Let’s take a little trip… just a short journey… to a place not completely unlike our own… yet not at all the same…
This is a philosophical post, intended to spark thinking and examining.
Often, things are talked about like they are a light switch.
Either on, or off.
With each side paired off against the other:
You’re either an introvert or an extrovert.
You should always be assertive, otherwise you will be a pushover.
All boys should act and are like X. All girls should act and are like Y.
You either have to be a complete shut in, or be a wild exhibitionist.
You must follow this precept, else be cast forever in sin.
You’re either with us, or against us.
It’s all you are/it is X or Y.
Whole worlds of divisions.
Light on. Or light off.
Here’s the thing about lights, though.
They have things called dimmers.
Gradients are possible (and normal).
This is a fun one. An H in plan, the design spark of this house is a simple set of cartoon-like house shapes extruded so that they intersect with each other. Voila! A house that’s essentially six “kid’s drawing of house”.
There are three things that really allow this simplicity to sing (and keep this project from being kitschy or just odd). The first is that all the elements are well proportioned. The second is the slick and smooth metal panels that cover the house, letting the caricaturish forms really read like the simple mental image of a house (almost like a Monopoly house). Lastly, and quite importantly, is the rich and contrasting woodwork that infills the gabled ends. The geometric complexity and three dimensionality of the Mondrian-like screen pattern brings both visual depth and interest, and through that contrast it also reinforces the rest of the house’s overall plastic nature.
The carport is where these two cheerfully collide. Here the rigorously uniform wood frame marches forth to create that cartoon house shape. And as we try to get a handle on that, the glass roof throws us off kilter and has us do a second or third look.
When you’re working with something this simple, precision, care, and craft in all the elements is required to really make it stick. Anything out of place becomes readily noticeable, and both corners and where materials meet must be crisp. All done well here.
Unfortunately there aren’t too many shots of the interior, so I don’t know how well the conceptual playfulness carried inside, and if the resulting spaces are as nice. I do hope so – architecture is, ultimately, about the quality of space within, and to find these moves not reflected inside would be unfortunate.
Nice project. House XL by SoNo Architeki.
Wait, you ask… it’s March. How could I be talking about a Cirque show, don’t I always see them in December? Why yes… that has been the pattern. And that tradition has indeed been broken, a little, this year, as I waited for the show to come down to San Jose rather than taking the trip up to the San Fran. No matter! Cirque is in town, and Vicki and I maintained the grander tradition of our pilgrimage to the Grand Chapitau. So let’s dive into this waking dream of Mexico…
Potential Spoilers! Continue reading
This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.
Today, it comes in the form of a quote:
In retrospect it may seem naive.
But then again, in retrospect, everyone looks naive.
That doesn’t mean we stop trying.
(Love it. I can read this on many levels. For myself, I can go easy and be forgiving for what I have wrought, perhaps foolishly, in my past. For others, I can be present and understanding and compassionate. For the world, I can be courageous and self-expressed in striving towards a future that works for both everyone and all the wondrous creatures that surround us, with no one and nothing left out.)
I can be a sucker for libraries, but this one’s got a lot going for it: bold forms, luminous troughs of airy space, a marriage of the rough and the refined, expressive detailing, and an interplay that compliments nearby structures without mimicking them.
There’s a clarity too that lets the building speak for itself in many ways. The building is organized around its three naves, each fronted by expansive windows that themselves double as benches for passers-by outside.
I love this interchange between the readers inside, looking out towards the town square, and the curious pedestrians, who can see the books (and the readers) within as they pause in their day.
The naves themselves are quite exquisite, as the rhythmic wooden slats form a scrim for translucent panels, letting a warm glow suffuse the reading areas. I particularly like how the bookshelves form both the edges of the stairways, the reading areas, and, spatially, an extension of the nave above.
Built by local woodworking artisans, it’s superb craft coupled with fine design, and a new beacon for a town devastated by the earthquakes and tsunami of 2010. Great stuff.
Years ago, I helped edit Sifu’s first book (on Iron Palm training). As I was passing along my comments to the team I said, “The description of the four strikes used in the exercise seems a bit thin to me. I think they could be explained more.”
Sifu replied, “Ok. Go ahead and write it.”
After mentally freaking out for a moment*, I agreed. I wrote the expanded section, it was reviewed by others in the editing team, and into the book it went. Boom, published, out into the world.
Fast forward a number of years.
We’re in class, having a conversation with Sifu, and the subject of Iron Palm and the training comes up. “The palm strike is the most internal of the strikes,” Sifu says. “Wait…” I interrupt, “isn’t the backhand the most internal?” “No, it’s the palm strike.”
Cue more mentally freaking out. This time because I was positive I had heard it was the backhand. My understanding was that it was the backhand. Which means… did I write it into the book wrong? Did I screw up horribly, confuse and mislead everyone who bought the book (and maybe cause injury!), and above all that, make Sifu look bad?
I raced home as soon as class was finished, dropping all my stuff unceremoniously at the door to rush and grab the book from the shelf. Flip, flip, flip, find the page and….
Sifu was, of course, right. The palm is the most internal strike. The backhand has more of an external component to it. That’s exactly what it says in the book… and thus exactly what I wrote.
I was relieved. And, at the same time, a whole mess of perplexed, angry, and weirded out. How did I get it so wrong?
But in the next moment, I realized what a great example it was of just how fallible, of how malleable, of how downright unreliable our memories are. I literally wrote (part of) the book on the darn thing! And yet, somehow, somewhere, I’d twisted it around in my mind until I was rotely spouting something incorrect. I let go the worry and laughed.
We like to think our memory operates just like a superdimensional audio/video recording system that perfectly and forever captures sights, sounds, our feelings, our views, and, if we really tell the truth to ourselves, we also think it captures other people’s moods, thoughts, and even intentions. All accurately and that can play it back anytime with perfect fidelity.
In that moment, book in hand, I got just how even something as straightforward as a simple piece of instruction or information could get miss-remembered so much that I’d built an entire body of understanding around it. This freakout-inducing potential-mistake opened a whole world of inquiry for me, because if I was capable of doing that with such a simple event, what did that mean for my other well-held beliefs based on much more complicated events in my past… ?**
The answers to this question have been most fruitful, almost always leading me to greater freedom and peace of mind.
And, as a bonus, I now have a much deeper understanding of Iron Palm.
* I freaked out because I was still young at the school and didn’t expect to be brought into this important a project even as an editor, let alone asked to write what amounts to generations of distilled knowledge (and this was all before I got my start down my path of mindfulness, transformation, and ontology, so I was waaayyyyy more prone to freaking out).
** This has been made even more profound as modern neuroscience research continues to show us just how hilariously not-fixed our memory is…
Let’s journey to King’s Cross station tonight, to visit the new West Concourse. Fantastically combining adaptive reuse of the existing historic buildings with expressive structural elegance, it creates a great new expanse of space that welcomes travelers to London.
This was one complex project, touching a total of five existing buildings to improve flow and access to a bevy of train lines, underground railways, a hotel, and more. For me the big delights are the fact that, despite this massive undertaking, they sought to preserve as much of the existing fabric as possible, and using that as a starting-off point for some great moments and spaces.
Inside the existing buildings, there is a wonderful dialogue between the old and the new, between the contemporary modifications and the historic backdrop. It is not necessary to copy or mirror the past in order for a building to fit in with its neighbors (or, in this case, fit inside). There are numerous ways to make the two be in dialogue and, even better, enhance each other in a way that a pastiche repetition would not. Steel and glass and sleek lighting plays very well with the old brick, highlighting and beautifying the rich texture of the beefy masonry.
The new entry hall takes a different, but equally fruitful, path, with a radiant forest of columns and beams that form a dome over the entire hall (and that also delicately nestles in against the existing curved face of the Great Northern Hotel). Tall, soaring, and seeming to float overhead, the roof highlights the restored facade of the Western Range building and leaving plenty of room for the necessities of a very busy train station.
The existing platforms were also similarly restored and upgraded, so that travelers today can marvel at the energetic structures that long have been a staple in grand stations.
Overall, lovely work. And, as a bonus… at the end of the grand new concourse, a new, semi-secret platform was added, known to all those who have read the Harry Potter books: