Author Archives - Courtney
By Courtney • Jul 31, 2019
In the lush forests right outside of Moscow, Russia, creative designers at ARCHSLON have recently created a contemporary and uniquely shaped but natural looking cubic residence called the Black Villa.
As its name suggests, the villa is made with an entirely black facade that at once makes the house stand out but also blends it right into the trees in certain lighting, preventing it from really interrupting the scenery around it. In fact, the distinct Russian landscape is actually what provided the direct inspiration for the designers’ original conceptualization of the house.
The house was made with the intention of integrating it right into its natural surroundings. In the process of building it, they also wanted to make sure it had the smallest impact on the environment within the plot as possible. The trees around the building’s perimeter were preserved throughout building, contrasting well with the home’s modern shape, which appears to add depth to the forest.
In terms of its structure and decor, the building is quite intentionally minimalist. It consists of two blocks, which function as separate but cohesive volumes according to what the rooms are used for. The halves of the home are linked by a beautiful terrace and a rooftop space that provides delineation without interrupting flow or making any part of the house feel closed off.
Despite the dark colour scheme of the home’s facade, it’s actually quite bright and cheerful on the inside. This is thanks to a system of windows, skylights, and double storey columns that let light pass through the house from space to space with a natural ease and a sunny atmosphere. The windows are large and strategically placed such that they provide almost every room in the house with a nearly panoramic view of the forest beyond the plot.
In shape, decor, and layout, the whole house was specifically created to look and feel simple, clean, and concise. The main living area is shaped longitudinally, like a sort of art gallery featuring locally made pieces and furnishings of natural materiality. At the far end, the master bedroom features its own spacious study, both of which flood with sunlight in the afternoons (without overheating thanks to double paned glazed glass). The kitchen and comforting, welcoming living room sit opposite.
The outdoor spaces that complement the comforting interior of the home are just as stunning and pleasant to spend time in. Between the volumes, for example, there is a stunning courtyard heavy in natural greenery that was preserved during the building process and has thrived since. To one side of the courtyard, a glass wall leads to the master bedroom, as though the greenery is actually a part of the bedroom’s peaceful atmosphere, integrating the experience.
Photos provided by the designer.
Innovative AstraZeneca Offices created by SpaceInvaders to provide a unique and engaging space for employees
By Courtney • Jul 30, 2019
In a little British town called Macclesfield, creative design teams from the uniquely named architectural firm SpaceInvaders have recently finished a complete overhaul of a new office space designer to work as a head quarters for a company called AstraZeneca.
From the outset, the design teams and the company alike wanted to make sure the whole space was approached from a progressive perspective. They wanted to make sure that the place caters to productivity and workplace respect and needs, but also that it feels fun, welcoming, and comfortable enough that employees actually enjoy the time they spend there, letting them create better work in the end.
By the time they reached the end of the project, designers had actually achieved exactly that! In fact, they found it so successful that the office now serves as a guideline for all of their other locations when it comes to layout, aesthetic, and functionality. This is often the case with head offices, of course, but this biopharmaceutical company found their own brand new design particularly well suited to their needs and efficient to recreate elsewhere too.
Once conservative and stereotypically “stuffy” in its style and function, this workplace has undergone a complete transformation in both its style and its mentality, culture, and way of working. The space is now much more free flowing, both in physical movement and communication. It is also much more technologically equipped and filled with more colour and personality.
Perhaps the biggest changes in space and aesthetic took place in the meeting rooms, which are now much more open, diverse, and geared towards collaboration. The break rooms, on the other hand, have been enhanced and geared towards actually giving employees a solid physical and mental break so they can go back to work feeling more genuinely refreshed and prepared. One spot even features a foosball table!
Elsewhere in the office, more classic workspaces do exist for those who thrive better in more disciplined setups and need a little more quiet or privacy. Besides the group work driven meeting areas in the centre, there are also tables, as well as comfortable booths where clients might be met, meetings might be held, or breaks might even be taken.
All throughout the space, colour popping plays a roll in livening up the space no matter which part you’re sitting in or how you’re using it. The dominant colour scheme is quite neutral and balanced with white, right onto the ceiling thanks to interestingly shaped pendant lights. Contemporarily shaped furniture pieces bring the colour pops in, adding red, green, and blue to the mix to add a bit of dimension and interest.
Photos by Gareth Gardner
By Courtney • Jul 30, 2019
On an expansive corner plot in the city of Cabreúva in Brazil, creative design and architectural teams at Taguá Arquitetura have recently finished a luxuriously open concept escape home called BT House.
Although the house is L-shaped, which is a structural shape typically used to separate homes by volume according to function, this particular house is actually open concept, without a lot of hard delineation between spaces, volumes, or functional rooms. Instead of being partitioned, the rooms are defined by the way they are intentionally situated to face the same direction.
Of course, with a patio and pool space like this house has out back, the direction that each space faces is absolutely towards the pool! This is true not only for the more social and public spaces on the ground floor, but also all the way up to the second storey where the bedrooms and private resting space areas face the same way.
This arrangement of rooms establishes a sort of physical and visual integration of interior and exterior spaces that feels incredibly continuous and very fluid in its energy and the way it moves. Not only does this create a calming connection with the pool space and the sunny blue waters, but it also highlights the beauty of the home’s own gardens, which grow lush and green around the pool.
Part of the reason the pool is made such a focal point of the house is that the owners literally listed a desire for fantastic social and leisure spaces as one of their very top priorities within their home plans, right from conceptualization. This is why designers made the pool, patio, and garden such a primary spot in the house, like a hub of rest, activity, socialization, and peace.
Besides their love of leisure spaces, the owners also wanted a home that was quick in its construction and would look clean and concise in its finished product. This largely determined the materiality chosen by design and architectural teams, resulting in that linear, beautiful system of steel pillars, beams, and slabs that can be found all throughout the house, from roof to deck.
All along the northwest side of the home’s facade, where living areas face the sun and gather lots of natural light on a daily basis, designers created walls inspired by a large glass curtain to maximize on the stunning energy sunlight creates. They minimized the heat from that sun, however, by using a special glass that is capable of blocking out up to 70% of the UV rays that would otherwise flood in.
Many of the other walls are made of similar amounts of glass, and most of them slide open as well. This really hits the concept of creating integrated spaces home, which was one of the owners’ main priorities. Because the glass walls retract to eliminate almost any separation between living spaces and open air leisure spots, the house is also extremely efficient when it comes to ventilation, rather than just lighting.
The windows aren’t the only parts of the house that contribute to the sustainable systems included in the house. In addition to the UV blocking glass, designers also used thermoacoustic tiles, steel deck braces, steel structures in both the interior and exterior walls, rainwater recycling cisterns, PVC frames, and solar energy panels for lighting and power.
Another interesting feature of the house’s actual shape itself is the way the “L” allows the garage to give the patio and pool area a little bit of extra privacy thanks to the way it is situated compared to the street and the view from the public sidewalk. This means the steel and glass facade of the house is very apparent in the visual fabric of the street-scape, making it stand out as an example of contemporarily beautiful home architecture.
The combination of materiality and atmosphere is another aspect of integration very present in the house, similar to the blending of interior and exterior spaces that takes place all across the back of the building. The industrial influence that’s inherent in the steel structures creates a beautiful contrast and sense of balance against the backdrop of the peaceful, stunning pool waters and surrounding garden.
View in gallery View in gallery
Because the designers saw the clear industrial aesthetic revealing itself early on, they opted to make it thorough by rolling with in the decor scheme as well. This gives basis for the wonderfully cabled floating staircase, concrete benches and elements in the main living room by the fireplace, and the bridge-like short hallway on the upper floor leading from the stairs to the bedrooms.
Photos by Leonardo Giantomasi
Canadian Dessier Residence transformed by NatureHumaine from a duplex building into a single-family home
By Courtney • Jul 29, 2019
Located in a stunning looking and historical borough of Montreal called the Plateau-Mont-Royal, in the French province of Canada, design and architectural teams at NatureHumaine have created the impressively shaped and sized Dessier Residence.
This project was one of both transformation and expansion. The new owners of what used to be a duplex building contracted the team to turn it into a single family home which required a lot of restructuring of the inside areas and the way they’re defined. Originally two completely separate volumes, the new space has blended both and centred the functional spaces of the new house in the heart of the building where there previously would have been a split.
This spatial tactic leaves the corners, edges, and interestingly shaped parts of the house for more unique rooms and functions; those spaces that actually suit existing in an unconventional geometric shape. At the back of the house, a mezzanine has been added to give easy access to a rooftop terrace that towers above the trees and provides a stunning view of the surrounding landscape.
To balance the addition added at the top of the house, a small extension has been added to the back of the ground floor as well. It is just as angular as those that already existed, suiting the original structure seamlessly. From this extension, a beautiful private patio space can be accessed through two large panes of glass that fold back to connect the inner space with the outdoors.
The way that limits between indoor and outdoor spaces can be folded so simply away on both the ground and upper floors creates an almost constant visual connection between the comfortable seating spaces inside the house and the stunning garden sitting out back in the private space and down below the terrace.
In terms of decor, the interior spaces are quite monochrome in a way that is stylish and nearly minimalist. Colour pops provide some personality and dimension, but the scheme is intentionally centred on white, black, and wooden finishes all throughout to ground the very contemporary shape of the house and its new additions.
In the centre of the house, right at the heart where things would have previously been separated, is a stunning staircase that spirals upwards in a squared off fashion. Above this, a beautifully large skylight lets natural sunlight pour downwards, turning the very centre of the house into a column of light that touches nearly every room in the house and keeps them feeling cheerful and spacious.
This staircase physically connects the whole house in the same way that the sunlight pouring in from above it visually connects each floor and volume. These stairs provide access to every floor and room like a central vein, all the way from the ground floor up to the very top of the house at the rooftop terrace, which is intended to be an urban but peaceful escape for contemplation.
Photos by Adrien Williams
By Courtney • Jul 29, 2019
In Turkey’s capital city of Istanbul, creative teams at Emre Arolat Architecture have recently completed a redesign and rebuilding of a stunning art spot to establish the Pilevneli Gallery; a place that blends new art with adapted old urban spaces.
The Pilevneli Gallery is one small part of a larger, country-wide effort to repurpose and revitalize old, often run down city buildings and spaces in order to give them a new lease on life in ways that enrich and invigorate the social fabric and highlight pieces of local art and culture for admiration and appreciation.
For this gallery, designers transformed an empty building in the Dolapdere neighbourhood in the Turkish district of Taksim. This spot actually sits right in the heart of the area we mentioned that is currently undergoing larger updating efforts that are focused on the reuse of space for arts and culture. Sitting on a main street, the new structure commands attention from the street.
The gallery grabs one’s eye at first thanks to its shape. Compared to the older, more historical buildings typical of the area, this structure is minimalist, linear looking, and extremely neat. Besides being quite cubic in its shape, the building makes unique use of space in the form of several void spaces amidst its volumes.
As Recently as five years ago, this area of the city of Istanbul was quite run down and considered underprivileged. Its central location and proximity to commercial districts, however, makes it such a perfectly located neighbourhood that letting it become dilapidated was deemed not an option by the city and local designers.
Now, it has become a slightly unplanned but overall colourful, eclectic, and unique area of town chalk full of small businesses and local firms running out of small, old buildings that have been refurbished to counteract weathering and age. The street on which the gallery sits is also home to boutique hotels, several other galleries, and even more than one museum.
Above all other priorities, this particular design team wanted to make sure they avoided what often happens in neighbourhood overhauls, which is the eradication of original buildings and therefore part of the city’s history. Instead, they wanted to preserve as much of the building and street context as they could while still improving on the structure and making the interior far more contemporary.
The rough fire brickwork found on both the exterior and in several indoor spots, like the stairwells, is a great example of how designers took a blended approach, hitting the mark somewhere between redoing and revamping. These walls received a few new spots in the brickwork to repair damage and then certain spots were painted, resulting in a minimally repaired look that matches the original and pays it tribute but still looks new and stands stronger.
The situation for support and core strength of the building was similar. Existing columns and beams that still stood tall and undamaged were cleaned up and preserved to the best possible degree, while a few additional supports were built in spots where damage, advanced wear and tear, or weak spots were present, thus giving the building a stronger frame.
Once the original aspects of the building had been restored, designers took a turn with their approach and built the primary art display space of the gallery like a contrastingly modern and contemporary looking inset in the north-east end. Laid out like an actual experience, rather than just a few paintings hanging on the walls, the space is built like a clean, sharp looking white cube.
This spot creates a stunning and rather stark contrast with the naked brick of the old structure. The white exhibition walls help the art pieces pop and stand out, while the presence of brick and beams nearby add local and contextual context without distracting from the artistic experience itself.
Everything in this space was quite strategic in its colour, materiality, placement, and so on, right down to the windows. In fact, the placement of the windows actually plays a huge role in the experience! Designers chose to seclude certain parts of the gallery behind solid walls that can’t be seen from outside the building at all, but other spots have carefully placed windows that intentionally show certain parts of the neighbourhood where the sights laying outside in the neighbourhood show off a bit of the local culture and incorporate the scene into the gallery itself like a sort of live art.
Photos by Thomas Mayer
By Courtney • Jul 26, 2019
In the bustling urban area of Stavanger in Norway, creative design teams at the firm Magu Design have recently completed a brand new “work from wherever” style office for European oil company Aker BP.
In terms of its function and layout, the office is entirely activity based. This was intentional to provide employees that choose to come and share the office space on any given day rather than working from home. Designers and executives also wanted to make a space that is diverse, flexible, and open to movement throughout the day, letting people change where and how they’re sitting throughout the day according to whatever they find comfortable.
The office might look fun, informal, and quite casual, but it’s actually an extremely efficient, well equipped, and very productive indeed. Underneath its unique decor, shapes, and interesting details, the office actually has a distinct sense of subtle luxury, offering just about anything and everything an employee or client could possibly need throughout the day.
Since aspects of the company are digitized in a cutting edge way, designers opted to incorporate that emphasis on technology right into the office itself. In particular, they wanted to fully enable the running of a specific department within the company called Eureka.
The Eureka department is diverse and ever-changing, meaning they require a space that can match those same characteristics. The structure of the teams varies depending on the project they’re working on. Some days, the department splits up into very small crews and works quite independently, but at other times everyone will work together in a much larger team, occupying a whole floor in the office’s building for a number of weeks or even a few months at a time.
Because of the team’s constantly changing needs, the space really was catered towards active work and activity. Because all space is shared, there is an office-wide policy that ongoing work will be cleared and stored elsewhere by the end of the night rather than left where it is, since there are no fixed desks across the space and everyone moves around quite fluidly from day to day.
Of course, some employees and projects will naturally require a slightly more concrete, isolated, and focused space in which to produce their work. This is why designers built and established a quiet zone on each floor; an area that, while not cut off or too isolated, is specifically intended and built for more concentrated or possibly individualized work.
There are also several more traditionally laid out quiet rooms that are slightly more set aside from the main diverse spaces, just in case that’s what employees need during any give project instead. These are actual rooms with desks and chairs. These are in the minority, however, because most of the work required by the company is inherently collaborative.
Another rather unique aspect of the office is the nature of the meeting spaces. Rather than outlining a few isolated rooms that book up quickly and result in a waiting list for things that should be dealt with sooner, the office shifted to the idea of more diversely located and laid out meeting booths and spaces. These make each meeting feel like a focused experience but also a break from routine, making them feel more interactive than intimidating. This layout also means that there is always some kind of meeting space available.
Besides being diverse within themselves, the different zones and meeting areas built into the space are also nearly free of delineation, making them feel quite seamless and fluid. The presence of cutting edge technology is also limitless, as it is present all over to account for the fact that meetings are intended to be had anywhere that feels right to the people involved.
Besides its layout and interesting use of shape, designers actually also incorporated an inspiration theme in terms of art inclusion and decor. If you look at the details and some of the decor pieces, you might see the way they informed their space after themes present in the classic tale Alice in Wonderland and the process of her falling down the rabbit hole to experience another world. Executives and designers wanted employees and clients to feel like they are seeing the world through new eyes, complete with a new way of doing things.
Photos by Arne Bru Haug
Flexible and brand new Intarcia Offices created by ACTWO to take advantage of light and highlight art in the workplace
By Courtney • Jul 26, 2019
In the busy city centre of Boston, Massachusetts, conceptualization teams from architectural firm ACTWO have created a brand new head office space for biopharmaceutical firm Intarcia Therapeutics.
Among their main goals, designers and the firm alike aimed to make a space that is both pleasant to use and efficiently, fully functional all at once. They wanted to build a space that is welcoming and enjoyable to work in but that is also equipped for maximum productivity and easy working, individually or together.
Besides the spaces and resources that are geared specifically towards work and production, designers also made it a high priority to include original works of art from local artists and creators all over the office. These not only inject some immediate culture and personality into the space but they also set a stunning atmosphere and serve to motivate those thinking and working within the space.
One of the most subtle and unique aspects of the working space is the way it plays with light. That might not sound like something that would really influence an individual’s average work day, but it’s actually scientifically proven that light plays a large role in people’s ability to concentrate and work productively. That’s why designers made light such an integral part of this office.
Flexibility was a key factor in how they did this. Using unique, clean white LED lighting sources and natural sunlight from large glazed windows, designers created a beautiful balance within the space according to function. The best part is that all lighting is adjustable thanks to dials and curtains, making the meeting and work spaces easy to cater to depending on the needs of who is using the space at that time.
The windows do more than just provide a wondrous level of sunlight to each of the office corners. They also give employees and visitors a stunning view that makes one feel refreshed and motivated. Because it sits high on the 13th floor of a large corporate building, every room in the office is afforded a breathtaking view of the seaport below.
Following that same theme of beautifully motivating visuals, designers opted to use art right there in the space to give it character and personality, but also to create an atmosphere of creativity and inspiration. The pieces included in the office are original works of art created primarily by local artisans from the area.
The combination of the carefully balanced light that flows throughout the office and the way it plays off of and changes the experiences of the art creates not just an interesting aesthetic but also a welcoming and very restful atmosphere. This is particularly true in the spaces that designers specifically laid out for working breaks, which are essential to a productive work day.
Believe it or not, the larger main office space that you see in most of the photos isn’t actually the only part of the space. The second floor of the same building is actually an expansion of Intarcia, acting as a separate office suite. This office has much of the same decor and atmosphere, as well as flexible partitions that let users tailor the space to their needs. This suite is often used for training purposes, conferences, and larger worth gatherings.
Photos by Greg Premru
By Courtney • Jul 25, 2019
In the city centre of Barueri, Brazil, innovative designers at Pita Arquitetura have recently completed a stunning office transformation for a brand new brand of the travel agency Decolar.
This company is actually the largest online travel agency in all of Latin America. They have offices in several places across the continent despite functioning primarily as an online service, but this new space is designed to provide more of a central hub for the company’s organizational elements despite not being officially designated an actual “head office”.
Because the company has been going through so much growth lately, executives made the decision to build a new office that might act like a hub for a lot of its organizational operations. They also needed a larger workspace for their employees than they had access to earlier thanks to the way the company has grown. They took this as an opportunity to build an office that is a little more connected to the company’s vision and working style than their previous space was.
Previously located near Sao Paulo’s international airport, in a city called Guarulhos, the office has undergone a relaxation and focus based transformation intended for the better of employees and clients alike, despite its change in scenery. This is partially because the new area is slightly more metropolitan, giving prospective clients better access to its services and customer representatives.
One unique challenge within this move was actually extraneous to the new space itself but integral to the inner workings of the company’s staff. After the move, the company intended to keep the same teams, but they knew that moving the office to Barueri would increase the distance of travel required each morning for those who were used to working in Guarulhos.
In order to make up for this change in commute, executives and designers together decided to concentrate on what employees actually use, want, and need in order to create a new working space that’s simply so good, welcoming, and comfortable that it makes the further distance traveled by those employees living closer to the previous location feel genuinely worth it.
At its base, the office was rooted in the concept of connection. Designers wanted all spaces to be connected in order to enable all teams within their workplace systems to be connected. This was inspired by the belief that, in some way, all people are connected; a concept that is very well linked to the travel industry. In order to build these connected spaces, design teams employed the benefits of the curve.
By this, we mean that the rooms, spaces, furnishings, and features all have a distinct curvature to them. This creates a sense of flow, as though nothing is cut off from anything else. The visual of so many complementary curved shapes appears to guide employees through the office. Designers enjoyed creating a space that bears a sense of curiosity, as though one might discover something great beyond the next bend in their path.
Materiality was chosen quite intentionally in this space, as a complementary piece and a sort of grounding to the curving shapes. Bright colours pop well against a natural wood that provides a lightly coloured palette, contrasting against the brighter hues. Most floors and work stations feature this neutrality while inner booths and stunning greenery hanging from the ceiling create visual interest.
Designers also contracted local artists to create stunning street art inspired murals and pieces within certain areas, like meeting spaces and break rooms. This brings a sense of local culture to a place that encourages people to experience all kinds of cultures and inspires those who work there on a daily basis.
At the heart of the office is a mutual and collaborative productivity space called “the work cafe”. This is where all other spots lead to, converge, and connect, like a nucleus. Designers created this to be a space where people from all different departments, floors, and so on can meet, discuss, rest, eat together, or even get work done with some different scenery than usual.
Within this work cafe, all of the tables, chairs, modular couches, and “meeting cubes” are movable. This makes the space diverse and customizable, truly catering it to the needs, comforts, and preferences of any type of employee or client doing just about any task. This free-work atmosphere is one of the many elements that keeps employees from farther away happy enough with the space to keep working in the new office despite the lengthier commute.
Photos by Renato Navarro
Wooden 19th Street Residence created by Sidell Pakravan Architects to provide stunning Californian views
By Courtney • Jul 24, 2019
On the hillside streets of San Francisco, California, creative design teams at Sidell Pakravan Architects have recently completed a full building renovation, giving particular style attention to the top floor penthouse. This fantastic new space was dubbed the 19th Street Residence upon completion.
Although the entire building underwent some type of renovation, the penthouse apartment at the very top received a particularly heavy overhaul. The resident of this apartment is actually the owner of the entire building, both living and working from the same space. They wanted, therefore, to afford themselves a little bit extra living and working space that blends better than before.
This was achieved by adding a lovely addition to the apartment, turning it into two blended volumes with free flowing space between them, rather than just a singular feeling residence where everyday life and workplace function step on each other’s toes. At the same time, designers wanted to maintain the stunning view provided by the apartment’s prime place at the top of a building that sits atop a hill.
The aforementioned view lets owners and guests fully appreciate the stunning urban context in which the building sits. Beyond that, the water sparkles in the sunlight and provides a breathtaking visual contrast between natural beauty and city character. The relationship between these two mirrors the relationship inside the apartment between complementary home and work spaces.
Originally built with low ceilings, this old building presented designers with particular challenges in making the spot feel spacious and open in a way that will really benefit the open concept but simultaneously blended layout they were planning for. This is why an extension was built that not only expanded the place width-wise but that also broke through vertically to give the apartment more height.
The difference in heigh in the two volumes or sides of the apartment creates a space on the roof of the lower side. Designers opted to take advantage of this spot by creating an additional interior room at the top. The walls of this room can be pulled entirely back to blend indoor and outdoor spaces all along a perimeter wall where a stunning built-in bookcase balances a wooden island in the centre of the room. The view from this spot feels unprecedented as you stare out over the city.
Part of the magic of the view is created in the fact that the visual edges of the rooftop terrace sit almost precisely evenly with the San Francisco skyline if you look directly from the door. A view of the buildings below leading up to the water’s edge can be gleaned instead by crossing the terrace to the balcony’s edge.
Inside the apartment, the entire colour palette has a stunning sense of neutrality about it. While the ceilings, walls, and many surfaces have a calming cream shade to them, contrasting furnishings and built-in features were done in the same naturally stained wood as the previously mentioned bookcase that sits near the sliding glass doors.
The effect if one of calming sensical atmospheres that makes sense from space to space. The palette also allows for any presence of decorative colour to pop against otherwise subtly cohesive backgrounds, as is the case with the lovely teal painted walls in the children’s play room.
Perhaps our favourite feature of the apartment is the lower balcony edge that boasts a safety partition made entirely of smoothly glazed glass. Putting this in place instead of an opaque wall provides an almost uninterrupted view of the city right from the apartment door.
Photo by Laurian Ghinitoiu
Russian Align Technology Offices created by OFFCON to prioritize employee mental health and motivation
By Courtney • Jul 24, 2019
In the busy urban centre of Moscow, Russia, cutting edge design teams at OFFCON have recently revamped and overhauled a large space in order to make a fantastic new international office for a medical device industry leader called Align Technology.
The headquarters of the company is actually located in San Jose, California, but this new office in Moscow is part of the company’s latest initiatives to branch out internationally and increase the reach of the benefits of their products. The branch itself has been established for a few years now but as the company grew and found a need to hire more local staff, the need for a larger, more efficient office became more and more apparent.
The new space in Moscow is situated in a large, well located business centre called Meshcherin. It was built to comfortably “house” a team of 250 people in total, many of whom work at precisely the same time. It’s undoubtedly a busy office, but one of the goals was to cater the space such that it actually feels quite relaxing and casual on a day to day basis.
Besides helping to avoid building a space that feels frantic or crowded, designers also wanted to work with executives to cater the space for more comfort and efficiency according to what employees from that specific company feel they benefit from the most. To do this, teams analyzed several of Align’s existing offices in order to figure out which spaces, aspects, and features are the most used and the most beneficial. Their aim was to give those same things special attention in this new space.
The new office is intentionally boundary-less when it comes to visual separations of space. There is also no hierarchy to how the spaces are organized based on function. Instead, the office feels collaborative, equalized, and comfortable for all employees. While the bulk of the office is open concept, there are a number of enclosed meeting rooms, but even these are quite informal and geared more towards things like brainstorming efforts rather than intimidating presentations.
By “informal”, we meant that most of the meeting spaces are still very flexible, despite being more closed off than the rest of the space. With a few simple lighting and furniture changes, one spot might cater to an entirely different structure of meeting or group of people, making the space very diverse and useful indeed.
Additionally, designers intentionally included some spaces that are quieter than the main shared space, featuring only soft furniture like bean bag chairs and no tables. These spots are intended for short meetings, very casual collaborative sessions, or even a quiet moment alone to seek some calm if no one else needs the space. These areas can be temporarily separated acoustically from the rest of the office by curtains in the event that a meeting needs privacy or an employee needs a place to recharge.
Bean bag clad rest and meeting spaces aren’t the only spots that are very unique indeed. The office also features several custom-made structures that feature storage, phone booths for quiet or private distance meetings, and multi-purpose alcoves. The way these systems are lined up provides a little bit of functional and spatial delineation without interrupting other spaces or the flow of traffic to make a space for storage or private conversations.
One of our favourite features of this office is the way that just about any surface, no matter how unconventional has been taken advantage of for comfortable, uniquely shaped seating wherever possible. The windowsills are a perfect example! Instead of setting things here or leaving them empty, designers built another soft seating space all along the edge of the room.
Balancing out the storage and phone structures dotted strategically throughout the room is also a central structure, placed so as not to interrupt flow, that resembles an amphitheatre. This space is intended for more quick meetings between employees or to be used as a temporary workspace when someone needs a different perspective or a motivating change of scenery. Employees are, after all, encouraged to work from whatever spaces feels best for them in the moment.
Within the flexible layout of the main office, several simple features actually make the space even more versatile and customizable than it already is. Besides adjustable lighting options and dials for brightness, which lets employees determine their preference, the tables throughout the space are also easily adjustable in their height.
Because the nature of the work and people’s schedules is quite free and open, employees are often present in the office at times considered “irregular” but that are really based on their needs or preferences. For this reason, designers actually built in several rooms to one side, away from the open concept space, that are specifically laid out for intense concentration or sleeping.
The office is also built to put an emphasis on genuine break time and things that amp up productivity during work hours by encouraging employees to take actual time out and do things that make them feel refreshed and renewed. They make this easier by providing showers, spas, and even games rooms, which have foosball, ping pong, and pool tables.
As if that’s not unique and forward thinking enough, the office even allows, nay encourages, their employees to have fun getting from place to place! There is an abundance of scooters, hoverboards, and skates provided so that employees can meld fun and efficiency right into the basics of their day.
In fact, this mode of in-office transportation is so integrally built into the space itself that designers accounted for it right in the room plans. The scooters and hoverboards are actually the reason all of the paths and open spaces are built with rounded corners and soft flowing shapes. This builds efficient and safe circulation as people walk and move around the office.
Perhaps what really sets this office and its company apart is the prioritized value that underlies all of the physical and spatial choices designers and executives made for the rooms. It is special in that all choices were made based on what will improve and maintain the physical and mental health of the employees working there. It truly is an office designed to motivate them to be and do their best!
Photos by Ilya Ivanov
Cubic House in the Fields created by Estudio Acta to provide stunning minimalist lifestyle experience
By Courtney • Jul 23, 2019
Unique and simple Rain House created by Describing Architecture Studio to blend traditional Chinese architecture and modern living
By Courtney • Jul 23, 2019
Amidst the rolling hills of ChongQing in China, creative designers at Describing Architecture Studio have recently finished a beautifully unique refurbished housing project for a small family called the Rain House.
Right from the beginning, the conceptualization of this house was rooted in the concept of memory. Designers wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to pay homage to the very hills the plot stands on, blending the house into what’s typically seen in the area in a slightly more modern way so the family can truly enjoy the breathtaking landscape.
Both when the original house was built and now in its refurbishment, designers were presented with a unique challenge that was entirely out of their control. This was the fact that increased traffic in the area presented a serious problem in continuing to build up the area and navigate the area with flow rather than jams.
The development of roads was undoubtedly a good thing for residents, as it met their travel needs in an area that was previously very rural and not necessarily easily accessed, but their presence changed the landscape just enough that the visual fabric of neighbourhoods changed in order to negotiate around and between the roads.
The roads were only the beginning of the changes to the neighbourhood, which are now evident in the amenities that are immediately present in the homes. These changes were directly correlated to a generalized increase in income of the residents in the area, increasing the presence of tap water, gas power, and Internet originally, and leading to all kinds of modern living features now.
Now that road developments and modernizations have largely slowed in the area because the neighbourhood is fully but subtly contemporary despite its ongoing traditionally inspired charm, many designers are trying to pay better tribute to the landscape itself by getting creative but respectful with their homes. Within this project, for example, teams couldn’t help feeling that the position of the sun and how it hits the land should be taken into better consideration from the beginning of their plans.
Incorporating the sun’s position into the actual plans of the home and accounting for where the light will fall aligns well with the Chinese practice of Fengshui. This practice is central to the Rain House, which features single framed stone walls, self-made hollow bricks created locally, and pre-cast slabs, just like most of the houses did when the neighbourhood really started populating more in the 1980s, for the sake of authenticity.
The original house that was transformed into the Rain House featured these as well, but with less weather proofing and modern materiality for support. It was an old three bay house full of wooden casements and windows that did not feature any inset glass. The yard was sunny in most places but also shaded by a stunning 200 year old yellow-horned tree that casts its silhouette quite far from where it sits in the sun across a small river.
Now, in the new house, only certain elements of the original structure remain, most of which have been harvested from what was still usable of what was left and aspects that have been recreated as authentically as possible. A new specific location was chosen for the house in terms of how it is oriented on the site. It provides views of the surrounding woods and farmland but still provides great access to transportation.
In terms of styling, the goal of the design was to achieve a sense of simplicity and uniqueness in one place. Part of this is rooted in the fact that designers chose to work with the uneven terrain of their plot rather than working against it, placing rooms of certain functions very intentionally. The living room, for example, has a slightly higher elevation than the bedrooms because being placed lower on the hill gives the resting spaces more privacy away from the front road, which sits higher.
The same traditional stone walls that you’d have seen in the original house in previous generations are present in this new design in the transitionary space between the new volumes that replaced the original three. Now, three larger rectangular volumes make up the bulk of the house, with two tower structures added on.
Sunlight actually plays a very large role in this house beyond just the Fengshui elements we were talking about previously. Designers also included extremely large windows (with glass this time) in places that they knew would let the most sunlight flood into the shared living spaces and provide tons of comfortable, natural light.
In contrast to the original building and its very traditional materiality, the roof of each of the large rectangular volumes is made from steel rather than wood or bricks. This was a choice for the sake of good weathering and modernizing, and also to provide contrast in shape and angle in the way that the different roofs on the home’s various volumes are tilted and the way they catch the sun.
Another much more contemporary looking element of the house is the glass wall that looks onto the south facing yard. This creates a visual blending of space between the interior common rooms and the beautiful scenery outside, as well as the immediate courtyard. Several of these panes slide like patio doors to quite literally create a blending of indoor and outdoor spaces as well. This wall also provides even more sunlight than anywhere else in the house.
Inside, the house is heavy in its stunning wooden materiality and neutral colour palette. This gives different spaces, especially the bedrooms, a sense of spa-like calm, particularly when the sun hits them and makes them gleam. This theme extends right into the centred tower, which is the tallest building and serves as an open and multi-purpose activities space, changing depending on the needs of the family in the moment.
In fact, the material choices in this home actually played one of the biggest roles in the home’s authenticity within its building process. Here, designers involved bricklayers, stonemasons, and carpenters, just like there would have been in the building of the original house, but this time they collaborate with ironworkers and welders for the more contemporary iron and steel elements.
Photos by Lian He
Stunningly contemporary vertical condo called Qalma Building completed by Carazo Arquitectura in Costa Rica
By Courtney • Jul 22, 2019
In the sunny urban centre of San Jose in Costa Rica, contemporarily minded design teams at the firm Carazo Arquitectura have recently complete a beautifully modern vertical condominium collective called the Qalma Building.
Right from conceptualization, the Qalma Building was planned as an effort to provide more housing in the area while also maintaining a generally reduced environmental footprint. The structure was completed with the preservation of its surrounding environment in mind, leaving a beautiful green space in the immediate area untouched and healthy.
The plot of land on which the building was allotted building space is actually quite heavily wooded. Design teams wanted to interrupt this lovely space as little as possible, taking up only what space was absolutely necessary and repurposing the wood from any trees that were cleared. In the end, they managed to conserve 90% of the site’s original trees.
Because they wanted to take up as little space as possible, designers opted to build generous living spaces by working vertically in the free air rather than horizontally into the naturally inhabited woodland space. This worked well physically, but team members expressed a concern for those who might feel put off by the mere fact that the building extends quite so high into the air, leaving some of the apartments towering extremely high above the ground.
To counteract this concern, designers prioritized the building of residential units that are so incredibly welcoming, comfortable, and calming, and inhabitants’ every need is met. They strove to create an atmosphere that feels explicitly relaxing, like one is retreating to a safe place in the sky rather than towering above a city.
Another priority was to include elements into the building that really make residents feel as though their quality of life is improved by living there. This is part of the reason balcony spaces and floor to ceiling windows have been made such an integral part of both the private units and common spaces. Because the building sits high above the trees, the view from each window is stunningly all-surrounding.
Design teams also had several social priorities in mind when they started conceptualizing the organization of space within the building. Rather than simply creating individualized units with no shared flow, they opted to create several shared spaces within the building that might establish is as one that feels more like a community and less of just a residence hall.
These common spaces, which are intended to draw people out of their units and towards that stunning view, are located mostly in the highest three levels, near the very top of the structure. This positioning was intentional to incorporate the height of the building into the experience as an enjoyable element rather than something those living on lower floors shouldn’t explore.
Nature was also incorporated right into the building in a way that makes it part of the experience. Throughout the transitionary spaces and all common grounds leading from floor to floor or apartment to apartment, local greenery is included in the decor scheme, displayed in a way that contrasts beautifully against the building’s steel and concrete materiality.
The long garden boxes that are features throughout the inside and open air hallways of the building on each floor are also placed at the top, outer edge of every balcony, from ground level all the way up to the top. This not only creates a sense of fresh cohesiveness, but also makes greenery a visual part of the facade when you look at the building from a distance or from below.
The emphasis on greenery in an otherwise rather industrial chic inspired building was based on the scientifically proven health benefits that being surrounding by plants and vegetation has. Designers wanted to allow residents the chance of enjoying reduced blood pressure, lower blood levels of adrenaline, reduced anxiety, and improved concentration, among countless other wonderfully positive things.
Besides the focus on plants, the intentional choices in materiality were based on priorities rooted in strength, longevity, and anti-weathering, as well as chic, neat aesthetic. The choice to leave a lot of the steel and concrete structural elements exposed was made to present a contrast with the otherwise natural area, allowing residents to really see and experience the relationship between buildings and the land.
Photos by Fernando Alda
By Courtney • Jul 22, 2019
Outside the metropolitan area of Petrópolis in Brazil, creative designers at Rodrigo Simão Arquitetura have recently completed an absolutely dreamy family sunshine home called the House in Correas.
This stunning house was designed to be horizontal and sprawling rather than towering and tall. The intent here was to make it feel like a cozy escape, keeping everything low and nestled amongst the lush greenery in the surrounding area. Rather than being made of one monolithic volume containing many rooms, designers chose to create a number of buildings featuring separate suites; one for the owners, a married couple, and one each for a son in his 20s and a daughter just turned 30.
Inspired by prairie houses of previous decades, the house features traditional looking stone walls, steel frames, and wooden furnishings and details all around. It sits in a forested area and is flanked on all sides by lovely, lush gardens that provide each patio (of which there are several) a lovely floral view.
The first and largest suite of this impressive house features the master bedroom first and foremost. This is a stunning space centred on the idea of relaxation and meditation, with a beautiful view when the doors are flung open. This volume also features the living, dining, and playing rooms at one end and, towards the other end where a transitionary space to the other two suites sit, the volume has a fully equipped kitchen, a home theatre, and a stunning indoor-outdoor verandah.
The dining room is perhaps the first and most stunning example of the intentional materiality chosen by designers for the overall home scheme. Here, glazed but naturally coloured wood is used in a way that is nothing short of picturesque. Where the verandah begins, a beautiful home bad is covered like a pavilion and is fully equipped with its own barbecue and pizza oven.
The process of collecting the materials to build this house was an ongoing thing rather than a bulk haul. Designers began collecting local and authentic pieces of stone, reused wood, and even classic home pieces from demolitions in the area, like doors and windows. These lend a slightly rustic chic aesthetic, as though the home is a mosaic of beautiful elements that have been pieced together.
Besides the wooden and stone elements, the house deploys a calming colour of green to balance the breathtaking scenery surrounding the house. This shade is called “English green” and it creates a look that makes the areas in which it is included look as though they might have grown right up from the ground. Upon first glance they appear perhaps moss covered.
The direction in which the house and each of its suites were situated was highly dependent on the view. Designers wanted to ensure that residents and visitors truly get a chance to soap up the sight of the awe inspiring mountains looming in the distance from just about anywhere they might choose to spend time in the house or outside in the grounds.
From there, towards the other bedroom suites, the home features a fitness room under another pavilion, from which one can see a workshop and barn, two beautiful pools with naturally running water, and even a river that has always naturally flowed through the land, passing by the gardens and adding a calming trickling sound to the whole outdoor space.
Inside the guest bedroom suites, beautiful sliding wooden doors lead right into the sleeping area, each of which features a colour scheme of bright pops against neutral and coherently green backgrounds. These spaces are quite spa-like, set aside like their own little home pavilions where visitors might seek solace and thorough rest.
Perhaps one of our favourite features on the entire plot is the use of stone in the yard to create stunning decorative paths and walkways. These move in lovely patterns across and through the lush, green grass, occasionally leading to matching stone staircases that account for changes in terrain across softly sloping hills.
Photos by Andre Nazareth
By Courtney • Jul 19, 2019
Amidst the lush trees of Nova Ponente in Italy, innovative designers at bergmeisterwolf architekten has finished building the Fan Forest Houses; a collection of buildings that, as the name suggests, fan across the landscape to provide a unique home.
In total, the collective is made up of three separate house buildings that look and function cohesively to form a residential ensemble. The homes are built and situated very intentionally on the landscape according to, and in order to account for, the crags of rock and crops of plants that exist on a mountainside.
Because the homes are built on a landscape that seems to constantly shift, each one of the buildings is afforded a unique view. Similarly, the lines and appearances of the homes’ exteriors all differ depending on where on the mountain peaks you’re standing and looking up on them from. This is all thanks to quickly differing points of elevation.
For the sake of solidity and endurance against weather, each of the three homes in the collective is built slightly elevated on a concrete slab. The effect of this is to make the homes appear as though they are sort of floating ever so slightly, hovering subtly above the natural topography surrounding them.
Each of the homes has a beautiful wooden gabled structure that suits the landscape well. In fact, the colour palette and materiality are so appropriate that the houses actually seem to blend right into the forest even as they float above it. The houses are pleasantly dark, just like the natural wood and rock surrounding them.
As the houses splay outwards on the land to form their compound, the trees seem to swallow them in a way that’s more comforting than intimidating or dark. There is a natural sense of homeliness, as though one who has come here to escape is really being given space to breathe and absorb all the benefits that nature has to offer.
On their facades, the houses feature black-brown slats that engulf the walls and continue all the way up to cover the roof as well, giving them a monotone and slightly monolithic look. Several spaces, like the large cantilevered terrace, allow the indoor spaces in each building to blend almost seamlessly with the abundant outside space provided by the surrounding forest.
Adding to their almost otherworldly appearance and the interesting way they use space is the fact that the home’s main entrance, which is located in the largest volume of the three, is covered for privacy. Even more interestingly, the front door is actually accessed by a wooden bridge leading from the wooded land into the foyer.
The first thing most people notice upon passing off the wooden bridge and through the door is the way the roof’s shape can be seen from the underside, letting dwellers and guests actually experience its unique shape. The way the common space extends upward to the topmost point and mirrors the fan-like shape visitors saw outside as they approached the house makes the shared and living spaces feel even more generous than they truly already are.
From each balcony and floor to ceiling window, one can see the way the buildings appear to grow right out of the landscape and spread out, allowing the woods and the plants and animals they’re home to spread between the volumes of the house nearly uninterrupted.
To connect the different units of the home, which are not actually entirely separate from each other the way they might look at first glance, designers built more wooden bridges. These are raised from the ground, contributing to the sense that, from a distance, the volumes of the home seem to float.
The effect on the inner spaces of being separated and connect by these bridges is one of cohesiveness and yet privacy. No one feels cut off from any other space or person, but each person there can still seek calm, peaceful solitude and quiet whenever necessary.
Inside, the palette is much lighter in shade even though the materiality remains much the same. From floor to ceiling, almost the entire interior of the home, especially in the private spaces and sleeping rooms, is wooden. A pleasant light wood keeps the rooms bright in partnership with all those lovely, high windows. This creates a stunning contrast with the dark wood of the exterior.
Furnishings have been intentionally chosen to suit and look cohesive with the materiality and style of the rest of the home. Pieces are neutral, interesting to look at but now flashy, and stylish without being showy.
Photographs by Gustav Willeit
Wellington’s Ostrich House completed by Parsonson Architects as a hybrid country-city living experience
By Courtney • Jul 18, 2019
On a hill outside of New Zealand’s notable city of Wellington, Parsonson Architects have recently finished a residential project that blends the beauty of living in the country with the convenience of living right on the edges of an urban space. The uniquely shaped Ostrich House sits atop a hill of its own and provides a comfortable escape for a young family.
Photos by Paul McCredie
By Courtney • Jul 18, 2019
Nestled onto the top of a hill that overlooks the sparkling waters of Lake Minnetonka, design teams at Nor-Son recently custom built a beautifully traditional home with a contemporary twist. Appropriately dubbed the Modern Dutch Colonial, this impressive residential structure is notorious to the small town residents in Orono, Minnesota.
Despite its clearly classic and perhaps even old fashioned influences, this beautiful houses offers all of the amenities of modern living and more, both in terms of function and the fine details of the style. The overall shape and grand features of the home might be overtly Dutch colonial but certain things, like the bright shining copper gutters and the over-sized linear windows that flood the interiors with light, really make a modern impact.
On the main level of the home is an open concept common space that’s perfect for relaxing, sharing family time, and hosting guests. Free flowing movement is a primary element between the living room and the kitchen, but a butler’s pantry does create one area of partition to hide some elements of preparation from guests, as is custom in formal older houses.
Along the outer walls of this open floor plan are several sliding glass doors that span the entire vertical space from floor to ceiling. When opened, these lead to a patio and pool area, opening one whole side of the room to the sun and fresh air and creating a connection between inner and outer spaces that feels almost seamless.
On the outside of the house, perhaps one of the most attention grabbing features is the column of windows that stem from ground level all the way up the house to the roof. It sits right in the centre if the house, providing a hint of the comfort and style inside. The rectangular column shape is maybe the first hint of the modern twist that designers laced in with the more classic Dutch Colonial influences.
Inside, a grand living room looks rather stately but also comforting, a perfect place to both bond and host guests. A beautiful fireplace sits central, a clear focal point of the room, providing warmth in the winter and simple traditional style throughout the summer when it’s not being used.
Other areas of the house align more closely with the modern side of its lifestyle. The fully equipped and brand new laundry room, for example, hints at a sense of contemporary convenience. Even here, and elsewhere (like around the home bar, for example), however, there are clear countryside influences in things like X-frame doors and wooden trim.
One room stands out in particular as a slight deviation from both of the clearest style influences blended elsewhere in the house. This is a guest bathroom where graphic green and gold wallpaper grabs the attention of anyone who passes it immediately, while gold taps and details and an ornate gilt framed mirror create a cohesive, if kitschy, aesthetic. Grand looking pendant lights with bulbs that almost resemble gems hang above the sink.
To the side of the living room and kitchen lie a set of glass sliding doors that help flood the common spaces with natural light. These doors not only help blend indoor and outdoor spaces in a way that feels comfortable and nearly seamless, but they also give simple access out to a stunning patio and outdoor seating area.
Beyond this seating area, which is furnished with comfortable chairs that look modern in terms of their shape and style but rustic in their materiality, lies a stunning and sizeable swimming pool. This separates the raised stone patio from a rolling lawn, nearby which the family often enjoys dinners at a full patio dining table on warm summer evenings.
Photos by Scott Amundson Photography