Architecture Monday

Sound wave?  Tectonic shift?  Mountains?  However you read the shape it forms a strong identity for this library that edges up on one side to a wooded ravine.

While its big portico entrance welcomes you inside, only clerestory windows face the rest of town.  Along the ravine, however, the building is one continuous strip of window.  Beyond being something sculpturally nifty (which it is), the highly angular roof divides the space within into zones for reading, shelving, and enclosure (study booths, multipurpose rooms, offices) while also allowing light from above to make the building glow.

For a smallish branch library, the building is perfect, a straightforward and rectangular layout elevated to be distinct and inviting and cool.  Great stuff.

The Capilano Library, another fine work by Patkau architects!

Architecture Monday

Another lovely restored medieval tower in Spain tonight!  A singular fortified tower once again accessible via a refined new structure within.

Done with precision, the new wood and steel staircase and platforms is a delight, with its sharp angles and regular pattern contrasting with the rough adobe walls of the tower, while at the same time the wood complements the earthen hues.  Best of all, the lattice allows for dramatic light to splay down from above.

And you gotta love the off-kilter arrow slit windows!

Simple but lovely.  The aptly named Tower Castle of Espioca, with restoration and new frame by El fabricante de epheras.  Complement it with this other tower/keep restoration I talked about earlier, also in Spain!

Architecture Monday

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with masonry and brick.  The banal, everywhere, front-façade-only, use of brick veneer on a generic house, well… that can go jump in a lake.  But highly expressive, truthfully used, rich textured brick, made even better when it’s got history and patina?  From what I’ve posted before on this blog, I think it’s quite clear that I’m totally into that.

This one can’t fulfill the history and patina part, but no matter; feast your eyes on this beauty!

If there was a picture needed for “expressive brick”, this, without a doubt, would fit the bill perfectly.  There’s so much going on, it’s hard to know where to begin.  A reinterpretation of a traditional fortress, it’s got inward-canted walls, rounded (or not!) corners, a dark stone base that rises into a vibrant brick top, bits of stone or brick that jut out or are recessed inward, and it culminates with arching brick latticeworks that top it off like a crown.  All this then further punctuated by patterned concrete boxes that poke out to form rooms or balconies.  It’s exquisite.

And it gets even better within.  Formed around a central shaft and stair, the different levels spiral upwards, creating numerous courtyards and porches and allowing nearly all parts of the house to be visually connected to each other.  The latticed stone and brick are left exposed inside, often further articulated and accentuated to provide a rich backdrop and a sense of solidity.  Best of all is the quality of light, sifting through the openings and lattices in ways both dramatic and serene.

Can this get much better?  How about yes;  the openings were not arbitrary and were instead designed with the venturi effect in mind to naturally cool and ventilate the house, and the roof collects water in a traditional kund and stores the excess in a cistern.  It’s designed to be a part of the world, not apart from it.

Needless to say, great stuff.  A wonderful piece of work.

The Gadi House by  PMA madhushala

Architecture Monday

The Olympics will get underway this coming Friday, and the new stadium is more than ready… to be mostly empty, devoid of just about all visitors.  It’ll be a surreal thing to watch, for sure. But let’s take a moment to check out the stadium itself, and it’s kinda nice, using lots of wood and taking inspiration from the vernacular overhangs to create a series of verandas that also boast edge gardens.  It seems inviting enough.

Doubly nicely, these verandahs and the roof (whose opening is deliberately asymmetrical to enhance this effect) have been designed to funnel natural ventilation through the structure and reduce the AC loads.  So that’s cool too (pun semi-intended).

Stadiums tend to be stadiums, but this one does some work to help keep it from being nothing but an imposing oval.  Time will tell if this one will find enough life post-olympics to become part of the city’s fabric.

The Japan National Stadium by Taisei Corporation + AZUSA SEKKEI + Kengo Kuma & Associates

Architecture Monday

When I visited the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo a few years ago, it was in pretty bad shape, bad enough that netting was arrayed over the whole thing to catch any parts that might fall off.  A somewhat undignified ‘end’ for an interesting experiment: to create a type of building with “capsules” that could be attached to a central core, with the intent that each could be replaced or exchanged when necessary.  Part of a movement called “Metabolism”, named after the biological idea, it aimed to allow buildings to grow, mutate, evolve, and return to components to begin the cycle anew.

For Nakagin, the units were intended as apartments for businessmen, and as such each came complete as an entirely self-contained room, with cabinets and more along one side (including hyper-modern amenities like a reel-to-reel tape deck!), a bed below the bed, and a lavatory along the other side.  It was a nifty concept, but one that clearly didn’t take off (likely, in part, due to the difficulty of replacing a unit in the middle of a stack without somehow removing the others), and with time, unfortunately, it deteriorated enough that it became a structural hazard to occupy, leaving much of it vacant.  Demolition was a threat, despite its nifty looking nature and architectural significance.

BUT!  In a most delicious ‘third’ option, the tower will come down, but in a way that honours its initial intent: the modules will be detached and be regenerated to live on as independent accommodation (with some to become museum exhibits).  It’s metabolism in action, with the units not turned into trash and instead able to be renovated and find new life elsewhere.

It’s still a bit of a loss, losing the beauty of the sculptural assemblage (and no word I’ve found on what’ll happen to the central spikes, though I imagine those will be torn down), but compared to the complete wrecking ball it’s a much cooler (and sustainable + possibility laden) alternative.

Nakagin Capsule Tower by Kisho Kurokawa.

Architecture Monday

Ok, I’m pre-inclined to like this building.  While it’s a mountaineering centre, with what seems to be some museum functions too, my main inclination comes from its main tall spike:  it’s a climbing gym.

Plenty to like here… sculptural design that fits its function within, with a skin pattern that reminds of the nearby mountains, and with a number of lovely little spatial vignettes inside.  The only boo for me is the climbing wall itself – it seems a bit plain to my eyes.

Overall, this is one cool building.  Nice work.

The Norwegian Mountaineering Centre by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter.

Architecture Monday

Perched on a narrow mountain plateau in Nepal, this radio station rocks.  As in it is made of rock.  As in it is made of the very rock that surrounds and is part of the site.  Except for a few concrete columns, nearly everything is very craftily made of rock.

But this is no simple pile of rubble!  It’s got plenty of great design and detail work.  For one, it uses light in exquisite ways, from atriums and courtyards (that also provide protection from the strong mountain winds) to slot windows that lets shafts of illumination play out dramatically across the rough rock surface.  For two, with great fun and impressiveness it even uses the same natural rock for various bits of furniture.

It is always important to design your buildings to suit their context.  This one does so in spades while going even further to build itself out of the context in which it sits.  Very neat and great work.

Himalesque by ARCHIUM

Wonder Wednesday

Oh I so love these works by Abelardo Morell!  Turning an entire room into a camera obscura, then photographing the result.  There’s something very mystifying and fascinating about the real world projected into 3D space rather than a flat screen, interacting with the room, a mix of the mundane and the fantastical (and it’s up to us to choose which of either the room or the world is the mundane one and which is the fantastical).  So nifty.

I can’t possibly link them all, so find more at his gallery here!

All works by Abelardo Morell