December 30, 2012

House O by Peter Ruge Architekten

The Berlin based architecture firm Peter Ruge Architekten, the firm where I worked while living in the vibrant German capital, has recently completed a wonderful residential project in a small village outside the city. It's simplicity and elegance make it stand out as a great example of contemporary residential architecture. It is particularly noteworthy as it demonstrates the ability for a modern aesthetic to be implemented in a historic town context. 


The residential building lies upon a hill in a beautiful small village in the district Potsdam-Mittelmark in a fantastic scenic situation with breathtaking views over the nearby lake. The surroundings are dominated by a combination of historical and modern mansions nestled into a picturesque landscape. To preserve this feeling, as many of the large old trees on the site were preserved as possible.

The new building was designed as a modern residential building with 3 flats. The floor plans are designed to be flexible and open. The main flat extends across two floors. Simple and reserved materials (exposed concrete, glass, wood, natural stone) underline the modern architectural style to accentuate focus on the connection between the interior and outdoor spaces. All upper floors can be accessed via the sculptural external staircase.

The concept for the facades plays with the contrast of open and closed dependent upon the surroundings and importance of natural perspectives. The narrow sides are glazed toward the south into the garden, and toward the north with the magnificent view over the lake. The west and east facades to the neighbouring sites are mainly closed and designed with large prefabricated concrete elements and some narrow glass bands. The inside of the building appears light, bright and friendly through the open glazed south and north facade. During the seasons the changing surroundings and the large deciduous trees will continuously vary the spatial impression. I the winter months the views will open up to be panoramic allowing the bright sunlight and warmth to enter the interior. During summer the leafy canopy of the trees will filter the light, block unwanted heat gain, and make dapple shadows dance across the interior.

The building is heated using geothermal energy with an integrated bus technology allowing the individual residents to control their environment.

December 27, 2012

Portrait of a House – a new photo book by Simon Devitt

Regular contributor to this blog, photographer Simon Devitt, has recently announced his forthcoming photo book called Portrait of a House. We are proud of his accomplishment and are excited to showcase the book here. It will be officially released in late March.


Portrait of a House is a photo book by photographer Simon Devitt in collaboration with graphic designer Arch MacDonnell (Inhouse Design). This is Devitts first foray in the photo book genre. His book explores the Athfield House - the ‘village on the hill’ - an architectural experiment that Ian Athfield started in 1965 on the Khandallah hillside in Wellington, and which he is still altering and extending today.

The house is renowned in bohemian and academic circles for its many colourful dinner parties and occasions, and is infamous with neighbours past and present for the antics of its free-range livestock and frequent run-ins with Council. Roosters have been shot, construction shut down and architectural pilgrimages made.

At last count 25 people live in its array of buildings, with 40 people working for Athfield Architects within its walls. Ironically the property was given a heritage listing by Council a number of years back, despite the years of acrimony, to which Ath laughed “what a bloody cheek!” and had the status changed to ‘organic heritage’ so that he could continue working on it. So the maverick architect has created an important piece of New Zealand history. About his almost 50-year experiment he understatedly concludes, “it hasn’t been entirely successful but it hasn’t been a failure.”

This is an extraordinary story told though Devitt’s sensitive eye, blended with historic photographs, paintings and drawings from the Athfield archive. Clare Athfield’s contribution of her own recipes (dating from the 1960s until now) complements a selection of personal letters by family, friends, colleagues and clients which are insightful and often very funny - memories that make Simon’s photographs all the more potent in their beauty and silence.
The sense that ‘the walls can talk’ is evoked in Devitt’s narrative, and is a record of why the house is an important part of Wellington’s history, with many of its stories now urban legend. However, the photographer doesn’t set the house up in a heroic way, although there are undoubtedly some sublime images. He is candid, ambiguous, and at times irreverent - but then so are the owners.
The idea for the book came from Devitt’s admiration of Robin Morrison’s work and in particular Morrison’s 1978 photo book Images of a House about a William Gummer-designed house built in 1916. “A house is a pretty refined subject to make a book about,” explains Devitt. “It is not market driven, it is content driven and born out of passion. Life has happened there like in no other house, and the ‘living’ leaves its evidence, time has played out on its surface. There is a lot to be said about sitting still and how that looks. The Athfield house is a wonderful example of this. An accessible counterpoint to a largely asset based living that pervades New Zealand"
Devitt has been a professional photographer of architecture for over 14 years. His work ranks as some of the most important in New Zealand architectural photography. He has been published extensively both locally and internationally, contributing to over twenty books and magazines such as HOME, Urbis, Architecture New Zealand, Dwell, Wallpaper*, Habitus and Indesign. He launched the book Summer Houses through Penguin in 2011 with writer Andrea Stevens and is working on a second book for them for release in early 2014. Devitt has contributed significantly to a number of major publications by Julia Gatley, including Long Live the Modern.
Portrait of a House will be launched in February 2013. Only 1,000 copies will be printed with 100 special editions that include one of five photographic prints. At 140 pages, uncoated paper, an exposed, section sewn binding and cardboard case, this will be a true collector’s item for those interested in New Zealand history, architecture, design and photography.

Simon Devitt
021 680 959

Distribution contact:
Balasoglou Books
John Balasoglou
021 662 339

Video: How To Design Like Apple

Steve Jobs was a notorious perfectionist. +Apple engineers and designers went through hundreds of revisions on every prototype that made it into his hands. But Jobs’ maniacal obsession paid off. No gadget on the market is as instantly recognizable nor as coveted as the latest iteration of an Apple product. The company’s dedication to sleek design and intuitive, user-friendly technology has made each iPad, iPhone and Macbook launch an enormous success.

And how did Jobs and Apple do it? The company follows a set of simple but strict rules to ensure that every product meets Jobs’ standards for clean and flawless design. First, design must complement and improve the product’s usability, never detract from it. And of course, Apple’s sleek and uncomplicated aesthetic must be reflected by every component of the product, no matter how small.

Apple’s design philosophy sounds simple, but putting it into practice is more difficult. Check out Online MBA’s latest video to see Apple’s philosophy boiled down into five principles that any designer or brandmaker can leverage in their own work.

- from:

December 11, 2012

Video: The Whitney Museum on Great Spaces

Great Spaces offers another short feature showcasing the architecture of the Whitney Museum in NYC design by Marcel Breuer. Great Space's Oheri Otobo offers his irreverent impressions of the Whitney Museum, from its trapezoid windows to it's tank like exterior.

Support the series and bring the Whitney Museum to the screen by contributing to the Great Spaces Indiegogo campaign:

December 8, 2012

Video: A Conversation with David Adjaye

David Adjaye, the British architect chosen to design Washington DC’s Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, is currently one of the UK’s most successful talents. This year he topped the PowerList 2013, naming him Britain’s most influential black figure, coming in ahead of Olympic star Mo Farah and actor Idris Elba. The award, he says, is a double edged sword. In this film Adjaye reflects on its significance and and as a result explores wider themes of history heritage and culture within the arts.

December 4, 2012

Video: What Do You See | Architecture for Humanity


Co-founder Cameron Sinclair talking in Amsterdam about the role of Architecture for Humanity and what can design do in communities.Projects highlighted include the Cape Town Football for Hope Center in South Africa, and the Motoyoshi Community Restaurant in rural Japan.

December 3, 2012

Harvey house from Simon Devitt Photographer

Harvey house from Simon Devitt Photographer

The owners of this home have a long standing relationship with Kare Kare.

Theirs is a personal view informed by local history that we wanted to reflect in the design, helping it appear like a miraculous object uncovered in the Kare Kare dunes.

We started with reinforcing the relationship with the landscape by folding the home around an intimate courtyard, at the same time offering lines of sight across the living spaces to the estuary beyond.

The shapes evoke a poetic vessel while recalling other expressive features such as the angularity of the land, fragility of timberships, or the casual materiality of old baches.

The exterior is presented to the street like one of the old artillery bunkers that litter New Zealand’s coastline and the interior is detailed to bring to mind the domestic familiarity of both the whare and bungalow.

The overall effect, we hope, is one of alignment between the client and their home.

- Peter Wood (2011)

Architect: Michael John O'Sullivan

December 2, 2012

Video | Urban Branding: Media facades and their luminous tweets

Brands strive worldwide for distinctive visual identities in the urban landscape. At night they rely on luminous messages ranging from conventionally illuminated signs and billboards up to dynamicluminous architecture for story telling. Therefore, media facades have turned into a fascinating medium to create an architectural image in the nocturnal city. Some brands use guerrilla lighting projections for temporary installations to subversively transform urban spaces. Other companies equip their flagship stores with large LED pixel screens for high-resolution images or they consider the building façade as an interface for more artistic solutions. Often video screens appear as decorated elements competing for attention with traditional commercial billboards. Here media facades have become an interesting alternative to establish a more sophisticated design language for merging the dynamic content with the building. Whereas some luminous facades appear as monumental monologues repeating a fixed animation daily, some installations even allow people to interact with the building to receive enlightening responses. Thereby, the consumer becomes part of the urban marketing strategy to shape a vivid and progressive brand identity. This lecture by the German architect Thomas Schielke will give an overview about media facades for urban brand communication and addresses questions like: Will the energy consumption of luminous facades go along with the desire to introduce sustainability? To which extent do neighbours accept obtrusive luminous content? Further, what kind of media facades will shape the future of urban branding with luminous tweets?

Thomas Schielke studied architecture at the University of Technology in Darmstadt, Germany. He has been in charge of the didactic and communication division at the lighting manufacturer ERCO since 2001 where he designed an extensive online guide for architectural lighting, leads lighting workshops and publishes internationally articles on lighting design and technology. He is author of the book "Light Perspectives - between culture and technology". Additionally, he has taught lighting design at different universities and was invited for lectures at institutions like MIT, Columbia GSAPP and Penn State University. His research interests focus on qualitative lighting design. Thereby, he examines in which way light could be used to interpret architecture and to express a semantic quality. Further, he explores the development of contemporary light patterns, technologies and visualisation techniques to detect historical influences and to critically discuss the progress of light and architecture. For more information:

October 30, 2012

Bambooline Berlin by Peter Ruge Architekten

A Sustainable Development Project for Berlin, Germany

Bambooline Berlin explores the city's urban development and proposes a new approach for the temporary, interim use of sustainable urban wasteland. A new, imaginary band complements the historically developed lines of the Berlin cityscape: the Berlin Bambooline.

Berlin based architectural practice Peter Ruge Architekten presents examples of development strategies for 15 sites along the bambooline. From the Drei Linden border in the West; Ernst-Reuter-Platz; the Brandenburg Gate; Tempelhof Airport; Alexanderplatz; to the housing estates in Marzahn in the East, a variety of different projects are proposed. Each concept is based on an interim use of bamboo as a sustainable, CO2-consuming and rapidly renewable material.

15 individual projects are developed from the unique needs and context of each site. By creating an immediacy and sense of scale they allow direct access to the imagined solutions. Bambooline Berlin brings together these individual projects and provokes a meaningful experience with the material of bamboo.

For more information visit:

September 25, 2012

Innovative Designs for Tiny Spaces

Guest Post by Heather Green

Necessity is the mother of invention. Some of the most innovative home designs have arisen out of the need to conserve space. Urban apartment dwellers, chic stylists looking to refurbish industrial spaces, and eco-conscious world citizens looking to reduce their carbon footprint or to live more sustainably have all created beautiful homes out of spaces no bigger than a wood shed.

Here are some of our picks for the best designs for tiny spaces:

Studio Apartment, East Village, NYC 

Geometric design and hidden storage make the most efficient use of space in this notoriously cramped city. Vertical space helps create more storage and to make more room for sleeping and living spaces. Even the stairs serve double duty as drawers!

Small Space Vacation Rooms 

These tiny 10x10x10 rooms for rent are portable and offer everything you and three of your closest friends would need as a home away from home. There is sleeping space for four, a shower, toilet, sink and kitchen utilities. There is even a flat-screen TV, phone and Internet connection. As with most design for tiny spaces, these modules make the best use of vertical space and interconnected pieces that serve double duty.

California Shipping Container Home 

This California woman decided to find a way to cut her costs so she could stay home with her daughter. The solution? A home upfitted from an old shipping container. She has created a beautiful living space that incorporates natural light and resources to live sustainably while also meeting all her needs.

Turns out, she’s not the only one who thought this was a good idea. Check out these other homes made of repurposed shipping containers.

90-Square-Foot Apartment, Manhattan

Felice Cohen lives in a 12x7 foot studio on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which she has made over to accommodate a kitchen, small bathroom, loft bedroom, and even an office space. Hidden compartments and vertical space are key to including everything that she needs – even for entertaining! – without making the space look too cluttered or cramped.

“Lego-Style" Apartment 

Christian Schallert lives in a 258 square feet apartment in Barcelona that he has completely renovated to include hidden spaces that reveal a full-service kitchen, bed, bathroom, and other storage spaces. Every inch of this tiny apartment serves double duty, leaving him the space to do whatever he might need to in his apartment, including stretching out or entertaining friends.

With a little ingenuity, even the tiniest spaces can become beautiful, fully functional homes. These designs show how creative use of space can transform the potential for the smallest homes.


Heather Green is a mom, freelance writer, pet lover and the resident blogger for, a free informational website offering tips and advice about online nursing resources and online lpn degree.

September 18, 2012

Contemporary Architecture Built within Historic Contexts

The situation of a building in a particular location can add more to its architectural design than the brick and mortar that keep it standing. So is the case for contemporary buildings that are designed and situated to complement historical landmarks. In the spirit of conservation architects design wonders around the integrity of pre-existing structures, and the end result is juxtaposition of age and stature - the new and bold standing with the vintage and adored.

Buildings evolve and so do the needs of the populace living in the communities the historical buildings grace. It is unrealistic to think that every building will remain standing just because it is aesthetically pleasing. Community needs come first, and while in some cases the historical or cultural value overpower any desire to revamp the existing building, in other situations it is possible to compromise by adding a contemporary structure to a historical edifice.

Renovation and Preservation Unite
While preservationists might still claim that adding contemporary structures is altering the integrity of a historical building, others find that by adding a contemporary structure alongside a historical site without compromising the historical significance you might in fact be preserving the building further—as future generations are then less likely to address the matter themselves.

There are plenty of examples world wide of contemporary structures being added to historical sites. Here are just a few examples of this phenomenon:

The Morgan Museum and Library in New York City 
This museum has long been part of New York City and is adored as a favorite spot by architecture and book lovers alike. However, in the 1990s the library was evidently overflowing, and the only way to continue the library’s development of collections was to expand, but in a city like New York and with a historical building that is difficult to do. The renovated library is a sight to see, with a massive contemporary structure standing in front of the historical library. To view the Morgan Museum and Library and witness its renovation, visit their website here:

The Greek Museum at the Acropolis
This is one of the most famed contemporary renovations, as it sits at the foot of the Acropolis, a historical site that was treated with absolute integrity during the entire renovation process. Designed by the architect Bernard Tschumi, this museum is equipped with contemporary luxuries to accommodate for classes, lectures and tours that the Acropolis would not otherwise be able to offer.
MAXXI - National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, Italy
Another example of this trend, the museum of art is as contemporary a building you will ever see yet it is nestled within one of the most persevered cities on Earth. There are no pillars on this building as so many other Roman structures feature, but instead the National Museum of 21st Century Arts features glass, molded concrete and swift curves. You can view this stunning contemporary architecture by visiting this website:

Author Bio: Heather Smith is passionate about thought leadership, writing and is an ex-nanny. Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to become a nanny by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at]

Bjarke Ingels Profiled in The New Yorker

A Bold Danish Architect Charms His Way to the Top
Photograph by Joachim Ladefoged/VII
In “High Rise” (p. 77), Ian Parker profiles the architect Bjarke Ingels, who, at thirty-seven, is the owner of the Bjarke Ingels Group and the leader of “more than a hundred employees, working on everything from skyscrapers to salad servers.” Ingels, Parker writes, “is in the first rank of international architects, or nearly so,” and he cites Ingels’s body of admired work in Denmark and his upcoming projects abroad, including an extensive apartment complex on the West Side Highway in New York City, for the Durst Organization. Ingels is known for his imaginative yet pragmatic designs and his awareness of the social atmosphere created by his buildings, and he “has ambitions to set precedents.” Kent Martinussen, the director of the Danish Architecture Center, tells Parker that, for Ingels, “the details are not that important. What’s much more important is: what kind of social impact does it have? Are people playing—having a laugh, rather than being self-contained, serious, aesthetic people? So it is more childish in that respect, but in a good way.” However, Parker writes, “some critics acknowledge the wry intelligence with which Ingels presents his designs but wonder if the work sometimes lacks nuance, or polish, or is too pliant to the needs of powerful clients.” Douglas Durst, the chairman of the Durst Organization, tells Parker and Ingels in conversation, “Bjarke designs buildings for each site. You might be able to guess a building was designed by him, but I don’t think you’d say you have a style.” But “no architect is better than Ingels at … concise, relaxed storytelling,” Parker writes. “I must say, I think I’m a true extrovert,” Ingels tells Parker. “I speak, therefore I think. If you’re a sculptor, you can work with a hammer and chisel on a block of marble until it looks like the woman you’re trying to portray. If you’re an architect, you can’t do anything with your own hands. You need a whole team, you need to involve clients and politicians and city officials. Your capacity to communicate ideas is your hammer and chisel.” Please see this link for the New Yorker website:

September 15, 2012

The Petal Velomobile - designed by Eric Birkhauser

The Petal Velomobile is the beginning of the new iconic brand of affordable, ultra-lightweight and aerodynamic vehicles developed around a diverse amount of user preferences and personality types, to usher in a new era of human powered mobility. We have focused on solving our problems with the same toolset for far too long, while electric cars may solve our issues associated with energetic consumption and pollution; human powered electric hybrid vehicles provide a solution with a miniscule carbon footprint and unrivalled transit potential that can dramatically reduce healthcare costs associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

As any vehicle serves as a vessel for your personality and self expression, the Petal Velomobile is infinitely customizable to suit your mood and personality. The gore-tex and spandex blend membrane easily pops on and off the frame. Because the fairing elements are nonexclusive and variable in vapour resistance, the enclosure can be modified to provide comfort for almost any weather condition. Similar to an iphone case or pair of shoes, the inter-changeability of this fairing allows it to truly become a fashion accessory. Extremely personalize-able, from baby carriers and storage compartments to custom skins and carbon fiber upgrades, the product extends its reach to a diverse clientele.

Critical to safety, led headlamps combined with oled light panels maintain a strong visible presence night and day. The oled light panels function as directional indicators and customizable kinetic light effects. These highly visible elements highlight the creased knee and shoulder lines of the vehicle; expressive of the rider inside. With a leaning suspension, slippery aerodynamic form, and electric acceleration and hill assist package, the Petal Velomobile extends the possibilities of human powered transit.

The Petal Velomobile is flexible to a varied amount of users, engaging both urban mobility and performance as critical design parameters. Because the most deluxe model is a fraction of the cost of an automobile, this form of mobility becomes accessible to a completely new demographic. Ultimately the goal of this design is to liberate people beyond the current modes of transit, while maintaining the ownership values of car culture, while emulating the efficiency of mass transit.

As an unlicensed transit architect, every day bicycle and rowing commuter, and regenerative design advocate, my goal with this project is to utilize existing technology to push the boundaries of our sustainable transit potential. With the constraints of population growth and scarcity of energy resources, we must ultimately elevate the performance of human powered transit to the point where it out competes other modes of transit. In my forthcoming book this vehicle is one element in a new infrastructure typology that utilizes existing right-of-way's to expand our transportation potential as a society.

For more information on Erik Birkhauser's designs check out his website:

September 14, 2012

Video: Daeyang Gallery and House: A Conversation with Steven Holl

I love hearing Mr. Holl discuss his architecture. His attention to detail, light, poetry, choreography, all in unison is inspiring - something that more architects should be weaving throughout their buildings. He is thoughtful on how each design moves affects our senses, from the warmth of a wood door handle to the reverberating echo of a room.


Steven Holl Architects in collaboration with Spirit of Space has created two short films on the Daeyang Gallery and House, completed in June in Seoul, South Korea.

Filmed during the project's opening celebration, "A Conversation with Steven Holl" presents Steven Holl on site as he explains the design inspiration. The second of the two films, entitled "Daeyang Gallery and House," explores the project through its use of light, material and detail.

Inspired by a 1967 sketch for a music score by composer Istvan Anhalt called “Symphony of Modules,” the gallery and house is a composition in sequential movement. Three pavilions - one for entry, one residence, and one event space - appear to push upward from a continuous gallery level below. A reflecting pool, which simultaneously separates and connects the pavilions, establishes the plane of reference from above and below.

The red and charcoal stained wood interiors of the pavilions are activated by skylight strips of clear glass that are cut into the roof. Sunlight turns and bends around the inner spaces, animating them with the changing light of each season and throughout the day. Like a cesura in music, strips of glass lenses in the base of the pool break through the surface, bringing dappled light to the white plaster walls and white granite floor of the gallery below.

Exteriors are a rain screen of custom patinated copper, which ages naturally within the landscape. The Daeyang Gallery and House is heated and cooled with geothermal wells.

This video is a poetic journey through the building:

September 5, 2012

3 Building Projects that Address the Living Building Challenge

guest post by Amanda Watson

Even though talk about sustainability and environmentally sound building practices have been circulating in the media for some time, not much focus has actually been given to the organizations that are taking some of the first steps to bring these conversations into reality. The Living Building Challenge is a tool for building certification that embodies a philosophy of sustainability and stringent guidelines that buildings can use to become completely sustainable. It is currently thought of as the most advanced and stringent measurement of sustainability in construction today. All elements of design are taken into consideration, and buildings must find ways to create their own energy sources and harvest their own water, among many other requirements. There have been more than a hundred projects to pursue the challenge, and the successes have broadened ideas about the possibilities to actually attain sustainable buildings. To learn more about the project, visit the Living Building website. Here are a few examples of projects that have passed the certification and still function under complete sustainability today:

1. Omega Center for Sustainable Living | Rhinebeck, NY
Designed by BNIM Architects
The Omega Center for Sustainable Living, based out of New York City, is an education center focusing on environmental concerns and a natural water reclamation facility. It met the requirements to become certified as book LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certified and is now operating under the highest environmental standards in sustainable architecture. The center provides education on environmental and sustainability issues for students, teachers, activists, contractors, architects, and government officials. The center hosts the Eco Machine, one of the top systems for non-chemically treating wastewater and regularly provides tours for anyone interested to view the machine and the other solar and geothermal systems that make the building run.

2. Tyson Living Learning Center | Eureka, Missouri
Designed by Hellmuth + Bicknese Architects
A part of Washington University, the Tyson Living Learning Center was completed in 2009 as a research and teaching space for the learning center. During its creation, the building was designed to meet the standards of the Living Building Challenge specifically. The Tyson Living Learning Center now functions under complete sustainability by creating its own electricity and sourcing its own water. The center offers regular tours so interested parties can learn more about how sustainable buildings are made and see a direct example in person. Virtual tours are also offered through the center’s website.

3. Painters Hall Community Center | Salem, Oregon
Designed by Opsis Architecture
The first project to achieve Net-Zero Energy Building Certification and Petal Recognition by the Living Building Challenge, Pringle Creek’s LEED Platinum Painters Hall Community Center has become the heart and hub of this truly innovative community. Designed by Opsis Architecture, it offers office and conference spaces for Pringle Creek Staff, but also the facilities for hosting events and classes. Providing a forum for sustainability education is a primary function of the Community Center and to create a building that could embody these principles of sustainability, the project team employed a high efficiency, yet simple systems. Painters Hall is frequently used a living laboratory and classroom for students from the University of Oregon and Portland State University. The photograph above was taken during a creek restoration project undertaken by local middle school students. For all of the activities and classes that take place at Pringle Creek, the Community Center acts as the home base and gathering space.

And one project still on the boards:
4. Oregon Sustainability Center | Portland, OR
Designed by SERA Architects
The seeds for the Oregon Sustainability Center began in 2007, when a group of sustainable nonprofits came together to plan a sustainable office space in Portland. They decided to build the center to reach the goals laid out by the Living Building Challenge. In 2008, the Oregon University System decided to partner with the group to create a space that could be used for research on sustainability. Upon learning that the city of Portland, itself, was also in talks about creating a sustainable structure in the city, the municipal, academic and nonprofit organizations came together to plan and construct the final Oregon Sustainability Center, which eventually became the first high-rise, net-zero energy, water, and carbon emissions building in the world.

Amanda Watson is well versed business blogger with a keen interest in how people earn their mba online. She believes that web entrepreneurship, architecture and design is critical to success in business. She can be reached at

August 26, 2012

Unbuilt Buildings: 5 Architectural Dreams That Never Came True

Guest Post by Louise Blake 

Crafting iconic monumental buildings is no easy task - architects and funders go to great lengths to develop the new Gherkin, Shard or Eiffel Tower - but what about all the buildings that didn’t quite make it? Some incredible designs have been crafted throughout history that failed to be realized for many reasons.

The Great architect Christopher Wren, once said ‘Architecture aims at Eternity’. But sadly, these five potentially fabulous buildings missed their shot at the blue moon.

Image by Tatlin
1. Tatlin’s Tower  
Tatlin’s Tower was the brain child of Russian artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin. It was meant to be a towering tribute to both Tatlin himself and modern architecture. The plans show that it would be much larger than France’s Eiffel tower and would have been the tallest structure in the world at the time of completion. The building would have used rotating parts and a large projector on the roof to project messages onto the sky. This tower could have been awe-inspiring, but alas, it couldn’t realistically be built or funded. Russia was having a rough ride financially at the time so it was impractical to spend lots of government money on a structure that required such a huge amount of steel, especially when there were concerns that it may not even architecturally work. However, it’s the sheer scope, ambition and architectural revolution it would have represented that lands the tower a place in this list.

Image by Karora
2. McCaig’s Tower  
McCaig’s tower overlooks Oban in Argyll, Scotland. The main aim of the tower was to create a lasting monument to architect John McCaig’s family. The coliseum cost the grand total of five thousand pounds in 1897 and remains unfinished. McCaig was going to fill the building with statues of himself and his family, but it was his untimely death that stopped the project from continuing. Despite him leaving money and strict instructions to have the tower completed, his sister went against his wishes, causing much relief from the local people because McCaig planned to forbid public access. This pure vanity project will almost certainly remain half finished forever, and currently acts as a garden... for the public.

3. The Volkshalle  
The Volkshalle (“People’s Hall”) would have been a monumental building in Berlin, Germany. Planned by Adolf Hitler and his architect Albert Speer, the aim of the building was to create a breath-taking centre piece for the country’s capital. Planned models showed the great scale that the building would have taken. There are also images showing that the Nazi eagle figure on a pedestal would be included in the heart of the building. Rumour has it that at a certain time of year, when the light fell right, the eagle and pedestal would cast a shadow of Hitler’s face. Terrifying. The great domed building never entered construction following the outbreak of the war.

Image by Share Alike
4. Guggenheim Guadalajara  
This impressive Guggenheim in Guadalajara, Mexico would have been the most expensive Guggenheim Museum on record. Designed by architect Enrique Norten, it should have been completed by 2011 and its 24-storeys would have been constructed with mainly ecological materials. Disappointingly, funding was pulled and poured into the other Guggenheims in New York and across Europe instead.

Image by Share Alike
5. Plaza Rakyat  
Based in Kuala Lumpur in the heart of Malaysia, this building was started in the 1990s but is still unfinished. Again, financial crisis for the developer has been the cause for stalling of the project. The building, designed by American architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, remains half-baked with concrete, fascia and steel structuring hanging in the wings of the Malaysian capital. This building was meant to be a 79-storey office tower with a 46-storey condominium, a 24-storey hotel and a seven-storey shopping centre.  Who knows what will happen in the future with this one. It’s still officially on hold and has been since 1997.

 The sheer number of unfinished buildings across the globe is huge. A range of reasons can halt construction, from natural disasters to financial problems, architect death to planning issues. If you think you know of an unbuilt building that should be on this list – let us know in the comments below...

This guest post was written by Louise Blake, a writer with a passion for architecture and design, who blogs for Eurocell.

August 23, 2012

Slideshow: Ngati Hine Childcare Center - by Phil Smith Architects

View more presentations from Simon Devitt Photographer.

This design is an early childhood building for a Maori tribe (Ngāti Hine) in Kawakawa, New Zealand. The brief called for a building which would not only accommodate the tribes new mokopuna (generation) but teach them about their culture and customs on a daily basis whilst having a minimal impact on the environment.

Our concept for the building is based on the Maori tradition that all life is born from the womb of Papatūānuku (earth mother), under the sea: the word for land (whenua) in Maori also means placenta.
Our design is conceived by shaping the land into a womb-like form, with the building forming just like a baby within: the building literally grows out of the land. The only opening to the building is along the north facade, and reads as a cut in the earth. This cut symbolically represents the caesarian birth through which all of the tribe take their lineage: their ancestor Hine ā Maru was the first recorded Maori woman to deliver a child by caesarian section and survive the procedure about 600 years ago. It is from this opening that the children symbolically enter the ‘world of light’, where they play.

The building is located on marshy ground, with the ‘womb-like form’ appearing as an island, relating back to the tradition that all land is born from under the sea. A bridge is formed to give access to the island, which is symbolically shaped into the tribal waka (canoe) Ngātokimatawhaorua,representing the journey of the tribes forefathers from Hawaiki to Aotearoa (NZ).

The earth that mounds up over the building makes reference to Ngāti Hine-pukerau (Ngāti Hine of a hundred hills – a local name derived from the landscape). The interior, below the earth, represents the nearby Waiomio caves where the ancestors lay buried and the Ruapekapeka pā (fortification) where the ancestor Kawiti cleverly used underground shelters as defence from attack. The circular plan form of the design also draws inspiration from traditional pā, as does the pallisade fencing.

According to ‘kaitiakitanga’, sustainability is an integrated concept in Maori culture, so all ‘symbolic’features in this design have many passive environmental purposes: all glazing (double) is oriented to the north for maximum solar gain, whilst the super insulated earth roof results in minimal heat loss, which is further assisted by the unheated circulation space placed to the south. For maximum internal comfort, exposed concrete construction and natural ventilation allows the building to be passively cooled in summer, with minimal heating in winter provided by a solar hot water underfloor system. All classrooms are naturally daylit and need no additional electrical lighting. All rainwater that falls on paved surfaces is retained and used for toilet flushing. All wastewater is treated on site and used for irrigation of the green roof and earth bank. The building has been submitted for a Green Star rating and is expected to achieve a high 5 star / 6 star rating (Greenstar ratings are 4-6 star).

Phil Smith Architect (UK) RIBA NZ GSAP

Green and Gorgeous: Wake Technical College's New Green Campus

guest post by Jessica Verde 

I am passionate about everything green, especially when it comes to our built environment. It is frustrating to hear people talk about green building features as though they have to be ugly or, at the very least, uninteresting and plain. There are so many attractive ways to share this planet, and architecture is one of the most fascinating and challenging. When we surround ourselves with beauty, we feel good. Yet when we do it in a way that doesn’t hurt the planet, we feel great.

There are two fundamental ways to create green buildings. The first involves existing buildings and requires replacing things like out-of-date plumbing and electrical equipment, adding insulation, replacing or enhancing windows, adding solar panels and other upgrades that improve the efficiency of the building. The second is to build a new building with all these features incorporated in the design.

Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina has taken this concept one huge step further. They have created an entire campus, the 121-acre Northern Wake Campus, that has gone green – and it is gorgeous. It has been certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) which means that the design and construction of every building has met their strict requirements. There are many positive aspects to this approach for building.

  • Many institutions of higher learning are public facilities. That means taxpayers are footing the bills including energy consumption. Well-constructed buildings can last for decades and longer. Even though it may be slightly more expensive to conform to LEED requirements, as energy costs continue to rise, the payoff year will be reached quickly.

  • As more campuses report success with the use of green construction, more people will be encouraged to go green themselves. As more buildings take advantage of this approach to building, these materials and techniques will become even more cost-effective as the price of green construction comes down.

  • There are many who suffer from environmentally sensitive diseases like asthma. Green buildings are designed to reduce mold and mildew as well as greenhouse gas emissions. This means that not only are the buildings healthier, the air on these campuses is better to breathe. Students should see their health improve because of the improved air quality.

  • When people attend college, they will spend several of their formative years in buildings that are environmentally friendly. They can see for themselves how comfortable and attractive these structures are. When they graduate and purchase a home, a natural question will be how can they make their homes energy efficient because of the benefits they have personally witnessed.

College campuses have, traditionally, provided the leadership of the future. Their move toward green construction is just one more example of their leading the way in efforts to reduce our negative impact on the environment. As the numbers come in and demonstrate reduced costs and an improved environment, people will be moved to act. As the results of our abuse of the environment become more apparent and destructive, universities will provide a shining example of how we can reduce our carbon footprint and improve our quality of life at the same time.

Jessica Verde is an online instructor for The College City which can be found at . Gardening is her passion, and she says she can feed her family and neighbors tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce, corn, beans and peppers from her garden.

July 20, 2012

ePitch - a new initiative from The Desgnated Sketcher

ePtich is a forum for young designers and architecture students to have the opportunity to present their work in 5 minutes or less. It's a great chance to distil your ideas down to the basics, emphasizing the clarity of the design intentions. Check out The Designate Sketcher and participate in their events and online design critiques.

July 15, 2012

Five Fantastic Contemporary Homes

by Jonathan Swain

Contemporary architecture has the ability to excite and amaze. Whether it’s the ‘uninhabitable’ country home designed by Howard Roark in Ayn The Fountainhead, or the clean lines of the zinc-clad MuSh Residence in Los Angeles, architects are constantly pushing the limits of their imaginations to create inspiring and inhabitable works of art. With countless examples of stellar design and property for sale, it’s difficult to choose favourites, but the five homes below have certainly managed to stand out from the crowd.

Hunsett Mill 
The victim of poor-quality extensions and renovations over the past 100 years, Hunsett Mill finally came into the hands of owners who saw the potential for something beautiful. Returning the building to its original size and adding a well-planned, unobtrusive addition, this 19th century mill house was transformed into a striking construction nestled on the banks of the River Ant in Norfolk Broads National Park in England. The dynamic 5-bedroom holiday residence (that can resemble a folding hand fan from above) provides multi-directional views of the river and landscape. The sustainable build was erected on conservation land, and therefore great consideration was given to energy efficiency, leaving Hunsett Mill nearly self-sufficient.

This sustainable one-bedroom demonstration house in San Francisco was designed for World Environment Day 2005 and was erected in a staggering two-week build. Inspired by the abundance of waste in today’s society, ScrapHouse was sourced entirely from reclaimed and reused materials, including exterior walls made from street signs; vertically stacked phonebooks that provide both insulation and texture; and discarded lamps repurposed to create an inventive and original chandelier.

La Maraleja Chalet 
This contemporary build represents the highest sophistication of the integration of modern technology and stunning design. The property, which is currently for sale with a price tag of nearly £6,350,000.00, is fully automated with iPhones and iPads to control lighting, curtains, alarm systems, the home cinema, and the interior and exterior sound systems. The geometric shapes and colours of the structure appear to float on water when viewed from the far side of the swimming pool. Environmentally friendly, the house boasts a geothermal heating system that reduces electricity consumption by 40%.

Nobis House 
Home of architect Susan Nobis, this private residence and workspace located near Lake Starnberg in Germany is a minimalistic interpretation of a traditional wooden boat house. The interior is lined with bookshelves in a style reminiscent of the racks rowing shells might be stored upon while the open-plan design still allows for cleverly tucked-away private rooms. The integration of wood and glass gives the structure a transparent feel, blending in with the surrounding nature and providing plenty of natural light through the large windows at either end of the house.

Dune House 
Warm and inviting feelings are conjured when viewing this cottage nestled in the dunes by the sea just south of Thorpeness in Suffolk. Its position among the dunes serves not only aesthetic fulfilment, but also the practical purpose of wind protection, necessary because of its seaside location. The two floors exhibit a pleasing disconnect, which allows the top floor—designed in relation to the nearby British seaside homes—to appear to float above the glass of the ground floor base below. The holiday home, one of several commissioned by Living Architecture, was created for the company in an effort to revolutionize both architecture and UK holiday rentals, and allows renters to experience beautiful architecture while escaping to the seaside for a relaxing holiday. Discover more unique homes on property sites such as Zoopla.

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