A tactile sense of texture, a romantic play of light, and a reverence of natural beauty are all evident in this graceful, angular villa that seems monumental yet inviting. It brings up memories of hikes up a mountain on Crete where the white ruins of an ancient chapel cling onto the cliffs. But these ruins are on an entirely different island and they are brand new.
With its two main blocks at 90-degree angles, the Plus House appears from above to form an almost complete cross or a plus-sign. The opulent weekend villa juts out of a mountainside in a popular holiday area known for its hot springs, in Shizuoka Prefecture on Japan’s main island of Honshu.
The architects of this stunning beauty are husband and wife, Masahiro (36) and Mao (33) Harada, who founded Mount Fuji Architects Studio in 2004. Both are avid mountaineers — so much so that they named their company after the country’s highest and most admired mountain, also located in the Shizuoka Prefecture.
Plus House shows off their talents at being bold but not grandiose, and at involving the surrounding nature in delicate detail but without giving up the individuality and presence of the building.
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the deceptively simple two-level concrete structure has private rooms and a bath on the lower level, and salon and kitchen on the upper. The water for the bedrooms and bath comes directly from a natural hot spring. The exterior is clad entirely in white water-polished marble with surface texture changing gradually toward the outer tips of the blocks from rough to mirror-smooth. The interior is also covered in white marble that reflects the blue light from the south (ocean) and green light from the west (forest). - Tuija Seipell
Photographs - Ken'ichi Suzuki
Architects Anton Žižek and Marjan Poboljšaj, both of whom graduated in 1997, are being noticed consistently at European events and competitions for their progressive design work — from interior design and furniture concepts to architecture. They are the founders of Superform, based in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.
Recently, Superform created an interesting retreat for a private client by combining two existing buildings in the town of Ljubno ob Savinji, 70 kilometers from the capital.
The first house that resembles the traditional buildings of the valley is monolithic and introverted and contains the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen. Its main materials are wood and stone.
Housing the living room, dining room and a large hall, the second house resembles a boat anchored in the green bay and is more extroverted, open an modern than the first. Its materials are glass, steel, Rheinzink and wood. The combined structure looks bold, yet agrees with its environment and looks entirely livable. Not an easy feat to achieve. - Tuija Seipell
On approach, the entrance looks like a cave formed by rendered concrete walls. Only the slight and irregular black window frame insertions appear to allow light into the house. But within, light falls through the double-story void from above in all directions.
Light cascades down oak and white plastered surfaces. It washes over limestone and marble, illuminating art, furniture and every handcrafted and natural surface throughout the house.
The focal point and central pivot of the house is a sculptural circular stair. This transitional element divides the entire double-storey space as it stretches out under a steep exterior site.
Curved surfaces play against rigid lines in a style that the architects describe as ‘archaic’ – an effortless blend of both the primitive and artistic. Materiality was the primary factor in the selection of timbers, stone and every other interior feature.
The house is sited south of the Yarra River in one of Melbourne’s many beautiful neighbourhoods. The team of architects won an Architecture Award for Interior Architecture at the 2009 Victorian Chapter Awards. - Andrew J Wiener
Painting on wall on image 3 is from artist Song Ling.
Elegant, calm, minimalist, clean and beautiful are among the adjectives that can be used to describe almost all of Marcio Kogan’s much-publicized and much-awarded residential masterpieces.
The magnificent, streamlined residences must serve as an antidote of some sort to the Brazilian architect who has been quoted as saying that he loves his home town of São Paulo and New York because they are similar in their chaotic ugliness, and because he likes “energy, chaos and a multi-cultural population in a city.”
Out of this chaos-, humor- and cinema-loving creative mind, an astonishingly lovely, peaceful balance is projected onto residential projects.
Reviewers of Kogan’s work often mention Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright or their contemporaries, but Kogan has said that he is more inspired by Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini and Andy Warhol.
However, the 57-year-old Brazilian-born and educated Kogan does have a modernist approach, and he has described the work of fellow Brazilians of modernist ilk -- Lucio Costa, Oscar Niemeyer, Lina Bo Bardi and Vilanova Artigas – as incredible.
The Paraty House, pictured here, is located on one of the hundreds of islands near the colonial town of Paraty, close to Rio de Janeiro. Before it was completed, Kogan predicted that it was to be his favourite house. Its simple premise is two large drawers pushed into the hill and connected by an internal staircase.
Its elegance comes from the seamless link between indoors and out, from the use of native wood, stone and vegetation, and from the minimalist, sweeping vistas that make so many of Kogan’s houses appear as if they were either taking off or recently landed. And although the stacked-boxes style is starting to wear thin as style-du-jour, this is surely one of its best examples. - Tuija Seipell
The bucolic setting of this lovely private refuge is located in a tiny hamlet in the Flemish district of Belgium, about 10 kilometers from the country’s third-largest city of Gent. Gent-based architecture studio Wim Goes Architectuur designed the beautiful extension to this residence. The wooden addition sits above a new wine cellar and extends partly over the pond.
The natural, graying wood, the green vegetation and the blue sky and pond create a harmonious balance, accented by the slim vertical lines of the largest surfaces. Goes’s signature style combines intentional, unpretentious simplicity with functional clarity, and results in stark beauty with Japanese-Finnish undertones.
In this residential structure, Goes created an elegant facade that encompasses both visual and structural grace. The facade is created from slim strips of wood (only 6 x 8 centimeters in cross-section) selected for the straightness of the growth rings in each piece of wood. And although the wood will still warp slightly in the rain and sun, this does not pose a structural problem because the facade does not need to bear wind load -- the wind will blow right through the strips. The only structural load the wood strips must carry is the vertical load of the roof.
Wim Goes is an award-winning architect, born in 1969 in Ghent. He established Wim Goes Architectuur in 1997. The firm’s work includes private, public and retail projects, ranging from the stunning Yohji Yamamoto flagship store in a neoclassic building in Antwerp, to museum, office and design environments. This year, he was chosen as one of the 40 under 40 European Architects by the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design. - Tuija Seipell.
Tokyo-based architect, Shin Ohori, and his firm General Design Co, have recently completed a beautiful private weekend residence in the mountains at Kawakami-mura, Minamisaku-gun, Nagano.
Ohori designed the recreational property, titled Mountain Research, for his friend, fashion designer Setsumasa Kobayashi, who also owns Tokyo’s Cow Books (also designed by Ohori.)
And that explains the odd name for the retreat. Setsumasa’s fashion line used to be called General Research but it is now known as .......Research, with the dots being a placeholder for the defining word of each season’s collection. The Spring 2009 collection was called Mountain Research, and its namesake mountain hideaway is the place where Setsumasa and team dream up most of the brand’s fashion ideas.
Life takes place mostly outdoors at the Mountain Research. The various functions — kitchen, storage, bath, wood shelter — are located in nearly separate, simple structures, all resting on a multi-level platform. The material of the structures is local pine, and the owner hopes that the buildings will eventually biodegrade into the mountain soil and return to nature’s endless cycle of re-creation.
The one stark exception to this woody serenity are the two permanent, bright yellow sleeping tents (made by North Face), located atop of the building. The entire retreat has a feel of a casual, classy and unpretentious camp that has all of the conveniences of modern life. A perfect environment for a creative brainstorm. - Tuija Seipell
Nearly 25 years ago, the world tuned into Melbourne for the ultimate in sporting events, the Olympic Games. Even long before that, Aussies were renowned as being among the world’s greatest sport fans. From grand-slam tennis to cricket’s oldest and greatest rivalry between Australia and England, Ozzie sports are part of its culture.
Opening in 2010, the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, designed by COX Architects with engineering assistance from Arup, and from Norman Disney & Young — is a $200-million boutique rugby and soccer stadium with a capacity of 31,000.
Pride in sporting venues is also part of the very culture that supports sports so proactively. To stand on the same level as the Bird’s Nest, the Water Cube, Wimbledon, Coliseum and all sports architecture icons, new and old, great sporting venues support and enhance the cities in which they stand.
Melbourne expects its new Rectangular Stadium to not only contribute to the city’s sporting life, but also to be a focal point of the city’s Olympic Sports Park and Entertainment Precinct — only a short walk from the city center.
Fractured architecture is slowly becoming synonymous with 21st-century architecture in Melbourne. From the honeycomb concrete façade of Federation Square, to the steel tubing we recently wrote about on the city’s new recital centre, the bio-frame roof of the Rectangular Stadium already looks like it belongs. The roof will be covered with thousands of LED lights that can shine in many colors. They will be programmed to follow patterns that mimic the crowd’s energy during a match — soccer with Victory or rugby with Storm — or any other game or event. - Andrew J Wiener
Cities grow organically, and while some areas thrive and prosper, others parts undoubtedly deteriorate over time as industry evolves, social dynamics shift and economies fluctuate. Many accomplished urban designers look at the multi-dimensionality of any city within which they work regardless of where a project is sited.
Ashton Raggatt McDougal (ARM) architects completed the design of the Melbourne Recital Center and the neighbouring Melbourne Theater Company helping to transform the formerly derelict Southbank area of the city to the dynamic district it has now become. The firm has been so successful in their designs of the two buildings that they have been honored with the 2009 Victorian Architecture Medal winning highest accolades in three categories for public architecture, interior design as well as urban design.
In a country where the two largest cities compete for just about everything, is Melbourne set to de-thrown Sydney for a higher quality performance space? Granted we’re not here to critique Utzon’s Opera House, but we are prepared to say that ARM, in collaboration with Arup Acoustics, designed a dynamic and original 1000-seat performance space and 150-seat Salon. “The fusion of architectural and acoustic design throughout the development of Elisabeth Murdoch Hall has produced a visually and aurally exciting hall,” a designer from Arup explains. “Based on the proportions of the classic shoe-box shaped European concert hall, the geometry has been enhanced to provide greater acoustic intimacy and improved sightlines for the entire audience.”
The design for the Melbourne Theater Company begins with the dramatic façade: 3D iridescent steel tubing folds and bends against black aluminum cladding – just as an actor brings performance to life against a dark backdrop. The interior is comprised of the Sumner Theater, a 500-seat hall noticeably without a balcony or mezzanine space, but still allowing exceptional site lines to the stage regardless of where your season tickets land you. The most striking element inside the main theater is the Word Wall – 70 quotes from different plays are illuminated when the stage is dark. The building also houses a full rehearsal hall that can be used as an event space or a smaller performance space, as well as a café and bar at the front of the house. - Andrew j Wiener
It is fitting that the 70-year-old Frank Gehry ended up re-envisioning the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) for his native city of Toronto. As a boy, Gehry visited the AGO often, and the effect of those visits on him and his future career was important. Gehry has lived most of his life in the U.S., but the AGO remake allows Toronto to reap some of the benefits of his massive talent before it’s all too late.
One of Gehry’s early sources of career inspiration was the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto (1898-1976), known as the father of Scandinavian modernism. The influence of Aalto’s love of gently curving light-color wood, and his clean and airy architectural lines, can be sensed at the newly refurbished AGO. Whether or not Gehry thought of Aalto when he designed the spiraling plywood-faced staircase for the main entry hall is irrelevant, but the feel of the space is decidedly Aalto-esque. To those of us who love the work of both architects, the newly transfigured AGO is simply fabulous. - Tuija Seipell
Stockholm-based Sommarnöjen (Summer Enjoyment - or Entertainment - in English) has just unveiled the designs for five new beautiful 15-square-meter second houses. Sommarnöjen houses are designed by Sweden's top-tier architectural offices Kjellander + Sjöberg Arkitektkontor, Sandellsandberg Arkitekter and Tham & Videgard Hansson Arkitekter.
Sommarnöjen provides the houses ready-built on site. Some are suitable for year-round use as well. The mini-houses are also great as additions to a larger dwelling - as guest houses, studios, workshops, separate bedrooms and of course, saunas. For those of us with Scandinavian backgrounds, these cottages look like home. They look perfectly suited to join the thousands of tiny cottages that dot the small islands, rocky seashores and lakesides of Scandinavia where people take July off and also spend every weekend from April till September (or more) at the cottage, rain or shine. Sommaren har kommit! - Tuija Seipell