Posts Tagged ‘creating space’


Architecture Monday

December 23, 2019

Wrapping up the city hall tours we end in Aarhus, for a building that is both quite different and yet fully within the same spirit of the others.

Without a doubt the outside is quite different with an austere presentation to the world.  Rectangular, punched windows, and covered in a rigid grid of grey marble.  And punctuated by the clocktower that looks to all the world like a thick chimney wrapped in scaffolding (which, interestingly, was not part of the original design but added when the townsfolk discovered there were no plans for a clocktower, which didn’t fit their idea(l) of a city hall).  Opened in 1941, it fits its time with the rise of early modernism.  Yet it is not without flourishes, including the heavy use of copper (such as for the lightly pitched roof) and a complex interplay of forms at the entrance.

Inside things really take off.  The great hall is indeed great, a four-story high space ringed with delicate and curving balconies (each housing more gathering rooms), a roof of shell-like vaults each ringed with windows, and all culminating at a giant window wall that looks out over the town.  Wrapped in rich and warm wood and with a herringbone wood floor and plenty of hanging lanterns, it’s an exhilarating space to be in.  I admit, I was not expecting this at all, both in that I didn’t really know it was there and didn’t expect such a wonderful feeling space.  It’s great.  (Stand in it by clicking here.)

What really makes the building is a plethora of lovely details, from the grand mural in the entryway (which is on the back side of the council chambers that hover over the entrance, presenting democracy towards the town), to the amazing wood floor and curving staircase, to the artistically crafted doors, and to the long and linear administrative wing, with its atrium down the middle allowing light from the equally linear skylight above to flow in.  (Very reminiscent, BTW, of the Marin County Civic Centre, which makes me wonder if Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced by it.)

No pipe organ here, but the piece de resistance here was the elevator core.  That sounds… bizarre, but just check out the design of each car, with their niches for the entrance window, signs, and the custom and deco call button panel, not to mention the careful crafting of the wood scrim that envelops it all.

Another great civic centre.  It was the last we visited, but certainly not the least.

The Aarhus Rådhus by Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller.


Architecture Monday

December 16, 2019

We continue our tour of the Scandinavian city halls by heading over to Denmark tonight, landing ourselves before the Copenhagen City hall.  In some ways this one is a precursor to the others, being the first to be completed, inaugurated in 1905.

Also adorned in the ubiquitous (and lovely) red brick, the exterior here leans much heavier into the National Romantic style, with plenty of articulation and ornamentation.  A generous courtyard stands in the middle, and the clock tower remains one of the highest points near the downtown area.

As with the others the heart of the building, and the first thing you encounter upon entering, is the equally generous indoor hall.  While no pipe organ hides within (alas!), the amazing glass roof more than makes up for it.  The massing and composition of this indoor courtyard is exquisite – it’s a plethora of things (Arches! Gilded bas reliefs! Balconies! Friezes! Sculptural banding! Moldings! White stone! Red brick! Ornate columns!  Glass!) yet it doesn’t feel like a hodgepodge vomit of disparate parts.  Through careful proportion, well defined datum lines, and enough use of “white space” it instead becomes a delightful concoction.   (Click here to stand in the middle of it.)

Again, we didn’t take a tour so we only saw the more public areas of the building, but who needs a tour when you get such amazing artwork integrated throughout!   (I especially love the book-like vaulted ceiling…)

Another excellent and vibrant city centre.  Good stuff.  The Copenhagen City Hall by Martin Nyrop.


Architecture Monday

December 9, 2019

Let’s slide over to Norway and check out another grand city hall (and location for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and banquet), the Oslo Rådhuset.

Much like the one in Stockholm (and likely/clearly influenced by it – one of the judges of the Oslo city hall competition was the architect for the Stockholm city hall), the building is nifty mix of art-nouveau expressive sculptural elements adorning the crisper lines of brick functionalism.  Coming in, the two towers and arcades reach out to welcome you as you come up to the main façade, dotted with flourishes including sculpture, ornamental molding, patterns in the brick, and a very nifty astronomical clock.

Besides possessing large clerestory windows to admit light from above, the main hall inside takes a very different tack than the one at the Stockholm city hall.  From wall to wall to wall it’s covered in colourful and very cool paintings that depict the history of Oslo and its people.  And, of course, there’s a grand staircase for grand entrances during the Nobel ceremonies.   (For the 360~ view, click here)

And best of all, yes, a there is a pipe organ here too!

We didn’t take a tour this time, so we didn’t see into any of the other halls, meeting rooms, or the council chambers, alas.  Nevertheless, it is a mighty fine and unique design that makes for a great civic centre for the city.

The Oslo City Hall by Arnstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulsson.


Architecture Monday

December 2, 2019

A city can be made or unmade by its civic centre, and a grand city hall can do wonders to create a locus for civic activity, both mundane and the ceremonial.  And no surprise in such historical cities with a strong social conscience, the Scandinavian city halls were something to behold.

Let’s start in Stockholm, where the city hall is, among all its other roles, the host of the annual banquet for the Nobel Prize winners (well, except for the Nobel peace prize, as that’s presented and hosted in Oslo – why?  No one is sure… “Maybe Nobel thought Norwegians were more peaceful,” joked our tour guide).  But before we get inside to see the grand halls, the outside and its courtyard is nifty on its own, starting to display the building’s curious mix of rugged brick, planar and bold in its geometries, punctuated by both subtle tracery and highly visible ornamentation.  It sounds like an odd mix, but it really works, creating something very down to earth yet still ceremonial, capped by a series of expressive towers, including one with a beacon lantern.

Inside, we first get to the Blue Hall, an interior courtyard of sorts where the banquet is held and the recipients walk down that grand staircase after being introduced.  If you’re noticing it’s not blue, well, yes… during the design the architect removed the blue tiles he had originally planned, but the name stuck.  But best of all, hidden in the band of wood near the ceiling is a pipe organ!  (For a 360 degree view of the hall, click here)

Overlooking the Blue Hall is the Golden Hall, and well, the name doesn’t disappoint here.  Nor does the mosaic that forms that gilding, filled with abstract allegories to Swedish history.  (This hall was originally going to be used for the banquets, but they moved it downstairs for more space – which means the waiters need to carry the food down that same stairway… and hope no one trips)

And no, this one is not called the Red Hall, but the council chambers is equally impressive, especially with its amazing painted ceiling.

On the whole it’s a great design, bold and approachable, with spaces that feel great and filled with great little details and sculptures and carvings.  A perfect centre for a city.

The Stockholm City Hall by Ragnar Östberg


Architecture Monday

November 25, 2019

I mean, it’s not like Copenhagen isn’t up for some great theatre fun!  With not one but two grand playhouses on the waterfront!

First up we visited the Royal Danish Playhouse.  Built for dramatic theatre, compared to the expressive Oslo Opera House it may seem understated but that doesn’t make it any less nice, mixing solidity and texture of stone with the lightness and precision of glass in a sweet interlocking composition.

Much like the Oslo Opera House this theatre has fully integrated itself into the community.  Even in the middle of the day, with nary a performance in sight, the place was bustling both along the promenade and inside.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t explore much within, but I bet the theatre lobbies within the big glass bar, cantilevered out towards the water, must be most impressive.

Just up the inlet is the Copenhagen Opera House.  This one brings the idea of a “community porch” to a truly grand scale, with a giant projecting roof that reaches out towards the waterfront.  From afar, the whole roof floats over the building. (For a 360~ shot from under that great porch roof, click here!)

Doubly unfortunately, the building was closed, so we didn’t get to tour in and could only glimpse the tantalizing multi-level lobby from the glass doors.  The opera and ballet house is ensconced in polished wood, sitting like a jewel within and connected via a wonderful array of balconies and entryways, making for a fun spatial composition as you talk, drink, wander, and head to and from your seats.

Best of all, at night the curving façade of the opera house (which mirrors the curving face of the theatre within) glows like a lantern.  With the reflections from the water, it’s a lovely sight.

A wonderful of great theatres – well done Copenhagen!

The Royal Danish Playhouse by Lundgaard & Tranberg and the Copenhagen Opera House by Henning Larsen.


Architecture Monday

November 18, 2019

Let’s slip back over to Oslo tonight, to visit the Opera House (which also houses he National Ballet, plus theatre, concerts, and more) designed by none other than one of my favs, Snøhetta.

One of the things that makes this building stand out – besides its gleaming white facets emerging from the water like an iceberg – is how much it integrates itself into the city through those facets.  They are huge ramps, inviting everyone to stroll up the face of the building and walk along the roof, taking in the views, sun, and experience.  And whenever we passed there were always plenty of people doing just that.  Even better, several times a year they anchor a barge in the bay for either a stage or a screen and host giant, free, concerts and other events.  (We even saw the barge being prepared on our last day there).

Inside, things take a turn for the sensual, with the three theatres contrasting the angular exterior through being wrapped in rich and sinuous wood.  The lofty main entry hall is extra fun, seeing past the wood drum as it rises to watch people pass by the windows as they walk on the roof outside.

The seating lobbies and the main theatre both carry the rich and enveloping theme even further.

A cool and nifty exterior coupled with a warm and nifty interior makes for a sculptural and appropriately theatrical building of beauty, well used and well loved by the city, and now its almost de facto center point.  Great work.

The Norwegian National Opera House by Snøhetta.  (Who won the commission through a blind open design competition – only after the entry was chosen did anyone learn the fortune that that a local Oslo firm had won!)


Architecture Monday

November 4, 2019

One of the jokes I make about my trip is that I travelled over 8000km just to look at apartment buildings.  And… well, it is kinda true.  I did look, quite intensely, at a lot of apartment buildings.  Some, like the last three posts here, were deliberate visits, but many were seen and experienced just by walking past.  There is a plethora of both solid and nifty apartment buildings throughout the Nordic cities, ranging from the sedate and mighty fine to the wild and adventurous.

(By the way, don’t get me wrong, I also love very much the “old school” 5-story urban string of walk-ups, often concealing lovely little courtyards.  They make for wonderful living and a lovely streetscape and urban fabric!)

To start our tour, I really liked these towers, for they were definitively not in a “trendy” neighborhood but still exhibited design care.  Varied window placements, textured brick patterns, but above all else, check out those hanging community rooms, suspended in the light atrium!  That’s a funky and nifty touch.

These ones jut into a pond, overlooking a park with a wood longboat sculpture…

Funky balconies and great colour, ho!

I totally looove this one.  Encompasses a courtyard, volumes jutting in and out, encased in nature, and, best of all, it is (I think, anyway) university student housing.  That’s way better than the residence housing during my time at university!

Clearly a deliberate and artful design.  Certainly nifty, and the angled volumes work to provide the inner units with views out to the ocean.

This one is hilarious, in that it’s done by BIG Architects, and I didn’t even know it before I stumbled upon it.  They’re everywhere!

Just a small sampling of various other buildings.  Overall, I found the “design median” quite high.  While some were meant for the “luxury” category many were not, often glimpsed from the tram or metro as we glided by.  All, I’d say, sprung from a general civic sense and understanding that well designed spaces elevates the everyday experience of for all.