Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

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Wonder Wednesday

October 16, 2019

a serene escape

in a space away from away

to contemplate the silence

and recapture our spirit

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Architecture Monday

October 14, 2019

One of BIG’s first major projects was an apartment building (the story of how they got the commission is one of amazing gall and almost amusing slyness) in a newly emerging area within Copenhagen.  As it was their first project, the developer was not willing to give them too much leeway in what they designed.  “Keep it somewhat in the box” is essentially what he told them.  So they did… though they twisted the heck out of that box.

Starting with a basic 2-bar design for two apartment buildings, they proceeded to poke and prod the forms to create a zig-zag pattern, creating a park nestled within the v-shape of one and a shared courtyard between the two.  And while the second building is nice in its own right, it’s that building facing the park that everyone remembers, for its balconies.  It’s crazy, amazing, assemblage of balconies.

With their distinct shape and positioning, it’s an amazing sight to behold, filled with intricacies of form, space, and light.  What’s even better and what I really love is how much the residents have taken the expressiveness of the form and used it as a launching point, adding holiday lights, artwork, and more.  Even the apartments themselves become something fun by bathing the inside with coloured light.  We visited the building as the sun was setting and the burst of colour and play of lights through the shadowed forms of those triangular balconies was very cool to experience.

Alas we didn’t get to go inside (it is, after all, housing).  But from photos on the ‘net, the apartments themselves also seem awesome, with dozens upon dozens of unique configurations all interlocking around each other to create something way more than your typical cookie-cutter stacking.  Filled with light, they feel fresh and invigorating, with lots of little areas of interest and fun.

Great work, showing wonderful and playful design that fit within the caution of a housing developer.  And definitively indicatory of the start of a storied practice for BIG.

VM Houses by BIG Architects

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Architecture Monday

October 7, 2019

Well, since I turned on the BIG tap last week, I might as well open the floodgates… because there was no way I was going to Denmark and not visit as many of their projects as I could.  And visit many of them I did!  I was especially excited to experience this one, for it was one of the first architecture posts I shared on this blog:  The Maritime Museum of Denmark.

To give a brief recap of what makes this building so amazing is that it is built not exactly inside of, or around, or even over a historic dry dock, but in a way that it becomes a part of it.  Leaving the existing and impressively thick concrete walls of the former “bathtub for ships” in place, the museum wraps around it underground while also crisscrossing the dock’s open-air empty space through a series of ramps and bridges.  In this way you can walk right up and experience it, with nothing needing to be built near it that could hide it.  The main path to Kronborg, the Hamlet Castle is even a bridge that crosses right over it.

 

Inside, the museum unfolds in a continuous series of ramps through exhibition spaces that both flank the outside of the drydock as well, as noted before, ramping diagonally through the void.  (As an aside, the exhibits were well done as well!)

I love (and this is probably no surprise at this point) all the great texture and patina that comes with the re-use of something old like this, with many moments of what becomes rich decoration when ensconced in or traversed by the new architecture.  Or how something like the stepped base of the dry dock is used as bonus seating.

As a bonus, the graphic design for the museum is excellent.  Check out the admission/entry tag, where the flap you use to slip it onto your shirt is a match for the building itself!

Superbly done.  I was giddy to visit and the architecture did not disappoint.  That the museum component was also made for a splendid day.  Definitively check it out if you’re in the area.

The Maritime Museum of Denmark by BIG Architects.

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Architecture Monday

September 30, 2019

I found myself a bit miffed in that moment.  We’d walked from downtown Copenhagen and were now standing in front of the ski slope, and yet it was closed.  Gah!  Wait a minute you say… ski slope?  In flat Copenhagen?  In summer?  And you’re surprised?  Well, yes… for this ski slope is on top of a power plant.  Oh, ok… wait, what?

Let me back up.  The Amager Bakke, a waste-to-energy power plant in Copenhagen, was designed so that it forms a ski slope that is usable all year round, along with hiking trails, gardens, and an 85m tall climbing wall.  Turns out the reason I could not walk up its magnificent slope is because it was not yet complete – oops!  But it opens this coming weekend, and so in celebration tonight let’s visit this fantastical creation.

I’d known about the building before going to visit, of course (even if I was unaware that while it is in operation making power the rest of it wasn’t yet open).  What I didn’t realize was how prominent it is on the Copenhagen skyline.  From many places downtown you can see it in the distance, a shining oddity.  Given its visibility it’s great that so much work did go into making it something beautiful rather than something to be confronted with on the horizon.

Up close, the building is a marvel to behold.  Walking up to it was somewhat surreal, for much like my experience with La Grande Arche de la Defence it totally belies its scale until you get up close to it.  No mistake, this building is massive!  The spark for its design came when the architects studied the machinery that needed to be contained within and realized that you could arrange them in a way they could outline a wedge shaped building.  Copenhagen has plenty of cold in the winter, but no hills… why not use these requirements to make something fun for the city?

This is gimmick architecture par extraordinaire (and I don’t mean gimmick in a bad way here at all).   It’s a simple sculptural form, wrapped in a sinuous basket weave skin that gleams in the sunlight and with its white stack sailing upward as though hovering and only lightly tethered to the building.  A stack which, due to the cleanliness of the plant it mostly spits out water vapour, will be topped with a device that will blow out a ring of steam for every tonne of CO2 emitted.  It’s playful all around.

And little is more amusing than seeing the edge of a ski lift on top of a building!

Needless to say, I’m a fan.  This industrial endeavour was needed in the city, and there was no reason it couldn’t pull double duty and become not just a necessity but a boon, providing something great and new for the community while looking great at the same time.  Well done.

The Amager Bakke and Copenhill (the great name they’ve given to the ski slope!), by none other than BIG Architects.

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Architecture Monday

September 23, 2019

Get your travellin’ shoes on… to round out our little library tour tonight we’re going to start in Oslo and then hop on the overnight ferry to Copenhagen for a trio of wonderful book houses.

The main Oslo Public Library starts outside with a classic pediment nestled within a larger, more stripped-down yet still neoclassical edifice.  (And I do like the little string of festive lights!)

Where upon entering you are guided to this large open hall, bathed by an immense skylight and dominated (in a good way) by the expressive mural.  Like the exterior, it’s a great mix of the classical, in the form of colonnaded hall, and the cleaner forms of early modernism (it reminds me in many ways of the work of Adolf Loos, who was active at the time of construction).

I really like how this mix plays out in the antechamber, with the classic ionic columns supporting a mezzanine that overlooks the main book hall, provides access to an exterior balcony, and also has that great serrated desk surrounding the atrium opening.  Wonderful design.  As a fun aside, it is nicknamed the “House of Stairs” in honour of its many, many staircases.

For its counterpart at the Copenhagen Main Library we have this inviting atrium that features these playful seating and reading cubbies that stick out into the four-story high space.  Very nifty.

The Royal Library now consists of two buildings, the older and the new, split by a road yet spanned by bridges.  From the modern entry atrium, you cross through the old archways to enter the historical wing.  (Which, itself, was many years ago the ‘new’ library to replace one that sat where the new-new library wing now sits…)

Not much to say other than lovely!  The smooth white plaster archways are wonderful and also work as a great backdrop for the richness and ornateness of the desks, shelves, windows, and light fixtures, not to mention the classical Corinthian capitals and dark stone.

The new atrium has this great commanding view of the waterfront as you exit.

Lastly, here’s an architecture and design library we stumbled upon!  I’m on an architecture trip; there was no way I was not going to check it out.  A repurposed (adaptive reuse!) warehouse/commercial building along the waterfront, the exposed structure and windows with the hundred little window panes works supremely well.

And there we have it.  As I traveled throughout from country to country I really got the sense that libraries — and books in general, for there were many bookstores as well — hold a high place in people’s minds, being well regarded and considered an important part of the social fabric.  With that reverence comes the desire to make them accessible, available, and to celebrate what they are and what they represent, leading to these great spaces for learning, reading, gathering, and creating community.

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Architecture Monday

September 16, 2019

The library train continues!  And what’s this, combining books and adaptive reuse, two of my favorite things, together?  Yes indeed!

Housed in a former tram (streetcar) maintenance sheds, the library takes full advantage of the old tramway doors to craft huge windows with giant shutters that playfully incorporate a bookshelf motif when open.

Inside, the space is kept wide open, punctuated only by furniture (including the bookshelves with colourful seating/desks), and a mezzanine against the great exposed brick wall that itself nestles a kid’s corner that rises like a boxy mountain.

Nicely, the library expands outward into an adjacent café, which itself is adjacent to a sports complex that occupies the rest of the repair shed.  Even there, books (and games) abound!

Altogether forming a wicked community hub, this is one great bit of adaptive reuse, keeping the history and aged ruggedness of the old shed and marrying it with an airy comfort.  I liked it a bunch, if I lived nearby I’d be there often for sure.  Nicely done.

The Norrebro Bibliotek

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Architecture Monday

September 9, 2019

Let us step backwards in time tonight and enter the National Library of Finland.  Standing directly opposite the grand Helsinki Cathedral, it’s stateliness and position are a testament to the importance of knowledge and books to the Finnish people.

The main hall was built between 1840-1845, and, quite frankly, stately may well be an understatement.  Rife with classical details from floor to column to ceiling to dome, there is no doubt that this is a hallowed place for the books that encircle the room.  Every direction you look is a rich tapestry of colour, texture, and form.

The rotunda, built between 1902-1906, is more spare but no less impressive.  Reminding me a bit of the Library of Parliament in Ottawa, the radial rows of books climb balcony by balcony towards the large skylight overhead.  I love the difference between it and the main hall, showcasing the newer motifs of its day with highly artful and expressive cast iron  columns, railings, and details,  not to mention the skylight, reminiscent of the Crystal Palace from the Great Exhibition of 1851.

And to cap it off, the side/secondary reading rooms just keep that grandness going strong.

For the nation’s archives and repository of its cultural record, there is nothing sad about this building at all;  it is fitting and mighty fine.  Here are a couple of 360~ views!  One in the main hall, and one in the rotunda.

The National Library of Finland by C L Engel, Gustaf Nyström, and others.