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Public buildings

This post is not about architecture as a beautiful object, and not even about pretty landscaping. But first a bit info about the building and then I will take you to the reason why this building has changed my life.

South view to the bridge dividing two parts of Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum

I spent only one afternoon in Nagasaki, I was in the rush, but still that was enough to get very positive impression. The city is very different from other cities in Japan. It is more European and at the same time even more different. The urban planning is just great – while walking around I kept thinking to myself that many architects and planners (including some people, that I know) should be sent in to Nagasaki, to learn some important lessons they must have missed in their lifes.

View to the bay from the rooftop of museum

Landscaping nearby museum

Designed by Mr. Kengo Kuma and NIHON SEKKEI, Inc., opened in April 2005, the buildings won many prizes in building and illumination design competitions. Comprised of two buildings located across a canal from each other and connceted with a glass bridge. Interesting design feature – vertical louvers composed of approximately 12 000 square meters of Brasilian granite. The louvers give interesting and interactive dimension as you move-by.  However the best feature of  Nagasaki prefectural art museum is the wonderfully done landscaping, green rooftops what almost melt into the surroundings.

Views from roof-top terraces

After going down from the roof terrace, I was enjoying the view from bellow and then… Two girls dashed through the bridge: one in a wheel-chair and another pushing her. They were laughing very loud, they were so happy. It struck me like a lightning: the buildings do need to be accessible for everyone. Now, after some time has passed since my visit and the understanding has settled-in deeply. The understanding and idea behind accessibility seems natural now, but was not up to this scale until that afternoon in Nagasaki.

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The building is open and truly accessible to everyone (at the time the opening hours were already over)

Girls on the bridge came back and forth at least 5 times giving me plenty of opportunity to photograph them. The joyful laughter still rings in my ears up to this day.

Often people (even designers) do not take this seriously at all, even public and important buildings do not have ramps, or any means of getting there at all. But someone needs to understand, that not every handicapped person is an old drunkard who got in to such state due to his own actions (a very common assumption in the region where I live now). I must admit may times the regulations concerning handicapped people used to be seen just as a nuisance. Who has ever seen a handicapped around, but maybe THAT is the reason they are not visible? I will never be frowning again for making an accessible building; to the contrary I have since became an active advocate of accessibility!

Some more images from and around the museum:

Koban or small Police Station designed by  Klein Dytham Architecture, located in Kumamoto, in the southern most island of Japan. Year of execution: 2011. Possibly the friendliest and most cheerful police station in the world (by it’s looks, at least).

After a new bullet train station was built in city of Kumamoto, the area around the station was made into a sand box for architects. The program is called Artpolis and is lead  by Toyo Ito, who was the one that commissioned this police station.

Big white circles on the top part of the façade allow pastel rainbow colours painted on the inner shell to shine through:

Koban police station in Kumamoto 1 Koban police station in Kumamoto 2

The external colour-coding of the station is a part of architect’s interesting ideas. For anyone living in Japan it looks like a Japanese police car: white top, black bottom and red lamps. Very clever design move.

Koban police station in Kumamoto 3 Koban police station in Kumamoto 4

Maybe the friendliness and playfulness of the Koban’s façade was that attracted a group of very friendly  school-kids, who really wanted to talk with me (I wish I knew about what) and photo-bombed some shots:

Koban police station in Kumamoto 5

Different colours of different shades are visible when you move around the station, that makes this building very dynamic.

Koban police station in Kumamoto 6

This part of the town has buried the power-lines and the sky of this whole area is power-line free.

Koban police station in Kumamoto 7

Good path to take and a perfect example for an institutional architecture.

One more library, this time form Oslo, Norway. Built in 1913, architect Holger
Sinding-Larsen and renovated in 2005, Longva arkitekter AS and Østengen
og Bergo Landskapsarkitekter AS.

It adds to my personal collection of visited public libraries and renovated public buildings. This building definitely has a special charm, the period when it was originally designed is when the most notable Norwegian architecture was born.  Lighting design from Olso is especially charming and National library is no exception.

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Central Library Amsterdam or in Dutch Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam Centrale Bibliotheek was completed in 2007. The building was designed by Jo Coenen, the former state architect of the Netherlands. Located just across a pedestrian bridge from Renzo’s Nemo Science Centre.

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This is the largest public library in Europe. It is a home for over 1.7M books (circulation 5M), has 10 floors, a floor surface of 28,500 m2, 1200 seats, of which 600 with Internet-connected computers, staff of 200, an auditorium, an exhibition room, 2 museums, 2000 parking spaces for bicycles and a restaurant with a south-facing terrace.

The building is divided in three vertical sections: the public bottom with attractive children’s library, space for periodicals and computer users,  the centre, houses the books and creates much calmer, silent, carpeted, low ceiling spaces. The top where the theatre and the restaurant are located, is the place where people can relax and meet others. The restaurant terrace provides great views to the city.

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The same materials used for the exterior are used for the interior.

Overall impression was very positive: accessible, bright, inviting, monumental, plenty of different zones for everyone’s preference. I was visiting this building at night. The library works until 10 pm. and is free to enter for anyone, therefore I believe that is just as it should be: public building serving the public and it’s needs. This building is attractive enough to be a part of design oriented/book lover tourist’s itinerary. Or at least can be visited as a viewing spot.

Some images of Netherlands Maritime University on the Maas river in Rotterdam, designed by Neutelings-Riedijk Architects.

Cantilever architecture, with an idea behind: the overhanging part has a conference hall inside and the overall shape reminds a periscope of a ship. Checked aluminium blue and grey cladding symbolises stacked shipping containers. All of what the students in the future will probably be working with.

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65 metres high tower, provides a view of the port of Rotterdam (the largest port in Europe). This interesting building is visible from plenty of different perspectives along the Maas river and can easily be distinguished even from the great distance.

The TU Delft central library, The Netherlands, designed by the Mecanoo architects designed in
1993 -1995 and built in 1996 -1997.

I walked on the green roof around the cone. The green roof was very pleasant to lay down and I could almost see myself happily rolling down the slope… However it started raining and I had rush down inside. The general feeling while walking on the roof  made me remember Oslo Opera House, I think the latter building was influenced by the former (also the shape of the entrance). The difference is that TU Delft library possesses feeling of human scale and the Oslo Opera house has much more sense of grandeur.

The entrance of the library is not accessible for handicapped people(that is surely due to building being relatively old, public awareness has changed, plus the laws have changed), and my attempts to photograph the front nicely were hindered by un-photogenic trash bins (what surely were not a part of original design).

Some more remarks about exterior – the random openings on the concrete wall by the entrance really amused me. Whether consciously architects realised it or not, the origins can be found on defensive walls and their shooting holes around the world, especially similar ones can be seen in Japanese castles.

Views of the library from outside and inside from the ground floor:

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Interior was pure visual and photographic pleasure. Easy to orient oneself, bright colours, calm and inspiring environment for study. Atrium in the cone structure, brings natural light down to the very center of the building.

Some more images of the library from the first level:

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The building won several awards: in 1998 National Steel Construction Prize by Dutch Steel Building Institute and in 2000 Award for the Millennium by Corus Construction.

This building is well known and probably seen before many times, but here I present my personal experiences and the building is indeed great!

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In 2004 the Oslo city government held a competition and Snøhetta architects won and executed the building.
Latter, in 2008 it was awarded in World Architecture Festival as a category winner.

Not only that I came into the Opera House several times (as well as walked around it), I also took a guided tour inside the building to see the areas what are normally closed for the visitors. Sadly no photos allowed in the backstage and other areas. During the tour it was very interesting to find out that there is a hidden inner courtyard with pretty landscaped garden in the middle. Around the courtyard rehearsal rooms and offices circle around.

Another amazing thing about this building is that it’s appearance changes with the weather. As you can see in the photos, the building blends in the surroundings completely: when it is grey and gloomy, it looks like just another ice lump; during colourful sunset, the buildings sparkles in the evening sun. It would be nice to see how it looks and feels during warm summer months.

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Interior is designed by several designers.

The exterior of the building possesses power and elegance, while the interior is softer.

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