ugly not-ugly buildings

Architectural Digest is what people use to describe a beautifully designed home, as in the home is AD worthy. So the magazine has a certain authority when it comes to architecture.

Then they published an articled called 30 ugliest skyscrapers in the world and I started having doubts on their previously untenable position. First of all, the title and content are more Buzzfeed than Home & Garden. Some of those 30 supposed eyesores aren’t even skyscrapers–there are tv towers and low rise buildings.

belaruslibrary

The Belarus National Library for instance, is not a skyscraper.

basketbuilding

Nor is the Longaberger Basket building in Ohio.

Some of the monsters I personally find rather charming and nothing approaching ugly, like that basket building. Or the Elephant building in Bangkok. Or the Lloyds building in London, which is one of the most distinguishing in the City.

warsawpalace

There are buildings that reflect national characteristic, like the Belarus library above. Or they are examples of architecture in their respective era, like the MetLife building in NYC, completed in 1963. And what about the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, completed in 1955. I think it looks suitably grand.

russiaembassy

Admittedly there are a few duds. The horrible gold Trump Tower in Las Vegas, the Tour Montparnasse in Paris and the Russian Embassy in Havana all stray into eyesore territory.

fisheriesindia

The National Fisheries Development Board building in Hyderabad isn’t ugly as being too cute for its own good. There’s nothing wrong with it though, except it can never be used for another purpose. It’ll be the laughingstock of the architecture community if a fish-shaped building is used for, say, space research or a hospital.

And to tarnish the clickbait article even further, eagle eyed commenters on the mefi thread even found an error, that the Fernsehturm in Berlin they show is not, in fact, the right building. Ooops.

living in concrete pipes

opodinside

Recently read about OPods, tiny flats built inside concrete pipes. Each unit is 100 sqft and features a living area (sofa converts to bed), a small kitchen, and a bathroom. Not a lot of storage space and no windows, unless they’re above the door. And not a great deal of privacy. They are touted as being experimental, low cost solution to housing problems.

opodoutside

The tubes can be stacked and fit into any small available space in the inner city–between buildings, underneath flyovers, in a car park etc. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of storage space apart from some shelves in the living area and an open clothes rail opposite the kitchen. There’s room for a mini-fridge and a microwave, not sure if there’s a hob. But there are lots of charging ports! No surprise as the target audience are young people starting out and wanting an affordable space to live in away from home. Personally I’ll find it difficult to live there unless it’s temporary like a hotel room. I also think cubes are more practical and stack better; but there are plenty of stacked cube ideas out there so this one is new and a little bonkers.

The OPods are a successor to the larger Alpods the same architect designed a few years back.

And who is the architect? Hahaha, it’s James. He’s becoming the most famous person I’ve known since they were younger than 10 years old.

paris plans, architecture

par037louvre

Flight is booked. Accommodation in France is booked: hotel in Paris, airbnb in Normandy & Brittany. The hotel and flight is part of a package deal that we think is pretty good value. It’s in the Gare St Lazare area and 3 metro stops (15mins) to the start line of the marathon.

We’ll have 3 full days in Paris, in addition to arrival day and race day. I have to spend a few hours going to the expo, then the rest of the time is ours to spend as we like. We’ll hit some touristy spots, Mum wants to go to Versailles and then the rest of the time will be hitting as many markets as we can.

paris016tour paris005sacred

I’m debating whether to bring the big camera or just stick to the small camera. Probably just stick to the small camera, seeing that we only have 20kg. It’ll be good to take pictures of things other than the usual Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Arc de Triomphe. I have those: 2008 | 2012.

There’s an architectural competition for

environmentally friendly urban designs to transform sites such as public spaces and unloved tower blocks

A nice gallery of some of the winning proposals. A few of them look just like blocks with trees and plants sticking out, if the plants are allowed to fall into disrepair the buildings will probably end up looking like it’s from a zombie apocalypse movie.

pershing

My favourite is Pershing in the 13th, by Architects Sou Fujimoto. The site is just a car park now but the result will be a mix of housing, offices and social facilities. Looks like something from the future. Anyway, there’s no chance to photograph these this time, they are all proposals and drawings. Something to look out for in a future trip.

small apartment moving walls: I’d live there

madridaptwals

via wired

An architectectural firm in Madrid designed this modern, efficient space from a small apartment. One half is a fixed living area (seen on the slideshow) and the other half is divided into rooms using movable walls. The kitchen units and bathroom are on either side, and 3 plywood units can be moved to create kitchen, bedroom and sitting/utility area. The room collapses when the units are moved to another configuration. The walls themselves double up as storage and closet.

Technology is such that nowadays, movable walls and doors made from heavy materials can be moved with one hand. The walls are suspended from the ceiling and move along using tracks similar to what is used in libraries and archives. The bathroom looks quite small and narrow and it can get to be a pain to raise/lower the bed everyday. These are the only negatives I can see, everything else looks super. Of course, this is pretty much only suitable for people who live minimalistically and tidy up as they go about their day.

The name of the firm is PKMN pronounced pac-man, it shows they have a sense of humour. The video is fun too:

 

nano 2013: building a home

This year’s nano is inspired by a Grand Designs episode that featured two women who built a beautiful, eco-friendly, grass-roofed, larch-cladded house on the Isle of Skye. Grand Designs, for those unfamiliar, is a UK tv program that follows home building projects. While that description seems bland and boring, it is quite the opposite. Most of the homes featured are unusual, thoughtful and frankly covet-worthy.

This is one of my favourite episodes because this one was all about following and realising a dream. From a young age, one of the owners have dreamed of having her own house with a grass roof, and this is the story of how she achieved that. The episode is also about compromise, and living within one’s means. The resultant house isn’t grand: it’s only 90m2, with one bedroom and an end window that would have been spectacular if it were higher. There’s a wistful and sort of inspriing quote that comes out of this:

better to have a small amount of something you love than to have too much of something you don’t need

I also found another inspiration recently, of a young couple who build a glass house from recycled windows. It’s a peaceful, fantastic house with another story about another couple. Theirs is also about a dream, but also about creativity and finding a particular way of life.

The practical side of me questions these designs. Do houses with grass or flower roofs really work? Won’t they flood or collapse? A house with top to bottom windows sounds so precarious, surely it can’t withstand heavy rain or strong winds?

But that’s me. If everyone were like me, these projects would never have seen the light of day.

I’m almost done outlining the story. The MC inherited some land and a dilapidated hut/cabin. She wants to build her ideal house, but has to balance between her past life and lifestyle with her idealistic view of her future life. The second MC has already achieved her ideal orderly life, and she doesn’t need creativity or dreams, or so she thinks. Hopefully I can come up with some good interactions and character development. Still have to do some research into the logistics of house building, find info about where to set the story and decide on the supporting cast. The house itself will be a character in the story too, since its growth is so intricately tied to the growth of the MCs. It’s almost like I can name chapters based on each stage of the process.

almost local

chi312crossroad

Even after several visits, as recent as a year or so ago, my friend commented that I walked around chicago like a tourist — with my head tilted up looking at the architecture. Today my colleague C was visiting and we were walking around the Loop after work to our dinner restaurant. She was the one with the head pointed up. I was the one telling her about the buildings and patiently waiting till she got her pictures.

Heh. Somewhere down the line, I became local(-ish).

skylines and wifi

From metafilter, the top 15 skylines in the world. Some of the entries are contentious and subject to debate on metafilter, but most are agreed on #1. Heh, my reaction has a huge dollop of “yeah right” in it, simply because most days it’s impossible to enjoy a single bit of that skyline — everything is covered by a thick dark blanket of disgusting smog.

In other news (and this is for mary), Klimpton is the best hotel chain for wifi. I remember my problems at the Oberoi in Mumbai, where the wireless conked out without notice and took almost 2 hours to return. While I’m traveling I usually have to wrestle with awful in-room internet services that are expensive and not always Mac compatible. So it’s refreshing to read about a hotel chain that not only provides free wi-fi, they make sure the network covers the entire hotel. Like the article says, the hotel is perfect for “business travelers, hip leisure travelers, and globe-trotting bloggers.” Globe-trotting? They mean ‘North-American continent’ trotting surely? The chain is only found in the US and Canada.