Architecture Monday

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I find castles fascinating and evocative.  So this little gem of a keep restoration in Spain is right up my alley, not only for the castle aspect (and sitting opposite an old church) but also the way the new and old combine to (re)create something beautiful.

The main noticeable bit on the outside is the new stair, which replaces the back wall of the keep that had long fallen down or been dismantled.  Forming not only a stabilizing wall, it follows historical investigations and likely replaces the original stair that would have been encased within the walls.  I really like how the rough board-formed concrete pairs with the stonework striations of the original, and the rounded corner is also a nice touch to mirror the old walls.

What was once an interior second floor is also restored, now forming an exterior patio from which springs various lookout platforms so survey the surrounding countryside.  This also allows the inside to be rebuilt to house a small exhibit space and museum.

Very cool.  A lot of care and love put into this to make something that not only preserves but enhances the old ruin.

La Tossa de Montbui by Meritxell Inaraja

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

There’s this local office building that’s been catching my eye as I’ve driven by it both while it was under construction and now that it is complete.  Finally stopped to take a walk around it!

At its heart it kinda follows the glass box typology, but in so many ways it is very far away from ever just being a box.  For one, it’s not just a box – a good half of it skews diagonally like a parallelogram.  For two, it is split in two – with each half getting a slightly different expression (while still using a similar language of black glass and steel with the addition of integrated sunshade blades) and the area where they meet being sculpturally demarked.  For three, it’s not just a mirrored surface of undifferentiated glass, with the steel frame being nicely detailed and sculpturally handled, using double mullions, different mullion depths, and those aforementioned sun shades to give it nice articulation, playing with composition enhanced by differing shadowlines.  (Similar in the way that the detailing of Mies van der Rohe’s TD or Seagram buildings make them lauded while other generic glass towers can easily be eyesores.)

All that is what caught my eye during the construction phases.  But what really catches the eye now is that remarkable glass artwork that sits prominently on its prow.  Abstract in its leafiness and rendered vibrant due to the black background, it really works well, avoiding feeling like a billboard or just some giant image slapped wantonly onto the building.  (Amusingly it is very much held onto the building like something resembling the support structure for a billboard!)  It’s a bit of art that manages well to feel like it’s a part of the building.

Architecture lives in our communities, and we live in it.  This isn’t what we might term a “major” or “glamourous” project, but it’s an err to think good design should only live there.  Good architecture is welcome everywhere and makes our built environment worth living in.  Good stuff.

223 North Mathilda Avenue by, unfortunately, designers unknown.  (I tried to find them but haven’t yet – I’ll keep looking!)

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

I think tonight is a great night to swing by a winery… and wait, it’s designed by Tom Kundig?  SIGN ME UP!

There’s an elegant simplicity to the layout here:  two bars, one that follows the slope of the land, the other that juts outward to hover above it, both clad in weathering steel that grounds it visually into the surrounding hillsides.  The sloping bar contains the functions of the winery while the other contains offices and hospitality bits.  Where they meet, a large covered portico shields entry both for visitors as well as for the grapes, entryways for where all the magic begins.

This straightforward arrangement is accentuated by highlighting the changes of elevation and playing up where the two bars interact.  This is accompanied in no small measure with the hallmark Kundig-style precision detailing that embraces the best of industrial craft.  And  absolutely, a precision deployment of theatricality (which is totally appropriate here).

I’ll raise a glass to that!  And now that’s at least two amazing wineries in BC by Olson Kundig Architects… all the more impetus for me to visit sometime.

Martin’s Lane Winery by Olson Kundig Architects

Architecture Monday

While the Voxman Music Building’s exterior is fine enough, it’s the spaces within where the project really shines, crafting some wonderful, inventive, and playful spaces that don’t neglect the other senses even as beautiful music is being made within them.

The main hall’s got this expressive ceiling that does triple duty of being a visual focus while also honing the acoustics and providing concealed lighting space.

And if you think I’m going to avoid mentioning the pipe organ on the back wall, well, not a chance!

Even better, there is an entire hall dedicated for pipe organ recitals!  The extra tall space, accented by the recessed wood “arches” and clerestory windows does a perfect job of drawing attention to the instrument of choice, which itself is nicely contrasted yet complemented by the white lattice over the sound-absorbing wall, the tracery paring well with the leaf motif on the light wood organ.

But for me the greatest of these three is the fiery red recital hall, not the least of which because it is both asymmetrical and angled in floor plan, but also for the unusual feature of the giant windows that extend outward from the building’s façade, casting strong light over the stage and bringing out the complex geometries of the wall acoustic treatments, whether red on the one side or deep wood on the other.

There’s lots of great details and design twists happening throughout the new building, where nearly every space has been considered as spaces for performances.  On the whole it’s a grand and exciting performance venue.

The Voxman Music Building by LMN Architects

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.