Architecture Monday

This is a cool performing arts venue.  For decades the performances by this organization had been held in two big top tents.  In keeping with that history, the design took inspiration to create a sculptural shell that reaches for the heavens.

There’s a nifty slight of hand here, creating a broad plinth (with wide stairs to reach it) on which they rest the shell.  This allows for the arena inside to be ringed by what appears as clerestory windows for a luminous glow, while they also function as entry doorways.  The ribbing on the underside of the roof is great, heightening the visual pull of the curving ribs all the way up to the amazing oculus.

In addition to the biggie hall there’s a smaller and way more intimate theatre, also done in the round.  But the pièce de résistance (and the thing that really piqued my interest) is a third performance space that consists of large saltwater float/thermal bath under a vaulted dome illuminated by another soft oculus.  Music is pumped into the water and the room so you can float and listen, which just sounds absolutely lovely.

Very fun project.  A great venue for all sorts of arts and performances, that ties into its community both in site (including the nearby ruins of a train station bombed during WW2) and in its large outdoor terrace, and that adds a bistro and, especially, that spa and float tank for a space of ultimate unwinding.  Great work.

The Tempodrom by GMP

Architecture Monday

I was glancing through my photos of my trip to the Nordic countries and came across this one of a church I wrote about back in 2017!

I saw it (and took this shot from) the deck of a ferry heading into the fjords, and I love how both a) prominent it is, a strong upthrust of verticality in the sea of low-slung horizontal buildings, but also b) how much it just fits and avoids becoming a massive punch in the eye(sore).  It’s not announcing itself for itself.  Instead it’s form and materiality are used to play off of and perhaps even enhance its backdrop.  Also neat to see how it looks now after a few years of patina has turned its wood construction into this lovely rich shade of rocky grey.

Alas, I didn’t get a chance to go inside so I’ll have to live vicariously for that part of it.  But this glimpse as we sailed past was great on its own and made me admire it all that much more.

Community Church Knarvik by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter  (Which I just realized is the same architect as the Trollstigen Visitor’s Centre I posted about a few weeks ago!)

Philosophy Tuesday

“Aside from the animals, there are nearly a thousand abstract signs and shapes we cannot interpret and also several negative hand stencils, as they are known by art historians. These are the paintings that most interest me. They were created by pressing one hand with fingers splayed against the wall of the cave and then blowing pigment, leaving the area around the hand painted. Similar hand stencils have been found in caves around the world from Indonesia to Spain to Australia to the Americas to Africa. We have found these memories of hands from 15,000 or 30,000, or even 40,000 years ago.

These hand stencils remind us of how different life was in the distant past. Amputations, likely from frostbite, are common in Europe and so you often see negative hand stencils with three or four fingers. And life was short and difficult. As many as a quarter of women died in childbirth. Around 50% of children died before the age of five.

But they also remind us that the humans of the past were as human as we are, their hands indistinguishable from ours. These communities hunted and gathered and there were no large caloric surpluses so every healthy person would’ve had to contribute to the acquisition of food and water.

And yet somehow, they still made time to create art, almost as if art isn’t optional for humans.”

John Green

(from this episode of his great podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed)

(which was animated into this amazing video by Kurzgesagt)

Architecture Monday

Culture house, community locus, and an example of lovely design, this new library in Tingbjerg alights amidst a garden city that was once a model city but has fallen into one of grave challenges.

It’s hard to choose what’s more striking at first glance… the large glazed façade that acts like a beacon, showcasing the activities within, or the bold wedge shape that, from certain angles, makes the whole thing read like a giant picture frame.  And that shape is not just some fancy thing chosen for frivolity.  Instead it was crafted quite deliberately as a way of bridging the scale from the existing school it connects with while also crating entry courts to both itself and the school.  In addition, the exterior cladding (which is mirrored within), with its strong vertical banding, is a nod in colour and in texture to the surrounding buildings.

The intricacies continue inside, with multiple rooms and levels all tetrising together to serve the building’s many functions, be it library, learning, performances, resource center, community room, and beyond.  The multi-levels follow the shape of the wedge through a big atrium, peeling back like a mountainous town and allowing views and interactions while also providing a sweet spatial experience for the many different uses.

This is cool.  Architecture can be a great force multiplier, which is to say that through design and the creation of great space it can boost the effects of action and bolster the community.  Provided, of course, that such action and community is being supported in the first place (otherwise it can also be a multiplier, but in the negative direction).  I hope that proves to be the case here.

The Tingbjerg Library by Cobe

Architecture Monday

I love how the craft is so much on display in this building.  Built by local artisans, it’s all the ways the bamboo is used on this project that stands out, whether woven into patterned screens, thatched, or, my favourite, intricately roped together to form attractive columns, beams, and diagonal supports.

The other main building material is mud, a most decidedly local and abundant building material..  Through its amorphous shape it strikes an interesting silhouette while sliding nicely into its surroundings.

The inside is airy and colourful, but the pièce de resistance has got to be the little ‘grottos’ that are carved under a ramp connecting its two levels. What a fun little retreat!

Lovely work.  Expressive, local, and another example of a mighty fine building done without needing an eye-watering budget.  Good design never need be thought of as a luxury.

The Anandaloy Center by  Studio Anna Heringer.  (Also a winner of a World Architects’ Obel Award)

Architecture Monday

Just a fun jaunt tonight to celebrate the one and only Toronto City Hall!

The conceptual sketch of the city council chamber, which became the centrepiece of the whole design:

And the council chamber UFO itself:

The architect on site, during its construction:

Opening day/night:

By many measures, the city hall has been ultra-successful in being a grand civic centre.  Perhaps it’s no surprise it was designed by a Finnish architect, given what I saw during my Nordic trip last year.   The area enclosed by the elevated walkway… actually, let’s talk about this for a bit, because it’s a well-used piece of design that clearly creates a feeling of enclosure and demarcates this public square from the street all without being an actual barrier.  Once within, you know it and it becomes it’s own realm, one that is very much used by the public it serves, perhaps most famously during the winter, when the water feature becomes a free ice skating rink.

It’s so forward inspiring It’s been used in numerous movies, including this Star Trek Next Gen episode (which I totally remember seeing and being amused seeing it being represented as this futuristic building):

One of my professors in university (the wonderful and irreplaceable Don Westwood) worked on the project when he was just starting out in his architecture career.  He showed the drawings on the screen, including his initials, which he then pretended to be embarrassed at doing.  He worked on details for the scalloped concrete panels along the back half:


I’m loving the new green roof/public gardens on the plinth, gotta check these out next time I visit during the summer:

Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square by Viljo Revell

Architecture Monday

When there’s no room to put a town museum in the town proper… sometimes you can create new room!  In this case, by turning the building into a prominent and striking new bridge.

Overall, this is a nice fusion of the old surroundings with a new reinterpretation of form while also leveraging the country’s covered bridge tradition.  The ends securing the bridge are very much nestled within the existing housing stock that lines the river, which really lets the museum become a part of the town.  The galleries inside benefit from the unobstructed light and views, and as a nice bonus the whole thing also provides new (unrestricted, not part of the museum) pedestrian access over the river.

A bold solution to a site constraint that creates new community connection both in the form of the museum and in the literal crossing of the river.  Great stuff.

The Jishou Art Museum by Atelier FCJZ

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.