Posts Tagged ‘Architecture’

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Architecture Monday

January 27, 2020

The new Amos Rex Gallery in the heart of Helsinki is pretty cool.  Not the least of which because the building that surrounds it was co-designed by Vijo Revell – the architect who designed the Toronto City Hall!

Even without that tie to my hometown city, it’s still nifty in its own right.  Built to avoid disrupting both an existing plaza and the surrounding buildings – including the lovingly restored 1930’s era aesthetic functionalist building designed by Revell that contains shops, restaurants, event spaces, and a theatre – the museum is built underground, beneath the plaza, keeping it part of the urban fabric and open for continued public use.  But it doesn’t lie quietly or hidden, instead bursting out of the ground in undulating mounds, creating a fun topography of artificial hills and bumps all punctuated by a super tall tower.  Reminiscent of a lighthouse, the tower in actuality serves as a passive ventilation shaft.

The entry to the museum is by far one of its most dramatic moments, with a wide angled staircase creating a simultaneous bifurcated view of the museum lobby below coupled with an eye level view of the plaza.  It’s trippy and prepares you for the area below, with its arching ceilings matching the landscape forms above, all culminating in windowed occuli that allows the spaces to be naturally lit whenever appropriate.

Great little addition to the city, a new venue that totally both preserves and enhances the old. Nicely done.

Amos Rex by JKMM Architects.

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Architecture Monday

January 20, 2020

Can’t leave without visiting a castle stronghold, now can we?  Especially one as well storied as Kronborg, aka, Elsinore from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  From a modest fortress in 1420s to a royal household from the 1570s onward to the addition of ramparts in the 1690s plus, it’s an interesting mix of military utility along the perimeter walls contrasting with upper crust opulence in the main residence.

 

Also quite fun, most of Hamlet is recreated and performed each day throughout the proper rooms in the castle, with the actors and actresses intermingling and interacting with the guests in between (always staying in character)…

Kronborg by Hans Hendrik van Passchen, Anthonis van Obbergen, Hans van Steenwinkel the Younger, and a gaggle of other unknown architects over its history.

 

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Architecture Monday

January 13, 2020

A glorious example of adaptive reuse tonight, in the form of a project that sports an equally epic name:  Godsbanen.  A former railway goods station it is now a full-blown cultural centre, with several theatres, galleries, night clubs, along with a number of art workshops and rentable spaces for creative business startups.

In its transformation the building keeps both its rugged heritage as well as its Neo-Baroque forebuilding, presenting several faces to the city.  Forming a giant U, that elaborate forebuilding and the adjoining warehouses were both preserved, while a new and rather fanciful addition nestles within the base of the U.  Appearing as a series of angular forms and ramps, this new bit houses the main theatres and all the connective tissue, such as the lobby, café, and a courtyard.  A courtyard that connects to the roofs, allowing full access up and along those angular ramps, doing triple duty as a lookout, seating, and another venue for performances.

Inside, the addition the muscular facets of the addition’s angular forms create dynamic and interconnecting spaces that are further punctuated by overhead oculi.  Meanwhile the amazing curved wooden structure of the original warehouses continue to march in succession into the distance along with the equally amazing continual light monitor.  Galleries and workshops are enclosed within slightly sculptural insertions into the existing space.

Exiting Maps – the glorious gift for us who want to see a floor plan…

I totally love it.  From the luscious and aged red brick to the rough concrete wedges, from the massive wood supports to the slick gallery walls, all wrapped up in a great play of light and form and shadow.  Not to mention the diverse nature of the cultural centre itself, and the vibrant heart it gets to play for an entire area that will soon include a School of Architecture.  It’s a fabulous example of repurposing something existing to create something even more amazing, taking the time, energy, detail, and beauty of the past and enhancing it through something equally detailed and beautifully thought out and crafted.  Great stuff!

Godsbanen by 3XN Architects.

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Architecture Monday

January 6, 2020

One of the buildings I was really excited to see on the trip was the Fantoft Stave Church, south of Bergen in Norway.  A re-creation of a church from the 1150s (the original had been moved then damaged by arson (!)), it is representative of an old style of simple local churches constructed using large ore-pine posts.  Far from grand cathedrals, they were more intimately created by the local communities, humble yet still imbued with a sense of craft and care.  What also really caught my attention was their delightful complexity of form, with multiple roofs, an exterior arcade, and the swath of structural members within.

The building did not disappoint.  It’s not a large church, with maybe seating for 24 people, but it exudes presence.  The dark monotone exterior strikes a strong silhouette, contrasting nicely with the surrounding greenery as well as the sky, especially with the prominent and wicked abstract dragon heads that jut from the ridges.

Inside, the unfinished and bright wood surfaces are a surprise.  The solidity of the main support posts heighten the verticality of the space, and many nice details abound, including curved trusses, carved cross-braces, and more.

And I had to include this picture I found online, for it looks especially stunning in the fall!

Really great work, I loved it’s intimate yet grand feel, and it’s a great example of local work using humble materials all designed to a high degree to create something beautiful, personal, and meaningful.

(It’s also the site of my funniest accident of the trip… I was stepping back to take a picture, figuring I would lean up against the fence behind me.  Except I failed to notice that the fence was not on the plinth upon which the church sits, but about a foot back, meaning there was a gap and drop off there.  And so down into that gap did my foot go, and down between the fence and the plinth did I fall.  Amusingly, the gap was narrow enough that my body had to squeeze between the fence and the plinth on its gravity-induced travel, which means I fell, completely horizontal, at a relatively slow speed for what felt like a long time (as my brain tried to make sense of what was going on) before being deposited quite gently onto the ground.  I laughed so hard, and nothing was injured except my pride.)

If you’re ever in Bergen, I heartily recommend checking it out.  The Fantoft Stave Church by architects unknown.

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Architecture Monday

December 23, 2019

Wrapping up the city hall tours we end in Aarhus, for a building that is both quite different and yet fully within the same spirit of the others.

Without a doubt the outside is quite different with an austere presentation to the world.  Rectangular, punched windows, and covered in a rigid grid of grey marble.  And punctuated by the clocktower that looks to all the world like a thick chimney wrapped in scaffolding (which, interestingly, was not part of the original design but added when the townsfolk discovered there were no plans for a clocktower, which didn’t fit their idea(l) of a city hall).  Opened in 1941, it fits its time with the rise of early modernism.  Yet it is not without flourishes, including the heavy use of copper (such as for the lightly pitched roof) and a complex interplay of forms at the entrance.

Inside things really take off.  The great hall is indeed great, a four-story high space ringed with delicate and curving balconies (each housing more gathering rooms), a roof of shell-like vaults each ringed with windows, and all culminating at a giant window wall that looks out over the town.  Wrapped in rich and warm wood and with a herringbone wood floor and plenty of hanging lanterns, it’s an exhilarating space to be in.  I admit, I was not expecting this at all, both in that I didn’t really know it was there and didn’t expect such a wonderful feeling space.  It’s great.  (Stand in it by clicking here.)

What really makes the building is a plethora of lovely details, from the grand mural in the entryway (which is on the back side of the council chambers that hover over the entrance, presenting democracy towards the town), to the amazing wood floor and curving staircase, to the artistically crafted doors, and to the long and linear administrative wing, with its atrium down the middle allowing light from the equally linear skylight above to flow in.  (Very reminiscent, BTW, of the Marin County Civic Centre, which makes me wonder if Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced by it.)

No pipe organ here, but the piece de resistance here was the elevator core.  That sounds… bizarre, but just check out the design of each car, with their niches for the entrance window, signs, and the custom and deco call button panel, not to mention the careful crafting of the wood scrim that envelops it all.

Another great civic centre.  It was the last we visited, but certainly not the least.

The Aarhus Rådhus by Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller.

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Architecture Monday

December 16, 2019

We continue our tour of the Scandinavian city halls by heading over to Denmark tonight, landing ourselves before the Copenhagen City hall.  In some ways this one is a precursor to the others, being the first to be completed, inaugurated in 1905.

Also adorned in the ubiquitous (and lovely) red brick, the exterior here leans much heavier into the National Romantic style, with plenty of articulation and ornamentation.  A generous courtyard stands in the middle, and the clock tower remains one of the highest points near the downtown area.

As with the others the heart of the building, and the first thing you encounter upon entering, is the equally generous indoor hall.  While no pipe organ hides within (alas!), the amazing glass roof more than makes up for it.  The massing and composition of this indoor courtyard is exquisite – it’s a plethora of things (Arches! Gilded bas reliefs! Balconies! Friezes! Sculptural banding! Moldings! White stone! Red brick! Ornate columns!  Glass!) yet it doesn’t feel like a hodgepodge vomit of disparate parts.  Through careful proportion, well defined datum lines, and enough use of “white space” it instead becomes a delightful concoction.   (Click here to stand in the middle of it.)

Again, we didn’t take a tour so we only saw the more public areas of the building, but who needs a tour when you get such amazing artwork integrated throughout!   (I especially love the book-like vaulted ceiling…)

Another excellent and vibrant city centre.  Good stuff.  The Copenhagen City Hall by Martin Nyrop.

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Architecture Monday

December 9, 2019

Let’s slide over to Norway and check out another grand city hall (and location for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and banquet), the Oslo Rådhuset.

Much like the one in Stockholm (and likely/clearly influenced by it – one of the judges of the Oslo city hall competition was the architect for the Stockholm city hall), the building is nifty mix of art-nouveau expressive sculptural elements adorning the crisper lines of brick functionalism.  Coming in, the two towers and arcades reach out to welcome you as you come up to the main façade, dotted with flourishes including sculpture, ornamental molding, patterns in the brick, and a very nifty astronomical clock.

Besides possessing large clerestory windows to admit light from above, the main hall inside takes a very different tack than the one at the Stockholm city hall.  From wall to wall to wall it’s covered in colourful and very cool paintings that depict the history of Oslo and its people.  And, of course, there’s a grand staircase for grand entrances during the Nobel ceremonies.   (For the 360~ view, click here)

And best of all, yes, a there is a pipe organ here too!

We didn’t take a tour this time, so we didn’t see into any of the other halls, meeting rooms, or the council chambers, alas.  Nevertheless, it is a mighty fine and unique design that makes for a great civic centre for the city.

The Oslo City Hall by Arnstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulsson.