Architecture Monday

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with masonry and brick.  The banal, everywhere, front-façade-only, use of brick veneer on a generic house, well… that can go jump in a lake.  But highly expressive, truthfully used, rich textured brick, made even better when it’s got history and patina?  From what I’ve posted before on this blog, I think it’s quite clear that I’m totally into that.

This one can’t fulfill the history and patina part, but no matter; feast your eyes on this beauty!

If there was a picture needed for “expressive brick”, this, without a doubt, would fit the bill perfectly.  There’s so much going on, it’s hard to know where to begin.  A reinterpretation of a traditional fortress, it’s got inward-canted walls, rounded (or not!) corners, a dark stone base that rises into a vibrant brick top, bits of stone or brick that jut out or are recessed inward, and it culminates with arching brick latticeworks that top it off like a crown.  All this then further punctuated by patterned concrete boxes that poke out to form rooms or balconies.  It’s exquisite.

And it gets even better within.  Formed around a central shaft and stair, the different levels spiral upwards, creating numerous courtyards and porches and allowing nearly all parts of the house to be visually connected to each other.  The latticed stone and brick are left exposed inside, often further articulated and accentuated to provide a rich backdrop and a sense of solidity.  Best of all is the quality of light, sifting through the openings and lattices in ways both dramatic and serene.

Can this get much better?  How about yes;  the openings were not arbitrary and were instead designed with the venturi effect in mind to naturally cool and ventilate the house, and the roof collects water in a traditional kund and stores the excess in a cistern.  It’s designed to be a part of the world, not apart from it.

Needless to say, great stuff.  A wonderful piece of work.

The Gadi House by  PMA madhushala

Architecture Monday

The Olympics will get underway this coming Friday, and the new stadium is more than ready… to be mostly empty, devoid of just about all visitors.  It’ll be a surreal thing to watch, for sure. But let’s take a moment to check out the stadium itself, and it’s kinda nice, using lots of wood and taking inspiration from the vernacular overhangs to create a series of verandas that also boast edge gardens.  It seems inviting enough.

Doubly nicely, these verandahs and the roof (whose opening is deliberately asymmetrical to enhance this effect) have been designed to funnel natural ventilation through the structure and reduce the AC loads.  So that’s cool too (pun semi-intended).

Stadiums tend to be stadiums, but this one does some work to help keep it from being nothing but an imposing oval.  Time will tell if this one will find enough life post-olympics to become part of the city’s fabric.

The Japan National Stadium by Taisei Corporation + AZUSA SEKKEI + Kengo Kuma & Associates

Architecture Monday

When I visited the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo a few years ago, it was in pretty bad shape, bad enough that netting was arrayed over the whole thing to catch any parts that might fall off.  A somewhat undignified ‘end’ for an interesting experiment: to create a type of building with “capsules” that could be attached to a central core, with the intent that each could be replaced or exchanged when necessary.  Part of a movement called “Metabolism”, named after the biological idea, it aimed to allow buildings to grow, mutate, evolve, and return to components to begin the cycle anew.

For Nakagin, the units were intended as apartments for businessmen, and as such each came complete as an entirely self-contained room, with cabinets and more along one side (including hyper-modern amenities like a reel-to-reel tape deck!), a bed below the bed, and a lavatory along the other side.  It was a nifty concept, but one that clearly didn’t take off (likely, in part, due to the difficulty of replacing a unit in the middle of a stack without somehow removing the others), and with time, unfortunately, it deteriorated enough that it became a structural hazard to occupy, leaving much of it vacant.  Demolition was a threat, despite its nifty looking nature and architectural significance.

BUT!  In a most delicious ‘third’ option, the tower will come down, but in a way that honours its initial intent: the modules will be detached and be regenerated to live on as independent accommodation (with some to become museum exhibits).  It’s metabolism in action, with the units not turned into trash and instead able to be renovated and find new life elsewhere.

It’s still a bit of a loss, losing the beauty of the sculptural assemblage (and no word I’ve found on what’ll happen to the central spikes, though I imagine those will be torn down), but compared to the complete wrecking ball it’s a much cooler (and sustainable + possibility laden) alternative.

Nakagin Capsule Tower by Kisho Kurokawa.

Architecture Monday

Ok, I’m pre-inclined to like this building.  While it’s a mountaineering centre, with what seems to be some museum functions too, my main inclination comes from its main tall spike:  it’s a climbing gym.

Plenty to like here… sculptural design that fits its function within, with a skin pattern that reminds of the nearby mountains, and with a number of lovely little spatial vignettes inside.  The only boo for me is the climbing wall itself – it seems a bit plain to my eyes.

Overall, this is one cool building.  Nice work.

The Norwegian Mountaineering Centre by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter.

Architecture Monday

Perched on a narrow mountain plateau in Nepal, this radio station rocks.  As in it is made of rock.  As in it is made of the very rock that surrounds and is part of the site.  Except for a few concrete columns, nearly everything is very craftily made of rock.

But this is no simple pile of rubble!  It’s got plenty of great design and detail work.  For one, it uses light in exquisite ways, from atriums and courtyards (that also provide protection from the strong mountain winds) to slot windows that lets shafts of illumination play out dramatically across the rough rock surface.  For two, with great fun and impressiveness it even uses the same natural rock for various bits of furniture.

It is always important to design your buildings to suit their context.  This one does so in spades while going even further to build itself out of the context in which it sits.  Very neat and great work.

Himalesque by ARCHIUM

Architecture Monday

I’ve been a fan of the work by Patkau Architects for decades now, admiring the rich complex geometries of their buildings.  This otherwise small and humble gathering space is no different.  Eight repeating ‘petals’ form a circular room that soars up to the sky, like cloth captured in a breeze.  Meanwhile, sculptural windows around the base allows the gaze to reach out towards the mountain like upon which the building is perched.

This is the second building on this site, using the same foundations as the previous one that had unfortunately burned down.  The curving structure is astoundingly made of standard 2x4s turned into sinuous gluelam beams.  Unfurling like a blossom and meeting at an oculus, the smooth white petals create a delicate space that gently holds everyone within.

Resting nicely within the landscape, it’s lovely work all around, and airy form that befits its use and place.  Great stuff and another fine addition to the Patkau portfolio.

Temple of Light by Patkau Architects

Architecture Monday

I think by now people know I love trains, and that I equally love many train stations (another nod here to one of my favs, in Ottawa).  And as sad as it is when a train station is no longer in use, it’s ok in my book when it’s converted so wickedly as is this one in Brussels!

Good old school and lofty train stations are already such wonderful spaces, and what’s been done here is to leave most of it well enough alone, inserting independent multi-level pavilions to create offices, retail, entertainment, and more.  These also create a network of streets that lead to large public gardens that just fit wonderfully under the soaring roofs.  Crafted of wood, the whole thing is a welcoming space indeed.

Adaptive reuse, FSC-certified cross-laminated timber, water capture, natural ventilation, and PV panels integrated onto the grand front windows, AND an exciting space to be in… what’s there not to love about this?  Great stuff.

Gare Maritime by Neutelings Riedijk Architects + Bureau Bouwtechniek

Architecture Monday

There’s a lot of nifty things about this community centre and nursery that are pretty cool, not the least of which is the way it organizes itself around a courtyard and gardens, or the many sustainable features (including an underground labyrinth for natural air conditioning).  But what I’m going to fixate on tonight is its brick.  It’s rugged brick, which creates a rich base texture, but it’s also used in extraordinary ways to create patterns, layers, shadows, and remarkable sculptural forms, both inside and out.

There are so many nifty techniques used here, from the simple shift of horizontal to vertical courses, or a shift from running to stacked bond, to stepped depth and the turning of bricks to create projections that explode into 3D and catch the sun in brickly delights.  The many circular openings that jump out from the rectangular walls and patterns.  And then there’s the form of the building itself, big and boxy but using the depth of its walls, revealed by recesses and openings, to create something feeling comfortingly sturdy.

Grand work.  Brick can be very banal, but with some care it can be quite an impressive and wonderful beast.  I love it.

Storey’s Field Centre and Eddington Nursery by MUMA

Architecture Monday

Oh this one’s awesome… (and kinda close to my hometown!)  An over 125 year old romanesque post office brought to new purpose to become a ‘bookless’ library, filled with creative labs and maker spaces and more.  And it’s not just the stately post office building, it’s a new wrap-around glass pavilion that reaches out to engage the adjacent canal and make the whole shebang a part of the community space.

So, yeah, that gallery that hangs out over the river pretty much sells the whole thing.  I mean, the original (and restored) post office is also lovely, with its arched windows, half turrets, towers, steep gable roof, and the brick and stone.  All of that is enhanced with the new glass and steel surround that cantilevers not just once, but twice, hovering first over the water, then above over a patio/deck.  And the undersides of which hasn’t been neglected, with polished aluminum and integrated lighting that speaks towards a future river walk.  It’s dynamic and playful and though a very different language than the original building that contrast enhances each other, even more so when they are reflected off the water whether by day or, glowing like a lantern, at night.

Lots of light, lots of great views to the river and city beyond, and more interplay between the crisp new and the rugged old are what awaits within.  These two languages combine in a culmination in the third floor maker space, inhabiting the cathedral-like space under the old high-pitched roof amongst the old support frames.

For an added bonus, there’s the glass ceiling that looks up into the old clock tower, putting the mechanisms on display!

Very cool project, another example of taking something already existing and, through re-use and a clever set of additions, turning it into something even greater.  Plus public maker spaces/etc are a great addition to a community (I loved the one at the new library in Helsinki).  And if you, like me, still love traditional book-filled libraries, there’s one right across the river.

Ideas Exchange by RDHA