Posts Tagged ‘creating space’


Architecture Monday

September 24, 2018

We spend so much of our lives at work it’s always great to come across a project for an office or factory or other place of employ that is more than a dark box and instead genuinely creates a wonderful place to be (and work) in.

I love this thing all over, starting with the inventive and lovely use of brick, lending its mass and warm rugged feel while also being used in a sculptural way – it’s even used as an air diffuser in the lobby!  The brick also pairs well with the raw concrete structure, and all this mass is playfully subverted through the floating stairway.

The best, though, is that there are no less than five interior courtyards bring in light as well, quite importantly, as air.  There’s no being stuck in a dark cubicle; there’s hardly a place from within that you can’t see into a courtyard or out to another fantastic bit, an outdoor bamboo and metal screen scrim that itself leads to a reflecting pool bordering a garden.

There’s a richness here in materials and in form that’s just a joy to behold, and the interlocking bits of interior and exterior spaces creates vibrancy as you move through the building.  Very nicely done, I’d totally love to work here.

The Star Engineers Administrative Building and Factory by Studio VDGA


Architecture Monday

September 17, 2018

If you were to take the name “Wall of Knowledge” literally, what would you do?

Forming the gateway to a school organized around a large exterior courtyard, these ginormous frames along with the inset rusted-metal fence make for one powerful gateway.  Step a bit closer, and it gets cooler as you can see that the holes in the fence are made of punched-out letters.  With its boldness, the texture of the stone, and richness of the rusty metal, the ensemble presents a memorable face to the world.

Beyond the gateway, the exterior of the school holds no more great surprises and is pretty banal by comparison (though it is organized nicely around the courtyard and other open spaces).  That said, there are some nice moments of surprise within, with pops of colour or writing, and some especially nice use of light and shadow.

A great entry to bring forth excitement as you enter the hallowed halls of learning.

The Wall of Knowledge Middle School by Tarik Zoubdi Architect and Mounir Benchekroun Architect


Architecture Monday

September 10, 2018

There’s a beautiful simplicity here, with inspiration from that of a large tent, open to all sides and to all visitors, casting its gaze out onto the grand vista that surrounds it while at the same time crafting an intimate experience.

The experience begins along the approach, the area being delineated by a fence of unconnected posts.  From there, the nicely sculpted wedge opens upward and outward, framing the landscape and, in a similar vein to Tadao Ando’s Church on the Water, towards the single cross that juts up from beyond.  It is both simple and powerfully elegant, rendered even more so in the dawn and dusk hours.  At night, a single bulb suspended over the altar hovers like a star.  A channel of water runs down the middle, connecting both entrances.

The inky black zinc that covers the roof separates the building without overpowering its surroundings.  All else is made of natural wood or stone.  There is high drama here, but it is rooted in and of its place.

Very well done, a small intervention with a big impact.  A locus of tranquility for introspection without losing sight of the world that forever surrounds us.

Nossa Senhora de Fátima Chapel by Plano Humano Arquitectos


Architecture Monday

September 3, 2018

Coal, generators, and ballet.  A juxtaposition, and one that works great in this adaptive reuse project that saw an abandoned (for 50 years!) power plant reworked into a new center for dance in downtown Kansas City.

The best adaptive projects find ways to incorporate and celebrate the original, and for me, rugged industrial spaces like this offer the most potential for doing just that.  There’s no hiding or plastering over here, with the lofty and steel-laden character of the power plant not only kept but enhanced with new skylights and additions carefully woven to maintain the cathedral-like atmosphere.

Out of this, lots of very cool elements and spaces emerge!  The main dance studio, occupying a former engine room, shoots three stories upward and is bathed in light.  Old coal chutes are dolled up to become both visual interest as well new pendant light fixtures.  Coal bunkers become dressing rooms.

But the piece de resistance must be the old chimney.  Forming a centerpiece to the studio floor, the already-shortened stack gets capped in glass to become a glorious skylight.  Even better, it still functions as a chimney of sorts, only now for air rather than smoke, providing natural stack ventilation that helps keep the place cool.

What a great job and a mighty fine new home for the KC ballet.  The Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity by BNIM.


Architecture Monday

August 27, 2018

Alright, this turned out very cool.  It’s a community sauna (yes, sauna!), designed and built very much from the community.  Sitting atop an existing pier structure in the rapidly changing and former industrial harbor of Gothenburg, the project brought together architects and local volunteers to create something new using as much recycled materials as possible sourced from its industrial surroundings.

Which turned out to be a very cool generator for form (and function).  Ya got what ya got, be it corrugated metal, bits of wood at certain lengths, tonnes of excess bottles, and who knows, those stairs might well have been a cast-off find as well.  With that you play, and play, and play some more, and before you know it, you’ve got something visually engaging and a series of spaces that are perfect for the sauna experience.

Check out the glow from those bottle windows, or the sinuous wood womb that is the sauna proper.  Or even the walkway leading to and from it all, looking like a natural dry riverbed from the odd bits of wood and random bits of stone tiling.

To go to this sauna is a trip, a playful one, that not only engages the community but truly comes from and can be owned by the community.  Perched out on the already interesting structure of the pier, it’s rough and tumble cladding speaks to the old while its sculptural nature enlivens all that is around it.  Best of all, that crazy form permeates to create a sweet experience within.  Good stuff.

The Svettekörka by Raumlabor.



Architecture Monday

August 20, 2018

Let’s fly back to the future tonight.  To 1962.  To a building that looks very much like it’s going to take flight.  One that both ushered in a new era of air travel and has lost no power in its experience so many decades later.

Soaring, sinuous, sensual concrete that soars, emerging from the ground and arcing seamlessly into forms that very much evoke outstretched wings.  This is the greatest magic of the building, these curving forms that never cease and make for an enclosure that blurs the distinction between floor, wall, and ceiling, punctuated by ribbons of skylights that, coupled with the ginormous windows, belie any weighty feel of the concrete it is made of.  Lofty is an apt term, and walking in it pulls you forward, urging exploration and hinting at the adventure to come.

How each form blends into each other is the second magic.  A railing becomes a column column becomes a seat becomes a check in desk becomes a sign.  Natch, there’s something enticing of the classic 60’s décor and aesthetics, but this is a building that transcends simple nostalgia.  The design is expertly handled; all those merging lines and curves could have very easily become a right and confusing mess of visual clutter.

But let’s not totally discount that great furniture and décor.  Purpose built to fit in, the red upholstery contrasts strikingly with the white marble inlays in the concrete.  We’d call it retro-future now, and it’s still great.

Definitively a classic, one of the great designs of the world.  Fortunately, it has avoided the fate of closure and is in the midst of being reinvented as a hotel, due to open next year.  When next I’m in NYC, I’ve got to visit.

The TWA Flight Center/Terminal, by Eero Saarinen.

(Of interesting additional note: this was also the first air terminal to incorporate many of what we’d consider just par for the course these days — jetways, public address system, electric schedule board, even baggage carousels…)



Architecture Monday

August 6, 2018

When I lived in Ottawa, I attended events at the National Art Centre many a time.  Concerts, plays, symphonies, lectures, the NAC (and yep, we pronounced it ‘Nack’) had a constant plethora of things going on.  The building itself, though, was… well, the fact I don’t remember all that much about it speaks volumes.  Built with a hexagonal motif, it definitively had a certain charm, using the hexagonal angles to its fullest both in its layout and in nice sculptural details throughout.  But like many buildings of its era, it looked inward, predicting a time where the automobile was our prime interaction with the ‘outdoors’.

Completed earlier this year, the NAC has been connected to the city, announcing itself (and its entrance – it was always a bit of an adventure to know how best to get into the thing) to its environs while creating vistas from within back towards the city’s ceremonial core.

Rather ingeniously, the new addition leverages (from what I can tell) the single-story plinth that wrapped the building from which the taller bits (housing the various performance spaces) sprang forth.  By building in front and on top of them you get generous double height spaces with and automatic mezzanines atop that original plinth.  Not only does this help to create grand entrance, circulation, and intermission mingling areas, a whole new set of performance spaces can be sectioned off, allowing for even more and varied events.  All the while framing those grand scenes and turning the city into a stage.

In the technological marvel department, the glass in the new entry lantern is embedded with thousands of LEDS to create a remarkable, transparent, video screens.  Little art animations mix with Canadiana mix with announcements for upcoming events.  For a building that was once very sedate and receded into the background, that’s a lot of new pizzazz.

I like it.  A well-done renovation that uses as much of the existing bones as possible and builds upon was there before it.  It doesn’t try to erase the old NAC, or even hide it.  Instead, it celebrates and continues the geometries and motif of the classic building to create an even greater whole.  Good stuff.

The NAC renovation by Diamond + Schmitt Architects.