Creating Purposeful Journeys: The Art of the Arrival Experience
By Raffi Arzoumanian
“I wanted to craft an experience where elements of the existing building, the new architecture, and a sense of arrival would converge.”
The first time I walked out onto the balcony over the front entrance at a recently completed private residence, it made me reflect on my original intentions for the design. We created a new addition to an existing home and I wanted to craft an experience where elements of the existing building, the new architecture, and a sense of arrival would converge. My inaugural walk through this space felt like a special event to me, different from the hundreds of others in my career.
The balcony is very small, located off the common loft area on the second floor where the family is meant to gather, share time, and create memories together. The balcony is a space to be discovered, even though it is in a prominent position above the entry door. It’s like a little bonus for the family – to be enjoyed by a small group that is deeply bonded together.
Before you can discover it, you must start from the most public part of the house – the entry area. By passing under the balcony, you prepare to shift from the large scale of the exterior to the more defined scale of the interior. It starts to embrace you and creates a sense of arrival.
At ground level, the interior entry space is characterized by the new brick wall on the right, the plane of the balcony above, and the old existing brick to the left. The old brick wall continues into the house to tie past to present and future. It creates a physical continuity of time and place, while also serving as a metaphor for the act of “arriving.” It represents a journey fulfilled – the journey of everyday life.
Once you have entered the house, you pass both public and private parts of the house alongside the old brick wall, turn the corner, and ascend a functional stair that leads to the most private section of the home. The landing at the top of the stairs offers an exclusive invitation to the small personal space of the exterior balcony.
Upon stepping out onto the balcony, you are again in the presence of the old brick wall. Looking away from the wall, you are reintroduced to the outdoors. At this point, you have come full circle – from below the balcony, where you experienced public exterior space while approaching the entry; to the shared, large-scale, interior space; to the discovery of the balcony itself, a small, private space; and, finally, back to the large-scale again, this time represented by the visual beckoning of the great outdoors. The cyclical experience of going from public to private and back outside to public creates a feeling of continuity in time and space that imprints a memorable experience of “place” for those who live here or visit.
This journey from grand scale to personal scale was another reminder of the profound power of physical space to create atmosphere, to shape perspective and memory, to mold one’s sense of the present. It was a reminder that so many of our experiences are circular in nature, and every loop reinforces the connectivity between public and private realms inherent in all that we encounter.