Architecture Monday

Coming upon this the cube house (that I visited couple of weeks ago) in Toronto is bound to launch some question marks into the air.  In the middle of a pretty industrial area, surrounded on many sides by busy roads and freeway bridges (though one side of this triangular property does face old-style connected houses), with nary a front yard or even mailbox… is this really a house?  Does someone even live there?

Yes, and yes.  And, while it looks in rough shape for its mere 26 years of age, and despite its very odd and rough location, it’s quite cool.

Built back in 1996 and inspired by Piet Blom’s complex of Cubic Houses in Rotterdam, it is only one of the gaggle of them originally planned buildings that was built.  As an aside, today its Rotterdam counterparts are super well known and popular and have become a tourist attraction in their own right.  But for what’s likely a myriad of reasons it, unfortunately, never took off here.  While the base is a bit inelegant, with awkward siding and windows below the cube, it still manages to create a nicely sheltered private balcony, leaves more of the site as open space, and creates an intriguing skyline.

But oh my, the interiors!  The pure cubistic form of the exterior belies the space within, as each 42’ cube is split into three floors.  And with each cube balancing on its point the space inside is decidedly sculptural, accentuated by the light from the corner windows.  This explodes to the extreme on the top floor in each cube, where the ceilings soar upwards to a luminous point.  It is not unlike how it would be living in the upper gallery Liebeskind’s addition to the Royal Ontario Museum!  (Though this house predates the ROM addition by some years…)

I really dig it, especially those dramatic upper floors.  There’s been a redevelopment proposal recently entered into the city for the property, and I really hope that the house will be moved and preserved rather than simply torn down.

The Cube House by Ben Kutner and Jeff Brown.

Architecture Monday

I’d go back to school for this!  Just from that first picture alone… but there’s plenty more goodness in the design of this elementary school.

The zig/zag sawtooth roofline is neat on its own, but it’s especially neat how the building pushes and pulls its volumes to use those ridges to create both an entry portico and a larger covered outdoor sports area (complete with observation gallery and right next to the indoor gym).

And then to complement that bold entry hall/assembly space there’s a more intimate courtyard.

Sweet design.  Love the LVT/large timer frame, the infusion of light, the sculptural form, and the care to create an environment befitting our children.

Borgafjellet Elementary School by LINK arkitektur

Architecture Monday

There’s something cool about rooms that blow away the corners.  FLW often did so in his houses, but it’s a fairly common technique that breaks down the confines of a room in a most peculiar way (especially given how accustomed we are to rooms having definite corners).  This little house takes it to a very nifty place, a square where all four of its corners can, through pocket sliding doors, be completely dissolved.

With a few more years planting and growth, each bit of the house could open into set of interconnected lush gardens (a hint of which is in the pictures below).

A small house that uses its neat concept to create something above the ordinary.

The None Angle House by Benoit Rotteleur Architecte.

Architecture Monday

“Business park.”  Chances are (especially if you are from North America) this immediately conjures up an image for you:  low slung concrete slabs of the most unimaginative type* in a sea of pavement with, if lucky, a modicum of dying grass (about as far from a park as possible).  Most towns and cities have them, tucked away here and there and not a place you’d want to be in, even if you have to be there.

The video below is not really about architecture; it’s main focus is on transportation.  But I couldn’t stop from ogling the buildings in this business park.  Because they are actually designed and intended as architecture rather than just the cheapest container for collecting rent money (and if it keeps the rain off then that’s a bonus).   Rather than being soul crushing this area is pleasant and even delightful to be in.  And walkable to boot!

To be fair, this might be considered more of a commercial district than a business park, as it seems to be filled with larger companies than the tiny affairs that usually occupy the North American business park.  But there’s a similar district of that sort to where I live, with some very large companies indeed, filled with 4-6 story buildings, and even those are not as engaging** as the ones there in Amsterdam.  Not to mention the interstitial “landscape” is nothing short of a scorched earth no man’s land that very clearly says that you do not matter.

Great video by Not Just Bikes, and a great example that architecture and design is possible and preferable everywhere, making for spaces that enliven us rather than be something we need to overcome.  Just to do business.

 

* It’s such a cliché that a raze-and-rebuild development here braded themselves as notanotherbox.com as part of their advertising strategy.  The resulting building is quite certainly not a box, and is almost as nice as some of the ones in the video.

** This is one thing I’ve been excited to see travelling abroad:  a higher “baseline design quality” when compared to North America.  One, agan, that says “life is important, we should make it great for us!” rather than, again again, “sorry, you do not matter.”

*** I heartily recommend all of Not Just Bikes’ videos.  They’re fun and well put together and really do a great job to show what’s possible when we remember us humans in our urban design, and how much life is better when we do.

Architecture Monday

When the architect’s story for this cottage starts with, “I built a five-metre-long steel spoon and traveled the length of the country with it…” you know something interesting is up.  There’s no spoon involved in this project, but the cabin is likewise interesting designed as it is with a pair of originating concepts:  frame two views with a sweep between them and build out of found and repurposed materials.

The two views are from the bed, looking straight up, and from the working desk, which requires the floor to be opened to create a seat.  The materials came from all over, giving this otherwise “new” building a patina of rugged history.  It’s not the grand luxe, but then it isn’t meant to be.  It’s an artist/writer cabin in the woods, a place to retreat and be and work.

A cool little thing, showing what can be wrought with playfulness and thought and ingenuity, and without the need for a big budget.

Picalo Cabin by Gerard Dombroski Workshop

Architecture Monday

Oh I so love this.  A pair of old and disused granaries next to a lotus pond reworked into an arts centre.  And while the granaries are sweet in their own right, with their rhythmic progression towards new grand windows at either end and a lovely terrazzo floor that mirrors the lotus pond nearby, it’s the twin curving brick structures that make this such a delight.  Sinuous and sculptural they are poetry of  space and light.

TaoCang Art Centre by Roarc Renew

Architecture Monday

I do so much like a great gothic cathedral in all its carved glory.  And I really want to visit Gaudi’s stone forest of awe.  But I’m also really keen on this restoration of a church first erected in 1314.  To say it’s on the opposite end of the gothic/carved spectrum would be an understatement… smooth, serene, and silky white, it’s a play of pure volume and light.

The photos kinda tell the whole story.  When you strip away almost all ornament and texture, you have nothing but the pure spatial quality of the space left.  You gotta get that right as there’s no way to hide it!  If anything is off everyone will notice and, even more so, feel it right away.  So there’s some high quality design going on here.

There are also a lot of nice little spatial interplays, vistas and views and connections to the important side areas such as the baptistry or a side chapel.

(I get a big kick out of the above photo – doesn’t it of look a lot like a D&D miniature placed on a tabletop diorama?)

Very cool.  One sublime piece of work!

St Moritz church by John Pawson

Architecture Monday

Very excited that Francis Kéré won the Pritzker prize this year!  I’ve spoken about their work on here before (here and here — including one of the very first Architecture Mondays!) and everything I said then I am still enamored with today, especially the creation of great space and design with what many might term “limited resources.”  Because terming it such can be a death knell to the spirit.  As Kéré himself says, “It’s not because you are limited in resources that you should accept mediocrity. No, I never accept that! I try to do things I feel proud of.”

I ought to do some deep dives into more of his works, but for the moment enjoy this smattering of photos from his firm’s work:

“Simplicity doesn’t mean banality, it doesn’t mean something is not rich. It can be really rich.”

Absolutely!  Great work.  A big congrats to Francis Kéré for the well deserved win.  Check out the Pritzker’s announcement here, and the Kéré Architecture firm here.

Architecture Monday

Last week was such a gem… but Labrouste was not finished!  Nearly two decades later a second reading room was finished, this time for the National Library of France and it is equally stunning.  Moving from the double barrel vault of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, this reading room switches to a series of vaults, elegantly supported by a grove of his signature thin steel columns.

There’s a lot of lovely play going on here.  The columns and arches that define the perimeter of the room are massive and weighty, contrasting with those delicate columns and the filagree-enhanced arches that flare from each column to support the vaults.  But look closer – notice that the vaults don’t actually rest against those heavy outer bits.  Rather, there’s an independent column placed in front of each that heightens the soaring of the vaults overhead.  So much about the vaults is in contrast with the walls that support the stacks, yet they still marry together perfectly.

Such a beauty all over.  Great stuff.

La Salle Labrouste at the Bibliothèque Nationale by Henri Labrouste.

Wonder Wednesday

Now this is a great photo of Falling Water:

Aaaaaa, I just love it.  The snow-covered trees forming a neutral backdrop makes the diagonal slash of the river, punctuated by the house itself, all that much more prominent and dramatic.  And the leftover red foliage in the lower right corner helps balance it out and make everything pop.

A sweet photo of some sweet architecture!