A house attic does not evoke images of style and chic design. Rather, we find ourselves thinking of dark, cobweb-infested, damp and dreary crawl spaces. We think of attics as leftover space under the roof where we abandon unwanted stuff - outdated clothing, old books, grandma's hat boxes, grandpa's hunting gear, coin collections and bags of seashells from that long-ago beach holiday.
But as space in our urban areas is at a premium - not a square metre can go to waste. Architects and designers are starting to see the potential of this extra space, and offer solutions that meet the needs of the most demanding style freaks. Sunlight, additional rooms, extra bathrooms - it is all possible in the attic. Starchitects around the world have made dramatic rooflines trendy, so we can all give up on our visions of the embarrassing drywalled and pine-paneled disasters that attics tended to morph into, every time we tried to make them livable.
Within very few square metres, designers are finding space for sleeping, cooking and eating, and using the sloping rooflines to create impressive skylight windows.
We can all see the delightful benefits of maximising the amount of livable and usable space ï¿½ even if it involves clearing away the precious collections of bric-a-brac we've spent generations accumulating. Ample sunlight penetrating the attic apartment means than even nocturnal arachnids are sent packing. By Andrew J Wiener and Tuija Seipell
We're looking for more attic renovations, if you spot one, send to [email protected]
We came across this clever print ad for Vespa scooters. Visually effective and well executed, it is playful, simple and gets the point across fast (no pun intended). Nice work team Vespa. By Brendan McKnight
Publicity stunts don't come on much of a larger scale than this. To celebrate the launch of the new Fiat 500 in London last night, one of the vehicles was placed into a pod on the London Eye where it will live for the next 2 weeks.
The launch of this 'time capsule' was at 8pm, exactly 500 hours into the year and as one would expect for such an event, was a star-studded affair and included a light show that lit up the river Thames, and performances by Mika and The Feeling.
The car itself is a remodel of the original version which was first presented 50 years ago, and is Fiat's go at re-releasing a retro classic, as VW (Beetle) and BMW (Mini) have arguably both done quite successfully in recent years.
The 500 was recently named the 2008 Car of the Year and has been praised in numerous auto publications. By
Here at TCH, we’ve been noticing architects around the world transforming church buildings into various types of structures including houses, retail stores, hotels, libraries, and well, cooler churches.
After successfully converting a water tower into a living space, Marnix Van Der Meer and Rolf Bruggink’s Utrecht-based architecture studio, Zecc has done it again — this time perhaps a little more controversial. Here they transformed an old chapel into a spacious house — carefully respecting and enhancing the character of the original building.
The design team chose to keep many of the original features — including the high gothic stained glass windows and the original choir organ. To allow more light to enter the space, they cut a Mondrian-inspired glass window into the front of the house facing the street — perhaps paying homage to Rietveld’s nearby infamous Schroder House. The entire living area has been whitewashed, whilst the private spaces above were painted dark.
And only 150km away in Maastricht an 800 year old Dominican church was transformed into the newest addition to the Selexyz book store chain — the Selexyz Dominicanen — housing an impressive collection of books not only in Dutch, but in English as well.
The challenge for the Amsterdam based architects Merkx + Girod was staying true to the original character and charm of the church, whilst also achieving a desirable amount of commercial space. A multi-storey steel structure that houses the majority of the books was constructed and placed along the central nave of the church under the vaulted ceiling.
Located in Finland in the Ostrobothnia region, near the campus of Helsinki University on the eastern side of the city, JKMM Architects won a national competition to design the Vikkii Urban Centre. The focal point of the Centre is a church clad in aspen shingles that have turned gray since construction was completed in 2005. Throughout Europe new church design is not synonymous with modernity, so when the Parish of Helsinki approached the architects at JKMM, they welcomed the opportunity to contribute to a newly developed urban area housing approximately 13,000 residents.
Many Scandinavian churches serve as civic spaces for the surrounding community to gather. Of course sacral characteristics are still present, and the Viikki Church’s central space and adjoining congregation hall have a light-filled cathedral-like appearance.
The architects chose timber for practically every surface of the interior space as well: oaken doors, spruce ceiling and walls, and aspen furniture allow the congregation to feel as though they are gathering within a forest. Large windows open the space even further onto the surrounding landscape of the countryside. The church does not sit in isolation, however a new market was built to the north and an urban park sits to the south.
Divisive as it may be to alter houses built for God, these architects do not need to preach to the choir about their immaculate conceptions in renovations, we’re sold. By Andrew J Wiener and Brendan McKnight.
We're looking for more church renovations, if you spot one, send [email protected]
To celebrate the 3rd annual PARK(ing) Day, San Francisco based art collective Rebar decided to take things a little further, with their pedal-powered park on wheels; the Parkcycle.
This one-day global event encourages artists, activists and everyday citizens to temporarily transform parking spots into "PARK(ing)" spaces: temporary public parks. This time around an astounding 180 parks in 47 cities were created.
"The process of rethinking the ways streets are used is an important first step in making permanent changes in our cities to improve the quality of urban human habitat," says John Bela, cofounder of Rebar.
The Parkcycle, which can be cycled by a team of three, but enjoyed by many more on it's 7m lawn, features a 5m tall tree and solar charged battery which run's the cycles breaks.
With a top speed of 5mph, it is hardy going to get a yellow jersey in the Tour de France, but makes for an incredibly scenic picnic. By Brendan McKnight
Opened in late fall 2007, Electric Birdcage at Haymarket in the heart of London's West End, has been receiving mixed reviews. One thing is certain, though, it IS getting a reaction from everyone who visits.
Electric Birdcage is a magnificently weird combination of Alice in Wonderland and Russian Aristocrat, dim sum parlor and late-night cocktail bar, sophisticated party venue and silly funhouse.
The owners, brothers Richard and Anthony Traviss, knew where to go for eccentric and totally extravagant interiors: to London's beloved venue designer Shaun Clarkson. His handiwork can be seen, for example, at La Pigalle, Covent Garden's Denim, Play Room, Profile, Power's Acoustic Room, The Bloomsbury Ballroom, Atlantic Bar & Grill and Jerusalem.
Electric Birdcage's surrealistic interior includes a Fibonacci-style patterned floor, tables made of tree roots, gigantic pink hands for chairs, lavish Vegas-style mirrors, imposing black stallions, two snarling black polymer panthers, a carousel bar and iron birdcage chandeliers dangling from a pink ceiling. Even the DJ operates from a birdcage.
Capacity crowd of 300, served by cute staff in retro airline get-up, can order Pan-Asian fare by head chef Somporn Khamsaenphan all day, and stay until 4 am enjoying cocktails by mixologist Chad Shields. You and seven friends can share the signature Electric Birdcage bowl filled with a mix of champagne, Absolut Raspberri peach schnapps, Cointreau, Absolut Citron, strawberry puree, gomme syrup, orange juice, fresh raspberries and blueberries. That should elicit a reaction, if nothing else will. By Tuija Seipell
After designing the prize winning Bergisel Ski Jump, the city of Innsbruck invited Zaha Hadid back to design four new stations and a cable-stayed suspension bridge for the Nordkettenbahn - the city's cable railway system. Continuing their global contribution to the seamlessness between computer generated design and construction, the ZH Architects studied glacial formations and ice movement and translated their ideas with similar design technologies used by the automotive and aircraft industry to achieve varying degrees of movement and circulation in structure.
Residents and visitors can now embark trains in the city's centre at the new Congress Station and reach the summit of Seegrube Mountain in 20 minutes. Each progressive station crosses the Inn River and then ascends the Nordkette Mountain terminating 863 metres high at the Hungerburg Station. Passengers then transfer to cable cars that travel to the top at 2,300 metres.
ZH Architects' signature fluidity in design was carried through here with the innovative use of doublecurvature glass in construction. The design could not be actualised without inventive production methods such as CNC milling and thermoforming. Each unique station looks at though winter melted down the mountainside flowing freely across the new suspension bridge and into the river. By Andrew J Wiener>
China's first carbon-neutral hotel, the hip 26-room URBN Hotel Shanghai, will officially open this spring. Conceived by owners Scott Barrack and Jules Kwan, URBN promises to be the start of a new boutique hotel empire.
No strangers to luxury developments or to China where they have lived for 10 years, the two plan to open another 20 URBN hotels in China in the next three years, starting with Beijing, Hangzhou, Dalian and Suzhou. The hoteliers will go as green as possible by rehabilitating existing structures, using recycled materials, maximizing green space and introducing eco-friendly solutions.
Beyond co-founding boutique real estate investment and development company Space Development with Kwan, the California native Barrack has established several property companies in China, including Space International specializing in luxury French Concession district properties, and Inn Shangha, the city's first serviced boutique apartment complex. Sydney, Australia-born and raised Kwan is an alternative media and property development expert.
The partners have a unique, personal perspective on what works and what doesn't for a luxury traveler in China. To give visitors a true Shanghainese urban experience - something they felt was missing - they invited international Shanghai-based collaborators with similar sensibilities to convert a 1970s post office building to the stylish URBN Hotel Shanghai. The result is an impressive fusion of contemporary and Chinese design.
URBN's spatial concept, interior and facade design are by A00 Architecture, a partnership of three Canadian architects, best known for conversions of Shanghai's historic houses into unique residences. The hotel's interior designer is Brazil native architect, Tais Cabral, known for her commercial, cultural, residential and retail work in Paris, as well as her furniture design. By Tuija Seipell
Escaping the big city used to mean keeping warm beside a fireplace in aquaint little wood cabin tucked away in the wilderness. But now we allknow impressive design can be found virtually anywhere, even in themost remote areas. At just over 200 square metres, the Steel House in New Yorkï¿½s Hudson Valley provides an ideal weekend retreat.
From a distance the length of the narrow house looks like a metallicscreen rising out of the surrounding meadow. The house opens to thelandscape on the narrow east and west facades. One end features adouble-height entry with a stairway leading up to two bedrooms on thefirst level. The bedrooms above overlook a small, private lake by wayof an enclosed balcony whilst below, the living and dining area openout to a screened patio.
Striving to remain economical, high priority was giving to theselection of materials and finished both inside and out. Allinterior walls, floors and ceiling as well as custom furniture andcabinetry were constructed of durable maple plywood. Specialconsideration was also given to the use and placement of glazing andskylights that allow for natural ventilation.
Exterior floating stainless steel panels run the length of the house.Besides obvious aesthetic considerations, these perforated exteriorscreens protect the house from seasonal weather variations. Theyprovide much needed shade from the summer sun, and buffer the home fromstrong winter winds.
At just under 150 kilometres from New York City, the Steel House ishardly at the end of the earth, however, the siting and design of theweekend retreat allows its guests a welcoming break from the urbanchaos. By Andrew J Wiener
See also Camouflage House