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.

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.

The Music Academy MWD (Academie voor muziek, woord en dans Dil’arte) in Dilbeek, just out of Brussels city limits to the north west in the Flemish area of Belgium.

One of the most spectacular buildings I ever had a chance to see and visit! Designed by a Spanish architect Carlos Arroyo, with some Belgian members on the team. Construction finished and the building was opened for use in September 2012, competition won in 2007.

Generally this building seems to be a bit over the top, a dominant in the distance, precisely detailed, well sculptured shape, plenty of symbolism in the design and even with dynamic qualities as it changes from different angles!

Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek

The building changes as you move along the façade: from the front, at a slight angle a forest is visible, then slowly more colours appear, and when you look back the building suddenly becomes different variations of blue. I love that the façade is on permanent summer, even if reality around it is Belgium winter. The forest pictured is Wolfsputten, a protected area of natural forest located just at the back of the plot.

Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek 1 Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek 2 Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek 3 Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek 4 Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek 5 Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek 6I cannot shake off the idea of cycling back and forth many times and watching this façade changing.

Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek 7 Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek 8 Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek 9 Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek 10

Architect himself clams that the idea behind the coloured louvres was influenced and designed as a piece of music (Canon for 36 voices by Johannes Ockeghem). Without knowing the fact the building is definitely very entertaining to look at, and personally I see more straight forward associations: the vertical panel pieces look like piano keys.

The back façade is interesting just by it’s form alone and the length and shape of the cantilever is just amazing!

Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek 11 Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek 12 Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek 13

At the same time the building stands out and blends in with the surroundings :

dilbeek MWD 07

dilbeek MWD 08

Despite the welcoming text in the official website my colleague and I were kicked out of the building! On the front page they say: “Welcome, young and old” , original text in NL. “Jong en oud zijn welkom in de academie voor muziek”. But beware, in reality the staff is not welcoming at all!

I took about one hundred photos from outside and walked in two steps to the main lobby and while I tried to adjust the camera settings for the different light conditions, a man rushed to me telling to leave as he repeated in few languages that “this is not a public building”. So here are the two pictures I managed to take before the incident:

academie dilbeek interior 1

academie dilbeek interior 2

Should I have been asked of my reason to be there, or should the website say “open only for students”, or should at least an entrance door tell “no photos”, or is their welcoming text only a bad joke? Well that was a bitter experience I did not expect and a first time ever to be kicked out of a building on my architectural journey around the world. Just to mention: there were no students to be seen (only few staff members in the distance), if the concern was somebody’s privacy.

The nearby building says: “Dilbeek waar Vlamingen THUIS zinjn…”, in English it would be “Dilbeek is a HOME for the Flemish…” Maybe the whole problem was that I am not one of them?

Amazing cantilevered music academy MWD in Dilbeek 14

A renovation project from Kyoto, Japan. Located in a tiny Kiya-machi Dori street, in the most narrow spot between of two rivers: small, but fast flowing Takasegawa canal and main river for Kyoto Yatsuyanagicho. It is the only place that you can see the both rivers from the street  (not visible in pictures though).

Originally the building was from 60’s (a guess by looking at older photographs) and it was renovated in 2010. It stands out due to an unusual burnt wood façade and a huge tree in front of it.

This building combines both worlds: the contemporary and the traditional one.

Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house3

Click image to enlarge

I like this area of Kyoto a lot, in fact I just love it! In April 2012 I had participated in an architectural/urban planning competition of Takasegawa river (or canal) and it’s surroundings. So to keep long story short, during my last visit to Japan I decided to stop by Kyoto just to have a stroll in the area I spent so many hours working on,  all from a huge distance. And the walk was definitely worth the stop: I walked on foot the whole stretch of Takesagawa river (about 4 km) and the atmosphere was just magical. This little black building was a pleasant discovery as the particular spot is not covered by the google street-view (to prepare myself for the competition I virtually walked a lot in this area).

Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house2

Click image to enlarge

This particular spot has a has a long history and plenty of stories to be told about. From 8th century it used to be an imperial garden with a mansion in this area. Nothing remains of the palace, but this tree, named Enoki is the only remain of the huge forest that once stood here. Enoki is revered as the sacred tree and it was selected as the “tree of pride for residents,” the city of Kyoto in 2000. That is reflected in the torii Daimyojin Enoki is enshrined in the back.

The tree is full of life: tiny green (and loud) parakeets were dashing in and out of the canopy, some huge mushrooms grow on it. Here, it feels as if the time has stopped.

Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house4

Click image to enlarge

Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house

Click image to enlarge

This building is not only a shrine, but also an atellier apartment/artist residence. I had a quick glance at the interior: hight ceilings, exposed structure, contemporary lighting.

Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house1

Click image to enlarge

This is the only perspective that pitched roof is visible. Approaching the house from the south it looks completely like a contemporary box (in contrast to very traditional or 80’s buildings in this area).

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.

Designed byJun Mitsui & Associates Inc. Architects in 2008, the Glass Cubes shopping center is one of the most architecturally exiting shopping centers I’ve seen.

Apparently the client (the H&M) desired the building to be open, but the architects chose colder and more “classic” look, a building with certain attitude in an ever-changing fashion district of Harajuku.

Click images to enlarge

Event thought it is not extremely hight building (by definition mid-rise only), in my opinion it is shaped as a perfect skyscraper. I see it as something from the early visions of Metropolis, very urbane, cold, but fresh and clean at the same time. Well (pardon the pun), it is cool.

The Ice Cubes does stand out with its seemingly feather light enamelled glass façade. The fritted or enamelled glass façade also prevents overheating, making the building more environment friendly (it’s even labelled as eco-building).

Also the solution applied to the façade is not very common: to avoid greenish looks of the glass the enamel pattern was used on the exterior of the glass.

I do believe it is one of the better designs(and implementations) to be seen around in the area.

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.

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