Architecture Monday

Great buildings very much aid in creating a great work environment, which then leads to great work.  And this new office definitively fits the bill.

It’s hard to miss the building, its six v-shaped pavilions creating a strong sculptural presence.  Like a series of open books, each of the thick concrete walls that nestle the office spaces open northward out towards a lake, cutting glare from the strong sun at this latitude while allowing plenty of diffuse northern light as well as parkland views to penetrate deep into the work spaces.  Each pavilion is connected via outdoor arcades, which in turn also become planted pathways connecting the rooftop gardens that also adorn each concrete V.

Cuts into and slices taken out of each V allow for small punched windows and dramatic entryways, while exterior stairs also lead to porticoes allowing access to the rooftop gardens.  Altogether the green roofs flow across the whole assemblage of pavilions, connecting them all and creating another layer of parkland.

There’s a lot to love here.  From a building that’s overall both fun and rife with greenery to the wonderful details like the pattern of cutouts that create an additional layer of sculptural articulation as well as the bold slices to create the entries.  And that green roof is wonderful, pulling double duty to keep the building cool while just being a cool space to hang out.  Great stuff.

Viettel Offsite Studio by VTN Architects

Wonder Wednesday

An amazing photo of SpaceX’s 20th CRS mission to the International Space Station, with both launch and the historic 50th landing of a booster:

Most amazing is this bit here, where you can see Main Engine Cut-Off, followed by stage separation, followed by Second Stage Engine Light, followed (and this is the super amazing bit) by first stage re-light and the boost back burn for its return back to land just a couple of miles away from where it started:

 

I can’t wait for the first crewed mission (just weeks away now!) and for tests on Starship to begin. Congrats to SpaceX!

Photos by Teslarati

 

Philosophy Tuesday

“Resentment is a fire that burns with more light than heat.”

— Shakespeare (Well, not really, but kinda)

There is much to commend in that quote.  Resentment, animosity, bitterness, rancor, anger, malice…  these can all be powerful motivators.  As in, they can really propel us to get a lot done.  Channeling them pushes us into action and make us productive.  Sometimes even very, very, productive.

The thing is though, just as there is a difference between being efficient and being effective, there is a difference between being productive and being fruitful.  Resentment may get a lot done, but the results are often crap.  It doesn’t produce outcomes or works of weight and worthiness that we can be proud of.

So, while it may give us that burning rush, it’s all just a light show, with nothing left to actually drive the engine.  It doesn’t move us forward.  Worse, we may well, unwittingly, instead lead ourselves backwards.

It can be work to find a fuel that burns warmer than that of resentment and its ilk, but it is worth it.  It may not churn out things as fast, and it may feel less viscerally intense, but that which it produces endures… solid, authentic, beautiful, and worthy of who we truly are.

 

* For an additional take on this, here’s a video by John Green

Architecture Monday

Welcome to your lily pad, floating gently on the water in a placid lake.  Ready for a little getaway?

Surrounded by vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France, the vertical wood slat screen that encircles each small cabin creates patterns of light and shade, solid and gap, such that the huts blend easily with the trees and tall grasses that surround the lake.  This is further and deliciously accentuated by having the tops of the slats stretch beyond the lattice-like roof beyond, extending towards the sky.

Carefully positioned, the screen dapples the strong Mediterranean sun and dampens any winds, bringing comfort while also bringing privacy to both a veranda and the cabin itself.  The interior is spare, almost sauna-like, letting the wood planks and the water beyond do most of the talking.

A lovely little idea, using a simple motif to bring both elegance and lightness to the project, blending with the serenity of the lake and leaving nature as the dominant voice.  Great marrying of function and form.

The Grands Cépages Cabins Hotel by Atelier LAVIT

Storytelling Sunday

“It’s just a kid’s movie.”

I do not like this phrase.  As a way of excusing or justifying poor storytelling (or, worse, a poor story), it feels weird to me.  As in, is the person uttering it really trying to say that because it’s for a child, it’s OK if it is not well made?  That quality doesn’t matter?  That throw any ol’ thing onto the screen and that’s enough?

Because to say that in other contexts can be quite bizarre, no?  “It’s only a child seat.  Quality isn’t important here.”  “It’s only kid’s food… it doesn’t matter if its good or healthy, they won’t know the difference.”

To me, the thing is, they’re our children.  We should want to provide them with the best.  To give them the biggest and best leg up in life.  To let them grow.

No, that doesn’t mean a movie has to dissect the epistemological underpinnings of post-dynamism economies, but kids are way more capable than we often give them credit for.  And no, that also doesn’t mean that every movie has to teach something either (though they can), just the same as it is for adults.  There are plenty of rich, amazing, and profound stories we can tell, and tell them with excellent storytelling craft that engages, whether it be to inspire, to enlighten, or to simply amuse.  Or to do all three at once, and more.

And that’s the biggest thing for me about that phrase… because it’s not like there aren’t already excellent examples of movies ostensibly made for kids that are, well, excellent.  Movies that are excellent on many levels.  Take many of the works of Pixar, Disney movies (including my most favourite, of course), and, most certainly, the amazing (even stunning) works of Hayao Miyazaki.  Movies that are moving, Illuminating, full of heart, and that deal with the inner drama of both children (in a most profound Mr Rogers way) and of people in general.  While also being appealing, funny, delightful, charming, and captivatingly well told, a pure delight to watch.

So much so that not only do kids like them, but they are movies that are beloved in a general sense, from young to old alike, and whether we have children ourselves or do not.  They are simply good stories.  Good movies.  And good stories attract everyone.

We can make these amazing stories.  We do.  And kids deserve them.  There should be nothing “just” about a kid’s movie (or any other work of fiction).

And I invite us all to ask for it.

Philosophy Tuesday

Many years ago, I read about a research project* that was studying people’s opinions and decision-making processes, and specifically the speed at which they/we came to those conclusions.  What initially caught my attention was that the research was about web sites:  How long did it take someone to decide whether they liked a web page or not?

From the conclusions in the research paper, very fast.  As in on the order of a fraction of a second fast.  Webpage loads, and boom: like or dislike.

That’s how quick this happens.  That’s how short the window can be before our filters (a new one, in this case, but also heavily influenced by many already existing ones) come slamming down to colour our perception going forward.

And colour them they do, for the even more interesting bit was when the researchers followed up to show the participants a different site that was, in some way, better or more functional.  Most stuck with their initial choice, even if it was harder to use or to accomplish what they wanted from the site.  Partially in a “devil you know…” kind of way, but mostly very much in the “filtered view” kind of way.  Having decided it was a good site, so it remained.**

Our filters are amazingly powerful things.  And they’re not bad per se… but it is highly useful to know they are there.  Know that they can and do influence our feelings, thoughts, and emotions.  Know how they hook into our rationalization engine.  Know how they can figuratively blind us to what’s in front of our eyes, limiting possibilities and potentially making our lives much more arduous than it needs to be. And to know just how quickly they can come into being and lock us down, without us even being conscious that it happened.

When we do the work to go beyond just knowing about our filters and practice being mindful and present about them and their impact, we gain freedom:  freedom to take what our filters give us, or to set it aside and take a fresh and clear second (or third, or fourth) look.  And the freedom to do that at any time, no matter how long the filter has been in place.

 

* That for the life of me my Google-fu is not strong enough to find again…

** In a lot of ways, it could also be tied to “othering” – having decided we like this site, the site becomes part of the tribe, and so everything else becomes an outsider and therefore unconsciously viewed in a harsher light.

Architecture Monday

This one for sure can be filed under the category of tiny house (it’s about 12 m2/130 ft2).  But interestingly it’s also perched on a roof of an existing building – a demonstration of reclaiming leftover spaces to create something not only valuable but that could also be rendered beautiful.

The simple bent A-frame structure is covered in a gleaming seamed metal roof that reflects the sky during the day and the urban lights at night, while the twin glazed ends (one clear, one frosted for privacy) turns the house into a lantern and beacon in its own right.  It’s also quite elegant, a shapely little folly that slides unobtrusively into the skyline.

For this first version, things were kept simple on the inside, with an exposed wood structure and paneling that contains coconut-based insulation.  A rectangular core near the back contains the major utility functions for the house, making the most of its small space.  This leaves the living space and loft above to open upwards and outwards through the full-height window that offers views of the mountains beyond.  With windows at both ends of this small house, it is an understatement to say that it is suffused with light.  At the same time, its opaque side walls, along with the porch-like overhangs at both ends, prevents glare overload while also keeping the house from overheating in the equatorial sun.

Whether interested in small houses or not, or whether interested in a project that latches onto an existing building (adaptive expansion rather than adaptive reuse?) or not, its simple form and resulting poetics makes this a house to take note of.

The ”Parasite” House by El Sindicato Arquitectura