(+1)Valentin Bontjes van Beek
Intermediate 10 will be going out on a limb, both figuratively and conceptually, by exploring a new roof tectonic for London’s vertical urbanisation. We will focus on the city’s roof terrain with a desire to construct a full-scale architectural intervention.
Our site is the room that touches the sky. Traditionally the top floor is the domain of a diverse set of inhabitants: the artist, the chambermaid, the contract killer in the attic or the nursery of forgotten children. All these characters inhabit this necessary appendix that paradoxically has a close proximity to the street while being located in splendid isolation – a prime location to gain a new understanding of the city.
The pinnacle of the urban house is a beacon and a force shield – a battleground with the stars. This threshold provides delicious design opportunities for the young architect – working from the pragmatic to the surreal, from the inside out and vice versa, from doorknob to chimneypot, and from window openings to carpet patterns.
To understand these conditions we will look at projects such as Coop Himmelblau’s Falkestrasse, the Beistegui apartment by Le Corbusier, Gaudi’s Casa Milà, Bernard Tschumi’s advertising for architecture in reference to Yves Klein’s leap into the void, and we will go to visit Pierre Chareau’s Maison de Verre in Paris.
This investigation of the roof derives from an urge to tackle the exploding density within cities of the ‘urban millennium’, where for the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population is urban-based. Unlike the Haussmannian avenues of Paris, New York’s grid or Rome’s historical overlays, London is an organically grown city, with its human-scaled buildings and narrow streets that limits horizontal, street-level extension. We will add one extra level (+1) to London’s skyline and speculate on tangible and fantastic alternatives for London, savouring the English breeze blowing around our head and a sheepish desire to rise above the parapet.
Valentin Bontjes van Beek lives and works in London and trained as a carpenter in Germany before graduating from the AA in 1998. He subsequently worked as an architect in New York with Bernard Tschumi. He has taught an MArch Urban Design studio at the Bartlett and has been a Unit Master at the AA since 2001. He currently runs the Pending Structures and Replica Structures Media Studies course, which explores the design and fabrication from surreal to utilitarian CNC-machined plywood structures.