Category architecture

Algae-powered, German-engineered, ARUP-designed… what’s not to love?

The word modern seems to have lost it’s luster. Hyper-modern better describes things that truly push the envelope… and this building does just this.

I think what I love most about this project is the overlapping of disciplines. Energy and architecture are somewhat strange bedfellows.

Most of us think we’ll eventually fly around (thanks Jetsons). We’re already using tri-corders (thanks Star Trek and Apple) to stay in touch. But I’m guessing very few of us thought we’d see the day when a building would be powered by algae.

Architecture powered by scum. If that doesn’t say 2014 than what does?

Wild project. Of course it’s in Germany. I love this.

Painting the town red, blue, yellow, green, chartreuse, beige…

1Stripes seem to be having a moment.

Everywhere we look we see stripes. The Meininger Hotel Berlin Airport offers one more example.

Think of every building you’ve ever seen… ok now think of the color scheme of every building you’ve ever seen. I’m guessing your brain isn’t overflowing with color.

99% of buildings are predicable, gray, boring… one-dimensional. It’s almost like architecture lost its color pallet, entirely.

Enter the Meininger. It may be the complete opposite of every building in your memory bank; it has the look of a large-scale fantastical color experiment.


2When I first saw photos of this structure my memory was tugged back to Rem Koolhause’s European Flag proposal.

Rem’s flag is perhaps the most interesting, fresh and modern flag design outside of a design class experiment. And that, the fact that his flag was passed over (officials opted for the instant-classic ring of stars), draws me to this building even more.

This building is not a concept sketch. It’s real. That gives it heft and meaning. We’ve all seen concept car sketches we knew would never make it into the mainstream.

It’s one thing to propose radical change and another thing entirely to follow through.

3I love this building on multiple levels.

I love the stark lines; i love the harsh rectilinear forms stacked up like a Lego experiment.

I dig the flatness of the colors and their random application. The non-patterned lines make it clear this is not a rainbow or some other cliche pattern. I also love the way the light plays across the shapes, highlighting a wall of stripes while making other walls fade away as if masked with a black transparent filter.

Kudos to the architect, Petersen Architekten.

Reserve a room here.


Exploring the near past with a futuristic vehicle

car_mxHistory moves swiftly.

We tend to have our eyes focused on the future but what’s right behind us can sometimes be even more interesting.

Changes are thrust upon cultures with decisions that are well out of their control; strokes of a pen at the Federal level can change transportation routes and even shift societies.

To try and better understand this Mexican artists Ivan Puig and Andres Padilla Domene created what looks like a NASA-meets-Brooklyn-meets-Kickstarter vehicle.

The goal was simple… to explore railway lines that were end-of-lifed when the Mexican government privatized the rail system in the mid 90s.

These two are “Los Ferronautas, intrepid explorers of dead railway lines.”

How they explored the country is novel, innovative and even punk. What they found is even more interesting. Check out the film below of the project and their travels.

Keep in mind they are exploring a political decision that is less than 20 years old.

Stacking large boxes in Singapore

Some ideas are so… so simple. This is one of them.

I remember designing a structure when I was a kid. It was two rectangles, one on top of the other. The upper half was twisted off to one side. It looked a lot like… this.sing
Sometimes we think “past” an idea. We make it more complex because we believe it needs to be complex to be novel or interesting. Complexity, most times, dilutes the essence of the original idea and introduces users to tangents of the main idea. Complexity confuses.

I’m intrigued by The Interlace project in Singapore for these reasons. On one level it is simple. Just twisted boxes on top of each other. Yet on another level the angles introduce new ways for communities to interact, new places for gardens and communal spaces to develop. I bet the shadows are also fairly interesting throughout the year. Instead of vertical high-rise shadows this complex yields more interesting… geometry-inspired shadows.

It was designed by Ole Scheeren from OMA in the Netherlands. I have no idea about the green/LEED elements of this project, I just love the simple yet novel design. 

Skateable architecture

My dad was telling me the woes of the golf industry recently, the short version is that it’s on a decline. No wonder it’s in a slump… five hours and $200 per session is a pretty large filter.

Then, a few days later I walked off a stage in DC and a bunch of surfers walked up to me… and it occurred to me that what was once considered “fringe” (most board sports) is now mainstream.

And that brings me to skateable architecture.


These pics are from the “At First We Take Museums” exhibit at the Kiasma Museum of Modern Art in Finland. Rich Holland has created something visually beautiful and spiked the imagination of every skateboarder who will set their eyes (or wheels) on these forms.

Maybe it’s because I grew up skateboarding but these forms make sense to me. Why wouldn’t you design a space to, literally, flow like this? Further, why not let skaters take it over from time to time?




Taking this a step further is the PAS house designed to skate in. I’ve heard of a few others out there… hmmm… maybe it’s time for me to build a halfpipe… in the family room.

Optical glass house

I love it when people think about an idea with a fresh perspective. We tend to see more innovation when people start with a blank canvas and innovate rather than start with what exists and end up changing 3%.

This is one of those ideas… a gorgeous dwelling made with optical-quality glass blocks in Hiroshima, Japan, by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Architects.

More pics here.

Math, architecture and the death of the straight line

gangSomewhere between working out of Frank Gehry’s LA office a few years ago and a recent meeting at the Studio Gang office in Chicago it hit me… straight lines are over-rated.

Shackles forcing us to think in retilinear patterns no longer exist.

The seed of this point was planted in my brain a decade or so ago when I started paying attention to structures like the Experience Music Project in Seattle. Sure the outside looks like a flowing wave or ice-cream cone but what caught my eye was the internal structure. I remember getting a tour by the structural engineering team. They spent an ample amount of time pointing to the flowing structural elements; the CNC-modeled steel and wood beams were unlike any I’d seen.

And this brings me to math.

The simple truth is that we used straight lines because we had do.

Today we have access to math-driven 3D modeling software.

This subject, modern flowing architectural lines, is now part of the mainstream. The Beijing Olympics thrust the Herzog & de Meuron Birdsnest into pop culture. It’s an amazing architectural and engineering feat… somewhat taken for granted since it was part of a pop-culture event like the Olympics. It’s stunning on multiple levels, brought to you by applied mathematics.

In the grander scheme this is simply just another disruptive advancement. Like Eli Whitney shifting markets by introducing assembly-line mass production or like Netscape’s consumer web app enabling billions to shift their entire life experience into a new paradigm… 3D modeling software (and related advancements in structural engineering tools) are seriously challenging the age-old limitation of a straight line.

Kursaal Auditorium, San Sebastián

The first time I saw the Kursaal Auditorium I was hooked. It was late and if my memory serves me right I was trying to check the surf.

On water’s edge of a traditional Spanish port city, north of the Basque Country, was this lit-up wedge, slicing into the night. It was gorgeous.

A few short years later a deeper connection with the space came together.

We hosted our Global Wave Conference at this site. Wave and coastal conservation mavens from around the planet worked hard inside all day, basking in it’s luminescence and shadows, sharing protection strategies and tactics.

During lunch and after the days work most of us surfed out front as a swell slammed into the coast just a stones throw from the base of the building. Everything about that experience is seared into my memory.

Above is an interior shot and below an exterior shot.

If you get to San Sebastián make this building a stop.

Another galaxy lands in Beijing

The Galaxy Soho, a project by Zaha Hadid Architects, was unveiled in Beijing earlier this month.

The word “moonscape” comes to mind.

The above photograph by Ben Lepley captures the spacey vibe, clean colors and flowing lines. A plethora of other photos can be found on the architects site here.

What I love beyond the organic forms and shifting landscape is the fact that the entire complex is only 15 stories high. It’s approachable even by pedestrians.

It’s hard to make a statement in a city unless you go up and odd. Yet many of the taller projects are hard to truly grasp and/or appreciate unless you have a very specific vantage point which isn’t crowded by other, competing projects.

Smaller projects somehow seem more human-scale. I love this complex and look forward to the day I can see it in-person.

Great little video below as well. It’s wonderful to have this spoken about by locals living in and around the construction and project. Wild juxtaposition between new and old… which has become a quintessentially Beijing attribute.

You are the architect and your house will be round

3D-printing is entering the realm of the mainstream. From custom, on-demand and on location created products to… houses.

Think of the most amazing structures on the planet… China’s bird’s nest or China’s CCTV bulding… now boot up a CAD program and design your own house and have it printed where you want it.

The meat of this vid starts 2:20 in.