Tokyo-based architect, Shin Ohori, and his firm General Design Co, have recently completed a beautiful private weekend residence in the mountains at Kawakami-mura, Minamisaku-gun, Nagano.
Ohori designed the recreational property, titled Mountain Research, for his friend, fashion designer Setsumasa Kobayashi, who also owns Tokyo’s Cow Books (also designed by Ohori.)
And that explains the odd name for the retreat. Setsumasa’s fashion line used to be called General Research but it is now known as .......Research, with the dots being a placeholder for the defining word of each season’s collection. The Spring 2009 collection was called Mountain Research, and its namesake mountain hideaway is the place where Setsumasa and team dream up most of the brand’s fashion ideas.
Life takes place mostly outdoors at the Mountain Research. The various functions — kitchen, storage, bath, wood shelter — are located in nearly separate, simple structures, all resting on a multi-level platform. The material of the structures is local pine, and the owner hopes that the buildings will eventually biodegrade into the mountain soil and return to nature’s endless cycle of re-creation.
The one stark exception to this woody serenity are the two permanent, bright yellow sleeping tents (made by North Face), located atop of the building. The entire retreat has a feel of a casual, classy and unpretentious camp that has all of the conveniences of modern life. A perfect environment for a creative brainstorm. - Tuija Seipell
Nearly 25 years ago, the world tuned into Melbourne for the ultimate in sporting events, the Olympic Games. Even long before that, Aussies were renowned as being among the world’s greatest sport fans. From grand-slam tennis to cricket’s oldest and greatest rivalry between Australia and England, Ozzie sports are part of its culture.
The Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, designed by COX Architects with engineering assistance from Arup, and from Norman Disney & Young — is a $200-million boutique rugby and soccer stadium with a capacity of 31,000.
Pride in sporting venues is also part of the very culture that supports sports so proactively. To stand on the same level as the Bird’s Nest, the Water Cube, Wimbledon, Coliseum and all sports architecture icons, new and old, great sporting venues support and enhance the cities in which they stand.
Melbourne expects its new Rectangular Stadium to not only contribute to the city’s sporting life, but also to be a focal point of the city’s Olympic Sports Park and Entertainment Precinct — only a short walk from the city center.
Fractured architecture is slowly becoming synonymous with 21st-century architecture in Melbourne. From the honeycomb concrete façade of Federation Square, to the steel tubing we recently wrote about on the city’s new recital centre, the bio-frame roof of the Rectangular Stadium already looks like it belongs. The roof will be covered with thousands of LED lights that can shine in many colors. They will be programmed to follow patterns that mimic the crowd’s energy during a match — soccer with Victory or rugby with Storm — or any other game or event.- Andrew J Wiener
Cities grow organically and while some areas thrive and prosper, others parts undoubtedly deteriorate over time as industry evolves, social dynamics shift and economies fluctuate. Many accomplished urban designers look at the multi-dimensionality of any city within which they work regardless of where a project is sited.
Ashton Raggatt McDougal (ARM) architects completed the design of the Melbourne Recital Centre and the neighbouring Melbourne Theatre Company helping to transform the formerly derelict Southbank area of the city to the dynamic district it has now become. The firm has been so successful in their designs of the two buildings that they have been honoured with the 2009 Victorian Architecture Medal winning highest accolades in three categories for public architecture, interior design as well as urban design.
In a country where the two largest cities compete for just about everything, is Melbourne set to de-thrown Sydney for a higher quality performance space? Granted we’re not here to critique Utzon’s Opera House, but we are prepared to say that ARM, in collaboration with Arup Acoustics, designed a dynamic and original 1000-seat performance space and 150-seat Salon. “The fusion of architectural and acoustic design throughout the development of Elisabeth Murdoch Hall has produced a visually and aurally exciting hall,” a designer from Arup explains. “Based on the proportions of the classic shoe-box shaped European concert hall, the geometry has been enhanced to provide greater acoustic intimacy and improved sightlines for the entire audience.”
The design for the Melbourne Theatre Company begins with the dramatic façade: 3D iridescent steel tubing folds and bends against black aluminium cladding – just as an actor brings performance to life against a dark backdrop. The interior is comprised of the Sumner Theatre, a 500-seat hall noticeably without a balcony or mezzanine space, but still allowing exceptional site lines to the stage regardless of where your season tickets land you. The most striking element inside the main theatre is the Word Wall – 70 quotes from different plays are illuminated when the stage is dark. The building also houses a full rehearsal hall that can be used as an event space or a smaller performance space, as well as a café and bar at the front of the house. - Andrew j Wiener
It is fitting that the 70-year-old Frank Gehry ended up re-envisioning the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) for his native city of Toronto. As a boy, Gehry visited the AGO often, and the effect of those visits on him and his future career was important. Gehry has lived most of his life in the U.S., but the AGO remake allows Toronto to reap some of the benefits of his massive talent before it’s all too late.
One of Gehry’s early sources of career inspiration was the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto (1898-1976), known as the father of Scandinavian modernism. The influence of Aalto’s love of gently curving light-color wood, and his clean and airy architectural lines, can be sensed at the newly refurbished AGO. Whether or not Gehry thought of Aalto when he designed the spiraling plywood-faced staircase for the main entry hall is irrelevant, but the feel of the space is decidedly Aalto-esque. To those of us who love the work of both architects, the newly transfigured AGO is simply fabulous. - Tuija Seipell
Stockholm-based Sommarnöjen (Summer Enjoyment - or Entertainment - in English) has just unveiled the designs for five new beautiful 15-square-meter second houses. Sommarnöjen houses are designed by Sweden's top-tier architectural offices Kjellander + Sjöberg Arkitektkontor, Sandellsandberg Arkitekter and Tham & Videgard Hansson Arkitekter.
Sommarnöjen provides the houses ready-built on site. Some are suitable for year-round use as well. The mini-houses are also great as additions to a larger dwelling - as guest houses, studios, workshops, separate bedrooms and of course, saunas. For those of us with Scandinavian backgrounds, these cottages look like home. They look perfectly suited to join the thousands of tiny cottages that dot the small islands, rocky seashores and lakesides of Scandinavia where people take July off and also spend every weekend from April till September (or more) at the cottage, rain or shine. Sommaren har kommit! - Tuija Seipell
Marcio Kogan’s Panama House is a residence designed for art. Located in São Paulo, Brazil, the house makes a powerful but subdued statement in its low, open, elongated elegance — a hallmark of Kogan’s architecture.
In the past few years, the award-winning, Brazilian-born architect’s Studio MK27 has produced a steady stream of low-rise, boxy work – all with an uncanny intimacy, yet without any of the usual stuffy treatments that supposedly create intimacy.
At the Panama House, there are no cozy nooks, no soft furnishings, no homey touches. And yet, there is a feeling of comfort and livability in this art-gallery-of-a-house that makes you want to move in tomorrow.
All levels of the three-storey house — including the bedrooms, office, gardens and patio — are used to display the owner’s substantial collection of predominantly modern Brazilian art and sculpture.
An uninterrupted connection between inside and out makes the entire space seem unlimited, translucent, as if without walls, although the structure is essentially a wooden box inside a C-shaped concrete cask made of cement slabs and a wall.
The sliding vertical wood lathes that form the brise soleils for each room’s facade, are also an important part of establishing the prevailing openness. The brise soleils also provide comfort and privacy, and enable the control of the artworks’ exposure to direct sun.
Most beautifully, they also create the soft play of light that matches the overall linear shapes — created by creases in window treatments, the floor boards, the rows of pillows on long sofas, the stone work outside — continuing the elongated language of the entire building.
The São Paulo-born architect Marcio Kogan graduated from Mackenzie University in 1976 and created films until the age of 30. His considerable talents of creating drama, understanding a setting and leading the eye are certainly evident in the award-winning Panama House. - Tuija Seipell
From the street, this Edwardian house might seem unassuming, undeserving of a second glance. From the back, however, the addition to the Trojan House by Jackson Clements Burrows, where three children’s bedrooms are cantilevered above a large living space, is anything but ordinary.
The entire addition is wrapped in a seamless timber skin that conceals any obvious openings. Windows, covered by shutters that follow the pattern of the façade, reveal nothing of the interior space.
Incidentally the inside is just as remarkable as the outside. A thermal chimney and a breezeway corridor allow for passive cooling in the warmer months as each room was designed to allow for cross ventilation. Additionally a rain screen provides extra shade from the hot summer sun, and also insulates the inside in the winter by forming a space for warm air. - Andrew J Wiener
Paris-based Agence Jouin Manku took on its first large-scale integrated architectural and interior design commission in 2003, when YTL Design Group from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, invited it to design the residence of a Malaysian power family.
Completed in the latter part of 2008, the residence is the ultimate expression of the taste, influence and industrial-scale capabilities of the prominent family whose entrepreneurial activities have shaped Kuala Lumpur’s skyline.
Three generations of the family inhabit the 3,000 square-meter residence designed to accommodate both private and public functions.
The building includes nine bedrooms, two family rooms, a family kitchen and a private dining area, a family library, a game room, a study, a public reception area, a formal dining room, a ballroom, chapel, 21 bathrooms, a swimming pool, two guest suites plus indoor private and guest parking.
The initial sketches exploring the owners’ usage requirements reveal resemblances to the boring stacked-boxes look still so ubiquitous in residential architecture. And while traces of the ”heaped trailers“ syndrome remain in the finished building, this is not the Jetsons, neither are we looking at EPCOT, Tomorrowland or the 1964 New York World's Fair.
We are in the lush vegetation of a posh Kuala Lumpur residential area, and in spite of the boxiness of the structure, an elegant circular softness manages to permeate the sightlines and key details of the building, making it an agreeable part of its landscape.
Inside, prominent examples of this curvilinear elegance include the amazing staircases resembling the inside of a shell when viewed from above, and the round ballroom chandelier of 13,000 custom-designed undulating petals of unglazed cast porcelain biscuit.
The curved walls both inside and out have a functional purpose of providing privacy and enclosing each function gently in its own space. The overall sweeping feel inside the spaces invites the viewer in and creates soft, arching vistas.
The concept consists of three layers: the base for public functions, the ring for guests and the private house for the family.
The inside of the magnificent residence is gorgeous with its high ceilings, large windows and abundance of light. White color and natural wood are dominant elements but they allow the view from the vast, mostly retractable, windows to remain the main visual attraction.
The residence is also a wonderful study of contrasts between inside and outside, private and public, traditional and ultra modern, man-made and natural.
YTL Design Group of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was the architect of record. The Agence Jouin Manku design team included Patrick Jouin, Sanjit Manku, Yann Brossier (architect), Richard Perron (designer). Officina del Paesaggio from Lugano, Switzerland was in charge of the landscape design, and L’Observatoire, New York, USA handled the lighting. - Tuija Seipell
Casa Monte na Comporta in Grândola, Portugal is a house that sits in its surroundings as if it had always been there yet it also manages to look completely fresh, cool, new and spectacular.
The house’s undulating shape echoes the gently sloping sand dunes, and its hard and angular surface planes contrast beautifully with the rounded shapes of the surrounding trees.
It has a bunker-like feel but it really does not look like a bomb-shelter because the exterior is broken into smaller sections with varying materials. The sky, the trees and the water in the pool provide all the color. Tactile texture is everywhere, inside and out. Light and shadow become the main players. The entire dwelling exudes organic calm.
Although it seems so, this house was not built into existing dunes. The exact opposite happened. Luis Pereira Miguel and team at Lisbon-based Pereira Miguel Arquitectos, built the dunes so that they could situate the house under them.
Pereira Miguel is a multi-disciplinary firm — architecture and interiors, commercial and residential — that works with various collaborators in Portugal and around the world. The seamless conversation between nature and house, surroundings and building is a theme visible in many of the firm’s projects but none as distinctively as in the Dune House.
The two crescent-shaped Barchan dunes that the architects created hide the house under a road. Eventually, it will look like the sand, the house and the wind have coexisted here forever. In a hundred years, it may look like some secret hub of notorious infiltrators or perhaps it we look more like a dwelling of friendly earthlings. Already the house shows a delicious hint of ancient cave and that aspect is going to get better and better after years of wind and weather action.
If you were able to look at the footprint of the house from the sky (and you are not, because it is partly under the sand), you’d realize that it consists of four slightly angled ”arms,“ almost like a wonky letter X with each section housing a separate function.
From each section, the view and feel are different from the others. With the constant action of the forces of nature, the view will also shift year by year, season by season, inviting contemplation and creating harmony.
Completed in late 2008, Casa Monte na Comporta in Grândola is, not surprisingly, drawing attention. It will be featured on Portuguese cable television this month and it will most likely be popping up in many design and architecture magazines in the coming months. That someone (other than me) is lucky enough to live in this house is almost too much to bear. - Tuija Seipell
Photography by ultimasreportagens.com
Dupli Casa, a private residence by the Neckar river, near the old town of Marbach in South- Western Germany, is a wonderfull example of connection and fluidity. It connects the inside with the outside, up with down, air with ground and - most cleverly - past with present and even future.
From the outside, the three-storey concrete villa looks like a bit like some sort of a fiberglass motorboat job gone funny, yet it also manages to look immensely appealing and intriguing. From some angles, the structure appears to be standing upside down - the lower exterior rim spilling onto the lawn and forming a part of a roof structure, if the building were to stand the other way around. It could have been blown there by the wind; it could be a StarWarsian vehicle frozen in place; it could be just taking off to outer space.
The outdoor swimming pool and the white surface surrounding it seem like a perfect reflection of the house, almost as if the house had been face down on the ground, and when it was lifted off the ground, the process had left an imprint of a swimming pool on the ground and the large window opening in the house.
The views from the inside are amazing, especially from the vast ground-level openings that again, give the sensation of flying, being airborne, weightlessness. Everything is fluid, flowing and smooth.
All of this is very much in keeping with the main inspiration for the house. The new residence follows the footprint of the previous dwelling and its numerous extensions. The idea was to let the 'family archaeology' continue in the new building. It's a house that remembers its beginnings in 1984 yet projects boldly into the future.
Dupli Casa is the work of Jurgen Mayer H., founder and principal of his cross-disciplinary studio. J. Mayer H. Architekten in Berlin. Other team members include Georg Schmidthals, Thorsten Blatter and Simon Takasak, plus Uli Wiesler's architecture studio based in Stuttgart. - Tuija Seipell