Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

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Wonder Wednesday

May 24, 2017

Oh my.  Walt Disney World just rolled out a new evening fireworks show, but much more exciting/impressive to me is the fabulous use of projection mapping on the castle:

Very nicely done.  The story/progression of the show may be a bit weak, but the visuals are killer, and I’m very, very excited for the breadth of the characters appearing.  One of the things I noted in previous visits to a park was how many of their characters and stories didn’t seem to bet represented or be present at all, so it’s great to see many of the “forgotten” stories be given their due.  Especially the Hunchback sequence!  Quite delightful all around.

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Architecture Monday

May 22, 2017

I went and saw a lecture by one of the members of MAD Architects the other week.  Overall I found their work a bit hit or miss.  They seemed to operate at their best when working on more intimate scales and close to the ground.  Which is exactly what their new residential/mixed-use project in LA is.  They didn’t present it at the lecture, but I like it.

The view as you (would – it’s not yet built) approach tells a lot of the story, the podium of vines and succulents and greenery rising above a transparent facade of shops.  From the back, a path wends from the ground up to the top of the verdant podium, atop which perch a cluster of white villas.  Balconies and windows set into the greenery let you know that these houses have, of a fashion, a basement, set deep into the podium. It’s living space all the way up and down.

But it’s the courtyard, hidden at the centre of the project, where the full story unfolds.  There is a gaggle of housing types here, from townhouses to villas to studios to condos, and they all coalesce and interact around this courtyard.  There’s an intricate interplay of forms here that create little niches and pockets of space for balconies and porches.  Each unit has it’s unique identity while in dialogue with the greater whole.  It looks fun and playful.

This isn’t ready to break ground until October, so I won’t be checking it out on my upcoming trip to LA, but in future years, when it’s done, I’ll definitively swing on by.

8600 Wilshire, by MAD Architects

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Architecture Monday

May 15, 2017

A little classicism for your abode?

If you like, here’s a nice (not-so little) farmhouse that pulls from the classical language to create a lovely building.  No columns or fancy friezes here, but the extra-tall movable shutters create a strong vertical pull that nicely reads column-like without falling into pastiche, and plays well with the horizontal siding that covers the rest of the house.

Rising two stories, those shutters are nifty.  They slide over the windows during the hot months, cutting glare and heat (the latter by a significant amount) while still letting natural light through.  Come winter months, they can perform reverse duty during the nights, helping to keep the heat in.

This lets the house be generous with windows in a place where they can be a liability in both summer and winter, which lets there be glorious views of the intense skies and beautiful foggy mornings.  And sometimes a visitor…

Pretty sweet.  A nice use of the principles of the classical form to create a simple farmhouse that treads lightly on the landscape it welcomes inside.  I like it.

Pennsylvania Farmhouse by Cutler Anderson Architects

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Architecture Monday

May 8, 2017

Shopping malls, on the whole, tend not to be paragons of design quality, and have propagated worldwide with little thought, period, let alone thought for the local culture, climate, or conditions.  Which means that often they don’t serve the needs of either the shoppers, the community, or even the shopkeepers.  They can increase cost to the store owners and decrease sales, rather than provide benefits to all who need to use it.

This project in Ethiopia does.

The above diagram, well, diagrams it all.  In elegant ways this new “mall” incorporates sustainable initiatives,  inviting spaces, and local charm to create a shopping mall born of a specific place.  It’s much more than the traditional strip ‘o shops with a fancy pediment.

There’s a whole bunch I like about this building, starting right from the get go with the expressive outer shell.  It’s concrete and it’s expressively pierced with a pattern adapted from the traditional local fabrics.  This means all at once it diffuses and controls the harsh local sun, it allows for passive natural ventilation, and it’s a thermal mass to help control the heat even further.  And as nice as it is on the outside, inside it is absolutely gorgeous, especially the amazing surprise that is the coloured bits of glass that sparkle like jewels.  Simple, clever, and good looking.

The building is also a shortcut between two adjacent busy streets, with a diagonal path carved along the ground floor that, in turn, becomes a diagonal atrium that expands upward and opens to the sky.  This acts as a chimney, letting hot air rise and the natural ventilation keep the building cool.  It’s also an internal street, letting the floors communicate with each other rather than be isolated pancakes.  The roof is also no isolated pastry*, it’s a large umbrella-filled patio.  That also happens to collect rainwater that is then stored to use for restrooms and irrigation.  Oh, and the umbrellas also serve double duty as photovoltaic panels.  Air, water, light, electricity… all thought of and integrated into this lovely box.

This is great stuff.  From the dramatic arched entryways to the spiraling road and shops that lead to the terraced roof, it elevates the experience of shopping while honouring its surroundings and thinking deeply about sustainability.  Lovely work.

Lideta Market by Vilalta Arquitectura

 

* Sorry for the tortured metaphor…

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Architecture Monday

May 1, 2017

Poetry comes in many forms, including sometimes being wrapped in what at first glance may appear to be the most mundane of shells.  Tonight’s project is just like that, a humble building built with straightforward and inexpensive materials, and one that presents an ordinary visage to the world.  It is not a terrible visage, to be sure.  It is well proportioned, it is in dialogue with the surrounding buildings, and there is a hint that something different is going on inside.  It is an unassuming face that it presents to the world.

Inside, it is the space – that which makes architecture, architecture – where poetry erupts.

The main hall within is canted 13 degrees to align with the qibla, immediately creating a bevy of sculptural ancillary spaces.  Used to great effect, they function as entry courtyards, apses, and towers, narrating the way from the outside to the sanctum within.

Inside, the hall is squat and expansive, compressing the space horizontally.  At first thought, all that brick and concrete, coupled with a low ceiling, may seem like a recipe for an oppressive experience.  Yet every corner blows upward in shafts of light, every side is a portico emblazoned with sunshine, and the ceiling features a burst of luminous dots that cast their rays onto the floor in an ever-dancing pattern.  And the finely honed and polished floor, contrasting strongly with every other piece of the building, calls attention to itself and to the relationship of the body and the ritual to that floor, and to all those around you who stand on that special surface.  The space radiates with intimate connection, both to your neighbors and also to the greater universe at large.

Architecture is about craft of space, the merging of purpose with form.  Rough and tumble materials in mundane locations are not hindrances.  When the intent burns bright, and the creative fire is unleashed, powerful and moving spaces are always possible.

The Bait Ur Rouf Mosque by Marina Tabassum

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Architecture Monday

April 24, 2017

Not trains tonight, but a Metro station in Paris, and one that marvelously connects neighbourhoods, not only via the subway but by an expressive bridge that both crosses and provides access to the Saint-Denis canal.  Oh, and it’s by my darlings, BIG Architects…

There’s a rather straightforwardness to the basic idea.  You’ve got a subway and you want to bring light down to the platform so you extrude up a large glass-topped atrium.  Now, like a giant paperclip, wrap a path around that atrium to touch both the distant and nearby shores.  And just like that, you’ve got a sensual form that invites and provides an easy and fun path to the station and to the water’s edges.  The bridge is meant to be more than just easy conveyance – following the city’s long history of bridges as social spaces, the bridge is extra wide and incorporates seating into its sculptural structure.

From there, the bridge spirals downward to create the sunlit atrium, with a cascade of escalators taking travelers down towards the Metro tracks.

There’s a certain simplicity of idea happening here that I like.  It’s very straightforward, a form derived directly from circulation and the ideas of connecting the adjacent boroughs.  That same straightforwardness is nonetheless delivered in a very playful and expressive manner, one that enhances the public space around the canal and very much the Metro station below.  Even if you don’t stop here, riding the Metro into the station will be an experience as you emerge from the tunnel into the luminous hall.  It’s not just infrastructure that has been reduced to its most brutal form; it’s infrastructure that honours the public space we all inhabit.  It takes a need and fulfills it in splendid ways.

The Pont De Bondy Metro Station by BIG Architects.

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Architecture Monday

April 17, 2017

A nice little piece of adaptive reuse tonight, converting an auto body shop into a Japanese bathhouse.  Wait, what?

But yes, that is completely the case.  Often we overlook many of the buildings around us, indifferent to them and only noticing when we come across big-A or grand architecture.  Yet the everyday buildings make much more of an impression on us (very much every day as it says in their name), and everyday buildings are all capable of being spaces that invite and uplift.  And so, here, this everyday building was repurposed (I will not say rehabilitated, for I don’t think it was unhabilitated before) with care to create a serene space where we may not have expected one to be found.

Exposed brick, cleaned up timber supports and columns plus new walls made of reclaimed wood, an adjusted ceiling to transform the proportions of the space, skylight to bring light deep into the space, a sealed and polished concrete floor – all elements that make themselves seen in various combinations throughout the bathhouse.  Add to that an overall aesthetic that continually mixes opposites to heighten and enhance each and every part.  It’s straightforward and sensuous.  Lovely place.

Onsen in San Francisco.