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In our image-obsessed, visually accelerated world, disappearing may be the ultimate retreat according to architect Patrick Keane, founder of Enter Architecture. When a client came to him with the desire to build a home that would be designed to disappear, Keane stepped up to the challenge.
(Published on January-February 2009 – JEC Magazine #46)
Patrick Keane has been selected to represent Australia’s architecture at the 2008 Venice Biennale. The “Invisible House” is one of the projects to be viewed in Venice, Italy.
Making a house “disappear”
The architect explains that in order to make the house “disappear”, every wall is deflected in shape which lends itself to “dynamic architecture”. Through this technique, the house can never be fully seen or fully comprehended from any single vantage point.
Enter Architecture worked on 3 invisibility concepts to create this house: camouflage, motion distortion and optical distortion.
Camouflage: insects like bugs and locusts rely on camouflage to blend into their local environment. In this case, invisibility is all about deciphering objects in their environment. For example, the army uses pattern recognition techniques to break down “certain forms” into “uncertain forms (a tree is an uncertain form where a human is a certain form or a “silhouette”). The house does have edges and corners but they are not rectilinear, and the underside of the house and roof can be compared to terrain-like geometries.
Motion distortion: though houses do not move, the deflection in the surface panels of this house encourages the viewer to move around it to fully comprehend it. Keane calls this “non-static” architecture, a new kind of architectural vision for the 21st century.
Optical distortion: reflection and refraction are used to help the house disappear by itself, just like sunlight mirages and weather alter our spatial and visual perception in relation to distance. The swimming pool close to the house is very important as it reflects light into the main living space.
Materials that can be ignored
The “Invisible House” will be built in Sydney, Australia, but Keane says it is reminiscent of architecture in Southern California. The home will be made of carbon fibre composites using technologies from Formula 1 and aerospace industries, meaning it will be extremely light and incredibly strong. The walls are literally paper-thin, which is another reason why it can be qualified as the “Invisible House”. Enter Architecture is working with Gurit Australia to build this incredible house.
Steel and glass will be used to build the lower level, thus showcasing the upper level as a floating element. Inside, the “Invisible House” will have everything a typical home would have: three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the upper level, along with an open kitchen, dining area and bathroom on the lower level. Construction of the “Invisible House” is set to begin soon, but even neighbours may not notice.
First step with composites
The “Invisible House” is Enter Architecture’s first project that uses composite materials. The company will be working with composites on two other projects: a house using ribbon geometries, and a light and strong cluster housing solution for remote areas.
Patrick Keane has a Master in Architecture from the Princeton University. He specializes in customdesigned electronic interfaces and experiments digitally-aided nontraditional architectural design.