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!


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