Architecture Monday

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

Architecture Monday

Nowadays, the word factory conjures up images of big and dark voids full of machinery that is, and the workers within are, much removed from delight and the world around it.  Not that it needs to be that way!  Not in the least.  Here’s one that accomplishes everything needed within (ie, making stuff) while being mighty fine for both the workers within and its neighbors and passers-by.

While in plan the building is in a very typical (and straight-edged) L-shaped configuration, with its vertically zig-zagging walls you’d never guess it, helped even further along by the great texture striations that embellish the protruding concrete wedges.  All around, the ground rises up to follow and meet these chiseled shapes.  Similarly, up top, the roof tips down to reveal a planted surface, studded with skylights.  Besides the great energy and maintenance benefits of the roof (coupled with the insulated thermal mass of the concrete walls), it helps the building blend into the nearby pine forest, especially for those peering out of the window as their plane departs from the nearby airport.

 

Inside the spaces are large and continuous, befitting its manufacturing purpose, broken up by inviting atriums that work double time to bring light deep into the interior.  Multiple paths, gardens, and more let the atriums be amazing spaces to view and use for the surrounding offices.  (Also… let us simply marvel at the horse-lamp and the pig-table…)

Great stuff and a sweet reminder that good design that honours us as people is possible no matter what type of building.

Coffee Production Plant by Khmaladze Architects

Architecture Monday

Take a little dash of ruins (an old parchment factory, in this case) and dab of an old cow shed, apply some adaptive reuse and a bit of careful addition inside of the old walls, and you have one nice addition for a historic Victorian house.

Rather than demolish the rough and rich ruin walls, the new additions slips between them to make their aged texture a part of the composition, further heightened by the mismatch of stone and brick between the various structures.  Even better, while the new addition is, well, new, much of it was built using material found on site.

Throughout old and new material are juxtaposed artfully, as are their crisp lines and jagged edges.  Looking out, whether from the living space or the new rooftop deck above the addition, the walls of the factory ruin – and its lovely pointed window! – frames everything while forming a little courtyard.

Some sweet adaptive reuse going on here and a great use of the existing conditions.  While the temptation is often to scrape clean and start fresh, this is a good example of where embracing the rough and tumble leads to something far more exciting to live in.

The Parchment Works House by Will Gamble Architects

Architecture Monday

Great buildings very much aid in creating a great work environment, which then leads to great work.  And this new office definitively fits the bill.

It’s hard to miss the building, its six v-shaped pavilions creating a strong sculptural presence.  Like a series of open books, each of the thick concrete walls that nestle the office spaces open northward out towards a lake, cutting glare from the strong sun at this latitude while allowing plenty of diffuse northern light as well as parkland views to penetrate deep into the work spaces.  Each pavilion is connected via outdoor arcades, which in turn also become planted pathways connecting the rooftop gardens that also adorn each concrete V.

Cuts into and slices taken out of each V allow for small punched windows and dramatic entryways, while exterior stairs also lead to porticoes allowing access to the rooftop gardens.  Altogether the green roofs flow across the whole assemblage of pavilions, connecting them all and creating another layer of parkland.

There’s a lot to love here.  From a building that’s overall both fun and rife with greenery to the wonderful details like the pattern of cutouts that create an additional layer of sculptural articulation as well as the bold slices to create the entries.  And that green roof is wonderful, pulling double duty to keep the building cool while just being a cool space to hang out.  Great stuff.

Viettel Offsite Studio by VTN Architects

Philosophy Tuesday

Especially in the realm of “problem solving” or “invention” or “towards a more perfect”, there is a distinction, a difference, between doing something less bad and doing something that is a good.

This can be a tricky thing to wrap our brains around.  Because certainly fixing something has to be good, right?

Well, yes/no.  It’s similar to the conversation around efficiency.  Often when we see something that produces something we want, yet has these drawbacks*, we fixate on those drawbacks and limit our plan of attack to reducing them.  It is evolutionary design and problem solving.  “If I can get it to emit 10% less toxics, then that’s better!”

So we work, and work some more, and boom, we’ve gotten something that produces 15% less badness.  Hooray!  We dance, and celebrate, and then miss the point that the thing/system/machine/process/etc is still producing plenty of badness.  Badness is still there.

We also often forget that nothing is inherent.  Just because something is a certain way, doesn’t mean it is meant to be that way.

Instead, we can return to the primordial.  Design from first principles.  Create with intention.  And invent something that delivers a good on all fronts.  Something that not only produces what we want but may even produce extra of the things we’d want.

This is how we get a house built in the harsh desert that don’t just use 10, 15, or even 30% less energy for air conditioning by making it more ‘efficient’, making it less bad.  From our glorious spirited wellspring, we craft and get a house that, through good design, uses 100% less energy for AC even in the hottest of days, while at the same time being a more gorgeous house to live in.

This is revolutionary or primordial design.  It is not less bad.  It is a good.

When we cut ourselves, we put on a bandage.  Emergency problem solving is going to be limited in that way.  And we should absolutely do it!  Bleeding is no good.  But if we cut ourselves continually in the same manner, getting or creating better bandages is not the best way forward.  The less bad way still ends up hurting.

Returning to the source to chart a new course lets us avoid the knife and create many a good thing along the way.

 

 

* Which in of itself can take work to become aware and present that there are drawbacks, and even then to get over resisting or downplaying or ignoring the drawbacks because we get caught up in a false dichotomy that says we have to abandon the thing** entirely to avoid the drawback.

** We can also get caught up in the notion that the thing is the best, or even only, way to deliver that result.  The only way to have fun.  The only way to generate income.  The best way to transport our bodies.  By coming again from the primordial, designing by intention, we often create something that is not only a good instead of less bad, but the end result/product is even better than it was before, a better we never knew or could imagine existed, and would never had seen had we stuck with the same old, just less bad.

Architecture Monday

Ah, I love this!  A new school in a remote village in Senegal, the Fass School uses local materials and know-how to beautiful effect, creating something unique and beautiful for the community.

Befitting the region, the design features lots of natural ventilation, white reflective walls, and a high ceiling to keep the space comfortable during the hot and bright days.  The tall roof also serves double duty to help channel rain to an existing underground aquafer when the driving rains arrive.  Add to all that that a generous courtyard and large porches.  It’s a wonderful example of form and function singing together, creating delightful spaces that enhance the learning within.

If this project looks a bit familiar, it is because it is by Toshiko Mori, who designed the Thread Cultural Center I posted about a few years ago.  Just like there, I love her continued exploration and use of the local forms and materials, the curving surfaces flowing together to create a unified whole, both in the school and the adjacent teacher’s house (and toilets!).

Really great work, providing a new hub and opportunity for a community, celebrating the culture, history, and creating something lovely well within the budget of a nonprofit.  Great design comes from the heart, not necessarily the wallet.

The Fass School by Toshiko Mori.

Architecture Monday

Here’s a take on the idea of a shipping container home that I quite like.  Rather than mush all the containers together to create a single mass (much like a “regular” house), it uses the self-contained and nature of each container as a design starting point, creating a design that is both fun on the outside and works great to automatically create individualized spaces/rooms on the inside.

By laying out the three containers in a staggered formation and joining them with site-built connecting bits, each the interior gets to receive light from all four sides and the interstitial spaces can be used for a deck or a garden.  And since the containers have all their structure along the outer edge, it was easy to punch in a whole bunch of nicely appointed windows to take full advantage of the configuration.

Inside, those connective bits serve double duty, both as hallways and as either a home office or as the laundry/utility area (all of which can be closed off behind sliding doors).   It’s a very airy home, with the wood paneling letting the ample light diffuse all over, and the various bits of built-in furniture keeping things from getting too crowded.

The paneling both inside and out lets the home be well insulated, and it goes even one better, creating a floating roof that effectively creates a parasol to keep away the summer heat (just like this desert home I posted about a few years ago here).  Solar panels, water capture, gardens… this house goes all out.

I quite like it.  And while the shipping container bit is/was a great starting point (and an extra touch of sustainability) there’s plenty here that could be recreated with any style of construction (or pre-fab), creating something sculptural that perfectly shapes some fine living spaces inside.

Shipping Container Home By Modhouse.

Check out this bonus video by Living Big In A Tiny House!

Architecture Monday

This one is a bit aspirational, but I’m liking the gusto and what I see.  A 70 story tall high rise building in Japan made almost entirely out of wood.

 

While there’s plenty to talk about on a technical level (I’ll keep it brief and really only cover the one most likely sticking out in your mind, that of, of course, fire:  Thick members of wood are surprisingly fire resistant, which is why you can’t just use a match or even a torch to directly light up a big log), it’s the expressive design that I’m loving the most.  It’s wood as far as the eye can see with that lattice-like design that wraps around the building.  Very fun to look at, and as a bonus the lattice work creates a sort of double skin, shading the building and providing plenty of space for walkways, balconies, circulation, and a whole bunch of gardens.

I’m excited to see this come to fruition.  Built right with the materials properly sourced (from FSC forestry) this is great in all sorts of ways, and it’d be a lovely addition to any city skyline.

Designed by Nikken Sekkei for Sumitomo Forestry.

Architecture Monday

A double spiral.  One is a garden.  The other is house.  Together they intertwine to create living spaces that are never more than a step away from greenery.

From the living room (which overlooks even more greenery along with a pond/pool in the generous rear yard) through the kitchen to the office to the bedroom, the continuous meadow-like greenery follows the rise of the house, leading up towards a bonus garden on the roof.  As could be expected, the house is filled with light from this spiraling courtyard.  The materials within are kept simple and clean, to better highlight the lushness of the foliage nearby – in a way like a gallery, the windows taking the place of frames, and the garden the painting.

I like this a lot.  I can imagine the design brief:  we want as much of our lot to be garden as possible, and we want it to be as visible from the house as possible.  Lifting the garden/ground plane up and wrapping the two together is a great solution, leading not only to the ample garden views, but some very interesting ceilings and room geometries.  As a bonus, the combination of the green roof, integrated with water collection ponds at the edges of the roof, plus all the natural light and the solar panels make for a very sustainable house.

Gorgeous greenery, fun rooms, lovely spaces, and a house that gives back to the environment.  That’s one very sweet combination.

MeMO house by BAM! Arquitectura