The house is part of a 1970s brick terrace in northwest London. The block is arranged on an inverted “front” situation, where the main access is from a central private court and the “rear” gardens face the leafy main road a short walk from Primrose Hill. No interventions on the plan or its fabric had been made in more than four decades, and now it had to be a home for a young couple and their children.
Each level was spatially intervened in a different way: the garage and small rooms on the ground floor were integrated into one single, continuous space linking front to back and extending into the garden; the first floor was divided to create a room for guests or study; the top floor with the bedrooms went through some minor reform to simplify the plan. The lack of conventional room structure on the ground floor allows it to be the focus of family life throughout the day, determined not by thresholds, but by easily reconfigurable furniture, with all the fixed elements (kitchen, storage, built-in seats) lining one of the party walls and a meandering figure of services on the other. Two wide skylights bring light to the deep plan, one above the framed staircase and one in the rear extension where the unlined brick and timber fabric are modelled by sunlight throughout the day.
DF_DC is an architecture and urban design practice based in London and Lugano, founded in 2016 by Dario Franchini and Diego Calderon.
The practice has built a series of private houses, housing blocks and public spaces in Switzerland, the UK and Mexico, with current projects in France, Italy and Mozambique. DF_DC were recognised with a Mention of Honour in the Jalisco Architecture Biennale in 2020.
Our work is based on observing the different contexts around a project and weaving them as the medium to constructing space. As projects are subject to nonstop contingency, we have learned to work with strategies rather than with design per se. These strategies free us from the usual constraints of scale and building type and allow us to approach a project with an almost ingenuous view. Territory, society and culture are contexts of departure, but there is no pre-conceived way in which they combine with others. We try to conceive projects as a clear constructive idea, but also recognise that logic alone is not enough to produce strong atmospheres.
We run a horizontal structure, not only within our practice, but also with the network of engineers, landscape architects, craftsmen and other specialists we collaborate with. In a constant cycle, the deeper, long-term spatial inquiries of the practice, react and blend with the one or two key interrogations that come with a new project. There is an intrinsic internationalism not only in how we operate (from two countries), but also in how we think about architecture. Through our academic work, we try to continue the cycle of reflection and conjecture about space, which is as much about awareness of the world as it is to making architecture.
42 Theobalds Rd
London WC1X 8NW
+44 (0)20 7405 9361
Via Carona 6
+41 91 950 98 70
General enquiries: email@example.com
Dario Franchini, USI-AAM / OTIA / SIA / REG A
Diego Calderon, USI-AAM / RIBA / ARB
Paolo Crippa, Mathias Broniatowski, Federica Zoboli, Felix Everard, Jacob Lee, Veronica Casey Fierro
At the moment we are not looking for new employees, but we accept spontaneous applications with a digital portfolio (3mb maximum) in pdf-format at firstname.lastname@example.org (or hardcopy to the attention of HR). We are an equal opportunities employer.
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Dario and Diego are Studio leaders at Kingston University, running Studio 2.5 since 2018.
2019_Tec de Monterrey, Guadalajara (MX)
2017_Accademia di Architettura, Mendrisio (CH)
2016_Central St. Martins
2013_Accademia di Architettura, Mendrisio (CH)
Morris +Company, AZPML, Peter Feeny Architects, OMMX, Ammann Architekten, Collective Urban Strategies, Anton & Ghiggi Landschaft Architektur, Officina del Paesaggio, AF Consult, Measur, Conisbee, WMM, Momentum Structural Engineers, Hardman Structural Engineers, P3R, Pianifica, Mawi, AM Structural Design, Appleyard & Trew, Gabriel J. Villasmil, Mara Scalia, Mammutlab, Ver Estudio, Rory Gardiner, Simone Bossi, Gautier Houba, Gui Rebelo
Victor Perlheden, Silvia Passiglia, Gianfranco Panza, Maria Teresa Albano, Dylan Rivas, Sebastian Alvarez, Yuet Ming Wong, Diego Palomares Gaspar, Martina Solcà, Francisca Aires Mateus, Priya Kana, Sherry Ye, Laura Franchini, Luca Pederzini, Davide Rossi, Ana-Maria Marin, Giulia Bisi, Nicola Andreani, Veronica Marzorati, Silke Schnidrig, Laura Vilalta Ibanez, Carlotta Sartorio, Carmen Cabanas, Ivan Ginzburg, Belen del Yerro, Radina Todorova, Chris Painter, Clausen Buchartts, Salvador Borras i Mascarell, Nicole Vairetti, Laura Fuoco, Nuria Casais, Francesco Magni, Patrizio Patà, Lorenzo Rossettini, Kostas Biliunas
In its suburban context, the house appears as an extraneous object of a scale difficult to gauge and of intriguing character. Once inside, one is surprised by how the L-shaped plan is arranged underneath the pitched roofs and around the garden in opposition to the hermetic urban stance.
The series of spatial forms on the two floors resulting from the section, together with the carved openings in the bedrooms, do not reveal much to the outside and only become evident from the garden. From the adjacent vineyards, the house rises as a monumental, introverted form.
A house from the 1970s with two apartments is intervened on to both extend it and open it to the nearby lake, addressing the original lack of views.
The intervention is limited to the ground floor and uses the analogy of “open drawers” protruding from the existing house, forming a series of internal and external spaces. These “rooms” are defined by grid frames resembling the traditional Ticino granite and timber pergolas but built in reinforced concrete. This newly formed podium looks to the south and east – and thus the lake –, benefiting of this condition for the first time. Some “rooms” are enclosed with glazing and integrated to the interior, whereas others remain open as terraces.
A complete revision of the plan is allowed by the extension, integrating small rooms into one single living space with the bedrooms around it. Deep diagonal views result from the new arrangement and the house is given a new stance on the landscape.
DF_DC have been invited as workshop leaders to Porto Academy 2022. The Summer School, first held in 2013, gathers an international cohort of students, graduates and practitioners in a week-long event of lectures, studios and visits in and around the Portuguese city.
Our monograph published by Quart Verlag (CH) was launched in Artlecta – bookshop and space for architectural dialogue – in Guadalajara (MX). The panel included Rafael Plascencia, Alejandro Guerrero, Luis Aldrete and Marco A. Sanchez, with the aperitif kindly provided by the Embassy of Switzerland in Mexico.
Via Carona has been published by the German technical journal DETAIL, along with an article titled “A Concrete Skeleton Learns to Dance: the Via Carona Apartment House by DF_DC” by Jakob Schoof. The article can be read here: https://www.detail.de/artikel/ein-betonskelett-lernt-tanzen-wohngebaeude-via-carona-von-df-dc/
Diego delivered a lecture/conversation with Bernabe Pico Estrada at the Universidad de San Pablo in Tucumán, Argentina. The series invites architects from abroad who have studied or worked in Switzerland to share their experience in terms of cultural and tectonic complement.
The Pyramid House features in the Best Architects ’22 book, a beautifully crafted edition by the Best Architects team in Germany. The book can be purchased here: https://bestarchitects.de/en/bookshop/order.php
Dario and Diego delivered a lecture titled Time/Function/Context as part of their guest Professorship at the Tec de Monterrey (CH). The lecture explored the current contexts and buildings that the practice is currently intervening on, both in Switzerland and the UK, through the optics of the rate of change of human inhabitation and the flexibility potential of structures.
The practice accepted a Guest Professorship at the Tec de Monterrey in Guadalajara (MX) for the 2021-2022 academic year. The studio developed proposals for the re-use of a 17th Century farmstead for a couple of architects/artists in the village of Adios, in Navarra (SP).
The practice received the Best Architects ’22 Award, from more than 400 entries. The Pyramid House was selected in the single-family homes category, with the jury consisting of Sandy Attia (Brixen), Samuel Lundberg (Stockholm) and Prof. Rolf Seiler (Geneva).
Our undergraduate Studio at the Kingston School of Art centred on developing proposals for a speculative contingency hotel/terminal in Heathrow Airport. The research field was broad, from the Non-places to long-span structural systems, considering how the elements of daily living can take new spatial guises. We are grateful to our guests Andrea Soto & Alejandro Guerrero (Atelier Ars), Stanislava Boskovic (Imperial College) and Xavier Aguiló i Aran (Evolve/BAC).
The practice will feature in New Architects 4, compiling the work of the best British practices founded in the last ten years. The book is part of the long-standing series by the Architecture Foundation, described as “the definitive survey of an emerging generation of British talent.”
Our first monograph has been recently published by Quart Verlag in Switzerland, as part of the Anthologie series. It features ten built and unbuilt projects in Europe and Mexico, with a foreword generously written by Andrew Clancy of Clancy Moore.
Diego Calderon has written the foreword to Alejandro Guerrero’s book Arquitecturas del Fuego I & II (Architectures of Fire I & II), published in Mexico by Galimatías/Artlecta. The first volume revises architectural processes and transformations in time through a series of optics, while the second centres on the Scandinavian lineage through the architecture/landscape binomial.
This year we are focusing on the phenomena of tourism as an optics for the current crises. Our studio will investigate and develop projects for a one-room hotel with climate as the context, and a contingency terminal building hotel in Heathrow.
Dario Franchini and Diego Calderon have been invited to give a talk as part of the 57°10 series, organised by the Architecture Society of the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture in Aberdeen, Scotland on 29.04.2021.
More info: https://www.5710.co.uk/
The Pyramid House has been featured in Swiss magazine Wohn Revue, with an article titled Pyramide im Bergtal, by Nuria Peón. The article is on the December 2020 issue and discusses the relation between site and brief in the development of the project.
More info: https://www.wohnrevue.ch/wohnen/pyramide-im-bergtal/
Swiss architecture review Raum und Wohnen have featured the Concrete Villa as on their May 2020 issue cover, with an article —Im Kokon aus Beton Garten— by Barbara Hallman and images by Thomas Hämmerli.
Diego Calderon and Paulo Moreira (Paulo Moreira Architectures, Porto) were invited by Arca for their Talks series. The Talks are a series of fortnightly dialogues around architecture, landscape, design and the city. Diego and Paulo have coincided in several points along their paths —education, work,
DF_DC have been selected by Wallpaper* in its Architects Directory 2020, along with other practices from around the world: “Conceived in 2000 as an index of emerging architectural talent, this annual listing of promising practices, has, over the years, spanned styles and continents; while always championing the best and most exciting young studios and showcasing inspiring work with an emphasis on the residential realm.”
More info: www.wallpaper.com
The Concrete Villa has received an Honourable Mention at the XI Bienal de Arquitectura Jalisciense – National Academy of Architecture, in Mexico in November 2019.
We have been invited to produce a spatial representation of the work of Peruvian short story writer Julio Ramon Ribeyro, as part of the Arpafil programme of the International Book Fair in Guadalajara, Mexico. The work is part of the Transcriptions: From Literary to Architectural Space exhibition and ensuing catalogue, and is based on a triptych as a stage design proposal for La Molicie (The Complacency).
FINAL CRITS AT STUDIO 2.5 - KINGSTON SCHOOL OF ART
Dario and Diego with their students, have been working on an adaptive masterplan in the De Strengen island in the Netherlands.
Later on, they implemented projects for artists to live, make and exhibit their work, along with a collective landscape design.
PUBLIC LECTURE AND WORKSHOP - MEXICO
DF_DC have been invited to lead a workshop to the Tecnologico de Monterrey School of Architecture in Guadalajara, Mexico between the 10th and 12th of April, along with a public lecture titled Tensions.
Dario and Diego delivered a lecture as parts of the K.Arch Talks series at Kingston University, revolving around a series of thematic binomials that influence or determine the work of the practice. A register podcast will be available soon. Thank you to the Architecture Soci
Diego Calderon of DF_DC and Thom Brisco of Alder Brisco collaborated with a joint piece for the Camaradas exhibition at the Menier Gallery in London. The piece is a buff plaster cast of Oxford s conjoined quadrangle colleges, overlaid on casts of the green Cantera volcanic stone-built urban blocks that hold Oaxaca s irregular Zocalo as abstract pieces that interlock in a casual series.
GUEST CRITS AT THE CASS, STUDIO 02
Dario and Diego were invited a guest critics to the undergrad Studio 02 at The Cass, who are focusing their research and projects in the Portuguese Alentejo in a parallel programme to our Kingston University Studio Lisbon Project. Thanks to Charlotte and Colin for the invitation.
DF_DC AT MORRIS +COMPANY, PUBLIC TALK
We have presented the work approach of our practice through the image of temporary constellations at Morris+Company. Thank you to Joe Morris and the team for the kind invitation.
Dario & Diego presented 10 books of architecture (directly or indirectly) at Kingston University as part of the Register Lunchtime series, intended to be a cross-fertilisation of ideas between Studio leaders.
The project comprises the masterplan, architecture and landscape design of a small hillside retreat above Lake Chapala in western Mexico, providing short stay accommodation away from the city and offering an austere experience of the landscape and magnificent weather.
Eleven cabins are laid out along narrow paths in the landscape look for views of the lake while negotiating their position with the steep topography. A cluster of small buildings at the point of arrival contain the reception and technical spaces, and a larger terraced cluster houses the restaurant and pool through a series of canopies and basins.
The cabins are broken into three reduced-size components based on the general activities that they host: seating, washing and sleeping. These modules are articulated to allow a certain opening up of views and are linked by a central external space to which the three internal spaces open under maximum privacy. The cabins are suspended from a framework made of angled masonry columns and a rim beam from which the lightweight timber cabins are suspended, with a thin overhanging metal roof to provide a shade.
This intervention to a 1970s detached house focuses on the grey energy of the building as a point of departure. Limited to local amendments to bring the building to current living standards, the project aims at the largest transformation through the minimum means.
The volume is simplified by the new roof, which eliminates the intricacies and overhangs of the original, but fenestration remains unchanged. The upgrading of the envelope through external insulation crystallises the reinvention of the whole through the mix of grains of the render, applied as a series of geologic strata wrapping around the house, based on the datum of windows, parapets and other façade elements.
The project (in collaboration with AZPML) is born from the transformation of the old public school into an audiovisual hub, comprising three cinema theatres, the Film Festival headquarters, a film school, a multi-use hall and other film-related services.
For ecological, urbanistic and historic memory reasons, the project foresaw preserving the existing building through a series of local interventions, following the logic of historic stratification. Structurally, only two of the internal court walls were demolished, and the new roof extension hosts the common functions.
The historic facades were refurbished, while the extension is clearly contemporary in character with its gold kinetic façade, which with a soft of wind recalls the idea of the “Golden Leopard” from the inside.
The spartan interiors of the offices are weighed against the new golden entrance hall, which tries to be an extension of the public space.
The building takes its form from the site, at the boundary between historical core and the town extension. This transition is reflected in the strange L-shaped plot, which the building adopts after applying the offsets and other normative parameters.
Slightly hovering above the ground to accommodate the garage and cellars, the perimetral structure allows different spatial organisations for the dwellings through joinery elements, culminating in terraces on the narrowest end. The unfamiliar volume is composed of a regular concrete grid and bush-hammered spandrels to regulate the apertures in relation to the internal space.
The building takes its form from the difficult site along the railway and articulates accesses at different levels. It contains 14 apartments over five levels, gradually revealing close views of Lake Lugano through the long northern terraces. The project is conceived as an assemblage of elements with different lifespans: structure, services, and partitions, pre-empting the scenarios in which it might transform over time.
A range of peculiar typologies are produced by the massing. The structure tilts out to support a projecting element at the top with the penthouse, changing the perception of the frame and of the landscape beyond. Materially, the building softens its monolithic aspect with bush hammered concrete panels as infill to the frame.
The Concrete Villa is a single house on the Comano hills, a small village north of Lugano in Switzerland. The plot was previously occupied by vineyards and characterised by an elongated trapezoid form, which determines the volume.
With the interesting views towards the east and west, but with the constraint of having adjacent houses in close proximity toward the north and south, the house is conceived as in inhabited wall. In order to avoid the effect of an excessively long and closed volume but also ensuring a level of privacy, the flank elevations are articulated by a series of deep rectangular fins.
The material of reference used is grey reinforced concrete, declensed in various ways depending on the case. The in-situ cast fins are alternated with infill elements with the old technique of “strollato” used in Lombard villas: a mix of pebbles and cement handsplatted with a trowel and later sanded, thus combining old traditions and new construction techniques.
The project deals with the question of dwelling for the elderly, away from the common misconceived references of either hotel or hospital, and instead imagined as a big home. Situated in a large plot, surrounded by scattered low-density housing and the existing elderly home – to be replaced by the new– the project proposes a public park in addition to the main building as mutually indivisible components. Access and the distribution of the different circulations take benefit from this condition (two ground floors), with the public and communal spaces linking directly with the different instances of the exterior.
Internally, a central atrium connects all the floors with a shifting configuration, resulting from the rotation and mirroring of a typical floorplate on the top four storeys where the rooms and meeting spaces are contained. The importance given to the communal life on these floors results in an inversion of the traditional position of the bathroom as a threshold between the entrance and the bedroom, thus preferring a stronger link between hallways (“streets”) and bedrooms through internal shuttered windows, and linking instead the bathrooms to the private open spaces along the facades (“gardens”).
The park (designed with Thierry Dalcant Paysagiste), despite being public, is conceived as an extension of the programme of the home. In its patchwork different elements are juxtaposed: allotments, sensory garden, playgrounds and a big lawn, also containing the parking.
The Leaning Yucca House is an elegant extension and re-invention of a Victorian semi-detached home in northwest London. Having been previously broken up into flats, the current occupants, a young family, wanted the internal spaces reimagined as one living area with greater connection to the garden. DF_DC’s approach was to extend the house to the rear and strip out the outdated layers and finishes that had accumulated over time. This allowed them to integrate the ground floor kitchen and dining rooms into a single, open space for them to grow into and use as they please.
The distinct materials of Leaning Yucca House were kept to a choice of two complementary wood interventions. A continuous joinery element in oak incorporating the kitchen, storage and staircase creates a unified design and visual coherence to one side. While the rear extension and side passage are clad in red cedar – quietly discernible from the aged brown brick façade – marking each window with a projecting hardwood fin. The material palette is completed by light concrete floors, a black steel frame and whitewashed brick around chimney breasts. A stronger connection to the garden was established through the installation of two sets of french doors.
The project is a series of interventions on a 1980s mews house for a family in west London. These minor amendments include extending to the rear and on the roof, changing floor levels and reconfiguring parts of the plan.
Frame elements in hardwood are introduced as a common language for the structural and spatial intervention, taking several guises in the process - roofs, screens, porches. The main living area gains a scale and unadorned dignity previously missing in the typology, opening up to a small patio in the back.
Project in collaboration with Morris +Company and Ghiggi Paesaggi.
The Cantonal Tribunal built in the 1980s in the protected setting of l’Hermitage is extended through a long element articulated in plan and section to minimise the topographic impact and enable deep views of Lake Geneva.
The spatial structure is thought as a flexible space complemented by joinery partitions containing all the file cabinets. The structure is hybrid concrete and timber, and it links with the main building through three passages opening up to terraces, both of which act as the informal meeting spaces.