Architecture Monday

Maybe it’s something about spending so much time indoors that has me looking at libraries so much of late… whatever the reason, here’s another lovely one and one that I can check out the next time I can head back home to visit!

Wood.  Definitively lots of wood going on here.  Big, muscular, impressive wood, using engineered mass timber construction from responsibly managed lands (I am unsure if this is FSC certified, but I hope so).  Arranged like a series of curving splayed fingers, each topped with a green roof, it opens towards the public square with a giant portico.  It’s got great visual complexity, changing appearance from every angle, its various bits always in a dance with each other.

That beefy post and beam structure allows all below to be enclosed entirely with glass.  Inside the veritable forest of leaning trunks and all that light makes for a vibrant experience, almost cathedral-like.  It also allows for maximum flexibility; as its role evolves over time, the library can shuffle itself around to suit the needs of the community.

A very cool, engaging, and fun design.  Top shelf work.

The Scarborough Civic Centre Library by LGA.

Architecture Monday

Another library tonight that forms a nice contrast from the museum of last week’s post.  Where the watch museum went for a delicate and unique form, this one takes its cues from its agrarian surroundings, exuding rugged beauty and muscle, though done with an equal eye to proportion and detail.

Using brick and concrete, the heavy frame with its open-gable roof rises from the terraced paddy fields that surround it.  The shell is treated almost like an independent structure, like a found building (with a tree nearly growing into it at one end!) into which are inserted the lighter and glass-faced interior spaces.

Inside the contrast continues, with wood and steel and glass playing off the coffered robustness of the frame.  Plenty of cutaways and punched windows lets the light in and allows for little details like the study nooks and the upper terrace to look back out to the fields all around.

I dig it.  A nice and textured solidity that settles into the fields around it coupled with an airy interior that has plenty of moments to delight.  Nicely done.

The Sichuan Fine Arts Institute Library of Huxi by Tanghua Architect & Associates

Architecture Monday

Another wonderful schoolhouse and mini-library tonight, harnessing design to create something vital and beautiful!

Designed in the aftermath of, and thus to withstand, a cyclone, it’s no bunker of a design.  Full of air and light, built by community hands, and using the robust structure to its fullest to create a great and interesting space within.

The bit about the library is doubly interesting, for this school is in Vanuatu, an island country where humidity levels are often around 99%.  And so the library is nestled up a ladder under the ridge of a black roof, using the sun to heat the air, thus increasing its moisture capacity while also causing convection which is used to continually pull the moisture out of the building.  It’s a small thing, but it helps the books last longer, while also creating a great reading nook.

Great design is never out of place, and should never be considered, nor need to be, a luxury.  Sweet work here.

Ranwas School by CAUKIN Studio

Architecture Monday

With my brain being a bit on the fritz, a good book is what the hypothetical doctor ordered.  And this wonderful library in Muyinga, Burundi fits the bill for a lovely place to grab and read a book.

There’s a lot of from local culture and the conditions of the site that went into this building, used in a great way that are both functional and fanciful.  Right from the start you can see it in the locally-fabricated compressed earth block masonry which allows the building to match rich colour of the surrounding earth and tree trunks.  There is a rhythm to the high-buttressed walls, each perforated to allow for light and cross-ventilation, and that further extends into the generous covered walkway.  At night, the whole assemblage glows like a lantern.

Inside, it just gets downright sweeter.  It’s lofty and inviting, with a great connection to the outdoors and steps that become bookshelves.  But the piece de resistance is the hammock suspended overhead… what a great reading nook!

I love it.  A great example of learning from the vernacular, using and building skills in the community, and creating a wonderful space through straightforward good design and a few touches of whimsy.  Great stuff.

The Library of Muyinga by BC Architects

Gaming Thursday

As you’ve likely noticed, I haven’t written anything further on crafting the ruleset for our upcoming Star Wars campaign.  That’s because the starting date got moved up a bunch and my time had to be focused on writing the rules rather than writing about the rules.  Our first session was last weekend and it went well!  And there’s already a few tweaks to make, which is cool and exciting – I knew there would be plenty of things to fix and refine and it’s great to do some honest actual playtesting!

I’m prepping like mad for this weekend’s game (and I need to make the opening crawl, of course), but I fully intend to return here to share the rules writing process, the nuances of the rules themselves, and to demonstrate how to take the core Aurora engine and craft an entire system out of it that supports the style of gameplay perfect for the game and campaign.

Until then, let’s talk a bit about… Kickstarters!

For the first, I got my copy of the Cortex Prime book (in PDF form) and W O W.  It is a thing of beauty in terms of graphic layout (and hopefully in terms of organization too… I haven’t given it a thorough enough read with a blank perspective to assess it yet).  I already had experience with the rules and liked them, so there was no disappointment there either.  But what really caught my eye and has me super thrilled was reading all the contributors.  Because many of them worked on other systems I have enjoyed, some of which were systems that they created.  Which means that these creators – and sellers! – of their own rules nonetheless helped develop and play with other rulesets and enjoy them.  It’s this great circle of everyone having fun and supporting each other (again, even if some might otherwise see them as “competitors”) and playing all sorts of different types of games and using the rulesets that support them.  That’s just super heartwarming to me.

For the second, a new campaign just launched today on Kickstarter for something that, if you’re picking up on the theme here by now, has me giddily excited:  an RPG based on the genre of Franco-Belgian graphic novels (aka bandes dessinée).

In other words, this is essentially the Tintin RPG, and if that isn’t 1000% right up my alley, I’m not sure what is.  Go and buy in!

Storytelling Sunday

“It’s what the story required.”  “It’s what the character had to do.”  “It’s the only way it could have gone.”  “It needed to happen.”

If you’re experiences are like mine then you are likely familiar with these types of answers from authors/creators when you ask them about elements in their stories, be it about events, outcomes, or, most often, what the story is about or is trying to say.  I’ve asked numerous authors on numerous occasions these types of questions, and responses in this vein, have always puzzled me.

Because… aren’t you the author?  How is it that it must go his way?  That this is the only way?

As the author, you’re the creator of everything!  From the most basic premise to the context in which things unfurl to the impetus that starts the action to the characters that inhabit the story, and so forth.  It’s all invented.  Tweak one little thing and everything beyond cascades and unfurls in a whole other way (or ways).

Corey Doctorow recently wrote an article about this, and regardless of whether one fully likes where he takes it or the examples he gives the main useful takeaway for me remains shining the spotlight on those seemingly inviolable constraints that force a story down a particular path to a particular ending to see that they are inherently part of the creation.  There is no “must” there.  It’s all (a) setup.

Now, every story contains a series of constraints and contrivances.  I’m not arguing against that.  (Though, and this is in a completely different vein than our main conversation here, but if your story uses a whole flock of vast contrivances and coincidences to move things along then I humbly suggest your story still needs a lot of work.)  What irks me about this type of response is not the mundane or pure logic about things, but rather that the author most likely has made these choices to set up the “inevitable” for a reason, and even if those reasons are hidden from their view by not answering the question they are not taking, or willing to take, ownership of the reasons.

Out of that I begin to wonder if they are trying to hide behind the supposed “objectivity” of things.  That is, they know what their story is conveying or is trying to say, but they are not willing to proudly stand behind it to hold aloft the concepts and explain why they set things up that way (and, by extension, declare what they’re trying to say).

Natch, it is also possible that they don’t know or didn’t think about it, in which case, fine, but still I’d invite that the better answer is “Huh, I don’t know!  That’s interesting, let’s talk about it and see what comes up…”

This is starting to sound a bit rant-y, so let me wrangle things back to say what I myself am trying to create here:  an invitation to look at and engage with your work more fully and recognize there is no inevitable, and to not hide behind feigned neutrality and pure calculus.  If your story conjures something up and you are asked about it, see if it was your intention.  If so, stand behind it and say what your story is saying.  If not, how fascinating!  And use that to further develop your craft.

Architecture Monday

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.

Architecture Monday

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

Architecture Monday

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.