Architecture Monday

Check out this nifty school right next to the California Science Centre.  Adaptive reuse + a new wing by Morphosis.  And as a Morphosis building you know you’re going to get a lot of hyper expressive screens, stairways, and outdoor pavilions, but this comes with a bonus covered courtyard nestled within the historical structure plus green roofs and a berm that embraces the new building.

Next to a science centre, art museum, olympic stadium, and soon to be motion picture museum, plus a DC-8 as an entry piece, and nifty architecture… pretty darn cool.

The Dr. Theodore Alexander Science Center School by Morphosis

Architecture Monday

An old and run-down church.  Stripped to its bones, leaving bare its wonderfully rugged stone construction.  Soaring upwards, it imparts a sense of solidity and longevity.

Into that verticality is placed an elevated chapel, raised and ensconced in a forest of wood.  Beside and above, a new elongated concrete barrel vault hovers away from the existing walls, mediating the light from the windows and providing acoustics for the choir.

The rest of the furnishings are equally slender and spare, playing well as a counterpoint to the rough walls.  Opposite the new chapel in the apse is a remarkable focal point:  panels of thin marble create a screen before a full-height window, a glowing ribbon blazing into the interior.

This one isn’t quite an adaptive reuse, and it isn’t quite a renovation either… perhaps a re-inhabitation?  Whatever we might classify it, it’s splendid.

Imaculada and Cheia de Graça Chapel by Cerejeira Fontes Architects

Architecture Monday

Check out this adaptive reuse to create a new library in Brooklyn!

The library is a sweet insertion into an old industrial building.  Cutaways and separations from the wall make it feel like an independent body nestled within the rugged frame.  Even better, these same cutaway elements expose the old brick walls and board-formed concrete ceiling, their textures highlighted in contrast to the smooth white surfaces of the insertion.

The curves of the new also play against the linear of the old, brought to a culmination by the curvaceous pavilion in the centre.  Here the wood exterior and bold colours of the equally curvaceous openings again enhance their presence by playing off the more subdued surroundings.

Very cool.  In a way it is very “simple”, and probably economical, but done with great panache to create a very compelling space to be in, a perfect library environment.  Nicely done.

The Adams Street Library by WORKac

Architecture Monday

I’d go back to school for this!  Just from that first picture alone… but there’s plenty more goodness in the design of this elementary school.

The zig/zag sawtooth roofline is neat on its own, but it’s especially neat how the building pushes and pulls its volumes to use those ridges to create both an entry portico and a larger covered outdoor sports area (complete with observation gallery and right next to the indoor gym).

And then to complement that bold entry hall/assembly space there’s a more intimate courtyard.

Sweet design.  Love the LVT/large timer frame, the infusion of light, the sculptural form, and the care to create an environment befitting our children.

Borgafjellet Elementary School by LINK arkitektur

Architecture Monday

“Business park.”  Chances are (especially if you are from North America) this immediately conjures up an image for you:  low slung concrete slabs of the most unimaginative type* in a sea of pavement with, if lucky, a modicum of dying grass (about as far from a park as possible).  Most towns and cities have them, tucked away here and there and not a place you’d want to be in, even if you have to be there.

The video below is not really about architecture; it’s main focus is on transportation.  But I couldn’t stop from ogling the buildings in this business park.  Because they are actually designed and intended as architecture rather than just the cheapest container for collecting rent money (and if it keeps the rain off then that’s a bonus).   Rather than being soul crushing this area is pleasant and even delightful to be in.  And walkable to boot!

To be fair, this might be considered more of a commercial district than a business park, as it seems to be filled with larger companies than the tiny affairs that usually occupy the North American business park.  But there’s a similar district of that sort to where I live, with some very large companies indeed, filled with 4-6 story buildings, and even those are not as engaging** as the ones there in Amsterdam.  Not to mention the interstitial “landscape” is nothing short of a scorched earth no man’s land that very clearly says that you do not matter.

Great video by Not Just Bikes, and a great example that architecture and design is possible and preferable everywhere, making for spaces that enliven us rather than be something we need to overcome.  Just to do business.

 

* It’s such a cliché that a raze-and-rebuild development here braded themselves as notanotherbox.com as part of their advertising strategy.  The resulting building is quite certainly not a box, and is almost as nice as some of the ones in the video.

** This is one thing I’ve been excited to see travelling abroad:  a higher “baseline design quality” when compared to North America.  One, agan, that says “life is important, we should make it great for us!” rather than, again again, “sorry, you do not matter.”

*** I heartily recommend all of Not Just Bikes’ videos.  They’re fun and well put together and really do a great job to show what’s possible when we remember us humans in our urban design, and how much life is better when we do.

Architecture Monday

Very excited that Francis Kéré won the Pritzker prize this year!  I’ve spoken about their work on here before (here and here — including one of the very first Architecture Mondays!) and everything I said then I am still enamored with today, especially the creation of great space and design with what many might term “limited resources.”  Because terming it such can be a death knell to the spirit.  As Kéré himself says, “It’s not because you are limited in resources that you should accept mediocrity. No, I never accept that! I try to do things I feel proud of.”

I ought to do some deep dives into more of his works, but for the moment enjoy this smattering of photos from his firm’s work:

“Simplicity doesn’t mean banality, it doesn’t mean something is not rich. It can be really rich.”

Absolutely!  Great work.  A big congrats to Francis Kéré for the well deserved win.  Check out the Pritzker’s announcement here, and the Kéré Architecture firm here.

Philosophy Tuesday

There’s an oft-used phrase that I think fits very well for many of the unconscious social constructs we often (nearly always?) find ourselves trapped in:

The Circular Firing Squad

While the phrase is most accurately used to describe situations where groups are engaged in self-destructive and internal conflicts and recriminations, I’m bending it here to mean… well, actually, pretty much the same thing.  It’s may not necessarily always be as destructive as the phrase implies (sometimes it may be Nerf weapons), but it still is quite similar.

What I mean here are all those situations where we are behaving in a certain way because we know everyone else expects us to behave that way, and we can see them all behaving that way… but the only reason everyone else is behaving that way and the reason they expect you to do so is for the exact same reason:  they also think you, and everyone else, expects it, and they also are following what you, and everyone else, is doing.

Which can lead to unproductive and deleterious but also sometimes hilarious situations.  Like how we often worry that we’ll be judged by others… when everyone else is also, simultaneously, worried they’ll be judged by us.  So much so, that they, and we, are often not judging them because we’re too worried about being judged.  It’s kind of delightfully absurd, isn’t it? How fascinating!

Of course, we do indeed often judge others – it’s a human thing to do – but our little and “normal” bit of judging is further encouraged and enhanced to an unproductive level by us creating and then living inside a context (or, more often, many contexts) that fosters and even demands judgement.  “If everyone judges, then I’d better judge to! (And get them first)!“ is a first level of this, but additional contexts, such as that of vertical individuality, push it even further until we’re in a full prison where we spend 90% of our time judging others, and the other 90% of the time worried about being judged.  No wonder we’re frazzled.

There’s a social capital “game” going on here, one that is, again, something quite human to do and not necessarily an issue.  It may even be necessary for a vibrant community.  But the unhealthy levels to which we play the game are driven only because everyone else is similarly playing it.  We see people out to get us, but they’re only doing so because they think we are out to get them.  And then we do go out to get them, because we think they’re out to get us, so we’d better get them first, which causes them to react in kind, which confirms our suspicions and… boom.  We’re caught in the circular firing squad.

How easy is it to see these and free ourselves from them?  Individually, it’s not that difficult.  We can recognize and not choose to play the game, or to play the game on our own terms in ways that are productive for all.  And the best part is that when we do so, we unconsciously give others the freedom to also forego the game.*  We can engage in more authentic ways; we can be free and self-expressed and at peace.  It’s a glorious thing.

The more we practice and lay down our metaphorical arms, the larger our circles of freedom become, and we begin to create new types of circular squads, squads of joy, love, support, excitement, creativity, peace, and more.

 

* Though it may take them a little while to get over their ingrained habits and fears.

Architecture Monday

While I was in Florida to view the Inspiration4 Dragon launch, I headed away from the cape in order to go visit something rather nifty and not very well known:  a college campus designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

From the master plan to 18 buildings (of which 13 were built), this is perhaps the largest collection of FLW-designed buildings in a single place.  And it’s a fascinating collection too, incorporating a number of signature FLW elements that don’t often show up together, be it the decorative abstract motifs of the Hollyhock house and the windows of his Prairie buildings, his textile blocks (here inset with coloured glass, quite beautiful), Usonian space planning, and more.  Both the dean of the college and FLW were keen on creating something that weren’t attached to the traditions of the old but stretched out to embrace new concepts and aesthetics.

The campus is also known as the “Child of the Sun”, from FLW’s vision of buildings growing out of the ground and into the light.  While the site is currently full of big lawns, they were originally designed to remain as orange groves.  Unfortunately a recent-ish weather event wiped most of them out, but there is a plan to replant so that the long esplanades – that themselves are a representation of the orange tree – are once again nestled within the groves as intended.

Quite remarkable, and really great to tour and experience the campus, both inside and out.  FLW certainly is a whole host of contradictions, but a lot of his works really are quite dang cool.

Florida Southern College by Frank Lloyd Wright

Wonder Wednesday

Also a bit of… Washroom Wednesday?  For this is an art project that is placed at the entrance to the new gender neutral bathrooms at my alma mater, the School of Architecture at Carleton University.  I can still picture that washroom entrance, though not surprisingly a bit different in my memory as they were separated washrooms when I attended.  But even then there was a relatively prominent concrete block wall as you chose which direction to go, and with this remodel it became all that more pronounced.  What better canvas for new art?

Watching the above time lapse is neat, and I do like the resulting art!  I find it very fitting for the building and the study therein. It’s not all that unlike a quilt, with panels being personal affairs (the panels were made by different artists) and range in medium, methods, and meaning.  From architectural molding to the tools of the trade (one made of pencil points that looks kinda… dangerous?) to carved plaster plans to interpretations of the environment to a drawer pull and beyond, it’s quite a rich tapestry.  Nicely, there are also numerous filler panels so that the art can evolve and grow in the coming years.

Very neat!  Check out the story and more pictures of the work here.

Architecture Monday

What do you do when an old building in a dense urban area finds itself ready for new tenants?  Especially when that building is now surrounded by much taller and larger buildings, and there is a premium on developing new space?  As much as I love adaptive reuse, sometimes the pressure to densify argues to do something more.  An “easy” solution is to incorporate the existing building – or at least the existing façade – into the new one, often as a base for a new high-rise.

And then there’s the opportunity to do something much more radical.

The above project is, alas, only a concept piece and the land owners aren’t gong forward with it… but what a concept!  Beyond just making more commercial space, this idea was to take the over-a-century-old building and turn it into a cultural and art facility, doubling its floor area by literally mirroring it.  The result would have been this double-take inducing, water-like, reflection of the building hovering over the existing one.

What a mind trip!

Though, not a complete mind trip, as there would have been an additional new element added to the rear to house further facilities and, nicely, another stage facing an adjacent park.  So from certain angles that would have ‘broken’ the illusion.  But who cares, from so many other angles, even if you caught a glimpse of the rooftop canopy shell the illusion of the inverted building would’ve remained strong and kept all its ‘woah’ factor.

Again, alas, not to be, but one damn cool idea.

Station C Queen West Art Centre by Paul Raff Studio