Category Archives: architecture

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Skinny skyscrapers are coming to Toronto


There are a fair number of these in Manhattan, but if this is correct, it looks like one is coming to downtown Toronto, at Bay and Bloor: Herzog & de Meuron designs Canada’s tallest skyscraper.

I predict over the next 20-30 years we may have lots of these bean poles in many cities. Including Toronto.

Click on the link for more details.

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Something beautiful to look at: Copenhagen’s Grundtvig’s Church

You can see many more pictures of it here, at Colossal.

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What are Spite Houses?


I love this piece on a rather odd thing: The Spite House, an Architectural Phenomenon Built on Rage and Revenge.

Spite houses can be houses or buildings or any structure built not so much to be lived it as they are the express a very negative emotion. Once you know about them, you will be surprised you know more of them than you thought.

I don’t think I’ve ever been that spiteful that I would go through the trouble of spending all the time and money to get back at someone. But that’s not true of everyone, if you read that article.

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The diversity of I.M. Pei, shown in six buildings

Like many, I am well aware of Pei’s work at the Louvre. I was not aware he designed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. I liked this piece,  Six of I.M. Pei’s Most Important Buildings – The New York Times, because it showed the diversity of Pei’s work and touched a little on how he approached new projects.

A good way to remember a great architect.

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Getaway: a chance to escape with this new real estate company

If you want to run away from it all and live in a small (but nice) cabin somewhere in the woods, then you ought to read this: Modern life too much for you? Maybe a tiny box in the woods is the cure. – The Washington Post. I have often thought of it myself. I may have to check this out.

 

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The greatness of what College Park in Toronto could have been

Sigh.

I love College Park in Toronto. I wish it were more of a destination spot for visitors. Perhaps if it had been built out like this photo, it would have. Instead, it was built out to the area outlined in white.  Still a lovely building, but it could have been a phenomenon.

What could have been.

Via The half-built relics of nixed Toronto skyscrapers – Spacing Toronto

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The crumbling and outright destruction of “brutalist treasures”

If you are a fan of Brutalism, you will want to visit this: Attack the blocks: brutalist treasures under threat – in pictures | Cities | The Guardian

You might want to even visit them, because for some of them, their days are numbered.

I imagine that in the next 50 years, the number of Brutalist buildings currently existing will be significantly reduced. That would be a shame. Brutalism gets knocked hard, and I can see why. But worse than Brutalist building are boring buildings from all different architectural styles. I’d like to see those go first. The world could use good Brutalism in their cities. Here’s hoping it doesn’t undergo severe decline.

Tiny homes you can build

If you want to build a tiny home, Dwell has a nice list of resources for you here. I particularly like the one above. There is a wide range though, and if you are considering building such a home, see Dwell.

More on tiny homes


Two more tiny home stories. First up, Muji also has a tiny prefab home and you can see more pictures (like the one above) here: Muji Hut Launches With 3 New Tiny Prefab Homes Collection of 9 Photos by Aileen Kwun – Dwell.

Second, here is an odd but topical story for a tiny home heated by Bitcoin mining technology! 

 

A tiny home that seems livable


Many tiny homes look nice to visit but the thought of living in something so small seems impossible. An exception to those homes are these MADi houses, featured here: MADi Flat Pack Tiny House – Fast Set Up Eco Friendly | Apartment Therapy. 

They seem spacious, thanks to the A frame and all the windows. Better still, they seem very affordable.  Tiny home fans (or skeptics), take note.

You can find more about them here.

A peek inside the sublime new NYC residence designed by the great Zaha Hadid

Fortunate souls walking along New York’s High Line can catch a glimpse of the magnificent building pictured above. Now, thanks to Design Milk, you can get to see what it looks like inside by going here: 520 West 28th Condominium Residence by Zaha Hadid – Design Milk. 

Not surprisingly, it is as gorgeous on the inside as it is on the outside. I would love to live there. Take a peek inside and you’ll see why.

What do you get when you mix architects and cats?


Some pretty wild cat homes, as you can see here: Inspired Outdoor Cat Shelters by Architects for Animals – Design Milk.

It’s worth checking out the article: some of the things architects build for their cats is really incredible. (Also there is a good chance the cat will just ignore it and go and squeeze into a nearby box).

What makes McMansions bad? The opposite of what makes other houses appealing

This piece, Worst of McMansions — McMansions 101: What Makes a McMansion Bad…, not only clearly explains why McMansions are so ugly, but it shows why other houses are appealing. A good primer for anyone interested in buildings and architecture, especially for someone looking to build a new home. I

Is facadism/urban taxidermy bad?

In this piece, Are we killing Yonge Street? from NOW Toronto Magazine, there is a good discussion on what is happening to development on Yonge Street in Toronto. NOW reports that for a lot of development happening on Yonge Street, the facades of the existing building are kept and much of the development is happening behind it. The article argues that this is a bad thing, and they raise some good points.

What I think they don’t touch on are some of the alternatives. Toronto is fortunate in that there is development ongoing. For poor cities, the alternative is boarded up or demolished buildings and vacant neighborhoods.  Instead, we have neighborhoods and buildings being improved. That’s good.

Another alternative is the old buildings being torn down and replaced with new storefronts and new buidlings. I think some of that is good, but I also think preservation of old buildings is also good.

When it comes to preservation and improvements of old buildings, I also think that some of them should be preserved outright. However, Toronto is a growing city, and in some cases, we need larger buildings. In that case, facadism is a good compromise.

Now whether or not facadism is effective or not depends on at least two things. The first is how well the new architecture uses the existing architecture. Done well, the marriage of the old and new building results in something that enhances the area and preserves the city while allowing it to grow.  The second thing that determines if facadism is effective is how the new building affects the neighborhood. Here, I think, is the root of the problem. It’s not so much facadism as it is gentrification. Old buildings get preserved, but old stores do not. New developments can cause rents to rise, driving out the stores and organizations that made the neighborhood great. You get bank branches and big chain stores replacing old bookshops and cafes.

I hope the next phase of development tries to understand how to preserve not just the existing architecture, but the neighborhood as well. I realize that is a difficult task, but it is one worth trying to accomplish.

Library porn: Prague’s Klementinum library

My Modern Met has some fantastic images of the Klementinum library for anyone (like myself) that gets excited about such things. Here’s a sample:

If you haven’t heard of it, here’s what that site has to say about this fantastic place:

Prague’s Klementinum library was opened in 1722 and has easily become one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Aside from housing over 20,000 novels for your reading pleasure, this location showcases absolutely stunning Baroque architecture. As you’re perusing various timeworn bookshelves, you can take a moment to look up and see Jan Hiebl’s heavenly, Renaissance-style ceiling paintings. Amongst his work, there are symbolic designs that represent the importance of education, along with fantastic portraits of Jesuit saints. Hiebl’s paintings actually pay homage to the fact that the library was originally a Jesuit university. Many of the school’s rare, 17th-century books are still amongst its collection today. That would explain why Emperor Joseph II’s portrait is displayed at the head of the hall, since he was the one who arranged for abolished monastic libraries to send their books to Klementinum.

On the unnecessary preciousness of architecture

From this, New TD Centre signage reflects a time when brands trump architectural vision – The Globe and Mail, comes this:

Up against that, TD Centre still retains the purity of a temple. And you don’t put billboards on a temple, unless you want to anger the gods.

It’s worth reading that article to get a viewpoint of someone who thinks of architecture as something pure and museum-like.

To me, the owners of the TD buildings are doing reasonable things with a building that functions as a work environment. You can make the argument that the building should never vary from the original intent of the architect. You can also make a good if not better counter argument that the building should be able to adapt to changes over time, and that the building should allow for the people in it to make adaptions to suit them.

The author seems to be arguing that building should remain fixed and never change, never learn. If that seems like an odd idea — that building should learn — I recommend this book: How Buildings Learn, by Stewart Brand. You can get it here. Also, if you search for it on Google, you will see alot of material derived from it.

 

In praise of small spaces, well designed (with an amazing bed)

I am a big fan of small spaces, well designed, and the one featured here certainly is a great example of that. What I found especially smart is the bed: instead of folding into the wall, it rises into the ceiling. Very smart, and very beautiful. Well worth a look.

Thoughts on the architecture of the TTC

Is the TTC architecture bad? It’s something I have been thinking about after the critical comments from “A.R.” in which he pointed  out that: “Toronto has some interesting subway architecture, as well. you know. Maybe you should appreciate some of the creativity in the system” in response to my comment that “Toronto subway stations…look like washrooms without the necessary plumbing”.

I think alof of Toronto subway architecture is, if not bad, then boring. In this blog post I found, David Ahm from the TTC agreed, saying, “The Yonge-line stations are from the ’50s and ’60s and are functional but kind of boring.”

This blog post with Ahm’s comments were interesting, because you see the challenge of designing a subway station, budget being one serious consideration. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be interesting design work done on a subway, and in fact, lots of Toronto subway stations are well designed. And despite limited budgets, the TTC is looking to have better and better stations in the future, which is a good thing indeed.

Of my favourite stations, the ones I most like are Old Mill, Rosedale, Yorkdale and Dupont. I like the openness of Old Mill and Rosedale. They belong to the neighborhood, somehow. I feel like I am in a different city when I am waiting for a train (or a bus) at the Rosedale station. And I love the windows of Old Mill. Perhaps it is no coincidence that they are both above ground subway stations.

I also admire the design of Yorkdale and Dupont. Yorkdale makes the subway system itself seem dynamic, while Dupont is like an experiment in subway station design.

I like other stations too, like Queen’s Quay, Museum and St. Andrew and St Patrick. Of the latter two, I like the “tube” like design of the tunnels. It reminds me of a European subway station.

One thing I really like about the TTC is their choice of artwork. It is a collection of some of the best Canadian artists, from Charles Pachter to Joyce Wieland to Micah Lexier. And the scale of the work is striking, whether it is the 1.5 million one-inch tiles, used by Toronto artist Stacey Spiegel to create Immersion Land or 3000 handwritten samples that Lexier collected over 5 years to create “Ampersand”.  Anyone visiting Toronto should stop at various stations just to see it. (You can get a sample of it all by going to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto_subway_and_RT)

Detroit: the future sadly

This photo essay in TIME, The Remains of Detroit, is haunting.  This photo is of the Michigan Central Station, designed by the same architects that did the still vibrant Grand Central Terminal in NYC. It is anything but vibrant, being vacant for 20 years.

In the film Blade Runner, much of “future” Los Angeles is like this: deserted, decrepit, waterlogged. Perhaps Detroit is the future, sadly.

casa cachagua and other great design at materialicious

What ismaterialicious™? As it says, it is “a weblog featuring residential architecture, design, craftsmanship, materials and products. It is edited by Justin Anthony, a New Yorker who is currently residing in Phoenix, AZ., and was a residential restoration specialist for 25 years.” It is chock full of great architecture and design, like the Casa Cachagua featured above. Go see.

casa cachagua, f3 arquitectos at materialicious

How to build a very small house

There are a number of architects and builders specializing in very small dwellings for people.

Tumbleweed Houses are appropriately named and nicely done. It makes being a nomad seem grand! You should visit the site, just to see what can be packed into such a small space.

The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries

The blog Your Daily Awesome often has some great posting. A recent one is The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries

The libraries are stunning. You have to go see.

Ecospace – smart, ecological, affordable architecture

I would love one of these spaces myself. Here’s hoping more architects come up with such designs.

Stockholm Subways

Unlike Toronto subway stations, which look like washrooms without the necessary plumbing, the Stockholm subways have a presence to them, the way great architecture should. See Ueba – Stockholm Subway these photos to get an idea of what I mean.

Philip Johnson’s Glass House is officially opening to the public on June 21, ’07…

..my question is: why? What’s closed about it now? 🙂

For those of you who think about such things as I do, check out Memories of Life and Death in an Architectural Masterwork – New York Times

For such a slight building, it’s also very influential. I think the key to living there is good pajamas. And not scratching your butt. Or scratching your butt but not caring anyone might notice. 🙂