Anji Connell Reflects on the Beauty of Mirrored Buildings Around the Globe, and How We Can Bring These Into Our Garden Designs
Mirror cabins are very much in vogue throughout the world – and rightly so. Not only do they blend into their surroundings, becoming invisible in plain sight, but they provide a unique view from inside too. Mirror surfaces also reflect sunlight, preventing structures from heating up. Angled mirrors also help address sun glare problems associated with mirrored facades that are problematic in tropical climates.
Paddington-based Madeleine Blanchfield Architects’ Kangaroo Valley Outhouse is a stunning example of how we can use mirror in our projects. Nestled amongst verdant vegetation, the mirrored structure disappears during the day, reflecting the lush landscape, minimizing human interference in the natural landscape. From inside, there is a complete 360-degree view available. Taking the concept a bit further, ÖÖD houses were designed by two brothers who couldn’t find anywhere small yet beautiful to stay on their hiking trips. This experience led them to create ÖÖD as a hotel concept. The prefabricated mirror cube hotel rooms come complete with a bed, kitchen and bathroom. Other ÖÖD mirror cubes can include a reception, spa, restaurant, conference rooms, and gym.
ÖÖD houses are installed on foundation poles by the client following drawings provided by ÖÖD. Installation takes one to two days, and each cube comes with a two-year warranty. The cube offers full visibility to the outside without the inside being seen. The mirrored exterior reflects the landscape, making the cabin seem invisible.
Similarly, the Mirrorcube in Sweden was designed by Bolle Tham and Martin Videgård and built by a local company. Each cube provides accommodation for two, with a double bed, toilet and sitting area. All of these hotel rooms have incinerating toilets and a sustainable Rukkamoinika water system. Spectacularly, these rooms are accessed via swaying suspension bridge.
An aluminium frame is built around a tree to form the base of the room of the Mirrorcube, measuring 4 x 4 x 4m. All walls are covered in mirror glass, giving the illusion the room is glass from floor to ceiling. Another exciting detail hidden behind the facade is a balcony that allows you to go outside the box without being seen.
In contrast, Invisible Barn is a mirror-clad folly set in a California forest by architecture studio stpmj. Its slender diamond-shaped structure means that from certain angles, it appears to be paper-thin. The doorway and window openings puncture the facade all the way through with no rooms inside. The visual illusion allows the folly to be invisible in nature, reconstructing the landscape of the site and creating a visual trick as the framed openings appear to float in the air.
For those looking for something more familiar, American artist Doug Aitken has erected an installation in the snow-covered Gstaad mountains, styled and shaped like a typical American ranch house. The mirrored exterior reflects and interacts with the mountain landscape over the changing seasons. The interior is also mirrored to create a kaleidoscopic, refracted effect as you enter. Aitken built another similar installation in the Californian desert.
Mirrored cladding is one of those rare architectural materials that delivers more than expected
Meanwhile, Antonini + Darmon and RMDM have created a pair of large mirrored-steel boxes connected by a glazed bridge to complement and extend an archive facility outside Paris. The extension was wrapped in ribbed panels of reflective stainless steel to reflect the sky and the lush landscaped setting and as a contrast to the aluminium of the existing building.
Lastly, a beach hut has been added to Worthing beach on the UK south coast. Its small timber-framed structure has a gabled form that matches the local setting, and it is clad entirely with mirrors so it disappears into its setting. Instigated by property developer Jane Wood, it highlights playful architecture’s impact on sleepy seaside towns.
Specifying mirror materials
The type of surface finish and color are equally important when it comes to specifying rainscreen cladding. With its ability to shroud buildings and even make them disappear, mirrored cladding is one of those rare materials that delivers more than expected.
When it comes to specifying reflective and mirrored cladding, there are various choices depending on the level of reflectivity required, project design and budget.
Stainless steel is a versatile material due to its corrosion resistance properties. Unlike glass, the stainless steel panels can be perforated, rolled, folded or engraved to create a really striking facade.
About Anji Connel
Internationally recognized interior architect and landscape designer, Anji Connell, is a detail-obsessed Inchbald Graduate, and has been collaborating with artisans and craftsmen to create bespoke and unique interiors for a discerning clientele since 1986. Anji is a stylist, feature writer and lover of all things art and design.