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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

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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

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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

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Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house

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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

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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).

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.

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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!

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.

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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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