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Impressions and photo reportage from the visit to Homes headquarters:

The Homes Executive Centre is located in industrial area of Pieve di Soligo (Treviso). Desiged by award winning architect and industrial designer Mario Mazzer, the building was finished in 2009. There is no production in the complex: it accommodates the executive, sales, technical and administrative parts of five companies.

The volume of the entrance/ lobby intersects with the main building in an angle (non perpendicular way). This is not particularly visible from outside, but definitely adds to the play and quality of exterior and  interior spaces.

The front facade, view from the main street of the Headquarter Offices Homes Group:

Homes Executive Centre front side

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Active facade-passive building

The building features several special energy saving systems and according to the architect has won some awards for sustainability/innovation. The facade by itself allows high energy savings: the glass is of semi-active type, the glass is extra-light,  semi-active and is regulated by air extractors and curtains; it also provides a greenhouse effect in winter and a chimney effect in summer time.

The heating system uses the residue from machining carried out by the companies in the group; tele-heating is combined with condensation boilers. Cross-flow air treatment machines facilitate energy recovery and come with motors regulated by means of inverters (30% electricity saving).

From the distance, I assumed that the facade looks like it has a lighting system out, however upon a closer examination I find that the extra skin of the facade is a decorative feature consisting of open aluminum tubes.

Double facade close up:

FACTORY PIEVE DI SOLIGO FACADE FRONT SIDE5

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Popper detailing in and out

I observe, that the central staircase has been given a particular attention to. It is well detailed and has a feeling of a high quality built-in furniture rather than a part of a building.

Staircase in the lobby:

FACTORY PIEVE DI SOLIGO INTERIOR2

Click image to enlarge

From interior spaces I liked several moments: the ceiling/lighting design, it’s shape mimics the overall plan of the building. The top floor and the meeting rooms there features a wonderful view of the mountains in the distance and well maintained roof. Meetings rooms are subtly shaded for privacy by a fritted glass. Underground exhibition rooms are lit by natural light what comes in by a light tunnel.

It’s not all about the profits (or the aesthetics)

I am taken around the building by a friendly employee of the factory. She is most definitely proud of the place she works, her job, her big boss and is very happy to share some stories, what are interesting, even if architecture un-related. I am intrigued and amused to listen how wonderful it is to have a kindergarten in the building and I’m  cheerfully asked if I want to see the kids. I refuse in a slight chock,  how real life and the perfection of architecture are not necessarily connected. All I could notice, is how the colorful plastic elements spoil the purity of the back facade, and that raises the contradiction: isn’t the architecture supposed to be for the people?

Cantilevered end of the building, this side on the ground floor has a function of a kindergarten:

FACTORY PIEVE DI SOLIGO FACADE FRONT SIDE3

Dining area/canteen for the employees:

FACTORY PIEVE DI SOLIGO INTERIOR

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Additionally, I am told the story how nobody in the factory, despite the recession (and imagine in Italy!), have been laid-off. Apparently that is due to the hard work and the personal initiative of the owner of the factory. This story leaves me convinced, that the people here do their best and are super loyal to the company  As we speak here comes the lunch time and the workers from near-by building, what actually hosts the furniture production, hurry towards the canteen. In rush I take the last  few snapshots and leave the building.

Gallery, the rest of the images:

This time a bank building from Brussels, Belgium. It is one of the best examples of modernist architecture and one of the best known in the area (if you ask design related locals to recommend nice modernist building this will be the one).

Modernist bank building in Broekstraat 1

Prefabricated concrete pieces mounted together with the help of metal pieces and tension cables, make an intricate façade. The building looks contemporary enough, some designers nowadays copy the style, however the level of detailing and quality of execution is difficult to match. I can hardly imagine what building, built in recent years, will be looking at least ok, 50 years down the road.

Modernist bank building in Broekstraat 2

Very sculptural corner detail:

 Modernist bank building in Broekstraat 3

The building is in a very good condition, my guess is that concrete façade must have been cleaned-up recently.

Modernist bank building in Broekstraat 4

View from the street, Brussels as a permanent construction site (changes for the better, thought) :

Modernist bank building in Broekstraat 5

However and sadly my on-line search could not retrieve any information about the building nor who designed it. It would be great if anyone from the readers could tell me, if they happen to possess such information.

Some architecture from Vilnius, Lithuania: the headquarters of a bank designed by Ambrasas architects bureau. The building was completed in 2009, the architects for the building were selected in an architectural competition. Now this building is a part of Vilnius “down town”: an architectural hill formed by group of high-rise buildings. Out of all of them (exception modernist hotel), I believe only this bank is worth to be written about as a successful architectural object.

swed bank vilnius ambraso arch01

This building features expressive form-what is a very strong dominant and visible from plenty of different views in the town, as well as pleasant and well executed landscaping. Even thought this building was built a while ago, it was the first time I went to look for a closer look at it. The “sharp” metal façade and “soft” wooden terraces create an unexpected contrast.

swed bank vilnius ambraso arch

The static electricity in the metal façade hit me when I tried to feel the texture. (Warning: do not touch) The variation in colour of the plates is created by directional sanding.

swed bank vilnius ambraso arch3

I was very much impressed by the way the landscaping was done on top of the terrace. It is spacious, but not windy (a common problem for any roof-top garden/public space). This public garden was a requirement for the architects by the city municipality.

This time I am sharing with all of you my impressions of CO2Works architectural office in Nagoya, Japan. Designed by Koji Nakawatase, 4 stories high, finished in 2012.

Nagoya is the kind of city I could get lost in an instant as most of the buildings around look alike (see the backdrop of this building), but this one I find to be a contemporary hidden gem. Surely the form of the building was the first thing that attracted my attention. That is a great and smart move for an architectural office to have a building that celebrates the profession. A wonderful architectural piece to show the style of the office, to show their capabilities and to inspire the team while they work in it everyday. And surely everyone in the neighbourhood knows: that’s the architect’s office. Also I can suspect that the building by itself filters the clients: the ones who come want contemporary and fresh houses and they know what kind of architecture to expect.

The purity of materials and the details in this building truly amaze and perplex me. There is no difference between inside and outside, all is concrete and the transition from the outside to the inside is incredibly smooth. The window details fit very nicely and I can only wonder what happens during earthquakes (minor ones happen 2-3 times a year). And what about the cold bridges as Japan is not that warm (is it even possible to dream of such building in let’s say Finland) and how do the other systems in the building function?

Additionally I like the little bits of landscaping elements: grass on cantilever terrace, little flowers and  decorative tree pots.

When I walked up to the building to photograph it, I had a chance to meet two people from CO2 office. We exchanged our details and latter, after coming back to Europe, I corresponded with the main architect Koji Nakawatase. I asked him for a permission to write about his creation and kindly, to my joy, he said yes. Also I asked if he could tell me some some additional stories (the wonderful rare opportunity), but I think our good intentions got lost in translation. So, I still feel curious what are the stories that this building has to tell, what was the path to get there, what were the quarrels about that the design team had (supposedly), what was the vision and what was the main challenge?…

This post leaves me curious and I take it as a sign of encounter with great design.

Currently used as a headquarters for a Dexia bank, this building marks the great times of Brussels architecture. Designed and build in 1969, it features some well executed details. Most people nowadays would probably call it ugly. Surely this is not the only of the type or the most spectacular office building of the region, but it shows the period and is a living example of  the true spirit of Brussels – the endless bureaucracy (fr. bureau + gr. κράτος kratos – rule or power).

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And still as a bank building of the 60′s it still looks good and contemporary enough nowadays. I especially like the decorative façade, which stands a bit away from the structure and the windows. This type of solution gives some architectural play – the slightly sculptural window patterns cast  shadows on the tinted windows as if putting some lace on the office box.

This building is 13 stories high and it is 56 meters.

One more cantilever building, this time form Belgium, small university town Leuven. It is situated next to Martelarenplein , what is on the left hand side from the main railway station.

Architects of the building are Crépain Binst architecture and ARCHI + 1.

click to enlarge

This local branch bank insurance building is rather impossible to miss due to it’s amazing cantilever. The structure is well hidden so that the building looks close to impossible to be built.

The cantilever in this case even works as a public shelter, it is neat new and protects you against rain. As you can see in the photos-people do hang around it.

And again, as I have mentioned in my previous post, this building in reality looks much better than in presentation drawings of an architect: good architecture is not about renders!

The shiny façade finish (at least on a sunny day!) was the element what attracted me to this building, since dominating shades in the city are rather grey. Upon closer inspection it is obvious, that the façade is well detailed, especially the corners are neat.

click to enlarge

However I must express a doubt about operable exterior blinds: Brussels is dusty city, therefore the blinds are going to be very dirty in a matter of few months.

This buildings has an inner enclosed courtyard.

On the very bottom right photo a booth for garage parking-meter is photographed.

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