The Sharp End: The Shard London

Although it has opened to mixed reviews, there is no question the skyline in London has changed dramatically with the new 310m high Shard building by starchitect, Renzo Piano. Western Europe’s tallest building, it is a vertiginous vision of gleaming glass with the inclusion of the UK’s first Shangri-La hotel alongside residences, office space and the top floors designated for public viewing. A dynamic addition to the centrepiece of futurist architecture that is the city center. See

Beach+Howe: That’s mighty BIG

Copenhagen architects BIG has recently designed and begun ‘Beach + Howe’, a residential tower which will serve as a gateway structure to the downtown core of vancouver, Canada. Joining the skyline as the fourth tallest building, the site is traversed by the branching granville overpass. The plan will integrate high/low structures into the odd-shaped lots produced by the adjoining streets and the city building codes, mandating a minimum 30 meter clearance to the infrastructure.
A sliver base forms the nine storey podium which then vertically clears the road and traffic, widening into the 600 unit residential tower which hovers over the zone of pollution and noise while shopping, retail and working spaces are accessible via the public plaza which pedestrian traffic can circulate under the large concrete supports and as the internal floor area widens, views to the ocean and coastal mountains are displayed. All pictures courtesy of BIG Architects.

client: westbank projects corp.
location: vancouver, canada
size: 653,890 sf / 60,670 m2
collaborators: dialog, cobalt engineering, phillips farevaag smallenberg urban design, buro happold,
glotman simpson, james km cheng architects

partners-in-charge: bjarke ingels, thomas christoffersen
project leader: agustin perez-torres
team: julianne gola, marcella martinez, chris malcolm, karol borkowski, michael taylor, alina tamosiunaite,
david brown, tobias hjortdal, alexandra gustafson

Sexy Sushi: Tori-Tori

This is one of the winning entries for ARCH DAILY‘s building of the year 2011.
Taking the hotel/restaurant category, Rojkind Architects/Esrawe Studio have created something both contemporary and poetic, cool and calm. Considered one of the best Japanese restaurants in Mexico City, Tori-Tori had to move to a bigger location in the same area of Mexico City. All furniture was created exclusively as well.
Rojkind Arquitectos + Esrawe Studio
Location: Polanco, Mexico City
Project Team (Rojkind Arquitectos): Tere Levy, Agustín Pereyra, Raúl Araiza, Carlos Alberto Ríos, Isaac Smeke J., Enrique F. de la Barrera, Daniela Bustamante, Daniel Hernández
Project Team (ESRAWE Studio): Ricardo Casas, Basia Pineda, Ian Castillo, Karianne Rygh, Alejandra Castelao, Jorge Bracho, Alejandro Zárate, Marcela Muñoz, Edgar Sánchez, Rodrigo L. Franco
Construction Area: 629 sqm | Completion Date: 2011 | Photographer: Paúl Rivera

“Bosco Verticale”: World’s First Vertical Forest

In an incredible about face for a city like Milan, known for it’s fashion,endless shopping and terrible smog, the city has given the go-ahead for a vertical forest by architect, Stephano Boeri. So amazing is this construction that the Financial Times hails it as the most exciting building in the world. It’s about time.
The “Bosco Verticale” will cost 6 million Euros and will feature 900 trees and plants shielding luxury apartments. The resulting benefits are plenty: filtering pollution by absorbing CO2 and dust particles, improving the microclimate, reducing noise pollution to the building, saving energy by sheltering the building from solar heat in Summer and reducing rainwater run-off causing curb flooding. Let’s hope we see this become a norm! Why not have them simply as park spaces with a view?

A Perfect Studio: Allandale House

In my never ending quest for the perfect place to work and chill, I ran across this vacation home gem from architect, William O’Brien Jr. (more on him below).
The place oozes calm and light and with a spectacular grove of silver birch (my favorite tree) just outside, it is PERFECT. I also imagine it’s on the banks of a tranquil lake…

Photos by Peter Guthrie

William O’Brien Jr. is Assistant Professor of Architecture at the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, and is principal of an independent design practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His practice was recently awarded the 2011 Architectural League Prize for Young Architects and Designers. Last year his practice was a finalist for the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program, and was recognized as an inaugural winner of the Design Biennial Boston Award.

O’Brien has taught previously at The University of California Berkeley as a Bernard Maybeck Fellow, and was the LeFevre Emerging Practitioner Fellow at The Ohio State University. Before joining MIT, for two years he was Assistant Professor at The University of Texas at Austin where he taught advanced theory seminars and design studios in the graduate curriculum. At MIT O’Brien currently holds the Cecil and Ida Green Career Development Chair, and teaches design studios in both the graduate and undergraduate programs. He was the recipient of the 2010 Rotch Traveling Studio Scholarship which funded research and travel for an advanced design studio in Iceland.

O’Brien pursued his graduate studies at Harvard University where he was the recipient of the Master of Architecture Faculty Design Award. Prior to graduate school he attended Hobart College in New York where he studied architecture and music theory, and was the winner of the Nicholas Cusimano Prize in Music. After completion of his graduate work he studied in Austria as the recipient of the Hayward Prize for Fine Arts Traveling Fellowship in Architecture under the sponsorship of The American Austrian Foundation. He has been named a MacDowell Fellow by the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and a Socrates Fellow by the Aspen Institute.

Zaha Hadid: Evelyn Grace Academy Wins RIBA Stirling Prize

Evelyn Grace Academy in London by Zaha Hadid Architects wins the RIBA Stirling Prize 2011 for the best building of the year
The Evelyn Grace Academy, a cutting-edge new secondary school in Brixton, south London by Zaha Hadid Architects has won the prestigious £20,000 RIBA Stirling Prize 2011 for the best new European building built or designed in the United Kingdom. This is the second year running that Zaha Hadid Architects have won the RIBA Stirling Prize; last year they won the award for their MAXXI Museum of 21st Century Art in Rome; this year they have put the practice’s formidable reputation to great use by breaking new ground in school design.
A highly stylized zig-zag of steel and glass, the Evelyn Grace Academy is squeezed on to the tightest of urban sites (1.4 hectares – the average secondary school is 8/9 hectares). The architects received a complex brief: four schools under a single academy umbrella with the need to express both independence and unity. The architects were strongly encouraged by the client to ‘think outside the box’. With such a small space and with sport being one of the Academy’s ‘special subjects’ (each Academy school has one), the architects needed to be highly inventive. They succeeded, for instance by cleverly inserting a 100m running track into the heart of the site taking pupils right up to the front door. By dramatically celebrating the school’s specialism, the RIBA Stirling Prize judges noted ‘this is a design that literally makes kids run to get into school in the morning’.

Zaha Hadid said:
“It is very significant that our first project in London is the Evelyn Grace. Schools are among the first examples of architecture that everyone experiences and have a profound impact on all children as they grow up. I am delighted that the Evelyn Grace Academy has been so well received by all its students and staff.”

Photo by Hufton Crow.

Photo by Luke Hayes Copyright

Norwegian Wood: SNØHETTA

An amazing monolith on the craggy plateau of a Norwegian landscape comes to us from the exceptional firm, Snøhetta Oslo/New York. They, of the National Opera House of Oslo fame, bring us a folly to gaze at the stark landscape and natural wildlife, wild reindeer. Set in the dovrefjell-sunndalsfjella national park, this 90m2 cube observatory has vistas over the Snøhetta mountain range. The 10 inch square beams were created with Norwegian shipbuilding techniques and made to resemble a natural rock formation with built-in benches. The exterior planks have a saturated pine tar treatment and blend in with the structure’s rusted steel frame. The opposite side reveals a dark mirrored glass front. A hanging chimney warms up the space. Stylish.
See more at: Snøhetta

images © klaas van ommeren
project info:
location: dorve, norway
floor area: 90sqm
project year: 2011
cost: 3.0 million NOK (norwegian krone)
architect: snøhetta
landscape architect: snøhetta
interior architect: snøhetta
project manager: knut bjørgum (landscape architect)
snøhetta team: kjetil t. thorsen, erik brett jacobsen, margit tidemand ruud, rune grasdal,
martin brunner (architects), heidi pettersvold (interior architect)
structural engrineer: dr.techn. kristoffer apeland as, trond gundersen
contractor: prebygg as
subcontractor (steel): lonbakken as
subcontractor (glass): skandinaviska glassystem ab
contractor (wood): djupevaag ship builders as

Takao Shiotsuka Atelier: Do we really need lawns?

Usually I am not an advocate of such stark minimalism but when it is done to such extremes, it deserves appreciation. Take this white house for example. The immense window, the open spaces, the white staircase, the view and…the japanese rock garden! Beautiful. Just don’t touch anything, ok?
Architects: Takao Shiotsuka Atelier
Location: Japan
Client: Private
Project year: 2008
Constructed area: 237 sqm
Photographs: Toshiyuki YANO (Nacasa & Partners Inc.,)
Minimalist home, Japan


Mick Webb

The SEED Project is developing a method to convert unused shipping containers into sustain...

Aside from tragic loss of life and incomprehensible destruction, events like last week’s devastating earthquake in Haiti create a myriad of problems in their wake, not least of which is homelessness. With over 30 million shipping containers the world over currently lying dormant, a team of researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina are working to help solve the issue of accommodation in disaster affected areas by developing a method to convert the unused containers into sustainable emergency housing.

The team at Clemson University, operating under the SEED Project banner, were originally inspired by the hurricanes in recent years in the Caribbean and US. As shipping containers are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions and exceed structural code all over the world, their “unibody” construction means they can be equally useful in seismic zones. Currently Caribbean countries have a large surplus of unused shipping containers due to imports far outweighing exports.

While they have been used in past as boutique relocatable homes and even portable restaurants, the SEED Project aims to use shipping containers to provide safe emergency housing for people displaced by natural disaster as quickly as possible. Historically, in many cases people affected by disaster do not return to their land for years, sometimes never. The SEED Project seeks to see people re-housed in a modified on-site container in as little as three weeks. The idea is to use local skills, labor and materials, with the container eventually becoming a sustainable permanent living space.

Making use of discarded shipping containers in this manner also addresses the global issue of recycling, and the team is focusing on another industrial surplus as well – 55 gallon steel drums. It is looking to use these to create a “starter garden” on top of a converted shipping container to grow food crops and the like should the ground below be contaminated. Water can then be filtered through the drums for use in a water pod that includes shower, sink and composting toilet.