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.

Philosophy Tuesday

So much of our lives seem to revolve around zero-sum games.  Certainly, many of the actual games we play reinforce that idea, that there is a single (even if it’s a team) winner and everyone else falls short.  Or as we get caught up in the false-gravity game of money and the economy of scarcity.  Or when we were young and told to share our toys or treats with a friend or brother or classmate – that was super clear, wasn’t it?  If I gave you half my cookie, then I had less for me (and certainly no more cookie was coming).

To be sure, there are zero-sum instances and games around, both the real and the ones we play (often inadvertently) as though they were real.  But it is well worth remembering that not everything is one, and it is even more fruitful to live as though zero-sum games are the exception.

Love, happiness, generosity, wellbeing, joy, passion, satisfaction, vitality, health, performance, productivity, laughter, kindness, fulfillment, peace… there are so many areas in life where the things are not finite, are not created and destroyed in equal measures.  They are abundant, never-ending, available to be pulled from, always gushing forth to allow us to drink from the proverbial firehose.

True, we may need to get over our own barriers to do so, and those barriers may be mighty indeed, but through this world of abundance and generosity we gain oodles of support and care, buoying us as we work our way to overcome or, even better, dismantle the barriers.

In this realm we get to play whole different kind of games, ones that have us build and grow and feel big and great and happy.  And while the Buddha never really said the following, it’s a fine place to remind us of this non-zero-sum place in which to stand and live from:

Voices in Unison: “I Don’t Matter” Edition

All throughout this crazy year, I have been inviting people to vote.  There are stark reminders every day of the difference between bad or absent or incompetent or self-serving “leadership”, and what’s possible under competent leaders.  And so today I’d like to extend a special invitation to those who say “My vote doesn’t matter” with these responses…

My vote doesn’t matter; TLDR version:  In short, this question:  if your vote doesn’t matter, then why are they doing all they can to violate your right to vote, both in ability and in its impact?  Whether it be by closing polling places, or implementing unnecessary and onerous voting ID and registration issues, or making information difficult to discover, or participating in extreme gerrymandering, or linking voting rights to the paying of fines and fees, or attacking mail in voting, or creating a false panic about fraud, or simply to engage in behavior that is designed to put you off voting, there is so a lot being done to decrease voter turnout.  And they cement it in place by fostering that very feeling you have, that feeling that your vote doesn’t matter.  They want you to think it doesn’t matter, that it’s too hard, that you’re better off staying home and just not vote.  Because they know that the less people vote, the easier it is for them to influence the outcome.  The more people they can get to tune out, and the more roadblocks they can throw in the way, the greater the impact of their fervent base upon which they can count on to show up while at the same time making it easy for their base to vote.  Which, in turn, makes it easy to gain the power.  By doing all this they get to break the system and choose their electorate, not, as it should be, the other way around.  To that, I say no.  Please vote. Continue reading

Architecture Monday

It feels a bit weird posting about a school design in the midst of a pandemic where school just isn’t a good idea for many areas.  That said, this school is very airy and has plenty of outdoor areas, all perfect for the local climate in which it sits.  One quick look also tells you that it’s fully embracing its context not only in terms of the sun, but also of its people and traditions.

Reminiscent in many ways of the Fass School over in Senegal, this school in Burkina Faso embraces the students in a circular form to create a strong around which the classrooms, office, and lunchrooms reside.  The repetitive peaked form of the undulating roof is reminiscent of a circle of tents, with the largest being a grand open-air entry into the sanctum.  They also funnel and collect water into underground cisterns.

The heavy surrounding walls provide a thermal mass to help keep the insides cool, along with ventilator blocks along the upper half that allow hot air to escape and cooler breezes to enter.  The whole of the perimeter is panted by local craftsmen with traditional patterns.  Louvered walls on the inside allows additional light and air to flow through while connecting each room to the courtyard.

I dig it.  It’s expressive and built with care, something of the place built for the place and it’s community.

The Sabou School by 3RW Arkitekter

Architecture Monday

This is cool.  In a mountain village well known for its tofu, a new commercial kitchen that allows for the local families to not only hone their craft, but do so in a food-grade-certificate environment.

Gently stepping down to follow both the landscape and the adjacent river, this is no typical industrial-food ‘factory’.  With its assemblage of sawtooth roofs and windows all around, it’s the very definition of light-filled and keeps the cooks connected to the community.  And vice-versa, opening up this region’s traditions for all to see, whether local or a new tourist clientele.  Like a series of terraces, the stepping nature of the building and site also allows for gardens and greenery all the way down, leading to a tofu-tastic tasting room.

Count me as a fan of this.  Great use of the the program, matching the process of tofu making to with a long and linear building that is further enhanced by using the natural topography of the site.  Add in a great use of elegant wood construction with plenty of glass and the rich tones of the stone floor that’s nicely mirrored in the kitchen’s counters.  Great stuff.

Tofu Factory by DnA