Inside Piano

Inside Piano by Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine
BêkaPartners, 2013
Book: Hardcover, 144 pages
DVD: All-Region PAL, 99 minutes

In the vein of their earlier documentaries on the use and maintenance of buildings designed by Rem Koolhaas, Herzog & de Meuron, and Frank Gehry, Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine examine three buildings designed by Renzo Piano: B&B Italia Offices, IRCAM, and the Beyeler Foundation. While the previous titles clocked in at just shy of an hour, the three mini-documentaries add up to just over an hour-and-a-half – over two hours if we take the Renzo Piano interview into account. And while I thoroughly enjoyed the other three "Living Architectures" documentaries (of five, with one more to go), there was something to these three bite-sized films that made them even more enjoyable, each one making me anticipate the next one.


[B&B Italia Offices, Studio Piano and Rogers]

While it's hard for me to say exactly why these three short films were so appealing to me when watching them, I think part of it stems from the need to look at more than one Piano building since he is an architect that tackles each project anew (minus some recurring details and themes that show up in low-slung museums like the Beyeler all these years later). The B&B Italia Offices come from the years when Piano was designing with Richard Rogers – the filmmakers actually call the building in the film and companion book "the little Beaubourg," after their most famous commission. IRCAM moves to the site just next to Beaubourg/Pompidou in Paris, for a primarily below-grade project that bridges Piano's work with Rogers and on his own through its various phases. Lastly, the Beyeler Foundation sees Piano creating one of his masterpieces, one of the buildings that makes his numerous museum commissions understandable.


[IRCAM, Studio Piano and Rogers]

But like the documentaries on Koolhaas, Herzog & de Meuron, and Gehry, Bêka and Lemoine could care less about platitudes and other high praise. They want to see how a building really functions – by following a postal worker through the offices (B&B), talking to sound technicians in their windowless offices (IRCAM), and heading up into the gap between lower and upper roofs to change a light bulb (Beyeler). For the filmmakers, there are two groups of people that use a building: on the one hand the office workers, artists, museum-goers and other people who inhabit the building; and on the other hand the engineers and facility managers who exist to make sure the building continues to operate effectively. In the case of these three Piano commissions, the latter is of the most interest, both for us and the filmmakers. This makes sense, given the technology of both the programs and the building designs themselves. Those able to contemplate hiring Piano for a building would do well to watch these films to get an idea of what might be in store for them.


[Beyeler Foundation, Renzo Piano Building Workshop]

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Three Cusps Chalet

Three Cusps Chalet in Sé de Braga, Portugal, by Tiago do Vale Architects, 2013

The following text and images are courtesy Tiago do Vale Architects.

Photo by João Morgado, courtesy of Tiago do Vale Architects

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

In the second half of the 19th century Portugal saw the return of a large number of emigrants from Brazil. While returning to their northern roots, specially in the Douro and Minho regions, they brought with them sizable fortunes made in trade and industry, born of the economic boom and cultural melting pot of the 19th century Brazil. With them came a culture and cosmopolitanism that was quite unheard of in the Portugal of the eighteen-hundreds.

That combination of Brazilian capital and taste sprinkled the cities of northern Portugal with examples of rich, quality architecture, that was singular in its urban context and frequently informed by the best that was being done in both Europe and Brazil.

Photo by João Morgado, courtesy of Tiago do Vale Architects

BUILT CONTEXT

The "Three Cusps Chalet" is a clear example of the Brazilian influence over Portuguese architecture during the 19th century, though it's also a singular case in this particular context.

Right as the Dom Frei Caetano Brandão Street was opened, a small palace was being built in the corner with the Cathedral's square and thanks to large amounts of Brazilian money. It boasted high-ceilings, rich frescos, complex stonework, stucco reliefs and exotic timber carpentry. In deference to such noble spaces, the kitchen, laundry, larders and personnel quarters, which were usually hidden away in basements and attics, were now placed within one contiguous building, of spartan, common construction.

Built according to the devised model of an alpine chalet, so popular in 19th century Brazil (with narrow proportions, tall windows, pitched roofs and decorated eaves), the "Three Cusps Chalet" was that one building. Due to the confluence of such particular circumstances it's quite likely the only example of a common, spartan, 19th century building of Brazilian ancestry in Portugal.

Photo by João Morgado, courtesy of Tiago do Vale Architects

Sitting at the heart of both the Roman and medieval walls of Braga, a stone's throw away from Braga's Cathedral (one of the most historically significant of the Iberian Peninsula) this is a particularly sunny building with two fronts, one facing the street at West and another one, facing a delightful, qualified block interior plaza at East, enjoying natural light all day long.

At the time of our survey, its plan is organized by the staircase (brightened by a skylight), placed at the center of the house and defining two spaces of equal size, East and West,  on each of the floors. The nature of each floor changes from public to private as we climb from the store at the street level to a living room (West) and kitchen (East) at the first floor,  with the sleeping quarters on top. Materials-wise, all of the stonework and the peripheral supportive walls are built with local yellow granite, while the floors and roof are executed with wooden beams with hardwood flooring.

Photo by João Morgado, courtesy of Tiago do Vale Architects

ARCHITECTURAL PROJECT

Confronted by both its degrading state and degree of adulteration, and by the interest of its story and typology, the design team took as their mission the recovery the building's identity, which had been lost in 120 years of small unqualified interventions. The intention was to clarify the building's spaces and functions while simultaneously making it fit for today's way of living.

Photo by João Morgado, courtesy of Tiago do Vale Architects

The program asked for the cohabitation of a work studio and a home program. Given the reduced area of the building, the original strategy of hierarchizing spaces by floor was followed. The degree of privacy grows as one climbs the staircase. The stairs also get narrower with each flight of steps, informing the changing nature of the spaces it connects.

A willingness to ensure the utmost transparency throughout the building, allowing light to cross it from front to front and from top to bottom, defined all of the organizational and partitioning strategies resulting in a solution related to a vertical loft.

Photo by João Morgado, courtesy of Tiago do Vale Architects

The design team took advantage of a 1,5 m height difference between the street and the block's interior plaza to place the working area on the ground level, turing it westward and relating it to the street. Meanwhile, the domestic program relates with the interior plaza and the morning light via a platform that solves the transition between kitchen and exterior. This allows for both spaces to immediately assert quite different personalities and light, even though they are separated by just two flights of stairs.

Photo by João Morgado, courtesy of Tiago do Vale Architects

The staircase geometry, previously closed in 3 of its sides, efficiently filters the visual relations between both programs while still allowing for natural light to seep down from the upper levels and illuminate the working studio.

The second floor was kept for the social program of the house. Refusing the natural tendency for compartmentalizing, the staircase was allowed to define the perimeters of the kitchen and living room, creating an open floor with natural light all day long. Light enters from the kitchen in the morning, from the staircase's skylight and from the living room in the afternoon.

Photo by João Morgado, courtesy of Tiago do Vale Architects

Climbing the last and narrow flights of stairs we reach the sleeping quarters where the protagonist is the roof, whose structure was kept apparent, though painted white. On the other side of the staircase, which is the organizing element on every floor, there's a clothing room, backed by a bathroom.

If the visual theme of the house is the white color, methodically repeated on walls, ceilings, carpentry and marble, the clothing room is the surprise at the top of the path towards the private areas of the house. Both the floor and roof structure appear in their natural colors surrounded by closet doors constructed in the same material. It reads as a small wooden box, a counterpoint to the home's white box and being itself counterpointed by the marble box of the bathroom.

Photo by João Morgado, courtesy of Tiago do Vale Architects

MATERIALS

Fitting with the strategy of maximizing light and the explicitness of the spaces, the material and finish choices used in this project were intentionally limited. White color was used for the walls, ceilings and carpentry due to its spacial qualities and lightness. Wood in its natural color is used for the hardwood floors and clothing room due to its warmth and comfort. Portuguese white Estremoz marble, which covers the ground floor, countertops and on the bathrooms and laundry walls and floors, was chosen for its texture, reflectivity and color.

Photo by João Morgado, courtesy of Tiago do Vale Architects

ll of the original wood window frames of the main façade were recovered, the roof was remade with the original Marseille tiles over a pine structure and the decorated eave restored to its original glory. The hardwood floors were remade with southern yellow pine over the original structure and all the surfaces that required waterproofing covered with Portuguese Estremoz marble. Ground floor window frames were remade in iron, as per the original, but redesigned in order to maximize natural illumination (as on the east façade).

Photo by João Morgado, courtesy of Tiago do Vale Architects

Floor plans courtesy of Tiago do Vale Architects

Building sections courtesy of Tiago do Vale Architects

Old Buildings, New Forms

Old Buildings, New Forms: New Directions in Architectural Transformations by Françoise Astorg Bollack
The Monacelli Press, 2013
Hardcover, 224 pages

I have always loved old buildings. They are the visible, three-dimensional record of our life on earth. They can be thrilling or modest architectural works; they can be interesting or banal. But they are always complex cultural objects, whose value lies in their very existence. -Françoise Astorg Bollack

Rather than looking at building types or buildings in a certain local, New York-based architect Françoise Bollack presents 28 projects that transform old buildings and contexts in various ways. She breaks down these techniques into five chapters: Insertions, Parasites, Wraps, Juxtapositions, and Weavings. Her book is predicated, as the quote above shows, on an appreciation of history and a desire to creatively change the relationship between it and our present. The book is full of some great examples of how old buildings are not static set pieces; they are canvases for the continuing evolution of places and the lives within them.

Many people will not be fans of the more jarring transformations within these pages, such as Steven Holl's replacement of the center wing at Pratt's Higgins Hall in Brooklyn or Will Alsop's black-and-white box on stilts in Toronto, but one of the most convincing aspects of the book can be found in the introduction to each chapter. There, Bollack presents historical precedents that lend credence to the handful of techniques she highlights, while also adding weight to the idea that transformations are necessary and welcoming.

One precedent, in the Parasites chapter, is the expansion of the 19th-century Boston Custom House, carried out by Peabody & Sterns in 1905. The large stone Greek Revival structure capped by a Roman dome would certainly be landmarked into stasis today, but Peabody & Sterns transformed the temple-like building into a base for a much larger campanile. Granted, visual character is maintained by classical elements in the tower, but I'd wager that it was greeted with a similar amount of shock as some contemporary additions.

I'm not advocating for matching new buildings to old ones (something Steven Semes argues), but rather that the contemporary juxtapositions between new and old should be seen relative to past epochs. When we look at the essence of changes like the Boston Custom House, they were more dramatic than we think all these decades and even centuries later. The same could probably be said about Higgins Hall, the Sharp Centre for Design, and other buildings collected by Bollack when we look back on them in the future.

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Taipei Sales Center

Taipei Sales Center in Taipei, Taiwan, by Oyler Wu Collaborative, 2013

The following text and images are courtesy of Oyler Wu Collaborative.

Photograph courtesy of Oyler Wu Collaborative

Often the unusual circumstances surrounding the design of a project leads to the most unusual results. In the case of this temporary sales center in Taipei by Oyler Wu Collaborative, the convergence of a set of ongoing architectural interests converged with an unusual site, timeline, program, and developer to create an unexpected outcome.

Photograph courtesy of Oyler Wu Collaborative

Photograph courtesy of Oyler Wu Collaborative

The existing building is really a conglomeration of different buildings, built over several decades. The outcome is a five-story volume pierced (quite literally) and interconnected by an intricate ribbon of rope, steel, and fabric. The renovation creates an entirely new identity and is suggestive of the modern intervention that will soon occupy the site.

Photograph courtesy of Oyler Wu Collaborative

Photograph courtesy of Oyler Wu Collaborative

Located on the future site of a new 16-story residential tower (also designed by Oyler Wu Collaborative), the developers were interested in renovating the existing corner building to become the sales center for that future building. The program includes meeting and exhibition rooms as well as a model home. Interestingly, the program called for only half of the square footage of the existing building. With the most desirable spaces being on the upper floors, the second and third floors were left unprogrammed.

Photograph courtesy of Oyler Wu Collaborative

Photograph courtesy of Oyler Wu Collaborative

The initial design brief called for a new “skin” with a thickness of no more than 7 inches to work within. The limited programmatic needs created the potential for an intervention that somehow made use of those spaces. With the desire to create a “spatial ribbon” that flowed between facades and into the building, one of the primary features of the building is a torqued void that cuts through the southern facade of the building and then re-emerges on the eastern facade. In the spirit of Gordon Matta-Clark, this void offers unusual views of the city through, out of, and deep into the heart of the building.

Photograph courtesy of Oyler Wu Collaborative

Photograph courtesy of Oyler Wu Collaborative

With much of building acting as a simple volume, the intricacy of the detail in the facade creates a visual and spatial connector between the openings. Beginning at an oculus at the ground floor, the ribbon flows up through the voids and spreads across the facade eventually linking up with windows, wrapping into adjacent facades.

Photograph courtesy of Oyler Wu Collaborative

Photograph courtesy of Oyler Wu Collaborative

Project Team:
Dwayne Oyler, Jenny Wu, Huy Le, Sanjay Sukie, Mike Piscitello, Zhao Ji Luo

Client:
JUT Land Development

Drawing courtesy of Oyler Wu Collaborative

Drawing courtesy of Oyler Wu Collaborative

Design for an Empathic World

Design for an Empathic World: Reconecting People, Nature and Self by Sim Van der Ryn
Island Press, 2013
Hardcover, 164 pages

Fifteen years after the creation of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green-building rating system, it seems that sustainable principles are fairly well entrenched in architectural practice. What used to be considered a costly alternative to the usual materials and systems have become the norm in approaching the design of buildings. But do things like low-flow toilets, green roofs, and other elements within a point-based trade-off system really add up to truly green architecture? Are buildings meeting LEED Silver, Gold, or even Platinum really sustainable? The answer is increasingly "no," not only because the system is flawed but because terms like "sustainability" and "green building" have been co-opted by manufacturers, marketers, and others focused on the bottom line, to the detriment of really changing our ways and our built landscape.

Architect, author, teacher and self-described visionary Sim Van der Ryn's latest book exists to steer architects away from sustainable thinking based on things like LEED (he embraces the Living Building Challenge over all other rating systems), which paint an incomplete picture of our role in the environment, so they can foster a more holistic view toward what he calls human-centered and nature-centered design. Empathy is the operative idea in his argument (it is a highly critical book), and it is something that needs to be increasingly taught to children and even students in architecture schools to enable a greater shift than what has transpired in the last decade-and-half. It is easy to see that curiosity and understanding toward other people and the environment we are part of is lacking, given the dismal nature of much of our cities and suburbs, and the carbon we expand at an ever-more-increasing rate into the atmosphere, dire predictions or not.

Van der Ryn tries to convince readers that a turn to the inner self is required to foster empathy and to make greater connections with nature. He does this through a memoir tracing some of his experiences since he moved with his family from the Netherlands to the United States before his fifth birthday. These experiences are recounted in the book's six short chapters, primarily Lifetime Learning Design. But it's the two chapters – Human-Centered Design and Nature-Centered Design – that offer the most potential. In these chapters Van der Ryn recounts some of the projects he undertook as an architect, educator, and even State Architect (to Governor Jerry Brown) in California, where he lives to this day. Through these projects and the research based around them, the reader gains an understanding of how empathy relates to design, how an architect can embrace how the outcome of a building can positively impact people and nature. Not everybody willing to change their inner self will have the same path as Sim Van der Ryn, but by sharing his story he's given them something enjoyable to read (and look at, with his watercolors that are sprinkled throughout the book) while they search for their own paths.

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Metalsa Center for Manufacturing Innovation

Metalsa Center for Manufacturing Innovation in Monterrey, Mexico, by Brooks + Scarpa, 2013

The following text and images are courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects.

Photo courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects

Site: A 100,000 square foot vacant parcel located within a new Research and Technology Innovation Park developed by the Mexican government. The site is also adjacent to the Monterrey, Mexico airport and adjoins a natural habitat area.

Photo courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects

Program: A 55,000 square foot research lab, office and industrial testing facility serving an automotive industry client who designs and manufactures automotive and heavy truck chassis. The first phase encompasses a total of 15,500 square feet, including 5,500 square feet of office space and 11,000 square feet of research labs and warehouse space for testing and developing prototypes. The second phase consists of an additional 5,500 square feet of office space and 34,000 square feet of research labs and warehouse space.

Photo courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects

Solution: Industrial buildings are rarely a place that anyone is happy to visit or work. They are typically a direct, and often nefarious programmatic response to the function inside with little consideration for the occupants needs. The approach to this project was to preserve the integrity of a high bay industrial facility and program, while providing a model environment for the users and visitors.

Photo courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects

A saw-toothed roof draws from the geometry of old factories and the surrounding Monterrey Mountains. The angled elements of the roof provide abundant natural daylight to the spaces below at the building’s northernmost elevations. By modulating space and light thru a fractured roof geometry, the building is able to maintain a rational plan to meet the rigorous requirements of the program, while providing a strong connection to the landscape both visually and metaphorically.

Photo courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects

The second major feature of the building is the perforated metal skin that clads the entire façade. Manufactured by the client in their auto manufacturing facility nearby, the custom aluminum skin is both perforated and etched. It incorporates interplay of solid and void, orchestrating areas of both light and shadow, while limiting views into the research areas, necessary to protect proprietary trade secrets. Thus, the industrial program has been transformed from a black box environment to a light filled space with a strong visual connection to the outside.

Photo courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects

Each of these strategies and materials, exploit the potential for performance and sensibility while achieving a rich and interesting sensory and aesthetic experience.

Photo courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects

Programmatically, the building is divided into two volumes – warehouse/labs and offices functions. The upper story of the offices cantilever over the lower story to the west and is clad in a highly perforated metal skin and is the main entry facade. The lower story is mainly glazed and open to reveal portions of the research laboratory, machine room and other industrial functions not requiring visually security. From the exterior, the warehouse appears to float lightly over the mechanical and intellectual heart of the program, reversing the notion that an industrial building should be solid and protected. Rather, the building seems very open and is intended to feel vulnerable revealing parts of its inner program to public view.

Photo courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects

The main entry of the building is located at the northwest corner under the cantilevered volume. It is flanked by a sunken garden to the north, which is overlooked by the surrounding offices. The garden is a natural bioswale that connects to the adjacent water reclamation wetland for the entire PITT campus. A large industrial overhead door located off the entry in the main public space opens to the garden outside.

Drawing courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects

Drawing courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects

Drawing courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects

Façadomy

Façadomy: A Critique of Capitalism and Its Assault on Mid-Century Modern Architecture by James Cornetet
Process Press, 2013
Hardcover or Paperback, 426 pages

The intriguing yet slightly naughty title of this self-titled book by Orlando-based architect James Cornetet (of Process Architecture) refers to what happens when mid-century modern buildings are covered with postmodern pastiche to create the perception of value. Yet as Cornetet argues in the first half of the book, value-driven architecture (as he calls it) does not depend on inexpensive details and shallow associations; it achieves the most (for the client) with the most economical of means. Cornetet embraces mid-modern architecture as the ideal of value-driven architecture, the label he gives for the direction architect should be heading if it wishes to remain relevant.

It is an appealing argument that is explained in equal parts theory, criticism, and as a guide to the mid-century buildings near where he lives. The book is basically split into two: the main argument followed by the "tour" of Orange County, Florida. The transition between the two is basically non-existent, but Cornetet does refer to a number of the mid-century buildings in the first half, though in most cases these are the gems "façadomized" by later generations. Looking at the buildings of Orange County is like looking at just about any city, given the popularity, if short-lived, of mid-modern architecture. In this vein the best buildings respond to the Florida context through screens and other means of filtering sunlight.

Cornetet uses mid-20th-century architecture as a lens to discover how to design now. This tactic—and his strong opinions on architecture and the economy, among other things—provides plenty to critique in his critique. While I found his diagrams of the ebbs and flows of revivalism, modern, postmodern, and what comes after thorough and logical—as one of the numerous strong points of the book—I'm not convinced that making money for a client is the ultimate goal of architects working in a capitalist society. Buildings are traditionally generated by a client fulfilling a larger societal need, so that need should take precedence, as should even greater concerns (the environment, place, poetry) than bottom-line considerations. Ideally, clients are making the most money through architecture that creates meaningful, enjoyable, and environmentally responsible places; thereby architects are creating good for more than just clients. Yet most architects know the difficulty in this alternative proposition.

In addition to the theory, critique, and guide, how Cornetet sees value-driven architecture for the 21st century is found in a number of short case studies by his firm. These are inserted in a few places in the first half of the book, confusing any categorization of Façadomy; is it a monograph as well as a piece of criticism and historical guide? They are decent, small-scale designs that could be described as mid-modern architecture for today. They are simple and modern, with nice touches (such as a tactile column on the bus stop for the visually impaired) that give each project some interest. Cornetet's projects, like some of the mid-century pieces in the latter half, might not sufficiently sway people toward his way of thinking, but the argument he's crafted—full of an awareness of history and understanding of economics—is very convincing and the strongest part of the book.

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Clifftop House

Clifftop House in Maui, Hawaii, by Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti, 2011

The following text and images are courtesy of Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti.

Photo: Cristobal Palma, courtesy of Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti

Maui's south coast is gentle and works for indulging all-inclusive holidays, whereas its north coast is a rough surfer’s paradise with strong winds and most important perfect waves. Windsurf sail designer Robert Stroj moved from Europe to Maui to lead the design research studio of Neil Pryde in Kahului, Maui. While exploring the island with his wife, they soon fell in love with the area of West Maui Mountains on the north coast; a very unpopulated area with high cliffs at the cost, fresh onshore breezes and unobstructed views to the ocean.

Photo: Cristobal Palma, courtesy of Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti

After finding the perfect spot it took them three years to buy the land and several more to finish the house. Now they live there with their two sons and a dog. The home in such an environment becomes crucially important. Besides being just a home, this house works also as a social venue for the owners. The evening events are culinary blasts, where every guest realizes that cooking is not just necessity but more an obsession. Therefore the kitchen and the dining form the center of the house.

Photo: Cristobal Palma, courtesy of Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti

Perfect ocean view, beautiful cliffs, strong winds and unspoiled rough landscape—Is there any space for a house? It was a very unusual task for us European architects usually dealing with quite dense urban environment. It was hard to understand before its first visit and easy to respond after some days spent there.

Photo: Cristobal Palma, courtesy of Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti

The concept defines several "houses" under a common roof. Each separate "mini house" is a U-shaped volume in order to open up and frame the perfect ocean view. The houses are self-contained private units combining bedroom and bathroom as en-suite double room. A fluid public space between enclosed private volumes serves for cooking, eating, lounging, etc.

Sketches courtesy of Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti

The ensured privacy within the separate houses allows for a home without hallways, and furthermore for a continuous social and typological change: the four-person family home can be easily transformed into a mini hotel for 3 couples or 3 families with small children. The spatial concept even allowed the transformation of both "service houses" into a workspace: the garage into a sail loft - workshop for sail prototypes and the utility into Robert’s ocean view design studio.

Photo: Cristobal Palma, courtesy of Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti

The roof concept is strongly related to the rough climate with plenty of sun and strong ocean winds. The area of the roof is twice the size of the house, so the size of the covered outdoor space equals the size of the indoor space. The house needs no air-conditioning, since it is cross ventilated throughout. The folded roof is carefully attached to the walls of the U-shaped volumes and defines specific spaces. It also serves as a folded wooden deck for contemplating, playing or releasing the radio controlled flying wings, with the aim to materially and topologically integrate the house with the landscape.

Photo: Cristobal Palma, courtesy of Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti

Local materials are used for the finishing of the house. The walls are rendered with the specific plaster using beach sand inside and outside and furthermore emphasize the smooth indoor-outdoor relationship. The same Ipe wood is used for the floor, terrace, ceiling and even the roof. On the other hand the house is for U.S. standards typically constructed out of concrete blocks, which just reflects the European origin of the owner.

Photo: Cristobal Palma, courtesy of Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti

We like to believe the architecture is done on site with a strong control of the construction process. Here we were not able to visit the site while in process as often as we would want to, but all the essential supervision and site-coordination work was carefully done by the owner, an industrial designer mind who was always in touch online. The owners’ true passion for this house was stretched to the level that the last seven years they largely helped with most of the physical work from roof cladding to stucco or furniture. Within this extensive process they have already built a long-lasting relationship with this house, now their home.

Photo: Cristobal Palma, courtesy of Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti

Floor plan courtesy of Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti

Diagram courtesy of Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti

Discovering Architecture

Discovering Architecture: How the World's Great Buildings Were Designed and Built by Philip Jodidio
Universe, 2013
Hardcover, 260 pages

In an average year Philip Jodidio seems to churn out about a dozen books, easily the most of any writer on architecture. With Taschen and other publishers he focuses on contemporary architecture (the Architecture Now! series, for example), but with this recent coffee table book for Universe he reaches all the way back to the year 537 in a presentation of 50 important masterpieces. Actually, only 19 of the 50 buildings come after the 19th century, and only two of the buildings (the Millau Viaduct by Norman Foster and the National Stadium in Beijing by Herzog & de Meuron) were completed this century. Jodidio moves from the Hagia Sophia and Chartres Cathedral to Angkor Wat, Ryoan-Ji, the Taj Mahal, and other historical treasures (UNESCO seems to be the most oft-used word in the book, after architecture), followed by the Eiffel Tower, the Glasgow School of Art, the Seagram Building, the Salk Institute, and other modern gems.

The selection parallels other general interest titles on architecture (immediately it recalls a Time magazine special issue, Great Buildings of the World), but what it lacks in the originality of the selection it makes up for in the cleverness of the presentation: Each building is documented with a full-page photograph that is explained through a die-cut page with captions (by Elizabeth Dowling) corresponding to each window onto the photo below it. The cover gives some indication of how this works, but imagine that the area around the small white rectangles is gray, so the photo is not fully revealed until one turns the page. It's an inventive way of teaching laypeople and students about architecture, but it's also a means of educating them about how to "read" architecture through photographs, the preferred means of presenting buildings these days. And it's a good deal of fun, as there's a good amount of surprise in store at each turn of the page.

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Jean-Claude Carrière Theatre

Jean-Claude Carrière Theatre in Montpellier, France, by A+ Architecture, 2013

All photographs by Marie Caroline Lucat, courtesy of A+ Architects

Given the 21st-century goal of reducing carbon emissions in everything from manufacturing and transportation to food production and building, architects and engineers are looking to timber structures as a means of reducing the demand for carbon-intensive concrete and energy-intensive steel. Most of the attention is being given to research aimed at high-rise timber structures, some up to 42 stories tall. But this theater at Domaine d'O in Montpellier, France, designed by A+ Architecture, illustrates the potential in smaller structures in wood.

Wood is immediately visible on the exterior of Jean-Claude Carrière Theatre as a diamond-shaped lattice that is variable across the solid facades of the theater. But the use of wood goes well beyond this applied pattern—the exterior walls (tilt-up construction), floors, roof framing, interior walls, glass framing, as well as the facade are all made from wood. The architects put the quantity of wood in the building at 1000 cubic meters (35,300 cubic feet). In concert with the decision to use wood for its low-carbon and low-energy environmental benefits, the project was conceived and built in only 12 months.

Other benefits that the architects give to the decision to build almost entirely in wood include easy prefabrication, a clean construction site (dry, instead of wet), and that 90% of the project can be dismantled and reassembled elsewhere. This last part is important, given the fact that the carbon captured in trees stays there only as long as the material is in use; only until it is burned in a fire, for example. This does point to one concern with timber structures, but "advocates for wooden buildings say mass timber does not ignite easily and forms a layer of char that slows burning," according to a New York Times article on high-rises framed in wood.

Yet even with all of these benefits and the widespread use of wood (visible and not) in the Jean-Claude Carrière Theatre, it's the diamond lattice that commands the most attention, partly because it can be found throughout the whole project. This pattern comes into the lobby through the glass framing; the pattern is more regular here but it is particularly striking, owing to the transparency of the wall. In some places the lattice of the facade extends in front of the diamond openings, creating a layering that recalls the Prairie designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. Lastly, the wood lattice can be found inside the theater itself, where it stands out in front of a black background. From outside to inside, from front door to theater, the project stresses the environmental benefits of wood by making rich and enjoyable spaces where wood predominates.