Architecture Monday

The sinuous forms of the columns for this chapel are so smooth and seamless that some views almost look like CG rendering.  But it’s a very real place, in Japan.

Used primarily as a wedding chapel, there’s a lot of show going on here, from those sensual columns to the curvy all-glass walls to the fact the whole thing seems to float effortlessly above the placid pool of water.  Trippy?  Yes.  Over the top?  Sure, but the theatricality of it all is fully intentional for the theatrical event taking place within. It’s a neat space.

Cloud of Luster Chapel (even the name is full of show biz!) by KTX archiLAB

Architecture Monday

I didn’t see this one while I was last in Toronto (though now it’s on my list), but this is a very cool pair of duplex houses.

The two units in each house are stacked atop each other, and there’s a mirroring effect between the two of them.  Sunken courtyards (replete with colourful murals), generous windows, and multi-story spaces make the lower units dynamic and filled with light.  But no doubt it’s the scrim on the top floors that catch the eye, both from inside and out.  Made of wood with a seemingly random pattern (but that supposedly draws something, though I can’t see it), the scrim also screens a raised patio.

Inside in both units, the skylights, courtyards, murals, and, of course, the scrims make for some pretty nifty living spaces.

They’re simple but thoughtful moves that elevate this from the typical banal box of a house into something much more exciting.  Great suff.

Double Duplex by B-CA

Architecture Monday

I’ve joked more than once that I travel thousands of miles to go visit apartment buildings… and my recent-ish trip to Toronto was no exception.  There continues to be a condo boom in downtown, and it was encouraging to discover that – beyond the obvious example of BIG’s King project – many of them were willing to go beyond a banal box in the sky and reach for some design goodness.  Including this one here, which I think would feel quite at home among the apartment buildings I saw while in Denmark.

On the whole it’s all pretty self-explanatory/evident, with shifting and interlocking cubic volumes to create engaging geometries that further define themselves in a distinctive base, mid, and, of course, the giant “bridges” that span from building to building.  All aligned to create framed vistas towards the water and the Toronto Islands.

While it may not be as bold as some others (again, the obvious examples of BIG’s projects) it’s definitively solid work.  Inviting, interesting, enlivening, and again great to see as a step forward for design in Toronto.

Pier 27 Condos by architects-Alliance

Architecture Monday

The interesting thing about a lot of infrastructure is that what it supports is often very heavy compared to more ‘typical’ commercial or residential uses.  Which is why adaptive reuse of them is often easy from a structural perspective, since almost always the load is lightened compared to what they were used for in the past.

In this case, this isn’t so much a full adaptive reuse as a re-adaptive-reuse, for this water tower already sported several uses in between its support columns (water being so heavy, any extra weight by these floors and uses was negligible).  But what had been only archives has been converted into student housing in a rather neat way, by having the apartments bust out from between the beefy columns.  These extendy bits not only add floor space but, more importantly, catch light and views, making the small apartments feel expansive and cool.  A trio of communal spaces spiral up the tower, complete with three balconies that catch the morning, noon, and evening sun.

Very slick idea, creating interesting and enlivening spaces for living out of an existing robust icon.  Brilliant idea.

Jaegersborg Water Tower revamped by Dorte Mandrup

Architecture Monday

Habitat 67 always looks like a bit of a lark, like someone having fun with a 3D modelling program or concept art to create this replicating and interlocking set of cubes set in between two bodies of water.  And, in some ways, it is… though not quite a lark, but instead a master’s thesis project in Architecture.  A thesis project that, by a stroke of fortune, was built and today still stands as something quite unique.

Funnily, as I’ve been posting so much of the work of BIG architects, you can see their precedent (and likely inspiration) in Habitat 67 with their repeating forms and using the units around and below as landscaped garden terraces (though here, in the strong Montreal winters, many are covered in solariums).

Besides the crazy assemblage, it’s the cantilevered parts of the building that never ceases to catch the eye, the cubes seeming to be suspended in mid-air, again giving that impression of a 3D conceptual model stuck in mid-simulation, or one where the laws of physics has not yet been implemented.

Despite having some wear and tear, the complex is still going strong.

Delightfully I was leaving through some older architecture and design magazines and came across this cool article by the architect’s son, who lived in the complex in his youth.  It’s a nifty little bit of insight into something so iconic.  Worth a read!

Habitat 67 by Moshe Safdie

Architecture Monday

Alright, after our look at the exterior it’s time to head inside!

What’s immediately cool is that the inside speaks the same language as the outside, both in brick and in the sculptural concrete, with the addition of wood, and all embellished with the restrained but lovely arts & crafts-like detailing.

Plus some art on the windows…

…and this very cool light fixture that’s fully incorporated into the equally nice ceiling.

While basement multifaith chapel was redone more recently, its intimate wood vaults continue the tradition.  Check out the ribs as well as the base of the vaults, with sculptural layers, joints, and more to subtly ornament the structure and the space.  Plus the integrated light fixtures along the base that allow the vaults to glow and separate themselves from the walls all around.

Though now used less often for this purpose, this thesis defense room might be a bit intimidating… fortunately that glowing inverted dome of spiral pattern goodness might provide some levity.

The pièce de resistance is the dining hall.  Even coming up the stairs you know something cool is happening.  The space expands dramatically above you with the hall awaiting through a sculptural portal.

Once inside you’re treated to all its expansive and illuminated glory where all we’ve seen so far comes together in brick, concrete, and wood all within a multitude of sculptural forms and carved detailing.  Inspiring enough that it was featured in Star Trek: Discovery season 4 episode 4!

Such a gem of a building.  Engaging and welcoming, warmly crafted and articulated, and has a great spatial sense throughout.  A definite boon for those in residence… I know I would’ve loved living there while I was in university.  Great stuff!

Massey College by Ronald Thom

Wonder Wednesday

Did you know that the centre of the CN Tower is hollow?  In the middle of it’s three splaying legs is a hexagonal core; the same one that we can see continuing straight up above the first/lower observation pod to the base of the second/upper pod.  Which means is that this is an open shaft that runs from the ground to the base of said pod, roughly some 335m (1100′) high.  And it. Is. Most. Spectacular.  Looking so much like some giant science fiction construct, like a huge accelerator or the central spine of a space installation.  It’s awesome, in both senses of the word.

Unfortunately… that’s not entirely true anymore.  In 1997 the original location for the egress stairs (yep, the CN Tower has a set of fire escape stairs) was taken over to install an additional pair of elevators, and the stairs were moved from their outer perch to within the core.  I don’t think they take up the whole thing, but the amazing hexagonal vista is now a truncated one.

(Want to hear another amazing thing about this core and the tower as a whole?  This entire concrete structure was done using a moving slipform that slowly moved upwards about 6m per day, supported by the very structure it was building. Segments were removed from the slipform as it rose to create the tower’s iconic shape, including the final hexagonal shape that rises all the way to the base of the upper observation pod.  Amazingly it only took 4 months for it to reach that final height, and it was done so accurately that the whole thing is only 29mm off from being perfectly vertical.)

Architecture Monday

When I visited home a few months ago, I had the fortune of being able to tour Massey College, a graduate residence at the University of Toronto.  Though built in 1962 I embarrassingly only learned about it a few years ago and had been wanting to visit ever since.

Right away you can see what captured my interest – it’s a lovely modern interpretation of an arts and crafts expression that also has a touch of Wright in it.

This all starts with the highly articulated brick walls, shaped into strong geometric forms that are further punctuated by openings or careful detailing, such as the copper caps or window sills, or even more intricate details such as the amazing metal work at the corners and the entry gate that could double as its own piece of artwork. (The cone does, admittedly, detract a bit…)

Crowning the clean lines of this base is the concrete and glass latticework that features sculptural flourishes and flair.  (These give me vibes of the kind of sculptural work Wright did at the Hollyhock house.)

The whole thing is built to enclose a large central courtyard punctuated by a clocktower that reaches its sculptural fingers to the sky.

The whole affair has a great rhythm, with mass and bold slabs that never feel over scaled that all play nicely off the intricate and highly carved insets, all with a strong vertical emphasis.  Very sweet piece of work, that only gets better on the inside… I’ll post that part next week!

Massey College by Ronald Thom

(Who, interestingly, also did many of the most famous buildings at Trent University.)