I recently introduced a new interactive element over on @theawordarch Instagram Stories: “Tuesday Trivia”!
It was fun to put together last week’s category, “Guess The Famous Architect?” and so I thought to also create a blog post out of it – and with good reason.
The role of women in the fields of architecture and design have long been largely overlooked due to gender discrimination. Therefore, as the first-ever architect to be honoured in this way, I felt it was important to celebrate a highly influential female figure in architecture and design.
She was an Irish Architect and Furniture Designer active in the 20th Century (Ireland – France), and contemporaries with the likes of Mies, Wright, and Kahn.
Early in her career, she became a leading designer in a male-dominated field, creating radical furniture designs such as lacquered screens and decorative panels.
She also designed the iconic Bibendum Armchair inspired by the Michelin Man whose real French name is Bibendum, (or “Bib”).
Her most famous architectural work, E -1027 Villa, was the first Modernist building completed by a female architect and is considered the purest example of modern domestic design.
Never one to seek notoriety, Gray’s contributions to Architectural History were undermined and nearly forgotten due to various controversies.
After years of obscurity, interest in Gray’s work was finally revived and she is now rightfully honoured as an icon and true role model for women in architecture and design.
Learn more about her remarkable work in the film “The Price of Desire”
Historical records prove that the contributions of women were far too often “anonymous” if not credited to male contemporaries (I cannot imagine that this is news to you).
Many notable woman who dedicated their lives to shape our present moment are yet to receive due recognition because their stories are largely lost due to the system of patriarchy. Thankfully, many organizations are involved in the important work of unveiling the stories of women such as Gray.
Surely, in the twenty-first century, it should now be our individual and collective responsibility to challenge and dismantle institutionalized gender discrimination in the industry and society as a whole.
Hopefully this serves as inspiration to think about this issue and also seek to learn more about the many contributions women have made – beyond architecture and design.
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to try the latest Tuesday Trivia over on the instagram page! 😇🙏🏾
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📷 “Thrive” by Daniel Popper 📍Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Cape Town-based artist Daniel Popper is well-known for his towering sculptures of human figures adorned with or penetrated by thick canopies of foliage that viewers can walk through.
His latest sculpture, titled “Thrive”, was unveiled as a permanent installation at the ground floor of Society Las Olas, a residential complex in Fort Laurerdale.
According to the artist, the 30 ft tall figure constructed from 14 tons of glass fiber reinforced concrete, functions as a “symbol of hope and transformation which have been central to many people’s worlds during 2020.”
What comes to mind when you look at this piece?
Follow the artist’s instagram @danielpopper to see more of his incredible work
Chalet La Petite Soeur | Designed by ACDF Architecture
📍| Saint-Donat, Quebec, Canada (completed in 2018)
Since new builds appear to be the norm, very rarely do we see contemporary projects such as this that seek to create a marriage between modern and traditional living.
This 1,400sq ft all-white addition designed by @acdf_architecture echoes the pre-existing traditional house through its prismatic proportions. The crisp white exterior shell built upon a concrete base maintains a sense of old-fashioned charm in the way that it recalls whitewashed countryside barns.
Similarly, the sheet metal roof, rustic hues, textures, and wood cladding remind us of the surrounding birch trees which helps to establish a connection with the site. The various forms on the exterior are brought together in an open plan with vast rooms and a glass bridge that connects the old to the new house.
Altogether, the ensemble makes for a relaxing family space with spectacular views on the lake.
What are your thoughts about this project? Feel free to share in the comments below.
Remember to follow the blog so as not to miss out on future posts.
Starting off this brand new week by wishing everyone a happy new year and all the very best for 2021.
I hope you all are keeping well and staying safe. Thank you for choosing to stick around and also for all the new followers to the blog – very warm welcome to you.
I am hopeful that this year will be better and will be dedicating more time to blogging. In fact, I am currently brainstorming ideas for the upcoming weeks and would be open to any feedback.
Let me know in the comments if there is anything you’d like to see more (– or less) of in the upcoming year. I quite like the idea of a curated approach to blogging to make this more of a community page. So, if you would like us to feature any related content feel free to tag or DM us 🙂
I recently shared a post about the affective nature of architecture, which was mainly an evocation of one of my personal favourite living rooms from my childhood. In the process of writing, I came across this quote by 20th Century Italian-born American linguist, Mario Pei:
This thought lead me into a mini-binge session on Pinterest as I searched for houses in which nature is harmoniously integrated and celebrated in the design.
Because sharing is caring, I decided to curate a few examples of various interpretations in which different elements dominate the overall space based on each clients taste and the designers ethos.
Admittedly, this is not an exhaustive list (could you imagine 😬) and there is an unavoidable bias in my selection but I just wanted to share some of the designs that stood out during the – ‘research’.
1. MINER ROAD HOUSE |Faulkner Architects
📍Orinda, CA, USA | Photographed by Joe Fletcher
Sustainable design for an open concept family home intimately connected to the landscape.
The three-bedroom program began as a remodel of a 1954 ranch house at the foot of a hill next to a seasonal creek. This is home to a couple of environmental scientists and their two sons who’s commitment to sustainability is evident in their thinking throughout the design process. [credit | read more: Arch Daily]
2. CASA COLLEDOMUS | Arkimera Studio
📍Italy | Photographs courtesy of Arkimera Studio
Modern minimalistic residence modeled after the Ancient Roman domus plan organized around two central courts, atrium and impluvium.
The atrium retains its entrance function by hosting the representative rooms, while the impluvium maintains its formal configuration, with the convergence of the slopes towards the center and the presence of a body of water on which the most intimate of the domestic dimension. The rooms are deliberately arranged along one side only, taking advantage of the best incidence of natural light. The monolithic perimeter wall, which marks the limit within which to identify the places of living, is interrupted by longitudinal cuts that poetically photograph the context, consequently characterizing the hermetically reserved elevation. The two central courtyards remain protagonists in the distribution of domestic spaces with which they seek a constant and intimate dialogue. The strength of the project lies in the synergy that is established between the parts, a sequence of perspective visions that, crossing internally and externally, convey the feeling of always being at the center of the space
📍Florianópolis, Santa Catarina | Photographed by Marco Antonio
Modern interior of sophisticated simplicity with views of Sambaqui Beach.
Program: Simplistic design with total integration with the surrounding nature, divided in the basement, with garage and sauna, and two floors. The house is centralized around the ground floor with the main social spaces, such as living room, balcony, home theater, swimming pool, kitchen and gourmet space. Above, there are the rooms of the two daughters, the guest and the couple. The color palette is based on neutral tones, which together with the light wood of freijó and bamboo, give harmony and purity to the spaces.
📍Seattle, USA | Photographs courtesy of Studio McGee
Open, double height space flooded with natural light with minimalistic scheme consisting of black, modern, and neutral accents with some blue throughout that draw your attention to the interesting shapes and textures.
The wooden beams on the ceiling and natural stone carry up and over the fireplace, and most notably the asymmetrical window frames work together to provide a really interesting pattern and visual impact.
To achieve a streamlined look, the designers kept the furniture profiles minimal and mixed scale and pattern for visual interest.
Brutalism-inspired form merges into what looks like an overgrown “tropical paradise” that incorporates Balinese culture with concrete and timber to add an intentionally Brutalist touch to the home.
Designed as quite a tropical paradise for client, Daniel Mitchell as an ideal picture of island life in Bali. The 512-square-metre residence took three years to build and was completed in 2017 by Bali-based architecture firm Patisandhika. The design displays a deep understanding and respect for Balinese culture combined with fearless creativity. Timber and concrete were the dominant materials used for both the interior and exterior of the home. The materials were chosen to maintain zen simplicity throughout the space, letting the lush abundance of nature do all the talking.
The outdoor landscape is intentionally overgrown to soften the solid concrete exterior. The concept is to let it continue to grow over time into an unruly, organic aesthetic. Warm, sunset orange is a recurring colour throughout the residence, appearing in art, on bedspreads, and as a feature wall. Split levelling throughout offers unique views of the space from every room, and double-height glass windows guarantee an abundance of natural light. However the Balinese sun is strong, so an overhanging concrete slab shelters the Mitchell family from too much direct heat penetrating through.
The kitchen-dining area is entirely open plan, with sliding doors to encourage a cool breeze throughout the space and perpetuate an indoor-outdoor atmosphere. An outdoor bathroom situated on the ground floor completes the ideal picture of island life. Mitchell’s passion for music is particularly evident with the designated audio nook, complete with custom upper-level shelves for vinyl record archives and sound equipment. A silver disco ball that hangs above hints at his penchant for throwing a good party. [credit: YellowTrace]
6. BLACK VILLA | Reza Mohtashmi
Harriman State Park, NY, USA | Rendering by Mohtashmi
All-black instagram worthy modernist interior perfectly balanced by natural light, earthy textures, and surrounding greenery. [credits: Digg]
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6: which space would you live in and what about it stands out to you? Share your thoughts
Also, if you know of any other designs that I and others should check out, feel free to share them in the comments below.
I realize a lot of time has past since the last post and maybe a refresher might be in order (– I’d encourage you to read the first post here if you’re interested).
Part 1, “Thoughts on: Architecture is art…?”was a critical discussion on the expression “architecture is art”. The concluding thought of both myself and some of you in the comments (thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and for the overwhelming support 😇) was that architecture is indeed art in the sense that it is chiefly practical and a medium for human expression that makes us mindful of the beauty in everyday life.
Also, I made an effort to demonstrate the extent to which architecture governs our lives using the example of the home in connection to the idea of creating personal space (i.e. personalizing a space using things that reflect our individuality).
So, I’ll piggy back off of that and start Part 2 on a casual note by talking about one of my favourite spaces from my childhood.
I was born and raised in the city of Nairobi, Kenya, where homes are both an extension of, and integral to Kenyan traditions of community and hospitality. We have a strong sense of family and our homes provide the main context for us to practice our treasured traditions – regardless of social class.
Kenyans live by the infamous phrase “Hakuna Matata” which means “no worries” (🎶 for the rest of your days…sorry I couldn’t help myself).
Aside from inspiring the Disney musical number, the expression reflects our casual approach to life.
Kenyans will not back out of an offer to share some well-brewed tea or a home-cooked meal. We will take up just about any excuse to have get-togethers. Throughout the year, we have bigger celebrations as a nation and more intimate ones, especially during the holidays, where most extended families take time to reconnect.
And I share this not to endorse any stereotypes because Kenyans know how to hustle and are some of the most hard working people. Still, we equally don’t mind slowing down and taking time to come together as a community, and the home provides a space for just that.
Personally, I’ve bounced around different homes during my childhood as our young family moved into different rentals for a time – which I loved!
For the most part, when it came time to move again, my mum would choose the next house based on the kids’ reactions. At least that’s what I’m telling myself because we never lived in a house we didn’t like prior to the move or take full advantage of throughout our stay.
House ‘shopping’ was the ultimate experience for me. I was so eager to see which neighbourhood we would explore next, or admire the design of the different homes we would tour so I could pick and choose elements for my next build or reno- on Sims (yes – the video game).
As for the moving part, ummm…not so much a fan.
But, that’s where it all started for me. In general, those experiences made me more conscious of design and fostered an early interest and passion for it.
Looking back, I found that the common denominator of my fondest memories at home happened to be in our living room – and I’m biased toward one in particular.
It’s a no brainer. The nature of the space is what made my childhood memories what they are.
Sadly, I don’t have a picture of that room in full view but I’ll take a shot at evoking the space 🙂
Unique and Dynamic
Being a semi-open concept design, the moment you turned the key and walked through the wide entryway you were overwhelmed by a warm welcome into the spacious and airy main floor with an unobstructed view of the sunken living room to the right.
That’s when you knew you were at home.
As you descended the three shallow steps and made your way through, you transitioned from a single volume entryway into a double volume space with two-storey ceilings complimented by white walls that completely opened up the living space.
To the left was an offset rusticated fireplace with masonry that carried your eyes up towards the edge of the loft directly above the entryway, and further up to the exposed wooden beam ceiling with bands tapered in the direction of the back wall that was almost entirely punctuated by a floor-to-ceiling window that flooded the space with light and opened up views into the backyard.
Adjacent to the window were double sliding doors on the right of the room that lead into the patio shaded by the second storey above. And lastly, standing directly opposite to that patio door were a set of stairs that lead into the dining room on the second level.
If you are yet to visualize the space, the overall design had a slightly rustic charm with Mediterranean-inspiration like the designs shown below, albeit for some personal effects and elements suited to a Kenyan home in a mild African climate.
For instance, most Mediterranean villas don’t have curtains or blinds for the large windows in order to capitalize on the views, however, my mum opted for custom curtains for the different sized windows to add some warmth to the space, softly filter the daylight and create a sense of privacy later at night.
Also, white metal grills with vine-like motifs were soldered onto the windows and stair railings for added security whilst adding some visual interest (typical of most Mediterranean villas and Kenyan homes).
In terms of decor, my mum opted for variations of warm tones of red, gold, soft pink, and cherry wood accents which off-set the white walls resulting in an ensemble that looked like a cozy, afro-adaptation of your typical 1990s living room (slightly garish, sort of pretentiously Victorian, botanicals galore, shiny upholstered seating, oversized oriental rugs, fake plants etc).
(Here are some half-decent reference photos that I could find of the living and dining areas)
Impacts of Interior Design on the Overall Spatial Experience
The aspect I liked most about the design was the ability to see and access the living area regardless of the floor one happened to be on. And, naturally, this created a constant main axis for my family as it was the room in which we spent majority of our time.
Altogether the room was open, spacious, light-filled, and well connected to other spaces in the home, as well as the outdoors.
Furniture was laid out in a rough u-shape surrounding the fireplace with respect to the rectangular shape of the room. End tables, sofas and armchairs were arranged close to the wall and on the edge of a massive oriental rug that covered most of the parquet wooden floors.
A large 3-seater sofa was arranged against the rear window with a matching love seat opposing the fireplace and two armchairs backed against the foyer leaving the entire centre vacant, thus further opening up the space.
I come from a relatively large family and my parents loved to entertain and host birthday and Christmas parties mostly for extended family and friends to get-together. I think we had our biggest get-together whilst living in that house because it was the best space for everyone to comfortably be in at the same time.
I remember during barbecues we had the patio door wide open, further extending the living room outdoors with plastic chairs brought out of storage for extra seating for guests to have the option to sit, eat, and chat inside or outside.
Also, the spacing and placement of the furniture in the living room naturally created zones for the adults and the children to gather separately which is the norm in Kenyan culture.
As I said, tea is a staple so even on more ordinary days we just sit in the living room and simply bond over a fresh cup of tea when a family friend casually stopped by, or after school with my siblings, any time really.
Room of Endless Possibilities
When it was just us at home, my siblings and I also took full advantage of the openness of the space.
With the sofas pushed back, it was only practical for us kids to prop ourselves as close to the TV set as possible. Even though the carpet was comfortable enough, we preferred to be sunk into some bean bag chairs and lounge near the box TV tucked into the unused fireplace and just watch cartoons, or play video games, or a game of cards.
Obviously, the living room and the TV were not just for the kids to use. The TV itself was a distance from the love seat so it was never annoyingly loud. That way my mum could comfortably lay on her favourite spot behind us and read the newspaper whilst we were watching stuff. And without fail when 9pm hit the TV was strictly reserved for my mum to watch the news up until the start of the sports segment at the latter end of the news line-up.
Overall, we developed a good compromise that everyone was satisfied with, allowing us to spend more time together.
When we weren’t glued to the TV we got more creative and did our own spin-off of “The Amazing Race” by setting up pitstops around the compound with the our ‘last leg’ being the living room, of course.
Other times we’d do different games. Like there was once my brother decided he’d seen enough Spiderman to start pulling his own stunts and daringly jumped from the loft upstairs onto a make-shift landing pad made out of our bean bag chairs.
And, during a relatively safer game of hide-and-seek, the curtains and the back of the sofas made great hiding spots.
So, you see we rarely run out of ideas on things to do to entertain ourselves and spend time as a family.
All in all, the living room was one of the social focal points of the home and the nature of the space greatly encouraged that.
It’s been years but we still love that space and get overwhelmingly nostalgic when we talk about our shared memories.
Sadly, that home has since been demolished (yep – I said the ‘D’ word! 🤦🏾♀️).
So, the question to ask is does the building no longer exist?
In my opinion, yes – and, no!
Even though the home is no longer a place I can physically revisit, it is still a place I perceive and recreate in my mind through my memories.
A version of myself existed in that space, and I continue to identify with that place in my imagination. That home still represents my family, my heritage, my past.
What did not get lost in the rubble are those memories.
I hope this anecdote helped to explain the simple idea that architecture and design has the potential to be affective.
As humans we are often readily inclined to absorb information and cues from our environment which, therefore, shape our perceptions that strongly influence our emotions.
For instance, the sense of openness created in that living room directly influenced our behaviour. It allowed us to be open ourselves, to be care-free, and bond together within the space.
And in the process of writing this it helped me realize this:
Architecture is the creation of a repository for the human mind.
It simultaneously deals with our present physical reality but it is also multi-dimensional in terms of space and time when it is concerned with psychology, especially in regards to emotion, memory and imagination.
To a certain degree, I believe this can teach us to not be so limited in how we view and interact with architecture, not becoming hyper-conscious but rather a little bit more sensitive to the subtle ways in which architecture affects our psychology.
What do you think about this topic? Is there a space that makes you aware of the affective nature of architecture? Any other 90s kids who had a similar living room growing up?
Feel free to share and get a conversation going in the comments down below.
Also, please do subscribe to be on the lookout for the the next instalment.
Until then you could look out for updates and more content over on instagram @theawordarch.
I appreciate you stopping by and hope you are keeping well wherever you may be.
A little late to the party but just wanted to share some shots from #fall rhapsody 2020 🍃🍁🍂 (check out the tag on instagram)
(Featured image: Views of Justice Building and Central Block Parliament Hill from Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa, Canada)
October is usually the best time to get out, take in the views, and enjoy the fall colours on full display whilst the weather is still bearable. And, maybe, on a good day, watch a stunning autumn sunset.
Here are some views from:
– Parliament Hill Escarpment Stairway; – Major’s Hill Park; – Pink Lake, Gatineau Park, Quebec
Besides seeing fall foliage in all its glory, what’s your ultimate fall activity?? Comment down below 👇🙃
Happy 153rd Canada Day from Ottawa! It’s been a very strange year to say the least and I’ve been anticipating how this year’s celebrations would turn out. Obviously with COVID and social-distancing rules the festivities today are pretty unconventional.
Still, I just wanted to take a moment to join in on the virtual celebrations and wish all a very blessed Canada day. Although I’ve never been a fan of the brutal winters, I’m very grateful to be living in this beautiful country. I love ya Canada!
Of course there will be no fireworks this evening but I just had to share a few shots from 2018’s fireworks display at Major’s Hill Park, Ottawa (– definitely the best moment of the night 😍).
Once again, Happy Canada Day from here in Ottawa and wishing all a wonderful day wherever you may be! 😊
I think this could be the most banal description of architecture yet. While it is…
I think this could be the most banal description of architecture yet. While it is about constructing an aesthetic spatial experience, architecture is not art for art’s sake.
Yes, architecture is a sophisticated expression of the human imagination, and it can be about visual appeal.
But what sets architecture apart from other art forms is its power to rationally transform abstract ideas into reality where they cease to be purely idealistic, sensual, and intellectual.
That’s pretty remarkable!
This idea that we have the means to experience our imagination.
Beyond that, architecture is about creating a framework for society using material to conceive forms based on conceptual ideas that, ultimately, create and define space – practical space.
Or, in Phillip Johnson’s famous words:
“Architecture is the art of how to waste space.”
And that could refer to several types of spaces (that I’ll be excited to explore in a future blogpost – hopefully).
We need spaces to work, to eat, to sleep, to entertain etc.
That’s why buildings are essential. They are inanimate, utilitarian systems that define space which facilitate all the different aspects of life.
Collectively, the functions they perform allow us to continue to exist as a civil society.
I believe that architecture is a pragmatic art. To become art it must be built on a foundation of necessity.
Leoh Ming Pei
Yet, architecture is more than just an art form, or just about utility.
We are architecture and we endure because of architecture.
To understand what I mean, let’s use the home as an example.
The home is one of the most universally important works of architecture because it is a space that we are most intimately connected to.
The idea of a home can make us conscious of architecture’s capacity to govern our everyday lives – whether or not one acknowledges this truth.
It’s the reason why we say things like, “I feel at home” or “home is where the heart is” or “home sweet home” or “broken home” or “close to home”, and the now infamous “stay at home” (– I’m kidding but I’m not kidding).
And, if we have the luxury to do so, we can choose to personalize them using objects that represent the experiences we’ve had or would like to have, what we like, how we act etc.
In essence, we end up creating personal space,meaningspaces that convey who we are.
In fact, I’d argue that architecture is about creating projections of ourselves.
If art is about expressing ourselves, then I think buildings, or structures in general can be distinguished as works of art, or works of architecture, because of their expressive quality.
For example, a broadcasting tower is an engineering structure designed for utility and communications. But, should it be considered a work of architecture?
In comparison, the Eiffel Tower, a similar structure can easily be distinguished as a work of architecture.
So, what’s the point of difference?
The Eiffel Tower was constructed as the entrance for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, however, no one was singing its praises upon its completion.
Yet, the same broadcasting/observation tower is proudly owned by the people of France and has since evolved into a global icon, a type of ‘archicultural’ symbol of French identity that is recognizable and admired the world over.
(And while the topic of ownership and representation is still relevant, and in no way making light of the distressing reality of the ongoing racial and social injustices across the world, I’ll say this: Engineers really don’t get enough credit for their work i.e. most buildings NOT collapsing . And products of engineering aren’t celebrated nearly enough. ‘Starchitects’ are overrated, we need to celebrate ‘Starngineers’ !! Hmmm…doesn’t quite sound the same. But I digress, back to architecture stuff.)
And, that is the power of architecture!
The power to embody who we all are – as individuals and/or as a collective.
The power to impart within all of us a unique sentiment that no other object can offer us.
Not only because something about their design captivates us, but also because, in some strange way, we see parts of ourselves embedded within them. Our identity, our beliefs, our values, our ambitions, our aversions etc.
Let’s take it back to the phrase in question: “Architecture is art.”
Personally, thinking of it makes my neurones fire images of fancy historical buildings like Luxembourg Gardens, Versailles, Tassel House, Parthenon, Hagia Sophia (– the usual suspects – plus anything Gehry for whatever reason). That’s partly due to me studying and memorizing about them for quite some time now.
And don’t get me wrong, these are remarkable and breathtaking monuments that are DEFINITELY on my never-ending bucket list of places to sojourn.
And sojourn I shall.
Still, experiencing that level of joy is not something that anyone should postpone to an indefinite moment in the future.
Beauty, art, can still be found in the mundane. There is art in everyday moments, everyday spaces.
Ultimately, the art of architecture is not superficial, or only about aesthetics.
The real art of architecture is the art, the skill, of bringing to one’s consciousness the beauty that already exists but one had not yet awakened to.
I’d like to know what you think. Is architecture for you about aesthetics, or about function, or about self-expression? What do you think makes any building distinguished as architecture? Could ‘Starngineers‘ be a legitimate thing?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Also, if you like what you’ve read, feel free to subscribe to get notified about the next instalment of the “Thoughts on: Architecture is –”series!