Posts Tagged ‘Green Design’

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Architecture Monday

May 22, 2017

I went and saw a lecture by one of the members of MAD Architects the other week.  Overall I found their work a bit hit or miss.  They seemed to operate at their best when working on more intimate scales and close to the ground.  Which is exactly what their new residential/mixed-use project in LA is.  They didn’t present it at the lecture, but I like it.

The view as you (would – it’s not yet built) approach tells a lot of the story, the podium of vines and succulents and greenery rising above a transparent facade of shops.  From the back, a path wends from the ground up to the top of the verdant podium, atop which perch a cluster of white villas.  Balconies and windows set into the greenery let you know that these houses have, of a fashion, a basement, set deep into the podium. It’s living space all the way up and down.

But it’s the courtyard, hidden at the centre of the project, where the full story unfolds.  There is a gaggle of housing types here, from townhouses to villas to studios to condos, and they all coalesce and interact around this courtyard.  There’s an intricate interplay of forms here that create little niches and pockets of space for balconies and porches.  Each unit has it’s unique identity while in dialogue with the greater whole.  It looks fun and playful.

This isn’t ready to break ground until October, so I won’t be checking it out on my upcoming trip to LA, but in future years, when it’s done, I’ll definitively swing on by.

8600 Wilshire, by MAD Architects

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Architecture Monday

May 15, 2017

A little classicism for your abode?

If you like, here’s a nice (not-so little) farmhouse that pulls from the classical language to create a lovely building.  No columns or fancy friezes here, but the extra-tall movable shutters create a strong vertical pull that nicely reads column-like without falling into pastiche, and plays well with the horizontal siding that covers the rest of the house.

Rising two stories, those shutters are nifty.  They slide over the windows during the hot months, cutting glare and heat (the latter by a significant amount) while still letting natural light through.  Come winter months, they can perform reverse duty during the nights, helping to keep the heat in.

This lets the house be generous with windows in a place where they can be a liability in both summer and winter, which lets there be glorious views of the intense skies and beautiful foggy mornings.  And sometimes a visitor…

Pretty sweet.  A nice use of the principles of the classical form to create a simple farmhouse that treads lightly on the landscape it welcomes inside.  I like it.

Pennsylvania Farmhouse by Cutler Anderson Architects

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Architecture Monday

May 8, 2017

Shopping malls, on the whole, tend not to be paragons of design quality, and have propagated worldwide with little thought, period, let alone thought for the local culture, climate, or conditions.  Which means that often they don’t serve the needs of either the shoppers, the community, or even the shopkeepers.  They can increase cost to the store owners and decrease sales, rather than provide benefits to all who need to use it.

This project in Ethiopia does.

The above diagram, well, diagrams it all.  In elegant ways this new “mall” incorporates sustainable initiatives,  inviting spaces, and local charm to create a shopping mall born of a specific place.  It’s much more than the traditional strip ‘o shops with a fancy pediment.

There’s a whole bunch I like about this building, starting right from the get go with the expressive outer shell.  It’s concrete and it’s expressively pierced with a pattern adapted from the traditional local fabrics.  This means all at once it diffuses and controls the harsh local sun, it allows for passive natural ventilation, and it’s a thermal mass to help control the heat even further.  And as nice as it is on the outside, inside it is absolutely gorgeous, especially the amazing surprise that is the coloured bits of glass that sparkle like jewels.  Simple, clever, and good looking.

The building is also a shortcut between two adjacent busy streets, with a diagonal path carved along the ground floor that, in turn, becomes a diagonal atrium that expands upward and opens to the sky.  This acts as a chimney, letting hot air rise and the natural ventilation keep the building cool.  It’s also an internal street, letting the floors communicate with each other rather than be isolated pancakes.  The roof is also no isolated pastry*, it’s a large umbrella-filled patio.  That also happens to collect rainwater that is then stored to use for restrooms and irrigation.  Oh, and the umbrellas also serve double duty as photovoltaic panels.  Air, water, light, electricity… all thought of and integrated into this lovely box.

This is great stuff.  From the dramatic arched entryways to the spiraling road and shops that lead to the terraced roof, it elevates the experience of shopping while honouring its surroundings and thinking deeply about sustainability.  Lovely work.

Lideta Market by Vilalta Arquitectura

 

* Sorry for the tortured metaphor…

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Architecture Monday

April 17, 2017

A nice little piece of adaptive reuse tonight, converting an auto body shop into a Japanese bathhouse.  Wait, what?

But yes, that is completely the case.  Often we overlook many of the buildings around us, indifferent to them and only noticing when we come across big-A or grand architecture.  Yet the everyday buildings make much more of an impression on us (very much every day as it says in their name), and everyday buildings are all capable of being spaces that invite and uplift.  And so, here, this everyday building was repurposed (I will not say rehabilitated, for I don’t think it was unhabilitated before) with care to create a serene space where we may not have expected one to be found.

Exposed brick, cleaned up timber supports and columns plus new walls made of reclaimed wood, an adjusted ceiling to transform the proportions of the space, skylight to bring light deep into the space, a sealed and polished concrete floor – all elements that make themselves seen in various combinations throughout the bathhouse.  Add to that an overall aesthetic that continually mixes opposites to heighten and enhance each and every part.  It’s straightforward and sensuous.  Lovely place.

Onsen in San Francisco.

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P4A 2016 – Earthjustice

December 9, 2016

Here is my video for this year’s Project for Awesome, asking for votes towards Earthjustice:

P4A is a completely community-run 2-day event, where you can vote for various non-profit organizations and donate to the P4A fund.  At the end, the non-profits with the highest votes get a split of the money donated.  Please consider voting for Earthjustice at this link (voting ends 11:59am EST on December 11th):

http://projectforawesome.com/watch?v=Wu72oiZvxYY

Please share this video far and wide, and please consider donating to P4A and/or to Earthjustice directly!

With the results of the elections in the United States, I feel Earthjustice’s work will become more and more critical.  I personally am upping my monthly donation so that they are as supported as possible to do their good work in keeping the fundamental operating system of our planet running.  It’s not glamorous, but they’re saviors and heroes.

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Architecture Monday

August 29, 2016

This is a factory.

Yes,  a factory.  Of the industrial sort.  It’s even an extension of an existing, “conventional” factory.

But it’s a factory that harnesses the power of wind, sunlight, rainwater, and vegetation to harness the power of the workers within.  It’s a factory built to honour those who work within, and show that efficiency and production doesn’t have to be isolated and insular.  Quite the opposite.

There’s so much greatness here I hardly know where to begin.  Check out that green roof, one you ascend by that bridge that hovers just inches above the rich plane of water.  The green roof that covers the whole project, protecting it from the harsh sun, creating a thermal mass, filtering rainwater, and keeping rather than eliminating at least some of the vegetation that once covered the site.

A place for the workers.

Inside, light wells bring, well, light, deep within the complex, courtyards that anchor not only break areas and exhibition rooms, but chunks of the factory floor as well.  Elsewhere on the factory, oculi (yep, that’s the plural!) pull light into production areas, diffused  by expressive metal roses.  Concrete hexagonal column caps further carry the expressiveness of the structure, lending articulation to the spaces.

The tower, shielded and surrounded by vines to control both glare and heat gain, also acts as a convection chimney for the whole complex, allowing hot air to rise out and escape while drawing in fresh air.  A passive air system that also happens to provide stunningly beautiful spaces for amenities, as well as a rooftop patio.

I’m truly excited for this building.  It’s a factory that honours its workers.  Beautiful and thrilling.  It’s an example of how good design can be, and deserves to be, everywhere.  Reminiscent of William McDonough‘s work at Herman Miller, I’ll bet retention rates and productivity here enjoys similar boosts.  Architecture is about quality of the living experience.  This is a workplace.  It’s about earning a living.  But there’s no reason it can’t also be about living period, and about being enlivened while we work.

Factory in the Earth by Ryuichi Ashizawa Architect & Associates, in Malaysia.

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Architecture Monday

May 16, 2016

A fine little project, the Thread Cultural Center (just shortlisted for the 2016 Aga Kahn Award) uses local building materials and techniques to create a wonderful multi-purpose set of spaces.  While its primary intent is to be an artist residency, the generous courtyards of the building also offers a hub for community gatherings of all kinds.

I love the form of this building, with its undulating roof that weaves itself in curvy sensualness around its two courtyards.  Even better, this delicious roof also channels rainwater to two collection ponds that supplies the community with fresh water.  The peak where the two roof curves meet forms a shaded outdoor gathering space, dynamic in form and perfect for the climate.

The rooms too are exciting, the roof curving upward towards a wall of brick arranged in a checker-pattern that mediates the light, diffusing it into a glow, while letting air and breezes though into the room.

Simple and arousing.  A great use of a simple traditional thatched roof, elongated and wrapped around into an elegant form that draws you in.  A wonderful new part of the community.