People who live in glass houses shouldn’t live near fireworks factories

We’ve received some interesting suggestions from readers recently (send more, more, more)

christiania

and one of the most interesting was this house of adaptively reused windows in the alternative community Christiania in Copenhagen, sent by Kristian Seier who says

the glass house and its many neighbours are seriously under threat these years, but the wild, everyday poetry of this building has rarely, if ever, been achieved by any professional, Danish architect, and it should be listed rather than razed.

His commentary says it for us, a sad reflection on lost ideals and the critical importance of understanding layering if we are to understand history:

le corbusier famously claimed that all architecture could communicate was ideas. and the original ideas of christiania are well put by the best buildings out there: an open community of equals; a deep distrust, no, dismissal of authorities – including architects; a deep trust in the creative potential of ordinary people when left to govern their own lives. modesty. individualism. sustainability.

today, there is a strong political will to tear the houses down. they are illegal, follow no building code, have no permits. the old copenhagen defense line on which they are situated must be cleared to protect the city’s cultural heritage.

but these buildings are cultural heritage too. and while the 20th century has left us all with a distrust of utopian and idealist thinking, tearing them down will be acting in a dangerous denial of history.

Some commenters compared this building to the Hexenhaus of Alison and Peter Smithson,

hexenhaus

their most only endearing construction but we feel that’s a purely formalist and superficial comparison. It reminds us more of the work of the Russian architect and artist Alexander Brodsky whose Paper Architecture satirised the “all plans and no buildings” path to architectural celebrity.

vodka pavilion

We hope one day to emulate his Vodka Ceremony Pavilion with a Beer Drinking Pavilion in our garden (although since last Saturday night we have been considering an Exploding Fireworks Factory Viewing Pavilion complete with artfully broken windows reminiscent of those now found on one side of our house).

7 thoughts on “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t live near fireworks factories

  1. seier+seier

    I challenge you to come up with anything bad to say about the smithsons’ upper lawn pavilion 😉

    Reply
  2. bottleman

    i was just about to comment that this glass house is beautifully proportioned, but studying seier’s other photos, i see that this is actually a 2- story sunroom to a somewhat larger house … the building is not quite as modest as it looks. the house behind includes more conventional looking parts. see http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=1255745766&context=set-72157601722349818&size=l and http://flickr.com/photos/seier/1411987052/in/set-72157601722349818/ ). sorry to be a cynic, but is this building really an example of sustainability?

    anyway, the sunroom is beautifully proportioned and must be lovely to live and work in, especially given the setting in the trees. (studying the photo closely it looks like there is an artist’s workspace downstairs and something else, perhaps sleeping space?, upstairs). but (getting old and practical here) my instant thought about the place was “must be freezing in the winter and boiling in the summer. i wonder how many of those windows are openable? and how much heating costs?”

    to generalize my point into something (perhaps) more relevant to others, this sunroom is a thing of beauty, but preserving it (as speculated by the person you quoted) is kind of a weird idea in that this particular sunroom/building is a fairly ephemeral thing as far as architecture goes. it’s gonna have broken windows & (looking at those foundation timbers) structural problems and other problems real soon. if it was ‘preserved,’ made into a museum or a disneyfied dwelling (which would improve it to meet all the codes, of course), it’d just be a stage set, like those historic forts you can visit, not a place that someone actually lives and works. It wouldn’t represent those hippie values anymore.

    a better revival of this kind of spirit would be to keep doing “architecture without architects” and “architecture without codes” on our own, to show how it’s relevant now, to show how it meets needs now. i fully support your beer drinking pavilion project — especially if it’s in the FRONT yard. :)

    happy new year!

    Reply
  3. seier+seier

    I largely agree with you. with its clever recycling, the glass house becomes an attractive image of sustainability rather than actually sustainable.

    I took the photo because I fell for the architecture.

    but you did get one thing wrong: it is a very small house, and the glass space is the main space of it. the photos are taken from a low angle and standing close to the building. thus, the image above is a composite of three photos. this has a tendency to make size and scale difficult to read.

    Reply
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