Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Competitions Blog

For many students out there, it is getting exceedingly difficult to find jobs, internships, or other ways that gain you valuable experience and give you the opportunity to showcase your skills to potential employers. The thing about the field of architecture is that it is certainly not like riding a bike -- in order to impress employers and teachers you need to always hunger for more, whether that is learning or gaining experience through work. Experience, above everything else is probably the most valuable thing you can have on your résumé, apart from a professional degree in the field. But nowadays, many students (including myself) are struggling with ways to gain experience and showcase talent and design prowess.

Awhile back I joined a group on LinkedIn that regularly posts links from "The Competitions Blog", a blog that makes its subscribers aware of a huge number of competitions in the architectural world. Whether you work by yourself or work with a team, this is a fantastic way to open your mind to new design challenges, and really get a chance to see what you're made of in terms of design. As is with all competitions, they cost money, but as I'm quickly finding out, experience in the world far exceeds the monetary value of the cost of the competition. Besides, every now and again it's certainly doable to spill out 50 bucks here and there for a competition. Naturally, the experience is entirely invaluable if you do well in the competition, as you not only can put that on your résumé, but gain some great exposure as a designer from it.

And so on that note I would highly recommend that you check out "The Competitions Blog" and subscribe via email to get new competitions when they come out. At the very least, it's neat to see what sorts of competitions are out there; and if you see something that strikes your fancy, design away!


Got an opinion or question? Leave it below.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

This Week in Architecture: Episode V

Welcome to another episode of This Week in Architecture. This episode will talk about religious architecture, renovations, new horizons, and even a sort of self-examination. Enjoy!

St. Alfred's Church

Coming to us all the way from Blackburn North, Victoria, Australia, is St. Alfred's Church, designed by Studio B Architects.  Unlike most religious architecture, this church certainly breaks the mold. An expansion of a previous 45-year-old building, the combination church/education building is simple yet unique. The giant white "tower" with a cross serves as an easy way to spot the landmark.

Most would assume that sustainable design requires large amounts of capital that will pay itself off ten and twenty years into the future, but the church had a relatively small budget to work with. Despite the lack of working capital, sustainable features like natural cooling and solar heating help create comfortable internal conditions year-round.

It is a prime example of taking a project's surroundings into consideration, since the entryway faces directly toward a shopping mall, acting as an invitation for the community. Linking back to the surrounding area in a project is, in my opinion, one of the harder things to do when designing.

Check out the full story here.

UT Visual Arts Center

Locate in Austin, Texas, USA, we now visit the University of Texas Visual Arts Center designed by Lake|Flato Architects. The building re-uses the former Blanton Art Musem space to create "a community hub for the Department of Art and Art History." From the outside, the center looks like a pretty standard building, aside from the entryway. However once inside, the viewer is exposed to enormous barrel vaulted ceilings, large monolithic forms and of course, the standard museum white walls.

The plan is to use the renovated space for a combination of three purposes: exhibition space of faculty and student work, administrative offices, and four studio spaces for graduate students.

Check out the full story here.

Thomson Cottage Renovations and Addition

Jumping back to surrounding Aussie territory, we now travel to New Plymouth, New Zealand where we find the Thomson Cottage, an existing railway cottage. Renovation designs took place under architect Bonnifait + Giesen to extend the roof life, increasing the square footage and creating enough vertical space for an office mezzanine space.

Interestingly enough, the façade facing the street was left virtually untouched. Most of the work was done in and on other parts of the house.

I personally have always been a fan of mezzanine / loft levels, which are intriguing because they bring multiple floors together. There is not only a visual connection, but a visual one too. In this case, having an office on the upper level would mean that you are not locked away in a closed-off cubicle, but still can have some interaction with any activity below.

Check out the full story here.

New London Airport

Moving to London, UK, the Mayor has selected Zaha Hadid Architects to develop a design for a new major airport in southeast England. This plan is supposed to help solve the aviation crisis in Britain. Now, if you're like me, you don't know very much about the aviation crisis in the UK (I had not even heard about it before).

Like other airline industries, the UK is struggling to make profits in light of recessionary spending habits. With less people boarding planes, airlines are forced to impose charges for fuel, extra baggage, and other taxes that simply were never there. As if that weren't enough, the larger airports like Heathrow (which anyone can agree is a nightmare if they've been there) simply can't accommodate the capacities that are going through. There are too many planes coming in and out from other international destinations.

While the British economy suffers, a new airport in the right place with the right capacity could be a big move to bring back prosperity. [Note: if any of these facts are wrong, let me know and I'll fix them! Did my best to do the research and bring in factual information]

With all that said, ZHA did what they do best in designing their Zagreb Airport Competition proposal and designed something very organic, and very white. It will be interesting to see this airport hopefully  come to fruition in coming years.

Check out the full story here.

Understanding End-User

The next article is less of an actual design but rather a self-examination of architects' understanding of what might be one of the most useful concepts in design: the end-user. As designers, we all strive to have a certain effect on those who experience spaces we construct. But in years of late, as the general population changes, do we still understand what the end-user really wants? Do we have evidence to back up our conclusions or do we simply design and with convinced justifications of things that aren't true any longer?

So what are your thoughts? Do we truly understand the people that we design for or is that just something we say?

Check out the full story here.

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of This Week in Architecture. See you next week!


Got an opinion or question? Leave it below.

Friday, February 15, 2013

This Week in Architecture: Episode IV (part ii)

Continuing the articles for this week!

Essence Financial Building

A recent competition has determined OMA the winner of a skyscraper competition in Shenzhen, China, beating out four other entries by both international and Chinese practices. This will be OMA's second tower in Shenzhen (the first will be the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, expected to be completed by April 2013)

The firm expressed their excitement of being involved to further the development of the city, and especially so in being a part of a drastic change in the city, from 'a manufacturing city into a services hub'. The new necessity for services means that the city can really become a center of towers, of which the new financial building would be one.

The coolest part of the design is the giant open space about halfway up the building, which acts as a platform overlooking the Shenzhen Golf Club. The fact that it's shaded by the top half of the building means that there is plenty of opportunities for just about anything, even if the weather is poor!

Check out the full story here.

New Jerusalem Orphanage

Shipping container architecture is, in my opinion, one of the up-and-coming styles of architecture. It may not be the prettiest thing you've ever seen, but in terms of repurposing, it's about one of the coolest options.

4D and A Architects took this concept and not only repurposed old shipping containers, but actually turned it into a vibrantly colored orphanage for South African orphans. The outside includes playful colors, while the inside mixes more muted tones with bright accents. The containers are fully furnished on the inside, and, had you not been able to see the ribbed walls of the container, look just like a normal living space!

The orphanage was originally established in 2000 to care from children who had been abandoned because of poverty, HIV, or other social problems. Because of the large amount of children, they needed a new place to house the kids, and 4D and A Architects were enlisted.

Check out the full story here.

Hurricane Sandy Relief

This story really hit close to home, as I grew up and still have my permanent address in central Jersey. Hurricane Sandy really devastated the shore, and not many people know that the cleanup and rejuvenation effort will take years. Boardwalks were wiped out, homes destroyed. Some towns close to leveled. The summer tourism industry is one of Jersey's biggest contributors to income, and that industry is going to be seriously hurt this summer, and many summers to come.

However, Governor Cuomo of New York is attempting to put together a plan for those whose homes were ravaged in NYC's coastal region. First, obviously is the money to help aid those with damaged homes cover the bills. But more importantly, there is a goal to help create a natural barrier to storm surges in the future, with everything from flood gates to barrier reefs.

With over 300,000 New York homes destroyed by flooding, winds or fires during the storm, it is imperative that there is a plan for future storms of this caliber. This may not be closely architecture related, but it's good to see that the homes and communities are really going to have lots of aid going their way to keep them going.

Check out the full story here.

Infinity Tower

Moving to the luxurious city of Dubai, SOM is working on a 73 story skyscraper which began construction in 2006 and is finally getting close to completion. The tower's defining characteristic is the a full 90 degree twist from bottom to top (that's 1.2 degrees of rotation per floor).

SOM claims that in order for a building to survive, 'the exterior form must be a direct expression of its structural framework.' The building is just that, but with some really amazing visuals. The spiral shape is designed to expressed the always-changing shapes of the deserts, winds and seas in the area.

When completed, the tower will be the tallest twisting tower in the world (Dubai's architecture has a knack for breaking some serious records).

Check out the full story here.


HAT is the home base for Komada Architects, located in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan. It is a small residence built in front of the gate of a large park in Tokyo, and quite honestly, look far more like a small modern suburbanite home than a representation of Japanese architecture.

The first floor is extremely open, offering easy circulation between the external and internal space. The second floor fits over the top like a hat, offering a very secluded and private residency for the family. The contrast between the two spaces is, in my opinion one of the coolest things about the building.

Check out the full story here.

Thanks for tuning in this week; hope you enjoyed part ii, stay tuned next week for episode V!

Follow on Twitter @GSG_arch


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This Week in Architecture: Episode IV, Part i

Welcome to a monster edition of "This Week in Architecture". So large, that it will be split in two! The reason? First, why not? And second, I know I skimped a little last week. Plus, lots of cool things are happening this week!

Interior Light-Single Family Housing

Designed by Viraje Architects, this single-family home sits in beautiful Valencia, Spain, home of the famed Tomatina Festival. While appearing quite simple from the outside, the inside includes a wide open floor plan, lots of glass walls and a seemingly endless amount of space. There is a glassed off internal courtyard, and this is the defining aspect behind the design of each floor.

Now, maybe it's just the perfectly white walls with striking black accents, but I love this house. Of course, we see it without all the furniture and natural amount of junk that people generally bring with them when they move. However, I think seeing the wonderful open spaces before moving in might actually inspire me to leave a lot behind and really cut down on the amount of things I have.

The final thing that is notable is the sliding doors -- there are multiple sliding doors that actually slide into the doors, hidden away as if they were never there in the first place!

For many more pictures, check out the full story here.

Coupled House

It seems this week that residencies were really piquing my interest. Our next story comes from Tokyo Japan, where Naoi Architecture and Design Office have designed the Coupled House. While this home also contains lots of stark white walls, there is a warmth brought to it all with the rich-grained wood.

The original project was actually a renovation on a small plot in an existing neighborhood. Since many other homes in the area had also been recently refurbished, NADO made sure to preserve the scale of the home, but gave it a completely new face.

In Japanese culture, gardens and courtyards play a huge role in the home. They help to connect people to the outside world, most notably their neighbors. This helps foster new relationships among the group and allow new ones to blossom. It even helps to relieve stress caused by claustrophobia and oppressiveness. In order to use this same sort of concept in a living space, the home has lots of empty spaces that aren't really defined for a particular use or purpose. In a way, these almost become the gardens of the indoors, allowing for interpersonal interaction and a strong realization of the other inhabitants in the home.

Japanese culture intrigues me, and seeing how it affects the design process is really interesting. The "coupled" portion of the name comes from the connection of these spaces not only to each other, but to the inhabitants, and also from one inhabitant to another. The entire home revolves around connections, whether internal or external.

Check out the full story here.

The Timmelsjoch Experience

We now jump to Brenner Pass, Italy to see the Timmelsjoch Experience, designed by Werner Tscholl Architects. On first thought of Italy, I would imagine there aren't many of us picturing steep mountain faces and snow-covered fields. Instead, most focus on the intrigue of Venice, the legacy of the papacy and Rome, and the mild climate of the Mediterranean. And yet here we have a museum that looks like it almost literally sits in the middle of nowhere.

The Timmelsjoch is a large indentation in the Alpine ridge between the Reschen Pass and the Brenner Pass. Where an old mule road once laid, a highway now exists, with architectural sculptures popping up at several stopping places along the road, existing as a place for travelers to learn about the surrounding area and its history. There are, altogether, five sculptures, two on the Austrian side, and two on the Italian side. The final exists at the highest point both as a sculpture and a museum. Should you ever be driving from Austria to Italy or vice versa, this is definitely worth a stop.

Check out the full story here.

Masonic Amphitheatre Project

We move across the pond to the States, where the Masonic Amphitheatre Project in Clifton Forge, Virginia was recently announced as the 2012 American-Architects Building of the Year. Designed and constructed by the design/buildLAB at Virginia Tech's School of Architecture + Design, it's simple structure provides an entirely new way to experience whatever might be going on onstage.

Husband and wife team Marie and Keith Zawistowski (who studied under Samuel Mockbee at Auburn's Rural Studio) now head up the third-year architecture studio known as design/build. The new theatre replaces an old truck tire facility and gives visual mention to Clifton Forge's past as a railroad town. It was extremely well-received by the town, and, given the award, well received by the nation as well!

The runner-up of American-Architects Building of the Year is also mentioned in the article.

Check out the full story here.

Non-Design: Architecture's (Counter-Intuitive) Future

The title is what caught my eye on this one, and upon further inspection, the article talks about the need for simple design to be a solution for the poverty-stricken homeless. How simple could a building really get in order to save these people from living on the street? Surely they don't need much. And while many might argue that designing a super simplistic house isn't really design at all but the lack thereof, it's something that really might become a necessity in the future.

One of the more notable quotes that I found in the article was the ability to "change everything without changing anything". What an interesting concept: no one is trying to relocate people, change their lives, take everything away; but rather they are given an option, and a true space they can call their own. The Quinta Monroy development in Chile helps this idea along significantly. Though simple concrete boxes from the outside, the homes (which only cost $7500 for both land and a house; far less than most people's cars in the States) are stacked apartment-style dwellings with a bathroom, kitchen, and empty space.

So what do you think? Is this really the future of architecture? Designing futuristic marvels is all well and good (though extremely expensive) but when it comes down to basic practicality, what can we do there?

Check out the full story here.

Keep your eyes peeled for the second part of this week's episode, which will be posted either later tonight or first thing tomorrow. Thanks for reading!


Got an opinion or question? Leave it below.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Importance of Sketching

As the digital age chugs right along into worlds of unknown, often the world of hand drawing and sketching is forgotten. Students no longer focus on practicing the art of the eye and hand, but rather the click of a computer mouse. As much as I don't like to admit it, I pretty much fall into this category as well. Back in high school, I took art classes where I could polish my skills through pencil drawing, charcoal and pastel. Throughout elementary and middle school, I drew all the time for fun. And yet, here I am in college, having put together my portfolio, and wondering why there are so few sketches to place into it and show that I'm a versatile and valuable designer.

One of the more recent sessions of my Presidential Seminar course focused on the important of sketching. In the field of architecture, it is an invaluable tool not only for personal recordings, but to be able to create a representation of a client's vision on the spot. The thing about sketching is that it is imperfect. It doesn't need to be flawless, much unlike the connotation of computer design. More importantly, it would be impossible to quickly draw something up on the computer whilst sitting with a client.

Thus, the lost art of sketching needs to start making a comeback. In my opinion, it is one of the few things that will set a person apart to potential employers. In addition to potential employers looking favorably upon you, it also gives you a great way of recording information. Whether it explain itself as a pretty picture, diagram, or analytical drawing, sketching can get down a lot of information in a simple way in a very short period of time. With site visits and client meetings, it's really important to be able to jot these things down accurately so that you can remember everything despite only being able to hear or see it once.

Finally, sketching is one of those things that is just enjoyable. Carrying around a notebook and pen (or whatever you like to draw with) allows you to just sit and capture something that you find interesting. Unlike taking a photograph, sketching allows you to pick and choose what you want to show. You can add or remove things to your picture, and you can even distort them to how you want it to be viewed. Imagine it as a sort of Photoshop program, except by hand.

For those of you early in your architectural studies, don't forget the important of hand drawings. If there are classes that emphasize sketching, pen and ink drawings, or other mediums of art, I would highly recommend taking them. It's one of the things I sort of missed during my undergraduate education. Regret aside, I'm starting to pick it back up again, and hopefully I'll have some great practice under my belt by the time I finish graduate school.


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Updates & Revamps

If you haven't already noticed, this blog is undergoing some serious changes and maintenance. The whole point here is to move to a much more professional and visually appealing layout. While the original intention was to provide a layout that resembled that of a studio desk, this one will be easier to read (that means better fonts and better colors) and much more visually stimulating. There are also some new features that I'll be working on, such as the scrolling bar at the top.

That said, feel free to ignore most of the links until I get them ready for action. I'll be sure to post again when everything is ready to go. I'm excited for the changes, and hope that they are all well-received by readers, wherever you may be. Feel free to leave a comment about the changes as they come, and if you have any suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them! I'd like to also note that posts will still be coming regularly, most notably the "This Week in Architecture" posts, so remember to stay tuned for those.

Hope you all are having a wonderful Monday and a wonderful week!

[photo via]


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Saturday, February 9, 2013

This Week in Architecture: Episode III

This week I didn't spend nearly as much time browsing the far reaches of the Internet for architectural feats of excellence, but I do, of course, as per the norm, have a few interesting things to check out.

Casa Atrevida
First up, from Costa Rica, a home that is both flood resistant and earthquake resistant. Natural disasters are one of those heartbreaking things that can take our architectural masterpieces and turn them into rubble (not to mention all the people hurt and killed in the process). Whether it's a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, tsunami, or something else, it's very clear that structures need to be able to stand up to these to some degree. Now, if you're like me, when you think earthquakes you think California or Japan; and yet here we are talking about Costa Rica.

Regardless, the home, designed by Luz de Piedra Arquitectos, tackles both disasters with ease. The next shocking thing is that it's built out of wood. Who would have thought? It should also be noted that this structure is absolutely gorgeous, and the locally grown wood used for construction certainly adds to that.

Check out the full story here.

Clifton View 7 House

Sticking with the residential theme, we now move to Cape Town, South Africa, where a double-level apartment is stripped to become a single four-bedroom home by Antoni Associates Architects. While many might have a negative connotation of South Africa (mostly thanks to the slew of horrific stories radiating from Johannesburg), this home is built in what looks like a paradise, given the pictures. Pictures Malibu, California -- and maybe even better.

Repurposing seems to be a very popular thing lately; with the housing market the way it is and the economy still on the rebound, it's a lot easier (not to mention way cheaper) for businesses and individuals alike to renovate and repurpose existing spaces rather than build new ones. With breathtaking views off the multiple terraces, long sweeping design lines, and of course, an abundance of glass to preserve the views, the Clifton View 7 House is a beautiful and functional piece.

Check out the full story here.

Thanks for tuning in this week, and hope to see you back again for next week's episode! (which I promise will actually be on time). Enjoy the weekend!


Got an opinion or question? Leave it below.

Friday, February 1, 2013

This Week in Architecture: Episode II

Welcome to another episode of This Week in Architecture!

Dual House

Our first story comes to us all the way from Ahmedabad, India, where VPA Architects designed two individual homes intended to be for two brothers and their respective families. Despite being on two separate lots, the families made it clear that they did not want to divide the plot, and use the area as common space for both families.

The final design resulted in a unique home that looks different from almost every angle. Contrasting materials of brickwork and RCC treatment provide a wonderful visual aesthetic, and the designer was able to stick to the cost restraints of the families.

One important component to the design was cross ventilation. While it was desired by VPA Architcts to keep the direct sun rays from entering the home from the south and west, they didn't want to breeze to stop almost. Aluminum fins were used to dissipate the sunlight.

There was a lot of care taken in the site planning and interior spaces as well, from having high ceilings to a beautiful garden.

Check out the full story, with countless more pictures here.

3D Printing on the Moon

So 3D printing is one of those new technologies that is totally mind-blowing and awesome, right? It's about to get even more awesome. Foster + Partners has joined forces with the European Space Agency (ESA) to explore the possibilities of using 3D printing to build lunar habitats on the moon's southern pole. This would mean that residents of the space station would have a place to live for extended periods of time on the moon, cutting down on travel time and costs to get back to the moon.

The proposed cellular structure was inspired by biological systems, and will be resistant to all things under the sun (pun intended) including meteorites, gamma radiation and high temperature changes.

Foster + Partners is used to designing for extreme climates on earth using sustainable materials, so this kind of venture is right up their alley. The kicker? The future residencies will be able to be transported via space rocket.

Check out the full story here.

House Hafner

Our next story comes to us from the countryside of South Germany, where Hornung and Jacobi Architecture combines a high level of natural protection with a high level of privacy. The most striking part of this home is that the topography is barely touched -- the building almost seems to situate itself as a result of the existing topography. The drive enters to a seeming cantilever from out of a hill, with a stark white color with large windows that yield incredible views.

The building is simplistic, with an open floor plan that conforms to a basic L shape, but from the renderings it looks quite inviting. Given the floor to ceiling windows, the nature has every opportunity from every corner of the house to walk right on in to the living space.

Check out the full story with numerous photos here.

Living Like Kings

We move from Germany to Seattle, Washington, where the Emerald City prepares to grace the Sacramento (soon to become Seattle) Kings with a new home base. While Seattle currently doesn't have a basketball team, they plan on acquiring the Sacramento Kings, a move expected to be imminent. Naturally, its close proximity to Canada, the stadium will double as a hockey arena. At 725,000 square feet, the arena will be able to seat anywhere from 18,000 to 20,000 people.

At the moment the public feedback is mixed. Some are in high praise of the idea, realizing the value of such a huge investment in the city, in hopes that it will bring visitors and fans alike while also providing a great source of entertainment. However, there are some who are concerned about the resulting traffic congestion and dual-use arena would have, and would like to see a better connection to the Sodo area in which the arena is currently sited.

The project, however, is expected to take quite some time, as an environmentally friendly building is part of the terms of the agreement.

Check out the full story here.

Plenty of Fish

When it comes to hotels, none comes close to paralleling the experience given at the Water Discus hotel in Dubai, UAE. While the concept is not new, the size certainly is. The hotel will have discs above the water in addition to a massive ring below. The hotel will allow guests to have a first hand experience of the reef amidst the ocean.

Designed by Deep Ocean Technology, the hotel will have 21 suites in two main discs; one above the water and one below. The hotel is to be equipped with earthquake detection technology and other weather warning systems to ensure that it stays safe.

Other examples of similar ideas are the Utter Inn on Lake Mälaren in Sweden, as well as the Jules' Undersea Lodge off of Key Largo in Florida, USA.

Check out the full story here.

Thanks for tuning in this week. If you enjoyed these stories, remember to share, tweet, email and pass them on. See you next Friday afternoon for the best way to kick off your way to an architectural weekend!


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