Thursday, 30 December 2010

House of Stories, Cascais, Portugal

Recently opened, Paula Rego’s House of Stories (Casa das Histórias), located in Cascais in the surroundings of Lisbon, has created a small fuss in many different ways. To start, the rare fact that the architect Eduardo Souto de Moura has been personally chosen by the artist to design “her” museum, after she’d been impressed by the architect’s work, namely  the London Serpentine pavilion of 2005 designed by Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura, and Souto de Moura’s Braga stadium (2000).

Also interesting is the fact that it was a key-architect from the so-called “Oporto’s School” to design a building in Lisbon, which doesn’t happen very often, bringing up, once again, the tedious discussion about Oporto’s architects in the north and Lisbon’s architects in the south. Eventually following the “south’s influence”, and specifically, Cascais’ type of architecture, Souto de Moura didn’t go for the rational white walls and raw natural materials, but instead, let himself  get involved with more “palatial”  forms and colours which integrated the building perfectly in the place and in the place’s history.

Souto de Moura had the rare opportunity of designing a museum for a specific collection and artist, instead of the general art museum for the general collections that are the big majority of the museums built nowadays.

The museum was built in between mature existing trees whose shadows on the walls create an interesting effect, an alive canvas that changes according to the sun, creating drawings and pictures not too far from Paula Rego’s work itself. The few openings to the exterior are controlled and calculated to strategic points, both from the outside and from the inside. Inside, the large high ceiling rooms contrast with others more intimate and domestic, pretty much the perfect place to tell Rego’s stories.

The museum’s permanent collection is made up of 257 etchings and 278 drawings, many of which have never been seen before, that Rego has donated to the foundation. She has also loaned 52 paintings, many from the 1980s (for example the Operas series); and certain works from the 1960s and 1990s. Willing, apart from being husband and father to her three children, was a hugely important figure in the development of her work, and he is represented in the collection with 15 oil paintings.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Tjuvholmen – Tjuvholmen Allé 4-6

Designed by Moderne Arkitektur og Design AS (MAD), this 9 stories high building includes a commercial area on the ground floor and around 50 small apartments above. The facade towards Tjuvholmen Allé emphasises a horizontal dynamic movement through a play with the depth of the banded balconies and the striped glass of the railings adding a new layer to the building’s facade.

The project shows a big concern to optimize the available area, creating small and flexible city apartments with an average of 37m2 in 1 floor, or incorporating a mezzanine. Several apartments include also a rooftop terrace.

Tjuvholmen – Lille stranden 3

In an area where every building try to affirm itself, this one, designed by Kari Nissen Brodtkorb, actually takes advantage of its central position in Olav Selvaags Plass to create an exciting moment in the city through this play of volumes and colours and the spatial situations given by the different heights, even though private, enter and are visually assimilated by the public sphere. This effect would have been even stronger if the trees on the terraces were as big as shown in the initial renders.

To avoid closing the triangular site with a sharp-edged building that would create a way to strong impact in the square, it was chosen instead to play with smaller volumes and to create some openness in the building. This way, it was produced a dynamic and complex spatial relation between private and public, open and closed, light and shadow. Also, through the use of different materials and colours on this “public facade” a dramatic / playful sense was included in the building, while the facade to the backward is more serene.
Following the general master plan for the area, the ground floor accommodates shops and 2 restaurants, and in the 10 upper floors there are 63 apartments with areas from 46 to 182m2. Unfortunately, the apartments’ internal organization follows the standard, meaning: a tiny bathroom, small bedrooms and an open kitchen/ living room / dining room.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Governmental Building’ Award 2010 for Kristin Jarmund

Last summer, Kristin Jardmund and her project for Gjerdrum School received the 2010’s Statens Byggeskikkpris and yesterday took place the official ceremony and visit to the winner project with the presence and speeches from all the different participants in the process, including politicians from the local authorities, members of the school, the president of the Jury Erling Dokk Holm and the architect Kristin Jarmund as well as the landscape architect Kari Bergo.

Among presentations and speeches of the different people involved, several subjects were talked about like architecture and schools, the importance of good architecture for a good learning environment, the importance of “universal design”, meaning the strategies to make a building easily accessible for people with different kinds of handicaps, etc. Kristin Jarmund spoke generally about the main points of this specific project and her experience designing schools.

The award is shared between Kristin Jarmund Architects and landscape architect Østeng & Bergo AS that won the 1st prize in an invited competition in the autumn of 2007. According to the jury “Gjerdrum School is a bold building pointing into the future” and “The building doesn’t adapt or subordinate itself to the surroundings, but forms a new location. It demonstrates how building tradition can be renewed.” The jury also valued the courageous position of the school - not in a dense built area, but in an open agricultural landscape and also the flexibility of the different spaces that gives the opportunity to vary between project teaching in open space and traditional classroom teaching.

The building is divided into clear indoors and outdoors areas, including a circled patio, and both can be used for the teaching and learning process. According to Dock HolmThe future will tell if it succeeds to discipline students. There may be limits on what architects can persuade people to do.” Jarmund describes “The layout of the school is solved by vast variations to the internal room composition. The combination of generous, open areas and rooms as separate volumes within the larger structure create a dynamic and spacious environment. The three different school years uses three different areas within the plan, with emphasis on flexibility in spatial solutions and possibilities for multi use and shared functions. Different parts of the school can be closed to create spaces that can be used separately at night time.

The Statens Byggeskikkpris is an honorary award given annually to the buildings and built environments that through design, materials and interaction with location and environment can help to enhance, renew and develop the universal architecture. The candidates for the award shall have good architectural design and shall meet the key requirements for safety and universal design. The goal is to stimulate the construction and property industries for the construction of buildings with low energy requirements, environmentally friendly materials and a design that makes it possible for everyone to use the building.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Tjuvholmen’s Masterplan

Tjuvholmen lays on the west side of 'Pipervika', the inner harbour of the Oslo fjord and is the natural extension of Aker Brygge. Tjuvholmen is actually composed by 3 islands: Akerodden (the closest from Aker Brygge, mixed use area), Tjuvholmen (mostly residential) and Skjæret/Holmen (reserved for a park and cultural areas). The master-plan competition was won in 2002 by Niels Torp Arkitekter. Since then, Selvaag Gruppen and Aspelin-Ramm gruppen have been responsible for the construction of the several buildings. The design of the different buildings was given to different offices and the ones located in Akerodden are finished and have been up for sale since 2005 .

Akerodden, the first island of Tjuvholmen has an area of 2.1 hectares, supporting 83,000m² of development, consisting of a hotel, residential apartments, shops, restaurants, cafes and offices. The site is crossed by one main avenue (Tjuvholmen Alle) and 2 smaller streets, intersecting to make the main plaza (Olav Selvaags Plass) and creating 4 different sectors. The connection to Aker Brygge is made through 2 bridges which link public spaces on both sides: a promenade on the fjord side and squares on the inner side. On the south limit of the island was created a sunny green area with a privileged view to the fjord.
The vertical organization of the buildings (with an average of 11 floors) follows a traditional composition: shopping and restaurants on the ground floor, offices on the middle floors and residential on the top floors.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Renzo Piano in Oslo

As most Europeans cities, Oslo has been making a huge investment to bring the city closer to its water front, removing large industrial areas and turning them into housing, commercial and business places. Ongoing is the second phase of Tjuvholmen where the main attraction will be the new Astrup Fearnley Museet, designed by Renzo Piano and supposed to open in 2012.

The initial project from the Italian architect is composed by 3 different buildings (the Astrup Fearnley Museum, an office building and a culture centre) all covered by a unifying curved roof that slopes down until touching the public park. The buildings are located in 2 different small islands connected by bridges. The exterior area will incorporate an observation tower, a Sculpture park and a small sand beach, which, according to the architect, will be one of the most beautiful places in the world, I guess he could say otherwise.

According to Piano, the building is inspired by Norway in many ways, not really specifying anything, except that there will be a lot of wood. There’s big expectations about the project and if it will or not open up Oslo for the international “star system”.

The Astrup Fernley Museum of modern Art, is a private own museum that opened originally in 1993 in a building not so far from Piano’s new project. In the permanent collection are represented artists like Asger Jorns, Gerhard Richter or Jeff Koons. There are also frequent temporary exhibitions from International and Norwegian modern artists.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Gary Bates’ Conference

It took place last night at the Architects Association in Oslo (OAF) a conference with Gary Bates, member of Spacegroup, and for 2 hours he presented to a full room how to be an architect and an entertainer. With some humour and some amusing arrogance Bates went through 4 recent projects in different stages that the office has been working on, plus an extra project: the office’s website that is worth a visit.

With the normal and sour complaints about architecture competitions, Bates showed the result from some competitions they have been involved in: Oslo S (Oslo’s central Station) and the new Opera and Culture house in Kristiansund. Also, we got the chance to see the development of the Clarion Hotel in Trondheim and some of the studies for Drottninghög’s Masterplan, Helsingborg in Sweden.

In such a short time for such big projects we got a glance at the office’s method where it is clear a pragmatic analysis of the problems, a clever approach to the sites’ conditions, an interesting excitement to solve the city’s issues and even a lucid understanding of the economical and political issues involved. Although, the solutions come out as too complicated, formally speaking. And if it’s true that often complex problems require complex solutions, though complex doesn’t mean complicated, and that’s where things fall apart. It’s probably the result of a culture of too many glossy renders and a lot of style magazines.

Anyway, Gary Bates provided an interesting lecture and proved why his office has been getting so much work and have won so many competitions.

Final note: Is it normal to go to lectures with a bottle of beer in hand?

Monday, 1 November 2010

New Kiosk in Frogner Park

Nominated for the 2010’s “Oslo bys arkitekturpris” (Oslo’s Architecture Award), this small kiosk / service building, designed by div.A Architects, proves that it is possible to intervene in classified and very touristic areas without ruining or competing with the main attraction, in this case Frogner Park, originally from the 19th century and one of the most visited places in Oslo.

The small concrete volume houses some public toilets, a souvenir shop and an exterior terrace with fixed furniture. The design process had in consideration several aspects of the garden itself: the simplicity of the volume, the idea of weight and transparency, the choice of apparent concrete (which connects with the granite, main material used in the Park), the pattern of the glazed areas (which follows the lanterns and floor patterns of the Park), etc.
Without creating too many polemics, this clearly new building entered the park and it has that feeling of belonging, of part of the Park without chocking, and time will bring that patine that will allow it to merge in the grass fields and trees.

Friday, 29 October 2010

VM Houses

Since it was announced that BIG has won the European Prize for Architecture it has been a bit of madness all around about the Danish architect and his work, which reminded me of one of his first major works visited some years ago: the VM Houses.

At the time called PLOT (BIG + JDS) got the contract for the first apartments’ complex in Ørestaden, in the outskirts of Copenhagen and started a whole awakening movement in the world of Danish architecture, developing a pretty experimental concept and formal approach to the apartments’ building typology.

Through the manipulation of a typical city block they created 2 buildings that in plan configure the letter V and M, trying this way to avoid the direct view between the apartments in the 2 buildings and opening the views from the apartments to the surroundings, giving them at same time a better sun exposure and ventilation.

The most interesting thing about the project is the reinterpretation and improvement of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’habitation, with an amazing diversity of duplex apartments, a typology not very often worked on nowadays in complex apartment buildings.

But I guess, the most eye-catching feature of the project is the shark’s teeth-like balconies, which create a very photogenic façade but which I still have some doubts about the functional side of it.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Journey to the East

In a time while he still answered by the name of Charles-Édouard, and only 24-years old, the young man who would turn out to be the most influential architect of the 20th century decided to switch the “Grand Tour” (the “mandatory” trip through all the main European capitals at the time) by the mysterious cities and cultures of Eastern Europe, including Vienne, Budapest, Istanbul, Athens and many others.

During the 7 months that the trip took, the young student kept a diary, with a collection of very personal thoughts, describing experiences, what he saw and felt, always maintaining a more or less open mind to all these new cultures and people that were starting to reveal themselves to him. Everything followed by numerous drawings, watercolours, sketches or simple notes, a routine that he would keep for the rest of his life.

Posthumous published (requirement of the architect himself), this book is a true adventure romance (especially for “architecture geeks”), which, in a way, brings us back to our teenager readings where everything is read in a rush. Even though it can’t be called an “architecture book” it will provide a delicious trip to the universe of Le Corbusier as a person and not as much of his work, though, it’s packed with multiple architectonic references and this sense of vocation’s discovery.
In this time of uncertainty where most architects already forgot where they came from or where they are going to, perhaps this book can provide some clues and inspiration.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Goodbye to the Serpentine Pavilion 2010, by Jean Nouvel

Peter Zumthor designs the Serpentine Pavilion in 2011

Days before the current Pavillion, designed by Jean Nouvel, is taken down, the British “The Architects’ Journal” announces that another Pritzker Prize winner has been appointed to design next year’s Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Hyde Park.

Since all Zumthor’s works attract huge numbers of tourists and architecture lovers, London can expect also a new wave of visitors that until down had to travel to Switzerland, Austria or Germany if they wanted to have the opportunity to visit the architect’s work.

Known by his issues to compromise his work, due to budget questions, client’s inputs or other constraints, this type of commission is ideal for Zumthor, which in this way has the chance to express his freedom in which, we can only expect, another master work.

Looking forward to check out the first sketches.

Monday, 25 October 2010

The European Prize for Architecture 2010 goes to Bjarke Ingels

The winner of the European Prize for Architecture will this year be delivered to the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels (1974) and it will be formally presented during “The City and The World: Madrid Symposium” November 4-7, 2010.

The European Architecture Prize is established by The European Center for Architecture, Art, Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum and it has as a purpose to honor a living architect whose built work demonstrates vision, talent and a body of work that has significant contributions to art and humanity.

According to the press release from the European Centre, Bjarke Ingels “advocates for architecture to be taught in public schools alongside science and mathematics. He has broken Denmark’s good-old boy network challenging a constipated establishment to think outside a boring box. He is challenging Europe’s mundane status quo. He is also a leading force in Europe’s Green Architecture movement producing astonishing and exemplary works of sustainable design. He has inspired Europe’s emerging young generation—of which he is apart—to push for new architecture beyond the pale fringe.”

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Conditions – issue 5/6 2010

The latest number of the Scandinavian magazine dedicated to architecture and urbanism is out and this time devoted to the subject “Politics of quality management” in a special double issue.
The starting point for this number is the meaning of quality in Architecture. And the discussion can turn to different levels according to who’s involved, from a more objective  point of view (technical and functional qualities) to a more subjective one (spatial, aesthetic or formal qualities). The second question is who’s actually capable of defining and judging quality in architecture: the experts and academics (architects, city planners, etc) or the “democratic way” (through the general public and politicians)? And the final question how to evaluate quality in architecture? Through more regulations, creating an even more totalitarian system?
To try to find the answers to some of these questions is worth reading the interview with Jensen Skodvin, the article “Architectural policy for the city of Oslo”, also the article “The killing machine”, by Bruno Alves about the incredible decreasing of apartments’ sizes in Oslo and the very interesting “Young Architecture – A critic of a built Norwegian institution” by Mathias Harang.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Competition for a sculpture mast

 It was recently announced the competition’s winner for a sculpture / electricity mast to be placed on a moor in Troms, held by Statnett and the Norwegian Association of Architects, which gave the first prize to the Danish office Bystrup with the project “Mirror wall”. According to the jury, the proposal is “new and different, yet in harmony with the environment and the place” and also points out that “neither the form nor materials are innovative, but that the mast’ use and scale, appears as a new and fascinating element”.

The jury committee has received 57 valid proposals, 11 of which were from the office Bystrup (including the winner). Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess.
The jury decided to attribute the second prize to “The world’s largest reindeer”, by the Norwegian office Lalaland AS Studio (picture below). There are no comments.
Several countries were represented in this competition: Norway (26 proposals), Denmark (21), Finland (2), Portugal (2 – Flush architects, Matosinhos and Onoffice architects, Porto), Sweden (2), Greece (1), Japan (1), Switzerland (1) and Estonia (1).

Thursday, 21 October 2010

And the winner is …

And the winner of 2010’s “Oslo bys arkitekturpris” (Oslo’s Architecture Award) is “Lærernes hus – Utdanningsforbundets konferansesenter” (Teachers' House - Education Association’ Conference Centre), designed by Element Arkitekter.
The winner was announced yesterday, and the final dispute was between the Teacher’s House and the apartment building at Korsgata 5, designed by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter.
This award honors outstanding architecture in Oslo, and is awarded by the City´s Council for city development in cooperation with the Council of city architecture, planning and construction. This year's proposals included the buildings completed in 2009 or landscape architecture projects completed in 2004-2009.
On the run were some different kinds of projects but basically all from the same offices:
-       Ullevål Stadium, by Narud Stokke Wiig Sivilarkitekter;
-       Schous Culture Brewery, by Arkitektkontoret Eide & Haslestad;
-       Kiosk / Service building in Frogner Park, by div.A Arkitekter;
-       “Quadraturen” – Dronningens gate 15, by Kritt Arkitekter;
-       Park of the National Library, by Østengen & Bergo;
-       Park Svarttjen, by Tegn3 (with Selberg Arkitektkontor);
-       Schandorffs Square, by Østengen & Bergo;
-       Tiedemanns Complex, by Scala Arkitekter;
-       Apartment building in Schouskvartalet, by MAD;
-       House Engan, by Knut Hjeltnes Sivilarkitekter;
-       Oslo’s 1st Passive House, by Medplan Arkitekter;
-       Twin Schools Oppsal / Vetland, by Jostein Rønsen Arkitekter  and HUS Arkitekter;
-       Kindergarten Ammerudlia, by Aursand og Spangen;
-       Kindergarten Kongsberggata, by Oker Arkitektur;
-       Kindergarten Kværnerdalen, by NAV A.S Arkitekter;
-       Kindergaten Betha Thorsens, by Aursand og Spangen;
-       Helsfyr Atrium, by Lund + Slaatto Arkitekter;
-       Confederation House, by Dark Arkitekter;
-       Akerselva Atrium, by NBBJ Arkitekter, Pran Arkitekter and Poulsson/Pran;
-       Taxes’ Office Headquarters, by Narud Stokke Wiig Sivilarkitekter;
-       KLP - built Bjørvika, by Solheim + Jacobsen Arkitekter;
-       Alfaset Crematorium, by Arkitektene and Dyrvik Arkitekter;
-       Tjuvholmen, section F1, by Niels Torp Arkitekter;
-       Apartment building at Tjuvholmen Allé 4-6, by MAD;
-       Tjuvholmen, section F3, by Niels Torp Arkitekter;
-       Apartment building at Lille Stranden 2, by Arkitektkontoret Kari Nissen Brodtkorb;

Fra balkongen

Fra balkongen (From the balcony) one can see the city. One can see the countryside. One can see the country. One can see the world. A balcony is a multi-functional platform standing outside a building from where one can think the city, architecture or whatever else comes to mind.
And there are balconies everywhere. Natural or human-built. The scenery might change. The thoughts might change. Still a platform.