Posts Tagged ‘Architecture’

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Architecture Monday

July 16, 2018

When I visited the Ennis house a few years ago, it was only for a drive by.  Being a privately-owned house, seeing the inside, and the results of the renovation being undertaken, was not possible.  UNTIL NOW… for it is up for sale!  And with that comes a real estate listing that includes a raft of pictures that shows that the inside of most glorious example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s textile block houses is as impressive as the exterior.

There’s a lot to see here, in many ways, quite literally, with the eponymous textile blocks (each concrete block being hand pressed in a mold designed by FLW) creating both a rhythm and a richness of texture over every surface.  This is further heightened by the wonderful designs and additions of the geometric stained-glass windows, mosaic hearths, wrought iron tracery, wood rafters, and even the custom furniture.  What makes this this a masterful design is that all this detail doesn’t devolve into a cacophony. It avoids any “visual barf” effect more commonly associated with gaudy ‘richness’.

The blocks also illustrate very clearly the proportions and divisions of space that render the house so successful.  Both the sculptural ridges that bisect the room height and the alcoves and offshoots that frame the walls and openings create divisions of space that are felt, giving the rooms multiple layers of scale.  Seated on the couch, the room can be at once snug and even intimate while maintaining a sense of expanse and wonder.  (It’s a bit like being in a small clearing amongst a copse of trees – you’re sheltered, but you can sense the greater world out there)

For me, this is the piece de resistance.  Eliminating a corner of the house, letting what ordinarily would be solid melt into a vista that perfectly frames the downtown.  In a town renown for its movies, that’s superbly well pulled off drama!

The Ennis house by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Definitively one of the great ones.  Fully restored, furnished, and on sale now at this link.

(If you buy it, please invite me over for a visit!)

All images by MLS listings

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Architecture Monday

July 9, 2018

The Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern.  A glorious adaptive reuse, and one that created one of the most iconic spaces in the museum world, that of the old Turbine Hall.  Rather than fill the great void with new floors or ring the walls with art, it was left as an impressive canvas, a shell that itself is grand and uplifting and inspires wonder while forming the basis for temporary and site-specific installations, artwork of a place, all capped by a new, glowing, roof lantern.  One room, many faces.

Speaks for itself.  Very cool.

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Architecture Monday

July 2, 2018

This is a level of playful niftiness I can totally get behind.  It’s also a great thought provoker on how we can design more smartly and use less space/resources/etc by designing with (still playful!) flexibility in mind.  All in a small garden house.

Four elegantly designed wood structures interlock on a wood deck; two of the structures are quite solid, two are greenhouse-like windows from floor to the top of the pointy roof.  We can do the math, but there’s five basic configurations that alternate the position of shade and light, solid and void, view and privacy, and even open versus enclosed.

There isn’t much more than that, but there needn’t be.  With things closed up, it’s a cozy cabin perfect for huddling close to the fireplace on a cool winter’s night.  Push the glazed ends out, and you’ve got room for a ginormous dinner party.  Flip it around, and your daily living space takes in all the beauty of spring or fall.  Sleep under the stars, or sleep curled up in the corner.  Come summer, the house splits and you’ve got patio living at its finest.  Or zebra it all.  Rearrange to respond to whatever flies your fancy that day.

Very cool.  And very nicely done too.  I really like the intricate and beautiful wood trusses that form the greenhouse portions, and there’s something equally elegant in the pairing of the wood siding and steel roof in the cabin portions.  The wood stove is designed to mesh well (and be safe!) in all configurations, even providing an outdoor cook spot when the centre is open.  And like the house itself, the lot is both expansive and nestled, with a pond on one side and a copse of trees on the other.

I like this aplenty.  The Garden House by Caspar Schols.

Also, bonus video!

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Architecture Monday

June 25, 2018

The first word that comes to mind in seeing this house is “lantern.”  Maybe because of the warm glow amongst the dramatic skies of northern Nova Scotia, but also because of its vertically stretched proportions making it appears it has been set, gingerly, down on the land.  It catches the eye and marks a place without needing to invade or dominate the landscape.

Surrounded by woods and with views of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the board pattern that adorns its face matches the trees that encompass it in both colour and thinness.  I love the updated interpretation of the traditional east-Canadian windbreak, rendered in heavy, rusting, steel that marries well with the marbled patina of the wood slats.

Inside, all that height is put to good use, with walls and a mezzanine becoming like freestanding objects within the lantern.  The narrow strips of window and skylights casting a playful air throughout the space, balancing the large windows that let the view flow out towards the water on the other.

Well proportioned, embracing vernacular architecture, and ensuring a light touch that nonetheless creates something special and a joy to be in.  My biggest add or alternate would have been to add a hearth.  Overall, a wonderful cabin retreat.

Rabbit Snare Gorge by Omar Gandhi Architect and Design Base 8

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Architecture Monday

June 18, 2018

Constraints can be fun, for they remove the paralysis of the blank slate, and call forth creativity and invention.  This project certainly had both in spades; for one, it’s a renovation (and perhaps adaptive reuse?) of a lovely and quirky stone building in an Italian hillside town, and for two, it’s absolutely tiny.  And it’s an apartment.

 

Here’s what the existing conditions brought:  a lofty space made of richly textured walls that constrict the further in you go thanks to walls not aligning.  It also brought a floor level that was several steps below the equally small entry yard.  Into that context, the renovation begins with an elevated deck and fire pit in the entry space, coupled with extended brick and rusted steel walls to create a private courtyard.

Inside, though, is a tonne of very cool additions and installations.  Most noticeably is the barrel vault that creates the second floor.  Much more than a flat ceiling would be, it maintains a sense of height (in what is not exactly a very high room) while also splitting the ground floor into different zones without walls or encroaching on the limited floor space.  Adding to this feel are the bits of built-in furniture and cabinets, especially the sofa/mantlepiece/fireplace that extends to accentuate the angular shape of the room.

Up the spiral staircase, a thickened closet becomes a restroom and shower, while on the opposite, angled, wall, the headboard grows in thickness to follow the closet and create depth between itself and the angled wall.  Nicest of all is the freestanding sink and mirror, a statuesque object next to the window (itself with a sweet thick steel plate sill) overlooking the mountains beyond.

My only quibble would be with the exposed wiring, not for its exposedness, but for its seeming lack of care.  In a space where there is a lot of play between the beautiful existing stone and the slickly crafted additions, the wiring occupies an awkward middle ground.

A very nicely done project, fully using the great character of the oddly shaped existing space and adding just what’s needed to make a beautiful abode.

Effegi House by Archiplan

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Architecture Monday

June 11, 2018

This, I would say, is really an architecture of place.  A terra cotta workshop in Vietnam, placed on a vibrant riverbank, it is a spot of community, of tradition, of gathering, and of art.

The need is for a spot to place traditional terra cotta pottery to dry and cure.  Created with terra-cotta like brick, this three-story tower is perforated with hundreds of gaps to let the air, light, and views through.  Inside, a repetitive wood framed system provides plenty of cubby holes for storing terra cotta works.

As a bonus, the ground floor doubles as a tea house, with a central table and recessed seating area that allows for a moment of rest and conversation, gazing upward towards the clouds as they pass by.  I also really like how the stairways and pathways are integral within the wood shelving system.  Walking becomes an experience, with pottery above and below, the sky above, and vistas through the brick out to the river and landscape.  A lovely play of light, material, and movement.

This is a sweet design, grabbing what’s local and available (and hence inexpensive) and creating a wonderful space to play in for the whole community.

Terra Cotta Studio by Tropical Space

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Architecture Monday

June 4, 2018

It may come as a a bit of a surprise, but not all buildings housing architecture schools are architecturally great.  This new one in Sudbury, however, I’d say ranks up there.  Serving the north and indigenous communities, it’s a nice mix of old and new, rough and refined, and features a plethora of nice rooms and spaces, using sight lines, structure, geometry, and light to create little exiting moments.  As a bonus, it began with some adaptive reuse of existing buildings (including an old train station), and sports a lovely planeted roof.

 

Sudbury’s a pretty industrial town, so it’s cool to me that the school abuts the working rail line right in the heart of downtown (also, hence the ability to incorporate an old train station).  Arranged to form a couple of courtyards and exterior exhibition spaces, the exterior is mostly low-key, but (much like the inside) decisively punctuated by moments that carve a strong identity:  the corner angled cantilever, the inset signage, and the interplay between old and new.

The inside speaks mostly for itself through these pictures.  The architects used the structure to great effect, bringing to bear both robust steel frames as well as large cross-laminated timber beams.  Elsewhere, the existing wood trusses and rough-cut columns from one of the reused buildings lends an appropriate air to the school’s fabrication shop.  With both mezzanines and cuts into the ground, height is leveraged to allow for both light and views to travel, allowing students and the public to see all the goings-on.

From the grand critique pit to the small reading nooks, the design nicely mixes up the scale and flexibility of use.  Coupled with long vistas of repeating elements, there’s excitement and interest everywhere you look.

Very nifty, expertly done, and a great place to start your architectural education.  The McEwen School of Architecture by LGA Architectural Partners.