Posts Tagged ‘community’

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Architecture Monday

September 18, 2017

There’s something hiding at the heart of this Kindergarten in Japan:  the wood.  It doesn’t look like it’s hiding, because the buildings are nothing if all wood, detailed together with joinery finery.  What’s more hidden is that all the wood comes from trees that were killed in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and, even more at their heart, is that each of these trees were also planted after a tsunami in 1611, a round 400 years prior.  From one tsunami to the next, the trees remain to provide shelter in the community.

Even beyond this remarkable history, there’s much to like about the building.  Built onto the side of a hill, it manages to evoke both traditional Japanese woodwork while also channeling Smokey the Bear-type North American national forest pavilions.  And, not unintended I’m sure, a treehouse, all the more perfect for its young inhabitants.

Inside the wood continues to take centre stage, from floor to furniture to wall to ceiling, the latter of which is cast aglow by windows that reach up deep between the roof beams.  Odd as it may seem, the bare bulbs that hang to provide artificial light feels nice, the pinpoints of light creating another plane overhead.  (I do hope those are LEDs…)

Nice and solid work.  The Asahi Kindergarten by Tezuka Architects.

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 25, 2017

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

Sometimes, all we want is for someone to sit, listen, be with us, and say,

“Yes.  I got you.”

For both meanings of that phrase.

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Architecture Monday

July 24, 2017

A wonderful school project in Zambia.  Using locally sourced materials and careful study of the site, this is one great set of classrooms.  The roof is calculated to shade the structure just right from the hot hot sun, acting like a giant parasol that keeps things below cool.  The windows are placed both high and low to let in lots of light without causing glare.  The split design lets the spaces between classroom blocks be porticos, porches, and spaces to gather and teach.  And the space between the parasol and the buildings is used as additional, open-air, classrooms – which in turn is a further moment of delight in the perforated wall that frames the stair access.

That seemingly mundane concrete block that makes the perforated wall possible is almost invisible to our eyes, so jaded by the usual uses of concrete block in our everyday lives, by careful detailing and the application of a lusciously smooth plaster.  With a rhythm defined by the carefully placed windows, it stands proudly but not disruptively amongst the big skies and grasslands that surround it.

This is no big budget project.  It is, however, big on design.  Creativity transcends.  It takes what’s there and multiplies it, crafting delightful spaces that works better for more people, in turn acting as a force multiplier for the activities of the community.  Great work.

Chipakata Children’s Academy by Susan Rodriguez, Frank Lupo, Randy Antonia Lott, Fabian Bedolla, Hiroko Nakatani, Mehonaz Kazi

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Architecture Monday

May 8, 2017

Shopping malls, on the whole, tend not to be paragons of design quality, and have propagated worldwide with little thought, period, let alone thought for the local culture, climate, or conditions.  Which means that often they don’t serve the needs of either the shoppers, the community, or even the shopkeepers.  They can increase cost to the store owners and decrease sales, rather than provide benefits to all who need to use it.

This project in Ethiopia does.

The above diagram, well, diagrams it all.  In elegant ways this new “mall” incorporates sustainable initiatives,  inviting spaces, and local charm to create a shopping mall born of a specific place.  It’s much more than the traditional strip ‘o shops with a fancy pediment.

There’s a whole bunch I like about this building, starting right from the get go with the expressive outer shell.  It’s concrete and it’s expressively pierced with a pattern adapted from the traditional local fabrics.  This means all at once it diffuses and controls the harsh local sun, it allows for passive natural ventilation, and it’s a thermal mass to help control the heat even further.  And as nice as it is on the outside, inside it is absolutely gorgeous, especially the amazing surprise that is the coloured bits of glass that sparkle like jewels.  Simple, clever, and good looking.

The building is also a shortcut between two adjacent busy streets, with a diagonal path carved along the ground floor that, in turn, becomes a diagonal atrium that expands upward and opens to the sky.  This acts as a chimney, letting hot air rise and the natural ventilation keep the building cool.  It’s also an internal street, letting the floors communicate with each other rather than be isolated pancakes.  The roof is also no isolated pastry*, it’s a large umbrella-filled patio.  That also happens to collect rainwater that is then stored to use for restrooms and irrigation.  Oh, and the umbrellas also serve double duty as photovoltaic panels.  Air, water, light, electricity… all thought of and integrated into this lovely box.

This is great stuff.  From the dramatic arched entryways to the spiraling road and shops that lead to the terraced roof, it elevates the experience of shopping while honouring its surroundings and thinking deeply about sustainability.  Lovely work.

Lideta Market by Vilalta Arquitectura

 

* Sorry for the tortured metaphor…

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Architecture Monday

April 3, 2017

Let’s go to Finland tonight for a refreshing jaunt in a sauna, shall we?  How about this delightful public sauna in Helsinki?  Perched on the edge of the water, it is at once a landform and a building, an angular and expressive form that mimics the rocks upon which it sits.  Even better, it engages the city just as much as it also protectively shelters the serene saunas within.

Check it out.  Really, check it all out.  You can step out and overlook the water, descend the stairs to enter the water, warm up at the dockside cafe, then climb on top of the building and get a view of the bay, the islands, and the city.  The carefully constructed wood slats (100% FSC Certified!) that form the face of the building seamlessly turn into stairs that lets anyone ascend upwards.  The roof is no simple canopy, it’s a playground.

Inside, the spaces are divine.  Those same wood slats slide and part to let light and views in (while, like blinds, keeping privacy).  From the covered porch areas to the change rooms to the saunas – including a traditional smoke sauna – the feel of the spaces is tranquil and comforting.

This image speaks it all.  There’s a beauty how the warm and regular wood, through its proportions and design, creates a space that invitingly cradles the seated body, while its horizontal lines draws the eyes outward towards the screen beyond, where the angular forms playfully contrast with the regularity of the wood grid, all given a visual exclamation point by the fire pit and rocks that stand basking in the glow from the generous window.

Marvelous.

And only one of many enchanted spaces within.  A great design that couples civic engagement and exterior excitement with amazing spaces within, all while building smartly using sustainable materials.  Excellent work.

The Löyly Saunas by Avanto Architects and Joanna Laajisto Creative Studio

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Architecture Monday

March 20, 2017

I can be a sucker for libraries, but  this one’s got a lot going for it:  bold forms, luminous troughs of airy space, a marriage of the rough and the refined, expressive detailing, and an interplay that compliments nearby structures without mimicking them.

There’s a clarity too that lets the building speak for itself in many ways.  The building is organized around its three naves, each fronted by expansive windows that themselves double as benches for passers-by outside.

I love this interchange between the readers inside, looking out towards the town square, and the curious pedestrians, who can see the books (and the readers) within as they pause in their day.

The naves themselves are quite exquisite, as the rhythmic wooden slats form a scrim for translucent panels, letting a warm glow suffuse the reading areas.  I particularly like how the bookshelves form both the edges of the stairways, the reading areas, and, spatially, an extension of the nave above.

Built by local woodworking artisans, it’s superb craft coupled with fine design, and a new beacon for a town devastated by the earthquakes and tsunami of 2010.  Great stuff.

The Constitución Public Library by Sebastian Irarrázaval

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Celebrating Zootopia

March 5, 2017

Our drive began before the sunrise.  After an intense flurry of hasty arranging late Friday night.  The destination:  LA.  The reason: to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Zootopia with Rich Moore and Nate Torrence.

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Rich tweeted the invite on Friday evening to join them at The Big Donut (actually Randy’s Donuts, the donut shop that inspired the design for The Big Donut shop in Little Rodentia) for a brief bout of festivities Saturday morning.  Brief it was, for when we got there (nary an hour after it was to begin) it was pretty much all over:  the live Facebook Q&A was finished, the giveaways were done, and most people were leaving.

But the main reason I wanted to go was to meet Rich, and that turned out more than splendidly.

zootopia-rich-moore

Joining Rich and Nate was Clark Spencer, the producer.  It was a total delight.  They are all absolutely wonderful people, and really approachable.  I had fun and great conversations with them all.  Most exciting and special for me was to gave Rich a framed copy of my postcard of gratitude that I’d made for the Zootopia team last year, and to express, in person, to both him and Clark my acknowledgement and appreciation for the film and all the work they put into it.  I also got to give a nice hug to each of them.

zootopia-nate-torrence

zootopia-clark-spencer

The rest of the crew were extra nice too, and they very generously gifted me one of the “cast only” shirts and got Rich and Clark to sign it for me!  I love Rich’s little bunny face…

zootopia-shirt

Besides being all dressed up, Randy’s Donuts were also giving away free (before you even ordered!) “The Big Donut” donuts.  They looked very tasty… (Curse you gluten, my kryptonite!)

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It was brief, but it was awesome.  A perfect way to celebrate a movie that has been so momentous for me (and for millions of others).  I’m still giddy about it.  To get a chance to interact with the creators and express how moving the film is and share even a smiggen of what I’ve professed was very exciting and fulfilling.  A day I will long remember.

Rest of our day was spent at the Getty Villa (also drove along Highway 1 to get there, and saw the infamous Santa Monica Beach along with a catching a glimpse of interesting and modern beach houses in passing) and eating some delicious food.  And, of course, the big drive back, returning long after the sun was, once again, over the horizon.   (Actually it was the next day by the time we arrived home… been kinda tired today, understandably…)