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The Architectural Trio: Edition #52
Welcome to June, and welcome to the Architectural Trio, which this week features three wonderful, unique projects from Japan, Brazil and Poland. This week on the site, you can find a new article which takes a look at the changing attitude towards creativity in society, and a photography post exploring my Alhambra; it's a personal account documenting the sometimes forgotten intimate moments at the vast and stunning palace. The coming week marks the end of my eight month adventure in Spain, with my flight back to England leaving on Thursday. However, I still have a few experiences to write about from this amazing country, so keep an eye out for those. Architecture has been put slightly on the back-burner since I've been here, so I can't wait to get back into it and begin my search for a job. Before that though, let's unpack this week's Trio.
Tree-Ness House, Japan, Akihisa Hirata Architecture Office
When a project is described as "futuristic and savage", you know it's going to be extraordinary. This part apartment, part office, part gallery in Tokyo is loosely based on a tree, with a central trunk supporting offset spaces. It's deceptively large, containing two offices, a gallery and car parking on the ground floor, followed by two standalone apartments on the floor above, then a flat for the family's grandmother on the second floor and the family home at the top of the building. As shown by the first image, the composition of volumes is complex, with overlaps and multiple split levels. Whilst I'm not sure what the spaces are like to live in, you can't deny the visual chaos is striking. I especially like white pleats (as the architect calls them) which create balconies, planters and external staircases. They make the project a little different to the typical "offset concrete volumes" schemes and add an aspect of fun and dynamism. The way warm, golden interior light spills from them in low light conditions is also very aesthetically pleasing. Alongside the heavy use of uniform concrete greenery and timber play a vital role in softening the architecture, and by placing plants at the base of the windows they can carry out this effect to both the interior and exterior. There are few internal photos, so it is hard to gauge the flow of the building. However, I am aware of a hollow central void that runs all the way from the ground floor entrance up through the building. This void provides sky views and fresh air upon entering the building, whilst also admitting plenty of natural light into the interior spaces and creating views between floors. I'm not sure this housing typology should be applied en-masse by councils and governments, although as a stand alone project Tree-Ness house is an interesting, memorable contribution to the Tokyo streetscape. In a city where architecture is varied yet consistently sensitive, Akihisa Hirata Architecture Office have interpreted many Japanese design themes in a novel and exciting way.
Micasa Volume C, Brazil, Studio MK27
Calling the exclusive, tree-lined streets of Sao Paulo's Jardins neighbourhood home, Micasa Volume C is the third pavilion on the estate of the furniture retailer which has been designed for a multitude of uses. The square box is a single, tall space that can be configured as a shop, exhibition hall, or even residence for invited artists with a caravan. Architecturally, the design is simple, sophisticated and raw. The timber structural frame consists of a uniform grid in both directions, with tension ties in every other module. The connections between the beams and columns are especially noteworthy for their satisfying geometric order. External cladding consists of two materials, and it has been slightly separated from the structure to highlight the rhythm of the grid. White corrugated metal faces the lower half of the walls, with the higher section cladding being polycarbonate sheets. Their use was an inspired decision due to their properties accentuating different parts of the environment during the day and night. In daylight shadows from nearby trees dance across the sheeting, and in darkness the internally lit pavilion glows like a lantern, contrasting the heavy, monolithic concrete mass of Volume B and presenting an ethereal ghost of the timber structure. The simplicity and minimal appearance of this building lends itself to the promotion of Micasa's furniture, however whilst it can fade into the background when required it is equally capable of stealing the show for itself.
The Department of Radio and Television, Poland, Grupa 5 Architekci, BAAS Arquitectura and Małeccy Biuro Projektowe
Oh, the humble brick, the things you can do it the hands of a creative mind... The University of Silesia's latest faculty building is a sensitive ode to the brick, which respects its use in the surrounding buildings whilst also forming a contemporary narrative to match the ambition of the University's faculty of radio and television. Where better to start in our exploration of this building than the stunning street facade. I'm struggling to describe its sheer splendour and visual weight in words, as well as its divine contextual suitability. On paper, the massive, intimidating, unrelenting grid of hollow bricks shouldn't work with the relatively quaint two storey home, however somehow, it does. The two elements are in complex and contrasting visual dances that miraculously combine to form a perfect and harmonious aesthetic melody. It is similar to hearing two piano melodies that are in different time signatures, then uniting them and something close to magic happening. Also, the architects have been careful to match the scale and form of the context in the new addition, going as far as slanting its top levels away from the vertical plane. Looking away from the facade, subtle, thoughtful joy runs throughout the rest of scheme and its use of brick. Take, for example, the wall in the courtyard which follows the line of the internal circulation staircase, or the changing bond and slight tonal variation between the old and new when they rub up against one another. Whilst from an angle the hollow bricks create the impression of an opaque wall, the whole building is in fact highly transparent, with a high proportion of it being glazed. This carries a number of benefits. Firstly, it is interesting to be able to see what's happening inside the building, and it will no doubt enhance the relationship between the university and wider city community. Furthermore, healthy, natural light can enter the faculty, and the screens will create dynamic shadow patterns in interior spaces as the day passes by. Like Micasa Volume C at night the building glows, creating an exciting and bold landmark. I didn't expect to like this project as much as I did, because sometimes I feel that novel use of brick is a little bit of a gimmick. However, this scheme has no gimmicks. Each application of the humble brick is not only aesthetically stunning but also perfectly married with a functional requirement.