An outdoor space close enough to the house to allow you to see its interior, projecting its style, mood and atmosphere. The outdoor space becomes the place where a living area meets natural elements and incorporates them into its space. This is where we spend some time relaxing, alone or in company, and where we also take refuge to get in touch with the green surrounding. How do you design an outdoor space? Furthermore, what are the characteristics that make a garden, or terrace, a special place? We asked architect Andrea Boschetti, founder and artistic and scientific director of the Milanese studio Metrogramma. We talked about the origins of the relationship between architecture and outdoors, analysing the concept of outdoor space and trying to grasp the nuances that characterise it, as well as the evolutions it has gone through over time.
Architecture and outdoors: the third environment and its rules
“The concept of the outdoors, the architect Boschetti explains, has changed mainly due to climate conditions and domestic environments that tend to go beyond their traditional boundaries”. In the architect’s opinion, this dimension keeps defining its own identity and individuality compared to living spaces in general. A concept that Boschetti, paraphrasing Gilles Clement, author of “The Third Landscape”, defines as “third environment”: “Today the outdoor space, he explained, can be considered a real home environment”.
Precisely because of its strong identity, the outdoor space can be customised, combining natural elements with interior design. This is particularly important during the design phase when, as Boschetti points out, “the outdoor space becomes a key element, an integral part of a house”. That's why “the third environment” must meet three characteristics: firstly the quality of the location, which means enhancing the outdoor space that we are going to design. Boschetti continues, “the outdoor design, must then take into account the healthiness of the external environment, an aspect that engages the designer in the search for solutions that can adapt to factors such as air quality. Finally, the third aspect is the ergonomics: the outdoors must be an environment when people can relax. Comfort is a key element of this space”.
Harmony between indoor and outdoor: the secret is “osmosis”
One of the most interesting elements of the outdoor dimension is the possibility to play on the contrast between indoor and outdoor spaces, creating suggestive atmospheres and changing effects depending on the time of day, or embellishing windows and glass doors with a real floating garden. This wide range of solutions is based on the harmony of the whole which, according to the architect Boschetti, is created through osmotic boundaries. “The most traditional elements are glass doors, as well as doors and windows, but we can also go further and imagine many filters made from fabrics. In general, the concept of osmotic filter between the two environments can become a new protagonist of indoor-outdoor design”.
Light and climate: two crucial variables
In a space conceived along a fluid boundary, light is what creates the real magic drawing new colours. Boschetti has no doubt about this:
“Light is a crucial element when designing outdoor spaces. The outdoor space is obviously extremely bright during daylight hours, while it is completely dark when the sun goes down: the balance between these two conditions is very important. On this front, in particular, technological research is increasingly oriented towards devices able to accumulate solar power during the day and then spread it at night”.
Like light, geographical location is also a variable that designers must put at the centre of their project. From this point of view, it is the climate that makes the rules. As Boschetti points out: “place and latitude do orient materials research, especially in response to the need to cope with sudden weather changes. This is the case, for example, of natural fabrics with high water-repelling properties”.
The relationship with the nature and the universality of its message
The outdoor theme is intimately connected to nature, but also the way it interacts with spaces and the designer's work, especially in high-impact solutions such as hanging gardens. “The project must never claim to dominate nature, which is the undisputed protagonist”, Boschetti concludes: hence a principle of harmony that keeps a balance between the place and the surrounding vegetation.
This is the beauty of outdoor design: designers are never alone; nature is always there to guide their hand. That's why Corradi presents itself as an outdoor alchemist: the real magic lies in the result that we just need to discover.