Author Archives - Stefan
By Stefan • Feb 21, 2019
In the city of Juiz de Fora, in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil, innovative design company Ateliê de Arquitetura Líquida recently completed an office transformation for nutritional company Loja Alimentar. This company provides nutritional supplements and natural food products to hospitals and the general public alike, concentrating on authenticity, ethical ingredients and production, and clean eating.
Originally, the two streams of product within the company were distinct from each other and the building of this office was the first step in sort of amalgamating the running of the two under one head. As a result, designers helped figure out the best way to brand and communicate the goals or two different target markets in the same physical space when clients visit for meetings.
The first part of the storefront and office space (this unique spot functions as both) is dedicated to products aimed at hospitals. Stark white finishes are featured heavily here, mimicking the medical atmosphere that hospital working clients might be used to. At the same time, more neutral finishes like wood and even a splash of colour here and there is included to keep things from looking too clinical and divergent from what the brand itself offers and represents.
Across the space, clients walk themselves through a transition from medically influenced atmospheres to the roots of where the company started; whole and natural foods and supplement products. A visual and material transition happens here as the white elements in the decor and furnishings become less and less and the wooden finishes take their place.
Besides establishing a dual aesthetic that suits each of the companies markets alike, designers aimed to maximize storage and make organized used of every single space available. This is evident in the lovely recessed shelving units visible on almost every wall. Designers chose to make these from a blend of metal and woodworking, using local raw materials wherever possible according to whichever suited each side of the store best.
Of course, colour and material wasn’t the only area of decor the team concentrated on. They also sought to create a sort of personalized mosaic that communicates the goals and focus of the brand by creating custom stickers affixed to white tiles on one accent wall. This whole section boasts the company’s signature colours, looking like an art piece and a branded display all at once.
Despite the element of medical sphere targeting, Atelier really did want to keep their space warm and friendly feeling. Two primary elements helped with this. Firstly, the wooden veneer traveling from the floor, up the walls, and straight across the ceiling served to warm the space up by leaps and bounds. Additionally, great lighting to highlight the products was provided by clean, white LED lights set right into the shelves, rather than shining down from the ceiling and making the whole space at large look a little too blinding.
Besides the storefront, the building bears some more private working spaces as well. Across the division of public and private, you’ll find a pantry, meeting room, office spaces for business workings, a private staff toilet, and storage. The aesthetic and decor choices follow the same schemes as you see in the public storefront, creating a sense of consistency between the two aspects of the business. Just in case this blended sense between the two becomes distracting on a given day, however, a set of recessed sliding doors can be pulled shut to create a sort of makeshift wall.
Photos by Bruno Meneghitti
By Stefan • Feb 20, 2019
In the peaceful forests of Karuizawa, Japan, innovative company KIAS recently completed the stunning Four Leaves villa to give owners and their friend and family a natural escape that provides maximum relaxation amongst the natural fragrant greenery.
The villa might only sit 150km away from the bustling streets of Tokyo, but to visit its tranquil setting is to feel like you’re entering a whole new world. Designers specifically faced different areas of the house at slightly variously angled orientations in order to harness the best light and scenery all the way around the building, no matter which room you’re sitting in.
On the brighter side of the house, designers built the living and dining spaces so that social areas might stay light and cheerful as long as possible for family bonding and friend hosting. This doesn’t mean, however, that the private spaces on the other side of the house are dark or dull. Instead, the master bedroom and bathroom to the west get a lovely glow through the leaves with the increased privacy of the forest cover.
Instead of making space for the house in the forest, design teams opted to work with what was already there and fit the home into the landscape. For this reason, the structure of the house is made up of three semi-distinct volumes that are connected by sunny hallways filled with windows.
To give the house character and style and blend it in with the stunning landscape around the building, designers built the roofs of each volume with a breathtaking curved quality that appears to swoop towards the ground and then up to the sky. Rather than building straight across for the inner ceilings, designers allowed the stunning curved beams of the roof to show through, making the rooms inside vary in height beautifully at different points, following the fluid motion of the roofs outside.
The decor scheme on the inside matches the atmosphere of the whole house quite seamlessly. Neutral colours, clean glass lines and natural concrete or stone finished, and a beautifully reflective water feature further blend the home into the landscape in a way that brings the peaceful sun and breeze right through the doors and into the living spaces. This is bolstered by the fact that floor to ceiling patio doors open wide, like a retracting wall, inviting a pleasant blending of inner and outer spaces that makes the whole house feel fresh.
Photos by Norihito Yamauchi
By Stefan • Feb 20, 2019
In the Chinese streets of Tangshan City, the Greentown Tangsham Blue Bay Town Life Experience Hall was created by GOA to blend luxury living areas with access to upscale commercial settings and fresh, new community settings and spaces.
Beside what the Hall actually has to offer, part of its draw comes from its architectural design and exterior decor schemes. Between the swooping arches and the wonderfully reflective water features out front, the building has a lot of draw and appeal before you even get inside. Triangles are a huge theme over all, both in the plot of land the hall sits on and in the shape of the hall and some of its peaked corners.
When designers first started considering how the building should look and be constructed, they decided they wanted to combine the concept of building a unique city landmark with the idea of following neo-Chinese styles. That’s where the eye catching multi-layered structural concept you see in the final product came from; it was the perfect shape and concept to combine accessible public space and contemporary urban life.
Besides simply looking pretty, the reflecting pool out front actually serves a spatial purpose in terms of space division. It is placed to create a sort of frontal courtyard space that is also a buffer between the regular city streets and the more elegant experience inside. The water is like a transitional area guiding visitors into the quieter zone inside.
Within its awesome structure, the building is split into three main “volumes” according to function. The largest of the three spaces, which faces the main city road, features a living space where units may be rented temporarily for different long or short term lengths. Perks of renting here include access to a specialty catering service and an activity centre that where several different community events take place per week.
The second volume, closer to the main entrance of the overall hall, feature the life experience hall. This space is used as a sales department. Even today it is still in its early stages of functioning and will eventually feature luxury shops, giving those who rent in the hall and those who visit right off the street outside an upscale shopping experience.
Finally, a third volume features services surrounding resources for more active living requirements. These include a supermarket, a restaurant, a fitness room, and a physical examination centre, among other services. The goal in this volume was to provide things that might be essential services for people living in the area but that also might be conveniently placed for those walking by not expecting to find such full service shops in that area of town.
From the entrance to the back end of the hall, lovely transitional spaces are situated between shops, activity spaces, and services. These spaces are designed to give visitors a break from their usual urban surroundings, letting them relax in courtyards that are lush with greenery between fantastic umbrella shaped arches that swoop over lovely social benches.
Photos by Yilong Zhao
By Stefan • Feb 19, 2019
In a busy but pleasantly suburban neighbourhood in Singapore, design teams at ONG&ONG Pte Ltd recently finished a multi-generational family housing project that uses a combination of sleek, modern lines and materials with wide open, nature filled spaces to meet all of the family’s needs.
37FC-House sits on a plot that has always been residential but that was cleared shortly before building began. Previously, the comfortably secluded spot of land featured an old semi-detached house. Upon purchasing, the new owners decided that a stand-alone structure would be much better for their family, since several generations of them live together at once. In order to maximize the space they could give the family without sprawling to close to the edges of the plot and thereby sacrificing all outdoor space, designers opted to build vertically instead. That’s why the new house has four floors!
On the ground floor, the style and aesthetic of the house are evident before you’ve even gone through the door thanks to the way granite tiles line the edges of the driveway. These balance well visually with the light concrete and mirror style glass that reaches floor to ceiling in the home’s outer facade. To add a comfortable, natural element, the house also features teak wood quite consistently both inside and out, particularly where storage spaces are discreetly added in each room.
Social and service rooms, like the kitchen, are featured right up front, making guests feel at home and part of the home’s running the moment they enter. Right from the front to the back of the house on this floor, grey finishes are balanced by lovely glass walls that pull back entirely to blend clean, modern indoor spaces with with the sunlight and greenery of the front and back yards, which are quite lush with local plant life.
Nestled amidst the garden at the back of the house, which the kitchen and living rooms can be fully opened too, sits a Sukabumi-tiled pool. This body of water is decorative and practical, smaller inside to make it more of a lap pool than a swimming pool but still enjoyable and relaxing. Rather than just serving as a space of leisure, this pool also acts as a barrier between the house and the sounds of the road that run behind the back yard. More lush greenery helps here as well, affording the yard more quiet and peaceful privacy.
In fact, greenery plays a huge role in the decor and atmosphere of the entire house overall. Pretty green spaces are actually built into each of the four floors in different ways, right from the front to the back of the house. Even in spots where there are no plants potted or set inside, long glass windows make the space feel green by showcasing the trees that flank the length of the house outside.
Unlike most houses, the second floor of the house is actually larger than the ground floor! This floor is primarily constructed of concrete and is rectangular in shape. This floor is where the bedrooms in the house lie, ended on each side with stunning sunny spaces that primarily serve just to give a quiet seating area with a good view of the garden and its greenery. The bedrooms are simply and calming, with the master featuring a walk-in closet and its own bathroom. Two other family bedrooms overlook the pool area, which catches the sun prettily in the afternoons.
Flanking the two floors we’ve already discussed are the basement at the bottom and the attic up on top. Each of these is accessible thanks to a black steel staircase that is clean and simple in its line but also somehow has a sculpture-like quality to it thanks to the contrast of glass banisters and smooth wooden stairs.
In the basement, you’ll find an artistic looking multi-media room that features a glass section in the wall that actually looks into the blue waters of the pool on the ground floor. In the attic, on the other hand, you’ll encounter a lovely attic skylight that allows light to flood the staircase and cascade down the centre to all the other floors. The attic also features a guest bedroom with its very own greenery element and small water feature.
As with most new homes in the area, 37FC-House bears a reduced carbon footprint. This is thanks to the inclusion of strong roof-mounted solar panels that reduce energy consumption, as well as a system that links lighting controls to a smartphone app, making lights even easier to turn off when they’re not necessary. This house is the perfect example of what’s become known as a “smart home”.
Photos by Derek Swalwell
By Stefan • Feb 19, 2019
Thanks to creative design and architectural teams at Suppose Design Office, Airbnb Tokyo’s head office officially has a new home on one of the busiest streets in Shinjuku, Japan. With its combined goals of created productive and functional workspaces that are also enjoyable, and tying in the company’s philosophy of being able to “belong anywhere”, the team really established a space with distinct personality.
In conceptualizing their space, even before they began building, designers decided to aim for making a space that feels a bit like a neighbourhood. From the friendly reception area that greets both guests and employees every day, to the break areas that are inspired by cheerful outdoor cafes, to the wooden paths that lead from meeting room to meeting room, the entire atmosphere is simple, fluid, and comfortable to be in.
Rather than simply establishing the floor plan and layout themselves as a design company, this team actually decided to get employees of their client company actively involved. To do this, they interviewed actual Airbnb Tokyo employees to get their take. From here, they chose what kinds of communal work tables, adjustable desks, project tables, and private or semi-private phone booths would be included. This makes for a space that the people working there feel truly comfortable in.
In terms of the actual productivity spaces, one of the primary features of the office is the Engawa, or the elevated platform in the centre of the office. This features tatami mats that are inspired by traditional Japanese culture, once again working on that theme of belonging wherever you are. In this space, employees are encouraged to remove their shoes, sit cross legged on their cushion, and face the spectacular view the platform affords them.
In adapting an already existing building to an office group that wanted a more diverse space, one of the biggest challenges was dealing with the very low ceiling that’s typical of Japanese architecture in that area. Rather than trying to build an entire new ceiling, which wasn’t possible, designers created the illusion of a higher ceiling by painting it black and dropping the lights a little lower, as though the space behind and above the lights extends much higher up.
As with all Airbnb offices, certain elements are inspired by different iconic cities that the company has well known listings in. In the case of the Tokyo office, several meeting rooms were actually themed after different cities, including Barcelona, Prague, and Tiajuana. This truly harnesses the sense of traveling the world but finding yourself able to work in any “city”.
Photos by Studio Periphery
By Stefan • Feb 18, 2019
In the rolling hills of St Helena, USA, a stunningly wooden home dubbed Zinfandel was recently finished by Field Architecture. The dwelling is aptly named for its location on a breathtaking vineyard and the whole plot and project gives off a sense of luxury that perfectly blends with natural, homey relaxation.
Zinfandel house was created specifically for a young couple who wanted a break from city life. When they found the old vineyard, which is nestled not far from Napa Valley, they simply couldn’t pass up the Mayacama view and they knew that’s where they wanted to settle and grow their family. That’s why designers opted to make them a home that suits both small family evenings and large social gatherings without feeling either crowded or isolated; it’ll suit the family’s needs no matter how it grows and changes.
Because they had the space to work with, enveloped in rolling fields there on the valley floor, designers created the home like a series of small, connected buildings. Rather than feeling too divided, however, they organized it so that the rooms and their functions make perfect, comfortable sense as you move through the house upon entering. The house is flanked on each side by beautifully towering trees and the central courtyard, which gets the most sun, features a lovely pool that’s impressively modern compared to the wooden structures, establishing a fantastic contrast in aesthetic.
Materially, the house communicates well with the land. The timber and metal put into it were primarily local, giving the structure a neutral colour that suits the mountainous scenery around the valley. The history of the original site is preserved in both this aesthetic and the fact that the property still boasts the very same barn that was first built there decades ago, giving the plot a sense of authenticity.
Far from making the inside feel heavy or dark because of all the wood, designers created a home that’s full of natural valley sunlight thanks to an emphasis on skylights and large, view-giving windows. The roof in which the skylights are set is a singular slab of thing metal that peaks gently in the middle, mimicking the shape of the mountain peaks all around in the distance.
The decor scheme on the inside follows the same ongoing trend of balancing perfectly somewhere between modern and repurposed or traditional looking. Wooden furnishings and finishes play visually against silver, metals, and uniquely shaped lighting, fixtures, and details. In the summer, patio doors can be thrown wide open to abolish boundaries between the sunny inside of the living and family spaces and the breathtaking vineyard outside the home’s walls.
Photos by Joe Fletcher
By Stefan • Feb 18, 2019
In renovating the stunning Restaurante Teide, a staple in its neighbourhood in Valencia, Spain, design teams at Horma had one primary goal; they aimed to renew an old family tradition in order to give it a modern new feel that will help it last.
The Teide restaurant is the kind of family business that has been passed down from generation to generation. Throughout all that time, they never lost the sense of the core values they’ve always operated the business according to: well-being, proximity to the community, tradition, and quality. The only thing left that needed a little bit of rejuvenation was the pace itself.
As a result, design teams decided to try and develop a concept that feels more contemporary but also a little more timeless and fresh, without losing the elegance the restaurant has always maintained. Like many businesses in Spain, the restaurant features a cafe up front, but for many years the cafe space actually kind of masked the restaurant, which lies to the back. One of the biggest changes was that designers decided to bring a clear sense of the restaurant right up to the main entrance so it doesn’t get missed.
Even though designers wanted to bring the restaurant to the front of the visual space a little more, they still used colours, materials, and visuals to create some kind of separation of space and mood at the same time. The idea of was to make the two parts of the business communicate in a cohesive way while still provided a little bit of differentiation, since a cafe and a restaurant have very different moods.
In the restaurant space, which received a bit more of a transformation than the cafe, an emphasis was put on natural elements that might make the space feel comfortable and welcoming. This was achieved through the inclusion of stone flooring, and polished walnut furnishings. Teams added colour by setting everything against a backdrop of sea blue walls, helping to establish and elegant environment that’s a little more timeless than the previous look.
Within the update, designers aimed to tie the sense of local community into the look of the restaurant a little more. For that reason, they opted to source all of their stone and wood locally, feeding back into their local economy in a great way. These materials are evident all over, but particularly in the low separation wall that still provides some division between the cafe and restaurant spaces.
Outside, a series of locally styled luminaries provide a little light in the evenings for the patio area. There’s also a huge emphasis on vegetation and the inclusion of local greenery, creating a sense of tranquility and social calm. Because these plants are dotted throughout the cafe and restaurant spaces as well, a lovely atmosphere or harmony business-wide.
Photos by Mariela Apollonio
Amidst the hustle and bustle of busy Chicago streets stands a new townhouse with a modern and yet reclaimed aesthetic. Thanks to impressive thinking and insight from moss Design, Cortez Street House stands high, providing new clients a place to both run their shop and live comfortably with their family, each in healthy balance.
The building that the house sits in now was originally a slightly out-of-place two story masonry building nestled amongst more traditional looking family homes. Because it was already a structure that possessed its own shop space on the ground floor, it made the perfect site for this collaborating team for two reasons; first, because this is the kind of “odd” building that these architects specializing in giving a new lease on life to, and second because the new owners actually run a store and needed a new retail space of their own as well.
Most likely a butcher shop originally, the ground floor already boasted several features before renovation that designers decided to keep because they could prove useful for the new clients. These features included a large cooler that is now used for its intended purpose but also as a de facto divider between retail and living spaces. To maximize the large space afforded to the ground floor around the building, designers chose to add a cantilevered extension at the back where they established a beautiful master bedroom and bathroom. Sure, it’s on the same floor as the store, but creative layouts and space management help maintain a good work-life balance even so.
On its upper floor, the house features a second bedroom, a second bathroom, and a private outdoor deck. Extending all the way up from the ground floor, large windows provide lovely natural light. At the same time, the edges of the newly built extension serve more than one purpose. Firstly, they provide shade on days that might otherwise get a little too hot. Beyond that, they actually collect rain water for use in the garden!
If you think the rain collection edges are awesome, wait until you read what else these designers added. In order to make the house even more green and sustainable, the team actually built a Corten siding and VaproShield drainage system within the siding of the house’s exterior walls, allowing even more water collection and protecting the house from potentially damaging moisture build-up.
Besides enabling fantastic run-off and water collection, this kind of siding also bears a natural rust colour that complements the Chicago Common style brick of the main building fantastically. The aesthetic is at once stylishly weathered looking and more traditionally expired despite being brand new. The two materials in combination make the outside a focal point of natural looking materials and warm hues on the otherwise slightly industrial looking street.
As we mentioned, the new owners put the original retail space on the ground floor to great immediate use as their very own corner store. This hearkens back to a historical tradition in Chicago itself where corner stores were essential to neighbourhoods and owners did, in fact, live behind and above their stores. Now, locals appreciate a slightly modernized version of that tradition that has an authentic feel thanks to the way designers kept several original features in place in their renovation.
Photos by Carmen Troesser
AXEL Hotel designed by El Equipo Creativo in Madrid to give guests a different visual experience in every room
By Stefan • Feb 15, 2019
Perched amidst the busy streets of Madrid, Spain, sits a new hotel that’s specifically designed to give its guests even more of an awesome escape than usual. That’s all thanks to the way unique thinkers at El Equipo Creativo chose layouts, themes, and decor schemes that differ in every room, making each space you enter feel like a complete transformation!
AXEL Hotel sits in the heart of a trending area called El Barrio de las Letras. Here, it pulls from various cultural and style references with the aim of giving its visitors a visual experience that’s nothing short of “explosive”. Originally, the goal of drastically swapping aesthetics between rooms was to create an overnight spot where guests can breathe out, feel free, and simply have fun in a way that is tactile and attracts all different kinds of people with varying tastes. Designers wanted to make sure people could enjoy their private rooms and the public spaces in the hotel alike!
A lot of the fun textures, patterns, and colours combinations one encounters in the AXEL hotel are actually a lot more than just fun; they’re really also historical references! This is evident in the way the rooms’ decor schemes, furnishings, and features display styles typical of all different eras in time from across the world. This emphasis on history contrasts fantastically with the fact that the hotel sits in one of the most cosmopolitan areas of the country.
The building itself is also a historical piece. The hotel was build in a renovated 19th century building that has long been a part of the street’s architectural fabric, so designers aimed to conserve many of the most interesting original elements. These things include the already lavishly decorated ceilings, some of the intensely coloured walls (as was fashionable at the time the building was first built), and most of the clearly baroque details.
At the same time as they wanted to preserve historical architectural details, designers were intent on weaving in a sense of Madrid’s social and customary culture into the new hotel’s aesthetic as well. This desire accounts for the presence of details clearly influence by or depicting bull fighting, and the mantilla garment typically worn by local women who lived a gypsy lifestyle.
As if a fiery aesthetic that’s rich in culture and history wasn’t enough, the hotel actually has a message and positive social impact as an undercurrent for its business as well. This lies in the fact that the AXEL hotel chain was originally designed specifically with LGBTQIA communities in mind. The intention in creating a space with the queer community in mind was to establish positive venues based on freedom, welcoming of sexual diversity, and prioritizing of love and acceptance.
As one travels through a hotel, they experience a sort of diversion and dialogue all at once. There is, of course, cohesiveness in the overarching sense of wild acceptance, but there’s also a communication establish in the way moving from room to room tells a sort of stylistically historical story. At the same time, the aesthetics of each space are so wildly different that moving from one place to another feels like a completely different place than where you’ve just been. This is achieved primarily by the use of eclectic colours, materials, and textures all in unique combinations.
At the same time as the hotel’s decor references history and culture, it also weaves some elements of popular culture into its fabric! This can be seen on the walls of various common areas, which boast pop art and cinematographic or musical posters. The goal here was to create a festive and carefree atmosphere for guests immediately upon walking through the doors. Guests will also encounter neon lights, eclectic word art, literary references, and nods or winks to various plays.
In the interest of building communication between vastly varied spaces and telling a story even as styles diverge, guests might notice a common detail between all of the different rooms and atmospheres if they look very carefully. That’s because designers actually chose to include some kind of small gold detail that’s only just noticeable in every single room, no matter its theme or scheme. This cohesive detail is small, but it creates a sense of blending rather than things just appearing random or haphazard.
Besides its fancy social lobbies and common rooms and its thoroughly energetic looking suites, the AXEL Hotel also boasts several carefree and cheerful feeling restaurants, as well as its own club. Each of these spaces follows the same philosophy of acceptance and diversity as the rest of the hotel, making them playful and friendly to spend time in.
Photos by the architect.
Family House in Kaunas built by Architectural Bureau G.Natkevicius & Partners to take advantage of stunning quarry view
By Stefan • Feb 14, 2019
In the city of Kaunas, in the heart of Lithuania, sits the lovely and unique looking Lampedis quarry. Now, the shores of a quarry might not sound like the usual location for a sprawling family home, but that’s precisely where the firm forward-thinking firm Architectural Bureau G.Natkevicius & Partners chose to build the beautiful Family House.
This stunning three-bedroom house sits on a plot that was hand picked by the clients with the specific intention of face the water and enjoying the unique shoreline that the quarry offers. Because the shore was such a focus in their minds, designers chose to make it a primary focus in the house’s structure and orientation as well.
To start out, designers based their structural choices on the principle of “screen architecture”. On the backside of the house, you’ll find walls built almost entirely from glass, allowing a stunning view of the water to be absorbed from quite literally any room in the house. Rather than over complicating things, teams chose to keep the rest of the house around these views quite simple, so as not to detract from the landscape’s natural beauty.
To reach these design goals, designers chose to build a simple but graceful facade that features depth impression and lots of detail. The lines of the house are steadfast but neat and pleasing. The recessed windows and other areas make a regular shape look like an interesting object peeking out of the horizon. Architects played with angles too, building certain areas and cornices that were inspired by the shape of a horse’s blinders. This directs all attention to the glass, which once again puts the house’s view in central focus.
The angled cornices you see in these photos serve a practical purpose as well! Their extending edges are stylish but they also separate visible living spaces inside the home from the view line of neighbouring plots and other homes. Additionally, they extended sections protect the glass (which is hardy, but a little extra safety never hurts) from excess sunlight, inclement weather, and so on. They even give the first floors terrace a bit of extra shade on hot days!
Although it’s all connected, the building looks as though it’s separated into different volumes. Each of these has a neat, clean, structured aesthetic that’s quite visually satisfying. Overall, there are three segments that make up the full house. These are the main rectangle on the first floor and two slightly smaller rectangles sitting on the second floor. You might notice two protruding sections that look like rooms extending from the house; these are the master bedroom on the front side, which is visually balanced by the library at the back.
As you’ll notice, the whole exterior of the house is covered in copper tin. This catches the sun and, in partnership with the shining glass, makes the house appear bright and nearly glowing. This brightness is continued inside, where social and private rooms alike are kept cheerfully bright by the large windows. These windows are situated such that a nearly panoramic view of the water is established, but at the same time the surrounding buildings are excluded from the picture, making it feel like the house and the water are the only things around for miles.
Besides being stunning, the structure of the house was also chosen to cater to unique functional needs based on the client’s unique lifestyle. These owners breed dogs as an occupation, so having lots of fluid space was quite necessary. Designers achieved this by including a whole block on the first floor specifically intended for keeping dogs where they can live comfortably. Visitors will notice that this particular volume sits higher than the others, keeping it from feeling crowded and giving it extra natural light.
Overall, the house provides a wonderful sense of blending between humans, animals, nature, and architecture.
Photos by Leonas Garbačiauskas
Diversely structured Girassol Building built by Reinach Mendonça Arquitetos Associados to provide fluid, changeable workspaces
By Stefan • Feb 14, 2019
The city of Sao Paulo in Brazil, in the area of Pinheiros, has recently become home to an innovative new office building that practically defies physics. Thanks to Reinach Mendonça Arquitetos Associados, the stunning Girassol Building, a commercial and office space with a very unique layout indeed, is one of the first of its kind in the country!
This building is located on a steeply hilled stretch of land in the Vila Madalena neighbourhood. The goal of the building was to provide a versatile work and collaboration space that would not only suit but could also actively adapt to the needs of a company’s employees. Designers achieved this by building office that might be divided into smaller areas one moment and then opened and merged into larger, more fluid spaces the next.
One the outside, the building looks just as interesting as its functions on the inside. This is thanks to visible large slabs that are supported on each side by impressive pillars, almost like an old temple but more cubic. Visitors enter the building into a central area that acts as a sort of “nucleus” from which different rooms can be accessed, giving the whole place a sense of free flowing movement or circulation.
Throughout the three floors of the building, workspaces can be not only changed in their size but also easily rotated in the furnishing layouts and decorum to face different ways. This helps improve ventilation and maximize sunlight in each room. If a working group would be better served seated facing towards or away from the large, sunny windows, they can easily shift how they please!
In keeping with the concept of being fluid and open, the entire frame of the building is composed of pristine, crystal clear floor to ceiling glass. Employees and visitors also have access to a small balcony to enjoy some fresh air on breaks. On the outside of this balcony, a special set of shade-like doors as fastened to make sure that those inside have the option of less sun and increased privacy when necessary. These doors feature perforated plates that establish a screen effect without making the office inside feel closed off.
On the very top floor, another feature makes the building even more unique. Here, the roof is constructed with thermo-acoustic tiles which help illuminate the core of the building. This happens when light enters the glass covered wood, brightening not only the rooms below it, but also the centre of each floor and a lovely garden that separates the front and back of the top floor itself.
This upper garden isn’t the only lovely green space within the Girassol building. At the very bottom, way down in the basement, another uncovered garden is rooted, covered by an artistic looking glass panel that lets the lush, stunning greenery down below stay visible to floors above. It’s like a perfect finishing touch!
Photos by Tony Chen
By Stefan • Feb 13, 2019
In the heart of busy Padalarang, in Indonesia, a stunningly modern but extremely comfortable dwelling dubbed PJ House has been created the innovative by Rakata Studio to give owners all the amenities of contemporary life while also still providing the comfort and escape of a vacation home, no matter what day of the week it is.
Within this project, teams aimed to bring home the feeling of relaxation and vacation-level calm through the actual design of the home and not just its decor schemes. The home is located in a quiet exclusive residential area of Padalarang called Kota Baru Parahyangan, which assisted in the team’s ability to create an “escape” kind of feeling; sure, it’s in the heart of the city, but it’s still afforded a plot that feels a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of bust streets.
Harnessing the beauty of tropically influenced Indonesian living, PJ House is surrounded by nature and even features a small lake as the focal point of its backyard, removing the atmosphere of its grounds even further from its accessible city location. Designers purposely built the house so that a calming lake view was a huge priority.
Inside the house, however, modern decor makes the place look nothing short of glamorous and creates beautiful contrast with the natural features outside. At the same time, stone and marble textures and finishes throughout the home’s surfaces bring a touch of that natural theme right into the main living and social spaces as well.
While the shining white stone and marble serve to make things look neat, clean, and bright, contrasting wood finishes were chosen to create a warm and cozy feeling. A similar aesthetic contrast is created on the outside of the house regarding its shape and structure. The house is box-shaped with a flat roof, which makes it look modern, sleek, and simple, but it’s also surrounded by trees and nature, which seems cohesive thanks to the black outer details that ground it into its habitat.
Inside the house, a foyer greets visitors with illuminated artwork and a reflecting pool. Extending from there, a lovely courtyard garden, which features a vertical garden wall as a focal point, leads you simply from public to private areas of the house. Besides looking lovely, this garden also establishes a sort of private barrier between visual spaces in the house and the outside world.
The house’s structure itself is quite unique in its openness. In several places, the interior and exterior spaces are blended well by openings that lead out towards the larger garden and the swimming pool. Even the staircase is quite open concept; it’s a hanging style stair made of wood and marble, extending towards the family bedrooms.
The final point in the home’s openness is the sleek, clear, entirely glass walls that separate some spaces between inner and outer areas. Naturally, some delineation is required to create a sense of belonging, but designers still really wanted to avoid making the house feel closed off. This is why partitions between the living and dining rooms are made of pristine glass, extending all the way from floor to ceiling. As a result, these spaces feel larger, more open, and more in tune with the nature outside.
Photos by Mario Wibowo
By Stefan • Feb 13, 2019
In the centre of a Taiwanese street featuring primarily neat, white houses, one homeowner has hired innovative designers to create a home for her that reflects her personality and love for bright colours instead! La Casa de Cathy was created by A’Lentil Design in Neihu, Taipei with the intention of turning a simple home into a happy haven.
Designers could tell the owner and her husband were exciting, eclectic people the moment they met. That’s why they took inspiration from their clients themselves in order to create as fantastic a space as possible, drawing on their love for bold patterns, bright colours, and fun shapes. Designers chose to work freely with colours and materials, making whatever matches they pleased rather than following any strict theme or scheme.
The effect of this wild colour “matching” technique (that purposely doesn’t really match at all) was to create a space that feels vibrant, energetic, and full of imagination. Even amidst what other people might view as colour “chaos”, however, the home somehow feels harmonious in itself. It’s special because it truly reflects and thoroughly belongs to the people living there.
The original home contained two bedrooms, two living rooms, and two bathrooms, but designers had other layouts in mind. After verifying that the owners had no plans to grow their family, they opted to open up some of the spaces and re-allocate the floor plans and rooms to better suit the new owners’ lifestyle. Knocking out a wall and replacing it with a kitchen island, for example, created a cohesive eating, sitting, and storage area that’s neat and simple.
In contrast, designers and their clients chose to keep two separate bedrooms, just in case guests come to visit. In the master bedroom, red and green shades clash beautifully in a way that’s unexpected but entirely pleasant. Light is also a huge emphasis in the bedrooms, making the spaces appear larger and even brighter than they already are.
A similar tactic was taken with the bathrooms; designers kept them distinct but repositions the features inside, re-angling the toilets, sinks, and so on in order to take better advantage of space. As it did in the bedrooms and kitchen-dining area, this repositioning also helps open up the room and make it feel larger and more pleasant to use.
In order to balance all the colour and pattern happening in the house, designers actually did choose one or two elements that serve to ground the spaces and create some pleasant balance. White and light coloured woods are used because they complement every colour in the diverse scheme and some spots of black help achieve a sort of visual anchor here and there.
Overall, the effect of the layout changes, the playful shapes and materials, and the changes in hue throughout the house blends together to make the owners feel at home in a space that was not just custom designed for them, but specifically created to match their very essence. Guests enjoy it too because the aesthetic is outside the norm, making it a cheerful experience for all!
Photos by Chi Shou Wang
Generation Gain, designed and built by Architectural Farm, gives multi-generation family an idyllic, comfortable Irish home
By Stefan • Feb 12, 2019
The Generation Gain house, which is a redesigned and renovation project recently completed by Architectural Farm in Ireland, was created with a unique family structure in mind. You see, rather than accommodating the average family consisting of two parents and a few children, this home was built specifically for a family that spans three different generations aiming to live together under one roof!
This project was one of renovation and extension in its natural. To increase available space, an addition was made to the rear of a semi-detached house from the 1930s. The space was redesigned to house a 3-generation family that includes several elderly individuals and several children, so its structure was reframed and redone with their needs in mind.
One of the first things designer noticed upon visiting the original house was how incredibly under-utilized many of the ground floor rooms were. This was because of poor connection areas between rooms, so opening up the areas between spaces, particularly as one moves through the house towards the south-facing garden, was one of the first things to be addressed.
Sleeping and bathroom spaces were also quite heavily re-evaluated in their design and structure. Builders aimed to create a semi-independent area for the family’s older generations in order to give them privacy but keep them from feeling secluded or unable to seek assistance if needed.
Additionally, a new family room was added to the back of the house with the intention of providing all three of the family’s generations with a large and comfortable space to share, socialize, and engage with each other in. Besides just engaging with each other, this space was also designed to create increased interaction with the house’s garden thanks to its open concept doors.
Perhaps the biggest reconfiguration that happened on the ground level of the home was the removal of most internal partitions that stood in the original house. The only structured partition that was re-inserted after the addition was made to the back near the garden was one closer to the front of the home. This was designed to create an independent room that might be used a spare bedroom without interrupting the flow elsewhere on that level.
Besides the structural changes, several smaller details or specific spaces were included in the new design in order to give the family’s generations various contexts and spaces to spend time with each other in. These spots include the covered back patio that the living room opens onto, a comfortably sprawling window seat that gets a lot of sunlight, and a heated stove area that’s perfect for reading together during the winter.
Just like the family itself, this unique home harmoniously blends older aspects of the house with seamless additions and new pieces, creating a space that’s cohesive, comfortable, and wonderful.
Photos by Ste Murray
Outdoor Care Retreat designed by Norwegian group Snøhetta provides visitors with natural, peaceful healing space
By Stefan • Feb 12, 2019
In the lush forests of Norway, outside the city of Oslo, design and building teams at the prestigious Snøhetta group have built the stunning Outdoor Care Retreat in order to provide those who visit its location with a natural and calming experience where they fully relax and heal from the stresses of daily city life. The structure itself appears to lean towards not just the beautiful trees, but also the bubbling sound of the Sognsvann creek. This bolsters the peaceful aesthetic of the entire space, both inside and out of the retreat itself.
Despite its apparently remote location, this retreat itself actually sits only a hundred meters down the road from Norway’s largest hospital, Rikshospitalet, which is the Oslo University Hospital. The retreat was originally built as part of a collaboration between two of the hospital’s important branches; the Department of Psychomatics and CL-Child Psychiatry.
The space is most often used in two primary ways. Firstly, many patients stay there as a quiet, semi-private place to enjoy low pressure treatment and quiet contemplation of different kinds. Secondly, many patients use the retreat as a welcoming, comfortable place to spend time with friends and relatives away from more intimidating hospital settings.
The retreats cabins are actually open to any patient connected to the hospital for their treatments or care. The retreat is not, for example, reserved for individuals who fall only into certain disease groups (even though reservations for the rooms are managed through a booking system, similarly to a leisure retreat).
In contrast to the monumental size of the main hospital, this affiliated retreat is a mere 35 square metres of space made primarily of natural materials. The buildings of the retreat itself were purposely built by designs to mimic the playfully haphazard construction of wooden stick cabins that children might make during an afternoon playing in the woods.
The purposely asymmetrically designed buildings that make up the retreat are formed as though they’re made of skewed building blocks. This includes the much larger main structure, which is expected to turn grey with time and weathering. This was purposeful too, designed to help the building begin to blend in with its beautifully natural surroundings as though it’s part of the landscape itself as well.
Because Snohetta has long made an overt commitment to creating only socially sustainable designs, particularly when building public spaces, the retreat’s cabins are entirely accessibly for users of wheelchairs and other kinds of mobility devices. The angled entrance, which is made of black zinc, is even large enough to fit whole hospital beds if necessary!
Inside, the cabin features a main room, a slightly smaller room that is most commonly used for treatment and conversation time, and a sizeable bathroom. The interiors are clad entirely in stained oak which gives a comfortable sense that the outdoors have been brought right inside. Natural colours and materials aren’t the only feature, though. In the empty movement space, colourful and uniquely shaped pillows are available to be stacked and moved around freely. This is intended to give children the chance to build forts, climb stacks, or simply lie down and enjoy a view of the trees and sky through the main room’s circular ceiling window.
Should visitors wish to actually physically open the space to nature even more than large glass windows, natural materials, and skylights already do, those windows can slide open fully. This allows damp, calming forest smells and the sounds of trickling water to wander right into the cabin, which is particularly refreshing on warm days that feature a breeze.
This cabin retreat might be a fully integrated space that operates as part of the main hospital’s campus, but its slightly more remote location allows it to feel like a place all its own. The natural aesthetics and open air spaces feel almost magical and give visitors of all ages and experiences a safe, calm place to simply breathe.
Photos by Ivar Kvaal
Vietnamese Lan House, conceptualized by H2, stunningly blends business and home life in open, plant-filled space
By Stefan • Feb 11, 2019
Nestled into the heart of Vietnam’s Vung Tau Province, the Lan House, a recent design completed by innovative company H2, provides a family with a space that allows them to both live comfortably and conduct business easily, each in perfect harmony with the other.
The owner of this unique house worked with designs to divide the house into two theoretical parts; the body and soul. In practicality, these parts are the ground floor, on which the family’s rice business functions and flourishes, and the second floor, where they love together in peace and privacy. The ground floor becomes a semi-public space because it’s here that the facade of the house runs along the bustling street, allowing customers to pop in and out as their needs arise. At the same time, the family’s private quarters above stay just that; private, quite, and calm.
Despite the fact that most living functions are located all together on the second floor fo the home, the space feels far from cramped or limited. The floor holds all the necessary pieces a family would need to live comfortably and with space. The private parts of the house are located further to the back, away from the busy, dusty street filled with the activity of the business space below. Designers created some delineation upstairs using ventilation bricks, closing the space off for privacy without making it feel entirely shut in.
Immediately upon entering the upper living quarters, you’ll encounter a stunning indoor garden designed to make the space feel bright and breathable. Beyond this, the floor also features a kitchen, dining room, living room, and a restroom with its own laundry space. Smaller version of the main inner garden spill over into each of these rooms, continuing the theme of fresh greenery throughout.
Past the common living spaces nearer the front of the structure, two spacious bedrooms, each with their own restroom, rest at the back of the upper floor, with a large terrace connecting them on the far side. This allows for privacy or social space, as dwellers choose.
Throughout both floors, greenery-filled, cushion clad nooks and seating areas can be found throughout the house. This keeps the entire building feeling social and lively without sacrificing family spaces. At the front facade of the building things feel closed because of the closed off, cube-like brick structure featured all up the front, but towards the back, things open up considerably for a much airier experience. To really drive home how spacious this place remains despite the inclusion of a whole business on the ground floor, three entire generations of family live comfortably together in this space!
Within their central tenet of valuing the “body and soul” of the house, designers also worked with the owner to uphold their appreciation for religion and the passing of time. Homages to the owner’s Catholicism can be seen throughout the decor steam, in several stylish statement pieces. At the same time, several aspects of the original house outlived the renovation untouched in order to preserve the fact that this space in its first iteration was actually also the owner’s childhood home once upon a time!
Photos by Quang Dam
By Stefan • Feb 11, 2019
Smack in the middle of the bustling city of Amsterdam, in The Netherlands, a towering residential project called Frans Halsstraat has been built by Cantero Architecture to show off classic styles of historical Dutch architecture, but this time blended in unique ways with slightly more modern aesthetics.
Originally, this building was an old, more traditional set of homes and apartments. Standing tall in the stylish but older neighbourhood of Pijp, right in the centre of Amsterdam, the building was recently renovated to provide a series of more modern residential units that still boast some of the more historical styles in perfect harmony with updated features.
Typically, Dutch architecture has been characterized over time by spaces that are both deep and narrow, which is where the common local concept of a “through-flat” evolved from. In this type of apartment, a home can have two main sides that are connected through the middle to the front and back of the building. This gives designers two different opportunities to relate inner spaces aesthetically and physically to the exterior of the building on each side!
In this case (since this building does feature classic through-flats), the front “compartment” of the units faces a calm, narrow public street where the public of the country’s capital city mills by. On the other side, each unit is afforded a view of a magnificent interior courtyard out the back of the building, featuring a stunning private garden with nice social seating for residents and visitors.
In the particular apartment you see in the photos, designers had to do a bit of spacial organizing before they could really get into the swing of things with the renovation. They first wanted to evaluate how they might make better use of the existing rooms on that floor before changing the space too drastically. They also wanted to examine whether they might integrate some clever storage space into certain living areas to give dwellers more places to put their belongings in order to reduce clutter.
Besides great use of space, building a strong connection between interior and exterior areas was paramount for the design team. They wanted to capture the wonderful view the unit was afforded and bring that inside for the owners enjoyment as much as possible. This was achieved in the form of stunning windows that really serve to open the home up to natural light.
Now that the renovation is completed, most rooms in the house appear to revolve around or be organized according to the “oak heart” of the house. This “heart” is a big, shared walk-in closet that provides unparalleled storage and communicates a visual and spatial separation between two main bedrooms and more social or public rooms of the house.
The wooden closet piece is almost like an experience in itself. When you step into it, you feel as though you’re in a completely separate, entirely wooden structure, the aesthetic of which is only interrupted by natural light flooding in from overhead. Both the inside and outside of this central wooden structure feature storage cubbies and spots, some of which the owners described as “hidden and unexpected”.
Also down the centre of the core is a metal-framed glass corridor. This is where the entrances to the different rooms in the home lie, making one’s movement throughout the unit feel almost entirely continuous. There is also a section where the space you’re walking through appears to open entirely to the outdoors despite actually being enclose, blending interiors and exteriors once more.
Even the colour contrasts happening within the space appear to open things up a little bit. The way that stark white walls play against dark flooring visually creates space and makes rooms feel more limitless. Designers also played with texture in most rooms, alternating between natural oak furniture and sophisticated matte black or brushed bronzed details and surfaces.
The final touches were added in the bathroom, of all place, but the thought process actually makes a lot of sense! This is where designers wanted residents to be able to relax, concentrate on self care, and seek a sense of wholeness and calm. In the bathroom, you’ll see warm wood featured alongside blue ceramic tiles, while natural lava stone basins add a peaceful element like the kind you might expect in a spa!
Photos by Luuk Smits