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Some images from recent findings in Hyderabad, India. The Birth Place Hospital, designed by Fountainhead architectural office.

The building is from 2013, still under construction. Part of he building is covered by translucent plastic panels and part of it by patterned façade panels.  It was very difficult to find true design in Hyderabad, this one was one of the few and  as close as it can get to quality design in this part of the world. This building does stand out from surroundings, I even tried to get inside for the pictures, however I was politely declined (the building still not finished).

I would like to dedicate this article as a tribute to the architect with whose work I fell in love with – Akio Okumura (1928 – 2012 December 27th2012 ).

The University is located in a hilly area on the eastern outskirts of Nagoya. Established in 1966 the campus covers a large area of approximately 410,000 square meters, with University facilities blending harmoniously with the surrounding nature and greenery.  It is a third public art school build after the war in Japan.

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View from the Faculty of Fine Arts drawing room to the Faculty of Music

The main architects who worked on the design were Junzō Yoshimura (1908-1997) who was credited for the design and  Akio Okumura who was a young assistant professor at the time and who actually did the main work.

I actually visited the site before the death of Akio Okumura. Upon retuning to the Europe I collected the facts and the details of the University and it’s design process. Back then, just a few weeks ago, there was scarcely any information about the works of Akio Okumura or the architect himself. Now, however the articles, stories and photos to be found on the web have at least tripled.

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Lecture Building

Discovering the modernist gem:

Strange ways lead me to this place: one nice afternoon, when I was visiting Nagoya city, I decided to visit the most recommended tourist attraction in the region: the Toyota Automobile Museum. The means of getting there was on a specially made MAGLEV train, what is elevated from the ground on special tracks. When I got out of a train and took few shots of the tracks, that was it: a battery of a camera got flat. It automatically meant that we will not be going to the museum as what is the point of being there if you cannot take any pictures (a bit shallow, I know). Since the Toyota Automobile Museum is outside the city limits and it already took long time to get there, I started looking around maybe there is something else to see nearby. There was a sign on a street to an art university (university was the trigger word). As I had my research of architecture in Nagoya done prior going there, I assumed that this must be the Nagoya University, designed by the famous modernist Fumihiko Maki, a winner of Pritzker Prize. So without much hesitation off we went, in the back of my head I knew this was not the university I mentioned before, but I though “well you cannot go wrong, universities are always interesting”. And it resulted into the best unintended architectural finding ever! This university that I am showing to you now definitely is not the one I originally wanted to see, but latter-on I did visit and photograph the University of Nagoya (so please come back to check out my posts!).

The fist visit to Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music left a deep impression on me. I had plenty of time to wander around the campus and enjoy the atmosphere. Being without a camera actually helped me to really be there. The day was cloudy, and in such weather modernist buildings look even more attractive than in perfect sunny conditions. I fell in love, understood and saw the ideas behind the buildings. The designer must have loved this design, something that architects know from their experience. There are sometimes designs that may not be perfect, but you just happen to feel unreasonably passionate about them. That night, before falling asleep, I was still walking around and seeing the Art University buildings with my eyes closed. I even do not think that has ever happened to me before, not with a building at least. I am not even sure that prior discovering these buildings I even liked modernist architecture at all…

Fragile moment in time or to be saved and appreciated?

Few weeks passed and I came back, and took the photos. No matter how much I photographed, it still feels it was not enough and I do not have enough shots of the wonderful details. I have a fear that the beauty and uniqueness might disappear forever, next renovation and all might be gone. All the wonderful tiles in interior, original furniture, handles, the spirit just might be gone soon. A state of the buildings is the best described as neglect, however this and assumingly a lack of money were the main factors that all has survived until this day.

At the time of my visit there were new buildings constructed next to the old campus. The new buildings were designed with the respect of the old style. As much as I could understand from different resources, the whole original campus will be renovated as well. But the renovation is not carried-on respectfully: the bathrooms that I first saw in Lecture Building were intact original ones (and yes pretty disgusting – squatting ones form the 60’s), later-on they were being renovated. However I could bet, that the process was done by just regular plumbers with no involvement or  advices from an architect. What if the management just changes all: little by little, first  “better” flooring, then “better” insulated windows, then, of course more “comfortable” seating, etc…

Some of the smaller buildings in the campus have been just left to decay on purpose, a tactic, described by local magazines as “sneak attack”. That means when the buildings become too unsafe and too expensive to renovate – there will be the easy way out as demolition strongly encouraged.

I can only hope that the death of the architect, albeit very sad, will be the trigger raising public awareness of the state of these buildings and the need to preserve them.

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Original furniture and finishes in Lecture Building

Some facts behind the concrete, bricks and wood:

This campus has been designed with a view of nature conservation. Some endangered species live in this campus ground. Certain insects and flowers can be found what are listed in the Red Book of Japan. (I saw a huge green praying-mantis, surely not rare, but a first time for me to see this insect)

Akio Okumura was struggling a lot at the time and the design, he drew a tremendous number of drawings until he came to the final version of design.

Akio Okumura envisioned Aphrodite from “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli, standing on top of a large shell when he designed the Odeum, or concert hall. However the usage of such symbols was very unusual for this architect, otherwise very scientific man.

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Odeum or concert hall

The Lecture Building is lifted into the air, carrying a reminiscent of a museum, a linear building covered with white louvers, the building also is very symbolic.

The level of concrete detailing on Lecture Building is a piece of art, I do not think that anyone today could be bothered in making something like those elegantly curved columns.

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Lecture Building of Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music, view from the North

The Lecture Building acts as a central axis between the Faculty of Fine Arts and Faculty of Music on the west to the east. The different disciplines are connected with covered passage and one can gaze upon music faculty from plaster room or drawing room.

Plenty of traditional elements incorporated into the design, especially the overall landscaping and specific details.

To get a “perfect” perspective in photos I had to bend my knees slightly.

Full slide-show here (please enjoy!):

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.

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 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.

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.

One of the few buildings that is well designed and evidently much work and thoughts put into it – every corner of it is photo-worthy.
This project Haagse tramtunnel comprises of 28000 m2 in several levels underground, 1250 m long tunnel, 500 parking spots, two tram stops of which I visited photographed and present one: station Spui. Designed by OMA – Rem Koolhaas, the design was later taken by architect Rob Hilz, construction started in 1996, finished in 2004.

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There were some troubles on the way to implementation: the tunnels got flooded, the construction halted, budget exploded. But these problems were soon forgotten after the project won several prizes. It seems that good architecture can save the day.

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