The Atelier GRATIA has realised the Star House project in the city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
The Star House has taken its name from its location: not only is it located on a street called Star Street, but its site is a remnant of the intersection of two urban systems, giving rise to a non-orthogonal plot, whose angular shape is reminiscent of a constellation.
The massing of the house is a hybrid of two typologies: a ‘Row House’ and a ‘Courtyard House’. The former creates a dialog with the city while the latter establishes a sheltered sanctuary for its inhabitants. The apparent paradox is resolved by a central courtyard and a series of exterior patios that buffer between public and private zones.
The transition from public to private also happens vertically. While the semi-privacy fences on the ground level offer a friendly gesture for the storefront to the streets, a monolithic concrete mass emerges above, shielding the residential quarters from the public gaze.
The street facing façade celebrates the bend of the street with an origami motif – a contorted Yoshimura pattern – with strategic slits to let in slivers of light into the main living room.
For the side and back façades, tiny square windows create star-like punctuations on the walls. Their placements, though expressive, follow a rigid rule to avoid interference with the structural re-bar rhythms within the load-bearing exterior walls.
Contrast to its hermetic exterior façades, the interior façades are completely open to the inner courtyard with floor-to-ceiling glasses. With a wall slab structural system that eliminates all columns, every room has an unobstructed view to the central courtyard, where a reflection pond and a Zen garden reside. Different living quarters are connected like stars in a constellation through intermediary spaces that offer buffer and transition, where a balance between family unity and individual privacy can be maintained.
The house is like a giant sundial where the passing time and changing seasons are noted: planetary movements are constantly felt through the ever-changing shadow play below the skylights, while the colors of sky are captured on the kaleidoscopic surfaces of the panoramic glass façades that wrap around the courtyard.
The vented skylights are also strategically placed to create a chimney effect that draws cold breeze in from the pond and eject hot air upward through convection, allowing for passive cooling in the house. The power of tropical sun is captured by the solar panels on the roof and integrated into the electrical system. Rainfalls are incorporated into an intricate aquaponics water system where an underground reservoir recirculates pond run-off to irrigate the garden with natural fertilizer produced by the fish.
Natural and ethically-sourced materials are used for furnishings throughout the house to preserve the tangibility of nature while the boundary between indoor/outdoor is blurred by carrying the same design language from the inside to the outside. Residual teak wood from an old project as well as mosaic tiles made from recycled marble waste are given a second chance to live out their glory.
A new type of relationship with nature is constructed here: By reconnecting the domestic ritual to cosmic orders, the daily routine is transcended from mundane to sublime, and one’s existence from terrestrial to celestial.
For more information visit www.ateliergratia.com.
Project: Star House
Architects: atelier GRATIA
Author: Grace Ming-En Chang
Collaborator: Jiang Fang-Nan Architecture Office (Architect of Record)
Location: Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Photography: Yi-Hsien Lee, courtesy of atelier GRATIA