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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:

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

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.

Jet another amazing house nearby Kakumae, Tallinn. Officially already a bit further out of the city, in Lucca village. This house is designed by Indrek Allmann in 1999 and, as I found out, it received plenty awards and notifications in early 2000’s.

Well you can see the style of the period is evident, but nevertheless the house is really interesting. Surely it is interesting as the client is the architect himself :)
Completely elevated from the ground on steel structure, rooms on the cliff side have openings on the floor, exterior finish is wood (now weathered to almost metal-like looks) main stairs make it look like a tree house, I even assume it has a terrace on the lower “box”. Besides this house must have excellent views to the nearby sea and Tallinn in the distance.
Sadly this project makes me think of so many countries where projects like this, in natural surroundings, would be just impossible due to all kinds of regulations.

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Discovered while exploring the area, cycling, looking for picturesque pathways by the cliffs near sea, as the house is rather hidden on a very calm road. After discovering it, even came back to take better photos when the weather was more photo-worthy.

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.

M Museum by Stéphane Beel Architecten, Leuven, Belgium. M – Museum Leuven is the successor to the Vander Kelen-Mertens Municipal Museum. Current structure integrates two new and two old buildings.

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I can see a poetic architect’s approach: reflective windows “frame” views of medieval surroundings on the exterior of the museum.

Museum stands out  from regular Leuven streets as it is unusually bright in colour (pale sandstone colour) and homogeneous vs traditional Leuven red (much darker in shade) brick detailed and intricate façades.

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.

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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!

Absolute favourite from Tartu, Estonia! It is well known house – a true architectural celebrity.

Designed by Atelier Thomas Pucher. Invited competition 2006, the project was shortlisted for the WAN Residential Awards 2011.

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Reality matters:
Amazing thing about this building is that it does not look even half as good in a presentation, as it does in reality. But isn’t it what good architecture should be about: good result in reality-who cares about the renderings? Makes me remember my school where well presented unworthy designs would draw most attention, and is my school an exception? However I think, the designers ether removed or changed the original renderings that once were available on the web.

Another handsome house from Kakumae, Tallinn.

Main elements: corten steel cladding, cantilevered front, swimming pool at the rear, small terrace, skylights, solar panels, existing trees preserved.

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Photos taken in autumn 2011.

Note smart use of cantilevered front for firewood storage.

Buurthuis / maison de quartier at Nijverheidskaai / Quai de L’Industrie street:

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This community building happens to be on my favourite cycling route in Brussels, next to the canal. The best on the route!
Between a social housing block, and a chop-shop (and I always get talked to!).

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