Architecture Monday

WOW… the beauty of these amazing bundles of bamboo, all tied together to form these delicious interlocking sets of gothic-like arches, is just gorgeously stunning! And that wonderful umbrella creates an equally wonderful space.  This is structure used to it’s fullest as a generator of form.

What amazing craftsmanship.  Local genius with local materials.  Love it.

The Vedana Restaurant by VTN Architects (who have done many incredible things with bamboo, check out their other projects).

Architecture Monday

This is a nifty little building experiment.  Starting with the humble brick wall, this renovation explores quasi-thickening the exterior façade to provide both texture as well as interior utility.

The result is this rich brick wall laid out in this checkerboard pattern of solid and void, whether windows or actual void at the top where a roof terrace resides.  The thickening part comes from pushing in each edge of the checkerboard to create a waffle of alcoves.  On the outside, each of the windows is pushed in, allowing for plants and greenery to grace the city.

Within, each of these alcoves are used for built-in desks, shelving, seating, or other furniture.  Windows alternate from low to high, a sculptural assemblage that brings visual interest and also lets light penetrate deep within the units.

This is cool.  It takes a local tradition and building material, and uses it in a new way to create a nifty face to the city (+ greenery) while also doing double duty and trying out something different for the apartments inside.  Plus the name of the project is a lot of fun:

“Operation Between Walls” by Natura Futura Arquitectura

Architecture Monday

Culture house, community locus, and an example of lovely design, this new library in Tingbjerg alights amidst a garden city that was once a model city but has fallen into one of grave challenges.

It’s hard to choose what’s more striking at first glance… the large glazed façade that acts like a beacon, showcasing the activities within, or the bold wedge shape that, from certain angles, makes the whole thing read like a giant picture frame.  And that shape is not just some fancy thing chosen for frivolity.  Instead it was crafted quite deliberately as a way of bridging the scale from the existing school it connects with while also crating entry courts to both itself and the school.  In addition, the exterior cladding (which is mirrored within), with its strong vertical banding, is a nod in colour and in texture to the surrounding buildings.

The intricacies continue inside, with multiple rooms and levels all tetrising together to serve the building’s many functions, be it library, learning, performances, resource center, community room, and beyond.  The multi-levels follow the shape of the wedge through a big atrium, peeling back like a mountainous town and allowing views and interactions while also providing a sweet spatial experience for the many different uses.

This is cool.  Architecture can be a great force multiplier, which is to say that through design and the creation of great space it can boost the effects of action and bolster the community.  Provided, of course, that such action and community is being supported in the first place (otherwise it can also be a multiplier, but in the negative direction).  I hope that proves to be the case here.

The Tingbjerg Library by Cobe

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