Wednesday, 28 September 2011

2011 UIA Gold Medal goes to Siza Vieira

The Portuguese architect was awarded with one more distinction to join the vast collection that he already has on his shelves. This time was the UIA (Union Internationale des Architectes) which gives this award every three years during its Congress, this year held in Nanjing, China.
This medal was created in 1984 with the goal of being an equivalent to the existing Nobel Prize for other areas. The prize is totally independent from national or private interests and it’s given to a living architect in “recognition of his achievements and contributions made throughout his life and career to the benefit of man and society, and the promotion of the art of architecture.”

The Gold Medal has been honoured to names like Hassan Fathy (Egypt, 1984), Charles Correa (India, 1990), Rafael Moneo (Spain, 1996), Renzo Piano (Italy, 2002) or Tadao Ando (Japan, 2005).
The name of Siza Vieira was proposed by RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects), and the jury justified the decision saying that “Álvaro Siza defies categorisation. Each building is different yet is recognisable. His architecture cannot be duplicated but is a model for young architects. He has never succumbed to facility or fashion. As “the architect“ of the last quarter of the 20th century his work continues into the 21st, constantly pushing forward the level of the challenges facing the profession.
From the Portuguese Embassy in Tokyo the architect declared that “(the award) is a big pleasure (…) But it will not change anything on his life or in his vision of the world as a professional. The awards bring one some joy, they are also a way of getting to know ourselves better.”

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Villa Wormdal / Haug – Jensen & Skodvin

Villa Wormdal/Haug is located in Hasselhaugveien 28, Oslo, a quiet residential area composed by single family detached houses, it was designed by Jensen & Skodvin and the construction was finished in 1991.
The volumetry of the house results in large measure from the intersection between a 2 floors high box and another one, 1 floor high covered by a barrel vault. In plan, the boxes are rotated in relation to each other, opening up for the nice green area outside and closing up for the street, insuring just with this movement the character of the project, a sense of privacy and an alienation from the street and the urban life.
The vaulted volume is the more social area of the house, where kitchen, dining and living rooms melt to create an informal living environment with the fireplace on the highlight. The barrel vault is covered by a layer of apparent bricks applied in a simple way, emphasizing the beauty of its shape and the strategically located skylight. On the wooden’ panels covered  walls, large windows were open in different points  to the surrounding garden, and on the kitchen area a large glazed wall was built above the top cabinets allowing the sunlight to enter, but protecting this family space from the direct views from the street.
In the other volume are located all the private areas of the house: bedrooms, bathrooms and a home office. The 2 levels, plus the basement, are organized through a large staircase that works also as a distribution point and a storage area on the different levels. On the different spaces there’s windows strategically located providing views to the garden.
On the outside have been used natural apparent bricks and dark wood, with exception of the southern façade where a geometrical composition of wood columns and white wooden panels have been used.  Even though there’s seems to have been some problems during the construction between the architects, the clients and the construction responsible, the project manage to keep its integrity and its interesting geometrical composition.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Villa Bjart Mohr – Bjart Mohr

 The Villa Bjart Mohr, in Heyerdahlvei 6, Oslo was designed by the architect Bjart Mohr (in the picture above) for himself and his family in the early 1970’s.
Bjart Mohr developed a consistent and high quality work on his own, working independently throughout the years and has therefore a limited production.  For his own Villa, Mohr developed a composition of paralelipipedic volumes, in most part of just one floor high, which correspond to different internal functions: a west box, for the indoor’s swimming pool;  a south box, with a double-high ceiling for the living room, and a basement; a north wing that connects the 2 mentioned volumes and were are located the bedrooms and main entrance; and a smaller volume, for the dining room, that connects the living room with the kitchen(also in the north wing).
The project is well-thought and detailed and the result is a succession of comfortable and well lighten spaces and amazing views to the garden and the fjord. The swimming pool is a wonderful space with a shading system at the windows that allow controlling the light that gets in but at the same time allows the view to the outside. The double level living room is constituted by a more social area on the entrance floor, and a more private one in the mezzanine with a kind of floating library over the first level. The light is always just right and controlled. This volume benefits also from a windows’ stripe right above the slab.
The division of the different areas is made through sliding doors which give the possibility of enclosing the different areas or to create an open complex succession of spaces.
The garden is also a place of interested, of Japanese inspiration, calling out for contemplation and peace with its trellis and paved paths, contrasting dense areas with clear open lawns.
Unfortunately, there’s very little information about Bjart Mohr, but we can point out as his major works two art galleries: one in Hurumlandet (finished in 1971) and another in Holmsbu, for which Mohr got the Houen Foundation prize for architecture in 1971.

Havna Allé

As mentioned previously, the project for Havna Allé included the design of 14 single-family detached houses, erected during the 1930’s, designed by the architects Arne Korsmo and Sverre Aasland. Here are shown some examples of those projects: House nº 9 (above) and House nº 1 (below).

Friday, 16 September 2011

Villa Dammann - Arne Korsmo

 It was in 1932 that Axel Dammann and his wife moved into one of Oslo's most modern villas, located in Havna Avenue (Allé). Dammann was a successful businessman first involved with wine production and later expanded his business to South Africa, South America and Europe investing in orange plantations, wood processing and property.
Havna Allé is a cul-de-sac street planned and designed by the architects Arne Korsmo and Sverre Aasland in a large property owned by Axel Dammann, which included also the design of 14 single-family detached houses, erected during the 1930’s, with Villa Dammann at the top end of the street, for Dammann and his family.
Dammann had been in his youth a long time in the Mediterranean countries to learn about wine. When functionalism was introduced in Norway, the simplicity of the design language was something that he recognized and appreciated from south Europe. He was a competent business man, who rarely left anything to chance and when it came to the design of his personal house he was closely involved in the process. The initial draft for Havna Allé n.15 was quite different from the final constructed house, and in many points resembled Villa Stenersen which was built some years later in Tuengen Avenue for the financier and art collector Rolf Stenersen. But Dammann was not happy with the result and a new proposal had to be designed and built.
The house was built in reinforced concrete, with bold colours and shapes that caused an intense debate at the time. Articles in architecture magazines and in general newspapers discussed subjects like the functional organization of the house, the materials and furniture which were also carefully chosen by the architects, instead of by the owners, as it was traditionally done. Korsmo and Aasland considered this project as a whole where dimension, light, colours and details should be integrated. Furthermore, they believed  that the spaces should be used in a certain way, and for that to work, the furniture should be chosen by the architects and so, there was steel furniture with pink and brown silk covers, wallpaper that reminded brown paper and out in the hall Korsmo had even painted some “bizarre decorations”.  This topic launched a passionate discussion about the ownership of the house: was it the architects’ house? Or Mr. Dammann’s house?
In this villa a rich selection of techniques and materials have been used, many of them were quite new at the time and their performance had not yet passed the test of time, resulting in some subsequent damages and the need to change certain features, as well as to put together some restoration campaigns to maintain this house in living conditions.
The garden was also taken very seriously, going along with the functionalists and hygienic thoughts of the time, where sun, air and unobstructed views were an imperative. Both the architects and the owners were involved in creating a pleasant outside area for the family.
Villa Dammann, including the garden, received the Houen Foundation prize for architecture in 1937 and is a protected building since 1997 by Cultural Heritage Management Office.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Arne Korsmo

Arne Korsmo (born August 14, 1900 in Christiania (Oslo), Norway, died August 29, 1968 in Cuzco, Peru) was a Norwegian architect and a leading functionalist and designer who has designed a number of well-known Norwegian villas and a range of products, also taught at the National College of Art and Design and has been a professor at the Norwegian Institute of Technology (NTH), in Trondheim.

Between 1929 and 1935 Korsmo ran his own office together with the architect Sverre Aasland. From then, Korsmo went solo, creating a number of large villas and developing his own interpretation of the functionalist style with a sense of proportions and well thought details. Among his main work was the Norwegian Pavilion at the World Exhibition in Paris, 1937 and the exhibition "We can" in Oslo the following year. In the course of 20 years Korsmo designed 50 villas, several of which are regarded as masterpieces of Norwegian functionalism, including townhouses in Planetveien, Villa Dammann, Villa Stenersen etc.

In Stockholm in 1944, Korsmo met the Danish architect Jørn Utzon, and from 1947 to 1954 they collaborated periodically in a number of projects.

In 1949-50, and together with Grete Prytz (his second wife), ​​Korsmo took a study trip to the United States and Mexico, where he had the opportunity to meet Frank Lloyd Wright and the designers Ray and Charles Eames, which helped him with his own production. In 1952 he organized the Nordic summer course in industrial design with guest lecturers from the United States, event that would stimulated the emergence of this new discipline in Norway, where many of the participants were former students of Korsmo.

Korsmo was Norway’s most internationally oriented architect with connections with the world’s architecture elite at the time, such as Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1950, he was asked by Siegfried Giedion to lead a Norwegian group of CIAM (Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne). Korsmo undertook the mission, and the group was named PAGON (Progressive Architects' Group Oslo, Norway).

From 1956, Korsmo started as a professor of architecture at the Norwegian Institute of Technology, in Tronddheim, where his teachings would take a different and new approach through experiments with light and space based on perceptual psychology, introducing this way the modern international architecture on a personal and inspiring way.
Japan was an inspiration for Korsmo for some years and finally in 1960 he had the opportunity to undertake an extended study trip to Japan. One of the few works from this period in his life was the rebuilding of the Britannia Hotel in Trondheim, where the international trends took again a turn towards the classical.
Korsmo received a number of honours in the course of his career; among others the Sundt award in 1933, and the Houen Foundation award twice, in 1937 and in 1939. He was made a knight of the French Legion of Honour for the Norwegian pavilion at the Paris Exhibition in 1937 and 1939, and was, together with his second wife Grete Prytz, awarded the Grand Prix at the Triennale in Milan in 1954 (being the only Norwegian architect awarded with such prize).

In 1968 Korsmo travelled together with Grete to Huampani near Cuzco in Peru to participate in a conference for designers. He had always dreamt of getting to see the ruins of the monumental megalithic architecture of the Incas. But having struggled with poor health for several years, Arne Korsmo ended his life on this arduous trip to Machu Picchu in Peru on 29 August 1968.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Villa Stenersen - Arne Korsmo

Villa Stenersen, on Tuengen Avenue in Oslo, was designed in 1938 and completed in 1939, by Arne Korsmo, one of Norway's most renowned architects. Korsmo is known as an internationally oriented architect, who travelled both in Europe and USA and got in touch with some of the biggest names in architecture of the time.
Villa Sternersen was, besides being a family home, an art gallery for the private collection (which included Paul Klee, Picasso, Cezanne, Kadinsky and Munch) of the successful builder and financer Rolf Stenersen, aspects which give the house some of its unique characteristics. Surrounded by more traditional houses, Villa Stenersen stands out by its linear volumes and bright colours and several stories are told about one of the main works of Norwegian Functionalism, including that its construction created such dramatic reactions in the neighbourhood that one of the neighbours sold his house so he didn’t have to see the villa every day.
Arne Korsmo was already a famous architect in his time, he was familiar with the latest tendencies in Europe, and this was something that Rolf Stenersen knew how to appreciate. Stenersen intended a place to house his large collection of contemporary art and his only two requirements from Korsmo was to have a gallery hall and a gallery staircase, giving the architect full freedom both economically and aesthetically.
Korsmo was familiar with Le Corbusier five points for architecture developed in the 1920’s and published in Vers une architecture, succinctly: 1- structure with pilotis – reinforced concrete stilts; 2- free façade, meaning non-supporting walls; 3- open floor plan; 4- long strips of ribbon windows and 5- roof garden.  Korsmo didn’t follow exactly Le Corbusier’s formula but opted for the use of a concrete box resting on pilotis, using geometrical volumes to define all different areas. The main facade is broken up with full windows on the first floor, glass block in the second and blue glass panels in the third. This was possible due to the relatively new developed system of reinforced concrete skeleton which assured all the supporting functions allowing the walls to "hung" on the outside and the use of entire glass surfaces, permitting also the use of an open floor plan.
Korsmo used both straight and circular lines as well as volumes, namely in the cylindrical main entrance door and in the garage. The garage is located in the house's basement and is semicircular with gates at each end, so it should be functional and convenient for Mr. Stenersen to run in and out without reversing which, has been said, he was not very good at.
Against to what is very often thought, Functionalist architecture was not black and white, both in the Bauhaus school in Germany and Le Corbusier's first buildings in France strong primary colours were used to create sharp contrasts in the interiors. Different colours were often used on the walls, floors and ceilings which architect Korsmo used to study how colours in the interiors could affect the people who used them.
On the second floor, the gallery hall shows the reinforced concrete skeleton clearly marked by the continuous columns and beams in the ceiling. For the outer wall Korsmo designed originally the whole wall with glass blocks, but Mrs. Stenersen felt differently about it and recessed windows were incorporated. Korsmo thought that one could enjoy the amazing view from the balcony and that inside one should concentrate only on the art hanging on the walls.
Villa Stenersen is clearly divided into two zones; representation zone (1st and 2nd floors) and private zone (3rd floor). The private zone consists of bedrooms for the family and employees. The roof of the gallery stairs on the third floor is worth noting. It consists of 625 circular glass pots in cobalt, violet and pale blue which would allow just the right light to admire the paintings in this section of the stairs without the need electric light.
Rolf Stenersen donated the villa to the Norwegian state in 1971 to house the prime-minister or as a representation place, unfortunately that rarely happened. Since 2000, the Foundation for Design and Architecture in Norway, administers the use of the villa on behalf of the Norwegian Ministry of Culture. Nowadays, contemporary artworks on loan from the private collection of Sten Stenersen jr. are displayed in the house.