The Architecture of Insertion
February 11, 2008, 12:02 am
Filed under: Rural Architecture, Travel, Urban Architecture

The Architecture of Insertion
Today’s blog entry focuses on architecture situated within dominant site conditions. So prominent are these conditions that the architectural end result is entirely dependent on the nature and characteristic of the site and how the structure is inserted. The constraints of the site define the project. We’ve researched and compiled ten examples of this concept, broken down into 6 categories: On top of, Beside, Between, Within, Through, and Inside.


Frey Residence II in Palm Springs, California by Albert Frey, 1964

The living spaces are built on and around protruding rocks native to the site. The glass façade is intricately cut to the contours of the rocks as the geological characteristics become a focus of the interior.

Frey Residence II

Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Genoa Italy, 1991
The slope of hill defines the structure, orientation and circulation.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop
images from Technology Place & Architecture by Kenneth Frampton

Olympic Archery Range by Enric Mirales in Barcelona, Spain, 1991
The facilities are built as extensions to the hillside. The retaining walls add a strong design element to the project.

Olympic Archery Range
Photo by Bryan Boyer

Olympic Archery Range
Photo from Technology Place & Architecture by Kenneth Frampton

House in Baiao, Portugal by Eduardo Souto Moura, 1993
The residence becomes an extension to the hillside as well as integrating with the stone walls of ruins found on the site.

House in Baiao

House in Baiao

Photos from Ten Houses: Eduardo Souto Moura

Moledo House in Moledo,
Portugal by Souto Moura Arquitectos, 1998

The residence is both a contrast to and an extension of the rocky terrain.

Moledo House

Moledo House

Moledo House


Temppeliaukio (Rock) Church in Helsinki by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, 1969

The church is inserted below grade within a depression in the rocky landscape. The interiors are left exposed showing the rock faces.

Temppeliaukio Church


Temppeliaukio Church

Commercial & Residential Building in Haarlemmerbuurt, Amsterdam by Claus en Kaan, 1997

While there are many examples of narrow urban infill this example seems exceptional due to the minimalism and contrast of the design. These qualities make the new structure dependant on the characteristics of its neighbors and the constraints become advantages.


Leça Swimming Pools in Leça da Palmeira, Portugal by Alvaro Siza, 1966

The careful insertion of new concrete walls within the existing rocks and tide pools produce a series of swimming pools. Walkways and structures, supplemental to the pools, are also conscientiously placed within the landscaping

Leca Swimming Pool


Leca Swimming Pool


Leca Swimming Pool

La Maison de Verre in Paris, France by Pierre Chareau, 1932

As the story goes, the little old French woman on the top floor wouldn’t give up her space or move. So Chareau proposed jacking the top floor in place while the new structure was built under and through the existing building.

Maison de Verre

Images from Pierre Chareau by Brian Brace Taylor

Gjovik Olympic Cavern Hall (Fjellhall)
in Lillehammer Norway, 1994

Creating the volume required 170 tons of explosives to hollow out an opening within the mountain near the Lillehammer city center. A series of tunnels lead through the mountain side and access the stadium which is nearly 300 feet long by 200 feet wide.

Gjovik Olympic Cavern Hall

Gjovik Olympic Cavern Hall

Post anything we missed…


1 Comment so far
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Nice article with cool photos

Comment by Karina Velandia

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