Posts Tagged ‘Green Design’


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.


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):

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.


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.


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.


Architecture Monday

May 9, 2016

A window can be more than just a portal for light or ventilation.

It can frame views.

It can bring the outside in.

It can extend the room outward towards the horizon and beyond.

Tadao Ando’s Church of the Water is, in many ways, the antithesis of his Church of the Light.  Here, the celebration is not of the ephemeral, but of nature.

As with the Church of the Light, the Church of the Water also dispenses with much of the traditional visual language of churches, with a form reduced to several intersecting boxes made of his trademark silky smooth concrete.  Inside the simple nave, attention is immediately drawn towards the giant window that forms the back wall – or, more often than, not the large opening where there would be a back wall.  The  entire window can be rolled off to the side, opening the church to the stepped reflecting pond that leads the eye towards the tree line.  Light, water, air, sound, and nature all become part of the room.  As the seasons change so too does the experience of the chapel.  The green of summer, the colours of fall, the white purity of winter, the blooming spring.

Entering the building is an experience of itself, designed to be a procession that leads up to a glass and steel cube perched atop the structure before down a dark spiral stairway into the larger cube of the chapel.

As with many of Ando’s works, the Church on the water starts with a simple concept, rigorously developed into form of careful proportions and details.  It takes the essence of a church and creates something familiar yet strikingly different, even playful.  It’s sensual architecture.

When I’m able to visit Japan, it’s on my list of places to experience.


Architecture Monday

April 18, 2016

This is gorgeous.  Built of the very soil it sits in, a continuous zigzagging rammed earth wall fronts a series of cabins built under a long earth berm, creating a playful inhabitable landscape.  This is a project that truly celebrates the landscape, drawing inspiration from and becoming part of it.

Besides looking great, the huge thermal mass from the earth and the rammed earth construction keep these houses naturally cool in the hot and arid climate.  Those rammed earth walls also (as is often the case) lend their beauty within the cabins themselves.

I love the little chapel/meeting room, a simple design with sliding glass panels to open everything to the outside and with an expressive roof that captures the light.

As with many things, it’s the attention to detail and detailing that really makes this project sing.  I’d love to visit.

For more info and pictures of The Great Wall of WA click here: Luigi Roselli architects.


Architecture Monday

January 4, 2016

While I was in Toronto over the holidays, I took the chance to visit the Wychwood Barns (that I spoke of in an earlier Architecture Monday post). I wanted to see for myself what it was like, and get a chance to visit the interiors, and see if it was the glorious adaptive reuse project I made it to be in my mind.

And it rocks.


The middle of the “barns” was turned into an interior street, complete with doors leading to the various residents of barns 2 and 4 – a restaurant, offices, education, artist studios, and more. Bisected above by a long skylight, the space is inviting and the patina of age from the barn’s previous use really lends a great air of approachability. Modern signage contrasts well with this aged background, while old streetcar signage is turned into a sculpture of sorts. With roll-up doors at either end, the street can fully open and take advantage of the landscaped grounds nearby.


Other touches of the past also remain, including safety signage (befitting the industrial history of the shed), the old doors to barn 4 (turned into a (inaccessible to me that day) greenhouse), and the empty shell of barn 5 that forms the axis pathway to the whole site.


That this was a successful intervention was evident even in the middle of a weekday afternoon during a holiday shutdown. Several families were out and using the grounds, with children playing and adults reading, and when I encountered the janitor within, he struck up an immediate conversation, and we talked easily about the building.

The adaptive reuse lover in me had a field day.  Totally loved it.

Bonus photo! Behold, the adorable defibrillator robot guardian: