Author Archives - Courtney
Have you ever looked at your pet and realized you are so in love with them that you’d do essentially anything to make sure they’re safe and happy? Well, that’s precisely the thought process some homeowner’s in the Netherlands had when they asked the designers of their new house to work with them on building a home that would let them watch their dogs play in the yard from any angle. They meant it, too; the finished home is completely circular, providing the owners with a 360 view so that they can keep an eye on and enjoy the site of their dogs while the animals play happily outside and get plenty of exercise.
The home, called the 360 Villa, was designed and brought to life by Dutch architects 123DV. For their purposes, the home gave designers a chance to explore how architecture can be a medium that is fully and genuinely inclusive of humans and animals and their lives, needs, and habits, rather than just being built around them. The dogs in question are a pair of stunning and well behaved Alaskan Malamutes; quite large and affectionate animals who are clearly much loved by their owners, a Dutch couple.
The finished custom home is, on its exterior, wrapped in a glazing that acts like constant glass window panes. This, in partnership with the shape, is what allows those inside to see out to the yard, all the way around the house and from any interior vantage point. This way, when the dogs want out again but the owners must tend to responsibilities inside, everyone can have what they want and the owners can still keep a safe eye on their furry friends while they’re working or cleaning indoors.
In total, the villa encompasses 85 square meters; this size was determined to provide ample space for the couple and their two large dogs, considering everyone in the interior planning as well as the exterior and shape choices. Even the dogs are afforded ample space to play and move freely and comfortable when they are inside, which is beneficial since they are of a high energy breed.
The exterior of the house is surrounded by a gently sloping lawn that gives the dogs all kind of space but also affords the house a higher vantage point in the yard. This provides an effectively uninterrupted view of the dogs from the inside of the house while they play. The surrounding glazing is protected from sight-blurring rain splatter and sun glare by the way the roof extends over the edge at the wall, acting as a shading canopy without blocking out the stunning abundant natural light the windows let into the home’s interior space.
Of course, any house that’s made with an entirely glass exterior and wraparound windows needs to find other creative ways to preserve privacy. This is another way that the incline of the yard serves a tangible purpose. The top of the slope actually meets the window higher up on the side that faces the street rather than the private yard. This affords the home a great view without exposing its entire wall length out to the sidewalk and passersby.
Inside, the home is largely open concept in order to make it feel extremely spacious and full of good flow despite its slightly more modest (by some standards) square footage. The central social space in particular is open-plan, letting the kitchen, dining room, living room, and the sliding doors that lead to an open deck feel like a wonderfully melded hub space. This area actually takes up about two-thirds of the home.
The private areas of the home are unique because they can also be opened out into the main living area for extra effective flow, or closed off for more spatial delineation thanks to a set of sliding doors that portion out the bedroom space and bathroom. When it’s all opened up wide, a large circular skylight above the central living room floods the entire home in cheerful, natural light.
In the sunny, sleep little town of Harbour Island, in the stunningly bright and tropical Bahamas, famed designer Trish Becker has recently completed yet another colourful, signature kitschy house renovation and overhaul, dubbing the wonderfully pink finished result Chatterbox House!
When New York based designer Trish Becker first fond the old Colonial style home that would become Chatterbox House, it was in need of not just repair from years of weathering in the tropical Bahamian climate, but also a restyling that would better show off the stunning traditional home’s positive attributes while still turning it into a modernized home that might provide more comfort to future owners and guests.
More specifically, the house is located in the heart of a beautiful little seaside community called Dunmore Town. The original cottage that this new, super fun dwelling was created from was first build in the late 1800s and, despite its rather dark interior and rather extensive wear and tear, was the perfect embodiment of what the designer described as old world Bahamian charm.
The first priority in the home’s redesign was to restore it to its original glory in structure and quality. After that came the modernizing steps, which happened in two parts. First, the home’s systems and amenities were updated to modern comfort standards. Next, design teams filled the home with colours, patterns, and textures that would excited any guest and provide all the typical visual draw of a beautifully unique Caribbean getaway.
Although colour is a central element throughout the entire home, the exterior combination might be our very favourite match up of shades. The powdery, petal pink main facade catches the eye of essentially anyone passing the house on the street outside, while a beautiful bright turquoise provides stunningly eclectic contrast. Both colours stand out excitingly against the natural, beachy setting in which the house is nestled.
On the front porch, visitors are greeted by a stunning tile inlay that contrasts once again with the two exterior colours we’ve already described. This piece is actually a reproduction of an original one that was created on the house in the 1800s but was too damaged to salvage in the update. Instead, design teams chose to recreate their own version from fresh but similar tiles in homage to the colonial piece.
The tile piece adorns the wall near a stunning porch swing that provides a sense of the home’s atmosphere immediately, before anyone has even walked through the door. This sense of rustic but impressive calm and casual permeates the entire space both inside and out; chairs and lounge spaces are positively everywhere, offering people countless places to bond and enjoy each other’s company in comfort.
The blend of bright, bold colours with visual texture and awesome patterning is a theme that carries throughout the entire house. This holds true for the fun throw cushions and circular teal chairs in the lower living room, the decor scheme in the kitchen, and all the way upstairs into the master and guest bedrooms as well. The colours and patterns shift from room to room, so that no two spaces are quite the same in their aesthetic.
At the top of the large house, two spaces in particular hold our attention the most. The first is a rooftop deck that offers yet another open-air seating space, this time with its own bar station. Even higher than this, up one last flight of wooden stairs, is a crow’s nest style nook that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the island, which are particularly stunning at sunrise and sunset.
Photos by Annie Schlecter
Innovative learning centre Peter Coaldrake Education Precinct created on Australian campus by Wilson Arquitetura
By Courtney • Dec 5, 2019
On the beautiful school campus of Queensland University of Technology, creative architectural teams at Henning Larsen and Wilson Architects have recently completed a beautiful new educational centre called the Peter Coaldrake Education Precinct.
Located in Kelvin Grove, Australia, along the sunny Eastern coast, this new building was conceptualized around and geared towards the idea of social interaction, collaborative work, and its roll in sustainable learning. The building was intended to “breath new life” into a campus that is otherwise primarily inhabited by more traditionally academically modelled spaces.
This six level centre encompasses a total of 11,000 square metres. Those floors are comprised of varying types of classrooms, research spaces, and office facilities. Each of these spatial resources is located atop an high ceiling, airy ground floor atrium that serves as not just a foundation for the building but also a central social hub for the buzzing activities and interactions that surround and run through academic study and school relationships.
The structure itself was built on a decent sized campus plot between the university’s library and the main access street on the QUT campus. This placement was not only convenient for the function of the building itself, but it was also strategic; the offer of an additional social, study, resting, and meeting space along the main strip draws traffic in, particularly given that the building itself is an interesting space even just to look at.
Because the campus was lacking in more open and collaboratively focused spaces that are slightly less traditional, the new space actually provides a slightly more solid focal point than was previously available. Students might find the space more conducive to working and discussing school based topics in thanks to the building’s clear and visual link to and reflection of the latest innovations in sustainability, educational philosophy, and technology.
Even the seating and physical furnishings built inside the building, which determine the way students interact with the space, are more modernized in their layout and make up. They reflect modern office spaces that emphasize brainstorming sessions and open concept workplaces where quiet dialogue and learning from those around you is encouraged. The terraced seating and variance between slightly more private nooks and larger, clearly shareable worktops gives students diverse options.
Another clearly evident option in terms of the building’s interior is the inclusion of and emphasis on plant life. Besides the focus on sustainability, which increased planting clearly ties into, the presents of plant life in this study space was intentional for several other reasons as well. Firstly, it renders the space more inviting, making it a pleasant meeting space no matter the reason. It also follows suit with studies proving that plants and greenery are beneficial for things like anxiety and concentration.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the space is how it is actually quite customizable for students. Several of the modular styled seating spaces can be moved and adjusted according to how many people are meeting in a party and how they’re like to sit, depending on what they’re doing. Certain study booths are fully equipped with all the screens and jacks students could hope for in sharing information and learning together.
The space even involves a small kitchen area that makes it perfect for lengthy study sessions or breaks between classes. Here, students are welcome to use bar seating, microwaves, and a tap, so long as they keep the space clean and care for it respectfully like a team. The break space constitutes the atrium as a great place during exams, where students need to seek a quiet but conveniently functional place that’s outside their home, which some students find distracting.
Even the facade of the building is very inciting. The exterior is clearly much more modern, contrasting beautifully against the campus’ older and more traditional buildings. The panels on the exterior are built in layers that are self-shading as the sun moves, overlapping to reduce solar heating within the atrium without cutting off the cheerful level of natural sunlight that keeps the inside just as inviting as the outside. Reducing the building’s reliance on energy using heating and cooling systems makes the building just as green in function as it looks thanks to all the live plants throughout.
Another visually interesting and attention grabbing aspect of the building, which is actually visible through the glass in the layers of the building’s exterior, are the various luminous LED spheres hanging throughout the central space. Each of these orbs is five metres in diameter, suspended at varying heights above the floor of the atrium. These add a clear element of technology (and also a pop of colour) to the building and also the focal identity of the campus. They’re a fantastic example of creativity in technology and how the school prioritizes these new blends of skill and knowledge. Photos by Christopher Frederick Jones
Saba Office Building created by 7Hoor Architecture Studio + SBAD office with an organic industrial atmosphere
By Courtney • Dec 3, 2019
In the bustling urban centre of the city of Tehran in Iran, innovative designers at 7Hoor Architecture Studio + SBAD office have recently completed a stunning workspace called the Saba Office Building.
As a city, Tehran is in a period of transformation both residentially and in terms of its public and economic spaces. While some of this has been positive, much of the development as far as family homes and apartment buildings are concerned has interrupted the city’s view, limiting it to a view of simply buildings and more buildings. Now, some architects are looking to combat this with unique design.
At present, most of the buildings in the city are uniform in their shape. They vary in appearance when it comes to facade, as some designers have decided to use what they often call the “envelope” of the building to add more diversity of the visual fabric of the streets. For this particular project, the team wanted to break the regular boundaries of the city’s architecture even further.
To do this, they planned a building that incorporates architectural strategies designed to be responsive to the building’s surroundings. This was intended to create a more interactive lifestyle for those using the indoor and outdoor spaces. This works through a process of focusing on environmental factors around the plot, like topography, view, and light levels.
Now, the nine-story SABA office building located in the north of the city. The neighbourhood in which it sits bears a unique mixture of very urban looking high-rise buildings of the kind that contributed to destroying the city’s view and buildings of a much more organic materiality that are slowly helping to rebuild a more lively visual tissue with a little more depth.
The plot available for the building itself was actually quite limited because of the way it was bordered by other extremely large and very urban buildings. This accounts for its slightly varied shape compared to those around it. By concentrating on the priority of providing the people who use the building a beautiful view, architects were able to think more outside the (quite literal) box in terms of what shape and dimensions might help them achieve that. This had the two-fold effect of giving the street more variance and unique character as well.
The building spans an angled physical space that is spread across two blocks. Its shape navigates the way that its view would have been blocked off on all sides were it built with the more standard shape of the buildings around it. Staircases are paramount in vertical circulation in the building, since it makes fantastic use of the space that was available for vertical elevation, while suspended bridges built towards the middle of the block enable convenient horizontal circulation between the two parts of the building that sit near the edge of the block.
On the ground floor, an open area forms a public deck where people using the space are provided with the specific beauty that a very urban setting does admittedly offer. The space is also intended to be one where employees have the opportunity to interact with people other than those they work around immediately and regularly.
In terms of the blocks of the building themselves, duality was at the central core of planning and design. The blocks were created with different functions in mind to match the different needs of the users inside, specializing in varying areas. This concept was mirrored in the facades on the block, with each one being distinct from the other just like the services and functions available inside are.
On the Western side of the building, its facade is quite rigid, metallic in nature, and isn’t as open as other places in its outer structure. The colouring, both inside and outside, is neutral in palette and the textures are rough. There’s an emphasis on stone, making this area of the building slightly more in line with its monochromatic urban setting.
The Eastern side of the building, however, was actually designed with as much transparency as possible in order to make it directly contrast with its Western counterpart and the cityscape around it. Designers aimed to build a visual connection between their project and the pedestrians and social fabric in the streets outside. This concept of connection was put into more tangible terms on street level in the form of a cafe and restaurant; a public space where human connection can actually be made.
Despite the goal of increased transparency, designers also wanted to control the amount of heat from the sun that enters the open block, preferably without blocking out the natural light that keeps its spaces feeling wonderfully energized. This need is what the brick shell that surrounds the office units was born out of. The choice of brick was intentional; not only is it a more organic material than much of what’s present in the cityscape around it, but the colour adds a sense of warmth to the building’s facade. Designers arranged brick columns around the outside in direct response to openings in the urban landscape, allowing them to frame and draw attention to breaks in the buildings where a beautiful view might actually be sought.
Photos by Parham Taghioff
By Courtney • Nov 22, 2019
In the middle of the beautifully historic Merida in Mexico, an old house near the landmark rich city centre was recently recovered from its sadly run-down state by forward thinking design teams at Taller Mexicano de Arquitectura and transformed into a breathtaking home with an old-world influenced by modern atmosphere, now called Casa Deco or Deco House.
The project is part of a fairly new but ongoing initiative in the local area on the part of city developers and architects to preserve the fundamentally historic integrity of the downtown core before it’s lost to weathering and lack of care. Rather than abolishing crumbled older buildings like many city centres do in order to replace them with new ones, designers and building teams are encouraged to make over and repurpose the old buildings where they standing, doing their best to preserve their style and cultural visuals and thereby keeping the city accurate to its history.
Deco House is actually one of the few houses in the area that actually already had the very traditional architectural style of the name it now bears, although this wasn’t always the case. A brief research of the building reveals that it initially was not created in this local style but that its facade was remodelled in the style once upon a time in a much earlier attempt to make the building resemble the local historical cityscape a little better, long before its interior was neglected and its exterior began to whether almost severely.
Rather than go back to its unmatched roots or change the facade to something entirely different, designers for the current project opted to lean into the home’s slightly unconventional history and adapt the building as though it was always rooted in the world of deco architecture and design. Since the style is typical of the area anyways, the team felt they were simply refining a previous attempt to inject some historically accurate culture into a street-scape where it was originally sadly lacking.
Now, the project is a merging place for traditional architecture and more modernized downtown living. It’s a place where all of the amenities of contemporary living can be found amidst details and decor that hearken back to more culturally and historically accurate visuals, colours, materiality, and patterns. Luxuries are integrated without sacrificing any of the originally transformed elements that made the building into a nouveau deco home in the first place.
To pull all of this off, design teams had to carefully balance and reinterpret each space in the house in order to make a newly renovated dwelling while still preserving the historical integrity of what already stood there. Of particular importance in their plan were the backyard, balconies, and terraces. These were spots that already bore a particularly stylish visual nature and good function all at once so, besides the addition of a beautiful pool, they did not need to be overhauled quite as extensively.
Other parts of the house, however, were slightly too antiquated in their function to be left as untouched as the previously mentioned outdoor spaces were. Designers kept the goal of preserving historical character at the forefront of all plans, which decor schemes and materiality were key aspects of achieving, but they still modernized and streamlined interior spaces like the bathrooms and kitchen to give the home all the convenience a modern family needs.
Some things in the house like the central winding staircase, were built entirely new for practicality, where things in the original untouched building were lacking initially, but were meticulously recreated from typical local designs that would have been historically accurate had they been included in the initial building process. This further contributes to the unique and winding nature of how the house blends aspects that are old and new, and which pieces of the house fit into which category.
Perhaps the best example of what kinds of historical and original pieces were preserved is the stone walls, where the original masonry of the house from before even its first and already outdated deco inspired remodelling can still be seen well. Designers manipulated the level and location of natural light in other parts of the house that they did overhaul in order to draw attention to things like the natural changes in colour and texture within these untouched original features.
In places where new interior structures were built, designers worked in locally sourced and repurposed timber with a natural stain, keeping things accurate and complementing the historical nature of the building while still updating the space for both function and style all at once. Even in spots where more modern joys like hammocks and artistic furniture were included, colour schemes were kept accurate to the era of the home’s origin. One notable variance is the beautifully hand painted tile floor in the dining room, where pops of colour show proudly through. This piece was created by a local artist who, though current, works in styles that have long been part of local tradition.
Photos by Tamara Uribe
By Courtney • Nov 20, 2019
In a beautifully green suburban neighbourhood in Brazil, creative designers at Steck Arquitetura have recently completed a stunning, sprawling corner house that provides stylish and luxurious feeling interior spaces with boundary-less transitions to the warm, sunny outdoors.
Perhaps the most notable feature of the house is that it is completely open concept at each of its four cardinal points. This was made possible by the fact that it was erected on a spacious corner plot that leaves its views and space uninhibited on nearly all of its sides. The corners of the home take great advantage of that reality with lack of boundaries and transparent materiality.
Regarding the inner core of the house, however, things are a little more protected. The internal transition and more intimate spaces that lie towards the middle of the structure are where the house closes in, creating a sense of comfort that’s akin to a quiet haven at the heart of the home.
In total, the house boasts three floors. On the ground floor, visitors find the spaces where the majority of indoor social interactions take place. Above that are the intimate chambers, where each member of the family enjoys private spaces. Below the ground floor rests an inferior storey with a garage, a storage warehouse, and space for yard maintenance equipment.
Over the ground floor’s social spaces, a sloping ceiling with a uniquely hooked shape creates an appealing and cozy energy throughout the shared rooms. This is mirrored in the way the towering overhand swings above the door in the main entrance and the inner hall, inviting and protecting visitors. The shapes here are particularly impressive given that, on the exterior, they’re moulded from a natural concrete that subtly complements the landscape around the house.
Around the back of the house, designers ensured that owners could take full advantage of the fantastic local climate by building a gorgeous pool and surrounding patio area and yard. The pool itself is situated such that it has both sunny and shady areas, letting those using it bask in or take the edge off the heat of the sun as they need.
The outdoor area was also purposely built with year-round use in mind. At one side, a beautiful pergola creates a calming shady spot across the poolside but also extending into the water for cool paddling in hotter months. Near there, a winding staircase leads from the terrace towards the pool as part of the designers’ goal to create pool access from all levels and areas in the house.
In fact, access to the pool is so good that the stairs actually lead right down directly into the water. From here, the pool itself is arrange in a series of relaxing, watery courtyards at each different point of entry, all eventually leading towards the main “swimming streak”. The sense of flow is tangible.
It is clear the moment one lays eyes on the house that its materiality is intentionally natural, but that’s not the only green element of the building or feature designed with the home’s surroundings in mind. Designers also aimed to make the building as sustainable as they could, installing a solar water heater, photovoltaic solar panels that are responsible for the electricity production, and a rainwater catchment system that naturally irrigates the gardens surrounding the beautiful pool space.
Those active systems don’t end the sustainable features. The large overhands featured all over the house simultaneously provide comfortable thermal regulation in and outside the house and also give home to a beautiful roof garden. Additionally, double paned UV resistant glass creates thermoaccoustic comfort, essentially regulating temperate in a low impact way.
The use of wood throughout the house and exterior elements are significant as well. Visually, the wood balances out the heavy presence and look of concrete and blends the aesthetic of the home into its natural surroundings, especially at the open corners. A combination of concrete slabs, laminated wood, and ruffled metal installed in levels and unique shapes passively regulates light and heat and even influences the home’s view, providing perfectly framed glimpses of the moon at night.
Another beautiful and functional theme throughout the home is the way that some of the interior versions of the shapes, structures, and overhangs mentioned above are movable and adaptable. Most balconies, terraces, and spaces with indoor-outdoor transition spaces can be closed off for privacy or totally opened for limitless flow by sliding doors, retracting panels, and wooden blinds. The whole concept is to make the home feel like a moving, breathing, organic part of its surroundings rather than a block that was dropped into an ecosystem not its own. The whole idea was pulled off with a sense of finesse.
The decor scheme found inside the house is deliberately minimalist but with an organic spin. Rather than establishing a totally different sense than the actual structures of the home, the colours and materiality of features and furniture are kept purposely in line with the moving structures and adaptable elements in each room, creating a sense of stunning and comfortable cohesiveness.
Photos by Adriano Pacelli
By Courtney • Nov 13, 2019
In the lush greenery of the rural areas right outside of Portland, in the United States, creative designers at Olson Kundig recently completed a new home called the Country Garden House, which actually boasts an impressive example of its namesake.
View in gallery
From the very outset, the primary goal of everyone involved in the home’s planning and design was to create something that could exist in harmony with its lusciously green and natural setting. This was motivated by the fact that the home was being custom built for a master gardener who wanted their greatest passion to inspire, be reflected in, and surround their living space.
Natural materiality, windows, and a nearly seamless-feeling blending of indoor and outdoor space became key components in how designers incorporated as many opportunities as they could within the house to take in and really appreciate views of not just the beautiful surrounding gardens, but also the rolling hills and expansive trees around the plot of land on which the house sits.
At the same time, the team wanted to make sure the space inside remained warm and comfortable, giving dwellers and visitors these views without feeling too much like privacy is sacrificed. The home was created with multi-generational use in mind, so the spaces are open concept, adaptable, and easy to move between, creating awesome flow of not only people but also energy, light, and air circulation.
Perhaps the number one tool used by the building team to allow the house real communication with its natural landscape was reclaimed barn wood. The facade of the house was clad durably in this material, giving it a look that’s reminiscent of old barns in the area. Its slightly more contemporary shape, however, also recalls that of a greenhouse, which is entirely appropriate given who the house was built for.
Inset into the wooden structure, beautifully high and energy efficient glazed windows serve several functions for the house. Besides being a key tool through which visitors access those breathtaking views we mentioned earlier, they also flood the house with natural light, giving it a cheerful and energized feeling and cutting down on power requirements. Of course, sunlight can heat things up quite quickly so, rather than just encouraging the owners to use air conditioning, designers used gridded glazing from floor to pitched ceiling, allowing UV resistant glass to handle residue heat.
The emphasis on beautifully stained and locally reclaimed natural wood doesn’t stop at the home’s frame and facade. This was also the primary material used on the floors, counters, shelving units, walls, ceiling, and most other furnishings. Rather than looking too dull in its monochromatic appearance, however, the wood perfectly blends with the view outside for a comforting sense of cohesiveness that other colours in the decor scheme and pop against very well indeed.
Where wood couldn’t be used, naturally sourced metals and stone were employed in order to keep all materiality consistent. The gardens outside the house, which bloom visibly all the way around and can be seen from every room, were a collaboration between the home’s owner and notable plantsman Dan Hinkley.
Designers chose to situate the largest windows near the most impressive gardens in order to visually invite them right into their home. They also made the metal finish on the roof, which is designed to withstand weathering, a very intentional shade of green, furthering the sense that the whole house has of blending beautifully into its surroundings so it doesn’t interrupt the gardens it was nestled amongst.
Rather than just letting the gardens sit around the house to be looked upon, designers actually chose to incorporate greenery into the home like an actual experience. This starts at the entryway where visitors pass under an expansive leafy trellis walking to the front door. From here, they move through a living room that boasts those big, view-rich windows we mentioned earlier, allowing them to drink in the sight of the rolling green hillsides just past the property.
Greenery in the public spaces is balanced out and contrasted against a lovely collection of artwork. The primary gallery is displayed in a long corridor that separates common spaces where the family might host guests from private spaces where the bedrooms and rest areas lie. The way the whole area presents art and greenery together as viewing choices simply heightens the beauty of each.
Art continues to be a theme throughout the house, making that beautiful contrast between its own colour and detail and the natural beauty of the ever-visible gardens consistent. Towards the living room, for example, custom shelving boasts an impressive collection of traditional Asian porcelain before guests encounter a stunning wall mural behind the table, hand-painted by Leo Adams.
Beyond the art, the interior space is intentionally designed to feel earthy, just like the gardens outside. Neutral tones and natural textures are paramount to this atmosphere, peppered throughout the rooms by a mixture of furnishings that all suit the aesthetic but that might be either antique or contemporary. The overall sense is one of rustic refinement.
Photos by Jeremy Bitterman
Sliding Doors house completed by CplusC Architectural Workshop with seamless indoor-outdoor experiences in mind
By Courtney • Nov 5, 2019
On a grassy plot in the sunny streets of Canada Bay, Australia, architectural and design teams from CplusC Architectural Workshop have recently completed a beautifully and naturally lit home project called Sliding Doors.
The actual Sliding Doors portion of the home itself is really an addition to a gorgeous pre-existing bungalow. The intention of the addition was to create some extra functional and diverse space where the young family dwelling in the home might seek out and bond in more beneficial natural sunlight than the home had to offer originally.
The family initially approached the design team with a request to help them expand their home in a way that was productive and might help them accommodate their every growing and changing needs. Abundant outdoor space at the rear of the property provided the perfect opportunity to build a new and innovative space that’s completely custom to the family.
Designers opted to use the new living space as a unique sort of transition spot between the original home’s interior and the lovely rear yard. This way, the parents could be afforded another place with plenty of sunshine and fresh air, but one that’s easier to keep an eye on small children within, unlike the much wider full garden.
The addition was built with duality in mind; once the children have gone inside for the day, or while they’re enjoying the bigger yard we mentioned, the addition can easily be turned into a place where adults might socialize and entertain company but keep track of their kids either inside watching TV or outside running through the flowers with friends. Flexibility was key.
That theme of flexibility encompasses the doors between the home’s interior and the new transition space as well; the expansion actually got its name from the pair of large sliding doors that rest between the living room and the new fresh air filled haven. These can be closed for privacy, quiet, and protection against weather or opened full and collapsed into the walls in order to merge the living room almost entirely with the green beauty of the addition. This capability makes both spots feel more dynamic.
The adaptable nature of the doors doesn’t stop at just their ability to be full opened or closed, depending on the time of year and the family’s needs. They can also be left partially closed or open to control the kind and amount of natural light and air that filters between the two spaces, and when. This is thanks to the materiality of the doors, which are made from a mixture of opaque, clear, and frosted glass.
While this unique materiality might sound very decorative (which it undoubtedly is), we’re interested in the fact that it actually has a very practical use as well. By being able to increase or decrease how much light and air travels between indoor and outdoor spaces in the home, the family is given an eco-friendly way to more passively heat, cool, and light certain rooms in the house, easing the structure’s green impact.
Speaking of green initiatives, it was also an explicit priority of the family to teach their children, from a very young age, about food production and gardening, which is something both parents are passionate about. That’s why designers helped them conceptualize and build a beautiful, well stocked, and space efficient vertical herb garden along one wall of the new external courtyard. It’s decorative, agriculturally smart, good for learning, conveniently placed for use in food preparation, and a chance to boost the children’s sense of contribution to the home through how easy the herbs and their garden system are to cultivate.
Like the adaptability of the sliding doors, the vertical shape and placement of the herb garden is an example of how designers aimed to very simply improve the naturally based visuals of the home in simple, subtle ways. From the kitchen, you see, glimpses of the green herbs flourishing in the sun all up and down the wall can be seen in the mirrored backsplash of the kitchen.
Of course, this whole emphasis on green space and natural home elements can be found in the basic materiality throughout the whole kitchen, rather than just in the namesake doors. This creates a sense of grounded cohesiveness. The materials that compose the addition were locally sourced things like reclaimed timber, recycled brick, repurposed glass, and natural concrete.
The way the materiality of the addition suits not only the house itself but also the natural environment around the plot creates a sense of communication in the outdoor space that makes the new space see, very generous in size, even though it’s not actually an atypical square footage for an average bungalow. At the same time, the use of timber and neutral tones keeps the expansion feeling warm and welcoming.
Photos by Michael Lassman Photography
By Courtney • Oct 23, 2019
On a quiet but conveniently placed city street in Brighton, England, creative designers at GTA Interior have created new office spaces for leading video game software development company BossAlien.
The update of the company’s old offices was spurred by the sudden procurement of a fantastic new contract. While this new arrangement was sure to boost the company into even bigger success and opportunity than it was already garnering, it also required a better and more effective workspace than the office situation at that time was providing employees and developers. Executives decided that there’s no time like the present to make beneficial improvements if it means simultaneously improving the quality and quantity of work they can produce for their clients.
BossAlien was contracted to produce a useful and intriguing new mobile game for a major franchise. In light of this, the decision was made to use that big project as an opportunity to build a brand new workspace that more effectively reflects the brand and where it’s headed, while still keeping the company’s existing core values at the forefront.
The description of the company’s goals that was provided to design teams was that they aimed to create a “home away from home” for their staff, who occasionally spend long hours in the office dedicated to producing high quality games that they’re actually passionate about. Executives as BossAlien firmly believe that their teams deserve the best things in return for their hard work, so they wanted to ensure that their offices live up to that standard as well.
The result was a unique and creative environment that we’d actually even describe as fun, despite being a place of work! After all, the company exists in an industry in which enjoying the work process only makes sense. The environment is engaging and innovative but also gives off a residential, homey atmosphere designed to make teams and guests alike feel comfortable.
The new office spans three whole floors, giving the company much more space to work with than they previously had access to. Despite wanting to take full advantage of all three floors, executives and design teams wanted to make sure that the flow of energy, information, and movement didn’t feel cut off between the floors, nor the staff working there.
In order to combat this isolation and division issue, designers proposed turning the second floor specifically into a collaboration floor. They wanted to make it into a space where staff from the other two more focused work floors might meet, work together, brainstorm, and swap ideas in a way that’s much more connected and interactive than many offices foster.
The collaboration floor consists of a large primary meeting space and an open kitchen and break area that is available to all staff, no matter where or how they’re working. It also features a tiered style seating structure that creates a diverse and changeable space modelled after classic town halls. These spaces encourage staff from all over the wider office to meet here, establishing it as a kind of central hub of knowledge and activity.
The company’s work values weren’t the only thing designers wanted to display and pay homage to within their design. They also took these new offices as an opportunity to incorporate the company’s unique setting, the unique and creative artistic community that calls the city of Brighton home.
The new space reflects Brighton in many ways. Decor details from the timber pendant lights to the custom neon artwork reflect the handiwork of local designers and artisans. Even the the break space incorporates local culture right into the office because it serves local beer and coffee, thereby benefitting and supporting other businesses in the area.
Perhaps the best display of local art and culture, however, is the set of large graffiti murals on the second floor. These colourful, eye catching pieces were designed and painted by Brighton based street artists Snub23 and Will Blood. Each piece of artwork spans large portions of the wall and supports. Both are one of a kind works of art customized specifically to the space.
The tones, colour schemes, and materiality are all a combination of modernity and natural chic. Industrial influence can be found in the exposed ceiling systems and the shape of many furnishings, while natural looking raw plywood and dark stained wood can both be found in joinery and support details. Warm tones and visually textured carpets are incorporated in other details to provide pops of interest and contrast against the otherwise urban aesthetic.
Unique seating options and individual work or break spaces contribute to the whole idea of making the space feel like a home away from home. Hanging dish chairs add a playful touch, for example, reflecting the fun nature of the company and what it develops.
Photos by Portico Photographic Marketing
In the seaside city of Zandvoort in The Netherlands, a recreational park featuring a series of cottages that are collectively called Qurios Zandvoort recently opened thanks to some architectural expertise on the part of 2by4-architects.
Even if the unique little cottages didn’t hold quite so much stylistic and comfort based appeal, their mere location would probably be enough to pull guests in! The park is situated in a prime spot between the Formula 1 tracks, the Kennemerland national park, and Zandvoort’s most beautiful beach. It is also close to exciting cities like Haarlem and Amsterdam, but not so close that the peacefulness of its surroundings are interrupted by busy city life.
The unique location of this part attracts quite a diverse crowd, so designers wanted to avoid striving for a homogenous style of resort space for guests to stay in. After all, city dwellers looking for a peaceful escape to the beach might not have the same kind of holiday stay in mind as race track fanatics who came to see her roaring cars!
In a sprawling feat and a valiant (and rather successful) attempt to accommodate these diverse crowds, the park now boasts 100 cottages, two multi-faceted public pavilions, and a unique design that resembles that of a dune park. This mean that staying in the buildings is rather experiential as the sand shifts and flows quite literally against the sides of the dwellings and structures.
For both practicality and visual appeal, the cottages are situated on natural plateaus that all sit at different heights. This is partially to give different visitors varying views of and experiences in the natural landscape they’re visiting, but it was also an authenticity and building choice, since working with the plateaus let designers interrupt the land less in their building process.
This concept of working with the land is what influenced the choices in colour scheme, decor, and materiality. Designers wanted to create buildings that made sense with their surroundings and suited the natural atmosphere, rather than ones that contrast too heavily or stand out so much that they detract from the environment’s beauty. They chose an unpolished wood for the cottage facades, for example, that suits the rough dunes around the, so well that it almost looks like they’ve always been there. They’re slightly modern in their shape, which makes them unique, but not so contemporary as to look out of place.
Another part of making the cottages look like they’re one with the landscape was the choice not to fence them off. Of course, designers wanted to give guests lots of private space, but that applies mostly to creating interior havens. On the outside, the idea was to create a sense of limitless exploration and lack of boundaries, which fences would have counteracted.
This idea of fostering a “haven-like” atmosphere was of the utmost importance to everyone involve in the project, which is why planners chose to locate all parking offsite, outside of the park. Past the parking and through the entrance, guests encounter the visitors centre and, beyond that, nothing but gorgeous landscape free of city-life reminders.
The visitors centre is almost pavilion-like and bears a gorgeous floating style roof. In addition to providing all of the information and services guests could dream of, it also gives them a gorgeous panoramic view of the entire park first thing. Like the cottages, the visitor centre suits the natural space well thanks to the choice of black wood planks for the facade and light concrete for the interior.
Besides offering a gift shop and bike rentals to guest, this main pavilion is also on-site housing for staff! The basement boasts bedrooms and a common living room. These are entirely separate for the sake of staff privacy and, despite being right below halls for guest social functions and the like, they’re peaceful and quiet, letting staff truly feel at home and not like they never left work.
All of the buildings situated on the park were constructed, both in terms of shape and also material, with the intention of becoming naturally weathered. Designers purposefully chose materials that would withstand the test of time well in terms of endurance and damage resistance, but also things that will only look more charming with a little bit of wear and tear as far as exposure to the elements is concerned. The buildings will only begin to look more and more like they really belong.
Each of the individual cottages is designed with a different type of specific theme or experience in mind, accounting for the variety of guests that the park’s location attracts. These themes are communicated through and incorporated within details like the layout, the facade, and the interior decor of the cottages.
The “adventure cottages” are small, compact sheds with less space and modernity, intended for those who love the great outdoors and plan to spend most of their time there rather than in their accommodations. The “family cottage”, on the other hand, gives guests spacious social rooms, like the living and dining room, where many loved ones can gather. In order to keep them feeling connected to nature, however, sliding doors help these rooms open completely to the outdoors.
The “royal cottages” are all about luxurious comfort in a peaceful setting. These feature two floors, softly sprawling beds, and fully equipped large kitchen and dining rooms featuring all contemporary amenities despite the rustic setting. Finally, guests might choose the XL cottage. This space is intended for large groups of family and friends and is centred entirely around maximizing space.
Besides choosing a cottage that is tailored to their party, guests can choose specific themes and decor schemes to suit their interests as well! For example, they might consider inspirations like coffee, racing, denim, or nature. No matter the varying interiors, designers kept the cottages consistent enough to “speak the same visual language” and suit each other upon first glance, like different parts of a large family.
Photos provided by the architects.
New business site called Industrial Building created by derksen | windt architecten with practicality and sustainability in mind
By Courtney • Oct 7, 2019
In an ever-changing and always developing business park area in the city of Rzenburg in The Netherlands, the need for a brand new, fully equipped business premises has been fulfilled by innovative designers at derksen | windt architecten, who recently completed the Industrial Building.
The first goal that the design team wanted to reach in creating this building was one of sustainability and low environmental impact, both immediately and long term. They also wanted to create something unique and striking in terms of style and aesthetic, which is why they chose to work with inspirations like rhythm when it came to designing shape and proportion.
The finished result was a modern take on traditional sawtooth roof buildings that are typical to the industrial area and its history, but this time with a much more open concept, locally sourced and repurposed materials, and a larger emphasis on on allowing natural sunlight to flow into the work spaces and fill the rooms.
Even just this use of light contributes both to making the building less impactful on its environment, as well as to making it slightly more modern in its functions despite some elements looking typical of old brick industrial warehouses. Not only does the easy flow of light reduce power use, it also lifts the spirits of anyone working or visiting there, unlike some old fashioned brick buildings where the interior feels dark, closed off, and not necessarily welcoming.
In the process of choosing their materiality, designers noted that many old industrial buildings look quite temporary thanks to their bare-bones materials and unfinished aesthetic, when in actual fact they’ll often stand and serve a pivotal function in a community for years. Thinking about this was how they opted to try and establish a slightly different appearance this time around.
The materiality of this new building is much the same; it is afforded a sense of strength and businesslike functionality thanks to the use of brick, steel, and concrete. Designers made sure, however, to give the space a slightly more finished looking… well… finish! The space is minimalist and practical but it doesn’t like ramshackle and thrown together like it might soon be torn down.
Because the building is part of a small-scale business park that isn’t far from the Rotterdam ports, it’s a great potential location for all kinds of businesses. That’s why the next step of the project, following what you already see here, is to split the sprawling, open concept space into four different business units to create a functional but free flowing business park.
The fact that the space will eventually be shared by several businesses within one very open and naturally lit space, but that it also still resembles a traditional factory on the outside, creates a unique blending of several things. Not only are aesthetics between interior and exterior spaces contrasting, but the sense of modern business routine and old fashioned factory work brings new and old, contemporary and historical together. It’s a stylistic and cultural combination.
Of course, the sawtooth shape of the building does more than just hearken back to times past and reference older styles of architecture. In this particular building, the translucent tiles built into it are also an integral part of the green heating, cooling, and lighting systems. This is another specific point where history, style, function, and modernity all cross over.
Another more contemporary element that certainly wouldn’t have been found in brick industrial buildings of auld but that proves extremely useful in this building is the presence of several skylights and in-line window frames, as well as rolling doors. These appear to break down visual and occasionally physical barriers between indoor and outdoor spaces, making the building feel expansive and accessible.
There might not be much to say about decor yet, before the separation into business units and settling in of company teams has occurred, but the facade adds some rhythm and depth to the space and establishes a colour scheme. Masonry skill is clear in the brick surfaces while translucent triangle portions balance out that neutrality and natural materiality with modern geometry.
Photos by Rene de Wit
By Courtney • Oct 4, 2019
Amidst the breathtaking scenery of Virunga National Park, innovative design teams at Nicholas Plewman Architects have recently finished a stunning tourist retreat called the Bisate Lodge.
In its shape, aesthetic, and materiality, the lodge has a number of distinct and very evident inspirations. The first is very natural; the beautiful rounded shapes of the volumes and much of the furniture inside were specifically built to reflect the rolling hills of Rwanda’s countryside.
As far as materiality and construction style are concerned, the lodge has another key inspiration as well. Here, designers harnessed the beauty (among other elements) of the King’s Palace at Nyanza, particularly in its thatched design. Much of the volumes’ construction is done in the traditional way but with the bolstering of modern technology. The thatching on the outside, however, is done completely authentically.
The lodge in its entirety sits nestled amongst lush growth areas adjacent to the wide open space of the Volcanoes National Park itself. The volumes weave in and out of the greenery in a way that makes them appear blended and coherent with their surroundings. This was intentional on the part of the designers, who wanted to make sure that the lodge thoroughly reflects Rwanda’s extremely organic culture.
At the same time, however, the team wanted to add more than a small hint of sophistication into the mix as well! In the finished product, this goal is apparent in every space. This is partially thanks to the unique and interesting shape of the private rooms, which are spherical. The public spaces, on the other hand, have a slightly more modernized look that’s sustainable and contrasting to their surroundings but also subtle enough to blend well with the more traditional areas from space to space.
The overall effect is a comfortable design that celebrates modern luxury and local culture all at once. This heavily influences the guest experience, as the lodge has become notorious for the way it actually offers visitors a way to bond with and get to know pieces of Rwandan custom, art, and culture in a way that’s immersive but comfortable and welcoming.
The look, shape, and style of the lodge aren’t actually the only elements that have something quite unique about them. The manner in which the volumes had to be constructed to protect the integrity of the surrounding area and park was also a little unconventional.
First, the pieces of the lodge were developed as prototypes in Cape Town, South Africa, in spaces where designers lived close by and access to space and materials was easy. Once the team had everything just as they wanted it, the final product versions of the lodge’s volumes were taken apart, sent to the chosen site in Rwanda, and reassembled there.
Since the site of the lodge is quite remote, which is part of its pleasantness and appeal, all of the systems that power it had to be quite innovatively created. They are fully incorporated into the structures and inner workings of the lodge and they also function entirely off-grid, making the whole place independently powered and self-sustaining.
All things considered, Bisate lodge is actually quite a step forward in the world of architecture, particularly within the local area in which it sits. Besides being shockingly comfortable and serene, the lodge is also a merging place for modern construction techniques, sustainable living systems, and top shelf luxury with traditional materiality and cultural consideration.
Photos by Crookes and Jackson
By Courtney • Oct 4, 2019
Along the edge of a lovely road called Peach Tree Road, in Tibet, China, a beautiful natural landscape has been transformed into the home of the Sanzee RV Self-Driving Campsite, which was conceptualized, designed, and built by CM design.
The actual plot of land that the campsite calls home sits on an embankment that was naturally formed by the twisting of the Yarlung Zangbo River. This gorgeous area is dotted with clusters of shady, beautifully sprawling willow trees and provides visitors with a 360 degree view of the breathtaking snowy mountains that completely surround the area on all sides.
Those are not, of course, the only natural elements that make the scenery around the campsite practically irresistible. The site is also home to countless ancient peach trees that range in age from 300 to 500 years old. Gesang flowers grow all around these, in amongst the various kinds and sizes of rock, as do miscanthus, different mosses, several types of ferns, and other green shrubs.
Despite sounding quite rural, the campsite is actually pretty accessible. Right not, it sits just south of the Lalin portion of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway, which is soon to open and which will make the site even easier to reach for those who don’t drive. This makes it a great vacation spot for international visitors.
Right from the beginning, designers based all of their concepts on the idea of respect. More specifically, they wished to respect both the culture of the area in Tibet they were building in, as well as the natural integrity of the landscape they were building upon. They is what the close relationship between nature and architecture, which can be seen clearly in the finished product, was born from.
The utmost priority during the building process was preservation, particularly of the ancient peach trees. Where stones could be spared from their original locations, they were put to reuse in building structures and roadways so that the new elements of the site would blend in well with its stunning location, in a way that forms some kind of organic bond.
Where the structures aren’t built from the very stones that were repurposed where the natural landscape could spare them, they’re formed from steel. This gives the buildings that are accessible to the RV parking spaces strength and weather resistance, but also prevents them from clashing with or distracting from the natural surroundings, continuing that blending goal that designers upheld right from the outset.
This steel and stone combination is also what makes up the sign and gates that constitute the main entrance of the campsite, creating a sense of consistency throughout the location. The height of the entrance adds a sense of grandeur to the space in the way it mirrors the height of the trees, making it stand out without overpowering the beauty of what people really come there to see: the natural landscape.
The wall of the entrance continues around the outsides of the park, but in a way that is interesting, cohesive, and unique. This is thanks to the way designers actually incorporated natural elements on the outskirts of the park into the wall itself. In several places, for example, the newly made wall stops for a natural rock or tree, leaving it space, and then picks up again on its other side, lying flush to the edges of whatever the natural landmark is but without hurting it or interrupting its natural beauty.
The manner in which the wall incorporates natural elements has a few multi-faceted benefits besides just continuing that ongoing goal of blending the campsite into the landscape. Firstly, it saves on materials to let the wall work with these things, rather than extending it to go around them. Secondly, it creates a lovely visual effect that looks rhythmic, dynamic, and dimensional.
Walking paths that weave throughout the campsite and allow visitors to take full advantage of the beautiful location they’re staying within pay similar respect to the landscape’s elements, particularly the peach trees. Site builders avoided clearly anything in the path’s creation, weaving it around and through any parts and patches that could safely host the path instead. The direction of the path was, therefore, largely determined by things like the location of flowers, the density of trees, and the natural meandering of the river.
Even the construction of the reception centre was designed with an homage to the landscape in mind. It was created in a modular sense through the stacking of natural metal shipping containers. These were strategically placed and built up in ways and directions that suited the height of the natural stone, looked cohesive with the mountains, and simply created shaded courtyards and even a barbecue area without taking up or requiring the clearing out of anymore natural space than necessary.
Smaller details help to integrate the reception building more visually with the land as well. For example, flower pools boasting blossoms that were already native to that specific area have been built up outside and all around while steps, wherever they were required, are built from locally sourced but repurposed wood.
Following suit with everything else built on the campsite, the infinity pool that was built off the reception building, just above the edge of the Yarlung Zangbo River, was built in a way that visually reflects the beauty of the landscape and mountains, but also avoids interrupting and detracting from its more immediate natural surroundings. Its edges and stares were made, as before, from locally sourced reclaimed wood and so were the benches around it. These spaces together create a stunning vantage point for enjoying the scenery, socializing, and resting.
A short distance from the reception building but past the RV parking sits a multi-level tent camp. This was built in a way that works with the natural undulation of the land, but using an anti-corrosive wooden platform to even out the actual ground on which the tents sit, for comfort. These unique plateaus provide unparalleled views of not just the Xue Ga Ru Snow Mountain and the river, but also the vast and starry night sky.
Photos by Zhi Xia
By Courtney • Oct 3, 2019
In a beautiful green setting that adds tranquility to the busy streets of Shanxi, China, innovative designers at Sangu Design have recently completed the Cheng Dong Building, a peaceful and multi-faceted public space that was, once upon a time, a simple public toilet in a park.
From the outset of the updating project, the antique building was destined to become something a little more meaningful. Design teams wanted to create a space that people might actually wish to spend time in, drawing them out the lovely green area outside and letting them experience architecture rather than just barely registering it as they pass in and out.
They did this by prioritizing the value of art all throughout the process. This is not to say that they covered the new space in art, but rather than the way it was built, its layout, the furnishing and materiality choices, and the way the shapes in the new space seem to undulate and move were all deeply inspired by visual beauty and artistic elements.
Because it sits in a park that is located in a city, the building is intentionally designed to contrast with its very urban backdrop. Designers wanted to create a space that might feel like a moment of respite from the fast-paced and ever changing nature of modern city life. They also wanted to provide visitors with somewhere that they might cross the generation gap; the building is intended for all people to be able to enjoy spending time there together.
They tried to hit this mark by making a space that is undoubtedly modern and updated from the original little building that stood there, but that also avoids being over equipped with unnecessary features that might turn some people off from using the space or finding a level of comfort there.
With these values in mind, the space became geared towards human connection rather intentionally. It is meant for socializing, meeting friends, and exchanging knowledge in a way that is direct, face to face, and not just learned through the Internet or using devices. The space is like a haven for passing on stories and experiences.
That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s a completely unplugged or technology free space. It is actually full equipped with modern conveniences and also a nice place for one to, say, study alone using their devices. The designers’ goals were simply to create an experience that, while modern and useful, doesn’t contribute to an overuse of technology and an overwhelming of information.
This building is actually part of an ongoing effort by many different design firms in cities across the world to establish good human connection in everyday routine by creating beautiful, peaceful, and experiential spaces where one wouldn’t necessarily think to enjoy themselves. The logic is that, by creating spots that feel friendly, inclusive, connected, and calming in everyday places like parks, public toilets, and train stations, cities can help foster improved social attitudes and experiences in a way that’s subtle and passive but effective.
For this specific project, designers were also very cognizant of the fact that they were transforming an antique structure within an ancient city. The little green area where it sits might look urban now and be very high traffic, but it still bears a particular history and cultural context. That’s why the team also wanted to create something that makes sense in the space and doesn’t clash.
Designers visited the original spot and found an homage to ancient Chinese architecture and a sense of harmony between the building and its surroundings. As the project was already not permitted to completely dismantle the original foundation m they opted to work with certain key pieces of what was already there, preserving elements like the foundation and sidewalk and incorporating them into the new design.
The team then got creative with the new aspects they built, planning an unconventional design that still bore details of ancient local architecture and prioritized natural, local materiality rather than introducing completely foreign materials that might make the new building look very out of context.
The building was kept purposely low to the ground in order to let visitors’ attention wander to the ancient wall surrounding the park, rather than detracting from it. Off a main corridor, the space is now separated into three distinct rooms: the restroom, the coffee room, and the reading room. Each is geared towards modern convenience and comfort without being unnecessarily technological.
The corridor that leads to each space is quite open concept, inviting, and accessible. In fact, the original walkway that has run through the park for many generations was actually allowed to run right through the new building so that people may wander in and out very easily at whim. Here, you’ll even find a pet watering area because the designers really meant it when they said all are welcome.
Although the sense of space in the building is free-flowing and easy, the separate rooms, which have distinctly different functions, don’t interfere with each other. The reading room is a place for quiet and rest, while the coffee room is gear more towards group socializing and refreshment. The convenience of an easily accessible bathroom makes this place a good resting spot for busy tourists and a nice meeting spot for residents of nearby buildings looking to meet friends or exercise their pets.
The space is actually entirely accessible in terms of ability as well. Only one step is included in the building, near the coffee room, but all rooms can still be accessed easily by those using mobility devices of different kinds. On the doors throughout the building, handles are placed at all different heights to accommodate people of all different heights. They are even specifically cut in terms of their shape to make them easier for people who are holding drinks to open.
In addition to being quite open concept, each room also feels quite free of barriers thanks to large windows and glass walls all around the outside. These let natural sunlight flow in during the day and make the plants and greenery outside feel like a part of the indoor space as well. The heavy use of natural wood in the interior feels cohesive with the environment through the big windows.
Photos by Xiao Tan
By Courtney • Oct 3, 2019
On a beautiful street in Morelia, Mexico that is lined with blossoming Jacaranda trees, teams at Emilio Alvarez Abouchard Arquitectura have created the Avenida Central Building that will soon house a developing dermatological care centre. The building is named for the street it actually sits on, which many residents of Morelia claim is the most beautiful street in the whole city. Besides the gorgeous Jacaranda trees that line it on either side, adding colour and whimsy with their blossoms, the street also adds an avant-garde looking sense of urbanism to the cityscape that is very visually pleasing and unique.
Originally developed in the 1960s, the neighbourhood that Avenida Central runs through is called Chapultepec Norte. It lies only 3km east of Morelia’s downtown core, making it accessible to all the perks of downtown living but just removed enough to provide a much more relaxing atmosphere.
The aesthetic of the buildings is different from those that are built right downtown as well. There, structures have a sense of historical architecture and colonial urbanism typical of the very core of many Mexican cities. These are, after all, most often the epicentres around which the city was first built and then developed outwardly from. Out near Avenida, there is a shift towards slightly more modern looking architecture, but without disregarding local style and tradition entirely.
Part of what sets the street apart is its heavy emphasis on thickly green landscape and plant life, as well as its uniquely wide sidewalks. The presence of so many parks and so much green space and the literal physical extra space for non-vehicle travel make the area ideal for bikes, pedestrians, and pets. The over all atmosphere is safe, welcoming, and refreshing.
For the designers of the Avenida Central Building, which is mixed-use, building along this street was an opportunity to combine the atmosphere we’ve just described and local culture and style into a visual representation, like an homage paid through architecture. They wanted to ensure that the new structure be modern, efficient, and environmentally friendly as well.
The building sits on a well sized, square shaped plot that lines up flush against those wonderfully wide sidewalks we mentioned. The very linear nature of the space they had to work with leant itself well to creating a similarly linear building that is simple and clean looking with good delineation of space, without looking too harsh and starkly contemporary.
On the bottom storey, two recessed spaces on the large sides of the building make room for parking that extends around the back, where it doesn’t interrupt the flow or atmosphere of the street, as well as a beautiful outdoor terrace that can be used by clients, staff, visitors, or respectful passers by on sunny days.
The two upper levels of the building are where The Dermatology Centre will eventually live within the building. This program chose the space for its gorgeous emphasis on natural light, which flows freely through expansive windows and glass walls and illuminates the interior throughout the day in a way that’s less jarring than fluorescent lighting.
The very top level of the building is a U-shaped rooftop terrace that provides stunning views of the Morelia skyline. This view includes the pink limestone cathedral towers in the distance, which were built in the 1700s. The street on which the building sits surrounds it with greenery and the sun shines down on a lovely outdoor seating space that contributes to how the glass walls already make the whole structure feel almost boundary-less.
Perhaps the most unique part of the building was how designers strove to make it entirely universally accessible. Part of this was building an elevator tower in the centre that provides easy access to every floor, and to every room from there. Rather than installing something boring and industrial, however, they made this central column from glass blocks, which lets sunlight travel through into the centre during the day. At night, the lift tower’s lights come on and can be seen through the glass blocks from the street. This central feature has been dubbed “la tour de verre”.
Photos by Saint Gobain
By Courtney • Oct 2, 2019
On the outskirts of Boedo in Argentina, creative design teams at Estudio Yama recently completed a renovation and updating project on a classically shaped home called PH José Mármol House.
In cities surrounding the area, a particular shape and style of home is quite typical to Argentinian culture. This is the “casa chorizo” that is often found not just in Boedo, but all the way across certain parts of the country. It’s even characteristic of Buenos Aires, which was one of the first places homes in this style were built. This is the shape and architectural style PH José Mármol House bore originally before its renovation.
The casa chorizo style is one that most contemporary housing parameters challenge. Residents aren’t necessarily interested anymore in the way this style of home, which is left over from the late 20th and early 21st centuries, bears predictably distributed, concretely consecutive rooms that are connected but also lacking in natural sunlight and airflow.
Moving away from a casa chorizo layout was part of what prompted the owner’s desire for a transformation. In fact, like many of these older houses throughout Boedo, this one has actually undergone two different renovations; one to make it better accommodate the needs of a young family and one to change it stylistically, aesthetically, and atmospherically.
Initially, the primary point of this transformation project was actually much simpler and more specified. Owners mainly wanted the design team to find and transform or create a space within the property for a new yoga studio to be built. They wanted a home studio in which the residents themselves could unwind and the owner might even teach some classes.
Once designers had seen and analyzed the space, however, they quickly saw a complete renovation and redesign opportunity that they wanted to take, so they made a much more ambitious proposal than the original plan to the owners. Taking a risk, designers pitched the idea of a transformation that would change the look and function of the whole house thanks to only a few strategic changes.
Firstly, designers set their sites on the outer courtyard. A simple renovation to this space enabled them to improve and open up the rooms situated around it, creating an easier flow from space to space on the inside, as well as a much more effective breaking down of barriers between indoor and outdoor spaces. These changes counteract that darker, more closed off layout typical of the casa chorizo style we told you about earlier on.
In the centre top of the house, the yoga studio was designed and installed, but designers by no means wanted to limit it to being a space that might only be used for one thing. Instead, the yoga studio was design as a flexible room and multi-purpose space with a natural light filled, welcoming atmosphere, decent temperature control, and a good amount of space. Floor to ceiling glass walls invite sunlight throughout the day, but the windows can be covered for privacy or shade thanks to micro-perforated sheet blinds.
The house also received an aesthetic and decor makeover as well, keeping in the theme of lightening things up and making them feel more free-flowing and expanded. After the space came together physically, rooms were also made to feel cohesive through the use of common natural materials and neutral colours all throughout the house. Some visual patterning was added in the form of things like accent tiles and mats to keep things interesting, but over all the new scheme is fresh and very calm.
Photos by Javier Augustin Rojas
By Courtney • Sep 30, 2019
In a quiet neighbourhood in the urban area of Dobříš, a city in the Czech Republic, innovative architectural teams at boq architekti have recently finished a housing project called Cube in a Cube that is named for the unique nature of its actual shape and construction.
From the street, what visitors see is an outer “layer” of the house. This is a simply shaped cubic frame made from pieces of naturally finished wood that hang suspended between metal supports running along the bottoms and tops of the boards. The process of developing this particular structural project was dubbed “Za Vetrnikem Dobris” throughout its creation.
The purpose of the boards was multi-faceted. Firstly, designers wanted to create a house (which eventually became a series of houses within a cohesively designed neighbourhood) that had a clear identity and style. The goal was to create the buildings to be simplistically eye catching, standing out for their minimalist shape and natural materiality in order to catch people’s eye.
Secondly, the purpose of the boards around the house was to give dwellers an opportunity to enjoy the view of the landscape surrounding the neighbourhood. Designers wanted to ensure that people might seek a new vantage point to enjoy that view from nearly anywhere around the circumference of the house, gazing out in any direction from the home as a base. The view is clearly visible through the angled slats in a way that builds a cohesiveness with the shade of the natural wood and the land beyond.
Additionally, designers wanted to provide the home with a sense of privacy. Although the house doesn’t necessarily sit as close to other buildings as, say, a tightly packed downtown city dwelling might, the team still wanted to create a sense of escape for the residents, letting them enjoy outdoor spaces without feeling watched. The spaces between the wooden slats let them see beyond the boundaries of the plot while also protecting them from public eyes so they might feel relaxed and at home.
Finally, the wooden frame around the house (which is also cubic behind the boards, hence the home’s name) was built with a very intentional materiality. Although the neighbourhood is part of an urban landscape, it is not devoid of nature and a nice view. The natural wood of the frame helps make the house blend into its natural surroundings ever so slightly rather than detracting from the greenery.
Right now, the whole cubic project consists of three different semi-detached houses. The first was such a success of design, function, and aesthetic that the project was expanded into an entire residential compound, which will have additional stages in the future. Six more units are planned as part of ongoing development efforts on the outskirts of Dobris City.
Inside the house, an airy entryway leads to a cloakroom. Just beyond that, a guest bathroom is paired with a nice, bright lower level room that might be used as either a guest bedroom or a study for those who work from home. Moving past these, guests encounter the central social spaces of the home, closer to the back of the house.
The home’s primary social spaces are shared and open concept. Rather than being closed off from one another, the living room, kitchen, and dining room all have a free flow of movement between them, constituting them as a sort of central hub for family activity and daily routine.
Moving upwards, guests encounter two wings. The first is for the children or visitors, consisting of two bedrooms and a bathroom. Further down the hall is a separate wing intended for parents. This has a master bedroom with its own walk-in closet and dressing room and en suite bathroom. The spaces on this floor hit the mark well between privacy and open concept living.
In addition to working in concepts of open concept layouts, designers also wanted to break down barriers between inside and outside spaces. This is why there is some kind of sliding door patio access to an outdoor courtyard or activities area in every room on the ground floor, while every single room on the upper floor has direct access to a terrace or balcony of its own.
The outdoor spaces are just about as multi-faceted as the home’s wooden facade. Some areas are garden spaces with storage for tools. Some spots feature patio furniture and are intended for socializing or quiet moments in the sun. Others, like the spot with the gymnastics inspired rings, are dedicated to physical activity and movement. The goal is to provide residents with a few but also give them privacy, all while encouraging them to enjoy the fresh air whenever possible.
Photos by Alexandra Timpau