Let's just all rewind the movie of our lives a bit and go back to school. We at Coolhunter are thinking of heading to University of London's Birkbeck College and finding our way to the classes at its Film & Visual Media Research Centre.
You cannot tell from the outside that the odd set of buildings at London's Gordon Square offers anything remarkable at all. The older building does have a pedigree - it is the former home of both Virginia Stephens (later Woolf) and economist John Maynard Keynes. The drab 1970s extension to the building does not even deserve another look. Except inside.
Award-winning London-based Surface Architects won the competition to create within the buildings the permanent home of the Film & Visual Media Research Centre. Surface transformed the basement, ground floor and the extension into a unique state-of-the-art 80-seat cinema auditorium, surrounded by a media study suite, seminar rooms and offices.
Ian Christie, Birkbeck's Professor of Film and Media History, describes the exciting new building “...the new cinema auditorium - already being referred to as 'The Screen on the Square' is as soberly dedicated to ideal screening conditions as the surrounding break-out spaces and stairway are an exuberant display of pure form and colour. In fact, Surface's extraordinary projection of intersecting cones has various filmic associations: the jagged angles recall the Expressionist set design of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, an influential German film of 1921; and the lurid colours evoke Andy Warhol's silkscreen portraits of film stars.”
Key players at Surface are Richard Scott, who formed it in 1996, and Andy MacFee, who joined Surface in 2001 as director. Both have worked with Will Alsop and other notables. Surface is also one of 47 practices worldwide selected to work on the Athlete's Village for the London 2012 Olympics. By Tuija Seipell
Forget about wandering through an art gallery and wondering if you’re the only one who has no idea what anything means. Acess Agency has brilliantly invited the cultural elite to grab a glass at an exhibition in Dresden, Germany, and drink away the art.
Regardless of what we do or do not understand about art, we can all agree, it stimulates our senses. Access has aroused our sense of taste (not to mention eliminated the need of elbowing our way to the bar) by hanging flat, glass containers with a variety of cocktails in the exhibition space. As the night progressed, the levels of the multi-coloured infusions diminished. By the end of the event, the art, itself, ran dry, and empty drinking glasses were returned to where they were originally placed. - Andrew J Wiener.
For some time, designers, architects and builders all over the world have tinkered with the idea of turning excess standard shipping containers into living quarters. Some of the incarnations of the lowly metal box are downright chic, including artist-architect Adam Kalkin's Quik House for which he apparently has more orders than he can handle.
But these metal containers have also drawn the attention of some leading brands that have started to use the eye-popping ideas to full advantage. Holiday shoppers milling about the Time Warner Center in New York will have a fabulous chance to experience one of these soon. Between November 28 and December 29, 2007, they can rest, relax and sip a perfect cup of illy espresso in one of Kalkin's creations, the temporary Push Button House cafe that the Trieste, Italy-based illycaffe will install there.
The European premier of this concept by Alan Kalkin and illy took place at the 52nd Venice Biennale where illy continues to partner with the Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia by providing the visitors each year a space to relax and enjoy their complimentary espresso. This was illy's fourth year of establishing the refreshment area at the Biennale but the Push Button House version created an unprecedented buzz.
With the push of a button, the house opens in 90 seconds like a flower and transforms from a compact container into a fully furnished and functional space with a kitchen, dining room, bathroom, bedroom, living room and library. All materials used in the Biennale house were recyclable or recycled. As Andrea Illy, chairman and CEO of illycaffe, has been quoted as saying, illy was initially interested in Kalkin's idea as an examination of 'home as one continuous mouldable surface, a relief against which human activity would pop out.';
Kalkin's concepts have proven to be adaptable to many circumstances. His company has developed container-unit projects for everything from disaster-relief housing to luxury dwellings (pictured below), and for promotional purposes such as the illy cafe. By Tuija Seipell.
They used to say "a light bulb goes on in your mind" when knowledge happens. The Danish architects at 3XN already realise the sun is the true source of knowledge - providing fuel for each global system. Imagine the power more sunlight can provide young minds hard at work in their schools.
Orestad College (upper school) opened this year just south of central Copenhagen in the development area of Orestad. The superstructure of the building is formed by four boomerang-shaped platforms that rotate over four floors and remain open to one another allowing for a seamless interconnection of space throughout the school. This open, high central hall, known as the X-zone is linked by a stairway that helps promote interdisciplinary communication and cooperation among the various teaching and study spaces.
Transparent glass louvres automatically rotate on the exterior of the building allowing light in and providing an array of colours to the interior environments. By manipulating the sunlight the entire student body becomes aware of the passing of time and the changing of the seasons as the school year progresses.
Sustainability for education can certainly begin with the design of the school itself, and 3XN has successfully integrated the traditional Scandinavian aspects of functionality with clarity and beauty in form. - Andrew J Wiener
The stark XXS Shop for Mobile Gadgets opened earlier this year in Hamburg’s Innenstadt, at Spitalen Hof 8. It is a minimalist showroom by Hamburg-based Spine Architects for Etronixx-Trading GmbH. The store is void of practically everything else but white surfaces and the merchandise itself. Mobile gizmos appear almost suspended in air, as they rest in small slots within the white expanse of built-in cabinetry that encircles the entire space. It is an excellent example of forcing the customer - in a pleasant way - to focus on the products, not on the props.
Spine is a German-English partnership that started between Boris Bähre, J'orn Hadzik, Jan Löhrs and Neil Winstanley in 2001 when they won one of the prizes awarded in the international design competition for Rabin Square in Tel-Aviv, Israel. They are known for their work in several areas, from housing to public places to TV shows, private homes and shops. In September, Spine Architects opened an office in Menlo Park, San Francisco. By Tuija Seipell
Walking past a series of drab estate agent windows doesn't really make you want to part with your hard earned cash. Even if you are looking to move out.
That's why estate agents Hotblack Desiato - depicted as a keyboard player in the cult sci-fi novel, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - decided to spruce up their Islington offices in London.
These little clusters of property were inspired by the revival of cubism within architecture. The 3-D squares created by designer Paul Crofts are set at varying depths to create an almost pixel like installation that spills over onto the adjacent wall inside. Which makes poking your nose round other people's houses that little bit sweeter. By Matt Hussey
The Nestlé Chocolate factory in Mexico City's Paseo Tollocan near Toluca has never been a site anyone went to see for its beauty. It is what is inside that has always interested chocolate-lovers.
That changed earlier this year when Michel Rojkind, the 38-year-old principal of Rojkind Arquitectos, decided that he was not satisfied with the original idea of just revamping the factory's viewing gallery.
He put together a team that came up with an entire museum, with a shop, a theatre, and direct access to the factory as well. The 300-meter-wide scarlet building cannot go unnoticed by anyone driving the entrance freeway to Toluca.
This is by far not the first chocolate museum in Mexico, the ancient home of chocolate. Neither is it the first sweet museum for the Switzerland-headquartered consumer-product behemoth Nestlé.
However, it is probably the first chocolate museum ever to be called both a piece of origami and a shipping container. The corrugated metal look gives it an air of impermanence and industrial clunk while the bright color and crazy shape evoke play and fun. What any of this has to do with chocolate, we are not exactly sure, but we almost managed to fold a KitKat wrapper to a similar shape. By Tuija Seipell