Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Located in the heart of historic Old Montreal and facing the vibrant piers of Old Port, Scandinave Les Bains Vieux-MontrĂ©al is an urban spa whose purpose is to provide a thermal therapy experience that engages each of the body’s senses. The building, rebuilt half a century ago after extensive fire damage, has housed warehouse functions until recently when it was acquired by the new owners: the new spa is positioned at the ground/entrance level. The formal part of the project is derived from the contact between hot and cold - and more specifically, the naturally occurring phenomena associated with these conditions - the design distills the idea of cool glacial forms and the warmness of volcanic rocks. White angular masses of glacial topography coupled with volcanic geology bespeak the duality that is central to the thermal therapeutic experience proposed by the spa. This duality is articulated through both the spaces’ forms and the selection of various materials. Upon exiting the dressing room, the visitor is immersed in a unique environment where walls, floors and ceiling are slightly angled according to a notion of interior topography through which visitors may wander. These angles, though subtle, give bathers a perceptual difference from their everyday environs; the awareness of the corporeal relationship with their surroundings is heightened, thus grounding each visitor for that moment in time. Just as in a natural landscape, slight undulations in the ground plane create gentle slopes; depressions in the floor level generate basins of water for bathing. At particular moments, volumes emerge from the ground to sculpt interior zones for the sauna and steam bath. Uniting the main space is an undulating wood ceiling that echoes the movements of the floor: walls of white marble mosaic appear to melt at the point of contact with the warm-colored wood on the ceiling, resulting in accentuated architectural reveals. Heated, cantilevered benches made of black slate offer visitors a warm place to pause in between a hot and cold bathing cycle. Opalescent glass has been added to admit natural light through the building’s existing openings while providing a sense of privacy for the visitors. The light that permeates the bath area glows, adding to the purity of the space and the feeling of tranquility for the bathers while keeping contact with city life. Along de la Commune Street, a thin cascading layer of water flows on glass surfaces, filtering views so that from the exterior, passersby can see only shadowed silhouettes of the figures within the hot bath. Rounding out the holistic journey is a relaxation room where bathers can relax in rocking chairs or bean-bag lounge chairs.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Zumthor's New House in Leis

The small idyllic Swiss village of Leis is expanding in the form of two new twin houses designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor of thermal bath fame. They are nearing completion on a steep upward slope behind the village as we go to press. I call them the twin towers so strong is their domination over the low flat houses snuggled together at their feet. The lower of the two is called the Annalisa House in honor of Zumthor’s wife for whom the house was built. The other is a rental.

The wooden houses are built in the traditional regional style. The walls are composed of 6” x 4” pine boards that are assembled, frame free, by tongue and groove. The height of the houses make these walls appear to be almost paper thin. Zumthor likes his structures to exude lightness or even downright fragility.

The walls certainly don’t feel avalanche proof. Large plate glass windows in wooden sockets jut out from the walls to create extra living space beyond the walls. Some give access to a balcony while others are sealed. Topping off the slim houses is an innovative roof structure that creates space in places formally encumbered by structural elements in traditional buildings of the region.

All of the roofs of the region are obligated by law to use rough -hewn granite slabs for roof tiling. These roofs, require massive structures including one, or two central beams at the peak of the roof. Zumthor eliminates the central beam by pulling the frames together at their bases with steel rods in order to form the peak thus creating an empty space between the house and the roof. This, system enables lighter walls while the roof becomes a row of chevrons hovering over the house thus lending a high performance feeling to the structures.

There is great visual fluidity between interior and exterior. The front and back of the houses are aligned with the slope as are the main stairs. From outside of the bottom front window we can look up a flight of stairs and through a back window to the peak behind the village. The sides of the house with the large plate glass windows are aligned with the valley. The houses are see-through and form crossroads of high- energy streams. And yet they felt insurmountable from outside. I felt the impulse to scale them in order to know them.

Will the inhabitant feel more like a bivouacking guest?

Leis is a favored halt for walkers as well as skiers. The gondola for the ski station runs just in front of the village. And yet Mr. Zumthor declined to talk about the houses on the grounds that they were private and that he didn’t want hordes of people visiting them.

I can understand why. At the foot of these houses we see nothing of the interior but step away and you will be able to see what’s cooking, what’s on TV, and the art on the walls. I felt mildly self -conscious about studying them. For privacy the Zumthors will depend on us to lower our eyes, mind our own business and be on our way. From a small village that used to feel like Eden to us we will now slink out almost ashamed.

Via: TheArtBlog
Photos in this post by Max Mulhern

Did You Know 3.0

The Artists That Somehow Make Us Look Good...

Image by: Laptop

In the last couple of months I have been entrenched in several competitions at work. Therefore, I have become evermore interested in the power that graphics and visualizations play in developing and expressing an architectural idea.

Image by: Luxigon

When I was perusing the Laptop website, I came across this quote by P.H. Caddell that said,"Too many good people have been defeated because they tried to substitute substance for style,
they forgot to give the public the kind of visible signals that it needs to understand what is happening."

Image by: Luxigon

It would have been extremely helpful if I had seen this quote when i was in grad school... maybe I would not of scraped so many interesting ideas.

Image by: Luxigon

Anyway, here are a list of my favorite visualization studios in no particular order.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

100 Amazing Flickr Collections for Architecture Buffs

Flickr is a great resource for finding photos and learning about what’s in our world. Users from around the world share their images-and lots of them are great for architectural research and inspiration. Now you don’t need to travel across the world to experience some of the world’s greatest architectural treasures because here you’ll find 100 excellent collections of buildings, details, and more

Click Here to Access the List

Via: Graduate Degree Blog - Thanks for the info Kelly.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wearing a "Sixth Sense": Interactive Visualizations You Can Wear

This demo, from the Fluid Interfaces Lab of Pattie Maes at MIT, and spearheaded by PhD student Pranav Mistry, was the buzz of TED. SixthSense [pranavmistry.com] is a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with our environment. The innovative device allows to literally overlay everyday objects with real-time visualizations, in order to inform users about normally invisible information relevant to the objects in view. Imagine ingredient pie charts beamed on top of apple pies. Imagine Facebook comments projected on people's foreheads.

Could This be the 3d Studio MAX of 2050?

World Builder from Bruce Branit on Vimeo.

The movie above entitled 'World Builder by filmmaker Bruce Branit. World Builder was shot in a single day followed by about 2 years of post production. We really like it, its not often you get a story weaved around the creation of 3D worlds.

Take a look at Branit VFX for more info.

Via: Digital Urban

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

Shelf Life by Allison Arieff of the New Tork Times

I felt so fortunate to attend a special presentation the other night: William Stout, owner of the eponymous architecture and design bookstore in San Francisco, had been invited to talk about his favorite books at Linden Tree, a casual salon of sorts that aims to foster the design community in the city.

Stores like Stout’s (not to mention people like Stout!) are a rare breed these days: there are two floors bursting with over 20,000 books on everything from the sustainable houses of Australian architect Glenn Murcutt to Czech graphic designer Vitezslav Nezval’s “Alphabet” from 1926 to the last sketchbook of Jackson Pollock to William Wegman’s whimsical “Dogs on Rocks.” Some books are shelved in an orderly fashion, others are piled high, begging for the serendipity of accidental discovery.

Stout began with his favorite quote from Balzac: “I seldom go out but when I feel myself flagging I go and cheer myself up in Pere Lachaise … while seeking out the dead I see nothing but the living.”

It was evident that, surrounded by these volumes — some slim, some massive, some lush with color photography, some filled with impenetrable academic jargon — Stout felt inspired, in love, in awe, much as Balzac did wandering past the tombstones in that Parisian graveyard.

Stout often chose his favorites based not just on subject matter or author but because of his relationship to its author or subject, or the way the book was acquired, or the paper used in printing it. He showed a new book on architect Eero Saarinen, featuring behind-the-scenes images of the work that went into creations like the T.W.A. terminal at Kennedy International Airport. Below is the most recent title that William Stout Publishers, which publishes architectural monographs and other titles, has produced.

He lovingly presented one of his many rare first edition titles on the French master Le Corbusier.

He spoke about one of his current projects, a book on a man with whom he shares both a name and obsession: William Bushnell Stout, the little-known visionary inventor of fantastic flying machines (and trains, and automobiles, and homes, few of which ever found their way into production but all of which are fascinating). I discovered the ingenious collapsible house designed by W.B. Stout while researching the history of prefabricated housing; I was thrilled to learn that our William Stout had an archive of the other Stout’s work.

Stout is a collector in the best sense of the word. Though he joked that he began acquiring books when he realized he’d never have a 401k, it is probably more accurate to say that Stout is in complete thrall of the smell of ink, the feel of paper, the intellectual and physical heft of the literary object, the near-indiscernible sound of the turning of pages.

An international, multi-generational architecture and design community has for decades put its trust and faith in Stout. He spoke of the widows of great architects making surreptitious visits to his store, and then later announcing themselves and donating valuable archives. Discoverers of caches of lost photographs or portfolios of drawings deliver them to Stout, eager for him and his team (because Stout also produces and publishes books) to transform them into a lasting document.

There was a sort of metaphorical turning of pages here because all that Stout champions and adores seems very much on the wane. As someone who has written and collaborated on the making of several books, I am all too aware that the aspects Stout discussed as if talking about a favorite child — obscure topics, exquisite papers, artisanal printing and binding, architectural drawings rendered painstakingly by hand (not computer), hand-to-hand book-selling — are disappearing from bookmaking. The experience of immersion and discovery that his store allows (one reviewer has written, “if you come here with an architect, abandon all other plans for the day”) is all but vanishing.

I love the tangents an afternoon spent searching the Internet can generate: a search for this leads to a blog on that which might lead to a book I’d not heard of or a film I want to see. But I realize as well that it’s contributing to a sort of collective ADD that makes ambling through aisles of a place like Stout Books feel that much more special, requiring an altogether different commitment of time, care and attention.

Like a photo album, diary or record collection, these books constitute a sort of life history. Single volumes or groups of volumes allow me to recall various periods of my life, from the illustrated copy of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” given to me by my parents when I was in kindergarten, to the likely never-to-be-opened again critical theory texts I’ve saved from grad school by Foucault, Bordieu, Kristeva, et al, to the shelf of vintage trailer volumes acquired while my husband and I were researching our book on Airstreams, to treasured monographs on Bloomsbury, Frank Lloyd Wright and Japanese prints inherited from my art-appraiser mom, many with postcards from her travels tucked inside their jackets. Even “Fluid Electrolyte and Acid Base Disorders,” a medical text written by my father, and dedicated to me and my sister.

There’s a motley yet treasured assortment of old and new, passed down, purchased or borrowed, all reflecting changing tastes, obsessions, influences and stages of life (such as the ever-growing stacks of childrens’ books that now compete for shelf space).

Scanning the bookshelves of others is a favorite pastime, and sitting here canvassing my own makes me fully understand why Stout recently left his San Francisco house to move into a warehouse: he wanted to be surrounded by not just some but all of his books, to feel among the living. As one who has lugged an ever-increasing number of boxes of books from apartment to apartment, city to city, unable to part with nary a one, I feel the same way.

Stout’s presentation was so inspiring yet so bittersweet because his vocation seems entirely of an era that is passing us by. For centuries we’ve looked to libraries as historic evidence of cultured civilizations: will electronic texts fill that bill for future generations? While I’ll admit that I’m intrigued by the Kindle, it will never replace the rows and stacks of books that crowd my house. And when I first settle into my comfy chair ready to read with that new device, I’ll probably feel as if I had a phantom limb — I’ll mourn the absence of my fingers slowly turning the pages.

Allison Arieff - New York Times

Photos by Leslie Williamson

Shanghai World Financial Center Beer Opener...Who Knew.

What should I say about this one... Some of you may know that I work for KPF so I can't really be totally objective on the design this souvenir, but I think it is absolutly hilarious.

In these economic times you may find it comforting to drink away your problems with a 600+ million dollar beer opener.

Via: AMNP & The Fuctionality

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sliding House, by DRMM

In order to capture the magnificent nature of the “Sliding House”, Wallpaper* took a trip down to rural East Anglia to get the inside scoop on the design and video this truly ingenious house in action.

Designed by London-based architects dRMM, the dynamic house is equipped with four electric motors which provide it with the spectacular ability to alter its shape, lighting, and mood in the matter of six minutes

via: Detnk