A Cockpit in a Creek: the Refuge on the Fal, Primeval Hut and Seed of Glass


Built in 1964 for the Brumwells on a wooded hill by the Fal estuary, this refuge for picnics on sailing outings is a minimal shelter with cooker and sink that affords magnificent views over the river. Seeking to avoid disturbance to the natural site, the heavy concrete shell is almost completely buried in the ground, serving as a base for a light wooden framed glazing, a section of which slides to give access to the 100 square feet trapezoidal plan. Splaying as a fan to the landscape, and offering protection from the weather with a faceted glass shield, this gazebo is Foster’s primeval hut: a mythical beginning and a summary of intentions. The seed of glass, half buried among the pines, carries the genetic information that will develop in future buildings. In his Dom-ino, Le Corbusier provided more analysis than invention; here, Foster offers both an abridged manifesto and a practical shelter, Wrightian in its formal lineage and Miesian in its conceptual offspring. Heavy and light in its construction, elementary and complex in its geometry, abstract and figurative in its representation, the refuge is den and cockpit, anthropology and engineering, predictable and unexpected at the same time: a necesary shelter in a misty edenic landscape and a surreal sunken boat under sacred milk wood...[+]

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