In 2012 Parisian Mikou Studio submitted the winning proposal for the competition to design a swimming pool complex for the city of Issy-les-Moulineaux, France.
The city is located in the Boulougne-Billaincourt arrondissement on the left bank of the river Seine about seven kilometres south-west from Notre Dame in Paris. It is considered one of the entrances to the city of Paris itself.
The swimming-pool building, recently completed and called Piscine du Fort, is part of a larger Digital Fort complex. It, in turn, is a European Union Smart City Initiatives pilot area, described in a EU-published book as “a new eco-district that combines sustainable development and new technologies - home automation, fibre optics, air-powered waste collection, straw bale school, geothermal energy, feng shui swimming pool and a digital cultural centre.”
The 14.5 million Euro Piscine du Fort structure includes the swimming pools, a fitness centre, a solarium, squash courts, a sauna, a hammam and a cafeteria.
With Piscine du Fort, the Miko Studio designers, well versed in designing swimming pools and other public spaces, strived for a balance of energy.
They engaged feng shui specialist Laurence Dujardin to guide them in the understanding of the Chinese philosophical system of feng shui that translates literally in English as “Wind-Water.”
Another distinctive feature of the Piscine is the smart use of daylight. It streams throughout the building through skylights and windows that are not square or rectangular, but softly rounded “cut-outs.”
This gives the entire space a somewhat swiss-cheesy appearance but the rounded corners also come across as a cool, retro 1960s ambiance and they also help soften the hardness created by all the tiles, concrete and glass.
The third notable characteristic of the building is the use of wood slats. The rooftop outdoor “beach” is covered with wood slats and accessible through a ramp from the pool area.
Inside, the use of wood slats softens the pool area and other spaces as well. Most prominently, though, wood slats cover the building’s exterior walls in a wave-like undulating pattern creating a soft visual impact. - Tuija Seipell.
If you are like us and just cannot tolerate another rustic retreat or another architect-trying-too-hard-to-be-cool stack of oblong concrete-and-glass boxes, there’s always the chance that you’ll run across a classic.
A brand-new residence that has all the characteristic of a timeless beauty. A low-profile building that really fits its surroundings. A stylish home where the outdoors is the key feature.
The Alterstudio team that included Kevin Alter, Ernesto Cragnolino, Tim Whitehill, Matt Slusarek, Jessica Connolly and Joanna Hartman garnered quite a few awards and accolades with this project when it was completed, and its confident design will stand the test of time for decades to come.
Located in a grove of mature oak trees and overlooking the 200 acre Bright Leaf Preserve and the Colorado River, the house takes full advantage of the exquisite natural setting.
The 5,900-square-foot (550 square meter) house for a family of four has three relatively small bedrooms plus a separate guest suite, as it puts all of its energy into making the most of the public/family areas with living, kitchen and dining rooms lined up along the glass wall that overlooks the huge patio, the gorgeous pool and the view beyond.
We also love the garden in its all-green colour palette and low-profile planted areas. Of course, this residence also has many of the other features that we are drawn to: Smart use of wood and other natural materials, unpretentious and minimalist forms and colours, plus a nice mid-century modernist overall air.
This is one of those dwellings where you feel you can really breathe freely. There’s room for the eye to roam, yet the scale is human. Perfect. - Tuija Seipell.
We hesitate to use words such as charming or sweet here as they might imply excessive cuteness, but the recently completed tiny chapel on Cyprus does have a welcoming, approachable appearance that made us contemplate tiny, cozy spaces.
However, we were also immediately aware that this is sanctuary, not some dwelling for friendly trolls.
We were also drawn to reflect on visits to small Greek mountain villages where tiny white churches cling to seemingly inaccessible cliffs.
And glancing inside and seeing the gorgeous hanging lighting fixtures, we remembered our visits to stalactite caves on several Greek Islands.
Cyprus-based, 35-year architect Michail Georgiou, with collaborator Theresa Kwok, has created this 56 square-meter (602 sq.ft.) gem of a Greek Orthodox chapel using an experimental building technique.
The light-weight structure consists of a steel frame and a thin ferrocement shell.
The 5.5-meter (18-foot) high doorway adds a sense of welcome and transparency, as one can see through the structure that from this angle appears as if it were just a dome of a temporary structure.
We are always excited by thoughtful design that manages to combine the traditional and the contemporary techniques and languages. This is right up Georgiou’s ally as he holds a MSc in Adaptive Architecture and Computation from the Bartlett and a MArch from the NTUA.
In addition to being a practicing architect with both residential and public projects, he also lectures on Computational Design and Fabrication at the Department of Architecture in the University of Nicosia (Cyprus). We expect to see more innovative work from him. - Tuija Seipell.
Photography by Charis Solomou
We have encountered dramatic, elegant and inviting yoga studios, spas and salons, but this is the first time that we’d like to include a boxing center on that same list.
In Taipei, Taiwan, local designer and principal of MW Design, Michelle Wei, has conjured up a dramatic environment for Boxing+ Wellness Center.
Located on the basement level of an industrial building, the entire space of 562 square-meters (6,050 sq.ft or 170 Taiwanese Ping) has an aura of dark strength without being boring or off-putting in a predictable over-masculine way.
Instead of the stereotypical solutions of lots of black fake leather, neon lights, tile, metal and functional but unimaginative showers, lockers and common areas, Wei has used environmentally friendly plywood, metal mesh, black iron, and recycled timber to create a sense of low-key elegance.
The interior design supports the goal of Boxing+ to be a comfortable space that suits both male and female guests of all ages who wish to learn and enjoy boxing.
The shoe lockers located under the entrance staircase are made of recycled timber, and wood paneling is used in the reception desk and several other feature areas as warm accents.
The shower rooms’ gray floral tiles and light gray marble countertops add a feeling of luxury and pampering for the guests after their vigorous exercise.
With the help of Chubic Lighting, Wei has also incorporated dramatic lighting in many areas. The main lockers have grey doors and each has its own spotlight for both exclusivity and a bit of stage-show drama.
During match nights, multi-color lights focus on the ring producing a professional-like experience for the audience and the boxers. Tuija Seipell
Photography by Figure x Lee Kuo-Min Studio
Imagine any city as if it were the human body and think of all the crucial aspects of it which keep us living. Within a city you could consider the people to be the blood; the thing which circulates constantly and gives life. Transport systems are the vessels which allow that blood to move and public infrastructure is the brains of the operation which facilitates the growth and movement of blood cells.
Equally important though is that essential organ called the heart. From a geographical sense, the centre of the city is considered the heart however more importantly it's the spaces within a city which have character, inspire and shape society that are indeed the most heartfelt.
Rainbow Chapel, located inside the G+ Park in Shanghai is a new addition to a large organ of cultural landscape which has redefined this large bustling Chinese city. It's a collaborative effort between award-winning design agency COORDINATION ASIA and logon urban.architecture.design; who have so successfully used the credo of 'developing art spaces which nourish a city' to form their concept.
The team from COORDINATION ASIA have featured previously on The Cool Hunter with their designs for the Shanghai Office and Kids Museum of Glass. They continue to tackle interesting social projects in a market which is ever growing and developing; Rainbow Chapel certainly is no exception to this as founder Tilman Thürmer explains its conception:
"Over the years of operating the museum park we experienced an increasing demand to have a new type of venue that caters to the Chinese public, now avid for living a creative life, gathering new and exciting experiences and mixing art and lifestyle. There was a lack on the Chinese wedding market that mainly offers city centre locations and classic settings and we went on to fill that gap."
Designed around the Shanghai Museum of Glass the G+ Park recently celebrated its 4 year anniversary by unveiling a lifestyle addition to its premises that includes the Rainbow Chapel which is attached to the museum park. It's a first for China and provides an alternative to classic wedding venues which appeals greatly to young and creative couples looking for something different.
It's only fitting that the structural form of the Rainbow Chapel is a circle, as essentially a circle is an infinite line. This was indeed the intention of having a circular form within a square as it alluded to the nature of the connections made inside the place. It was also intended to represent fundamental Chinese symbolism with the circle representing fullness and unity, whilst the square stands as a symbol of honesty and virtue; when combined they lend a sense of perfection and provide good-luck.
The building in total covers 390 square meters and is a vivid and fascinating exploration of the endless possibilities of glass.
The façade of the building appears to be kaleidoscopic as it comprises of 3060 elements, using 65 different colours and mixture of both transparent and semi-transparent glass. As the sun moves around the structure and the lighting changes so does the effects of the glass on the interior; creating a clever moving instillation. This effect brings the chapel to life.
Sitting just next to the chapel is a banquet hall which covers 1200 square meters, built upon a former industrial glass workshop. This workshop has been converted into an elegant and sophisticated space which marries in well with the Rainbow Chapel. Whilst extremely elegant it's also highly versatile and is capable of facilitating a wide range of events from weddings and anniversaries to concerts.
The Rainbow Chapel is modern, it's sleek and highly artistic; most impressively though it maintains these aesthetics whilst still having character, heart and a deep connection to those using it. It's a perfect cultural response to a gap in society and a heartfelt addition to Shanghai City - David Mousa.
Andee Hess, founder of Portland, and his Oregon-Based Osmose have done their magic in Miami where they have helped revive what was a tired Coral Gables neighborhood bank by turning it into Small Tea, a tea boutique concept by Daniel Charles Joseph Benoudiz.
Small Tea extolls the benefits of real human connection via the consumption of tea under a canopy of 1,250 boxes wrapped in abaca or manila hemp, a type of banana-tree fiber used for baskets in some tea-growing areas.
We, of course, notice the elegant use of wood and wood slats, and oval and rounded accents, all of which helps evoke a tranquil sense of order and serenity.
Last fall, Hess and Osmose helped Portland’s Stumptown Coffee establish its swanky presence in New York’s Greenwich Village with reclaimed church pews and other previously loved pieces creating a great been-here-forever atmosphere. - Tuija Seipell.
Humming puppy? That’s quite a kooky name for a luxe Melbourne yoga studio – the humming is a nod to the Arup audio engineer designed sound system that delivers an exquisite hum soundtrack around the yoga studio; the puppy is a nod to the ubiquitous downward dog yoga pose.
Clients leave a nondescript inner-city Prahran side street, climb a set of industrial stairs into the studio (known here as a shala) and enter a cocooned space where every detail of the design – custom lighting, soundtrack and interiors is geared towards preparing yogis physically and mentally for their practice.
Co-founders Jackie Alexander and Chris Koch wanted to create a different yoga studio experience – part day spa pampering, part ‘get on that mat’ yoga practice and worked with architects (and yoga practitioners) Louisa Macleod and Karen Abernethy and ARUP to create a new kind of studio.
The studio space features Silvertop Ash shiplap interior cladding that gives it a minimalist barn feel. Walls have extra layers of soundproofing to genuinely cocoon clients from the outside world. The 380 square metres yoga studio (known as a shala) features three tiers of mats, accommodating up to 39 students per class, soaring 10-metre high ceilings and engineered oak floorboards. Clients can book specific sanitized mats online before classes.
“Conceptually the preparation area (front of house) is intended as a 'refuge' - pure, simple and white with touches of timber,” says Louisa. “Whereas the yoga practice space is intended as a 'sublime' space, a universe of its own complete with pure black walls and linings.” The entire studio is sound proofed (well there is a pole dancing studio next door) and a Sonos system pipes in a specially commissioned soundtrack of soundwaves at 40hz - a frequency associated with ‘gamma’ brain wave activity and states of peak performance; it is meant to help people tune into the practice and not get distracted. Another layer of sound comes in the form of a 7.83hz, otherwise known as the Schumann Resonance that helps to 'ground' yogis during practice. Together they create an unmistakable hum that resonates throughout the classes. The shala is heated to exactly 27 degrees by a series of radiant heat panels too so it is all rather idyllic for yoga practitioners.
Clients can just turn up in their yoga gear – all props such as mat, belts, blocks, shower/workout towels and meditation cushions are supplied. Bathrooms offer five-star standards – fresh towels, toiletries, hair straighteners, driers even lockers with phone charging capability.
Amenities aside, real innovation here is the ingenious soundtrack. Co-founder Koch (an IT entrepreneur who created successful startup 1Form) had a “lightbulb moment” to add the gamma soundtrack to classes to stop people getting too distracted during their poses and tune into their practice. Humming Puppy also does the “afterclass”; offering chilled coconut water and warm green tea. Humming Puppy seems to have found a happy balance between luxury and simplicity. Says Louisa: “Luxury can be attributed to the generosity of space. This balance is maintained by a simple and raw material selection combined with fine detailing in the construction and the touches of more fine materials (brass etc.) in some of the fittings.”
For co-owner Jackie, the afterclass experience is key. “We wanted a place where people could hang out,” says Jackie. “We felt what was lacking in a lot of yoga studios.” There is a clear advantage in the architects genuinely understanding the end-users’ needs. Says Louisa: “The fact that we both practice yoga and have done so in many places all over the world definitely informed the design process as we know how a good yoga studio should function. We are aware of the rituals and how the spaces should flow.” - Emily Ross.
Over the past two years, architect Robert Mills (Robert Mills Architects and Interior Designers) and his yoga-enthusiast spouse, Lucinda Mills, have created a sophisticated yoga and Pilates emporium in Melbourne’s South Yarra neighbourhood.
The business, One Hot Yoga, is divided into four studios that occupy space at three addresses. Studio 1 (One Hot Yoga) is at 36 River Street, Studio 2 (One Hot Yoga and Mat Pilates) is at 46 River Street, and right next door at 48 River Street is the newest addition, Studios 3 and 4 (One Hot Pilates).
In total, the studios take up nearly 800 square meters (about 8600 square feet) of space. We love the reception area with its minimalist customized furnishings, glass-covered display case and views of the inner courtyard with its lush greenery.
Simplicity, natural materials, finely controlled lighting and tone-on-tone colour schemes create a gracious and calm environment for all of the spaces. Elegant touches, such as heavy linen curtains and beautiful change rooms enhance the ambiance of understated luxury. Tuija Seipell
A science and engineering museum’s café project inspired interior designer and photographer Anna Wigandt to create a cool space for enjoyment and study, but she also invented a few products of her own.
The Science Cafe & Library is located in Wigandt’s home town, Chişinău (formerly known as Kishinev), the capital city of Moldova on the river Bîc.
The main features of the self-serve café and library are the jigsaw-puzzle table and the book displays.
The table’s inspiration, according to Wigandt, was German astronomer Johannes Kepler’s 1596 book, Mysterium Cosmographicum (Cosmic Mystery) that dealt with the proportions of celestial bodies.
The modular table’s various configurations allow set-ups from small: each café visitor can form their own work table, to large: lecture groups to gather around one big table.
The surrounding book displays are divided into eight topic areas ranging from Shipbuilding and Astronautics to Nuclear Science and Biological Engineering, each identified with the striking lettering.
The greatest achievement in this project, however, is the lighting. The designer ended up inventing a few engineering marvels of her own in the process. The chandelier was created specifically for the space out of 408 actual test-tubes. The same tubes were used for the pendants hanging from the meatal rigging above the table.
The celestial darkness of ceiling give the entire space an aura of being outdoors, under midnight sky. We also like the hexagons, chevrons and honeycomb patterns on the walls and floor. - Tuija Seipell.