Posts Tagged ‘Sustainability’


Architecture Monday

July 3, 2017

Oh my, I love this!  That crazy amazing facade of windows upon windows upon windows is great in its own right, but its backstory is even sweeter:  they are all reclaimed.  Every single one of them had a previous life.  And it doesn’t stop with just the windows:  old farm equipment is reborn as furniture, bottles become light fixtures, bricks and wood and more are all given a second career.

This community building is literally built from bits that have histories from within the the community.  It’s a reuse gem.

Those windows look great on the outside, and they glow magnificently like a lantern at night, but wow is it even better inside.  The twin-layer of the irregular windows creates an absolutely marvelous space, a complex intricacy of lines and patterns and shapes (almost a Mondrian painting) that in turn creates a tableau of light and shadow, both on the windows themselves and projected onto the walls.   And that rising roofline, beneath which sits the shop and taproom, contrasts so nicely with the more compact brewery, exploding the senses upward and outward in elation.  It’s exhilarating.

Not that the brewery itself is any slouch, nicely proportioned and well refined detailing with a traditional Japanese bent.  A reclaimed brick pathway cuts crosswise through the building, pulling you through and linking the community BBQ and lawn outside back to the town.  Inside, the pathway is flanked on one side by the cluttered homeliness of the shop, and by the precision stainless steel brewery on the other.

There’s so much to love here.  A very resource-minded building that uses a simple palette of materials, many found and reclaimed, with careful craft to create delightful spaces within while connecting to the community without.  Great, great work.

Kamikatz Public House by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP  (whom I just realized also did the Ribbon Chapel I featured earlier…)



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…


Architecture Monday

April 3, 2017

Let’s go to Finland tonight for a refreshing jaunt in a sauna, shall we?  How about this delightful public sauna in Helsinki?  Perched on the edge of the water, it is at once a landform and a building, an angular and expressive form that mimics the rocks upon which it sits.  Even better, it engages the city just as much as it also protectively shelters the serene saunas within.

Check it out.  Really, check it all out.  You can step out and overlook the water, descend the stairs to enter the water, warm up at the dockside cafe, then climb on top of the building and get a view of the bay, the islands, and the city.  The carefully constructed wood slats (100% FSC Certified!) that form the face of the building seamlessly turn into stairs that lets anyone ascend upwards.  The roof is no simple canopy, it’s a playground.

Inside, the spaces are divine.  Those same wood slats slide and part to let light and views in (while, like blinds, keeping privacy).  From the covered porch areas to the change rooms to the saunas – including a traditional smoke sauna – the feel of the spaces is tranquil and comforting.

This image speaks it all.  There’s a beauty how the warm and regular wood, through its proportions and design, creates a space that invitingly cradles the seated body, while its horizontal lines draws the eyes outward towards the screen beyond, where the angular forms playfully contrast with the regularity of the wood grid, all given a visual exclamation point by the fire pit and rocks that stand basking in the glow from the generous window.


And only one of many enchanted spaces within.  A great design that couples civic engagement and exterior excitement with amazing spaces within, all while building smartly using sustainable materials.  Excellent work.

The Löyly Saunas by Avanto Architects and Joanna Laajisto Creative Studio


Architecture Monday

February 13, 2017

It’s not often that something super new and remarkable happens at the level of mid- to high-rise buildings, but Jean Nouvelle’s White Walls project in Cyprus certainly fits the bill.  A great mix of commercial and residential space, three things hit you immediately looking at the building:  it’s white, it’s full of holes in a delightful pattern, and there is a lot of stuff growing out of those holes.

Slightly wedge shaped in plan, this is a building all about screens and voids.  No side is monolithic, with generous balconies and glass on the two narrow ends, and the beautiful lattice effect of all those holes on the long ones.  Even the elevator makes its mark, carving its way upward through those white walls.  There’s something almost soft and inviting about the smooth white walls, with the organic pattern of cut outs adding enough texture that it reminds me of the White Cliffs of Dover.

As nifty as the outside is, as with all great architecture, the magic really happens inside.   There is a lot of great space inside, taking full advantage of those voids and screens to create aerial gardens, lofty rooms, and expansive vistas.  Light – nicely controlled in the intensely sunny Mediterranean climate – is everywhere, thrown high and deep into the rooms from those extensive cut outs that often go from floor to ceiling.

Overall, the building changes level by level, with different locations and sizes for atriums, window patterns, and the great greenery. The top level sports a nifty duplex apartment arranged around a vernacular courtyard, and capped with a roof deck open to the tower’s residents that includes a dramatically positioned pool.

From certain angles that top level is a bit jarring and doesn’t quite resolve itself to fit nicely into the smoothness of what is below.  Minor things, however, on a tower that otherwise is a wonderful addition to the town.  I would love to see more mid-rises designed this way, intriguing takes on the form that elevate both the sculptural nature of the built form, and even more so create wonderful and varied spaces inside that delight and are great places to live.

Plus all that greenery!

White Walls by Jean Nouvel.



Architecture Monday

January 30, 2017

Here’s a couple of nifty little ideas created using standard shipping container technology.

The first is a drop-down cabin that uses a sweet slide-out section that doubles the space  without needing to truck in a whole second container, and creates a giant solarium of living space.  The interior could use some refinement; the built-in furniture that tucks away is nice but the overall layout and design could be rendered both more useful and elegant.  That said, an intriguing first start, and the fact it arrives with solar panels is a plus.

Alternately, plug a few containers together, like this office.  With the outer frame taking up the structural load, there’s a lot of room for flexibility.  The front deck on this is pretty sweet, and would look great as the front bit of a house;  imagine having this deck as the entryway,  a container unit for the middle, and then having the slide-out solarium unit in back for a gloriously light-filled and open small house.

And you could always throw another container up top for an additional retreat or media room or library or…

With their ubiquity and standardization, shipping containers could offer up some nice design and building opportunities (like this train station).  Something to explore.

Cabin and office by CubeDepot.


Architecture Monday

January 23, 2017

Well this is interesting – a nicely designed prefab hut/home that takes flat packed (Ikea jokes anyone?) to a whole new level.  Slick and well kitted out, with the option for easy size adjustment and able to handle different terrain types.

Also designed with different interiors for both isolated and urban uses, though given the level of craft I think either could work in a mix and match kind of way no matter where the hut was placed.

Slick design, good use of prefab, lofty, and customizable.  Colour me interested.  The company is just starting out — I’ll have to keep my eyes on them and see how it develops.

The Backcountry and Frontcountry, by BHC


Action Wednesday

January 18, 2017

The time has come, if you live in the USA, to contact your senators and ask them to decline the nominations of both Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior and of Scott Pruitt for EPA Administrator.

If you have never contacted your senators before, it is easy.  Go to either to find your senator’s phone number, or simply call the  US Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121 to be connected.  Once you’ve got a hold of their office, tell the staff person you are a constituent, you want your senator to oppose the nominations of Ryan Zinke and Scott Pruitt, and that if they do, you have your senator’s back.  If the staff member tells you that the senator does oppose Pruitt, pass along your thanks, and encourage them to hold the line!

It’s that simple.  Remember to call both of your state senators and ask the same from both of them.  Phone calls are the most effective means of communicating with your Senators, they are what garner the most attention.  And, with the clock ticking, it is the fastest means as well.

If you’d like to go more in depth, Hank Green has a great video introducing how to write  a letter, which can easily be translated into a phone call.

Why to oppose these two?

Ryan Zinke will preside over the Endangered Species Act, the access to public lands for exploitative resource extraction, offshore oil and gas drilling, and the relationships with first nations tribal governments and people.  Zinke’s record shows he does not lean towards stewardship, human or environmental health, or social growth.

Scott Pruitt is most known for suing the EPA to gut their provisions.  The EPA is literally a health and safety organization – it’s charge is to protect the very basic fundamental operating systems of our planet so that we can lead full, joyous, and fruitful lives.  This includes clean air, water, and soil.  It prevents companies from dumping toxins everywhere, be it in products or waste.  Pruitt has fought legal battles to undermine the EPA’s role in protecting human health and the legacy of the country, meaning the person being nominated to lead the EPA has actively worked to destroy the EPA.

Neither of these picks is what the USA needs, nor do they honor what the country for what it was and where we can go.

Please, take a moment to call and let your voice be heard.  The Senate is split 52-48, and a few extra “no”s can make all the difference.  It was calls to our representatives that put the brakes on the House’s plan to eliminate the ethics board that oversees them.  Calls work.

Please call.  Be the bulwark.


In great news, Earthjustice will be one of the recipients of donations from this year’s Project for Awesome!  Woooo!

Thank you all who viewed my video and voted, and equally large thank you to all those who donated to Earthjustice and to the NRDC.  Thank you for taking action and standing up for life.