Architecture

Architecture

August 1 2007



As you’ll no doubt have seen on the pages of the cool hunter over the past few weeks, we’ve been paying homage to wall-art from all over the world. From bars in Baghdad to clubs in Cairo, we’ve been trawling buildings looking for the finest illustrations the art-world has to offer. And for this next one, we had to scurry around the trendy backstreets of Jingumae in Tokyo to find it.

This small live in studio and salon has been decked in black paint with a beautifully elegant mural, depicted from the salon’s own brand to engulf its two exposed walls.  The hand-painted pattern is reminiscent of an inverted Rorschach inkblot drawing. Yet the symmetrical display blends perfectly with the centre piece - a woman overwhelmed by the surrounding plumage. And while the windows are large and severe, they don’t distort the image. Instead, they perforate the design with different levels of intensity, revealing larger and smaller details of what lies beneath.

Inside, the space has been deliberately simplified, so as to not compete with the eye-catching exterior. Blackened wood surfaces sit quietly against the enlarged windows, decorated with cream-coloured blinds. While the theme of masculine and feminine remains true throughout. The angular planes of the structure repeat in the harsh lines of the furniture and the effeminate fresco is imitated by the soft lighting inside. A smart yet simple piece that respects the duality of the building — somewhere to live and work — while playfully intertwining the two. By Matt Hussey




Architecture

July 9 2007




While it may look like an optical illusion from the outside, this housing block in Izola on the Slovenian coast offers bona fide affordable options for many young families. The team of Ofis Arhitekti won a national design competition for their design of two apartment buildings each containing 30 units of varying size ranging from studios to three-bedrooms. 

Internal spaces may be small, however the unique trapezoidal-shaped balconies accentuate external perspectives and views directly to the sea. Structural elements are located externally as well thereby allowing more spacious living areas while taking advantage of the limited area of each unit and helping to keep the square metre cost low.



Ofis wrapped sunshades in the form of colourful canvas awnings around the blocks balconies. These defining features provide ample external space for each unit, while innovative side paneling allows for both privacy and ventilation. From within, the canvas panels create unique environments in individual apartments. Each coastal-facing apartment is thereby effortlessly adapted to Slovenia' Mediterranean climate. By Andrew Wiener

Architecture

May 25 2007



Libraries aren’t generally known for amazing architecture but this incredible one in Italy has us dying to get there amongst the books. Pictured below, it’s actually an extension on the existing library at the Pontificial Lateran University, which houses new reading rooms and an Auditorium. The incredibly stylish space was designed by Rome firm King Roselli, who took totally fresh approach to the project by employing features not usually seen in these types of spaces, such as a curved ceiling, angular stair-casing and vast glass panelling.



The university holds an outstanding collection of books numbering around 600,000 volumes, some of which date back to the 16th century, whose subjects for the most part coincide with the principal academic courses: philosophy, theology and law. The bulk of them are now deposited in the newly restored compartmentalised underground vaults equipped with an adequate fire extinguisher system and humidity and temperature control.  Learning has never been so glamorous. By Laura Demasi

Architecture

April 21 2007



Camouflage, or cryptic colouration, is something living organisms have developed over millions of years in order to remain indiscernible from the surrounding environment.  

Buildings, something humans have designed and built for thousands of years, have never been indiscernible from the surrounding environment. If anything, our egotistical fascination with conquering nature has meant our buildings are designed to triumph over its surroundings. Of course, nature inspires building design. But it rarely seeks to mimic it.



That is, until this twist on nature landed on The Cool Hunter doorstep. Set among shrubs and budding fir trees, this home has been encased in a façade matching the greenery around it. The concealing mesh is permeable to let the sunshine filter onto the house. But it also allows the light from inside to radiate out. Allowing the build to sit anonymously by day, but emerge discretely at night. Blurring the boundaries between what is human, and what is not.



Inside, the materials are organic and neutral. Wood decking and paneling cover the inside and outer reaches, while neutral colors blend rooms into a seamless array of angles and hard wood furnishings. But perhaps what’s more inspiring, is the building’s impact. The structure, while inherently human, isn’t trying to dominate the landscape it resides in. The single-storey house will soon be engulfed as the surrounding woodland matures, and the materials used to give the house its shape, will darken and merge with the backdrop. It’s an idea based on nature — to evolve with nature, and to mimic the concept of nature.  Something in our opinion, there should be more of. By Matthew Hussey

Architecture

April 17 2007



The skeptics that we are, we get a bit suspicious when talk of big plans starts sounding a bit too promising. Words like word-class, cutting-edge, sensational and head-turning just doesn’t do it for us. But we’d like to make an exception with the dreamers in Middlesborough (in North East of England) whose grandiose plans to revive the Middlehaven docs and the redundant waterfront are actually starting to become reality.

Practically gushing at their own daring, the town leaders unveiled an agreement between the Tees Valley Regeneration  and BioRegional Quintain, one of the UK’s biggest developers. The agreement will apparently bring £200m of investment to Middlesbrough plus 1,000 new jobs; 750 homes designed by top architects, shops, stylish bars, cafés and restaurants and a luxury hotel.



This will also - or so we hope - mean that the master plan of the daring architect Will Alsop will start to materialize in the form of some of the crazy “Meet-the Robinsons-esque” new buildings we’ve seen in the plans.

Alsop is the man who has designed, for example, the Palestra Building, the Peckham Library and the Ben Pimlott Building at goldsmith College — all in London — Hotel du Department des Bouches du Rhone in Marseille, and the Sharp Centre for Design in Toronto. He’s known for fun, playful building with strong colors, unusual shapes and angles.

And we are not the only ones noticing the Middlehaven plans. In March, a team led by Tees Valley Regeneration, developer BioRegional Quintain and its architects Studio Egret West emerged as winners in the “big urban projects” category at the MIPIM (Architectural Review) Future Projects Awards, against other short-listed projects Plot-Scape in Bursa, Turkey and the massive redevelopment of the King’s Cross Station area in London. By Tuija Seipell


Architecture

March 28 2007




Do not let the IKEA-yellow exterior fool you — the multifunctional Agora Theatre, is not displaying home furnishings, but bustling with performances and new media works. It is located in Lelystad, the capital of the province of Flevoland in the Netherlands. The city, established as recently as 1967 and known for its controversial and forward-thinking city planning, is boldly building its center, the Centrale Zone, according to a master plan by West 8. In turn, West 8 is known for planning a vast array of exciting 'cityscapes', including a luxury village near Moscow and the waterfront revitalization project in Toronto.
 
The Agora Theatre building is the work of UN Studio, a group with theater, museum and art establishment expertise. The building itself is worth a visit, even if no performances were taking place (previews are already taking place). The tranquil cafe, open during the day, offers beautiful views of the square outside. The startling pink curving walls of the staircases resemble magnificent silk ribbons. And the deliciously red concert hall with its unusual wall surfaces will give you something to look at, even in the rare case that the performance doesn’t interest you. This is one building that will change the vibe of the city, both day and night. By Tuija Seipell.

Architecture

March 27 2007



The holiday home or summer-house by definition, is a building constructed with a strictly defined personality. For the temporary inhabitant, it is to provide a sense of escape without abandonment, and leisure without effort. It’s very existence is to promote feelings and moods not experienced in our everyday lives. A temporary euphoria squeezed between four walls for a period of the users choosing. It is a social engineer’s architectural dream.   

This idea of temporary elation has existed for centuries. But the concept exploded with the onset of modernism and the twentieth century.  A newly emerging middle class sought escapism from the polluted cities while still enjoying the comforts of their newly industrialized homes. A Modernist belief that experience was shaped through design spearheaded the mass-production of seasonal dwelling. Le Corbusier described buildings as “machines for living” and architecture was bent to supply the petit bourgeoisie’s need for leisure and relaxation. Buildings were simplified, historical references and ornament were removed in favor of promoting the beauty of modern materials and construction. Concrete and its featureless character became the material of choice in the construction of buildings throughout Europe and North America. Their homogenous appearance celebrated by Brutalist architects but condemned by post-modernists for their flagrant disregard towards the social, historic, and architectural environment of its surroundings. 



Today, this form of design is considered to be archaic in its principles. Concrete is seen to be aesthetically vacuous, and is used structurally rather than visually. Instead, glass facades and organic materials are a building’s ornaments. But a team of architects in Austria have resurrected the ideological trappings of modernist thinkers to create a unique and eerily beautiful interpretation of the holiday villa. Set on lake Millstatter See in Austria, this four-story villa is an ode to the idealism of the holiday homes of old, but simultaneously sits in the avant-garde.

Much of the design was adapted from the hotel that stood previously on the original plot, and can be seen in the bold and unrelenting expanses of concrete. But rather than mask the commanding stretches of grey matter, the team have embraced and adorned the blank walls to become a key part of the building’s persona. The vast expanses complemented by materials that not only enhance the concrete’s authority, but also mimic it in character.  Pale, smooth furniture occupy the inside, while white decking and exposed brick-work dominate the outside. The effect of which, can feel arresting at first, but develops a strange allure when looked at up close.



The building is a prime example of the brutal, unrelenting style of design from the 1950s, but the overhaul of ideas has transformed it into a testament to the contemporary. The fluid transition between interior and exterior, coupled with the large openings throughout the build, allow nature to flow through the cold interior, giving it a warm and organic feel. While the geometric shapes of the building draw imposing silhouettes on the lake and the surrounding countryside. 

The minimal material concept; structural concrete in combination with white painted wood and metal surfaces, lends the building a monolithic character. But the upper floors of the building have an intimate, personal feel that doesn’t compromise the need for personal space.



It’s a building that screams arrogance and in places can feel a little soulless.  But the sheer audacity of its form juxtaposed with its purpose as a leisure facility, offers an intriguing concept that hasn’t been seen since Modernism dared to challenge the purpose of design and the human condition. By Matthew Hussey
 

Architecture

March 17 2007



The “Chalet” is by far the most famous product of Swiss architecture.  The wooden dwellings with sloping roof and overhanging eaves, are as much a part of the Swiss landscape as the Alps themselves. The single storey bunkers traditionally served as seasonal farms for dairy cattle in the summer months, and haven’t changed much since these humble beginnings.  

But high up on a mountain pass in the Bernese Oberland, a new type of seasonal home has emerged as a stark contrast to the timber heavy squats the country is so famed for.  With its back turned to the harsh northerly winds, this contemporary take on the log cabin straddles the vistas to the south via a huge five meter glass pane that invites the landscape to fill its vast, open plan spaces. 



Swiss planning regulators favor lots of small, pokey windows, this house is anything but.  Rather than shielding its inhabitants from the outdoors, the house embraces the mountainous terrain, with large glass doors opening out onto the wooden terrace that appears to float alongside the house.

With its elegant, concrete slab base, it juts out into the landscape like a beached vessel.  The domineering fireplace runs through the core of the building, dragging its brutal lines from the basement to the roof three floors above.



Up the handsome open-tread staircase the bedrooms and bathrooms blend into a continuous passage that invites you to keep moving.  The large, panoramic windows throughout keep the house light and airy, while the double insulated walls and thick wood decking keep the cool temperatures out. The sparse furnishings and sleek lines are a bold statement that matches the buildings unrelenting exterior. Rather than cluttering the house with gaudy ornaments and stuffy fixtures, it plays on the sparse landscape it so elegantly sits in.

Traditional chalets have a tendency to shy away from the landscape, sealing off its inhabitants to the beauty of the environment it inhabits.  This building however, embraces the countryside with an unyielding arrogance and swagger.  Perching precariously at the tip of a mountain, it stares boldly at its surroundings.  The interior eschews its contemporary credentials with clean, simple lines and muted colors.  But at the same time, it feels traditional, homely, and welcoming.  A small homage to the portly abodes that continue to dominate the Swiss landscape. By Matthew Hussey

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