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Art Design History

A New Book Compiles an Expansive Collection of Gaudí’s Unorthodox Architectural Works

March 16, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Taschen, shared with permission

Known for transforming Barcelona’s architectural landscape, Antoni Gaudí famously combined nature, materiality, religion, and influences of Orientalism into a widely recognized aesthetic that’s captured in a new book from Taschen. Throughout more than 350 pages, Gaudí: The Complete Works encompasses the Catalan architect’s projects from the Casa Batlló to his first house, Casa Vicens, to his most recognized creation, the Sagrada Família. It features new and historical photographs, the architect’s plans and drawings, and an appendix of each of his projects—including buildings, furniture, decor, and even unfinished pieces.

With words by art critic Rainer Zerbst, the book considers the effects of Gaudí’s unconventional designs. “Like a personal tour through Barcelona, we discover how the ‘Dante of architecture’ was a builder in the truest sense of the word, crafting extraordinary constructions out of minute and mesmerizing details, and transforming fantastical visions into realities on the city streets,” a note about the text said. Grab a copy for yourself from Taschen’s site.

 

 



Art Design

Geometric Doorways and Angular Turrets Form Sand Fortresses by Calvin Seibert

March 6, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Calvin Seibert, shared with permission

Like many kids with a love for digging in sandboxes, Calvin Seibert (previously) grew up creating grand castles and towers from piles of the sediment. But for Seibert, the practice wasn’t just a childhood pastime. “In hindsight I see that much of what I made was more like sculpture. It really was all about the object and its resonant meanings rather than interiors and spatial flow,” he says.

After studying at the School of Visual Arts, the Colorado-born artist began sculpting modernist buildings featuring sharp angles, clean edges, and various geometric shapes that resemble brutalist architecture rather than something from a children’s story. “While not all of my structures have quite the rugged fortress-like presence of a Kenzo Tange or a Paul Rudolph building, it is something I aim for,” he writes. “Certainly I see my sandcastles in opposition to those frivolous turreted fantasies that Cinderella would feel at home in.”

To create his works, Seibert begins by mixing water and sand to create layers, before packing and smoothing the rest by hand. He cleans the edges with various trowels and knives that he’s made himself. Plus, he never works without a five-gallon pail because it’s “indispensable for digging and fetching water, as well as carrying stuff to the beach.”

I always start at the top and work down, taking great care to keep the horizontals level. I pretty much make things up as I go along, allowing surprises and engineering difficulties to shape the castles. Robert Venturi’s prescription of ‘complexity and contradiction’ is always in the back of my mind, while mash-ups of gameshow sets and artillery bunkers are soon added to the mix.

Seibert tells Colossal that he’s moved to Colorado since making the works featured here, which limits his time on the beach, although he dreams of transforming a pile of sand at the Venice Biennale or as part of Casa Wabi in Mexico. Follow what he’s up to, and perhaps get a glimpse of his next visit to a sandy landscape, on Instagram.

 

 



Design

Roof of a Copenhagen Power Plant Doubles as Snow-Free Ski and Snowboarding Center

February 26, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Copenhill

Danish architectural firm BIG recently transformed what would be another underutilized industrial space into a year-round entertainment hub as part of Copenhagen’s plan to be carbon-neutral by 2025. Copenhill, which opened in October of 2019, is situated on top of the waste-to-energy power plant, the Amager Resource Centre, in the Danish capital. Offering snow-free skiing and snowboarding, the outdoor space also allows hiking and running on its trails that border the 41,000-square-meter area. It even boasts the world’s largest climbing wall reaching 80 meters high.

The power plant can convert as many as 440,000 tons of waste into energy and heat for the hundreds of thousands of the city’s homes every year. Each machine is arranged by height, pushing the multi-use site to 90 meters at its peak.

 

 



Art Design History

Historic Lithograph Reveals Anamorphic Views of Razed Bank of Philadelphia

February 20, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Horizontorium” (1832), hand-colored lithograph, 22.5 x 16.5 inches

In 1832, artist John Jesse Barker added depth to a drawing by Philadelphia-based William G. Mason to create an optical illusion titled “Horizontorium.” Part of a tradition of anamorphic works, this depiction of the Bank of Philadelphia is one of the two surviving works looking at the historic financial building designed by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. At the time, it was the unofficial bank of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that sat at the southwest corner of Fourth and Chestnut streets. The structure was razed in 1836.

Horizontoriums became popular throughout England and France in the 18th century, although this piece is the only one known to be made in America. Viewers would set the lithograph on a flat surface and perpendicularly position their face at the center of the work (note the semicircle on this lithograph suggesting a spot for a chin) to peer over the image. The sharp angle would produce a distorted perspective that appears to project the building and its passersby upward. Sometimes, viewers even would peek through a small hole carved out of paper or cardboard to block out their peripheral vision and give the work a more distinct look. (via Graphic Arts Collection, The Morning News)

“Horizontorium” (1832), hand-colored lithograph, 22.5 x 16.5 inches

“Horizontorium” (1832), hand-colored lithograph, 22.5 x 16.5 inches

“Horizontorium” (1832), hand-colored lithograph, 22.5 x 16.5 inches

“Horizontorium” (1832), hand-colored lithograph, 22.5 x 16.5 inches

 

 



Design History

Historical Adobe Pigeon Towers Located Near Riyadh Captured in Photographs by Rich Hawkins

February 13, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Rich Hawkins, licensed for use

In modern city life, pigeons are often a nuisance to be stepped around or shooed away. But for ancient civilizations, the birds filled a necessary position, prompting communities to build masses of adobe dovecotes, or pigeon towers. Surrounded by an expansive desert with little vegetation, the historical dovecotes pictured above are located just south of Riyadh. Saudi Arabia-based photographer Rich Hawkins recently captured the fourteen towers, saying they’re the first he’s seen in the Middle Eastern country, most often spotting them in Iran, Egypt, and Qatar, where they have a lengthy history dating back to the 13th century.

Dotted with wooden pegs and hundreds of holes, the towers provided shelter and breeding areas for the birds to nest and raise their young in, which at times could amount to eight babies a year per bird, the Pigeon Control Resource Center says. While the structures throughout Europe often housed the birds as a food source, they were used instead throughout the Middle East to provide a place to harvest pigeon guano, or manure.

A lengthy piece from Aramco World detailing dovecote history throughout the region says the tower walls often were slanted to allow the droppings to amass on the central ground area, making it easier to collect. Pigeon guano is high in phosphorus and nitrogen, which is perfect for fertilizing vegetation. It also could be used to make gunpowder when combined with ash, lime, and soil or for leather tanning when mixed with water to create an ammonia substance.

As Hawkins’ photographs show, spray-painted markings and refuse mar the abandoned towers today, although the pigeons don’t seem to mind. “I was able to stay and watch the sun set as wild doves flew back and forth to their nests within the towers,” Hawkins writes on Instagram. For another look at ancient architecture that’s no longer in use, check out the stepwells of India.

 

 



Design

A Minimalist Home in Japan Utilizes a Tent Structure With Open Air Sides

February 12, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Takeru Shoji Architects

A new tent-shaped home built in a small agricultural village near Nagoka, a city in the Niigata prefecture of Japan, is designed with a community in mind, rather than a single family. Conceived of by Takeru Shoji Architects, the 166.24 square-meter “Hara House” is situated on a larger estate and utilizes a simple A-frame structure made up of 120 millimeter-wide beams. The two-story home has a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living space downstairs, with storage and two small rooms upstairs.

The designers said the particular shape is “a stiff yet giving structure which assimilates (to) all the human behaviors,” prompting them to leave out partitions and private rooms that would split up the otherwise expansive space. Because of its bareness, “Hara House” requires its inhabitants to make use of the other buildings and areas on the land, bringing them outdoors and into a more collective setting with nature and their community.

With sloping roofs, the minimalist home also features side areas with wooden supports that open directly to the outside. “We designed a space where passing neighbors, friends and children can easily stop by to chit chat under the entrance porch, or workshop meetings and (the) events hosted in the space can spill out to the land,” the designers said in a statement. “Thus bringing down the threshold of the house and opening it to the village.”

To see more of Takeru Shoji Architects’ community-minded projects, head to Instagram. (via Fubiz)

 

 



Design Photography

Dramatic Views of Worldwide Architecture Captured by Gareth Pon (with a Hidden Twist)

January 27, 2020

Grace Ebert

Ponte, Johannesburg. All images © Gareth Pon, shared with permission

Photographer Gareth Pon (previously) encourages his audience to join in his reinvention of Where’s Waldo. His architectural photography relies on depth, pattern, and symmetry, often framing a small piece of the city he’s visiting, like the water-covered street below Chicago’s “L” or a multi-colored building complex replete with balconies and air conditioners in Hong Kong. But every image has one signature twist: Pon hides a small rocket in each of his structural pieces. On his wildly popular Instagram, the photographer shares that his lifelong dream is space travel, perhaps explaining his use of the flying object. To join Pon’s ongoing game of spot the rocket, check out his Facebook.

Chicago, Illinois

Atlanta, Georgia

Chicago, Illinois

Hong Kong

Atlanta, Georgia

Hong Kong

Chicago, Illinois