Posts Tagged ‘Sustainability’

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Architecture Monday

March 16, 2020

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

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Architecture Monday

March 2, 2020

This one for sure can be filed under the category of tiny house (it’s about 12 m2/130 ft2).  But interestingly it’s also perched on a roof of an existing building – a demonstration of reclaiming leftover spaces to create something not only valuable but that could also be rendered beautiful.

The simple bent A-frame structure is covered in a gleaming seamed metal roof that reflects the sky during the day and the urban lights at night, while the twin glazed ends (one clear, one frosted for privacy) turns the house into a lantern and beacon in its own right.  It’s also quite elegant, a shapely little folly that slides unobtrusively into the skyline.

For this first version, things were kept simple on the inside, with an exposed wood structure and paneling that contains coconut-based insulation.  A rectangular core near the back contains the major utility functions for the house, making the most of its small space.  This leaves the living space and loft above to open upwards and outwards through the full-height window that offers views of the mountains beyond.  With windows at both ends of this small house, it is an understatement to say that it is suffused with light.  At the same time, its opaque side walls, along with the porch-like overhangs at both ends, prevents glare overload while also keeping the house from overheating in the equatorial sun.

Whether interested in small houses or not, or whether interested in a project that latches onto an existing building (adaptive expansion rather than adaptive reuse?) or not, its simple form and resulting poetics makes this a house to take note of.

The ”Parasite” House by El Sindicato Arquitectura

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Architecture Monday

February 3, 2020

Here’s a sweet pair of homes, built together by splitting a corner lot.  Almost the same, but not quite, the two play off each other to create two new units where only one might have otherwise stood.  Even better, they were built on a budget with high energy standards in mind and yet never skimped on design quality to satisfy either of those aims.

I love how their simple forms and simple materials work nicely together, with the vertical striations on the standing seem metal roof and wall panels pairing nicely with the deeply coloured horizontal wood boards.  The clean detailing wherever two surfaces meet lets the houses read like idyllic forms, sketches made real and resting lightly on the land.

Inside, the covered porch/portico under the pitched roof continues through the ample window to create a lofty living space.  I also really dig the large rolling barn doors that lead to the office and the bedrooms at the back of the house.  And with the kitchen pushed out into the wood-covered extension, the exposed rafters and roof ridge can continue back from the front room to lend the house a very expansive and bright feeling.

This is some good stuff going on here.  Two homes built with purpose and flair, showing that good design and “everyday typical housing” are not incompatible or impossible.  Nicely done.

Two Houses on Oak Hill Avenue by Studio 804.

 

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 30, 2019

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.

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Architecture Monday

July 22, 2019

Oh yeah, I love it so much when something straightforward is elevated (somewhat literally, as you will see…) into a wonderful work of design while also improving what was already there.  In this case, it was an open-air stage in a local park that was enhanced by providing cover in the form of a public library to further provide for the community.

The simplicity is in the steel structure, rendered beautiful through excellent detailing and with a creative and cool twist:  the façade is made of used ice cream buckets.  Nestled in the steel structure to encircle the library, the buckets make for a playful exterior while creating a lovely glow free from glare on the inside.  The low  bookshelves lets the light fill the space as fully as possible, while at the back of the library a cushy mat floor lets you truly curl up with a book.

As a bonus, the buckets form a message coded in binary!  A double bonus is the now covered stage can serve additional functions such as for projecting movies and can even be curtained in for use during inclement weather.

A truly lovely project, demonstrating how even small moves can make a big difference, and that good design does not require a high budget.  All it takes is care, design, and some ice cream.

Bima Microlibrary by SHAU Bandung

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Alert is Alerting

July 16, 2019

It is warmer in Alert, Nunavut,

817km (508mi) from the North Pole,

Than it is in Victoria on Vancouver Island,

Some 3750km (2350mi) south of there.

This is not good folks.

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Architecture Monday

May 13, 2019

So this is nifty.  You’ve got these two former coal hopper warehouses that, while built by the same person, are not parallel (to better work with the incoming rail lines and turning radiuses).  They are big, made of brick, super solid, and full of arched loading bays that would be perfect to convert into stores.

Cool.  Now, you also want to include both indoor and outdoor event spaces and do something to unify the two buildings.  Hmm, what to do…  well, how about “pulling” the roof like taffy and have the buildings kiss?

Which turns out to be as equally impressive inside!

Lots of nice stuff here that builds upon all sorts of features that were already in place from the industrial days: the multiple ground planes, the train access bridges, the rugged and tactile brick, the Victorian ironworks.  All pulled together with additional bridges, lots of glass, and, of course, the twin ribbons hovering like magic over the new plaza.

Cool beans and a fabulous adaptive reuse project.  Coal Drops Yard by Heatherwick Studio