Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Experiential Design

It has been a while since I have last posted. Life has been busy with travelling, work and school. I have also temporarily parted with my entire Ottawa floor plan collection as it is being scanned into digital files. I have managed to cobble together some plans that I already had scanned (for a lecture I gave on 1970s-era condos in Ottawa), so here is a new post!

If you have ever stopped to admire the facade of Ann Manor at 71 Somerset Street West (c.1974) in the Golden Triangle, you would have noticed the large expanses of blank brick walls on the facade. Interestingly, the windows are all grouped around the balconies and corners of the building. At first this may seem unusual, but what this creates are interior layouts which I like to refer to as "experiential design". I am not certain this was the intent of the designers, but this is the way I interpret these designs. 

The design of most newer high-rise condo buildings have exterior walls of glass - so as soon as you enter the unit, you are gobsmacked with some sort of an exterior view. This is not the case at Ann Manor, where the view has to be discovered by moving through the space of the unit.

This is one of the penthouse units in the building and you will notice that the entire long wall of the living room has no windows. There is a great view, but the condo has to be moved through to catch a glimpse of it from the glass balcony doors on the south side, or the kitchen window. My favourite vantage point (as I have actually been inside this unit) is from the small window in the top left corner of the living room, which offers a "peek-a-boo" diagonal view of the Peace Tower!

Above is another unit at Ann Manor. There is also a certain moodiness of the lighting coming from a window that is not immediately evident upon entering the room - as in the kitchen and secondary bedroom of this plan - both of which have side windows not directly in front of the doorway when entering the rooms.

On to another building: 333 Chapel Street in Sandy Hill (c. 1975)The outside may look unassuming, but inside is a very large 3 bedroom design which also has an experiential design in its window placement.

Upon entering this unit, the direct view into the dining alcove is terminated by a blank wall, yet light streams in from windows on 2 sides. Notice that the second bedroom also has a side window, not immediately apparent upon entering the room.

The sweeping facades of Ambleside I and II built by Minto (c. 1974 and c. 1976) have some very interesting experiential plans inside:

Experiential design can also include a change in levels - such as a sunken living room. Additionally, the small corner windows in the living room of this plan offer two unique exposures and sources of natural light.

The angular rooms and the sunken living room of this Ambleside plan also create an interesting experiential plan as the space is moved through and discovered.

The Halcyon at 1195 Richmond Road (c. 1976) also has a particular plan with an experiential design. 

The obvious location to place the dining room window would be on the back wall, especially to bring direct light in to the doorway to the kitchen. Instead, the filtered light comes in via a side window, which wraps around an inside corner to join with the sliding glass door.

One of my favourite buildings in terms of exterior architecture is 400 Laurier Avenue East in Sandy Hill (c. 1984). The building appears to be built up to the lot lines on two sides, presumably the reason for blank facades.

Inside, the living and dining rooms in the units have views and walls of windows on two, or even three sides(unit B). The space unfolds before the occupant with various views and sources of natural light. Both master bedrooms have windows pushed to the corner. This design element visually opens up the structure of the room making the corner visually disappear.
There are only 2 units per floor in the building and they do not physically touch as they are separated by the service core.

I cannot say for certain that the designers of these buildings intentionally created the rooms to be experienced as I have outlined above, but they certainly do inspire me to ponder how we all experience space, and how interesting the design of a condominium unit can be.