Posts Tagged ‘Architecture’

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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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Architecture Monday

April 10, 2017

Sometimes, when you have a rock, you need to embrace it.

And that’s just what this house does.

Built around this large boulder that was existing on the site, it could be a gimmick house, the rock being no different than a fancy staircase of marble or an out-of-place chandelier.  Instead, there’s a wonderful balance and duality that is created that has the rock both be the metaphorical and physical heart of the home while also, in a way, disappearing into the background.

The simple and elegant frame is the key here.  Lightweight and straightforward, the corrugated metal roofing, the thin steel framing, and especially the increadibly generous amount of glass play off the ruggedness of the rocks both inside and outside of the house.  These clean and repetitive lines are a perfect foil to the natural rough textures of the desert landscape, heightening the experience of one another.  At the same time, the rock within unites with the view of rocks out the window, joining the two together, and it is in this way that the  still proudly jutting rock that the house envelops fades away.  Coupled with the large sliding panels that open up corners of the house completely, the space inside expands outwards towards the mountains on the horizon.

 

While the house is small, it never feels small.  Beyond the indoor/outdoor connection mentioned above, the elegant built-in furniture keeps everything tidy and makes the most of its small size.  Pinwheeling around the boulder, the furniture here too maintains a duality of keeping the rock at the centre while orienting the activities and attention to the rugged beauty just beyond the building’s confines.

Plus, there’s just something playful about a window that seems to merge effortlessly into the rock, with bright yellow curtains that are also cut to seamlessly snuggle up to the rock face.  That light switch, however, I would not have placed it there…

The conceptual foundation of an architectural design can be anything, even “a rock”.  Follow through with skill and care, and you end up with glorious space that is a delight to be in.

The Frey House II by Albert Frey.

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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.

Marvelous.

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

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Architecture Monday

March 27, 2017

This is a fun one.  An H in plan, the design spark of this house is a simple set of cartoon-like house shapes extruded so that they intersect with each other.  Voila!  A house that’s essentially six “kid’s drawing of house”.

There are three things that really allow this simplicity to sing (and keep this project from being kitschy or just odd).  The first is that all the elements are well proportioned.  The second is the slick and smooth metal panels that cover the house, letting the caricaturish forms really read like the simple mental image of a house (almost like a Monopoly house).  Lastly, and quite importantly, is the rich and contrasting woodwork that infills the gabled ends.  The geometric complexity and three dimensionality of the Mondrian-like screen pattern brings both visual depth and interest, and through that contrast it also reinforces the rest of the house’s overall plastic nature.

The carport is where these two cheerfully collide.  Here the rigorously uniform wood frame marches forth to create that cartoon house shape.  And as we try to get a handle on that, the glass roof throws us off kilter and has us do a second or third look.

When you’re working with something this simple, precision, care, and craft in all the elements is required to really make it stick.  Anything out of place becomes readily noticeable, and both corners and where materials meet must be crisp.  All done well here.

Unfortunately there aren’t too many shots of the interior, so I don’t know how well the conceptual playfulness carried inside, and if the resulting spaces are as nice.  I do hope so – architecture is, ultimately, about the quality of space within, and to find these moves not reflected inside would be unfortunate.

Nice project.  House XL by SoNo Architeki.

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Architecture Monday

March 20, 2017

I can be a sucker for libraries, but  this one’s got a lot going for it:  bold forms, luminous troughs of airy space, a marriage of the rough and the refined, expressive detailing, and an interplay that compliments nearby structures without mimicking them.

There’s a clarity too that lets the building speak for itself in many ways.  The building is organized around its three naves, each fronted by expansive windows that themselves double as benches for passers-by outside.

I love this interchange between the readers inside, looking out towards the town square, and the curious pedestrians, who can see the books (and the readers) within as they pause in their day.

The naves themselves are quite exquisite, as the rhythmic wooden slats form a scrim for translucent panels, letting a warm glow suffuse the reading areas.  I particularly like how the bookshelves form both the edges of the stairways, the reading areas, and, spatially, an extension of the nave above.

Built by local woodworking artisans, it’s superb craft coupled with fine design, and a new beacon for a town devastated by the earthquakes and tsunami of 2010.  Great stuff.

The Constitución Public Library by Sebastian Irarrázaval

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Architecture Monday

March 13, 2017

Let’s journey to King’s Cross station tonight, to visit the new West Concourse.  Fantastically combining adaptive reuse of the existing historic buildings with expressive structural elegance, it creates a great new expanse of space that welcomes travelers to London.

This was one complex project, touching a total of five existing buildings to improve flow and access to a bevy of train lines, underground railways, a hotel, and more.  For me the big delights are the fact that, despite this massive undertaking, they sought to preserve as much of the existing fabric as possible, and using that as a starting-off point for some great moments and spaces.

Inside the existing buildings, there is a wonderful dialogue between the old and the new, between the contemporary modifications and the historic backdrop.  It is not necessary to copy or mirror the past in order for a building to fit in with its neighbors (or, in this case, fit inside).  There are numerous ways to make the two be in dialogue and, even better, enhance each other in a way that a pastiche repetition would not.  Steel and glass and sleek lighting plays very well with the old brick, highlighting and beautifying the rich texture of the beefy masonry.

The new entry hall takes a different, but equally fruitful, path, with a radiant forest of columns and beams that form a dome over the entire hall (and that also delicately nestles in against the existing curved face of the Great Northern Hotel).  Tall, soaring, and seeming to float overhead, the roof highlights the restored facade of the Western Range building and leaving plenty of room for the necessities of a very busy train station.

The existing platforms were also similarly restored and upgraded, so that travelers today can marvel at the energetic structures that long have been a staple in grand stations.

Overall, lovely work.  And, as a bonus… at the end of the grand new concourse, a new, semi-secret platform was added, known to all those who have read the Harry Potter books:

King’s Cross Station by John McAlsan + Partners

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Architecture Monday

March 6, 2017

Adaptive reuse, skateboarding, and shoes.

Hmm.  A curious mix indeed.  As is the project brief for a large underground venue to host performance spaces, art galleries, video display, food and drink, and, most surprisingly, a large skate park.  All within 150 year old brick train tunnels under an active rail yard.

This is a nifty project.  Architecture is all about space.  It’s about how a space is defined, how it feels, and how it performs.  To the architect, materials, light, and volume are the palette.  With those tools, inspiration can come from anywhere.  And here, the architects have done a great job at embracing the motifs and physical features of the skateboarding world (including the pattern often used in Vans shoes) to shape their design.   Deft moves of concrete and a splendid use of light enhance the rough and rigid train tunnels to create a dynamic series of interconnected rooms.  Altogether, despite its seemingly rough and tumble nature, the whole assemblage actually feels kind of refined.

Very cool.  House of Vans in London, by Pete Hellicar and Tim Greatrex.