by Jerry ElengicalOct 14, 2021
A clearing in a pine forest is extruded from the ground up to imitate the cross section of a giant tree trunk, as if ready for examination by an arborist. This volume is chamfered, spliced, sectioned, dressed in panels of okoume wood, and made suitable for habitation and a tranquil pensiveness—that is the appropriate state of being while living amongst pine trees.
Mobius Architekci, the architect(or say the arborists) from Warsaw, Poland, designed this 400 sq.m home they call Circle Wood, for an art collector to feel "a sense of privacy and intimate contact with nature". The spatial planning of the home elegantly accommodates the requirements of art collected over the years—sculptures, paintings, ceramics, photographs, drawings, furniture—and presumes movements of people in the home, to those of gallery viewers. The program of the structure seems to oscillate between home and gallery in ways that also seem to have inadvertently dictated the design of elements, both structural and soft.
A sculptural staircase for instance, serves as a prominent feature; a helical ribbon that choreographs movements of people as well as the gaze, stands like the principal object on exhibit both from the inside and the outside. Corridors, partitions, walls and columns create surprise alcoves and niches that house artworks and beautifully designed objects to delight one in an otherwise uneventful maneuvering of spaces.
The volume of the ‘tree trunk section’ is treated with a keen exploration of cubes, grids, and linear geometry set against curved walls, that makes for a fluid matrix of private and semi-private spaces. The central atrium of the home, where the pith of a tree trunk would be, is an expansive skylight that brings in sunlight interspersed with views of the tops of surrounding pine trees. The curvature of the ‘tree trunk’ is interrupted by glazed walls sewing it together with outdoor nooks that look like accidental patches of the forest floor included in the home.
As much as the house simulates a walk in the woods, it has thoughtful inward looking intimate spaces that allow for the coziness and privacy one desires in a home. Glass cubes, patches of landscape, furniture, pathways, all playfully encroach upon recesses and recede back into the primary structure creating a variety of choices for one to interact with the forest, the art, another person or with oneself.
Przemek Olczyk, the lead architect and founder of Mobius Architekci, says he thought of the house as a “big piece of tree trunk” and went ahead keeping in mind the “merging of the house with its surroundings” as the chief design intent. The insistence on “blending with its surroundings” led to sourcing the exterior cladding from West Africa, questioning its positioning as a sustainable structure. Circle Wood is no example of biomimicry in architecture. While it doesn’t necessarily look at nature as “Model, Measure and Mentor” (Benyus, Janine M. (1997). Biomimicry : innovation inspired by nature (1st ed.). New York: Morrow. ISBN 0-688-13691-5. OCLC 36103979), it could be attributed as a loose example of organic architecture. Biomimetic architecture strives to examine nature (plants, insects, animals, microorganisms etc.) traversing scales in understanding anatomies and mechanisms. It then attempts to imitate the science of these observations to create building systems or technologies. Biomimicry involves studies at an organism level, behaviour level and ecosystem level, to arrive at ‘rules’ that could effectively dictate the behaviour of a built structure at an autonomous as well as contextual level. The ‘mimicry’ is comprehensive; more process based than structural to move closer to ambitions of effective sustainability. Organic architecture, such as this house, uses nature as inspiration for form, material, and aesthetics—a catering to the human senses of sight and tactility. Its merits lie in the sensitive selection of indigenous material, an invoking of awareness of ecologies in its users, and a sensory appeal in the navigation of these spaces.
Circle Wood is a charming commune of nature with architecture, that teases the threshold of being conspicuous and harmonising with the surrounding woods.