Canada Day / Fête du Canada

A muted happy Canada Day to all. I join in reflecting today for who we are and what we’ve accomplished, including all the exciting things we’ve done, and including all the times we’ve failed to live up to who we claim we are or want to be, and, most importantly, the results thereof. There are many legacies that are less than savoury, many that are ongoing and continuing to causing harm to this day. Often we’ve stepped over them. Let’s have this be the day where we cease to do that and do the hard work until we can live up to our ideals, building a just, verdant, equitable, and peaceful country so we all have something to celebrate.

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

Architecture Monday

I’ve been a fan of the work by Patkau Architects for decades now, admiring the rich complex geometries of their buildings.  This otherwise small and humble gathering space is no different.  Eight repeating ‘petals’ form a circular room that soars up to the sky, like cloth captured in a breeze.  Meanwhile, sculptural windows around the base allows the gaze to reach out towards the mountain like upon which the building is perched.

This is the second building on this site, using the same foundations as the previous one that had unfortunately burned down.  The curving structure is astoundingly made of standard 2x4s turned into sinuous gluelam beams.  Unfurling like a blossom and meeting at an oculus, the smooth white petals create a delicate space that gently holds everyone within.

Resting nicely within the landscape, it’s lovely work all around, and airy form that befits its use and place.  Great stuff and another fine addition to the Patkau portfolio.

Temple of Light by Patkau Architects

Philosophy Tuesday

It’s rather remarkable how adaptive we (as human beings) are.  I’m not speaking only about our geographic reach, as expansive as that is.  I mean just about anything and everything.  All so quickly, things, situations, systems, dynamics, societies, and etc all begin to feel normal.   And not just normal, but everlasting, intrinsic, and even right.  Like that’s how its supposed to be.  And like how there’s no way it could be any other way.

It’s reality.

Which, of course, is caca.  If there’s one thing for certain, it is that things change.**  We are always, ongoingly, creating ourselves, creating our communities, creating our systems, and creating our culture.  When we get lost in that feel of normalcy, that’s when we can get stuck creating the same thing over and over and over again.  Perhaps inadvertently doing so, but the effect is the same.  Inside the rut, possibility is greatly stifled.

That said, again of course, it’s not bad that we are so adaptive!  It’s great that we don’t smell the sewer after a few minutes.  Or that the lake stops feeling cold after jumping in.  Or that great shifts soon feel much less disruptive.***  But, like just about everything else that comes with being human, there are aspects of it that are empowering, and aspects that are disempowering and even destructive.

By remembering this great capacity of ours we can remain mindful to see where we’re letting something slide.  Where we’re giving things that are harmful, or don’t work work, or aren’t right or just or equitable or verdant, or anything of that sort, giving them the automatic pass and thinking “well, it’s just how it is.”  Or, worse, getting caught up in it all and doubling down on it.

Here’s where we can step out of the adaptiveness ruse.  Nothing is inherent.  Nothing is intractable.  We hold the agency for ourselves and who we are being, for our relationships, and with the communities and societies we ongoingly build.

 

*  From the frigid arctic to the intense deserts, all without the use of what we consider “modern and necessary technology” – which is a whole avenue of exploration in of itself!  But to quip shortly about it here, we have done a lot and even thrived with just our wits and less fragility… AND that’s just it, isn’t it?  It’s the same main thrust of this post:  we’ve become accustomed to and thus adapted to a very narrow temperature range, and anything outside of those bounds feels like death.

** Not always for the ‘better’, which is another reason why this feeling of normalcy can be so deleterious, for it will allow the ‘little’ normals to become ‘big’ normals very quickly, and if those little normals are not great, then the effects and harm also spread and become widespread.

*** To whit was how, in short order, the way of working, remembering my mask, new ways of communicating, and etc all due to the pandemic started to feel most normal.

Architecture Monday

There’s a lot of nifty things about this community centre and nursery that are pretty cool, not the least of which is the way it organizes itself around a courtyard and gardens, or the many sustainable features (including an underground labyrinth for natural air conditioning).  But what I’m going to fixate on tonight is its brick.  It’s rugged brick, which creates a rich base texture, but it’s also used in extraordinary ways to create patterns, layers, shadows, and remarkable sculptural forms, both inside and out.

There are so many nifty techniques used here, from the simple shift of horizontal to vertical courses, or a shift from running to stacked bond, to stepped depth and the turning of bricks to create projections that explode into 3D and catch the sun in brickly delights.  The many circular openings that jump out from the rectangular walls and patterns.  And then there’s the form of the building itself, big and boxy but using the depth of its walls, revealed by recesses and openings, to create something feeling comfortingly sturdy.

Grand work.  Brick can be very banal, but with some care it can be quite an impressive and wonderful beast.  I love it.

Storey’s Field Centre and Eddington Nursery by MUMA

Philosophy Tuesday

We need to watch out for, and push back on, and resist, those who perpetrate the “Siblings in the Back Seat” ruse.

You know the schtick:  where one sibling will poke and prod and annoy the other until, understandably, they push back, and then it’s all “MoooOOoOooooOOOOooom, they’re hitting me!”  And thus the instigator turns themselves into the victim, and the actual aggrieved is the one who gets punished.

It’s a depraved and cruel way of behaving, though it is most certainly cunning.*  Cunning enough to become adopted and carried forth through life, where the stakes become much higher than that in the back seat and where the effects are felt not only interpersonally, but through families, communities, companies, and even to the level of countries.  Where the stakes are very high indeed, and where this trickery is used to delegitimize and dehumanize, as a pretext for theft and persecution, to justify highly asymmetric responses, and, in general, to excuse and even try to legitimize all manner of deleterious and harmful behaviour.

But it is possible to see through this deceit.  Once we observe enough back seat shenanigans, we can begin to recognize the pretense.  We can stop falling into the trap. We can call it out, and align ourselves accordingly.**

Even on ruses that have been perpetrated for 73 years.

 

* This is, in many ways, a variant on the DARVO technique.

** We can do this even if, once, we bought into them.  Perhaps even bought into them fully. Unquestioningly.  Gleefully.

*** Said another way is simply this:  We need to be very wary of and verify the stories of enthusiastic aggressors.

Architecture Monday

Oh this one’s awesome… (and kinda close to my hometown!)  An over 125 year old romanesque post office brought to new purpose to become a ‘bookless’ library, filled with creative labs and maker spaces and more.  And it’s not just the stately post office building, it’s a new wrap-around glass pavilion that reaches out to engage the adjacent canal and make the whole shebang a part of the community space.

So, yeah, that gallery that hangs out over the river pretty much sells the whole thing.  I mean, the original (and restored) post office is also lovely, with its arched windows, half turrets, towers, steep gable roof, and the brick and stone.  All of that is enhanced with the new glass and steel surround that cantilevers not just once, but twice, hovering first over the water, then above over a patio/deck.  And the undersides of which hasn’t been neglected, with polished aluminum and integrated lighting that speaks towards a future river walk.  It’s dynamic and playful and though a very different language than the original building that contrast enhances each other, even more so when they are reflected off the water whether by day or, glowing like a lantern, at night.

Lots of light, lots of great views to the river and city beyond, and more interplay between the crisp new and the rugged old are what awaits within.  These two languages combine in a culmination in the third floor maker space, inhabiting the cathedral-like space under the old high-pitched roof amongst the old support frames.

For an added bonus, there’s the glass ceiling that looks up into the old clock tower, putting the mechanisms on display!

Very cool project, another example of taking something already existing and, through re-use and a clever set of additions, turning it into something even greater.  Plus public maker spaces/etc are a great addition to a community (I loved the one at the new library in Helsinki).  And if you, like me, still love traditional book-filled libraries, there’s one right across the river.

Ideas Exchange by RDHA

Architecture Monday

I love adaptive reuse of just about every type, but there’s something extra lovely when old coal-fired power plants or coal storage yards are repurposed into something much less destructive.  It doesn’t hurt that the soaring spaces and muscular structure within lends themselves well to all sorts of great insertions and intricate spatial play.  To that end, here’s a nice new example of the genre, a bit of adaptive reuse in Wisconsin aptly named The Powerhouse.

A set of big brick boxes, built over time, is what defines the old plant, punctuated by strips of tall windows. A new fieldhouse made of polycarbonate panels is a nifty counterpoint, creating a diffuse glow inside by day and a lantern outside at night.  And it’s hard to miss the smokestack as a calling card…

All the space inside is used in fun ways, mixing new levels with old and with the new functions intertwined around old machinery and infrastructure.  The suspended running track is cool, traversing through all three old buildings and the new addition, letting you see the different eras and types of buildings while also interacting with old roof trusses and other bits of the building.  And check out the idea of the climbing walls within the old coal hoppers!  Now that’s a super nifty idea.

Good stuff.  A new life for an old building, saving all the materials and the energy it took to build them, and turning it into a plethora of fun spaces for all sorts of great uses while also tying the waters edge, the city, and the university campus together.  Mighty fine work.

The Beloit College Student Union by Studio Gang

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