Camera-Inspired Artist's Studio Offers Stunning, Wide-Angle Views

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By Patrick Sisson / Published by Dwell
Christian Tonko designs a delicate artist's studio that hugs the hilly landscape.

There's a "certain conceptual ambition and playfulness" in architect Christian Tonko's Camera Lucida studio, a hillside artist's retreat he designed for friends in his Austrian hometown of Bregenz. A roughly 570-square-foot angled box of weathered steel and concrete, the aperture-like space offers a stark interior for concertation and a wide-open look at the Rhine Valley below when inspiration wanes. 

Camera-Inspired Artist's Studio Offers Stunning, Wide-Angle Views - Photo 1 of 7 - Architect Christian Tonko played with a double metaphor when designing the Camera Lucida studio. The name of the cantileverd hillside space, Latin for "bright chamber," references the open window facing the valley below, as well as the skylight that bathes the workspace in natural light.

Architect Christian Tonko played with a double metaphor when designing the Camera Lucida studio. The name of the cantileverd hillside space, Latin for "bright chamber," references the open window facing the valley below, as well as the skylight that bathes the workspace in natural light.

Camera-Inspired Artist's Studio Offers Stunning, Wide-Angle Views - Photo 2 of 7 - Friends from Tonko's hometown of Bregenz, Austria, commissioned the studio when they acquired some land next to their home. They use it for drawing and sketching, as well as creating clay and gypsum sculptures that are later cast into bronze. Since the area is close to where he grew up, Tonko was incredibly familar with the view from the hillside.

Friends from Tonko's hometown of Bregenz, Austria, commissioned the studio when they acquired some land next to their home. They use it for drawing and sketching, as well as creating clay and gypsum sculptures that are later cast into bronze. Since the area is close to where he grew up, Tonko was incredibly familar with the view from the hillside.

Camera-Inspired Artist's Studio Offers Stunning, Wide-Angle Views - Photo 3 of 7 - The structure is clad in weathered steel with an interior of concrete and untreated oak window frames. Tonko's design is meant to be what he describes as a "delicate workshop," an easy-to-clean, distraction-free space that allow for concentration and creativity.

The structure is clad in weathered steel with an interior of concrete and untreated oak window frames. Tonko's design is meant to be what he describes as a "delicate workshop," an easy-to-clean, distraction-free space that allow for concentration and creativity.

Camera-Inspired Artist's Studio Offers Stunning, Wide-Angle Views - Photo 4 of 7 - Tonko positioned the "lens" of the building to look over the Rhine Valley below. The owners have considered hanging some of the bronze sculptures outside the window, to allow them to develop a natural patina over time.

Tonko positioned the "lens" of the building to look over the Rhine Valley below. The owners have considered hanging some of the bronze sculptures outside the window, to allow them to develop a natural patina over time.

Camera-Inspired Artist's Studio Offers Stunning, Wide-Angle Views - Photo 5 of 7 - The single skylight helps light the artists' workstation. The simple interior, really a shed with smooth concrete surfaces, provides a stark yet airy space for creative pursuits.

The single skylight helps light the artists' workstation. The simple interior, really a shed with smooth concrete surfaces, provides a stark yet airy space for creative pursuits.

Camera-Inspired Artist's Studio Offers Stunning, Wide-Angle Views - Photo 6 of 7 - Screens can be used to alter the amount of daylight that streams into the studio.

Screens can be used to alter the amount of daylight that streams into the studio.

Camera-Inspired Artist's Studio Offers Stunning, Wide-Angle Views - Photo 7 of 7 - Finished this past fall, Camera Lucida lived up to Tonko's vision of a functional and earnest space for work and reflection. A staircase leads to a second level with additional workspace.

Finished this past fall, Camera Lucida lived up to Tonko's vision of a functional and earnest space for work and reflection. A staircase leads to a second level with additional workspace.