Architecture Monday

This is a little house that packs a big punch.  Nestled tightly on a small lot, it presents itself as a lovingly crafted wood box, with vertical slits the only indication of the jewels within.

Inside, weave themselves around three open-air gardens, bathing each room in ample light and serene views.  A hearth greets at the entryway, leading to the common area before spiraling off to the bedrooms and tatami room.  Though not big in actual size it doesn’t feel cramped and makes the most of its restrictive lot.

I especially like that tatami room, accessed through a narrow corner entryway to create an area secluded from the rest of the house yet still open to the greenery.  And at night, cleverly positioned lights create wonderful shadow play across the walls and floors.

It’s a spare aesthetic for sure, done well through meticulous craft.  Nicely done.

House in Akashi by arbol

Philosophy Tuesday

efficiency is about doing something perfectly

 

if you are 100% efficient,

but you’re not doing the right thing,

then you’re perfectly wrong

 

sometimes, focusing on improving efficiency

isn’t the right question to be asking

 

being less bad

is not the same

as being, or doing, or creating, a good

 

it is easy to be bought off

by the rush of false accomplishment

that comes from improving on a process

that comes by being more efficient

 

but the real payoff

and the real fulfillment

comes when we return to the base condition,

seed our intentions,

let our central selves free,

and create into the world

that which is a good

Architecture Monday

I don’t normally post renders of “might be built” buildings, but this one caught my eye.  For one, it is in Toronto, near a district I used to walk through all the time.  For two, there’s something compelling to me about the design.

The old building on-site, listed on the city’s historic register, originally housed (I think) a library.  The lower level, which admittedly has likely been renovated into blandville over the years, is nothing to write home about, but the second story has these pronounced decorative pilasters, windows, and a gaggle of other accoutrements.

What makes the new building nifty to me is how it uses those elements in its design.  It’s not a copy, not by a long shot (nor should it be), but that same language of those windows is carried forth along on the second story.  I especially like how then it is reinvented on the first floor, with large arched storefront windows and, even more wickedly, with the two half-arches that meet at each corner.  These corner arches open and ultimately dissolve the corners at the first floor, giving the building a very interesting profile and creating naturally inviting entry points.

The building then continues by being a great example of how to design with an eye to context.  The brick lends texture and a call back to the history of the buildings that surround it.  The reveal between the first and second story, as well as the cornice at the second story, tie into the horizontal lines of the store next door.  The cornice itself recalls the original building while also speaking to the adjacent old fire hall.  And the two new levels, delicate glass boxes, step back from the street, creating not only green garden/patio spaces but also reducing the building’s bulk.

I’m sold.  A great example of how our everyday buildings in the middle of a city done by completely commercial interests can still be, and should be, nicely designed.

12 Ossington by Hariri Pontarini Architects.

Gaming Thursday: D&D Character Sheets

To complete the trifecta, here are the character sheets I whipped up for our D&D game:

This one was done very quick and dirty like, heavily slicing and dicing the PDF print from the Forged Anvil excel character sheet, coupled with the borders from the official D&D Beyond character sheets and a gaggle of other graphics, symbols, and a parchment like background.  Still, quite pleased how it turned out.  As a bonus, you can see the banner I designed for my character on the last page (which itself was a kitbash using the banners from the Battletech kickstarter game as a starting point).  Sorry about the shadow on that photo there…

We’re restarting that campaign in just over a week, looking forward to it and to continuing to give this gaming notebook a try.  Happy gaming!

Wonder Wednesday

Ah!  Check out this old map of the Ontario Science Centre.  I remember it well!  Many great memories of visiting and all the exhibits within… Lasers!  The giant And/Or logic circuit gate ball drop!  The miniature lift locks!  Shadow freezing!  Parabolic disk whispering!  And one of my ever-favs, this amazing 2-story contraption that required four people on bicycles to pump water to the top through a series of pipes that could then be released down more transparent pipes to run turbines that would power lights, fans, and a model train.  Great stuff, and a great axonometric map that shows it all.

Hilarious story:  In earlier versions, the map didn’t include the word “Exploring” before the word “Space”, and so for many years I never visited that tower, as my young mind translated that to “Empty Space”, like it must be some sort of strange store room ready for future expansion or something…  ah, silly me.  Especially given how much I loves me my space program and the wonders of outer space!

Bonus postscript:  The OSC building itself is quite nifty, a brutalist gem nestled within a lush forest heading down a steep incline.  The double bridge leading from the reception building to the tower building was amazingly serene and a nice transition from the everyday world behind that built excitement.  Traveling down the massive escalators to the valley building meant passing seemingly hundreds of trees.  The grand hall was indeed grand, and the towers suitably impressive areas for exhibits.  The mezzanines looking down on exhibits below let the eyes wander from wonder to wonder.  Visiting the building was as exciting for me as was what was in it.

Philosophy Tuesday

At the Monterrey Design Conference last year, one of the principals from OMA (Rem Koolhaas’ firm) gave a talk.  They began by noting all the famous architects and firms that had emerged from their office: BIG, MVRDV, FOA, JDS, REX, Zaha Hadid, Buro Ole Scheeren… just to name a few.  And we all cheered.  For they are some great designers (many of whose projects I’ve posted about on this very blog).  Clearly a great achievement for OMA to be such an incubator for great talent.

“And so,” they continued, I paraphrase, “we had to ask ourselves a question.  Why are so many of them leaving our firm?”

Murmurs filled the hall.

“Who are we being such that they feel their future is brighter outside of our company?  Who are we being that they feel the need to leave to fully express themselves?”

Silence.

It was not where we expected the talk to go… nor was it something most of us would have considered.  But there it was, honestly stated and expressed with vulnerability.  It was an inquiry, posed to us all.  And one that was clear OMA was taking on with vigour.

It’s a great inquiry.

Ben Zander, in his amazing TED talk, finishes off his presentation with a similar question, describing his definition of leadership and success:  shining eyes.

“So if the eyes are shining, you know you’re doing it. If the eyes are not shining, you get to ask a question. And this is the question: who am I being that my players’ eyes are not shining?”

He then ups the ante quite beautifully:

“We can do that with our children, too. Who am I being, that my children’s eyes are not shining? That’s a totally different world.”

When things keep going a certain way, be it in our lives or all around us; when we get that realization that maybe something is off; when we notice that our progress is stymied; when we grasp our strategies are bankrupt; whenever the barriers stop us flat we can ask ourselves that very great question:  “Who am I being such that it is going this way?  Who am I being such that these are the results I’m having?”

The answer often surprises us (in that “bad news” insight kind of way).

Once we get over the shock, we can complete it, clear ourselves, and begin to design who we do want to be.

And keep that stable of fabulous designers to make great things, together.

Architecture Monday

Adaptive reuse, highly textured and rugged insertions, large mechanical devices operated by hand cranks… yep, it must be a design by Olson Kundig!

And how!  Once an old mechanic’s garage, the walls, ceiling, and windows all proudly wear the patina of time.  Within this rich background are added the equally industrial-like bits to turn the space into a winery and a company HQ.  Large pivoting windows replace the old garage doors, allowing the tasting room to become part of the sidewalk and vice-versa.  Everything within the room (including a large seating platform that doubles as a stage) is movable to allow as many uses as possible, from tasting to dinner to dancing to poetry to music jams.

Offices occupy the other half of the building, separated by or alternately opened to the winery via a single step up and large sliding solid steel plates that fit the look perfectly.

Yeah, I like this one a lot.  It hits so many of my aesthetic inclinations. Good stuff.

Charles Smith Winery and World HQ by Olson Kundig