An Exploration of Concrete – Diagrid House by Jack McKinney Architects
As a study in the limits of materiality, Diagrid House explores concrete as a sculptural matter. Interpreting the material’s various forms and qualities, Jack McKinney Architects expresses the beauty in the raw and imperfect.
Topped by a fifty-six-tonne diagrid concrete roof form, Diagrid House is essentially a study on the limitations of concrete as both a structural and sculptural element. Sitting on its own solid podium base for support and with the uppermost level recessed, the mid-level is intended to be the main visual connection to the streetscape, making the form appear as one level only. The play on retreating and expressive forms aids in this, and the expressive concrete sculpture that extends beyond the base draws the eye and creates a moment of curiosity through its bold and unexpected form.
Located in Auckland, Diagrid House sits on a steep hill site, its monumental roof form acting as an outpost toward the surrounding views. The basement garage rests weighted on the site, anchoring the upper level and providing a recessive form to counterbalance the outreach of the upper level. Traditionally used in slab form, the diagrid framework is the coming-together of diagonally intersecting concrete beams, creating a tightly rigid and taut membrane. Due to its structural strength, the diagrid can alleviate the need for columns to support large spans. As a sculptural element, the use of this form inspired the open and connected living space while creating patterning of cast shadows as it interacts with sunlight throughout the day.
Entering the home at this main mid-level, an entry stair externally is mirrored internally (from the basement) and provides access to all three levels. Opening to the north and the east, the living space opens up to the street, and the extension of the floor slab allows for the space to continue beyond the glazing. In response to the narrow site, the house sits tight against its southern boundary, and the incorporation of landscaping to soften the transition from the harder concrete element was key. The landscape sees steel combine with concrete to allow robust and low maintenance plantings to naturally mark their ground. Planting is also used in lieu of a street fence to create a grounded and natural balance to the extensive use of harder elements.
Topped by a fifty-six-tonne diagrid concrete roof form, Diagrid House is essentially a study on the limitations of concrete as both a structural and sculptural element.
The project explores not only the sculptural and formal potential of concrete but the nuances and textures of its materiality too. Jack McKinney Architects deliberately highlights these imperfections and the inherent beauty found in the material, celebrating these lived and storied nuances as character. Expressed in its raw form, markings and flaws in the surface are visible throughout. Together with black zinc metal walling, cedar boards, porcelain tiles and aluminium joinery, the overall palette takes inspiration from its base of concrete and echoes the same robustness and depth.
Expressing a normally hidden structural system as sculpture, Jack McKinney Architects embraces the character of the home’s comprising parts. Welcoming these unique qualities, Diagrid House stretches out and optimises its location.