9/15/14

Sevilla La Seta Metropol Parasol, Spain


Jürgen Mayer-Hermann designed the wooden pavilion over La Encarnación square in Seville, Spain. It was completed in 2011. The soaring 26m vaults are inspired by the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, the Catedral de Santa María de la Sede in Seville. Old Roman ruins are displayed in the underground level. Vast stairways lead to public venues on the main plaza and terraces give rise to winding walkways atop the structure. Much like a raised forest walkway, one feels above the city.

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9/5/14

Nittele Tower, Tokyo Japan


Richard Rogers designed the Nittele Tower for Nippon Television in Minato, Tokyo, completed in 2003. It is 192m tall. Circulation is pushed out to either end of the thin site and glazing on either side of the flexible worspace. The steel, concrete, and glazing use passive solar techniques for climate control. It rises boldly and expresses its structure, like the CCTV building in China, but at ground level is quarky and uses elements that are warm and inviting.

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9/4/14

Haukiputas Parish Centre, Haukipudas Finland



Ilmari Lahdelma of 8-Studio designed the Haukiputaan seurakuntakeskus next to the historic Haukiputas Church in Finland. Completed in 1990, the center offers additional space for worship and teaching services.

The visitor enters from a facade of glass blocks. The butterfly roof breaks up the form into two sections and pushes movement toward the large end of the building. A grid of small square windows punch through this large end to portray a permanence and yet ongoing repetition of the grid pattern, culminating at the main cross. Light fixtures are hung low on a grid pattern to emphasize this design.

The original church building was built in 1762 by Viktor J. Sucksdorff. Grand murals by Mikael Toppelius wrap around the inside walls and ceiling. The minimalism of the interior in this Parish Center and the grid of form and light gives the structure religious meaning.











First two images used under CC Public domain license, offered by Estormiz.

9/3/14

Rotterdam Central Station, Netherlands


Benthem Crouwel, MVSA, and West 8 designed the Rotterdam Centraal railway station. A grand entrance greets travelers from the main city. This striking angular lobby breaks up the city grid and gestures them into the gridded platforms. It transitions the traveler from the urban experience to the speed and time of the railway car. Triangular lighting gives way to an undulating roof of patterned skylights.

The image is monumental and provides an international greeting from those arriving from abroad. But there is also a rhythm in the materials and structure that speaks of travel and the surrounding environment. It is also very large, accomodating up to 110,000 passengers each day. It was completed in March 2014.

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9/2/14

TOHO Cinemas Roppongi Hills, Minato Toyko Japan


Yu Design includes the Toho Cinema in Roppongi Hills among their list of works. The Roppongi Hills development was completed in 2003 at a cost of $4 billion dollars and includes the Mori Tower, Roppongi Museum, and a variety of other venues. Though it revitalized the district, the development has been criticized for noise pollution, confusing orientation, and financial debt.

The cinema has seen massive sales since it was completed in April 2003. Visitors approach from a wide flight of stone steps and through a more traditional looking structure of wood and stone. At the front plaza, the visitor is confronted by a looming facade of glass. Tickets are purchased inside the lobby, and then the visitor proceeds around a second, interior facade of glass to escalators. This procession is very reminiscent of an airport terminal. Indeed, the seating arrangement of the theaters, with assigned seats and differently priced zones, is much like an airliner.

The procession to concessions and theaters is futuristic, with glowing floors, triangular passageways, and metal paneling, straight out of a sci-fi flick. Lighting for the theater is likewise futuristic. All this experience just getting to the seat sets up the viewer for a much greater cinema experience. The transition to an imaginary world is appropriate especially considering most films are American, and not dubbed into Japanese but only subtitled.







8/29/14

Four Reasons "Tiny Homes" Are A Terrible Idea

Aren't They Just Mobile Homes?

A new craze hit the 1960's. It was a new kind of house. They looked modern and sleek, small and inexpensive. Best of all they were mobile, so you could move anywhere you want, and your environmental impact was minimal. They were called "mobile homes" and they were the future of residential living.

The history of architecture is full of irony. The trailer park today is stereotypically low-class conservatives. But lately there has been a resurgence of the mobile home, especially among the millennial generation, only now it is called a microhouse or small house. They are sold as 200 sqft homes that can be easily moved around and are cheap to buy. Basically, they are mobile homes dressed up to look more like traditional houses. (Shh, don't tell anybody!)


Housing Projects Are Still A Bad Idea

Modernists just don't learn. Years after Jane Jacobs warned us about the dangers of low-income housing, and decades after housing projects were bulldozed, they want to try it again. The media praises a "genius" project to build tax-subsidized communities for low-income and homeless people. Basically, a mobile home park. (Shh, don't tell anybody!)

The reason they don't work is because they isolate minority, welfare-dependent communities. You can't just throw a community like this on an island and expect them to sort it out.

True, the failure of low-income housing has been linked to the size of the development. A smaller, more local community should do better. But consider the cost. At $60,000 to build and $350/month to maintain, these units are not cheap. At least the housing projects of the 1960's were built economically.


Radically Different Houses Are A Bad Idea

Failing to learn from Amsterdam's mistake, England decided to build these same kind of communities for the homeless. Old shipping containers were recycled as small houses for low-income people, mainly immigrants. But surprise, surprise it turned into a miserable ghetto. Construction was shoddy, cost skyrocketed, and crime was out of control.

The problem is the very reason all these modern intellectuals, who don't actually have to live in these communities themselves, are so entranced by the idea. The houses look radically different from other communities. This furthers the isolation of these minorities. You can pretty up a mobile home or metal shipping container all you want but it is still a shipping container.

Furthering Our Narcissistic Culture

Western civilization is terribly narcissistic. In the West, great architecture is the building that stands out. Eastern societies consider great architecture the building that fits in. And coincidentally such societies like Japan have lower crime rates.

Problems arise when buildings stick out for the sake of sticking out, the Frank Gehry effect. One of the chief points of architecture design is to integrate into the typology of the existing environment. Tiny homes don't do this. You might fool yourself into thinking it is a low impact building because of its small size, but the truth is it has a great impact because its scale is so different.

The romantic inside the modern Hipster likes the minihouse because it makes him feel like less of a narcissist. He gets to be novel and different in his tiny home yet claim he is taking up little space and making a small environmental impact. Even better, he is living like the low-income and homeless do.


Solution: Mixed Housing

The solution today is what the solution has always been. New Urbanism puts low-income next to middle and high income, mixing residential with commercial and other building types. Greater detail in the built environment, not just some prettied up mobile houses, but actual experiencial consideration will lead to successful social integration.

See also:

A Model For The American City
Review: Global City Blues