Portfolio project
Symétriades: visualising contemporary music

Thibaut Devulder

View of our live projection mapped onto the performance stage

Symétriades/Extension is a visual experience that we created for an eponymous contemporary music piece for solo double bass and musical artificial intelligence.

Commissioned by Le Fresnoy - Studio National des Arts Contemporains in France, this art performance was presented at a contemporary music festival in October 2018.

In this project, art director Alain Fleischer and music composer Yann Robin wanted to express the idea of an abstract immolation of the soloist through the performance of this powerful musical piece, “plunging the audience into an immersive experience of engulfment” and “a fusion between the worlds of the seen and the heard.”

We developed with the artists a scenography and live video projections generated in real-time by the sounds and movements of the musician on stage, merging the expressionist visual universe of Alain Fleischer with poetic elements from Stanislaw Lem’s book Solaris.

This is what I call an immersive experience! It was incredible to witness my own avatars being destroyed in real time, as I performed the piece.

2hD’s work, under the artistic benevolence of Alain Fleischer, gave an exponential dimension to Yann Robin’s composition, merging the visual and musical architectures into one.
Nicolas Crosse, soloist in the performance
 

Extract from Yann Robin’s musical score, codifying the complex movements of the soloist on the double bass (image © Yann Robin)

Symétriades as a musical piece

Composed in 2013 by Yann Robin, Symétriades is the second opus of three abstract compositions, all titled after the incomprehensible architectural formations described in Lem’s fictitious discipline of solaristics.

Inspired by and written for Nicolas Crosse’s double-bass powerful playing technique, the composition of the musical piece also includes an artificial intelligence that reprocesses in real-time the soloist’s live performance. This electronic system, developed at the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music (IRCAM), distorts, filters and reconfigures the music into a network of 8 loudspeakers and 4 sub-woofers that spatialise the sounds around the audience.

 

The visual experience

The artists wanted to visually express the contained ferocity of the music, using the metaphor of the bass as an instrument of self destruction.

Echoing some of the themes from Lem’s enigmatic book, we constructed the visual narrative of the performance as a succession of digital incarnations of the bass player.

Overlaid onto his physical presence on stage as video projections, each of these “doppelgänger” gets corrupted and eventually destroyed under the assaults of the sounds and movements of the musician on stage. Progressively turning into an abstracted version of his image, it finally recomposes itself into a purely abstract visual representation of the music.

To achieve this, our approach mixed real-time filming, 3D motion analysis of the musician on stage and sound analysis. We coded a custom computer program that could dynamically create and composite layers of animations over the image of the musician being projected onto the stage and coordinate them with the electronic sound processing.

The dynamic nature of our system allowed the video projections to adjust to the improvisations of the musician during the performance — something that the musical score specifically encourages during certain parts of the piece!

 

Double-bass solist Nicolas Crosse during rehearsals, seen through the shifting moiré of the translucent projection screens of our scenography.

The scenography

In parallel to the visual effects, we also designed a stage scenography for the performance.

From an early stage, we wanted to keep the powerful delivery of the soloist at the centre of the visual experience. Its perception by the audience should therefore be altered not only by the means of digital video projections, but also through the physical, direct medium of the scenography.

Playing with the perception of depth, we shrouded the stage with multiple layers of finely meshed black fabrics. These translucent surfaces create the screen for the video projections superimposed onto the stage and blur the projection into an elusive volumetric presence.

Positioned between the audience and the stage, they further distort the direct sight of the bass player through shifting patterns of moiré, adding to the expressionist makeup and costume of the performer, and echoing the liquid nature of the book’s protoplasmic being. Modulating the contrast between stage lighting and video projections, we could also shift the audience’s focus between the performer on stage and his abstract projected doubles.

 

The creative process

As we developed and refined the effects over the course of the production phase, we produced a series of video prototypes that precisely simulated the effects, based on high-definition videos and 3D captures taken during the first rehearsal. This allowed the involved artists to visualise the performance in real conditions at each design iteration, keeping the artistic discussion open and adjustments to the system simple.

We also took care of sorting out the technical solutions for the performance, selecting adequate equipment and producing detailed 3D models of the scenography and technical workflows, so that its feasibility could be checked with the technical team as the project developed.

Credits for the project

Art direction: Alain Fleischer
Music composer: Yann Robin
Double bass soloist: Nicolas Crosse
Electronic sound treatment: Robin Meier
Scenography & live video projection system: 2hD
Production manager: Bertrand Scalabre
Stage manager: Alexis Noël
Sound setup: Geoffrey Durcak
Production: Le Fresnoy - Studio National des Arts Contemporains, in co-production with L’Ensemble Multilaterale


Are you an artist working with interactive installations or performances?

Portfolio project
A feasibility study for the housing development in Oslo

Thibaut Devulder

In this project, we helped a housing developer unlock the potential of a complex site in the beautiful neighbourhood of Nordstrand, in Oslo. Bringing together our skills in site analysis and visualisation, we designed and presented alternative development strategies for the site, helping the developer and the site owner to build architecture that is both inspiring and financially viable.

A visualisation of the site with sun access at different season, as part of our site anany

A visualisation of the site with sun access at different season, as part of our site anany

A view of the site before development, with its mature trees and steep north-facing rocky slope at the back

Surrounding by elegant villas with fantastic views to Oslo Fjord, the undeveloped site had a complex topography, with a north-facing rocky slope dropping 11 meter drop across the site, overgrown with several large mature trees.

This unusual configuration made the site unsuitable for standard off-the-shelf housing solutions. So the developer asked us to assess the viability of a development and to bring in some creative thinking to showcase the potential of the site to the site owner.

Analysing the site

Using available topographic information and photos, we started by creating a 3D model of the site landscape and its surrounding, which would serve as the basis for our analysis and presentation.

The various layers of planning regulations for the site were then analysed and compiled into a clear set of constraints applying to the project. The surrounding architectural context was also carefully taken into consideration, so that the development would not only integrated with the landscape, but also related meaningfully with the existing architectural language and scale of the residential area.

Our visual representation of the constraints on the complex site considerably simplified the decision-making process for the developer

Identifying viable development options and their planning consequences

Presenting these constraints visually, together with topographic and climatic data, we summarised a set of alternative scenarios for the development, each with the associated areas, possible building forms, parking and access requirements and consequences on the potential complexity of the planning process.

With all information clearly summarised, the developer could easily review the options — weighing costs versus complexity of the required planning process — to select an optimal development scale matching his financial and marketing approach.

Thinking with the landscape

With the project scale now clearly defined (in our case, three single family units), we proceeded with structuring the site and developed alternative architectural strategies based on this scenario.

Our focus was on preserving the natural feel of the site, making the most of the existing topography and vegetation to create attractive outdoor spaces with extensive access to the sun for a large part of the year, despite the awkward orientation of the site.

The dwellings were articulated around the different levels of the landscape to minimise groundworks on the site, preserve the existing trees and promote accessibility.

Their volumes were laid out to reduce self-shading of the garden areas, balancing open communal outdoor areas with more private garden spaces linked to each dwelling, framing view from the living spaces and preserving a feeling of privacy from neighbours.

Taking an informed decision

The result was five alternative architectural strategies that could be presented to the developer to the site owner.

We organised our presentation around clear diagrams that visually summarised each strategy, with site plans, massing perspectives and outline dwelling organisations. so that the site owner — who had no previous experience in development — could appreciate the potential of the site and take inform decisions about its future.

Portfolio project
Mission Control: an experimental hairy micro-office

Tom Hughes

Nicknamed "Mission Control", our broom-clad micro-office is an exercise in teleportation, designed to take us from the everyday hurly burly to a another world — one of calm, quiet and focus. 

 

The inception of Mission Control

Our UK office was a home office — not squeezed in to a back bedroom but occupying a large ground floor room with direct access to the main entrance and the garden. For some years this served us well, but the arrival of children led inevitably to a loss of separation. As any home-working architect will testify, the room with all the paper and colouring pens is a kid magnet!

To some extent, the injection of informality improved things — collaborations became looser, more relaxed and more creative — but we were left with the need for a ‘cave’ to complement our increasingly lively ‘commons’.

Our working practices have always involved two very distinct modes. The first is highly collaborative and semi-structured, requiring large surfaces, space and materials for analogue production of drawings and models. The second, as a counterpoint, requires periods of immersion in focussed digital design and production work. Our existing home office provided ideal conditions for the former, but creating the conditions for the latter was always extremely difficult.

 

The new office matches the exact volume and footprint of this old shed

Crafting a solution

In the garden was glazed shed, built by the previous owner from repurposed corrugated iron, old windows, offcuts of vinyl and pieces of timber. Rickety in the extreme, we nevertheless blessed it with the name “Mission Control” because it was a great place to retreat to when setting off fireworks on bonfire night.

We decided the replacement for this shed would become our garden office.

 

 

The rise of the garden office has been met by a multitude of packaged solutions, and some truly wonderful bespoke designs. But nothing we could find in the market met our slightly odd needs. 

We also felt the urge to make, at 1:1 scale and with our own hands, something that we had designed from scratch. So we decided to embark on a highly personal journey into design and build.

We designed Mission Control as a sort of antithesis of "the contemplation space with landscape views and flowing inside-outside space". We needed a cell, removed from physical context and worldly distraction, where we could retreat to immerse ourselves in brain work.

Our intention was that the building should create three totally separate experiences: an enigmatic exterior, a serene interior and a ceremonial commute to work...

 

An inscrutable box in the garden

Without any visible door or window the outer facades are entirely clad in natural coco-fibre broom heads: details and junctions are largely concealed, as the broom bristles interlock to provide a continuous and visually diffuse surface. Thus giving no clue as to its status as occupied or empty, the structure existing merely as an object of intrigue.

This is a reverse Tardis: much smaller on the inside than it appears from the outside. The difference in volumes results from the simple shed-like pitched roof hidden behind the parapet. The polycarbonate surface of the roof only pops through the brush cladding to divert — yet eliminates familiar details like fascias and gutters, which would make the box readable as an archetypal shed or garden office. 

The mysterious object, as seen from our collaborative office space

Corner detail of the coco-fibre broom cladding

 

One of the two focussed workstation inside Mission Control

A serene enclosure

The space within is a comfortable and calm isolation chamber for undisturbed concentration. Two back-to-back desks are nested under the low ceilings, reminiscent of the containment created by the sloping ceiling of an artist’s garret. 

Interior walls and ceilings are clad with whitewashed plywood, which adds to the calm and natural feeling environment. The breathable walls, wrapped with sheep’s wool insulation, create a healthy internal environment that is easily heated by body warmth and waste heat from computers.

Daylight and ventilation are provided by a single hidden skylight that perforates through the reflective roof surface. 

View into the garden through the open sliding door, clad in brooms

 

A ceremonial commute

Commuting to work in Mission Control is an important symbolic process: the full experience of ‘going to work’ is here in condensed and enhanced form.

Leaving the house, and travelling the 4 metre journey to the door of the office, provides just enough time to calm and focus. 

Entering the building requires interaction: finding the ‘secret panel’ broom head, sliding back the heavy screen door and pushing through the solid leaf behind...

This is a little ritual that requires concentration and creates distance from whatever else is on your mind. As the door clunks shut behind you, the box seals itself and the separation is complete. Let focus begin.

The boom cladding, momentarily shifted to reveal the space within

How to enter our broom-clad office...

Update: Mission Control has been featured on architecture magazines and websites around the world, including ArchDailydesignboom, TreeHuggerNew AtlasinHabitat and Dwell.


Portfolio project
A sensitive contemporary extension

Tom Hughes

How to extend a 1930s 'Arts and Crafts' style detached house? One approach would be to mimic the original building, but that's not always the most sensitive or responsive solution.

The proposed extension takes a back seat to the original house

Our clients asked us to extend their house over a dilapidated single storey 'lean-to' garage, to provide a couple of new bedrooms. They also needed more ground floor space to connect properly with their garden.

Looking at the street scene, it was immediately clear that development pattern was characterised by detached houses with relatively low-key side extensions, containing garages, porches and sheds. To extend with a typical two-storey pitched-roof building would change this pattern and detract from the prominence of the 1930s house. Instead we proposed a subservient, low pitched roof that would sit below the existing building's eaves and drop down into the slope of the land. This would be clad in dark-stained vertical timber boarding, reminiscent of a number of 1930s modernist buildings - a different style but still contemporary with the original.

The extension sits into the sloping site to protect neighbours' views and daylight

Having consulted neighbours and the planning officer, we carefully explained this strategy through our planning application drawings and Design and Access Statement (DAS). This latter document is often seen as a bit of a token gesture on small scale project like this, but we see it as an opportunity to explain the care we have taken in our design and the various options considered along the way.

Massing options considered during design development

We were successfully able to make a case to go against the planning officer's pre-planning advice to use a pitched roof —  it was a sensible suggestion and not one we rejected out of hand, but by careful analysis of the particular setting of this building we arrived at the conclusion that in this case, a pitched roof would not be the best way to go.

The end result will be a sensitively designed contemporary extension that extends the living space and amenities of the home without impinging on the neighbours or detracting from the proud character of the original house.

 

 

Portfolio project
Ooo-Ya-Tsu, an art performance

Thibaut Devulder

We like to describe Ooo-Ya-Tsu as an art performance of "collaborative soundscape painting", exploring the interaction between the gestures of classical hand-drawing, animated computer graphics and electronic music.

Ooo-Ya-Tsu is the fruit of our collaboration with visual art collective Qubo Gas and musician Olivier Durteste (a.k.a DDDxie), which took place during a series of artist residencies and public presentations between 2013 and 2016.

2hD takes part in the live public performances of Ooo-Ya-Tsu, but also developed the computer programme that drove the interaction between the drawing instruments (pencils and paint brushes), the video projection on the canvas and the musical instruments.

A short video of the performance, filmed during one of our public presentations at the multimedia festival Les Pixels, in Beauvais (France)

What is Ooo-Ya-Tsu

The layering of watercolour painting and animated video projection during one of our Ooo-Ya-Tsu performances

Taking place in the midst of the audience, three visual artists draw simultaneously on a large paper canvas laying on the floor, using pencils and watercolour brushes. Each of their actions leaves physical traces on the canvas, but also creates flurries of colours and animated collages — superimposed by a video projection that tracks their drawings movements — as well as layers of sounds and musical rhythms that build on the musical performance of the musician, sitting next to the paper canvas.

Responding to these new sound patterns, the musician himself adjusts his own live composition using electronic music instruments, creating in turn new visual effects on the paper canvas and influencing the live actions of the drawing artists.

As the performance unfolds, a complex graphical and musical dialogue develops between its different actors — each influencing the others' work, while all collaborate interactively to create a unique sound and visual landscape.

Inspired by the principles of phase music, the different rhythmic and visual layers of this landscape come in and out of focus: sometimes momentarily revealing the different musical and graphical universes that constitute them, sometimes recombining them into complex abstract patterns. Until eventually, both music and projected animations begins to evolve autonomously, continuing to shift and echo long after the performance of the actors themselves is over.

Creating Ooo-Ya-Tsu

At the centre of the Ooo-Ya-Tsu performance is a custom-made computer programme created by 2hD, using the Processing programming language. This powerful language allowed us to develop a system that allowed linking all the different aspects of the performance, combining motion tracking, video projections, interactions with physical objects and simulations of autonomous particle systems...

A video showing alternative views of the performance programme in debug mode, revealing the interactions between the graphical particles, as well as the sound phasing partition (scrolling at the bottom).

The visual aesthetic of Ooo-Ya-Tsu is based on the dream-like imagery of French art collective Qubo Gas, whose work poetically combines painstakingly intricate paintings and collage techniques, with scales ranging from miniature to architectural.

Having scanned a series of artwork they produced for the performance, we programmed the system to dynamically recombined them into an near-infinite number of different collages.

These images could then be superimposed and animated onto the paper canvas, responding to the physical ink forms drawn on the canvas during the live performance, which are analysed by the programme in real-time using infra-red cameras.

The modular aspect of the Processing language also allowed us to combine existing programming libraries to interact remotely with the musician's live performance: triggering visual events in response to certain of his composition patterns or sounds, but also playing sounds directly on his electronic instruments in response to drawing actions on the canvas.

The resulting soundtrack of the performance is a layered composition of phase-shifting abstract samples, overlapping and structuring DDDxie's live electronic music:

Details of some of the watercolour images hand-painted by Qubo Gas and used by our programme to generate the animated projections on the paper canvas.

Despite its technical complexity, we conceived Ooo-Ya-Tsu so that the technological aspects of the performance remained mostly inconspicuous, keeping the focus instead on Qubo Gas' poetical hand drawings, the materiality of the paper medium and DDDxie's layered and minimalist sound compositions.

In 2013, the Ooo-Ya-Tsu performance was awarded a production grant from the prestigious Centre National du Cinéma et de l'image animée (CNC), in France.


Ooo-Ya-Tsu's public appearances:

Institutions supporting Ooo-Ya-Tsu:

The Ooo-Ya-Tsu performance was developed and produced with the support of: L'Aéronef / Le Cube / La Malterie / Pictanovo / Société Civile des Auteurs Multimédia (SCAM) / Centre National du Cinéma et de l'image animée (CNC) / La Gare Numérique


Are you an artist interested in interactive installations and performances?


Interested in hosting Ooo-Ya-Tsu for a public presentation or an artist residency?

Portfolio project
Remodeling a family home in Bærum

Thibaut Devulder

We have just finalised the design for the remodeling and extension of a family house in Bærum, near Oslo. The detailed drawings package has now been sent to potential builders and, before construction starts this spring, we would like to share some of the ideas behind our design approach.

Sketch view of the redesigned home, approaching the new entrance

About our clients

Our clients, a young Norwegian couple with a toddler, had purchased a derelict detached house in the neighbourhood of Gjettum. The existing house had been divided into two rental apartments, one on each floor, connected by a shared entrance staircase.

Their plan was to merge these two floors into a single family home, where they would live and host frequent gatherings with their large extended family. The structure and footprint of the existing house was to remain mostly unchanged, but its fabric upgraded to meet modern environmental standards. Our clients were also considering the option of accommodating a rental apartment within the house, to create some additional income until they needed the whole house for their growing family

The existing house

The general feeling of the existing house was somewhat claustrophobic: the redundant spaces created by the two identical floor plans, the small cellular rooms and window-less corridors, the few oversized windows... All contributed to the impression of undersized spaces. A large garden surrounds the house but this was completely disconnected from the interior. It was also mostly spoiled by a garage and a long driveway to the south boundary of the site, which made the approach to the building unwelcoming.

Floor plans of the existing house (click for full view)

The existing house, viewed from the street approach

Our design strategy

An obvious solution would have been to extend the house to open up the main living spaces. However, as in many of our projects, we focussed on making the most of the existing building. Key to this approach was to reconnect the various living spaces — both interior and exterior — so that the different architectural functions could flow into one another.

Our design strategy, as presented to our clients during the sketch design phase. Drawn on top of the floor plan of the existing house (click for a full view)

Connecting the social spaces

Our first step was to move bedrooms to the upper floor, so that we could gather all social spaces on the ground floor, just a step away from the garden. We then removed a few internal walls to open two long perspectives across the whole ground floor. This created a close connection to the garden, making it both visible and easily accessible from all living spaces.

These spaces — where eating, relaxing and socialising take place — naturally organised themselves around these open lines, articulated by the existing staircase and a new wood stove. Each living space is designed with its own sense of scale and openness. Yet, it can be used as an extension of another, giving maximum flexibility both for everyday life and for the large social gatherings that our clients love to host.

The kitchen — the natural heart of the house for the family — is now placed at the very centre of this plan and is connected to all surrounding social spaces. A screen of open shelving wraps around the kitchen, to subtly shelter it and discretely accommodate storage, appliances and a study (that doubles as an accessible guest bedroom) on the north-east.

Opening up to the garden

Each of the living-rooms extends to the garden through large French doors: on the south-east, onto a large timber terrace stepping down to the main garden, and on the south-west to a more private terrace that opens the dining room to the evening sun. Since all windows had to be replaced, we took this opportunity to redesign many of the openings to the garden, drawing daylight from different directions in all spaces and carefully framing attractive views to the outdoors.

To the south, we created a new functional and welcoming entrance to the house that also accommodates an accessible modern bathroom. Both this small extension and the new garage (relocated closer to the access road) are designed with similar flat roof details and horizontal cladding, contrasting with the taller existing house. Together, they frame an attractive new approach to the house that echoes the traditional "tun" of Norwegian farmyards, under the dappled shade of newly planted cherry trees.

An overview of the ground floor in relation to the garden (click for full size)

The remodelled basement, with its separate rental apartment

The private spaces

A new family bathroom and four bedrooms are located on the upper floor. One of these rooms doubles up as a separate TV/play room, where extra guests can stay overnight.

The basement is also remodelled: two thirds of it are transformed into a comfortable self contained apartment, which will be rented out to tenants before becoming an integral part of the house for family guests and teenager children. The large new windows bring plenty of daylight into the space and the separate access to the north and landscaping create a small private garden for the tenants. The remaining space in the basement accommodates a large washroom, as well as the technical installations and storage.

Comfort and sustainability

As part of the remodeling, we upgraded the whole house to meet current energy conservation standards, externally insulating the fabric of the building and replacing the existing windows with highly insulated ones.

We also made the most of the panoramic wood stove on the ground floor by coupling it with a modern balanced ventilation system: diffusing the stove heat in the whole house — including the four bedrooms upstairs— we could design the house so that most of the heating needs would be provided by renewable firewood, while also keeping optimal indoor air quality.


Portfolio project
A seaside cabin in Hvitsten

Thibaut Devulder

Sketch impression of the remodeled cabin, looking at the fjord from the playroom

We love to design cabins, as they bring together so many of our design interests.

First, our predilection for architecture in remote (and often sensitive) natural locations, to create small thresholds where man meets nature, where minimal environmental footprint and limited access call for an economy of means.

And we are fond of designing tiny spaces — creating places rich in human interactions and intricate functions where people can really "key in" with the architecture, bringing back the simple joy of being together, sheltered from the elements.

But as importantly, cabins also act as social nodes where the complex community of the different generations in a family or in a group of friends congregate, each with their different needs, expectations and desires, making for a challenging but fascinating briefing process.

This redesign of a seaside cabin in Hvitsten, on the shore of the Oslo fjord, brought all these aspects together and was a nice counterpoint to our earlier design of a skiing winter cabin in the mountains of Hedmark.

A small stream flowing between the existing cabins

About the project

As is often the case with Norwegian cabins, our clients for this project spanned over three generations. Initially built in the 1950s by the great-grandfather, the summer cabin and its small sleeping annex have been used ever since by the family for spring and summer holidays.

The extended families are now struggling to all fit in the cabins, which has become both too small and in need of repair. Now retired, the grandfather and his partner also want to use the cabin a lot more throughout the year, so they needed the uninsulated cabin to be upgraded for the winter climate and wished to have a real bathroom installed.

All had cherished childhood memories of the cabin and wanted to preserve as much of its exterior aspect and rustic character as possible. So, their requirement to comfortably fit in up to twelve sleeping guests for occasional extended family gatherings called for inventive remodelling and renovation, considering their tight budget!

Looking at the existing cabins

Perched against a steep rocky hillside overlooking the sea, the cabins face south-west into a breathtaking view of the Oslo fjord and its slow ballet of sailboats and cruise ships.

The Oslo fjord, as seen from the main cabin

Plans of the existing cabins

In the main cabin, the small living room actually had a large window opening towards the fjord, but the kitchen and meal area — central to family life in the cabin — were situated behind it, in the darkest part of space of cabin, right against the rock face to the north. The other facades of the cabin were essentially blind because of a small hallway and the two bedrooms to the west. As a result, the main daytime social spaces had no visual connection with either the covered porch to the south-west or the sleeping cabin to the west, both of them often used in the mornings and evenings for informal meals and drinks.

Typical of spaces with light coming from only one direction, this configuration made the living room and meal area appear strangely gloomy, as the large window created a glare effect in contrast with the other darker and unlit interior surfaces. Built to look straight onto the fjord through this large window, the space had only short interior perspectives, making it appear more cramped and small than it actually was.

Situated a few meters downhill and to the west, the sleeping annex had a quiet simplicity to it, nested in the overgrown vegetation and straddling a small stream in the rocks. Unfortunately, an improvised shower had been installed inside a few years back without proper ventilation and created damp problems, so that in addition to being overcrowded, its sleeping rooms had also become uncomfortable.

Welcoming everyone

The initial plan was to integrate the existing porch into the main cabin, to create an extra bedroom. While this made sense to accommodate more guests, we all agreed that this compounded some of the existing problems, in particular closing off the main cabin from the fjord.

From two to fourteen sleeping guests! (click for full size) 

Turning the problem around, we actually removed one bedroom from the main cabin, thus keeping only one for the most frequent occupants of the cabin: the grand-father and his partner.

We carefully checked the feasibility of our proposal by preparing a comprehensive list of use scenarios, from one couple to up to fourteen sleeping guests! We found that moving the shower out of the sleeping annex, ventilating it properly and making some slight adjustments to its interior layout and bedding would allow eight people to comfortably sleep there. All this could be done at minimum cost, so that most of the available budget could be dedicated to the main cabin.

Now remained the task of optimising the shared daytime spaces in the main cabin. And this was essential: every parent can imagine the intense atmosphere when up to three families, including young children, are stuck together indoors for a whole rainy afternoon! Thus, in addition to creating functional living quarters, we also needed to organise sub-spaces within this small cabin, so that everyone could define his or her comfortable own space.

A niche in the rocks

We approached this task from two different angles.

Our design strategy for the remodelling the main cabin, drawn over the plan of the existing cabin (click for full size).

First, we created two different sub-spaces: one for the adults, facing the fjord, more social and relaxing, and one more playful for the children, cradled against the vegetation of the shaded cliff face. These two spaces intersect around the dinner table, the natural converging point for the whole family.

Then, we connected these spaces to the outdoors by nesting these sub-spaces around generous openings — not just towards the fjord, but also towards the sleeping cabin wrapped in overgrown vegetation down to the west, the mossy rocks at the north and the sunbathed terrace to the south — to create a dual feeling of spaciousness and enclosure.

Sketch impression of the remodeled seaside cabin, looking across the living room

Although the main living space remains compact, it feels opened to the light patterns and textures of its natural surroundings.

Frequently eating out during the summer months, the kitchen and dining area extend out onto a terrace that is stepping down, so as to maintain unobstructed views of the sea horizon, even when terrace parasols are used or the large awning on the south facade is deployed. The terrace also acts as a connecting point between the main cabin, the play garden and the shaded path to the sleeping cabin.

The proposed plan for the main cabin (click for full size)

Fitting it all together

Space was very limited inside the main cabin, so we concentrated most of the storage along the west wall, designed as a large oak surface perforated by the kitchen and large window niche where children can sit and play. To make sure that everything fitting nicely, we produced a detailed specification for these densely fitted interior — both in Norwegian and in English, at the clients' request.

We love to involve our clients in the building process. And since one of them is keen on woodworking, we had a design session together to develop together the design of open screen between kitchen and sitting, which also will also integrate coat/shoe storage, seating, a book shelf and the TV equipment. He will later on build it himself.

The very basic existing drainage and electric systems were upgraded to cater for the new bathroom and appliances. The cladding was damaged and needed replacing, so we insulated the whole building fabric and fitted new energy-efficient windows. Along with a flexible shading system and ample provisions for natural ventilation, our clients will be able to enjoy their cabin all-year round!


Portfolio project
Squint: a micro-exhibition module

Thibaut Devulder

Mining some of our old files recently, we dug up this little gem from 2006: a mobile exhibition module we called Squint. It's an installation we originally designed for a competition in Calgary, for the temporary transformation of an urban space situated under a railway bridge.

Squint in the streets of Calgary (from our competition entry in 2006)

Excited by the idea of the self-building something we would then send to the other side of the world, we took the approach of a foldable crate system that could be deployed in an unlimited number of configurations, playfully modulating the openness — or enclosure — of the micro exhibition space it hosted.

Set on its site and then manipulated by the public, the articulated and perforated little structure offered glimpses of its content to passers-by, "leaking" some of its content to the surrounding urban space.

In another context: Nottingham's Exchange Arcade...

And of course, for easy transportation, the whole thing can be neatly folded into a tiny, self-contained crate containing both the panels and the exhibition materials, ready for shipping!

This was a fun little project and maybe something to prototype again?
Interested? Get in touch with us!

Portfolio project
A skiing cabin on Sjusjøen

Thibaut Devulder

Entrance of the existing cabin

Planning permission has been granted to our project on the stunning settings of Sjusjøen, north of Lillehammer, Norway.

Overlooking the well-known Norwegian cross-country ski resort, this small mountain cabin, built in the late 1960s by the client's parents, had become too small for her extended family. The client wanted to remodel and extend it to accommodate family gatherings. With no running water in the kitchen and only two sleeping spaces, the cabin also lacked sufficient indoor storage to accommodate more than two guests.

Emotionally attached to the cabin, the client wanted our intervention to address these issues, yet preserve the modest scale of the building, as well as most of its interior and exterior finishes and furniture — some of them hand-made by her father.

We tackled the challenge by extending the cabin towards the west. Shifting the entrance to the other side of the cabin greatly simplified winter access, avoiding snow drifts from the roof and reaching out closer to the car parking space. More importantly, this allowed us to create a central spine running through the extension.

Linking together the extension and the existing cabin, this spine accommodates extensive storage spaces serving the master and guest bedrooms, where luggage can be droppped on arrival without cluttering the living rooms.

Clad in timber slats, contrasting with the other materials of the cabin, the spine acts a functional and visual link between old and new, sheltering the sleeping quarters from the common spaces.

At the end of the spine, minimal reorganisation of internal partitions allowed for a compact and comfortable kitchen and bathroom, with minimum alterations to the existing plumbing.

The wind lobby and storage were moved from the original access to the new entrance, with the addition of a ski preparation room. In their place, a new living room was modelled into the existing building fabric — opening up the cabin to the fantastic views to the wild marsh on the east and the sun's warmth to the south.

Externally, the extension matches the scale and appearance of the existing cabin. The two bodies however are connected by a section with a lower roof and cladding matching the sheltering slats of the existing entrance, clearly identifying the new from the old.

Inside, most of the floor and wall finishes of the existing wing are preserved. The new spaces, to the west and south, however, contrast with their sloped ceiling and stained boarding.


Portfolio project
Self-build house on a Norwegian hillside

Thibaut Devulder

The single-family house we designed on a hillside of Eidsvoll, in Norway, is now under construction by our self-builder client. Created as two wings intersecting with the landscape, the design reconciled our clients' wishes for both discrete privacy and openness to the surrounding woodlands.

Sketch impression of the house with its two intersecting wings, from which the terraces cascade into the forest

Moving out of their current undersized house in the same town, the family wanted to settle on one of the plots owned by the family (we helped the client masterplan this area back in 2011). The plot is situated on an ideally oriented hillside with woodlands at its doorstep and great views to the surrounding countryside.

We designed the family house to clearly separate public spaces receiving visitors (including a small home office) and the more private parts of the house. These two realms are organised in separate wings, articulated by two intersecting gables. At this intersection, an open atrium links the two levels and a sheltered outdoor porch opens up towards the adjacent woodlands to the south-west, stepping down into the landscape through a series of cascading terraces.

Interior view of the atrium, at the intersection of the two wings (Photo @ Caroline Prøven Brohaug)

The external form of the house also responded to the height restrictions of the local planning rules and the steep site slope. Despite the site steepness, the house benefits from a full wheelchair access to all key functions of the home.

Privacy from the existing neighbouring apartment building (also owned by the client) was preserved by vertical timber fins along the facade, framing the views and giving a common vocabulary to the different elevations.

Foundation and groundworks are almost completed and the timber superstructure (insulated with natural cellulose fibres) will be completed before the first snow, at the end of November.


Portfolio project
Aalto 2015 Campus masterplan

Thibaut Devulder

Images have just been published by Oslo's Various Architects of a masterplan for the Aalto 2015 Campus on the Espoo peninsula, close to Helsinki.

We collaborated with Various (with whom we share our office in Oslo) and UK consulants Ramboll on the masterplan for this competition entry.

Our approach revisited the idea of the Garden City for which Espoo is considered a Modernist masterpiece. At the core of our design was the Mesh, a three dimensional timber structure extending out of the teaching facilities and workshops into the public spaces. The mesh weaves together social interactions and experimental learning on multiple levels of circulation.

See more on the Divisare website.

Images © Various Architects — published on October 04, 2013 

Portfolio project
Gaarder Gården

Thibaut Devulder

Our design for a mixed development project in Eidsvoll, Norway, has been granted planning permission and work has started on site in Sundet, the historical centre of Eidsvoll, on the bank of the Vorma river.

View of the existing building in context from the riverside theatre 

View of the existing building from south

Since its original construction, this building has seen its use change several times, from textile shop to (most recently) an indian restaurant, with each conversion bringing its new remodelling and awkward lean-to extensions added to the existing log timber building, further blurring the old and the new into a cacophonic mix of styles and functions.

We were approached by the client to reorganise the building into a mixed use development, including retail spaces on the ground floor and rental apartments in the upper floor. The nearby open courtyard — a great asset in the town's developing centre — was originally left disused next to the existing building. Realising the potential, we proposed to integrate it into the scope of the project, to define an attractive outdoor breakout space that opens up towards the retail spaces and the new apartments above.

Located next to the riverside and neighbouring a listed old dairy building, it was essential to preserve a sense of scale between the proposed higher density development and the street level — masterplanned to become one of Sundet main pedestrian axis.

To achieve this, the balconies and common roof terrace serving the seven apartments help to break up with the different built volumes on the site and create an interplay of different levels. The courtyard frames the view to the old dairy building facade from the street, sheltering technical areas out of sight from the street (waste storage and heat pump exchangers).

The palette of materials also help to clearly define the original part of the old building from its rebuilt extensions. The main body of the building will be reclad with its original light boarding, with roof form and windows restored based on old photography. In contrast, all rebuilt and new parts have flat roof and are wrapped in dark stained timber rainscreen.

The first phase of the project is now under construction, including the remodelling of the main building and reconstruction of the extension, to host a retail space on the ground floor and four apartments on the first and loft floors.

Portfolio project
Porch that turns a house around

Tom Hughes

We've been working on the remodelling and extension of a Suffolk cottage for some time now — starting with our 2009 RIBA award winning artist's studio. An internal reworking of the ground floor has improved circulation, usable space and natural lighting.

The final element is now on site: a glass and steel porch at the back door will create a generous welcome space and energy-saving draft lobby.

We often find with existing houses that the 'back door' is in fact the main access for family, guests and deliveries alike, and a decision has to be made: reinstate the status of the front door, or accept the established usage and make the back door a decent point of arrival?

In this case the 1980s flat roofed 'garden room' extension to the rear of the house - with improved windows and insulation - has become the main area for entertaining guests; the new porch will turn the house around and connect it all back together.

Portfolio project
Walker House remodel

Thibaut Devulder

The existing house

Our clients are now finalising the site work on our remodel of their home in Eidsvoll, Norway.

We were originally approached by the clients in 2011, to reorganise a family house that has become overcrowded for their family of five and — more importantly — to create a modern comfortable home they would be proud of.

The clients' brief

The model of the surveyed house

Already extended once, this house was in fact spacious enough for the family. Yet the existing layout made poor use of the internal space: stiffly compartmenting into disconnected rooms, the floor plans created several "dead areas" on key locations of the three levels, which were mostly left unused by its inoccupants or barely used for storage.

The existing services were obsolete and poorly placed — with no bathroom on the ground floor for instance — and the clients were eager to upgrade the building fabric and technical installations as part of the remodelling exercise. Summer overheating and noise from the increasing overhead airport traffic were particularly problematic.

Conscious that their three teenage sons would be soon leaving the family home, the parents were also willing to remodel the house so that the upper floor could easily be isolated from their accessible quarters on the ground floor in the coming years, to be rented out to tenants with minimum additional work.

All these had to be address with minimum alterations to the exterior of the building, to fit the budget and the local planning rules.

Unlocking the flow

After a detailed survey of the existing house, we identified key factors breaking the flow through the house. These were tackled by a series of strategic moves that could unlock the potential of the space in a cost effective way. At the core of the approach was to clarify the organisation of public and private spaces, and how these flowed into one another.

A few key changes to the internal building fabric allowed us to both connect the spaces for greater flexibility in use (to host large family events, for instance) and respond to the need for privacy between the different parts of the house.

 Creating an experience

Altering the floor plans was the first move to transform this home. We extended this approach to carefully select interior materials and light fittings, to suggest and emphasize the new relationships between the spaces.

Entering the house, the visitor is drawn further into the spaces by a series of focal points revealing themselves progressively from different viewpoints as the house is explored, linking the social spaces and the large garden outdoors.

Improving comfort

The timber structure was fully re-insulated internally, using high density natural wood fibre insulation to improve all year round thermal comfort and dampen external noise. Comfort was further improved by replacing the existing windows with hi-spec new low-energy and noise reduction glazing.

With minimal changes to the existing drainage system, two new family bathrooms and a guest toilet were added to the ground and first floors. Connected to a new centralised ventilation system, they dramatically improve indoor air quality in a quiet and energy efficient way.

Working in close collaboration with the clients, with their in-depth knowledge of every corner of the house and the way it was constructed, allowed very detailed design and planning of all the alterations, while keeping building costs low.

Portfolio project
Storgata interiors

Thibaut Devulder

As part of their remodelling and refurbishment of a large office building in downtown Oslo into the new Olympiagården project, Various Architects — with whom we are sharing an office — invited us to work with them on the detailed design of interior furniture for their design of the future Lederne Headquarters.

Concept development for stacked wood partitions

Various Architects' design included a series of large timber partitions that would integrate seating, services and storage. Articulating the new refurbished office space in a playful and subtle manner, these interior elements were to create a unifying visual and functional concept for the large open plan office.

Their design and positioning were to weave social spaces to create spots for impromptu social interactions, but also help subtly define more private areas for focused work and conceal the services and air conditionning system. Other furniture such as the reception desk and work spaces, were also to be custom-made in a similar fashion.

Image © Various Architects

Image © Various Architects

Based on their brief we developed a series of design concepts playing on the idea of the massiveness of stacked timber elements, with their textures contrasting with the existing concrete structure of the building. These concepts were developed with Various Architects, in consultation with a number of joinery companies specialised in custom-made office fittings, that gave us feedback during the design stage, to make sure that budget and technical constraints would be met.

We then finalised the detailed design of the timber elements and prepared a series of concept and technical drawings that were incorporated to the tender package for the project.

The refurbishment and fittings of the Lederne Headquarters is now on site. As with our collaboration on the Aalto Campus competition, it has been a pleasure working with Various Architects and we are looking forward to collaborating with them again on exciting projects!