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Would You Work Under a Tree?


Until recently the landscape departments of architecture schools were something of a ghetto. The modernist dream of high-rise slabs and glass-and-steel pavilions discounted the surrounding grounds. Manicured and shrubbed, the landscape’s role was to look pretty and deferential while buildings stood in splendid isolation. They might not say it, but the men enrolled in architecture programs tended to dismiss landscape as a girly pursuit. You know, gardening.

But the old order is now undergoing a shake-up. It’s not that landscape and architecture are moving towards parity, but that they’re mixing and blending in new ways. What’s the evidence? Patric Blanc is planting on walls. Fritz Haeg is replacing lawns with vegetable gardens and architects like Joel Sanders are finding ways to bring landscape indoors.

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Here’s another example: the Spanish architects Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano have created a studio for their firm, Selgascano,  nestled in the woods near Madrid. The office is encased in a long pod-like tube that is half-submerged in the ground to diminish its profile on the land.

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The north facing wall of the tube is enclosed in curving transparent acrylic, which allows staffers some exposure to the seasons and a dappled light filtering through the overhanging trees. The desks and monitors are shaded from direct sunlight by a fiberglass and polyester covering. The seam between the open and covered portions is accentuated by the yellow and white color scheme.

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One of the benefits of designing your own space is that you can sign off on details clients might reject. At the Selgascano studio, climate control is dead simple: a weighted pulley at one end of the tube opens and closes a hinged opening.MC