Architecture Monday

It’s been ages since I mentioned the Rural Studio, but here’s one of their earliest (and still great!) projects, the Butterfly House.

As with (all?) their projects in Hale County, the Butterfly House was created from found, reused, and plentiful materials, assembled in a bold and enlivening way.  Noticing that the future owners spent much of their time on their porch, the house was designed to be nearly half porch, covered by the striking butterfly roof.  Not only does it create the grand heart of the house – it even comes complete with its own second-floor overlook – the roof also collects rainwater and provides passive cooling for both the porch and the house.

When humble materials meets serious design intention and ingenuity, you get inspired living.

The Butterfly House by Samuel Mockbee and the Rural Studio

Architecture Monday

If you looked at the above and thought “ahh, the Syndey Opera House,” well… fair.  But in this case it is not the famed structure by the harbour, but the equally magnificent Lotus Temple in New Dehli.

A concentric set of three shells are repeated over nine directions, creating an intriguing overlapping set of shells that evoke the building’s flower namesake.  As does the pool in which the building seems to float.  Nine of those shells point outwards to form nine entrance porticos, while the rest point inward to envelop the various spaces within.  Covered in marble, the petals have a sheen that gleam in the sunlight.  (That said, due to air pollution, the marble has been significantly yellowing.)

For me the main hall is even more magical.  With an exposed structural grid with numerous intersecting ribs, the space soars with magnificent interlocking complexity.  An oculus graces the top, occupying the gap left by the unfolding petals.

Very cool work.  The Lotus Temple by Fariborz Sahba.

Architecture Monday

Also excited that, especially as a lover of trains (and, of course, train stations), I got a chance to check out the new Moynihan Train Hall!  The destruction and demolition of Pennsylvania Station in NYC is, by this point, the stuff of legends.*  And what remained of Penn Station was… not great.**

But sitting across the street is the James A Farley building, a post office designed by McKim, Mead & White, the same architects and in a similar Beaux-Arts style to the original station.  It too languished over time, with a central atrium that was later filled in.  Fortunately, as luck (and a lot of hard work) would have it come to pass, the atrium was once again opened up and the building brought into use as a new hall for Penn Station.

It’s a great work of adaptive reuse.  The main trusses that grace the hall have a very expressionist feel of early steel structures, with rivets and small cross-members galore.  But the vaults of glass that span them are decidedly modern, bulbous and leaping away from the trusses to open the sky above.

It’s an open and very inviting space, with all the grandeur that a grand station deserves.  And whether it could ever match the original or not (and to that I have no inkling nor idea), it is still mighty fine.

The Moynihan Train Hall by SOM in a building originally by McKim, Mead & White.


* The short of it is that Pennsylvania Station was an amazing and, from nearly all accounts, beautiful structure, all reduced to rubble to build Madison Square Gardens.  It was an event that catalyzed the development of the historical preservation movement in North America.

** For decades afterwards, the still-active train tracks were nothing more than an 8’ high ceilinged bunker underground.  “One [had] entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat,” was the description given by historian Vincent Scully.

Architecture Monday

I just got a chance to visit the revitalized TWA Terminal (now a Hotel) at JFK airport…in all its sensual, sinuous, and soaring glory!

Unfortunately as I was under some time pressure heading off to catch a flight in a different terminal building, I didn’t get a chance to really admire it from the outside (so the linked photos that remain from my previous post on the building will have to suffice), but what I saw and experienced inside more than made up for it. In a word, it’s stunning.

It’s decidedly classic retro-futurism (or perhaps still neo-futurist) now, but the ‘nostalgic’ feel isn’t what really got me.  It’s the space, the glorious space, with it’s outstretched wings soaring overhead and how it, and its structure, and just about every other single object in the space seems to be connected, seamlessly merging and swooping and emerging from the other until it becomes a single object.  And the sunbeams!  They add a strong element I hadn’t considered before.

With the addition of the new jetway (and the hotel wings as well) behind the original terminal building, the huge expanse of glass no longer looks out onto the tarmac as it once would have, cutting it off a bit.  But placing an old prop painted in TWA livery (which itself is now a cocktail bar) helps keep some of that old feel alive.

Ok, natch, the retro-furniture does evoke some fantastical and nostalgic feels!

The subtle tile work on the underside of all the swoops.

And I’m never going to get tired of the swooping forms lifting off into flight to become cantilevered seats, bars, counters, and more…

My photos aren’t the best here, as with the time pressure I wanted to spend more time being present and experiencing the space rather than into the camera. And glad I did, I could have spent hours more there to experience every bit of it.  A true delight and masterpiece.

The TWA Flight Center by Eero Saarinen and Warren Platner.

Architecture Monday

I will readily admit that I do very much enjoy a good dose of theatricality in buildings.  And this one has it in spaces!

Starting on the outside…

… with its bamboo laced walls allowing for dramatic shadow play both day and night…

… to the glowing entryway and it’s geometrically delightful reflecting pool and garden…

… to the reflecting pool that, once inside, becomes an actual pool for swimming…

… to the delightfully dramatic rock garden centerpiece, with walkways made of stone slabs that tantalizingly hover…

… to more hovering elements in the more domestic areas…

… to the soaring living area…

… and culminating in the oppositely introverted and quiet (yet still so elegant) tea room.


C4L House by CUBO

Architecture Monday

At this rate, I’m kinda wanting to go back to kindergarten… they seem to get a lot of great design!

This one uses a skeleton of beefy wood frames, interspersed with glass, to create its intriguing amorphous shape, with the repetition pulling you forward.  (I might even name this the “portal vortex”, though it’s actually and aptly named “the whale”)  It’s a nifty and creative space, and with glass walls not only to the outside but between rooms too, nearly the whole building is connected together.

Very neat. An inventive way to do something engaging and out of the ordinary while maintaining a standard rhythm for construction ease.  Great work.

Kindergarten in Guastalla by  Mario Cucinella Architects

Architecture Monday

Thorncrown chapel is a classic, at once both visually striking and yet somehow ethereal at the same time.

The striking part definitively comes from its repeating set of very expressive structural frames, marching into the distance that creates not only a pull forward but also complex sets of overlapping patterns and voids as you move around and through it.  The frames themselves are straightforward (and were designed such that every piece could be carried into the site by hand by no more than two people), but they seem anything but simple when arrayed like they are, one after the other.

The ethereal part comes from the lack of walls.  Not that there really aren’t any walls, for it is enclosed in glass.  But that transparency allows the frames to blend and merge with the forest that surrounds it.  And through this the visual interplay multiplies, between the frames and the trees, and especially how light, shadows, and reflections all begin to dance, with everything taking on a different look and feel as the sun, or moon, or seasons, move and change.

It’s a classic for a reason.  Great work.

Thorncrown Chapel by E. Fay Jones

Architecture Monday

Oh this is neat, a visitor centre for Fort  York in Toronto done in part by Patkau Architects (who were some of the first architects I gushed about in these Monday posts).  Set as a backing to a hill behind, with a cool use of rusting steel and somehow making the underside of the Gardiner expressway feel livable.  I’ll need to check it out next time I’m home.

Fort York Visitors Centre by Patkau Architects and Kearns Mancini Architects

Architecture Monday

A sweet little clinic in Japan!

With smooth walls and a pure form that pops in and out, the building creates a sculptural ribbon that turns the corner on its L-shaped lot.

All those zigs and zags create a tonne of slices for windows on the inside, leading to lots of light and lots of views out onto small gardens and trees, a nice calming environment.

Very nifty and cool!  A creative and dynamic building to enliven the medical experience.

Asahicho Clinic by hkl studio