Dispersed Hotel: Distributed Urban Suites Inspire Exploration of Historic Kyoto

[ By WebUrbanist in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

It’s a simple but powerful idea, spreading out and embedding hotel rooms into the urban fabric to give visitors a space from which to explore as well as a place that feels like it’s more part of the city than a monolithic tourist resort. The Hotel Enso Ango features a series of zen-inspired buildings and landscaping in what it boasts as Japan’s first ‘dispersed hotel’ in the ancient capital of Kyoto.

The idea, in part, is to encourage travel between the buildings in the hotel network, both to experience their amenities but also to explore more along the way. In simple terms: it aims to combine the best of staying at a cozy bed-and-breakfast with the benefits of a high-end hotel.

Each unit features courtyard gardens and meditation spaces, aimed at providing a relaxing experience to compliment city exploration. There are also spaces, like a central bar, that are open to the public, offering opportunities to mingle with locals.

The spaces are spread out through key neighborhoods of Kyoto and crafted to be both contemporary while also including local art and craftsmanship. As the hotel grows, it aims to build out additional spaces around the city.

Each building is located within walking distance from the others, as well as from a hotel hub space where the lobby, gym and tearoom can be found, providing an opportunity for guests to mingle, but at their discretion rather than by necessity. Those who wish to can participate in group meditation lessons, tatami craft and runs through historic parts of the city.

“Welcoming visitors is a building which embodies classical Machiya construction featuring a front desk and corridor-cum-gallery space decorated with art by Masanobu Ando. At the end of this corridor, the gallery space opens into a lounge area with a small garden known as Tsuboniwa – a typical feature of Kyoto houses, providing a spot to enjoy nature and relax in the safety of a private space.”

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Subterranean Seashore Museum Buries Art Beneath the Dunes in China

[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

Like the chambers of a seashell eroded over time by sand and water, the white hollows of this subterranean museum offer a series of organically shaped spaces tucked beneath the dunes. The UCCA Dune Museum by OPEN Architecture draws inspiration from both children digging in the sand at the beach and the caves that housed humanity’s earliest artworks to create an intriguing complex that interacts with the natural setting.

Daringly set back just a few meters from the water, the art museum along the coast of northern China’s Bohai Bay aims to be “a return to primal and timeless forms of space.” While some might see the development of such a structure in a sensitive natural area as an intrusion, the architects say they chose this location specifically because the presence of the museum will prevent the dunes from being leveled to make way for ocean-view real estate developments, which has already happened along much of the shore.

“A series of cell-like contiguous spaces accommodate the Dune Art Museum’s rich and varied programs, which include differently-sized galleries and a cafe,” the architects explain. “After passing through a long, dark tunnel and a small reception area, the space suddenly opens up as visitors enter the largest multifunctional gallery. There, a beam of daylight from the skylight above silently yet powerfully fills the space.”

The sea, sand and sky join together with the sinuous curves of the building and its ovoid openings to interplay with the artwork on display inside, resulting in a singular experience that simply can’t be recreated when the art travels to different museums. Even varying weather conditions and times of day, with their varying levels and angles of light, alter the visitor’s perception of the art and how it feels in the space.

Walking through the museum’s interiors can feel like navigating a secret network of underground tunnels, and then the contrast of dark and light, under and over, interior and exterior is revealed at the top of a spiral staircase that opens up to the sky. In the near future, a companion museum called the Sea Art Museum will rise from the water itself, visible from the dunes.

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Swim BIG: Artificial Island Supports World’s Largest Saltwater Pool Complex

[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

Now open on the edge of Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city, the Harbor Bath project features a main 150-foot-long pool as well as diving and children’s pools, plus a pair of saunas. Naturally, the water is drawn directly in from the surroundings.

Designed by architects from Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) — images by Rasmus Hjortshøj — the complex can support up to 650 bathers at one time. Various pool sizes are elegantly integrating into the tapering form, creating poolside areas as well as swimming and lounging spaces.

Essentially a fake floating island, the structure is further supported by an array of beach volleyball courts, cafes and bars along the adjacent edge of the city.

Future plans call for theaters, hotels, restaurants, shops and more to be developed in the area, making this project a seed or generator of sorts for nearby activity, open all day every day through the summer.

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Come Hell or High Water: Cities Must Evolve in the Face of Climate Change

[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

The time to talk about climate change as if it’s merely a hazy possibility that won’t occur in our lifetime anyway has long passed. Multiple recent reports have made it clear that it’s already happening, and its effects will be much worse than previously expected.

In 2016, the Paris climate accords set a goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (at which it’s already failing); the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change now says two degrees is both inevitable by the year 2040 and genocidal, set to cause the death of all coral reefs, extreme wildfires, heat waves and other weather events that will subsequently threaten the world’s food supply and transform the global economy.

Clearly, addressing the problem at its source is the most crucial course of action. For the sake of the planet and virtually all life upon it, including our own species, we must rework practically every aspect of civilization, from our energy infrastructure and agricultural practices to corporate and governmental operations (because, while the efforts require widespread support and small actions are still important, the onus to lessen the impacts of inevitable climate change cannot be placed on individuals.) Technology and architecture won’t save the world alone, but it can help, and if we’re going to head off some of the most immediate climate change effects, we have to start now.

Architects, engineers and urban planners have already begun to work on approaches that range from visions of futuristic cities that would take many decades to build from the ground up to more practical and immediate solutions that adapt to the new normal. Extreme weather, rapid influxes of climate refugees and the need to continuously evolve in response to the changing world are among the top issues to address.

Managing Fires and Floods

Flooding is inevitable. Stronger, more frequent storms are already wreaking havoc on the United States and throughout the world, leaving catastrophic flooding in their wake that can extend much farther inland than anticipated, particularly along rivers. The pace of ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica is on track to raise sea levels 26 inches by the year 2100, and many scientists consider that to be a conservative estimate. Cities like Miami, Houston, Jakarta, Bangkok, Manila, Lagos, London and Shanghai are at immediate risk due to groundwater extraction, soft sediments and, in Miami’s case, permeable limestone that will allow water to rise from underground.

Sea levels are rising faster on the east coast of the United States than anywhere else, and locales from North Carolina to Florida already lost 5 inches of coastline between 2011 and 2015. Researchers believe it has something to do with the slowing Gulf Stream, the effects of El Niño cycles and shifts in major Atlantic Ocean weather patterns. Experts predict that many cities could be swallowed altogether within the lifetime of children born in the current decade. 3D animated Google Earth gifs by Climate Central based on an extreme sea level rise scenario from the NOAA show us what this could look like in a few major cities, and it’s not good.

So what are cities doing to plan for this? Not much, in most cases, but that could change soon. Many of the most vulnerable cities are consulting with experts on plans of attack that involve building in safer areas, transforming the most flood-prone zones into buffer areas, integrating green spaces capable of absorbing large quantities of stormwater, elevating new structures, improving the climate resiliency of low-income housing and creating systems that work with, rather than against, a changed waterfront.

Resilient by Design – San Francisco Reimagined by Hassell Studio

For a recent competition called Resilient by Design, which challenged design teams to reimagine the Bay Area in the face of potentially devastating climate change, global design firm HASSELL envisions a new network of green spaces and “water-loving places” connected by canals and creeks. Forging these wide, green waterways creates controlled paths for flooding and plans to use them for transport and recreation. Native plants treat runoff, a “living levee” forms a wetland for restoring habitat and holding stormwater and schools built on higher ground become hubs for water treatment and community activities.

Imagine Boston 2030: Planning for Floods by SCAPE
Imagine Boston 2030: Planning for Floods by SCAPE

In Boston, SCAPE Landscape Architecture collaborated with the Mayor on a vision to protect the city’s 47 miles of shoreline as part of the Imagine Boston 2030 initiative. Using the city’s Climate Ready Boston 2070 flood maps, the team demonstrates how flood-resilient buildings, elevated landscapes, waterfront parks, connections to the waterfront and a deployable flood wall system could address rising water and enhance community access to the waterfront at the same time. Key transport corridors like Main Street and Bennington Street will have to be elevated.

“We’re not just planning for the next storm we’ll face, we’re planning for the storms the next generation will face. A resilient, climate-ready Boston harbor presents an opportunity to protect Boston, connect Boston, and enhance Boston, now and for the future,” says Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “As we enter a new era in our Harbor’s history, Boston can show the world that resilience is not only the ability to survive adversity but to emerge even stronger than before. That’s the promise of a Resilient Boston.”

Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul

In fact, reintroducing natural systems could be key, all over the world. For Seoul, architect Chris Reed of ASLA proposes giving water more space in the city with the knowledge that we can’t hold it back and might as well do what we can to enjoy it. We could “bring new life and richness into the public realm” with fish parks, canal streets, water plazas and other spaces, and transform vacant land into new wetlands that bring value into adjacent neighborhoods. The city’s Cheonggyecheon River is already a great example of this approach, uncovered from beneath roadways and highways and renovated into a central riverfront offering both floodwater containment and recreational space in the heart of downtown.

Water, of course, isn’t the only force of nature we have to protect ourselves from. With wildfires raging across much of the West, many people are wondering what they can do to make their homes more fire-resistant. While land management practices will have to change in many parts of the country to anticipate and mitigate wildfires to the greatest extent possible, fireproofing could at least help salvage some structures when they can’t be stopped. The good news is, a few small changes can make a huge difference, and they can be surprisingly affordable, too.

Gigacrete House

Las Vegas-based GigaCrete makes prefab houses with recyclable, non-flammable materials including steel frames, interlocking wall panels and special wall coatings that make them hurricane resistant, bulletproof and waterproof to boot. A 576-square-foot, one-bedroom model costs just $24,000, and they can be scaled up and customized. Other approaches involve the use of tempered glass, minimizing exposed wood, non-flammable decks, rooftop sprinkler systems, mesh screens that prevent smoldering materials from getting into vents and strategies to clear brush. It’s likely that features like these will increasingly be built into new construction in fire-prone areas.

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Getting Real: Placeholder Graphics Lead to Literal Architectural Renderings

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

Architects are sometimes criticized for taking creative liberties with their artwork, setting unlikely green scenes or populating their rendered scenes with an improbable array of happy figures. While these “literal renderings” (per Mike Rosenberg) may in some sense be figurative, using signage one would not likely see on an actual structure, they also are refreshingly blunt about the contents of the structures represented.

Surely, no one will actually call their store “Retail” or building “Signage” or mixed-use community “Mixed-Use Apartments,” but at least the viewer gets an actual sense of what they should expect to find inside.

In some cases, these are generic elements are simply temporary markers for mid-stage designs without a name — in others, they can be used to pitch developers, communities and local approval boards.

A kind of architectural equivalent to plain-packaging, minimalist companies (like Brandless), these exist at the other end of realism spectrum, countered by more playful and surrealist approaches like the one below.

The art of architectural representation has changed a lot over time, including the scale figures used to set stages, but at least these kinds of experiments show there is further room to adapt and grow.

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Found Victorian Photographs Transformed into Pop Culture Trading Cards

[ By SA Rogers in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

Victorian-era photographic subjects are transformed in ways they couldn’t possibly have imagined in a series of modified cabinet cards by artist Alex Gross. A buttoned-up young woman becomes Harley Quinn, a group of young men in suit jackets and cravats turn into the members of KISS, an ordinary-looking couple reveal themselves as Batman and Catwoman. For Gross, collecting found black-and-white photographs in the form of cabinet cards is all about seeing potential in unexpected places.

It’s almost like Gross pulls the very real people who sat for these photos so long ago through a portal and into the 20th century – never quite all the way to modern times. The hand-painted images retain a sense of vintage charm, recalling the golden age of comic books in the 1950s, even when depicting more contemporary characters like Arya Stark and the Night King from Game of Thrones.

Gross told Vivianite that vintage photographs and cabinet cards have a big influence on his work – extending beyond this series and into his full-scale paintings. Many have a similar feel of mish-mashed eras, all rendered in Gross’ signature vivid illustrative style.

“I have a medium-sized collection and many of the people in these photos appear in my work. And my favorite authors have also played a large part in my work. I think that Herman Hesse, W. Somerset Maugham, and George Orwell were all geniuses and their work has really connected with me for a long time now.”

Gross has released several books of his work, including Future Tense: Paintings by Alex Gross, 2010-2014, Discrepancies and Now and Then. The latter, released in 2012, features 98 of his cabinet card paintings produced over a four-year period.

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In Plane Sight: The Fort Worth Alliance Airport ATC Tower

[ By Steve in Architecture & Offices & Commercial. ]

The Fort Worth Alliance Airport air traffic control tower is an FAA-certified Level 5 facility whose design showcases the best features of Modernism.

Designed by architectural firm Albert Halff Associates, the control tower opened in 1992 and is the crowning glory of Fort Worth Alliance Airport. It was also one of the final pieces of the puzzle to be put in place at AFW, which officially opened on December 14th of 1989. We’re not sure how pilots managed to fly into and out of AFW in the interim… maybe they just winged it.

Triumph Tower

Some have likened the Fort Worth Alliance Airport air traffic control tower to a big beaked bird or an ice cream cone as seen through the eyes of Picasso. The tower’s Cubist vibe isn’t all about form, however. The lower portion of the beak/cone houses microwave signal relay equipment essential to any control tower’s primary function.

Alliance Appliance

Flickr member Jeff Stvan (Diorama Sky) obviously loves airplanes but he’s got a crush on the Fort Worth Alliance
Airport air traffic control tower as well. The photographer’s many albums posted to the popular image-hosting service feature photos of the tower taken between 2003 and 2016, during Stvan’s frequent visits to the annual Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show.

Triangle, Manned

The Fort Worth International Air Show made its debut at Fort Worth Alliance Airport in 1993. The Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show succeeded its progenitor in 2006 and since that time the air show has donated over $700,000 to more than 60 non-profit organizations.

Pro & Control

If the Fort Worth Alliance Airport air traffic control tower looks familiar AND you’ve never attended an air show at Fort Worth Alliance Airport, you just may have been watching TV in 2004. Location shooting for LAX, a 13-episode TV drama starring Heather Locklear, used AFW as a substitute for Los Angeles International Airport. AFW and its iconic ATC tower still look and act as good as new… unfortunately the same can’t be said about Locklear.

Texas Angler

Jeff Stvan’s photos date from his visits to the air show in 2003, 2008, 2010 and 2016. Each time, Stvan was sure to snap the Fort Worth Alliance Airport air traffic control tower – most often as the prime subject but also incidentally as a background feature. Credit it to the power of the tower… or perhaps he was just in the mood for ice cream.

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Refugee Baggage: Suitcase Dioramas Show Dark Scenes from Countries Fled

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

The project of a Syrian-born artist and architect and an Iraqi-born author, this installation invites viewers to imagine what refugees leave behind when the pack up the few things they can carry and flee an oppressive regime or war-torn country.

The UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage installation by Mohamad and Ahmed Badr “sculpturally re-creates rooms, homes, buildings and landscapes that have suffered the ravages of war. Each is embedded with the voices and stories of real people — from Afghanistan, Congo, Syria, Iraq and Sudan — who have escaped those same rooms and buildings to build a new life in America.”

Visitors can listen to the stories of refugees on headsets attached to each diorama in the series, complete with “miniature cars, tiny living room sets, and even fake plants adorn the open luggage—installations which each” took months to complete.

The work hits at all levels: the scenes look small and fragile, familiar but derelict, while framing them inside baggage conjures images of flight. Together with the audio, they are powerful awareness-raising tools in the fight to humanize refugee situations.

More about its creators: “A Syrian artist and architect, Mohamad was born in Damascus, raised in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and educated in the Midwestern United States. Expressing the juxtaposition of East and West within him, Hafez’s art reflects the political turmoil in the Middle East through the compilation of found objects, paint and scrap metal. His work has been profiled by NPR , New Yorker Magazine, and The New York Times. With four highly acclaimed exhibits under his belt, Hafez creates surrealistic Middle Eastern streetscapes that are architectural in their appearance yet politically charged in their content.”

“Ahmed is a writer, social entrepreneur, poet, and former refugee from Iraq. With work featured by Instagram, NPR, The Huffington Post, Adobe, United Nations, and others, Ahmed explores the intersection between creativity, the refugee experience, and youth empowerment. Ahmed is attending Wesleyan University, where he is a Fellow at the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. Ahmed is the host of TOGETHER, a UN Migration Agency podcast that is centered around the stories of refugee and migrant youth across the world.”

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The Other Place: Surreal MC Escher-Inspired Hotel Interior in China

[ By SA Rogers in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

A maze of staircases leads absolutely nowhere within a series of new hotel rooms at ‘The Other Place’ in China, nodding to artist MC Escher’s famous lithograph print entitled ‘Relativity.’ Shenzhen-based architecture firm Studio10 renovated the existing rooms at ‘The Other Place’ guesthouse in Guilin, giving half the rooms a ‘maze’ theme with deep forest green walls and the other half a ‘dream’ theme in soft pink and white.

The surreal staircases stretch up the walls, taking advantage of the impressive ceiling height. Occasionally, there really is something at the end of them – a door, or a loft – though even the doors aren’t quite what they seem. Others just contribute to the graphic nature of the design, their undersides stepped as well to add to the optical illusions. The architects envision the design as a seamless transition from 2D to 3D.

“All components from the reality world such as lighting fixtures and electronic appliances have been concealed behind a series of black-painted doors, maintaining the pristine, chimerical nature of the space,” they say of the pink “dream” rooms.

“In the other forest-green-themed room, anti-gravitational stairs lead to golden doors, behind which there could be a trail leading to a secret forest – or some other unexpected findings that surprises you.”

While no physical space can quite capture the strange, vertigo-inducing spatial confusion of Escher’s drawing, ‘The Other Place’ definitely honors the original in a way that’s instantly recognizable (and also evocative of La Muralla Roja by Ricardo Bofill.)

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Daily City: London Architect Drafts 365 Urban Plans, 1 Day & Design at a Time

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

A London architect has is working to sketch a new city each day, mining his imagination and experience for fresh ideas for a full year, a practice inspired in part by the failures of modern urban planning.

Peter Barber is sharing the results of his work online, driven by an architectural theorist.”The idea arose from Lewis Mumford’s assertion that modernism has ‘failed to produce even a rough draft for a decent neighbourhood’, and from a pub remark made by my friend and colleague Ben Stringer, who said that you ought to be able to design a city in 10 minutes” — or at least: the idea for one.

These are not meant to be fully polished master plans, but rather an exploration of the shape of cities through quick sketches. They range in scale and region as well, from towns in Spanish ravines to fisherman islands and farming cooperatives in the United Kingdom. Among others, he has imagined a city to wrap the existing city of London, wondering what that might look like as well as how it would function and relate to the historical metropolitan heart of England.

Embedded in this experiment, though, is also a call to action for architects and planners: sketch, think and design, even if it’s speculative, just to keep ideas flowing. “I’m an inveterate sketcher. The project structures that a bit,” says Barber. “In the course of my day it’s a little 10 minute mental workout, kind of light relief too, and a chance to think beyond the here and now. I wonder if the project will remind people about the joy of jotting down a thought in a quick sketch, the sketch book as a place to escape to, a place to be playful, dreamy, speculative, idealistic even.”

Of course, he also hopes some good ideas will come out of the exercise. “We need to think deeply about our priorities and how those might be reflected in the production and arrangement of space and how we want our cities, towns, villages to be designed,” he explains In designing, he is also researching, and thinking about what’s already built. “To a significant extent the layout of our cities, and London is a very good example, are products of neo-liberal economics, the commodification of housing and the arbitrary flow of global capital. In London, which is surely one of the richest cities the world has ever known, this is leading to misery and a segregated city, with 170,000 homeless people and 20,000 empty investment flats, while social housing bequeathed to us by a more idealistic post-war generation is bulldozed.” Of course, one always has to be careful, too: architects are notorious for thinking about city plans first in terms of buildings, and only later in terms of practical considerations.

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