Shell Studio

The architectural idea that I was exploring from the Maisons Jaouls was the idea of the house acting as an exoskeleton, specifically seashells, and how these could be applied to an architectural manifestation of forms and their generation.

The addition to the Maisons Jaoul does not have an established program nor a finite one.  The premise of the program is generated through accretion of space from the purpose of the ever-evolving needs of the dweller.  The program begins with the need for a place for the dweller to retreat to in solitude, a place built for one, by one.  This space will be small and secluded, removed slightly from the rest of the house so that the dweller actually travels into a separate space.  This place will be a reading nook that provides storage as well as furniture positioned for reading positions.  The shell of this space rests on four columns, three of which are higher to provide clearance into the space, but as one moves back into the nook, the ceiling slumps downward to shelter the dweller in a comforting enclosed space.  The next space is added on the Northeast side of the house, next to the reading nook. This area is intended for a painting studio, as the dweller of this Le Corbusier house decided to take up a similar lifestyle to Corb, by painting in the morning and practicing architecture during the day.  This painting studio is also meant to be a retreat from the rest of the house, so it is also removed from the existing top floor of the Maisons Jaoul.  The shell of this space is actually resting on three columns, on the east corner of the house the shell lofts upwards to allow in morning sun as well as ‘north light’, which is idea for painting.  The walls of this compartment are floating from the ground to allow in a small amount of light from a lower angle, for certain ambient lighting of models.  The third space is the largest space, as wide as the house itself; it houses the architectural working studio, where the dweller would spend his days.  The shell for this studio rests upon what is already built and its two end walls are transparent to allow in as much natural light as possible.

The shells if they were ever built would be made from thin concrete and cast on site atop the formwork of the columns that would be placed there.  The columns themselves would also be made from concrete and cast on site; their locations are all among the load-bearing axis of the existing house.  The connection between the shells and the columns would be a simple bolt that would lift the shell only slightly up from the tops of the columns, giving a floating effect and displaying the property of lightness in the shells.  Another possibility of the shell connection is that the shells and the columns that hold it up become a mono-structure and there is no definite differentiation between what is a column and what is a shell.

Despite my opinion of the house I was assigned at the beginning of the semester, I actually enjoyed the work I ended up doing.  I was glad that what was drawn from the house in the analysis phase led to something that seemed completely different from the house.  Following Le Corbusier’s interest in seashells was a catalyst for my interest in the project, one of my favorite parts of this project was learning about seashells and dipping into the realm of something that I had never even wondered about before.  I also quite enjoyed researching one of the most famous architects in the world and learning about how his career evolved over time.


Working with plaster as the main material for the second half of the semester was also quite enjoyable.  It was interesting to learn, through much trial and much error, the capabilities and limitations of the material.  Oftentimes after working with one material for such a long time, one becomes frustrated or fed up with it but I would definitely be willing to work with plaster again in the future because I believe that I have only scratched the surface on the potential of the material.

Something that took until the final phase of the project to realize is the importance of the creative process.  It is easy to attempt things that are not going to work out the way you planned but each failure can be turned into an opportunity and realizing that it isn’t always a bad thing to fail is something that allows the creative process to keep flowing.  I am glad that I was able to have my instructor and my peers around me to bounce ideas around and be inspired by to be able to produce work that I was happy with.