Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

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Architecture Monday

February 17, 2020

This is not an accident.  It is not a truck that drove into the sea.  It’s not a beached whale either.  It is a restaurant, appropriately named “Under.”

Just recently completed (and, alas, too far away for me to visit on my equally recent trip) at the southernmost point of Norway, the angled concrete tube that forms its shell pokes its head above the waterline like a rising sea creature.  On one face, the concrete is peeled back to reveal rich oak siding, where a bridge spans the gap between the shoreline and this entrance.  Battered by frequent storms (often several per day, lasting a few hours before becoming calm once more), waves crash across its surface like a kinetic sculpture, bringing witness to the marvelous power of nature.

Inside, things take a serene turn.  The reclaimed oak paneling transitions to fabric wrapped panels as you descend past the bar and towards the restaurant, with colours slowly changing from pink to coral to green to luscious midnight blue.  But, situated at the end of the subtly curved tube, it is the window that most catches the eye.  Enormous, it looks out onto the shallow depths to give a stunning glimpse of the highly varied marine life that exists in this tidal pool.  A second window slices vertically along the side of the bar and mezzanine, extending from the sky to below the sea, the tableau changing hourly with the rise and fall in the weather.

This is definitively theatrical architecture, but not in a way that I think is pejorative.  It takes an idea, an interesting concept, and uses it as a starting point to develop a design that is more than the sum of its parts, and way more than just a “gimmick plus a box.”  It is done with care and with an attention to detail that makes for a stunning space.  Great stuff.

Under by the amazing folks (and still one of my favs) at Snøhetta.

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Architecture Monday

February 10, 2020

Oh this is a fun one.  A tumble of baskets?  A series of stacked boxes?  A series of wood piles?  Or yes to all of the above, writ large to the size of a building.

A museum in the middle of a dense urban area, the interlocking wood cubes are both neat and also break down the building to both fit within the scale of the surrounding town.  At the same time, they also allow it and the site to bridge between different street heights via ramped stairway.  It’s definitively a playful composition, with the slats that make up the boxy forms sometimes tightly woven, sometimes spread apart to act as a sunscreen, sometimes extended to become railings for patios, and sometimes completely empty, making for a fancy portico hovering overhead.

Inside, the same language drills down the centre of the building as a twisty atrium, connecting the various gallery levels together and letting sun penetrate deeply throughout.  Starting tall on the first floor for large-scale works, the floors gradually get shorter as they rise through the building, creating more intimate spaces for smaller works of art.  All the while, that central shaft of wood acts as a friendly wayfinder.

A bright museum that invites all while integrating itself into the surrounding urban fabric.  Very nicely developed!

The Odunpazari Modern Art Museum by Kengo Kuma & Associates

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Architecture Monday

February 3, 2020

Here’s a sweet pair of homes, built together by splitting a corner lot.  Almost the same, but not quite, the two play off each other to create two new units where only one might have otherwise stood.  Even better, they were built on a budget with high energy standards in mind and yet never skimped on design quality to satisfy either of those aims.

I love how their simple forms and simple materials work nicely together, with the vertical striations on the standing seem metal roof and wall panels pairing nicely with the deeply coloured horizontal wood boards.  The clean detailing wherever two surfaces meet lets the houses read like idyllic forms, sketches made real and resting lightly on the land.

Inside, the covered porch/portico under the pitched roof continues through the ample window to create a lofty living space.  I also really dig the large rolling barn doors that lead to the office and the bedrooms at the back of the house.  And with the kitchen pushed out into the wood-covered extension, the exposed rafters and roof ridge can continue back from the front room to lend the house a very expansive and bright feeling.

This is some good stuff going on here.  Two homes built with purpose and flair, showing that good design and “everyday typical housing” are not incompatible or impossible.  Nicely done.

Two Houses on Oak Hill Avenue by Studio 804.

 

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Wonder Thursday

January 30, 2020

More photos from our grand day at Disneyland!

Love those squirrel rain spouts…

The castle is really looking good after a major refurbishment last year.  It may not be large in stature, but with it’s bold colour popping and looking great under the strong California sun it captures the eye and is once again a grand centrepiece for the park.

Got to visit with Nick!  (Judy was out on patrol…)

ShadowCheetah was wearing this fun and semi-subversive shirt that was filled with traditional Star Wars poster imagery but with title text at the bottom said “Star Trek” in the Trek font.  Though he hadn’t approached Nick, as we were leaving Nick runs over and stops him to energetically point at the title on his shirt as if to say “What the heck?!”  That ol’ sharp eyed fox!  Spotted it from 6′ away!  And then, if that wasn’t amazing enough, he proceeds to pantomime pulling out his pad, writing up an infraction/ticket, and handing it to ShadowCheetah.  We laughed so hard, what a perfect act by Nick, a great interaction and totally impressive that he spotted it in passing from so far away!

The park as a whole for the day was delightfully quiet.  We didn’t even get or need a FastPass once throughout the day, and managed to see/explore/ride an amazing number of things (listed in no particular order):

  • Space Mountain
  • Star Tours
  • Pirates
  • Thunder Mountain
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Smuggler’s Run (3x)
  • Rise of the Resistance
  • Castle Walkthrough
  • Matterhorn
  • Submarine Voyage
  • Guardians (3x)
  • Incredicoaster
  • Nick Meet & Greet
  • Lunar New Year Processional

Plus exploring Batuu and many areas of the two parks.  My oh my, it was a gloriously full day!

There’s something certainly beautiful of walking through the park long after closing, but also… mildly disconcerting.  It’s weird to not have anyone else around, and with the silence that accompanies it.  I totally loved it, don’t get me wrong, it’s peaceful beauty and I am now scheming to ensure I get to do that again.  But it was very amusing to be in that headspace space of both marvel and unsettled at the same time.

 

I mean, though, how could you not love seeing the castle and main street so clear and free like this?

Getting to start the day standing before the castle nearly an hour before rope drop (ie park opening) and ending the day again before the castle nearly an hour after closure, with non-stop attractions in between.  Truly a spectacular, wonderful, and fun-filled day.

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Wonder Wednesday

January 29, 2020

Last week ShadowCheetah and I got a chance to hop into my starfighter and fly ourselves down to visit Batuu… and it was a decidedly good time!

After following the construction progress from afar, walking into Galaxy’s Edge and experiencing it was very cool.  It’s a deliciously hyper-detailed land, with an attention to detail I’d not seen in a Disney park outside of the ones in Japan.

Every nook and cranny has been paid attention to with set dressing so that there’s no blank or disused areas.  And the design of the land purposefully avoids any clear sight lines so that it unfolds bit by bit as you journey through it.  While it has its downsides (or even flaws) from an operation’s standpoint (such as lack of casual seating) the land is glorious eye candy everywhere you look (which would be great to observe from said missing seating).

Our plan was to visit the planet both during the daytime and then return to see it under the glory of night.  This worked out even better than we expected — our boarding pass was called for Rise of the Resistance (more on that in a bit!) late in the evening, which had us emerge from the ride just a few minutes before park closing.  Which was enough time to hustle it over to Smuggler’s Run for our third ride of the day.  We ended up being the last ones on the ride for the day, and when we were done piloting (woohoo!) we exited Hondo’s garage to a very empty Black Spire Outpost.  Which allowed us to not only marvel in the great detail and lighting, but also take some nice shots with nary another person in sight.

So clearly we enjoyed Smuggler’s Run, but we were especially fortunate that our trip to Batuu came after the opening of Rise of the Resistance.  Because it is truly something else.  Several something elses, really, as it is more like 5 rides in one.  Spoilers hereon out if you want to avoid, as I kind of did, studiously avoiding watching any on-ride videos so that I would go in semi-fresh.  So while I knew of a few of the big set pieces from following the construction photos, the overall of it I didn’t know.  I’ve heard it described as the first “F-ticket” attraction, and I would agree.  There are a lot of very nifty moments, a tonne of incredibly creative set pieces and effects, and it has a more cohesive plot and perhaps even story than did the The Rise of Skywalker movie.  It’s a tour de force (pun semi-intended), and I’m keen on seeing it again!

Some of my fav moments:

  • From those construction photos, I knew that there would be a Star Destroyer hangar.  But having us go out of the shuttle through same door we came in was unexpected… and best of all, there was this group of about 8 who clearly didn’t know about this and when the door opened and we were greeted by the tableau of three rows of stormtroopers and the giant doorway to space and the First Order officers this group, in unison, literally jumped back, leaned back, and screamed in a mix of surprise, amazement, wonder, and terror.  So much so that the officer had to stop his spiel and wait for them to finish before ordering us off the ship.  So while I unfortunately wasn’t surprised it was absolutely great to get to live vicariously through that group.
  • The cast members playing the First Order.  They must love it, getting to be all stern and order-y and generally being very non-Disney like.
  • The cutting out of the jail cell!  The effects of the plasma torch were neat (even if one fellow prisoner was standing in front of it, totally clueless to what was going on behind) them, and then the rough cut look of the wall when the panel pulls away.
  • As we’re in the droid vehicles, headed towards a lift… and a mechanical form slowly slides down from above into view.  Me:  “Gahhhh!  It’s a probe droid!”  Voice on the Ride:  “Look out, it’s a probe droid!”  Me:  “That’s what I just said!”
  • I want to see the blaster effects a second time… some seemed to work great (along with blasting holes in the wall), some less so…
  • The decompression effect was amazing.  I’m guessing a chamber of pressurized air to get that instantaneous blast effect, it was very effective.  (The debris that ‘falls’ to hide Kylo Ren, not so much.)
  • And then that last drop right into the motion simulator.  They must drop the entire motion simulator rig, and that’s just downright impressive — that thing plus the ride vehicle plus the guests can’t be all that lightweight!  And to do it over and over and over again!  It’s also very effective from an experience standpoint, you do get the sense of being ejected out of the ship and then escaping down to the planet’s surface (that said, they need to upgrade their graphics on both that and the original shuttle ride to take time-of-day into account — it was night outside but the graphics were all day).

All in all, a great ride experience, and super impressive from a technical standpoint.  Hats off and lightsabres up in salute to Imagineering for such great work!

 

 

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Architecture Monday

January 27, 2020

The new Amos Rex Gallery in the heart of Helsinki is pretty cool.  Not the least of which because the building that surrounds it was co-designed by Vijo Revell – the architect who designed the Toronto City Hall!

Even without that tie to my hometown city, it’s still nifty in its own right.  Built to avoid disrupting both an existing plaza and the surrounding buildings – including the lovingly restored 1930’s era aesthetic functionalist building designed by Revell that contains shops, restaurants, event spaces, and a theatre – the museum is built underground, beneath the plaza, keeping it part of the urban fabric and open for continued public use.  But it doesn’t lie quietly or hidden, instead bursting out of the ground in undulating mounds, creating a fun topography of artificial hills and bumps all punctuated by a super tall tower.  Reminiscent of a lighthouse, the tower in actuality serves as a passive ventilation shaft.

The entry to the museum is by far one of its most dramatic moments, with a wide angled staircase creating a simultaneous bifurcated view of the museum lobby below coupled with an eye level view of the plaza.  It’s trippy and prepares you for the area below, with its arching ceilings matching the landscape forms above, all culminating in windowed occuli that allows the spaces to be naturally lit whenever appropriate.

Great little addition to the city, a new venue that totally both preserves and enhances the old. Nicely done.

Amos Rex by JKMM Architects.

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Architecture Monday

January 20, 2020

Can’t leave without visiting a castle stronghold, now can we?  Especially one as well storied as Kronborg, aka, Elsinore from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  From a modest fortress in 1420s to a royal household from the 1570s onward to the addition of ramparts in the 1690s plus, it’s an interesting mix of military utility along the perimeter walls contrasting with upper crust opulence in the main residence.

 

Also quite fun, most of Hamlet is recreated and performed each day throughout the proper rooms in the castle, with the actors and actresses intermingling and interacting with the guests in between (always staying in character)…

Kronborg by Hans Hendrik van Passchen, Anthonis van Obbergen, Hans van Steenwinkel the Younger, and a gaggle of other unknown architects over its history.