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Cool Arcitecture


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Whoever said that reading was a religious experience was right, especially when taking a visit to Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht, Netherlands.

Having just won the Lensvelt de Architect Interior Prize 2007, this newest addition to the Selexyz book chain is well worth the visit to this Medievil city if you are ever in the area.

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Erected inside a former 800 year old Dominican church, this bookstore is said to hold the largest stock of books in English in Maastricht, one of the oldest cities in the country.

It was always going to be a challenging task for Amsterdam based architects Merkx + Girod who designed the space, to stay true to the original character and charm of the church, whilst also achieving a desirable amount of commercial space (there was only an available floor area of 750 m2, with a proposed retail space of 1200 m2). Taking advantage of the massive ceiling, both have been achieved through the construction of a multi-storey steel structure which houses the majority of the books. This is one giant bookshelf, with stairs and elevators taking shoppers and visitors alike, up to the heavens (mind the pun), to roof of the church.

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To maintain a sense of symmetrical balance in the space, lower tables of best sellers and latest releases have been added to either side, and of course a small cafe at the back for readers to relax and enjoy a hot drink.

Overall a great example of how with clever thinking, spatial solutions can both achieve a suitable retail presence, whilst still respecting and remaining true to the original structure. By Brendan Mc Knight

See also Pontificial Lateral University Library
LIBRARIES - CANDIDA-HOFFER
Kids Republic Bookstore




Vikkii Church, Helsinki


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Located in the Ostrobothnia region, near the campus of Helsinki University on the eastern side of Helsinki, JKMM Architects won a national competition to design the Vikkii Urban Center. The focal point of the Center is a church clad in aspen shingles that have turned gray since construction was completed in 2005. Throughout Europe new church design is not synonymous with modernity, so when the Parish of Helsinki approached the architects at JKMM, they welcomed the opportunity to contribute to a newly developed urban area housing approximately 13,000 residents.

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Many Scandinavian churches serve as civic spaces for the surrounding community to gather. Of course sacral characteristics are still present, and the Viikki Church’s central space and adjoining congregation hall have a light-filled cathedral-like appearance. The architects chose wood for practically every surface of the interior space as well: oaken doors, spruce ceiling and walls, and aspen furniture allow the congregation to feel as though they are gathering within a forest. Large windows open the space even further onto the surrounding landscape of the countryside. The church does not sit in isolation, however a new market was built to the north and an urban park sits to the south.

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Samuli Miettinen, a partner in JKMM believes, “A church is like a window allowing a glimpse from heaven. Through the design, the architect can help people to be aware of experiencing something themselves, but also of being watched over. The building carries with it both the architecture and the liturgy.” By Andrew Weiner.

CASA PR - Portugal


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Making a material like concrete seem weightless has been an initiative of many modern architects. The Portuguese team of P&R Arquitectos managed to balance imposing aggregate blocks over a glass-enclosed living space in their design for Casa PR. Additional concrete sections cantilever out over the slope of the terrain.

Geometric openings cut through deliberate interior spaces allowing light to penetrate and shadows to move throughout each room. Rough stone walls raise above polished wood floors. A mix of surfaces and materials combine to create a variety of visually tempting interior and exterior spaces. By Andrew J Wiener


Suzhou Museum
E-mail Tuesday, 16 October 2007


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Chinese architect I.M. Pei with Pei Partnership Architects recently designed the Suzhou Museum in the city’s historic district 100 miles northwest of Shanghai. The building adjoins the 19th century Zhong Wang Fu complex and the UNESCO-listed 16th century Garden of the Administrator.

Architecture and landscape become interrelated as a series of gardens and courtyards flow in and from the building itself. While a high wall visually separates the museum’s main garden from the adjacent ancient garden, a stream of water connected by a footbridge joins the two properties together. The gardens, however, are not modeled after their ancient counterpart. Pei yearns to establish a contemporary form of Chinese landscape design.

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The interior space unfolds into a series of spaces made up of varying heights and geometric shapes. The collection consists of a mix of ancient and modern art – relics from Ming and Qing dynasties as well as contemporary exhibitions.

Pei deliberately built a modern structure while capturing the subtle yet expressive Chinese spirit. The building’s exterior, with its white walls and gray tiled roof not only respects the traditional color-scheme used throughout the city of Suzhou, but also provides a backdrop further emphasizing the importance of the gardens. In his museum, Pei hopes to foster and inspire a new generation of thinking about Chinese-specific modern architecture and design. By Andrew J Wierner. (Pics: Kerun Ip)



3XN - Orestad Gymnasium, Denmark
E-mail Wednesday, 03 October 2007

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They used to say ‘a light bulb goes on in your mind’ when knowledge happens. The Danish architects at 3XN already realize the sun is the true source of knowledge – providing fuel for each global system. Imagine the power more sunlight can provide young minds hard at work in their schools.

Orestad College (high school) opened this year just south of central Copenhagen in the development area of Orestad. The superstructure of the building is formed by four boomerang-shaped platforms that rotate over four floors and remain open to one another allowing for a seamless interconnection of space throughout the school. This open, high central hall, known as the X-zone, is linked by a stairway that helps promote interdisciplinary communication and cooperation among the various teaching and study spaces.

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Transparent glass shades automatically rotate on the exterior of the building allowing light in and providing an array of colors to the interior environments. By manipulating the sunlight the entire student body becomes aware of the passing of time and the changing of the seasons as the school year progresses.

Sustainability for education can certainly begin with the design of the school itself, and 3XN has successfully integrated the traditional Scandinavian aspects of functionality with clarity and beauty in form. By Andrew J Wiener

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House "O" Bodrum, Turkey
E-mail Monday, 17 September 2007

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Bodrum in Turkey is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and birthplace to Herodotus. It is also Turkey’s answer to what Cannes is for the south of France. So it’s not the kind of place you want to build a tower block slab bang on the beach.

House ’Ö’ is a building perfectly in tune with its surroundings but still has an eye on modernising the idea of a country retreat. The ornate mosaic of heavy stone is a familiar building practice in the Mediterranean, but the use of large floor to ceiling windows certainly is not.

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The building comprises three units joined by glass boxes allowing bags of sunlight in, but also allows the structure to cool quicker than houses favouring large swathes of white concrete as a method of regulating temperature. Inside, there are no separating walls in the central living area. Instead, furniture positioning and small partitions create individual spaces within an open whole. A fitting tribute to cultural and architectural traditions of an area steeped in history, but a refreshing approach to a home in the hills that isn’t all bling and dodgy ‘period’ features. By Matt Hussey

Netherlands Tax Office
E-mail Friday, 14 September 2007

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Let’s face it, taxes have never been the source of architectural inspiration. Or have they?

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The Dutch certainly seem to think so. This collection of what looks like old pieces of a tower block strewn across a lake are in fact the Netherlands Central Tax Office.

The Walter Bos complex was originally built in the 1960s and consisted of four drab offices surrounded by even drearier parking bays. As part of the renovation they decided to connect the four blocks with an adjoining one. But instead of lumping a load of concrete onto each side to stitch the towers together, they sunk it deep underground. The result is a huge sunken structure covered by an expanse of water with individual cones breaking the surface.

Below ground, lie two large sunken gardens supplemented with light by the jagged shapes you see above ground. The water, although aesthetically pleasing, acts as a cooling system for the tower and security from intruders trying to fiddle their taxes.

The effect is a startling contrast of severe and brutal steel squares, and a more natural, organic feel permeated with softer circles and earthy hues. Who knew filling out your tax form could lead to such inspiring design? We certainly didn’t. By Matt Hussey. Pics by Daria Scagliola



Nestle Chocolate Museum


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The Nestlé Chocolate factory in Mexico City's Paseo Tollocan near Toluca has never been a site anyone went to see for its beauty. It is what is inside that has always interested chocolate-lovers.

That changed earlier this year when Michel Rojkind, the 38-year-old principal of Rojkind Arquitectos, decided that he was not satisfied with the original idea of just revamping the factory's viewing gallery.

He put together a team that came up with an entire museum, with a shop, a theatre, and direct access to the factory as well. The 300-meter-wide scarlet building cannot go unnoticed by anyone driving the entrance freeway to Toluca.

This is by far not the first chocolate museum in Mexico, the ancient home of chocolate. Neither is it the first sweet museum for the Switzerland-headquartered consumer-product behemoth Nestlé.

However, it is probably the first chocolate museum ever to be called both a piece of origami and a shipping container. The corrugated metal look gives it an air of impermanence and industrial clunk while the bright color and crazy shape evoke play and fun. What any of this has to do with chocolate, we are not exactly sure, but we almost managed to fold a KitKat wrapper to a similar shape. By Tuija Seipell




A CHANGE OF TUNE - Kingsdale School, Dulwich, South East London


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We don’t know about you, but school wasn’t exactly the most inspiring of places. Concrete bunkers for buildings, concrete tennis courts for ‘recreation’ and food that tasted, well, like concrete. Yes, school did sound like a brutalist architects dream. But, Reynar Banham was nowhere to be seen.

This is much the same story for most schools under the comprehensive banner. Kids are taught in buildings resembling cell blocks. The only exceptions coming from the private institutions Britain is famed for. Education it seems, is taught from books not experienced by what surrounds you.

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Recently however, there has been a change of thought when it comes to school design. De Rijke Marsh Morgan Architects (dRMM) are adding the final touches to their overhaul of Kingsdale School in south east London to dazzling effect.

Rather than the standard dreary courtyard favoured by modernist architects of the 1950s – a giant atrium now sits under the worlds largest EFTE variable roof – which has the ability to be cooled and heated to insulate in winter and cool in summer. The result is a new space for dining, assembly and a new auditorium sat inside a giant octahedron. A vast improvement on the cruel inhuman space that stood there previously.

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dRMM have also built a new music hall and gymnasium to accompany the now iconic central space. In the music hall, windows are etched out of the wooden interior with the material then used to form tables below. The effect is a wonderful mix of shapes and rays of light that change and move with the sun. While the sports hall’s dramatic beams rotate around an invisible axis resembling an Escher drawing. All achieved without compromising the space’s purpose as a place of play.

What this school was designed to do was illustrate the importance of the spaces people exist in. Education for most of the twentieth century was bereft of any debate about where children should be taught. Hopefully Kingsdale School will start to change that. By Matt Hussey

Related Link: The Designer Super Gym Has Arrived
Kids Kool Spaces




Block Balconies, Ofis Architects


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While it may look like an optical illusion from the outside, this housing block in Izola on the Slovenian coast offers bona fide affordable options for many young families. The team of Ofis Arhitekti won a national design competition for their design of two apartment buildings each containing 30 units of varying size ranging from studios to three-bedrooms.

Internal spaces may be small, however the unique trapezoidal-shaped balconies accentuate external perspectives and views directly to the sea. Structural elements are located externally as well thereby allowing more spacious living areas while taking advantage of the limited area of each unit and helping to keep the square meter cost low.

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Ofis wrapped sunshades in the form of colorful canvas awnings around the blocks balconies. These defining features provide ample external space for each unit, while innovative side paneling allows for both privacy and ventilation. From within, the canvas panels create unique environments in individual apartments. Each coastal-facing apartment is thereby effortlessly adapted to Slovenia’s Mediterranean climate. By Andrew Wiener


Ellipse 1501 House
E-mail Thursday, 05 July 2007

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Here at TCH, we strive to bring you the most cutting edge and inspiring pieces of design. From houses to hotels, walls to wine racks, there isn’t much we haven't covered. All under the premise, that if we like something, then, maybe you’ll like it as well.

But, there comes a time when we’re not quite sure. And if we don’t like it, why are we telling you about it? This new house designed by Antonino Cardillo has stumped us good and proper. Is it just another vacuous interior that looks an awful lot like a museum? Or is it a very shrewd example of how shapes and colours interact when placed next to each other?

Built on a hillside somewhere in Italy, Cardillo has created a concrete ellipse that dilates to the east and west. It also just happens to look like a grey blob squatting on a hill. Inside you’re met with an enormous curve that sweeps across the central hall, forcing the eye to look down through the space at the brutal lines of the rest of the house. A smooth exterior hides the phantasmagoria of shapes inside.

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The other rooms are built around the dramatic opening. A kitchen at one end, the guest room at the other. Up a darkened circular staircase lies the mezzanine bedroom fitted out with the absolute minimal of disruption to the form of the interior. It’s all wonderfully cohesive. But at the same time, you can’t help but think, ‘where do all the people go?’ The unrelenting stylising says this isn’t a space to be lived in. Rather, it’s a place to be seen in.

But at the same time, you can’t help but wonder what life must be like living here. The deep excavations in the outer wall reveal jagged pockets of the outside world at random. Outside, forests and mountains. Inside, lifeless concrete forged into geometric shapes. But the clever thing about the positioning of the windows is, it lets different types of light to fill different parts of the house. Direct sunlight beams into the main hall, while refracted light from trees outside filters into the smaller side windows. Creating instant moods inside according to the weather outside.

As this is going on, the building remains in its original essence: colourless or tending to grey. A challenging house that makes you love it for its ingenuity, but hate it for its formality. Either way, we can’t decide. By Matt Hussey

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When Size Matters
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Italy is in a state of flux. Not only is its political landscape in a state of turmoil, its design is too. Italian design traditionally combines functionality with irony. A sense of aesthetic superiority and suggestiveness coarse through Italian designed objects. And a highly humane and emotional element define it as the hot-blooded male of architecture and design.

Today however, the passion and effeminate masculinity that has defined the nation is now seen as clichéd. Confined to blokish descriptions of Italian supercars and the ‘beautiful game’. But there are still some original characteristics that have remained, and continue to inspire. Most notably, an unwavering need for materializing practicality, and an almost obsessive rationale when it comes to materials, colors and fabrics. It’s these two principles that have produced this arresting piece of house design.

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At first, the building feels uncomfortable. Jutting out awkwardly into a space dominated by the majestic mountains and ornate Italian villages. It almost gives the impression it was placed there as a temporary fixture. But keep looking, and you’ll see the shape and texture of the building fits the area perfectly. The severe angles dominating the exterior reflect the dramatic peaks above, while the locally sourced larch wood is a testament to a building aware of its environment.

Inside however, the design is understated. Focusing on the functional rather than the ‘beauty over all’ mantra that could have so easily have ruined the purpose of this building. It’s a space to be lived in and used, rather than a showcase of delicate lines and beautiful shapes. The cool, neutral tones gives inhabitants the opportunity to make the space their own, rather than being lumbered with the wishes of an overzealous decorator.

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Overall, the idea behind the structure was to create a dialogue. To beg the question of whether it is acceptable to continue in the same vein as architects from the past, or try to find new directions, and new approaches to how we interpret things. It may not be a beautiful building, but it’s thoughtful and articulate. And for that, we applaud it. By Matt Hussey. \


Pontificial Lateral University Library - Italy


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Libraries aren’t generally known for amazing architecture but this incredible one in Italy has us dying to get there amongst the books. Pictured below, it’s actually an extension on the existing library at the Pontificial Lateran University, which houses new reading rooms and an Auditorium. The incredibly stylish space was designed by Rome firm King Roselli, who took totally fresh approach to the project by employing features not usually seen in these types of spaces, such as a curved ceiling, angular stair-casing and vast glass paneling.

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The university holds an outstanding collection of books numbering around 600,000 volumes, some of which date back to the 16th century, whose subjects for the most part coincide with the principal academic courses: philosophy, theology and law. The bulk of them are now deposited in the newly restored compartmentalized underground vaults equipped with an adequate fire extinguisher system and humidity and temperature control. Learning has never been so glamorous. By Laura Demasi


The Camouflage House
Monday, 21 May 2007

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Camouflage, or cryptic coloration, is something living organisms have developed over millions of years in order to remain indiscernible from the surrounding environment.

Buildings, something humans have designed and built for thousands of years, have never been indiscernible from the surrounding environment. If anything, our egotistical fascination with conquering nature has meant our buildings are designed to triumph over its surroundings. Of course, nature inspires building design. But it rarely seeks to mimic it.

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That is, until this twist on nature landed on The Cool Hunter doorstep. Set among shrubs and budding fir trees, this home has been encased in a façade matching the greenery around it. The concealing mesh is permeable to let the sunshine filter onto the house. But it also allows the light from inside to radiate out. Allowing the build to sit anonymously by day, but emerge discretely at night. Blurring the boundaries between what is human, and what is not.

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Inside, the materials are organic and neutral. Wood decking and paneling cover the inside and outer reaches, while neutral colors blend rooms into a seamless array of angles and hard wood furnishings. But perhaps what’s more inspiring, is the building’s impact. The structure, while inherently human, isn’t trying to dominate the landscape it resides in. The single-storey house will soon be engulfed as the surrounding woodland matures, and the materials used to give the house its shape, will darken and merge with the backdrop. It’s an idea based on nature – to evolve with nature, and to mimic the concept of nature. Something in our opinion, there should be more of. By Matthew Hussey

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