A Traditional Ukrainian House Outlines a Home Away from Home in Antarctica
Off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula within an expansive archipelago sits the island of Galindez where the Ukrainian Vernadsky Research Base annually hosts twelve scientists and welcomes more than 4,000 tourists during the summer months. One of the first things visitors encounter is an unsightly, defunct fuel tank perched on the shore that the National Antarctic Research Center wanted to tidy up, so they asked the Kyiv-based architecture studio balbek bureau to envision and repurpose the site into an inviting “home away from home.”
The center commissioned the project in November 2021, three months before Russia invaded Ukraine. Originally scheduled for installation in early 2022, the war forced the firm to postpone until last month, when the piece titled “Home. Memories” was successfully constructed. Conceived as a welcoming sight for resident researchers and travelers, the piece adopted new layers of meaning in the wake of Russia’s aggression, highlighting Ukraine’s distinct culture and history amidst the ongoing assault. balbek bureau’s design is based on a traditional, rural house, incorporating a thin, metal frame around the tank that resembles a pencil sketch, “as if someone, reminiscing, draws their childhood home from memory.”
Along with being a “visual treat” for visitors, the project had significant practical concerns because of its extreme location. The installation had to be easily assembled, resistant to severe weather conditions, and safe for more than 3,500 penguins living on the island— “who love to disassemble constructions into bits used for nests.” The structure had to be able to withstand winds of up to 90 miles per hour, sub-zero temperatures, and around 300 days of precipitation each year.
Complementing the geometry of the outline, a miniature exhibition of resin “time capsules,” or souvenirs from around the country, are on display and include a sample of UNESCO-listed Kosiv painted ceramics, a fragment of an embroidered shirt known as a vyshyvanka, and a lump of coal from the Donetsk region. “We believe that the war will end in our victory, and Ukrainians will create new memories from the safe haven of their home,” shares co-founder Slava Balbek. “And all the way in Antarctica, for researchers and tourists alike, our house will continue to stand strong, a true memento of Ukraine.”
Explore in-depth documentation of the process from start to finish on the studio’s website.
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Bewildering Reflections and Perspectives Shift in the Hyperrealistic Oil Paintings of Nathan Walsh
In his intricate oil paintings, Nathan Walsh captures the textural sheen of rain on city streets and luminescent reflections in cafe windows. The artist has previously explored different vantage points in elaborate cityscapes, rendering the corners of buildings, corridors of skyscrapers, and expansive bridges in detailed, two-point perspective. Recently, he has further honed ideas around perception and the way the built environment presents uncanny optical illusions in the interplay of people and objects, light, and reflections.
The ideas for Walsh’s compositions often form as he wanders the streets of cities like New York and Paris, making sketches and taking photographs that he brings back to his studio, a converted Welsh Methodist chapel. “Up until last year, my work had been exclusively devoted to the urban landscape,” he tells Colossal, sharing that various objects like those spotted in an antique shop window in Paris’s 7th arrondissement signaled new references to his ideas around place and familiarity. He says:
I would travel, collect information, then return to my studio to respond to that material. “Metaphores” started in the same way: a trip to Paris, wandering aimlessly around the streets looking for ideas. On my return to the U.K., I realised a lot of the photographs and drawings I’d made were touching on similar subject matter to [my] home environment.
Pieces like “Metaphores” or “Rue de Saints” represent a shift in Walsh’s understanding of the urban landscape or more concisely, of how it is experienced. Elaborate window reflections warp our sense of space and fuse realism with imagination, such as in “Monarchs Drift,” in which the artist has spliced together scenes of Chicago and San Francisco. Walsh imbues the works with what he describes as a “hallucinatory quality which is ‘neither here nor there,'” embracing notions of transition, global connections, and his own memories of trips he has taken.
Walsh’s paintings will be featured in a forthcoming book published by Thames & Hudson dedicated to urban landscapes, and you can find more of his work on his website and Instagram.
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A Circular Monument of Rust-Colored Stone Rests Atop Qujiang Museum of Fine Arts
A walkable sculpture now marks the eastern entrance of Xi’an’s Qujiang Museum of Fine Arts, providing a hidden space with natural light and open air in the midst of the bustling Chinese city. The project of Shanghai-based architecture firm Neri&Hu, “The Urban Monument” is built with terracotta-colored travertine and comprised of four sections that allow visitors to seamlessly pass from street to interior to outdoor gathering space. Located south of the towering Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, the immense project similarly references local ancient culture and is designed to mimic an illuminated clay lantern.
Neri&Hu maintained the underground museum’s original stairs to draw in pedestrians and lead them to a sunken piazza, and a latticed facade allows sunlight to brighten the inner walkways. In addition to the galleries, a massive amphitheater with concentric benches for seating sits at the top of the structure, which also holds public restrooms, a restaurant, a lounge, and retail space.
Completed in December 2021, “The Urban Monument” is one of many of Neri&Hu’s architectural projects that play with geometries and light, which you can explore on its site.
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Readers Burrow into a Bookworm Haven in Kurkku Fields’ ‘Underground Library’
Undulating grass mounds at Kurkku Fields camouflage a meditative enclave for reading and rest. Opened last month in Kisarazu City, Japan, “Underground Library” is the project of Hiroshi Nakamura and NAP Architects, who designed the study center so that it nestles into the ground and seamlessly merges with the surrounding landscape.
A radial skylight allows natural light to pour into the otherwise concrete and wood space, along with large glass windows that line the building’s perimeter, showcasing a selection of the 3,000 books on the shelves. Given the location of the library, many of the titles explore the natural world through poetry, art, philosophy, history, and science. Halls wind throughout the circular space and lead to cozy reading rooms, some of which have narrow shelves carved into the walls that hide volumes for surprise discoveries.
“Underground Library” is one of many projects from Nakamura and his team that embeds architecture into the landscape, and you can explore those works on the firm’s site. (via designboom)
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Inspired by the Industrial Age, Giant Gears Conduct ‘Rolling Bridge’ Along an East London Channel
Cody Dock, a Victorian-era industrial site along the River Lea in east London, is in the midst of a monumental facelift as part of a masterplan to transform the space into a creative hub. A new bridge by architect Thomas Randall-Page connects pedestrians across a recently re-flooded channel, but this is no 19th-century relic. Nodding to its industrial surroundings through the use of weathered steel and bent oak, “Cody Dock Rolling Bridge” has the distinction of being the first of its kind to roll on its axis to make room for passing boats.
Seven years in the making, the design for the crossing was inspired by early mechanisms that could be powered by hand. Gear teeth wrap the frame, and when operated by a set of manual levers, the entire structure passes along tracks on the sides of the channel. Using materials “in their raw untreated state, the aesthetic is more influenced by the area’s maritime and shipbuilding past, traces of which are dotted throughout the area,” Randall-Page told Dezeen.
“Rolling Bridge” is part of PUP Architects’ multifaceted plan to transform the once-derelict site into a pedestrian-friendly, artistic community, and it was a finalist for the 2023 Bridges Awards. Find more projects by Thomas Randall-Page on his website.
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Meander the Halls of Europe’s Grandest Homes in Gretchen Scherer’s Paradisiacal Paintings
In the maximalist paintings of Gretchen Scherer, you can wander the elaborate halls of the Galleria Borghese outside Rome, or step into a dressing room at Burghley House in Stamford, England—one of the grandest surviving Elizabethan “prodigy” houses—and you’ll have the place all to yourself. The Brooklyn-based artist meticulously renders historic interiors in oil and acrylic, emphasizing frescoed ceilings, baroque niches, and salon-style art collections. Focusing on real places primarily around Europe, Scherer is fascinated by the architectural details and the stories objects reveal about who lived there. “I still invent a lot, and they don’t look exactly like the places they come from. It’s more like the way you might remember a space in your mind or imagine it before you go there,” she says.
Scherer began incorporating architecture into her work around ten years ago when a friend gifted her a book about the genre’s history. She was increasingly drawn to more ornamental styles that preceded the clean lines of 20th-century modernism. “I like the references to nature and all the adornments,” she says. “Those [older] places feel so alien to the spaces we inhabit now—it’s truly like another world.” The spaces are always empty of human visitors, but their presence is felt as if they could walk back into the room at any moment.
“Every piece of artwork, furniture, or even a tiny drawing on a desk that I reference in a painting is from the collection of the place I am painting,” she says. Hanging paintings “salon” style or floor-to-ceiling was a decorating trend that can be traced to the École des Beaux-Arts Salon exhibitions in Paris during the 17th and 18th centuries that packed gallery spaces with as many works as could fit. The decoration of Europe’s grand houses soon followed suit. “The salon-style artwork installations are inspired by the way we are overwhelmed with imagery today through social media, but I find it so interesting that in the past, artwork was displayed that way, so we’ve kind of gone back to viewing things that way again,” the artist says.
If you’re in London, Scherer’s solo exhibition Of a Place opens at Taymour Grahne’s Notting Hill space on February 25 and runs through April 5. Find more of her work on her website, and follow updates on Instagram.
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