Southern Exposure (99 Different Houses)
Europan VI in Äijälaranta, Jyväskylä
(2001)

Our proposal for the Äijälä site is based on a simple decision: to atomise the housing programme. Instead of grouped or collective housing we have single-family dwellings, all of them south-facing, with a private courtyard. First, we generated 99 different dwellings and the necessary low density using a single spatial system and an ever-changing courtyard shape. The second step was to define and apply an ordering system based on an abstract system of surfaces, densities and types of dwellings, organising the programme into north–south strips alternating houses and private courtyards. After that, the strips were compressed in order to adapt them to the shape of the site, warping the types and units to prevent any visual interference between them.The housing units are raised, so there is continuous public space on the ground, and fragmented private space above. The resulting interface zones between the strips produce spatial compressions and expansions that subdivide the continuous public space into small and spatially controlled areas. The proposal as a whole has the character of an urban landscape: it could be read as a piece of city, composed of a myriad of synchronised entities.
Each house is as a solar machine that captures solar energy and light very simply, rising above the new horizontal ground with an angled enclosure to reflect the southern light into the dwellings and private courtyards. A garden of mirrors is constructed using borrowed reflections, occlusions and transparencies from the forest, the lake and the activities inside the dwellings. A single but mutable spatial system facilitates the production of similar units with different surfaces: a universal, empty central space surrounded by a ring of smaller spaces. This ring is understood as a thickened but light and hollowed skin filled with uses that qualify and free up the space of the central rooms, allowing the dwellings to be adapted to any lifestyle without varying their spatial configuration. In summer these rooms open outwards and enable the houses to be extended onto the private courtyard, while in winter they are closed for use as a heat buffer. In each private patio there is an independent entrance, a sauna on the south face, and a small vessel for bathing. The courtyards are closed by means of empty, translucent components that can be easily reconfigured as sheltering greenhouses or complementary spaces for storage: the courtyard is enclosed by plastic and vegetation. Deep and light. 99 different courtyards, so 99 different dwellings.