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

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

Adaptive reuse can always be such a delight, and this is no exception!  A ginormous former postal service mail sorting warehouse turned into a huge new combo of shops, restaurants, and offices, with a huge flexible music venue and topped off by an even huger green roof, complete with urban farm!

Before…

 

Also before…

The strategy is a cool one, cutting away large sections of flooring and roof to create three large atriums capped by translucent glazing, each one named for the sculptural stair within that joins the two levels plus garden roof:  X, O, and Z.  The patina laden character of the warehouse remains on display, especially through the old painted columns that still retain their wear and tear as well as identification markers, all coexisting nicely with the more sleek glass and steel additions.  Not to mention that grand rooftop garden.

I dig this kind of project, where super-solidly built buildings – whose construction feels like it can last another thousand years – and, rather than demolishing them, reuses them by taking advantage of that solidity in creative ways, as was done here through new openings and amenities that the solid structure could easily handle.  And voila, a whole new venue ready for use without debris and energy use of tearing the whole thing down and starting over.  Great stuff.

POST (see what they did there?) by OMA

Architecture Monday

It’s not quite a hobbit hole… but it is an underground house.  One that, with its sunken courtyard, perhaps has an even more dramatic entry than a simple round door in the side of a hill.

How this came to be is kind of fun:  the owners enjoy hang gliding and from that vantage point gave a lot of thought of how the house would appear from the air.  Also, they didn’t want to cut down too many of the avocado trees on the property, and who could blame them?  Avocadoes are awesome.  Hence, the buried house.

Now, it’s not 100% buried, for one façade does indeed get exposed, with a slope partially carved away to reveal the house just like that hobbit hole front door.  Between that face and the entry sub-subterranean courtyard, coupled with its narrow and linear layout and a few choice skylights, there’s plenty of light despite its buried nature.  If the slope wasn’t there, I think it would’ve worked equally well (and I might even have preferred it this way) with two sunken courtyards.  Definitively very cool how the very green roof is an extension of the field, littered with wildflower bushes and, of course, those avocado trees!

Very nice, a way of inhabiting the field rather than perching on it, living in the soil just as the nature around it.

Aguacates House by Francisco Pardo Arquitecto

Architecture Monday

Mmmm, it’s been a while since I featured something with rammed earth, and here we go!  But this new distillery and hotel goes above and beyond.  Nearly all of the materials used to build are sourced from the property itself, from the earth in the walls to recycled and reclaimed wood, stone, and more.  And then it goes even further, fully embracing a hand-crafted nature for everything from the rafters to the awnings to the furnishings and more.

While completely regular (and even symmetrical) the building feels a bit labyrinthian but in a good way, as these twists and turns are filled with connections.  Every room or courtyard participates in multiple dialogues between spaces of the building and, especially, with the surrounding landscape.  Here the rammed earth and reclaimed materials really shine, further tying the space to the vistas of the land in which it sits.

Being a “destination hotel”, it’s no surprise there’s an air of theatricality to it all, with the grand vistas punctuated with artwork and centered around the large mezcal press.  But it is theatricality that is handled most well.  Great stuff.

Casa Silencio by Alejandro D’Acosta

Architecture Monday

They say California is in love with their cars… which leaves lots of extra car and road bits around… so why not get playful and use them into your architecture?

Road signs for fences and railings and siding, hatchback glass for awnings, station wagon tails for a a gate, plus repurposed sheet metal and more!

Something fun by Leger Wanaselja Architecture

 

 

Electric Obfuscation

I want to talk about this ‘article’ posted on USA Today that makes the claim that operating an electric vehicle is somehow shockingly more expensive than a regular car (and, thus, you should consider staying away).

Upfront, I will say I find this article is contrived and it does not align at all with my experience of electric vehicle ownership.  Quite the contrary:  owning an electric car has had significantly lower operating costs for me.  (It’s one of the reasons I love it so much.)

1) You likely won’t need to buy a home charger.  I can’t speak for every single electric car on the market, but I’ve not heard of one that cannot plug into a standard 120v outlet.  So there’s no cost there if you want to stick with regular L1 charging.

2) If you want to upgrade, at least with my Model 3  I could go to 240v charging simply by having a 240v/50A circuit installed with the correct outlet as the car came with an adapter.  This cost me a couple of hundred bucks for the electrician to run some cable and conduit.  Not very much.

3) HERE’S THE BIGGEST MENTAL HURDLE TO OVERCOME FOR MOST OF US.  Do you ever fret about leaving the house and needing to find a special place to charge your phone?  No, you do not, because you charge at home and can leave with a full charge.  The same is true with an electric car.  You plug in when you get home.  Even on an 120V circuit, you are getting ~5miles of charge per hour.  That’s not super fast, but a typical car will spend 10h or so in the garage from the evening and overnight.  That’s 50mi of charge, which will cover most people’s commutes.  If you have a 240V charger, then you can get a full charge in a couple of hours.*  Deadhead miles and time investiture while you wait for something to charge is, for the most part, not an issue.**

4) Their purported cost of charging, however, is where I take the greatest exception.  Where I live has relatively expensive power costs.  And I even pay extra for 100% renewable electricity (75% wind, 25% solar).  It’s well less than 30c per kWH off peak.  When I drive, my car is using <250WH per mile.  If I were to compare this to a 50mpg car, then to drive an equivalent 50 miles I would use 12.5kWH which would cost me $3.75 — and to be clear that’s both rounding up on the energy per mile I use to drive, rounding well up on the cost of electricity, and using a very high mileage car as a comparison point.  And I still end up a bit cheaper than a gallon of gas here.  Remove those artificial inflation points and my actual comparative cost would be less.

5) In addition, there’s almost no maintenance to an electric car. No belts, oil changes, spark plugs, wire, tensioners, filters, or etc. I’ve not had to bring my car in for servicing since I bought it 4 years ago.  This brings down the operating costs even further.

Between less “fuel” cost and less  maintenance cost, I estimate I will save thousands of dollars of operating costs compared to that of my previous gas-powered car.

In short, I find this article is narrow and contrived.  There are ways to make EV ownership more expensive, but why would you want to?  You could also write an article saying here are the things to watch out for to ensure you’re not making EV ownership more expensive, but that’s not what this article does either.   Of the “4 extra costs,” the first is not entirely necessary (the cost of a home L2 charger, and even if you do include the cost, over what timeframe did this study average it?  If you install it and own the home and EVs for 20 years, the cost becomes truly minimal), the second ignores the phone effect (you can charge at home), the third is non-universal (an EV tax?), and the fourth also ignores the phone effect (why would you need deadhead miles?  how many of these are they estimating?  what cost are they assigning it?).

I find this article misleads and that’s a shame.

* If you live in a rental unit without outlets, then this could be of concern and would need the landlord to install outlets.  But especially with economies of scale, that might not be that large of a hurdle.  Years ago, some of the parking lots at my University already had outlets to each stall to plug in your block heaters, which displays the ease of bringing power to parking.

** This is especially weird as the main instigator of this so-called study owns a Porsche.  You’re telling me that person couldn’t afford to install home charging and, while they sleep, get 200+ miles?

*** Let’s use their values, too, OK?  They say 33 MPG car at $2.81/gallon (certainly not there now), costs $8.58 for fuel (not including maintenance).  Let’s say your EV uses 300WH per mile.  100 miles is 30kWH times .30 per kWH equals $9.  Note my actual cost at home, using my actual overall efficiency and cost of electricity is about $5.40, but I’m rounding up to account for other people’s driving habits and costs on commercial chargers.  But even if it was $9, that’s not exactly breaking the bank, and you save much of that amount in lack of maintenance.

**** The article states that charging rates can vary by 100% on a week to week basis.  That one I really am curious about — I’ve never encountered that with any of the charging spots I’ve seen or used.  Electricity pricing in some states must be really weird.

Architecture Monday

I like this, a building ‘rescued’ from it’s intended undifferentiated glass box origins, taking the raw concrete frame and building something that is more in tune with its context and the environment in which it sits.  With colour, pattern, and plenty of greenery, it is at once nicer to look at, nicer to be in, and nicer to the planet.

The whole idea is quite clever in a rather logical way.  The side of the building that sees the most sun in this hot and humid environment houses the stair core and other utility elements, creating a buffer to keep heat and glare out.  The other two sunny sides are surrounded by open-air balconies, two of which are encased in a colorful set of scrim, shifting in geometric patterns to create openings out of which plants poke their leaves towards the sun.  The other two levels are protected by the overhang and more potted plants.

Heat and glare are kept out, and you’re working next to a little garden oasis.  Even more so when you open the sliding doors and let the breeze flow through.  As a supreme bonus, check out the little reading nook, nestled into the walls throughout!

Sweet work.  A building that could have been a pillbox that instead found life as a nifty object that’s lush and creates a wonderful space inside, all while needing less energy to run.  That’s what it’s all about.

MGB Headquarters by Spacefiction Studio