He, She & It

He, She & It is a collection of three distinct buildings for three different spatial needs, collaged into a single structure. The 1500 sq ft building houses work spaces for a painter, a ceramist/silversmith, and a greenhouse. Each space offers an atmosphere which differs radically from the others. The distinct atmospheres of the spaces reflect not only their respective uses, but also, the predilections of the clients.

He, She & It is a collection of three distinct buildings for three different spatial needs, collaged into a single structure. The 1500 sq ft building houses work spaces for a painter, a ceramist/silversmith, and a greenhouse. Each space offers an atmosphere which differs radically from the others. The distinct atmospheres of the spaces reflect not only their respective uses, but also, the predilections of the clients.

He is a painter. His studio is a white box. There are no windows in his work space; it is exclusively top-lit, offering even and indirect, natural light, and maximizing the wall surface area for painting.

She is a ceramist and a silversmith. Her work space has dedicated areas for both messy, wet ceramic work and delicate jewelry-making. Her space offers large windows with generous views and dramatic lighting, ranging from dimly-lit areas to very bright desk areas. Her studio is lined entirely with soft, soaped, maple, preserving its intense, raw wood smell.

It (they) consists of seedlings in spring and plants in winter – clients with a very simple wish for maximum light and year-round above-freezing temperatures. The polycarbonate shell is translucent, offering a zone of almost-outdoor space to the two other work spaces, without any direct views.

The spaces are grouped to form a cluster of three mono-pitched sheds. At the surfaces where these distinct sheds connect, the walls are completely removed up to a height of 6’8”. The remaining ridge wall segments above act as structural trusses to span the openings freely, making the structure seem to hover over the open ground floor. Whereas He, She & It appear as independent, materially distinct volumes, structurally and climatically they depend on one another. Folding-sliding doors enable the users to either divide the space into three rooms, or open the plan entirely – it is in a constant state of redefinition.

The climate conditioning strategy underscores the dynamic spatial experience and the constant redefinition of space. Each space offers a different climatic barrier. The insulated interior sliding-folding doors and exterior operable openings have to be used to adjust the space to different weather conditions. Contrary to common climate control practices that seal the interior space as much as possible from the exterior and use mechanical services to create an artificial indoor climate in summer as in winter, He, She & It adapts spatially to the seasons instead of mechanically. This difference is analogous to a sailboat versus a motorized boat. Whereas the motorized boat achieves a constant speed and direction through a machine, the sail boat achieves the same through an intimate relationship between weather, wind, sail geometry and the sailor’s active involvement, changing the overall geometry of the sailboat/sails constantly. In cold and sunny winter days, for example, the sliding folding partition walls are opened up to let the solar gain from the greenhouse contribute heat to the whole building. On cloudy cold winter days and winter nights, the insulated partition walls need to be closed to shrink the overall heated volume. In summer, the continuous ridge vent of the greenhouse is opened-up, transforming the greenhouse into a solar chimney that creates constant draft throughout the building even on stagnant, hot days.

Build with modest, low cost materials and construction methods, the spatial arrangement offers a complex set of experiences that are rich at the spatial and textural scales; the interior world of the workspaces draws the users in and provides them with a retreat from the outside world. Entry doors are located at the back of the studio, extending the passage as far as possible away from the existing residence facing the street, and emphasizing the distinct nature of the workspace from the residential routine of the front house. The three mono-pitched roofs have large overhangs to shed storm water far away from the building and nurture three rain gardens that act also as visual screens, isolating the building even more from the front house.

Project Info

  • Client: Private
  • Location: Buffalo, NY, USA
  • Size: 135 m² / 1480 sf
  • Status: Completed 2015
  • Partners in charge: Stephanie Davidson, Georg Rafailidis
  • Assistants: Alex Marchuk, Jia Ma
  • Model making: Matt Meyers
  • Structural engineer: John Banaszak
  • Plants and grounds: Matt Dore
  • Photography: Florian Holzherr
  • Recognition: Blueprint Award Winner, 19th Best of Canada Design Award Winner/Project of the Year, AAP Bronze Award, Architizer A+ Award, AZ Award of Merit, DETAIL Prize Finalist
  • Publication (selection): DETAIL magazine 5/2015 (English edition), DETAIL magazine 7-8/2016 (German edition), A+ Awards book (Phaidon, 2016)
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Tipico Coffee (Café Fargo)

With Café Fargo, we converted a formerly neglected corner store into a small coffee shop in a residential neighborhood of Buffalo, NY, USA. The former store, built in 1929, is a monolithic brick addition to the corner of a 3-story brick house built around 1880.

Typically, for a hospitality space, a large amount of the construction budget goes into mechanical systems that provide a uniform indoor climate throughout the year. With a tight budget, we took the opposite approach and transformed these invisible mechanical services into two experiential architectural elements that emphasize the distinct pleasures of summer and winter. We built:

  • • extra-large operable windows and skylights that provide natural ventilation and passive cooling, and
    • a large-scale, wood burning Kachelofen (masonry heater) which serves as the radiant heat source for the space.

With Café Fargo, we converted a formerly neglected corner store into a small coffee shop in a residential neighborhood of Buffalo, NY, USA. The former store, built in 1929, is a monolithic brick addition to the corner of a 3-story brick house built around 1880.

Typically, for a hospitality space, a large amount of the construction budget goes into mechanical systems that provide a uniform indoor climate throughout the year. With a tight budget, we took the opposite approach and transformed these invisible mechanical services into two experiential architectural elements that emphasize the distinct pleasures of summer and winter. We built:

• extra-large operable windows and skylights that provide natural ventilation and passive cooling, and
• a large-scale, wood burning Kachelofen (masonry heater) which serves as the radiant heat source for the space.

With these two low-tech and experientially rich elements, we eliminated the need for any ductwork and to kept the restored tin ceiling unobstructed.

Hardwick Hall (Derbyshire, 1590-97) stood as a case study for the project. This building features a dynamic inhabitation pattern, where occupation is constantly moving between large fireplaces in winter and large bay windows in summer. Similarly, we unfolded the space of Café Fargo between extra-large, operable sliding-folding windows at the perimeter wall for summer ventilation and a large-scale Kachelofen at the core of the space.

The space is structured in three bands, wrapping around the corner of the historic house. The innermost band consists of the large-scale Kachelofen, constructed as a long, horizontal, heated bench and a vertical tower. The tower also forms a spatial pocket that contains the bathroom. The Kachelofen is the largest in North America and was researched and developed in close collaboration with a local mason.

The outermost band consists of the large-scale folding-sliding windows with thick oak sills extended into benches. The habitable perimeter blurs the barrier between inside and outside; opened-up, the space feels like a covered outdoor patio.

The space between the windows and the stove provides an open area for ever-changing seating patterns. The lights are held-up on the old tin ceiling with magnets, allowing the lighting patterns to change and follow different seating arrangements throughout the year.

Because the space offers three different seating options at different heights – the window sills, the chairs and the stove bench – we designed a height-adjustable table. The tabletop, fixed to a tripod base with a threaded rod, is able to be spun like a piano stool up or down to adapt to the different seating heights.

Apart from the two added elements (heater and window), the renovation consisted mainly of stripping away the various floor, wall and ceiling surfaces that had accumulated over the years. We avoided any form of additional cladding, trimming or wall coverings. With this stripping-away approach, we made the space and its relationship to the older house, more legible.

The large, experiential elements – the windows and Kachelofen – offer users powerful physical relationships independent from any specific program, making it an alluring space for many more future uses.

Project Info

  • Client: Jergo LLC
  • Location: Buffalo, NY, USA
  • Size: 145 m² / 1560 sf
  • Status: Completed 2014
  • Partners in charge: Stephanie Davidson, Georg Rafailidis
  • Assistants: Jia Ma, Aleksandr Marchuk
  • Structural consultants: JEB Consultants, Grand Island, New York; Peter Grace, The State University of New York
  • Energy consultant: Roman Jakobiak, Berlin, Germany (www.daylighting.de/)
  • Photography: Florian Holzherr
  • Recognition: 18th Best of Canada Design Award Winner, International Design Awards IDA 14 Honorable Mention, 2015 ACSA Fall Conference, Preservation Buffalo Niagara People's Choice
  • Publication: AIT 06/2016, Azure Magazine 09/2015, db Deutsche bauzeitung 07-08/2015, Architectural Digest 06/2015, Canadian Interiors 09-10/2015
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Mirror Mirror

MirrorMirror tents are extremely lightweight, portable street fest / event structures with a double-sided mirrored canopy. The simple, gabled roof, angled at 45 degrees, reflects urban activity on the ground in multiple ways and offers a radically new and intensified view of street life. The exterior of the mirrored roof reflects higher parts of the city skyline and the sky. These patches of sky offer glimpses of lightness and airiness into the dense urban ground plane.

The project was the winning submission of the 2013 Streetfest competition organized by the Storefront for Art and Architecture, the New Museum and Architizer. The competition asked designers to reinvent the streetfest tent; more than eighty submissions to the competition were received from across the globe.

MirrorMirror tents are extremely lightweight, portable street fest / event structures with a double-sided mirrored canopy. The simple, gabled roof, angled at 45 degrees, reflects urban activity on the ground in multiple ways and offers a radically new and intensified view of street life. The exterior of the mirrored roof reflects higher parts of the city skyline and the sky. These patches of sky offer glimpses of lightness and airiness into the dense urban ground plane.

The roof is made using reinforced aluminum framed panels with stretched, reflective mylar foil. The structural system consists of 2 angles: the mirrored gabled roof and a steel frame tripod. Both structures are hinged to enable flat packing for transport and storage. The entire assembly of tents installed for the recent IDEAS CITY street fest covered 1000 sqft. Packed-up, it barely filled half a U-Haul truck.

The on-site assembly of the tents is extremely fast. First, all steel frames unfold to form tripods. Then, all mirrored panels unhinge and slide onto the steel frames to form a rigid structural system. Standard concrete blocks provide the necessary weight to resist uplift by winds. The only tool needed is a 1/2 inch wrench to secure the roof panel onto the steel frame.

MirrorMirror allows for radically different configurations in scale, use and spatial experience. It can be used as a single unit but also combined to larger structures to form linear or field like typologies.

The project was the winning submission of the 2013 Streetfest competition organized by the Storefront for Art and Architecture, the New Museum and Architizer. The competition asked designers to reinvent the streetfest tent; more than eighty submissions to the competition were received from across the globe.

Project Info

  • Client: New Museum, NYC, USA
  • Location: New York, NY, USA
  • Size: 1080 sf / 100 m² (11 m² / 120 sf per module)
  • Status: Completed 2013
  • Partners in charge: Stephanie Davidson, Georg Rafailidis
  • Assistants: Jia Ma, Alex Marchuk
  • Structural consultant, competition phase: Imagine Structure, Frankfurt, Germany
  • Structural consultant, realization phase: Peter Grace, State University of New York at Buffalo
  • Photography: Florian Holzherr, Naho Kubota
  • Recognition: Winner International Biannual Streetfest Competition, People’s Choice Award and Award of Merit AZ Awards, International Design Awards IDA 13 Honorable Mention
  • Publication (selection): Wall Street Journal 04/2013, Azure Magazine 07-08/2014, Forward Journal 213 (AIA) 2013
  • Exhibition: New Museum, NYC, USA; Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, USA
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Free Zoning

Now more than ever, buildings are outliving their uses or “program.” Retail typologies, for example, change on an average of every 10 to 15 years. The ubiquitous struggling or vacant strip mall is a result of this typological shift. The strip mall, in its current form, has no architectural or spatial quality in itself. Its structure is generic and is only inhabitable with the help of mechanical services and artificial lighting. Its value lies rather in its building components, its foundation and in the infrastructure (water, sewer, gas, electricity, phone and internet cable) that services it.

Now more than ever, buildings are outliving their uses or “program.” Retail typologies, for example, change on an average of every 10 to 15 years. The ubiquitous struggling or vacant strip mall is a result of this typological shift. The strip mall, in its current form, has no architectural or spatial quality in itself. Its structure is generic and is only inhabitable with the help of mechanical services and artificial lighting. Its value lies rather in its building components, its foundation and in the infrastructure (water, sewer, gas, electricity, phone and internet cable) that services it.

Central Park Plaza is a derelict strip mall in Buffalo New York. Having been vacant for years, it is now infamous as a site of illicit activity and crime. Built in the 1960’s on the site of a former rock quarry, the strip mall thrived for the typical time span of around 15 years before it predictably lost its retail capability. The City of Buffalo, however, still treats its demise as an unfortunate, unforeseen event. The repeated searches for a potent commercial developer only underscore the inability to understand the changed condition of this built artifact and its current economic, social and political context.
How could the intrinsic tension between the physical longevity of architecture and the fast paced rhythm of business models be channeled into a productive development?

For Central Park Plaza we propose a strategy of radical reconfiguration within the geometric pattern of the existing foundation. We declare the whole site a building quarry and a “Zone Of Radical Deregulation.” Instead of relying on a single financial investment and economic profit, this architecture would produce its attraction through flexible ownership, free zoning and barter business by many and without the need for any significant monetary investment of mortgage lending. It is the architectural solution to monetary lack and economic change.

We propose the following measures:
• All building materials get demounted and sorted. They can be used for free for any new building activity on site.
• The foundation is the most expensive building part in new construction and the most expensive to demolish. We will use the existing foundation as a seedbed for new construction. Its inherent capability to carry load will be used. New constructions will grow over time on this seedbed of foundations and city service connections like a new layer of urbanity on an archeological site.
• All uses are allowed. No need for zoning variances

This freedom will make the site attractive for new development and trigger the creativity of local citizens. Instead of designing a new form or propose a specific use we design the legal and economic framework in which new form and use can emerge.

Project Info

  • Client: University of Alberta, Canada
  • Location: Buffalo, NY, USA
  • Size: 12.000 m² / 127,000 sf
  • Status: Completed 2012
  • Partners in charge: Stephanie Davidson, Georg Rafailidis
  • Assistants: Jia Ma, Justina Dziama
  • Photography: Georg Rafailidis
  • Recognition: Winner International Architectural competition Strip Appeal: Reinventing the Strip Mall; Atmosphere 2014 Symposium ACTION, University of Manitoba, Canada; Remake + Reclaim symposium, Washington, DC, USA
  • Exhibition (selection): EME3 7th International Architecture Festival Barcelona, Spain; EME3 Bottom Up Sao Paulo, Brazil; Kasian Gallery Alberta, Canada; Anderson Gallery, Buffalo, NY, USA, California College of the Arts, San Francisco, USA; Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, Canada
  • Publication (selection): Reinventing the Strip Mall: a Collection of Anticipatory Architectures (The University of Alberta Press, 2012); Bracket 3 Journal for architecture, environment and digital culture; CURB 3.2 (2012); Artvoice, Vol.12 No.2; New York Times 2/6/2012
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Big House Little House

Big House Little House places an existing plank-framed cottage within a much larger, translucent, weatherproof shell. This house-in-house scenario provides two contrasting spatial conditions: a small, rather dark, private, insulated and conditioned space in the existing cottage and a large perimeter space between the existing cottage and the new shell characterized by abundant natural light and extreme openness.

Big House Little House places an existing plank-framed cottage within a much larger, translucent, weatherproof shell. This house-in-house scenario provides two contrasting spatial conditions: a small, rather dark, private, insulated and conditioned space in the existing cottage and a large perimeter space between the existing cottage and the new shell characterized by abundant natural light and extreme openness.

In the small core space, the existing plank-frame construction is exposed. The century-old interior space is materially rich and structurally fascinating. On the exterior, we strip the cottage back to its original construction and clad it lightly with insulated paneling.

The perimeter space, in technical terms, acts as habitable insulation, protecting the cottage from harsh exterior temperatures and weathering. Thee perimeter space – or winter garden – is large, bright and passively climatized by the use of large openings (summer) and the greenhouse effect (cold weather). Spatially, because the two zones are so distinct, the house-in-house situation is able to accommodate a wide array of potential functions. The core space lends itself to more sedentary activities, whereas the perimeter space is better for functions and activities where the abundant space and light can be exploited and enjoyed.

The simple slab-on-grade foundation and winter garden construction allows for a large square footage for an incredibly low construction cost. Whereas a typical construction cost is about $130 / sq ft, Big House Little House costs $35 / sq ft.

Project Info

  • Client: Private
  • Location: Buffalo, NY, USA
  • Size: 265 m² / 2850 sf
  • Status: In progress
  • Partners in charge: Stephanie Davidson, Georg Rafailidis
  • Assistants: Alex Marchuk
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Selective Insulation

Selective Insulation is an artist’s studio in Hexham England. The enclosure is a response to the chilly working conditions in the Old School House, an artist’s facility. In the Fall, Winter and early Spring, the uninsulated building, a masonry construction built in 1849, requires intensive heating in order to keep it thermally comfortable. Although a central heating system was installed in the building in the 1970‘s, the heating costs are prohibitively high and the system is rarely used. A conventional approach to improving the buildings thermal efficiency would be to line the inside of the stone walls with a new layer of insulation. This approach would lose all potential thermal mass in the stone and create an equally distributed warm zone in the interior. In this project, we asked the question, “Can insulating a building be more strategic? Can it have formal consequences? Can it organize space?” Selective Insulation defines small areas in a building that need to be warm during the cold months of the year. The results are warm “pockets” within existing uninsulated spaces of a building.

Selective Insulation is an artist’s studio in Hexham England. The enclosure is a response to the chilly working conditions in the Old School House, an artist’s facility. In the Fall, Winter and early Spring, the uninsulated building, a masonry construction built in 1849, requires intensive heating in order to keep it thermally comfortable. Although a central heating system was installed in the building in the 1970’s, the heating costs are prohibitively high and the system is rarely used. A conventional approach to improving the buildings thermal efficiency would be to line the inside of the stone walls with a new layer of insulation. This approach would lose all potential thermal mass in the stone and create an equally distributed warm zone in the interior. In this project, we asked the question, “Can insulating a building be more strategic? Can it have formal consequences? Can it organize space?” Selective Insulation defines small areas in a building that need to be warm during the cold months of the year. The results are warm “pockets” within existing uninsulated spaces of a building.

The form of the installation, which acts as a small warm room for sedentary or desk-related work, comes out of a set of parameters related to how the room is used, or the “program.” Required in the program of desk-related work are: 1. a desk, 2. a way to enter/exit, and 3. access to a window. These three elements are positioned as structural anchors, and a connect-the-dots approach is used to create a framework for the volume. The 4m2 interior is the minimum required desk-related working space for two people. Around the framework, an insulating layer of double-ply bubblewrap, commonly used to insulate greenhouses, is wrapped, sealing the space thermally. The installation is positioned within a 66m2 working space as a room-in-a-room, providing temperature-specific spaces for different activities.

Project Info

  • Client: Allenheads Contemporary Arts, UK
  • Location: Hexham, UK
  • Size: 4 m² / 43 sf
  • Partners in charge: Stephanie Davidson, Georg Rafailidis
  • Photography: Steve Mayes
  • Recognition: Base Elements Stipend, Runner up ContractWorld Award
  • Exhibition: Eme3 6th International Architecture Festival Barcelona, Spain; ContractWorld Award Hannover, Germany; North East Festival of Architecture NEFA 2009, UK; ACA Dovetail Gallery, Newcastle, UK;
  • Publication (selection): C3 312 (August 2010); Architecture Low Cost Low Tech, (Paris: Actes Sud, 2010); Office Magazyn, August 2012; Metamorphose 05/11 (2011); Interni N.57 (January 2010); AWM de architectuur voorbij 28, (September/October 2009); Onoffice 33, August 2009; de Architect 09/09-40 (2009); Beyond Patronage (Barcelona: Actar, 2015); Inventario 02 (2010); ART – Das Kunstmagazin 8/09 (2009)
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