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 fa├žade 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:

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