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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

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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.

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

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.

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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.

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.

This is a second architect’s residence, that I visited and photographed. This time a classic modernist project form Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan. This wonderful building is built in 1966 (!) and it is designed by Takamitsu Azuma. He called this project  “Tower House” (“Tou no Ie” jpn.).
Built only on 20 square meters site this architectural masterpiece consists of 5 stories above ground and one level of basement. The ground level is garage, basement is a storage space, second level is living and kitchen, third level is a toilet and a bathroom, fourth floor is a bedroom and top room originally was designed as a child’s room.

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In the bottom right photo of the collage, you can see me hugging a corner of the building to show the scale of it (I have been there and it still bends my mind).

Inside all the levels are connected by one volume, shared by an inner “tower”. The idea behind it is about sharing the space, feeling one with everyone in the house, possibility for unverbal communication; one can easily hear, smell and feel what other people do in the house.

At the moment a grown-up child, who also became an architect,  Rie Azuma a daughter of Takamitsu Azuma and her family is living in the house. In the past she left her parents to live in the United States and after she came back her parents moved out. My personal guess is that for ageing parents it was becoming difficult to move up and down the number of stairs everyday. However out of respect to her father the name plate on the house still bears the name of Takamitsu Azuma.
The building is kept as original as much a possible. Some of the fixed furniture was replaced, but has been rebuild to the original design.

This amazing building is very well know in Japan, architecture students go thought this project, study it and make it’s models. Every month a number of visitors visit the house on a scheduled tour. I feel lucky to have dashed by this building and when seeing it my hands almost involuntarily grabbed the camera to photograph it.

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.

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.

The story of the Lahti church (Evangelical Lutheran) begins at 1950, when the city of Lahti announced an architectural competition what was won by Alar Aalto. The original site however was not empty-on the hill there stood the city’s wooden church, what was from 19th century and designed by Jacob Ahrenberg,  apparently the wooden church was too small for the community. The church is on the visual axis with Lahti town hall designed by  Eliel Saarinen. The  drawings for the construction of the project were drawn in 1969.

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The construction was finished in 1978, almost 30 years later than original design was made. If one looks at the design as from late 50′s, early 60′s the impression is one, but if you look at it at something from late 70′s there is a completely different attitude. The spacial solution of the roof structure nevertheless is still very impressive. All the details  like interior and exterior lamps, handles and seating are designed by Aalto, except of the ones in the basement.  The final design undergone many alterations from the original project: the number of seating decreased; a basement was added; additional balconies were added as well.

The space was very pleasant, the colours almost grey-scale, the day when the photos were taken was rainy and gloomy (I guess typical Finish weather), but inside only due to natural light it was still bright, the atmosphere was uplifting and it was easy to concentrate. Those are the features that, I assume, were originally sought after by Alvar Aalto himself.

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The legend tells – that this was the last project of Alvar Aalto. And when the star-architect died, the drawings of Lahti church were on his drawing table.

Interesting notice: there was actually no real cross on of the tower in the original designs. After long discussions and negotiations now the tower has a small cross on it after-all (not visible in my photos).

Some interesting architecture from Vilnius.

Apartment building in Ciurlionio street, Vilnius, Lithuania. Unusual, very Dutch-like approach. Namely: overall shape of the building; roof shingles are used for façade and the roof , what is usual sight in Benelux countries for side façades, firewalls to be protected from the rain. Also a bit like the famous MVRDV variations (Ypenburg, etc.). This apartment building was designed in 2007 by architect Palekas, one of my ex-professors.

Definitely different from the typical Vilnius or Lithuanian architecture of the last decade.

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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.

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