Architecture Monday

Adaptive reuse can always be such a delight, and this is no exception!  A ginormous former postal service mail sorting warehouse turned into a huge new combo of shops, restaurants, and offices, with a huge flexible music venue and topped off by an even huger green roof, complete with urban farm!



Also before…

The strategy is a cool one, cutting away large sections of flooring and roof to create three large atriums capped by translucent glazing, each one named for the sculptural stair within that joins the two levels plus garden roof:  X, O, and Z.  The patina laden character of the warehouse remains on display, especially through the old painted columns that still retain their wear and tear as well as identification markers, all coexisting nicely with the more sleek glass and steel additions.  Not to mention that grand rooftop garden.

I dig this kind of project, where super-solidly built buildings – whose construction feels like it can last another thousand years – and, rather than demolishing them, reuses them by taking advantage of that solidity in creative ways, as was done here through new openings and amenities that the solid structure could easily handle.  And voila, a whole new venue ready for use without debris and energy use of tearing the whole thing down and starting over.  Great stuff.

POST (see what they did there?) by OMA

Architecture Monday

I guess I’ve got a bit of a house theme going here right now, so might as well keep it rolling with this one.  Rather sitting within the landscape, it rests lightly atop it… including with 100% more sheep!

I’ve seen a few houses that use this concept of huge sliding doors to turn the main living spaces into one large breezeway, and that opening to nature can be downright delightful indeed.  Especially if, as here, the back deck saddles up to a lovely tableau of mossy rock.  Equally nice is that the finish on the inside mirrors the one on the outside, further breaking down the boundaries between the house and the landscape in which it sits.

I don’t know exactly what it is about this room, but I love it.  Like living in a sauna, with great clerestory lighting.

A straightforward idea rendered lovely with solid design.

Refuge by CH+QS

Architecture Monday

It’s not quite a hobbit hole… but it is an underground house.  One that, with its sunken courtyard, perhaps has an even more dramatic entry than a simple round door in the side of a hill.

How this came to be is kind of fun:  the owners enjoy hang gliding and from that vantage point gave a lot of thought of how the house would appear from the air.  Also, they didn’t want to cut down too many of the avocado trees on the property, and who could blame them?  Avocadoes are awesome.  Hence, the buried house.

Now, it’s not 100% buried, for one façade does indeed get exposed, with a slope partially carved away to reveal the house just like that hobbit hole front door.  Between that face and the entry sub-subterranean courtyard, coupled with its narrow and linear layout and a few choice skylights, there’s plenty of light despite its buried nature.  If the slope wasn’t there, I think it would’ve worked equally well (and I might even have preferred it this way) with two sunken courtyards.  Definitively very cool how the very green roof is an extension of the field, littered with wildflower bushes and, of course, those avocado trees!

Very nice, a way of inhabiting the field rather than perching on it, living in the soil just as the nature around it.

Aguacates House by Francisco Pardo Arquitecto

Wonder Wednesday

Oh. Wow.  Check out these very fun photomontages of wonderful locations… and GIANT CATS!

Chilling in NYC…

Or, even better, in Toronto!

Something a bit more secluded (and surprising!)

No one seems all that concerned, fortunately.

Which is good, as kitties can be quite serene, blessing those at Lake Louise.

Of course, they love modern architecture too, and visit Calatrava’s WTC Transportation Hub.

Before ascending to the stars above.

All so much fun!

By MrMattMcCarthy

Architecture Monday

Mmmm, it’s been a while since I featured something with rammed earth, and here we go!  But this new distillery and hotel goes above and beyond.  Nearly all of the materials used to build are sourced from the property itself, from the earth in the walls to recycled and reclaimed wood, stone, and more.  And then it goes even further, fully embracing a hand-crafted nature for everything from the rafters to the awnings to the furnishings and more.

While completely regular (and even symmetrical) the building feels a bit labyrinthian but in a good way, as these twists and turns are filled with connections.  Every room or courtyard participates in multiple dialogues between spaces of the building and, especially, with the surrounding landscape.  Here the rammed earth and reclaimed materials really shine, further tying the space to the vistas of the land in which it sits.

Being a “destination hotel”, it’s no surprise there’s an air of theatricality to it all, with the grand vistas punctuated with artwork and centered around the large mezcal press.  But it is theatricality that is handled most well.  Great stuff.

Casa Silencio by Alejandro D’Acosta

Architecture Monday

While I was in Florida to view the Inspiration4 Dragon launch, I headed away from the cape in order to go visit something rather nifty and not very well known:  a college campus designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

From the master plan to 18 buildings (of which 13 were built), this is perhaps the largest collection of FLW-designed buildings in a single place.  And it’s a fascinating collection too, incorporating a number of signature FLW elements that don’t often show up together, be it the decorative abstract motifs of the Hollyhock house and the windows of his Prairie buildings, his textile blocks (here inset with coloured glass, quite beautiful), Usonian space planning, and more.  Both the dean of the college and FLW were keen on creating something that weren’t attached to the traditions of the old but stretched out to embrace new concepts and aesthetics.

The campus is also known as the “Child of the Sun”, from FLW’s vision of buildings growing out of the ground and into the light.  While the site is currently full of big lawns, they were originally designed to remain as orange groves.  Unfortunately a recent-ish weather event wiped most of them out, but there is a plan to replant so that the long esplanades – that themselves are a representation of the orange tree – are once again nestled within the groves as intended.

Quite remarkable, and really great to tour and experience the campus, both inside and out.  FLW certainly is a whole host of contradictions, but a lot of his works really are quite dang cool.

Florida Southern College by Frank Lloyd Wright

Architecture Monday

What I love most about this new theatre building is its continuous use of a particular material, but in two forms.  Ok, that’s a bit of a word play, for a good chunk of the building is made from board formed concrete.  As the name implies, this is where planks of wood are used as the formwork for concrete, and the resulting surface of the concrete inherits the rich impression of these planks of wood.  In other words, it looks like wood planks, only in concrete.

And this building uses it everywhere.  The walls, the floors, the angular bits of the stairs, the rough and irregular texture permeates throughout.  Sometimes it’s left as is, while sometimes it’s been stained slightly black to bring out further richness. Something about this really works for me in the theatre context.

Even better is when they pair it with actual wood planks (the second form I was alluding to above), giving this wonderful play between them where there is a continuation of texture yet still a difference in colour and feel.

A couple of simple materials deployed in multiple ways, I dig it!

Theatre Squared by Marvel (who also did the St. Ann’s Warehouse Theatre that I blogged about about here!)

Wonder Wednesday

Also a bit of… Washroom Wednesday?  For this is an art project that is placed at the entrance to the new gender neutral bathrooms at my alma mater, the School of Architecture at Carleton University.  I can still picture that washroom entrance, though not surprisingly a bit different in my memory as they were separated washrooms when I attended.  But even then there was a relatively prominent concrete block wall as you chose which direction to go, and with this remodel it became all that more pronounced.  What better canvas for new art?

Watching the above time lapse is neat, and I do like the resulting art!  I find it very fitting for the building and the study therein. It’s not all that unlike a quilt, with panels being personal affairs (the panels were made by different artists) and range in medium, methods, and meaning.  From architectural molding to the tools of the trade (one made of pencil points that looks kinda… dangerous?) to carved plaster plans to interpretations of the environment to a drawer pull and beyond, it’s quite a rich tapestry.  Nicely, there are also numerous filler panels so that the art can evolve and grow in the coming years.

Very neat!  Check out the story and more pictures of the work here.

Architecture Monday

Check out this pretty glorious example of midcentury modern design, in the form of a church in Toronto.  Slightly expressive, and slightly reserved, it’s a neat exercise in form, contrast, colour, and light.

Sadly, I could only find a couple of images of the inside, but they do tell most of the story of how the two parabolic sets of gluelam beams soar upwards yet don’t meet, leaving a gap for a band of windows that lets light filter down the wall in a soft gradient of light.  A similar shift of planes happens at the altar end of the church, bathing the back wall in a similar light with the potential to cast a dramatic shadow of the cross (which also reminds me of Tadao Ando’s Chapel on Mount Rokko done nearly 30 years later).  At the same time, the opposite sides of the nave and the apse are punctuated by small coloured windows.

There’s so much nifty stuff going on here, starting with the light play above which is further enhanced by having the taller lit parabola be white to catch the light, while the other side is a darker wood to accentuate the colourful piercings.  On that same side we have an aisle of sorts, formed between the space of the gluelam and the outside wall with a zig-zag ceiling that becomes a brow both inside and out, while outside, that same wall faces the street and is clad in a richly toned quarried stone.  And while the pipe organ seems to be a more recent addition, but hovers like a pair of sails that mimic the rising paraboloids.

What’s also cool is that the architecture firm who designed this also designed some very iconic and long-lasting urban icons, including Ontario Place (whose pods fascinated me as a kid), Canada Place, and the Eaton’s Centre!  (And the equally nifty Parkwoods Church nearby in North York.)  I’d never realized they were all done by the same firm… that’s some serious design chops.

Unfortunately, this church is currently up for sale and its days may well be numbered, very likely to be replaced with some banal cookie-cutter subdivision homes.  But if you’ve got $7m Canadian you could take this and turn it into some pretty sweet digs for yourself!

West Ellesmere United Church by Zeidler Partnership.