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Höhenrausch.3

Höhenrausch.3 in Linz, Austria, by Various Architects and Artists, 2013

Photographs by Otto Saxinger and Andreas Kepplinger; courtesy of Im OÖ Kulturquartier

The first time I heard about some of the rooftop structures atop the Im OÖ Kulturquartier (Im OÖ) in Linz, Austria, was in reading a monograph on Japanese architects Atelier Bow-Wow. The Linz Super Branch allowed visitors to traverse the rooftops of the buildings and gain a unique perspective on the city. Turns out that the rooftop has been updated annually since Atelier Bow-Wow's 2009 installation, per its inclusion in the catalog S AM 11 / Lookout, which accompanies an exhibition at Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel, Switzerland. The catalog attributes the concept to Raoul Bunschoten, while Im OÖ attributes the urban/artistic consultancy to him and his firm CHORA. Whatever the case, the most recent additions go vertical, adding a contemporary twist to the historical skyline.

Most visible from the surrounding streets, especially at night when it's awash in color, is Wen-Chih Wang's "Bamboo Cupola." Im OÖ describes it as such: "Transformations of space are at the heart of the installations by the Taiwanese artist Wen-Chih Wang. He expands given architectural structures with fantastic constructions of bamboo and rattan. Thus a 15-meter-high tower made of woven bamboo grows out of the Höhenrausch.3 rooftop walkways, so that a light-flooded space emerges that invites lingering. The bamboo tower is illuminated from the inside at night, thus becoming an unusual object in urban space in the dark, too."

A bit less artistic, but a construction that can be climbed to gain even higher views of Linz, is the "Upper Austria Tower." Im OÖ describes this addition as such: "The Upper Austrian Tower rises 31 meters into the sky on the highest point of the parking garage building. The local tower of the Höhenrausch.3 tower quartet is a copy of the lookout tower Alpenblick along the Czech border in Ulrichsberg. The functional architecture of the "rural" lookout tower made of fir wood becomes a new, temporary landmark of the city of Linz. In contrast to these urban surroundings, it displays the material of wood.Through the climb up over seven levels, the urban space opens up like a theatrical staging."

One last rooftop element worth mentioning is a slender white piece that looks like an antenna but is Lang/Baumann's "Diving Platform." Again, Im OÖ's statement: "An about 13-meter-high Diving Platform rises up from the central platform of the Höhenrausch.3 rooftop landscape, but no one can dive from here. Intermediated between a functional object and a sculpture, this work involves a kind of mental acrobatics, the idea of what it could be like to climb up and enjoy the view. Lang/Baumann refer often in their works to functionality, design or architecture and enrich existing situations or spaces by the dimension of poetry and imagination."

Vaulted Cork Pavilion

Vaulted Cork Pavilion in Porto, Portugal, by Pedro de Azambuja Varela, Maria João de Oliveira and Emmanuel Novo, 2013

The following text and images are courtesy of Joao Morgado and the architects.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

The Vaulted Cork Pavilion was built for Amorim Isolamentos Lda., to demonstrate its cork building materials at Concreta 2013, a biennial building fair held at Exponor, Porto.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

This architecture and research project was developed by Pedro de Azambuja Varela, Maria João de Oliveira and Emmanuel Novo, while studying in the Digital Architecture Advanced Studies Course (CEAAD), a joint venture between ISCTE-IULisboa and FAUPorto. All the fabrication was carried out at VFABLAB-IUL, and the coordination was carried out by Professors Alexandra Paio and José Pedro Sousa.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

This construction started out as challenge to materialize concepts and investigation developed within CEAAD during 2012 and 2013, all related with expanded cork agglomerate. These concepts are: the possibility to span vaults with cork alone; a compound translucent cork material; and a system for radiation and acoustic optimization. All these concepts ought to be shown within the pavilion in a symbiotic relation formalized by the continuous and metamorphic shape.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Architectonic space lies within an interrelationship between inner and outer space, promoting dynamic fluxes and circulation all around the construction. The outside provides circulation and rest areas, where people can relax in benches or wavy forms. The inside is a tunnel like space that has a continuous bench and an exhibition space, where people can find shelter from the trade fair's harsh noise and lights. All this was formalized as a shape that grows from the floor creating a smooth transition between the floor and vaulted roof.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Cork characteristics were a main driving force in the space's conception. The floor and walls are smooth and soft, and the smell is very particular. Inside the space, one has the feeling of being inside another environment, such is the effect of changing light, sound, smell and touch. The grass on the exterior - showing the possibility of using cork on living roofs - creates a symbiosis of living plants and cork bark while responding to the client's wish of showing a construction system of cork insulated green roof.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

The construction approach for this project dealt mainly with time constraints. Following the research developed the year before the pavilion construction system would be that of a compression only vault. This means the supporting structure would be built out of blocks that should efficiently transmit the load forces downwards through a stereotomic fit. The apex of stereotomic thinking created such complex polysurfaced blocks that even a new science was born with it: Descriptive Geometry. These kinds of blocks were carved with a CNC milling machine, but their 3D nature makes the process very slow as it needs many passes. Straight down 2D cutting, creating silhouette type shapes, is much faster, as the drill may plunge down and carve most of the material in a few passes. This led to rethinking of the structure as a 2D process, leading to the design of arches that would be fixed together as in a barrel vault.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Although the parametric nature of this built form hints at its digital genesis, the first approaches were sketch driven. The project was developed with its group members separated by distance, relying in the digitized hand drawn sketches, online meetings and many different proposals. This is how the main hypotheses were laid out, which were to be translated into pure geometry language so that the computer would be able to calculate a final shape. The variables were created so that the various aspects of the pavilion would take shape: the sinuous curve which defines one arm of the catenary arches, the bulging longitudinal shape, the height of the exterior bench and its conformity with the sweeping vault curve. All these variables were put together as parameters of a complex algorithm that resolved all the geometry needed to draw the 120 individual cross-sections.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Once the shape was agreed upon, another algorithm was crafted to automatically create the geometry of the hundreds of unique blocks that were to be CNC cut at the VFABLAB. All the blocks were labeled with a meaningful system, easing the work of the Amorim team while assembling the various pieces. These were pre-mounted in chunks of three arches, so that final assembly in the trade fair would be easier and error-free. Its final assembly was a success; the cork blocks were very efficient as a stereotomic system. The acoustic cork was key in decorating the interior and translucent cork provided light in the interior and a glimpse of mystery from the outside, effectively working as stained glass windows.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Drawing courtesy of the architects

Drawing courtesy of the architects

V’ House

V' House in Maastricht, Netherlands, by Wiel Arets Architects, 2013

The following text and images are courtesy of Wiel Arets Architects (WAA).

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

V’ House was constructed for a couple that collects vintage cars, and is stitched within the medieval tapestry of Maastricht. The city dictates all new structures remain within the envelope of pre-existing buildings, and so a cut was created in the house’s front façade to generate a triangulated surface, which leads from one neighbor’s sloped roof to the opposite neighbor’s vertical bearing wall. As the house’s site is long and narrow, voids were cut into the maximum permitted volume to ensure that natural light spills throughout the interior. The ground floor is both open to the exterior elements and sunken to the rear of the site, which makes possible the maximum two-story height allowance. A covered portion of this exterior space serves as an outdoor parking garage for the owners’ collection of Aston Martins.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

As the house finds refuge between two historical buildings, it is a burst of modernity within this currently gentrifying neighborhood of Maastricht. The house is enormous, totaling 530 m2, and is entered through two oversized sliding glass doors that perforate its front façade. These doors serve as the house’s main entry and open to either their left or right for entry by foot, and both simultaneously retract to allow the entry of automobiles. Due to safety and privacy concerns, these glass entry doors have no handles or keyholes and are instead are remotely opened from any iPhone, from anywhere in the world. For further privacy the house’s front façade was fritted with a gradient pattern of dots, which disperse in placement as the house rises towards the sky and focus at a distance to compose an image of curtains fluttering in the wind. Actual curtains align the interior of the front façade to afford additional privacy.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Circulation throughout the house occurs via two paths. A 'slow' stair leads from the ground floor to the expansive living room, which is connected to the partially raised kitchen and dining areas by a small ramp. A 'fast' stairwell traverses the entire height of the house and, together with the platform elevator, allows for direct vertical shortcuts to all levels of living. Thus this house, with its multiple circulation interventions, such as its living room ramp and ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ paths, is organized not around the traditional notion of stacked floors and is instead organized around its circulatory section. At the apex of this 'fast' route is the entrance to an expansive roof terrace that’s also the most public space of the house, as it offers panoramic views over the spired roofline of Maastricht.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

The living room has been suspended from two I-beams that span two masonry bearing walls that surround the rear of the site. Steel tension rods measuring 5x10 cm extend from these I-beams into the almost fully glazed façade of the living room, which allows its volume to float above the Aston Martins below. For privacy reasons, this glazing was treated with a highly reflective coating that casts a hue of chartreuse or amber depending on the season and angle of the sun. Only when inhabiting the master bedroom is this hanging of the living room apparent, as the I-beams are visible from the master bedroom, which opens onto the living room's roof, which functions as a private terrace for the owners.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Heating and cooling is provided via a concrete core activation system concealed within the floors and ceilings of the house, while all storage is built into the circulatory areas in order to divide spaces and define rooms. These custom designed storage units also outfit the office space, where they conceal a bed that can be lowered to accommodate temporary visitors, such as the owners' now grown children. All storage areas recede in prominence due to their fluid integration, which allows the house's interior to remain flexible and open for ephemeral definition. The one-piece custom designed kitchen was constructed in stainless steel, and the dining table, which is connected to it, cantilevers 3.5 m toward the front façade. The custom furnishings and storage spaces, together with the in-situ concrete and multiple roof terraces, make the V’ house an expression of free space in a regulated heritage context.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Floor plans courtesy of WAA

Floor plans courtesy of WAA

Building sections courtesy of WAA

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

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.

High School Extension with “Crinkled Wall”

High School Extension with "Crinkled Wall" in Kufstein, Austria, by Johannes Wiesflecker and Karl-Heinz Klopf, 2012

Photograph by David Schreyer

Paper is a suitable metaphor for knowledge, considering how ideas have been expressed and shared via books and other paper media for centuries. Even as digital technologies are supplanting books, newspaper, and magazines as the preferred means of sharing information, paper still plays a large role in learning. We write on paper, we draw on paper, we still read things on paper, and we throw paper away. In this sense, especially the latter case, it is appropriate that artist Karl-Heinz Klopf has contributed a "Crinkled Wall" (commissioned by BIG Art) to the High School Extension in Kufstein designed by Johannes Wiesflecker.

Photograph by David Schreyer

Photograph by David Schreyer

The location of the Crinkled Wall is strategic. It sits perpendicular and adjacent to the street, giving the school a distinctive public face; it faces an open space to ensure it is visible from a distance; and it faces south, shielding some of the classrooms from direct sunlight (they gain sunlight from the sides, one of which is angled in the tapered plan to capture some direct light from the south).

Photograph by David Schreyer

Photograph by David Schreyer

While the crinkled wall resembles a crumpled piece of paper, it has to be built from something more substantial. Concrete is the resulting material, and views from the side (the two photos above) make it appear like the surface is thick, as it wraps the corner. But as the photo below attests, the wall is relatively thin, hung a few feet in front of the classroom windows.

Photograph by David Schreyer

Photograph by David Schreyer

The thinness of the concrete panels accentuates the allusion to paper, a material whose form is mirrored from one side to the other when crumpled, though from the inside the materiality of the Crinkled Wall—its texture, its formwork holes—comes to the fore. The same happens on the exterior when it rains, turning something abstract into something dripping with its reality. This is important, because Klopf opted to sculpt something tactile rather than something made of bits and bytes. An LED facade can also express knowledge, learning, and information. By selecting paper, Klopf makes us aware of the analog-digital shift underway (computers may have a "recycling bin" with "wastepaper" in them, but they aren't the same as the real thing), helping us to realize it is not absolute or simple.

Photograph by David Schreyer

Site Plan

Floor Plan

Building Section

Pedestrian Connection in Chur

Pedestrian Connection in Chur, Switzerland, by Esch Sintzel Architects, 2012

All photographs by John Hill

On a recent trip to Switzerland I was fortunate enough to visit Peter Zumthor's Therme Vals, a masterpiece of light, dark, and water. It was an experience equal parts stimulating and relaxing, thanks to both the architecture and the gorgeous valley setting. The town and baths are most easily reached by car, in a route that takes one past the city of Chur, the capital city of Graubünden, the canton that also encompasses Vals. In Chur I visited a more recent project by Esch Sintzel Architects, a pedestrian connection linking two parts of a school separated by a vertical expanse of 35 meters (115 feet).

The architects wove a stairway along and across a funicular, which allows people without the means of using the stairs to ascend and descend the ten stories separating the school building at the base and the one next to the Cathedral of Chur. Visiting on a Sunday, the funicular was not in operation. No bother, since the stairs offer plenty of opportunities for rest, particularly through the way the walls frame views of the surrounding city and countryside on different sides.

Both human and mechanical means of access tunnel through the landscape, making the voyage one that veers from open and light to enclosed and dark. From bottom to top, the stairs start in a straight shot toward the top, paralleling the funicular; then they take a right away from the funicular, only to turn another 90 degrees and meet up with it again for the final ascent to the top. A plan of the stair's route would look like a loop with straight lines at the ends. This detour functionally allows more ascent than would be possible with only a straight run, but it also lets the architects put the urban and natural scenery on display, perhaps the most important aspect of the design.

Not surprisingly, concrete is an important material in the realization of the project. But so is weathered steel, which is used for the walls and roofs of the portions that just from the rock at the bottom and the top. On the sides these thin plates (only 12mm, or 1/2", thick) are cut with hexagonal openings that affect how one looks at the surrounding landscape; it's like a skewed picture window that adds some dynamism to fairly idyllic views. While the outside of the steel is weathered (rust) the inside faces are painted white. This lightens the series of spaces and enables the perforated corrugated guardrails to stand out a little bit, their color echoing the rust.

While the pedestrian connection by Esch Sintzel Architects may not be able to compete with Zumthor's Therme Vals—both in the evolving canon of contemporary architecture and in my memories—perhaps that is an unfair comparison. More praiseworthy is the way the piece of infrastructure in Chur manages to utilize its surroundings to great effect, just as the windows in Zumthor's bath elevates the beauty of the hills around Vals. Chur may not have as much natural beauty as Vals—it is a city rather than a small village, after all—but through the openings of Esch Sintzel's walls of weathered steel, the city is turned into something special, a place to be celebrated.

Ama’r Children’s Culture House

Ama'r Children's Culture House in Copenhagen, Denmark, by Dorte Mandrup Architects, 2013

The following text and images are courtesy of Dorte Mandrup Architects.

Photograph by Jens Lindhe

The Ama'r Children’s Culture House is an innovative project developed with the fanciful and fun input of children. The Culture House is a Danish Villa Villekulla that offers a unique range of spatial experiences and cultural activities.

Photograph by Torben Eskerod

Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter considered the children’s countless ideas and wishes throughout the design process. They have created a house with many intriguing angles, caves and stairs that pro- vide a wealth of opportunities for creative expression and exploration. Just like the kids wished for! A dream come true! -Nild Regout, Head of Ama’r Children’s Culture House

Photograph by Jens Lindhe

The Children’s Culture House mediates the varying scales of adjacent buildings through extruding and cutting their forms. The joint of the building, where the extended lines of the existing buildings meet, is lowered to allow maximum sunlight to reach the neighboring courtyard. The expression of the Children’s Culture House is surprising and imaginative: the roof and facades are treated the same, and the House does not have a “start” and “end” as ordinary houses do.

Photograph by Torben Eskerod

The building is organized as a mountain. All interior spaces are visually connected, and are bound together by dynamic circulation. The house offers flexible spaces and customized furniture, which have been proven to enhance children’s creativity and active participation. The spaces provide opportunities for varied use and accommodate age groups from 0-18 years with changing needs.

Photograph by Torben Eskerod

The construction details of The Ama’r Children’s Culture House have been designed in collaboration with Nøhr and Sigsgaard Arkitekter.

Photograph by Torben Eskerod

Ground floor plan courtesy of Dorte Mandrup Architects

First floor plan courtesy of Dorte Mandrup Architects

Second floor plan courtesy of Dorte Mandrup Architects

Building section A-A courtesy of Dorte Mandrup Architects

Drawing courtesy of Dorte Mandrup Architects

Water Treatment Plant

Water Treatment Plant in Évry, France, by AWP, 2013

Photo © AWP, Anna Positano

Over ten years ago AWP won a competition for the enlargement of Évry's water purification plant, located on the edge of the Seine River and near the Francilienne expressway. AWP's focus consists of, per partner Matthias Armengaud, "an urban canvas (opening on the Seine), landscape (educational filtration park with six themed gardens), and architectural densification and organization." Part of the latter involves the construction and renovation of four buildings that are featured here, each one tied to the other three through a language of wood screens, or as AWP puts it, "urban scale filters."

Photo © AWP, Anna Positano

Per the architects, "The urban dimension of the equipment has guided us towards a strategy of opening-up and hospitality. Regularly open to visitors, this equipment will become a landmark and a thematic park on the theme of water filtering." This tactic of opening up what was previous hidden usually occurs after the useful life of a piece of infrastructure; think of Park Duisburg Nord and other post-industrial sites that retain some of their form and history even as they are transformed into places of leisure and recreation. But to create a display and experience from the workings of a filtration plant strategically elevates the issue of water (the resource that many think will define 21st-century wars) at a time when its use must be cosidered.

Photo © AWP, Anna Positano

The layering of wood screens over concrete structures accomplishes a few things: it softens the architecture of the plant, it signals the pieces of the plant that are open to the public, and it creates an architectural dialogue across the plant that enriches the place. Each of the four buildings could have strove to create its own identity at the plant ("I clean effluent!", or whatever the case may be), but the shared architectural expression prioritizes the relationships between buildings over any individual attributes.

Photo © AWP, Anna Positano

Évry and AWP are not alone in opening up their doors to the public and using architectural design as a means to improve the infrastructure's presence within the cityscape. Closer to my home is the Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, a 25-year project that Ennead Architects is overseeing. The project revitalizes the plant in the increasingly popular Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, while also creating a visitor center and art/public spaces along the namesake creek that divides Brooklyn from Queens. Water is the link between these projects, and the world will probably see many more projects of the same ilk, as outdated infrastructure needs improving and the use of reuse of water becomes paramount.

Photo © AWP, Anna Positano

Photo © AWP, Anna Positano

Photo © AWP, Anna Positano

Photo © AWP, Anna Positano

Photo © AWP, Anna Positano

Photo © AWP, Anna Positano

Drawing © AWP

Tunnel Monitoring Complex

Tunnel Monitoring Complex in Hausmannstaetten, Austria, by Dietger Wissounig Architekten, 2012

The following text and images are courtesy of Dietger Wissounig Architekten.

Photograph by Jasmin Schuller

The large complex of buildings nestled on level ground along the new Hausmannstaetten bypass road covers three functions: tunnel control center, central repair shop and road maintenance depot. In order to keep the intrusion to a minimum, the building was interpreted as part of the landscape. It follows the course of the road and the green roofs, which regulate the climate and blend in with the fields farmed in strips. A planted embankment forms the boundary to the bypass. Additionally, the way the elongated position of buildings is chosen, they contribute to noise protection in favor of the neighboring small houses. On the one hand, the complex consequently uses the existing topographical conditions to minimize noise, energy and routes. On the other hand, its clear, simple design vocabulary stabilizes the atmosphere of the heterogeneous environment.

Photograph by Jasmin Schuller

The building complex at the west portal of the Himmelreich tunnel at Hausmannstätten enters into a consistent dialogue with the surrounding landscape. By dint of its size and development along the tunnel entrance, the structure impacts on the landscape, of which it forms an integral part.

Photograph by Jasmin Schuller

The green roofs follow the course of the street. The earth banks already on the building site and neighboring plot, heaped up for tunnel construction, are only partially rearranged and form the new topography in combination with the roofs. The top edges of the roofs and earth banks are at the same height. Seen from the country road, the impression is one of having parts of the landscape in front of you. The eye ranges over the green roof surfaces to the Graz Basin with its plot pattern of short strip fields.

Photograph by Jasmin Schuller

The architecture is characterized by a calm, pragmatic style. The aim was to stabilize the surrounding area, that is dominated by suburban detached houses and commercial developments. The reserved architectural language serves as a background for the heterogeneous neighborhood. In addition to the areas of extensive roof and embankment greenery, the materials used are above all long-lived.

Photograph by Jasmin Schuller

To cater to the heavy burden of the weather and works transport (frost and thaw salt), extremely robust natural materials are used such as reinforced concrete (also for crash guards), wood in the interior protected from the weather, steel and industrial glass. These materials define the appearance of the façades. In some areas high-quality, resistant materials are used; for example stainless steel in the washing bay – simply for reasons of severe exposure to corrosion due to steam.

Photograph by Jasmin Schuller

Photograph by Jasmin Schuller

Photograph by Jasmin Schuller

Plan by Dietger Wissounig Architekten

Plan by Dietger Wissounig Architekten

Plan by Dietger Wissounig Architekten