Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

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Architecture Monday

September 2, 2019

Let us slide over tonight to Stockholm for another library, the Stadsbibliotek.  Instantly recognizable, it was built in 1928, making it much older than the Helsinki library from last week.  But it is still an unabashedly modern design.

A stripped-down take on the classical orders, the building is, essentially, a cylinder emerging from a box.  While the first half of the base is clad in a brick-like pattern with expressive entryways, the top of the box and the cylinder itself are plastered in a deep and striking orange, displaying the formal purity for the world to see.

Passing inside, you emerge from a narrow staircase into a celebration of books. In the round, rising for three stories, are books, books, and more books, with the room continuing to soar further overhead where punched windows let light rain in from above.

Surrounded by the rich wood and colourful spines, it’s quite the experience.  Here are a couple of 360~ views so you can look all around: a view from the ground floor near the entry, and a view from the top balcony.

A classic building that has more than stood the test of time.  Well worth seeing.

The Stadsbibliotek by Gunnar Asplund

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FutureCOT

September 1, 2019

Ohhhh, this is nice. There’s a big push of investment about to be poured into EPCOT at Walt Disney World, and one of the new buildings teased looks like this:

Colour me intrigued!  I love its futuristic/biophilic flair, and I get a very world-expo vibe from it.  Especially with the promotional poster like this:

Very nice!  Fingers crossed it survives intact from these schematic/conceptual drawings into reality…

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Architecture Monday

August 26, 2019

And like that I’m back from a vacation to the Nordic countries that was, as my vacations often are, heavily aimed towards architectural visiting.  So many buildings!  And plenty to share in the coming weeks.  Hard to know where to begin, and so with no reason other than it jumped into my head let’s start with the new Helsinki Central Library.

There’s lots to love here.  Sinuous and sensual, the curving wood exterior forms an inviting covered entry, while the iceberg-like glass box that rests on top hints at the reading room to come.  The curving wood continues to play around once inside on the ground floor, carving out spaces for the café and several gathering spaces.

Moving up one floor on the central staircase leads you to this amazing project area, with raked seating for work on your laptop and access to a maker space with sewing machines, 3D printers, video editing computers, cutting mats, power tools, and all sorts of other goodies, all nestled among wood-covered diagonal bracing.  (I took a 360~ photo from the start of the project/maker space, you can view it here)

The top floor is where the books live, and yeah, it’s quite something.  With the ceiling floating overhead like an undulating cloud the rows of books (and trees!) extend in both directions towards each end of the building.  There, the floors rise up like a landmass, housing a reading room at one end and the children’s area in the other.  Should all the glass makes you feel like going outside, you can, onto a large balcony that overlooks the city.

A wonderful new library and community hub, purposefully set opposite the Finnish parliament building to emphasize the relationship between governance and active learning, freedom of expression, and citizenship.  And beyond books the library seizes new roles with the maker spaces, classrooms, theatres, and more.  Great stuff.

Oodi Helsinki Central Library by ALA Architects

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 30, 2019

Especially in the realm of “problem solving” or “invention” or “towards a more perfect”, there is a distinction, a difference, between doing something less bad and doing something that is a good.

This can be a tricky thing to wrap our brains around.  Because certainly fixing something has to be good, right?

Well, yes/no.  It’s similar to the conversation around efficiency.  Often when we see something that produces something we want, yet has these drawbacks*, we fixate on those drawbacks and limit our plan of attack to reducing them.  It is evolutionary design and problem solving.  “If I can get it to emit 10% less toxics, then that’s better!”

So we work, and work some more, and boom, we’ve gotten something that produces 15% less badness.  Hooray!  We dance, and celebrate, and then miss the point that the thing/system/machine/process/etc is still producing plenty of badness.  Badness is still there.

We also often forget that nothing is inherent.  Just because something is a certain way, doesn’t mean it is meant to be that way.

Instead, we can return to the primordial.  Design from first principles.  Create with intention.  And invent something that delivers a good on all fronts.  Something that not only produces what we want but may even produce extra of the things we’d want.

This is how we get a house built in the harsh desert that don’t just use 10, 15, or even 30% less energy for air conditioning by making it more ‘efficient’, making it less bad.  From our glorious spirited wellspring, we craft and get a house that, through good design, uses 100% less energy for AC even in the hottest of days, while at the same time being a more gorgeous house to live in.

This is revolutionary or primordial design.  It is not less bad.  It is a good.

When we cut ourselves, we put on a bandage.  Emergency problem solving is going to be limited in that way.  And we should absolutely do it!  Bleeding is no good.  But if we cut ourselves continually in the same manner, getting or creating better bandages is not the best way forward.  The less bad way still ends up hurting.

Returning to the source to chart a new course lets us avoid the knife and create many a good thing along the way.

 

 

* Which in of itself can take work to become aware and present that there are drawbacks, and even then to get over resisting or downplaying or ignoring the drawbacks because we get caught up in a false dichotomy that says we have to abandon the thing** entirely to avoid the drawback.

** We can also get caught up in the notion that the thing is the best, or even only, way to deliver that result.  The only way to have fun.  The only way to generate income.  The best way to transport our bodies.  By coming again from the primordial, designing by intention, we often create something that is not only a good instead of less bad, but the end result/product is even better than it was before, a better we never knew or could imagine existed, and would never had seen had we stuck with the same old, just less bad.

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Architecture Monday

July 29, 2019

The frame’s the thing with this house, and what a frame it is.  Two interlocking forms of striking, angled, black wood, each splaying at their ends to create covered porches.  One is tall and sits on the ground, while the other is long and narrow and seems to float above the ground as it pierces through the first.

Inside, the piercing form is clear and serves to delineate spaces even as your eye is drawn towards the windows that border the covered porch.

Nifty design.  Sleeve House by actual / office.

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Architecture Monday

July 22, 2019

Oh yeah, I love it so much when something straightforward is elevated (somewhat literally, as you will see…) into a wonderful work of design while also improving what was already there.  In this case, it was an open-air stage in a local park that was enhanced by providing cover in the form of a public library to further provide for the community.

The simplicity is in the steel structure, rendered beautiful through excellent detailing and with a creative and cool twist:  the façade is made of used ice cream buckets.  Nestled in the steel structure to encircle the library, the buckets make for a playful exterior while creating a lovely glow free from glare on the inside.  The low  bookshelves lets the light fill the space as fully as possible, while at the back of the library a cushy mat floor lets you truly curl up with a book.

As a bonus, the buckets form a message coded in binary!  A double bonus is the now covered stage can serve additional functions such as for projecting movies and can even be curtained in for use during inclement weather.

A truly lovely project, demonstrating how even small moves can make a big difference, and that good design does not require a high budget.  All it takes is care, design, and some ice cream.

Bima Microlibrary by SHAU Bandung

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Architecture Monday

July 15, 2019

If this building looks like it was assembled from a kit of almost random parts, well, that is because it, in many ways, is.  Gathered from 30 traditional villages demolished to make way for new developments, the leftover remnants were gathered up and used to create the distinctive faces of the buildings.  Recycled brick, tiles, stones – some which date back over a thousand years – were carefully arranged to create a stable structure that surrounds the angled shape of the museum.

Even the concrete structure of the museum has something unique embedded within.  Using bamboo formwork during construction, it emerges heavily textured, full of rich variation that complements (while still being different) the assembly of found fragments.

As a bonus, the slanting and rough surfaces create striking canyons and courtyards.

I have some trepidation about this building – it is certainly striking and nifty and in many ways beautiful, but it’s also hard to not think of the 30 villages demolished in the name of “progress” that resulted in a rubber-stamp gridded city of rigid uniformity (and of ecological dubiousness).*  Still, for what it is, I do like its creative form and the architect’s desire to give expression to those who lost their villages (at least in an “if I can’t stop it at least I can do something” kind of way, I imagine).

The Ningbo History Museum by Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio

 

* In China, the past is often bulldozed to make way for the new.  “Historic Buildings” as a concept has even less of a presence than it does over here.