The Spruce Goose. The largest flying boat ever designed, built, and flown. Well, flown for all of about a mile at an altitude of 70ish feet before being retired, probably more famous for its Howard Hughes origin than its impact in aviation. But the thing had to be built somewhere, and its large hanger was equally impressive in its size. With the plane gone, though, what to make of all that space? For a time it was used as an epic soundstage (both Titanic and Avatar were filmed there) but it has recently been converted into offices.
From the outside, it looks pretty much like a hangar, albeit with some added and angular windows to break apart the corners. Architecture is about the inside though (space is where it happens!), and that’s where things get interesting here. A wonderful example of adaptive reuse, the project inserts a whole separate ‘building’ within the functioning and restored hangar structure. And while these new bits inside are decent enough, it’s their interplay with the beauty and grandeur of the exquisite nature of the bent-wood structure that really makes the project cool. Balconies, sinuous walkways, intricate boardwalks, overlooks, and plenty of glass all create a 3D kaleidoscope that offers views throughout the various levels and functions while also highlighting the hangar itself.
And I just love this piece of hanging art, re-creating the outline of the Spruce Goose!
Of course, there’s some absurdness at play here for such a large set of offices that is now for sure not going to be occupied until at least mid-next year. But if office time ever becomes a thing again, this would be a mighty fine place to work.
The “Google Spruce Goose” by ZGF.
Something experimental and different for us to explore tonight. Called The Arches, it is a “kit of parts” that can be deployed to create usable/inhabitable space under the archways of elevated rail lines, roadways, water ways, and the like.
It’s a nifty idea. Using interlocking (sustainably sourced and CNC-cut) wood boxes, the whole thing is self-supporting, easily erected, and can be dismantled to be re-used elsewhere. Overhead beams clip onto the arched box end pieces to provide support for insulation as well as lights and other utilities, while pallets form the base for a floor. Lastly, polycarbonate panels complete the deal lining the outside faces, providing light while maintaining privacy. Oh, and bonus feature: the boxes that form the structure double as cubbyholes for storage or display. Taken all together, it takes advantage of the shelter provided by the existing infrastructure to create a quick way to enclose new usable space for minimal cost and effort.
Though I’m not quite sure where that fox came from…
The Arches Project by Boano Prišmontas
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
This is a fun little take on the ‘typical’ shipping container house. By slicing some of the containers along the diagonal (like they were the target of some giant’s sword practice) before stacking them the house gains a strong geometric form that rises from the ground and strikes out towards the sky.
As a bonus, this sculptural move also creates a series of open air decks and patios, giving every level of the house its own garden (or pool!) along with plenty of light, all culminating in a roof deck that overlooks the surrounding neighborhood. On the flipside, the rising form also allows for a subterranean garage which further allows the property to be free for living space.
What I really appreciate in the house are all the little bits that take advantage of the shipping container as a module and as a material: The slit windows that fit between the corrugations and create dramatic lighting patterns on the floor and ceiling. The electrical outlets hiding within the container’s C-channel frames. The brightly painted sleeping pods nestled within the perfect with of a container module. And how the parking cut on the underside is leveraged to create raked seating for a home theatre.
But the house goes beyond being just cute and inventive, it’s got a great feel to it with plenty of light and texture, especially from the wood floors and ceilings (which also appear to be from recycled materials). I like it lots, great stuff.
Carroll House by LOT-EK
Oh wow. Clearly there’s some great photography going on here – waiting for a mist-filled valley morning is perfect! – but there is a lot of beauty to find here in this exhibition building comprised of two pavilions angling towards each other, one transparent and light, the other opaque and heavy.
Together they are an expressive pair, borrowing from the cultural language without becoming a copy of form or straying too far to become a mocking bit of press-on-pastiche (albeit the entry door portico really straddles that line). Surrounded by both a large reflecting pool and gardens, it manages to remain tranquil and grounded despite its big and bold forms.
Very cool. A great and appropriate use of expressive abstraction coupled with some refined details (like the sunshade fins on the glass building) and some very nice play of space and feel between the two building wings all make for a winner. Good stuff.
The Gaoligong Town Exhibition Center by Mingzheng Li
Another library tonight that forms a nice contrast from the museum of last week’s post. Where the watch museum went for a delicate and unique form, this one takes its cues from its agrarian surroundings, exuding rugged beauty and muscle, though done with an equal eye to proportion and detail.
Using brick and concrete, the heavy frame with its open-gable roof rises from the terraced paddy fields that surround it. The shell is treated almost like an independent structure, like a found building (with a tree nearly growing into it at one end!) into which are inserted the lighter and glass-faced interior spaces.
Inside the contrast continues, with wood and steel and glass playing off the coffered robustness of the frame. Plenty of cutaways and punched windows lets the light in and allows for little details like the study nooks and the upper terrace to look back out to the fields all around.
I dig it. A nice and textured solidity that settles into the fields around it coupled with an airy interior that has plenty of moments to delight. Nicely done.
The Sichuan Fine Arts Institute Library of Huxi by Tanghua Architect & Associates
There’s something about this building that I just can’t stop loving. It’s a museum about watchmaking, rendered exquisitely by BIG in a way that marries the intricacies of fine Swiss timepieces with the landscape and the fields from which they grew.
Sunk into a hill, the base plan is of a couple of interlocking spirals. But it is the roofs above, canted and ramping, that really defines the building. Covered in the same grass as the hill into which it is nestled, it is as if the ground itself pushed up to create this sculptural form, one that is as striking in the lush green of summer as it is in the white blanket of winter.
With the ground hovering above it, every wall is made of glass, both inside and out. This makes for a rather kaleidoscopic experience travelling through the museum to view the exhibits, further amplified by the highly reflective polished metal ceiling (again, recalling the inner workings of a watch). And among its outermost ring there is a working watchmaking lab, one that lacks nothing in terms of light, delight, and one heck of a view.
I’d totally be down to work in an office like that. This is one of BIG’s earlier buildings, and it already shows off their inventive and exciting building that feels wonderful to be in. Great stuff.
Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet / BIG + ATELIER BRÜCKNER + CCHE
This may be a hotel, but the concept is an intriguing one that could be applied to high rise buildings of all types: a porous and verdant shell with several open-air plazas that step their way up the building to reach a green and inhabitable roof.
With the mix of red aluminum, blue waters, wood decks, and, of course, all the trees and plants, it’s a colourful and striking building. The location of the plazas switch sides as the building rises, so that the indoor parts and the outdoor parts aren’t just stacked repetitively all the way up. And while there aren’t any there now, I could easily envision some wind turbines in the crown that could generate at least some of the building’s own energy.
Nifty stuff. The Oasia Hotel by WOHA
A little serenity for us all tonight, in the form of a Reflection pavilion on the TEC campus in Mexico.
No surprise, the building is a series of lovely, quiet, and calming spaces. It harnesses both the play of light and water, while it’s big concrete form acts as a frame towards the landscape beyond.
Nice and sweet. Breathe in, breathe out, and recentre.
Reflection Space TEC by Taller de Arquitectura X / Alberto Kalach
I’ve prided myself on being able to Tetris space really well… no matter if it’s packing a car or making the most of my living space. However, I gotta say this small house really elevates the art of Tetrising to a whole new, delicious, level!
This tiny home is built in a hutong, a narrow alley between an existing wall and adjacent building. And not only that, it’s wrapped around a corner. But it’s no dark, awkward, and cramped hovel. By leaving one edge continually open as a kind of atrium hallway – including making great use of the tall and curved wall it adjoins by painting finishing it white and running a continual skylight along its edge – and placing nearly all of the living spaces on the other side as a series of adaptable cubic follies, it’s got great flow, feeling airy and even expansive.
Varying in height and chock full of tiny living tricks, bits of these follies slide and shift to reconfigure the spaces as needed to accommodate various uses, providing plenty of communal day space that becomes more private as it shifts to sleepy time. At one end, a large glass door and window is actually one giant unit that can swing completely open, making the back patio and the house into one. Equally nifty is that the cubes are fully climbable, leading to spaces left dedicated to children play, study, and sleep areas. It’s kind of like the ultimate bunk bed or tree house, but still inside. (Fear not, the adults aren’t completely left out of the fun, for on the other side of the L, there’s also a mezzanine bedroom and office.)
(And seeing that bench brings me a smile, for I have one of those in my foyer as well! Though sometimes it’s also used to practice kung fu… then again, for all I know, so is the one in the photo…)
I love this. Really smart design that creates an awesome house in the most conventionally unlikely of places, showing that the boxes in our mind of what a house needs to be can be quickly expanded with some carefully packed yet playful boxes in a creative home. Nicely done.
Dengshikou Huton Residence by BLUE Architecture Studio