We asked architect Marianne Amodio about the inherent importance of uselessness and about the way we live and shop.
1. Why does your practice propose “weirdness” as a concept and believe that uselessness has an “inherent importance”?
It is the element of delight that elevates building to architecture and it is this element that I strive for. I feel that we live in an age where much of what we do requires justification in a quantifiable way, but it is those elements that bring us joy, that might not serve a function or are able to be quantified; that create place, identity and warmth. Something weird or “useless” inherently brings a personal warmth to the space and is a mechanism for clients to personalize and create a sense of ownership in their spaces. For me, this is where architecture meets art.
2. Describe the role of natural light in the MAD(house).
The carving of natural light was essential to this project. It created shadows that kept the eye moving and brought brightness deep into the space in order to create a sense of greater volume. The way light refracted colour onto the walls also created a sense of delight. Natural light is the living feature of the building.
3. Considering how APT addresses the issues of affordability and sustainability, are people pleasantly surprised that they can live comfortably in a micro-unit?
The new owners of the building were very cognizant that in order for people to feel as though living in a micro-loft is a purposeful choice, that the amenity floors were hugely important. The residents are encouraged to feel as though their home is 10, 150 square feet. 10,000 SF of that is co-shared amenity space: a place to bring your friends to watch the game; a place to cook Thanksgiving dinner for your family; a place to work out. The remaining 150 square feet is your bedroom. People can live comfortably in the micro-unit because they live fully in the remainder of the building. The micro unit itself was designed with a keen sense of detail. Inches matter in a space that small and we tried to squeeze as much open space into the units; which is why you see the washrooms and the kitchen up against one wall. Openness, lightness and transparency was key here.
4. From television news to banking, and even restaurants like Wild Rice, there is an obvious trend towards transparency, where we get to see ‘behind the curtains’. In your opinion, what is fuelling this desire for the viewer (customer) to see what’s really going on, and the business to show more?
I believe that we are moving more fully into a sharing culture and a sharing economy. I can conjecture that this might be due to generations of single family dwelling living, the inherent solitude of internet culture, or its an economic after effect of the economic collapse of 2008, but I’m really not qualified to say why this has happened. What I do know is that for the past few years, many more people want to see, want to share and want to create community. Its fantastic and I love that as an architect, creativity plays an important role here.
5. Where did the idea to use a magnetized wall for the Great Wall Tea Co. come from?
This was really one of those a-ha moments. I knew that we had a long wall and that we had to put the tins on that wall. I also knew that I wanted the top (the circles) to be the face, rather than the side of the tin.
I knew that it wouldn’t be functional to store the tins on shelves on their sides so it was really a matter of figuring out how to adhere the tins in that orientation on the wall. Once I realized that the tins were magnetic, the answer was clear. We did a lot of work figuring out how many magnets we would need so that the tins stuck but were not too firm to the wall or too loose once full and we also created a jig so that we could place the magnets in a specific triangular location on the wall. From there, the tins licked onto the magnets.