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 No. 66,460

Modern Houses To Reflect Upon

Marcus Binney praises young British architect Mark Dziewulski's innovative work with water and glass.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water is for many people the most beautiful house of the 20th century. Alas, the chances of finding a convenient waterfall with planning permission are zero, quite apart from the vigorous opposition likely to be mounted by river authorities and eco-groups.

The young British architect, Mark Dziewulski has hit on the perfect alternative - to build out on a miniature lake achieving stunning views and reflections by day and night and the same sense of living in harmony with nature. He has done it in California, now he is returning to England with the hope of building such houses over here.

The Waterside Studio he has built in Sacramento would make a dream addition to any house. Of course, slick glass boxes have been built out over the water before. Dziewulski's master stroke is to abandon straight-line geometry and build the new pavilion on a continuous gentle curve. "Like a scimitar, broadening out towards the end," he says.

This is free-form, free-flow architecture in which symmetry is set aside in favour of a method of composition inspired by abstract painting and sculpture. The roof projects a full 20ft beyond the building over the water, tapering to the edge and catching dancing reflections from the pond below.

One flank is conceived almost as collage, with overlapping layers of plaster and limestone wall and slot windows inset with coloured glass. On the other side, where steps lead down to the garden, there is a transparent zigzag wall of alternating panels of clear and frosted glass. From one point this provides a vista over the water, from the next an opaque backdrop to sculpture.

The owner says: "Mark knew that as a good Californian I treasured light and wanted to have the feeling of being outdoors while I was really indoors."

Dziewulski achieves this by cloaking the end of the pavilion in glass from floor to ceiling. Each panel of glass is 13ft 6in high and 5ft wide and disappears into the floor and the ceiling. This required great ingenuity as the glass is set flush with the edge of the floor slab over the water. "I worked intensively with the engineer and contractor to make the steel channel in which the glass sits virtually invisible," he says.

Sun floods through the roof as well as the walls. The external canopy has an open oculus which allows a slowly moving circle of sun to animate the floor. Two larger roundels are cut into the ceiling behind with an upper dome of acrylic to keep off the rain and lower one, just above the ceiling, to reduce overheating on hot days. Between the two Dziewulski has introduced hidden lighting so they do not go black at night, and glow like bubbles when seen from the outside.

A 3ft-sq glass panel set into the ivory coloured limestone floor provides a view down to the pond below. To keep this clear, there ids a pump that circulates 110,000 gallons of water twice a day. The water is filtered through reds and marsh plants along the edge.

Dziewulski ensured the clean lines of the interior by designing all the fittings, notably the stylish glass desk in the shape of a comma which slips neatly under the granite top of the wall cabinets.

Dziewulski offers a new way of thinking about sun rooms, studios, conservatories, and other extensions as well as houses. Fortunately, local planning officers in England increasingly welcome good contemporary design.

Dziewulski is convinced that large areas of glass can work in Britain. But at night he would adopt a very different approach: "Then you want very thick curtains and a blazing fire for warmth."


Water is used to maximize reflective light; the master stroke was to build the studio on a curving line

  Mark Dziewulski

Mark Dziewulski, above, hopes to find British clients for his ultra-modern house designs