Summer plans for Life of a constructing architect

With the exam just around the corner, my attention shifted little more towards it and as a logical outcome, the blog is not what it used to be. 

However, the summer is here and that means I will have tiny bit more time to do things how I want, so today, I will tell you what are my intensions with this blog over summer.

1. Better content

Let’s face it. Some of the blogpost were written in a last minute, at train going to school, or late evenings just before my personal deadline. Ideas for blogposts were sometimes better sometimes worse and the number one thing one can do to attract readers is to provide good content. I will try.

2. LEGO

Several blogpost will probably revolve around LEGO. More specifically LEGO architecture studio. I will share some interesting construction techniques and exercises.

3. Post from Czech republic

I am going to visit my parents in my home country for two weeks, so you can expect some posts about building around my hometown. Especially about the greatest building in the world. But I won’t tell you which one is it. You will have to wait until midsummer.

4. 30 days of 2-minute sketches

For two weeks, I sit down every day for few minutes and sketch. Just very quickly, two minutes, no more, no less. Grab the basic outline of one object from around me and one building. And I would like to wrap it up in one post. If there is some improvement or not.

5. Books

I hope I will have time to read some interesting books about architecture and share something interesting. Another things is, that I am trying to actually write a book. But as you already know, I cannot sketch in a nice presentable way. And also my problem is that I start many different project. But in many cases they remain unfinished. And in order to have a nice book, at least the kind I have in mind, I would have to have nice illustrations and I cannot do that. We will see if I can move with it during summer. I promise nothing.

Oh, and for those who read it all. Good luck at the exams.

Cheers

Ondrej

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The joy of anticipation

Many times, people do not appreciate what they have. Commonly, we crave for something and when we finally get it, we have no longer interest in it. We want summer holidays, but get bored after first week. We want challenges and then we get overwhelmed by them. We want to buy a new thing, we are waiting until we can afford it and then when we finally buy it it is no longer so precious to us.

Wasn’t it more interesting when you were waiting for it? The feeling that soon, the thing can be yours. That time when you can nearly touch it, is the most valuable. 

We are always dissatisfied. That fuels the mankind. We always crave for more. This got us to the moon and back. We wanted more, we got it, and now we want even more. And we won’t stop.

And soon, the semester will end. But what then? It is not an end, it is only a small fraction of our life. It is not so important. The life will go ahead, holidays, another semester…Life is not about some magical end when everything will be fine. There is no happily ever after. We have to enjoy today, that is the moment we live in. Do not hope for happy end. Create happy moments every day.

Cheers

Ondrej

Purpose of red pen

Red pen has a special status in a drawing office. It is another tool architects use for a special reason. Redlining. It is a practice of scrutinizing a printed drawing and mark up any mistakes or highlight missing information. 

If you draw on a computer screen, you might miss many things which will get obvious once you print it out. If you are thorough, there will be only small things, however still there will be some. And the first step you can do, before you start bothering other people is to redline your own work. Just the shift from a screen to paper is enough to wake you up and these small errors will show themselves.

And with the exam right around the corner, my section went through this procedure as well. So far, two teachers and six classmates left a mark on my section.


And thanks to all of them, my section looked better with every line of red they have left on it. And you can also see that the process never stops. Every person focuses on another aspect of the drawing. The things teacher point out might be missed by your classmates, who, on the other hand, see something the teacher overlooked.

And it is a great exercise for both sides. When you redline drawing of someone else,  you will learn to see things. And being observant is one of the things architects should be good at. 

And with that number of drawings printed in last few days, there were many opportunities to hone a skill of redlining. It was not unusual to see group of people hunched over a drawing, all of them pointing out different things here and there, comparing used standard for drawing or making suggestions how to improve our design.

And by this, we were all learning.  

Happy redlining

Ondrej 

City of Corten

One of the materials I always admired for its inherent rough beauty is weathering steel. Also known by its trademarked name ‘Corten’. It is a steel alloy which forms a stable rust surface if exposed to the weather. This eliminates the need for protecting it by painting. Its popularity in Denmark might be caused by a fact that it would be quite expensive to paint steel, because of the high labour cost. This lead to the spread of the use of Corten. However, its place of origin is the USA. In 1933 Corten was patented by U.S. Steel. Today, weathering steel is also known by the brand name Patinax and others and is produced worldwide.

As a material, corten radiates both strength, as is common for metals, and the beauty of passage of time. The oxide layer on its surface, commonly known as rust, gives the building appearance of a titan, standing in its place for centuries. Earthy brown reddish tones, which may differ, depending on the local climate, anchors the building to its place. It can be used for many purposes such as a structural steel or cladding. Another important use is also for many outdoor sculptures.

And during a few days in my current hometown, I captured many examples how Corten can be used. And I was not even looking for it. I was just casually cycling to the work or Danish courses and all these examples were just popping at me at every corner. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, so many great examples, eye-candies and textures.

There is a cinema clad in corten panels with cut sign with the names of famous cities connected with movie industry.

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Corten can be used as landscaping tool. In a park near Vejle Municipality, Corten plates hold the ground, where the path cuts through the moulds of grass.

Corten can be cut to produce different patterns, as seen at this fence, dividing the street and back of the parking area with dumpsters.

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Another park in Vejle incorporates Corten oculus.

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And patterns cut into corten.

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There is also a shopping mall ‘Bryggen’. Whole clad in Corten plates.

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Detail of Vejle’s coat of arms carved to a bridge over Grejs river in the city center.

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Sculpture in one of the side alleys running parallel to the main shopping street.

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And the cover of drainage channels.

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And those are examples just from Vejle. Small, town in Jutland. And even here, we can spot many great architectural pieces. It is not big and pompous architecture, however, it is an example of clever use of materials and principles in local context. The city combines old with new and is not afraid of changes. This attitude allows the city to grow and adapt to the future instead of dwelling in the past. And the Corten might be seen as a symbol of it.

Cheers

Ondrej

Seven circles of architectural hell

Oh boy, here we go again. And this time with proper number. Catalogue houses. Nemesis of every architect. As I promised a month ago, here are some more pictures from the catalogues. And these should be there as a raised finger for anyone who wants to build a house.

Building a house is for most of the people the biggest investment in their lifes. And the amount of the money spent on buying or building a house can be very high. But everyone who wants to build its own fortress cannot be blinded just by a good price. The most important thing is the value you will get for your hard earned money.

Perfect house for a twins who married other twins. So for about 4/7 000 000 000 of people. For everyone else, this is a no go. Who would be the other family you would like to live with?

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And be careful not to get decapitated.

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Who had the idea to put a toilet at the front door? And I mean, literally, just a meter from an entrance? This toilet is clearly for the use of a guest. And the number one thing your guests probably want is privacy. The basic rule should be that the line of sight to the toilet doors should be broken. So in case you need to use the toilet, you won’t be seen. And here, you are literally a step away not only from the front door, but also from the living room on the left. So, good luck with an unseen escape from a fancy dinner to a toilet. Let’s just hope there is some proper and LOUD fan installed, so homeowners can only guess what are you doing just two meters away.

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And here are two houses for the fans of morning jog from bedroom to the kitchen. Especially the second one. If you wake up and you are having the breakfast as the very first thing as I do, you have to overcome ten meters long hall, turn right go thought the living room and dining area and back right to the kitchen. Better have a minibar by the bed, so you won’t get dehydratated on the way. Circulation around spaces is essential. Imagine you have to go this way at least twice a day. And what if you are afraid of dark? You should only get this house if you want to rent it to the producers of cheap horror movie, because that is the only place where you can see a hallway this long.

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This should be labelad as ‘How not to do zoning in a single family house’, but surprisingly, someone accidently put it into a catologue of houses you can buy. This layout ruins the sexual life of both the parents and the children alike. Just imagine that your parents are doing their bussiness right behind the wall. And they are probably trying to be very quiet in order not to raise any suspicions, so the only time they can really get it on is when you are on a school trip and that is sad. Or we can put it the other way around. One meter from your head, right behind the wall, your teenage son or daughter are exploring their bodies and maybe watching some naughty websites. The other children room has at least the buffer zone from the closet.

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Another example of toilet right next to the front door in a pretty long hallway. And the bathroom even has a shower. So the eventual guest can even wash themselves. If you are the homeowner who wants to use this bathroom. You have to go right next to the front door. You know, that place with dirty shoes, which are probably placed right next to the bathroom doors.

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Why to have a separate doors to the office and bedroom when you can have tiny two square meter hall between them. And when you want to go in either of them, you have to open and close two doors instead of one. Brilliant.

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Ugh, I hope these warning were enough to discourage you to buy a house from the catalogue. And the examples were both from Denmark and Czech Republic. And I believe it is the same around the world. Be careful what are you buying. Especially when it is a house for the rest of your life. Think of your family.

Cheers

Ondrej

Ex-centric eye candy – Austria/Poland

Architecture outside centres bears qualities which often stay hidden simply because those buildings are often outside of the spotlight of architecture magazines and they are not as spectacular as monumental high-rises and huge campuses of technological giants. Commonly, architectural websites are often focused on buildings of huge scale. It is natural to be amazed by the modern, tech-savvy and innovative buildings.

There are, however, other qualities buildings can have. It was quite a surprise this year, that Pritzker Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture, was given to not so widely known architecture trio, RCR Arquitectes. Founded by Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta in 1988 and based in Olot, Catalonia, Spain, this studio explores local traditions, building techniques and materials. And the Pritzker committee has decided, that smaller, local architecture, is often overlooked and more people should know about it.  And the work of this trio is truly exceptional.

And that leads us back to the project of Faculty of Architecture in Liberec. Collection ‘Architecture outside centres’, published around 2014, explores lesser known local architecture.

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And it is a true architecture book. Mostly comprised of pictures. Those are truly eye-candies. And I decided, since there are only 500 copies of those books, that I should share some of the interesting buildings there. I choose those examples randomly, so whatever caught my eye, I took a photo and got a link to find out more. The first part is from the trips to Austria and Poland.

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Ecker Abu Zahra Schuppen, Luftenberg, Austria (Hertl Architekten, 2010)

Even a small shed, with its subtle earthy tones used on cladding, can persuade us that architecture matters at every scale.

Rohner port house, Fussach, Austria (Baumschlager Eberle Architekten, 2000)

Cantilevered port house, located above the flood level overlooks the area of the port.

The Timmelsjoch Experience, Timmelsjoch, Austria (Werner Tscholl Architects, 2010)

On the highest point of the Brenner Pass, one can find a man-made erratic boulder, overlooking the valley. The museum inside the ‘cave’ pays tribute to the pioneers of the High Alpine Road and their remarkable accomplishment.

Museum Liaunig, Neuhaus, Austria (Querkraft Architekten, 2008)

Art collector Herbert Liaunig decided to move his collection into a new space. After an architecture competition, concrete block, which is mainly underground to save energy, grew on the plot. Only one end, part of the 170 m long block is cantilevered over the road to invite people inside.

Steinhaus, Steindorf, Austria (Architekten DOMENIG & WALLNER ZT, 2008)

Own house of an architect Günther Domenig, which took long twenty years to build, because of the financial problems and complications from the authorities. The architect enjoyed his home only for four years, since he has died in 2012. The house now serves as a center for concerts and festivals. Domenig was a leader of ‘Grazer Schule’, deconstructivist movement in Austria. In his house, concrete, steel and glass clashes together in a symbolic composition. Despite the cacophony, the building creates a harmonious complex on the shore of the lake.

Kielce geological center, Kielce, Poland(Palk architekci, 2009)

Karst area around Kielce was proclaimed a geological reservation. Geological center, which rose from an architectural competition cleverly uses local materials. Stone for facades and interior cladding, and local flora for the green roof. The shape itself is a reminder of material which has been mined from the limestone quarry.

Bolko loft, Katowice, Poland (Przemo Łukasik, 2003)

Claimed to be the first Polish loft. Architect Przemo Łukasik wanted to create an inexpensive home for himself and his family. He used an old part of a lamp factory. He kept the load bearing concrete platform and skelet and added an industrial staircase, which was left behind after another his project. Area below serves as a covered porch, which would certainly appeal to Le Corbusier and his five points of architecture.

Art-Punkt, Opole, Poland (Małgorzata Pizio-Domicz Antoni Domicz , 2010)

Offices for a nearby theater. Repurposed from an old hostel. Interesting plastic veil around the cubic volume, with lights around blinded openings.

Polish-German Library CARITAS, Opole, Poland (M. i A. Domiczpracownia architektury, 2001)

Three very distinct volumes were built on a vacant lot between city blocks. The entrance, glass hall is placed between former brick building, which was restored and newly constructed concrete block. The final collection of three materials is surprisingly coherent and symbolizes the connection between Poland and Germany as is the purpose of the library.

Traffic node, Wrocław, Poland (MAĆKÓW PRACOWNIA PROJEKTOWA, 2011)

For the purpose of 2012 Football championship, new traffic node, combining tram and train station was built. Arrow shaped roof points to the direction of the football stadium. In a strange contrast with modern sharp shape, the trams of the city look rather archaic. One can only hope that in the future, the architecture and public transport will find a common ground.

City hall, Siechnice, Poland (MAĆKÓW PRACOWNIA PROJEKTOWA, 2012)

Example how one man, born in a small town of Siechnice, can shape his own hometown. Architect studied urbanism of his hometown for many years, so it was no surprise that he won a competition, which purpose was to define the city centre and overall urbanistic concept, since the city was clustered as a result of fast expansion during the construction of nearby power plant.

These examples show the importance of the architecture in everyday life. How the small local projects help the communities and can bring people together. And finally, that every architecture matters, as long as it is made with a pure desire to make the world better.

Cheers

Ondrej

Three things about ideas

1.Rarity

Ideas are brittle sparks floating in our mind. And let’s be realistic, 95% of our ideas are crappy. If you are in some branch of a creative industry you probably know that. The process of coming out with something new, clever or innovative is painful. We strive. We wrestle with our own consciousness. And the outcome is not guaranteed.

Despite the odds, we do not bow. We are bound to generate new ideas. Make it hundred, make it thousand. To separete the wheat from the chaff. Find these that are worth it. It is only a fraction of your ideas. However, the rarer they are, the more quality they bear.

And when that idea comes, catch it. Write it down, sketch it, voice record it.

2. Execution

Let’s assume we have one of these ideas. Here comes the second thing. Execution. The complication is, you are responsible for making the reality out of your idea. You can scream and shout your idea to the world, but other people are either too preocuppied with their own lifes, or afraid that it would be stealing. In other words, if you have a great idea, and that idea might help people, be innovative, change the city you live in, and if you are exceptional, it might change the world, but still, nobody will turn it into reality but you. The idea exists only in your head, maybe on a piece of paper or just a napkin. The crucial is to make it happen. Who knows how many good ideas have been forgotten because they stayed just ideas.

When you have found the right one. Make it reality.

3. Fear of uncertainity

However, what if you thought that this was the one, but it really wasn’t. Is it that particular idea really worth it. Some ideas might appear gold at the beggining. After a while, however, they start to fade. It seemed so simple. But maybe that is just your vision, clouded by an image of hard work that needs to be done to make the idea happen. And the idea is indeed gold or at least golden. And you need to finish it. And if you persist and complete what you have started. The hard work will be seen. Even if the idea was less than perfect, the input from you is undeniable. And that work

And that work can in the end shine brighter than the initial idea.

 

And all that is what kind of drives me insane. I have lots of ideas. But most of them have no value, and the ones that are possibly good might need hours and hours of work. And I am afraid they would be dissapointment. I am not interested in paper projects. I admire architecture, I love going to exhibitions showing never realized, sometimes ethereal projects from architecture schools. However when I lay pen down on the paper, after the first draft I want to test the idea. I would like to make it happen and see if it works in reality. And I need means that can help me to do that. It makes me sad that our school project are just a learning tool. Many of these houses carry brilliant ideas, interesting choices and hours of work. They will live in a school archive and eventually they will be forgotten. It is a sad destiny. However I believe their oblivion will result in a higher quality of the work that will be built by us. Hopefully. And that is the daily inner battle. To overcome these thoughs and focus on the result. Pick the valuable ideas, make them happen, and avoid the fear of the result.

You might be surprised what you can achieve when you channel your energy.

Cheers

Ondrej