A Dazzling Performance
Bethan Ryder -- Interior Design, 11/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Loft living is all very well. Occasionally, however, every couple needs a little privacy. Particularly when home doubles as an office and a performance venue, and the owners are professional jugglers of international repute.
It was the juggling-friendly 13-foot ceiling and the 1,250 square feet of gym-rugged space that attracted Sean Gandini and Kati Ylä-Hokkala, the leaders of Gandini Juggling, to a converted De Havilland aircraft factory in London's East End. But where would they sleep? Commissioning Nicola Gerber and Tiran Driver, partners of Fusionarchitects, to design a mezzanine for that purpose, the couple got a lot more than they bargained for. In addition to the mezzanine, Fusion devised an oversize interactive storage system that runs almost all the way across the loft's 28-foot width—that's more than big enough to hold all of Gandini Juggling's assorted gear, from rings to clubs and tennis rackets.
The storage system represents the evolution of the architects' Flexiloft concept, developed for their own live-work situation after they moved to the U.K. from New York, where they'd met at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. "To keep aloft resembling a loft, you have to conceal everything," Driver says. "So we built ourselves four huge storage boxes, which we also used to organize the space."
Fusion's built-in system for Gandini and Ylä-Hokkala comprises a row of closed storage, plus an open bookcase on the end and, behind it, a zigguratlike stairway to the mezzanine. Two of the larger lower modules are mounted on castors. Slide the modules entirely out, and they perform dual purposes. The first is to act as partitions, enabling multiple spatial configurations. The second is to reveal a pair of doorways, to the front entry and to the bathroom. Then slide the modules back in, and the system's 16 panels present a clean backdrop for the 12-person troupe to rehearse against.
Each section of the MDF surface is painted in one of four vibrant greens ranging from an intense acid to a soft Granny Smith, colors that provide an enlivening contrast to the loft's gray concrete shell. "At first I was nervous about all those greens," Ylä-Hokkala admits. "But they're joyous without being intrusive." It took Fusion four tries to get the shades and their rhythmic sequence exactly right. Oppositions and repetitions "reflect upon the relationship between juggling and mathematics," Gerber explains. "The tonal variations express the intrinsic energy of each performance."
Concealed in the compartments behind the green panels are costumes, props, and equipment associated with Gandini Juggling's global appearances. There's even a cupboard equipped with an electrical outlet to recharge the laptop the troupe uses to color-program its clubs.
Outside the storage system, the only deviation from the methodical simplicity of the scheme is the appearance of four swooping pendant fixtures in white polypropylene—one of the few frivolities that came out of the $71,000 budget. "They're a bit like airplane wings," Gandini says. Besides dovetailing with the history of the 1940's building, they offer 360-degree illumination.
Precise, concise, and intelligent, with an economy of materials and a multiplicity of multifunctional options, the loft embodies Fusion's approach to architecture. Gerber elaborates: "Instead of decorating or creating atmosphere, it's more about creating something that allows those other things to happen, something flexible that's actually minimal." Sounds like quite a lot to juggle.