any preconceptions of the project, instead identifying all the key factors and listening to the requirements of the key figures involved. We can then establish a strong project vision from the outset and ensure this vision is upheld throughout the design and construction process.
People and communities are at the very heart of our work, and by considering the end-user throughout, the Black Box creates a clear route to successful places to work, live and play.