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

(Not so glamorous) day in a life of ATCM student

If you ever wondered (probably not but I am going to tell you anyway) how does a day in life of a constructing architecture student looks like, look no further. One ordinary Thursday, few weeks before exam, I have noted every activity I went through during the day and took some photos. So now you can get an overwiev, what do I do during normal school days.

6:25 Wake up

Since it is June, the sun in Denmark rises around 4:45 in the morning. Therefore when my alarm rings, I am already fully awake and ready to start my day.

6:32 Have a breakfast

The very first thing I do is to have a breakfast, as I have written in breakfast deconstructed…..
6:53 Leave Life of a constructing architect HQ……link

7:03 Take a bus number 5 to Vejle Trafikcenter

The sun is shining and I am ready to start my journey to school. The ride to the Trafikcenter takes around 10 minutes.


7:29 Take train to Horsens

The trains are very comfortable and only rarely late. It takes 15 minutes to get to Horsens

7:50 Take bus number 1 or 2 to VIA university

The last leg of my voyage is another 15 minutes ride with bus. During the traveling both to and from school I either read, brainstorm ideas for this blog or look for eye candies and interesting articles on instagram/twitter.

8:08 Arrival to school

8:20 Global days with danish students

First two lessons today were dedicated to cooperation with students, who study the same programme as we do, but in Danish. We showed each other one of our details and gave some useful comments to them. We also translated our details. So now I have my favourite eave detail in Danish.


9:42 Calculation of a column

I got to our classroom and started finishing static journal. I improved my Excel spreadsheet with calculation and I added it to our static journal.


10:07 Finishing of our static journal

I did some final touches on our static journal. Formatting and hyperlinks to different chapters.

10:27 Calculation of energy frame

I got interupted by building services teacher. He explained more about software used for calculation of the energy frame. However, this semester we only need to calculate design transmission loss and we have done that already.

12:07 Lunch

I ate lunch I prepared for myself the day before and I talked little bit with people around.


12:41 Finishing static journal again

I got the last piece I was missing from my groupmate and I finally can say that structural design for this semester is done.

12:57 Discussion about price of graphite polystyrene with Kristyna

Comparing the prices of standard and graphite polystyrene and few quick calculations.

13:21 Site plan

I finally got to finish the site plan I started yesterday. I added some details, legend and levels. I showed it to our teacher and then added some more things. 

16:00 Leaving school

At 4 o’clock sharp I left the school to get back to Vejle to work.

16:15 Taking bus number 1 or 2 to Horsens Trafikterminal.

As usual, the bus was quite late.


16:41 Train to Vejle

The train arrived on time, but it was full, so I had to sit on the stairs. I summed up last few hours for the blogpost you are reading now.

16:56 Arrival to Vejle Trafikcenter

I arrived to Vejle and did a quick grocery shopping, since I will not have much time tommorow.

17:15 Arrival to work

My shift begins. I help in the kitchen of Vejle Sushi Hus. We were pretty busy today, so I am quite exhausted. On the other hand, I find it relaxing not to have to think about anything and just quickly manually work. And I love sushi, which is also healthy.

20:33 Bus number 5 home

I usualy end at 8 o’clock, sometimes later, when it is needed.

20:47 Arrival home

21:07 Editing this article for publishing (boooooring)

21:49 Shower

21:55 Sunset in Denmark

22:04 Go to bed

Dreaming…maybe I can design something tommorow…

 

Cheers

Ondrej

 

Vertzone house – How to kill and resurrect team spirit in two weeks

This is a second post about our second semester project, if you would like to see more click here.

The brief moments of bountiful cooperation ended. From now, each of us was on their own. We were supposed to come up with plans, elevations and possibly sections, renderings and other materials, to support our idea. And at the end of the second week, our outline was evaluated by another group, which decided, whose outline is going to be further developed as a group project for the semester.

I knew it will come, the procedure was the same in the first semester. I must admit that I am very competitive by nature, but now, competing against my group members felt just wrong. Of course, I wanted to win, but is it really the best solution to put us into an octagon and let us fight to death? Okay, that is a bit exaggerated, but I would rather continue with our initial productive afternoon and design the outline together. I am sure that would definitely strengthen the bonds between us. But it was not my decision.

So I started to work, the process is always messy and painful and this time it was no different. Since our idea was already born, I wanted to further strengthen it. I also started to play with the programming inside. One of the interesting things was, that although I always advocate on behalf of sketching, during this outline I mixed both sketching and Revit, to quickly go through and judge my own layout. Probably because of this, the process got incredibly shattered.

I wanted to connect the profile of the site to the house itself, and thus, the slope of the roof, parallel to the ground, was born. This allowed me to chase the idea of two-storey living room and slowly, all the pieces started to make sense.

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I am terribly sorry that you must witness my terrible sketches, but how I already mentioned, my sketches does not last longer than few hours, my sketches are just tools. So this one is, once again, just super simple sketch I made now, writing from my desk at home. But since I started this blog, I should probably save some of my less ugly prettier sketches.

I would like to pat myself on the back further, but I must confess that my design was far from ideal. I did not know what. I had that feeling that not everything is perfect, but it is hard to figure these things on your own. And time has passed and it was time to put my skin on display and hope for the best.

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Probably my first serious rendering, made in Revit. The idea has its shape now, but it is not a final shape. The final refining will be done as groupwork.

The day of judgement was here. We slipped our outlines to another group and we also got handful to judge. Judging work of other people is both interesting and unpleasant. I knew that most people gave their best to the work, still only one can win. And so we discussed, judged, discussed little more and finally gave them our verdict. We decided whose work was supposed to be “built”. And we also get our result from our classmates. I won´t stretch you further. I won, although it was quite close. I was happy and sad at the same time. I was happy because I won. I was sad because only one of our houses could be “built” and we had to reestablish team spirit.

How we did it? We sat together and fixed holes in my design. It is amazing to see your idea on the vivisection table, carefully analysed from basement to roof. And as a group, we put every piece of puzzle together. And then, as a team, we presented our house, in front of our teachers and colleagues, and it went very well. And since I am so satisfied with our presentation, next time I will present our house in all its glory to you.

To be continued…

Ondrej

Think radi(c)al !

Thinking is a very complex process. Our brain never rests. We think as we go through our lives and never stop. During design process, architects think all the time, and they also think about how they think. Their decisions are conscious. They think about why do they do it the way they do. They argue with themselves. Being able to articulate the reasons behind decisions is one of their strong perks. But there is not only one kind of thinking. And each type has its time and place.

 

Linear thinking

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When we use linear thinking, we move on a path that has a goal at the end, there might be some sidetracks along the path, but the path itself is rather straightforward. That kind of thinking will eventually take you from point A to point B. Is that enough? Not for architectural design, but sometimes it is all we need. Use linear thinking when you know your path to a goal. Use it when you know the algorithm needed for reaching the goal, such as various calculations or determination of something based on certain criteria.

 

Radial thinking

radialWhoah whoah…what the hell? Oh, that´s just very simplified diagram of radial thinking. Everything is influenced by the rest. Paths intertwine, interfere, go along, under, over, bypass and cross each other. Process is messy. And this type of thinking is a desired trait of every architect. Ugh. It is what it is. Imagine even a simple single family house. Client influences programming, programming stimulates the idea, idea conveys massing, massing determines materials, materials get evaluated by a client, client desires for certain style, style affects architect, and list goes on and on. The building is constantly morphing during design development and slowly get its shape. Idea is outlined and further refined. And the architect is juggling with all these aspects. At once. Use radial thinking for the whole design process, stay conscious and remember that everything is connected and decisions you make may override decisions made in the past.

 

Radical thinking

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But wait, there is more. I challenge you to try one thing. Think radical. Find the boundary. And once you have found it, go along. Push the boundary from time to time, poke it, bend it. You might even try to break it, just do not always follow the safe way. I am not saying that everything different is useful, solid chance is that you will hit a dead end. One step back and find another way. Never stop.

Mix linear, radial and radical  thinking. Fuse them together and use them to your advantage. There is always a path. Do not limit yourself. Find what works and what does not. Design process is a trial. You break it or you might as well end up broken by it.

To the challenges

Ondrej

Concrete for dummies

And tonight´s star is ………(ba-dum -tssss). Concrete. We have been waiting for his visit a long time and finally he found some time in its busy schedule to tell us some interesting facts about itself.

As we all know, concrete is a mixture of three basic components; aggregate, cement and water. The aggregate is of two types; fine(sand) and coarse(different sizes of gravel and stones).

The basic process of making concrete involves mixing all the components together in a specific ratio, which influences properties of finished concrete. Once you mix components together, you have to be quick, because concrete slowly hardens. Because of the liquid nature of fresh concrete, you can essentially sculpt anything you can imagine if you have the right formwork.

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The concert hall of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava

And now beware my reader, because now I will get all educational so leave immediately if you are bored because it will get worse, I will describe in detail all the components and its types, so it will get very nasty soon. I warned you.

Cement.

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Cement is a general name for a material that binds other materials together, so yes, it is kind of another name for glue. In construction industry we commonly speak about Portland cement, which is the most usual type. When water is added to the cement, it sets off chemical reactions and the cement starts to harden. Portland cement is a basic component in concrete, mortar and stucco.

Most of the production of Portland cement in Denmark is carried out in Aalborg. We can choose from standard general purpose cement which is suitable for walls/columns/beams and foundations. Another type is rapid cement, which is more resistant to cracking and is used mostly for floors. Then we have special mortar cement and white cement, which is more expensive and therefore used only for decorative purposes.

Water.

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We can normally use standard drinking water for most uses and we can also use sea water. If sea water is used, the concrete develops white powdery surface, but unfortunately also quickens the corrosion of used steel, so it is generally not suitable for most uses.

Fine aggregate.

sand

In Denmark, particles smaller than 4mm are classed as fine aggregate. Choosing the right sand is essential. The usual demands are uniformity of shape, round or cubical, and also  appropriate strenght. Best sand also has a wide range of sizes (from tiniest through medium sized to “biggest” 4mm). Because of these demands, sand used is either specifically crushed stones in a factory environment or river sand. Other types (desert, beach or pit sand) are for one or another reason unsuitable.

Coarse aggregate.

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Stones have smaller impact on the quality of concrete than sand, nevertheless, they should be hard, clean and durable. Sizes of these should not exceed one-fifth of the thickness of the wall we are pouring. Usual sizes are 19 to 25 mm.

Once you mix these, you can see our star driving around in its limo. (I would kill to be able to drive this baddass piece of machinery)Kenworth_W900S_concrete_truck

And once it arrives on a construction site. It is poured into the formwork.

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Fun fact nr. 18. Since concrete quickly hardens, pouring the concrete must be exceptionally well organized, when pouring concrete on bigger projects, there are dozens of baddass vehicles arriving and leaving the construction site in cca. 15-30 minutes intervals. On exceptionally big projects, the concrete on one side might be already hardened and on the other side, a fresh batch is being poured. Also on huge projects, the concrete is actually being pumped around. See the picture below.

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Well, I guess those of you who made it this far are already showing symptoms of brain-dripping-out-of-the-ear syndrome, so I am going to stop myself, since you are educated enough for today. Hope you at least found something useful.

Cheers

Ondrej

 

 

 

 

Why architects hate colors?

When you type “why do architects” into google search, things that pop out might be quite shocking, here the top 5;

  • why do architects use the golden ratio (that is not the scary part yet)
  • why do architects work long hours (here it starts)
  • why do architects get paid so little (should I change the field of study?)
  • why do architects wear black (might be a good topic for someday – note to myself)
  • why do architects hate colours (okay, I made it up, but if google showed more, I bet that one would be in top 10 searches)

And the one I made up (that means the topic today was completely made up, don´t blame me I have the best intentions) is what I would like to think about today.

See those colours? Those are tools of the interior designer, not an architect, so do not confuse yourself. If you are (or you want to be) an architect, do not worry, you won´t need these. That is so flamboyant and unnecessary (e.g. in architects dresser).

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But why do architects seem to hate colours? Is it something they teach at the universities? Since I do not study architecture, but rather Architectural technology and Construction Management (from now on “ATCM” since I am lazy – and yes, that is an official shortcut) I must say I do not know. All we talk about are materials, connections, schedules and numbers of all kinds. Even though I must say that for this semester project, we used EXACTLY what would most of the architects probably use. Our colour palette is very decent, just a bit of white there (Danish people love white, since they say it is rarely sunny here up north and they want to lighten up the interiors) and a dash of grey, light wood, and teeny tiny brownish hue (fancy archispeak for color) in some rooms.

Basement palette

Pallete 2

Ground floor palettepalete 3

First floor palletepallete 1

Why did we choose these? It might seem like architects are lazy or worse… BORING !!! But no wait, that can´t be true, let´s continue with analyses. What colour do you like? Do you like wearing bright colours? Do you like colourful furniture, pillows or dishware? I believe you do. And our imaginary house can accommodate your needs. I get it now! What is a space for the architect, is also the canvas for people occupying the space. Architects are the ones that are creating the stage for daily episodes of life.small-easel-with-a-blank-canvas-1385377654QWM

Architects are an observant bunch and know that everybody is different, and therefore they make sure that everybody can bring piece of themself, as a dash of brush on a canvas. Lady in a bright yellow jacket, boy in a blue T-shirt, old gentleman in tweed vest, all of them are little dots making the bigger picture, society.

Okay, I got little too philosophical, but you get the picture (insert laughter). When we are creating a building of any kind we must accommodate different programmes inside and when we want to include different colours, it is easy to make a misstep. To be on the safe side, we should only use subtle colours, no colours at all or when we want to go wild, we can come up with some monochromatic palette (i.e. different shades of the same colour), but still only on your own responsibility – I warned you.

As you can see nothing is black and white (see the joke?) and with a painful process possibly ending in failure lot of effort, you theoretically can make a nice space which will even contain some colours. But don´t blame me for sticking with black/grey/white and everything that comes in between, since I am not that suicidal brave.

Cheers

Ondrej

PS. When I will get home I will add a picture I sketched some time ago which inspired today´s big question.

Edit: Here it is, not so pretty sketch, from some time ago with a note

“Building is a canvas, that´s why architects favourite colours are white, grey and black”

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Who is constructing architect?

I must admit that at the begininng of my education, I did not even know who I might actually become. I was always keen on architecture. On the other hand, I never really sketched or showed other symptoms of being an art person. I liked reading about architecture, thinking about it and I am quite perceptive about my surrounding (at least I would like to think of myself that way). And due to circumstances, I moved from Czech Republic to Denmark to study “Architectural Technology and Construction Management” at VIA University in Horsens. That means that one day I will eventually certainly become a constructing architect. But what that means?

There is the world “architect” here, so one can think about names like Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright or Bjarke Ingels. One may dream about becoming like them. But. There is also the world “constructing”. That world feels much more practical, maybe even a bit boring, it definitely has a feeling of efficiency and productivity. So what do we get when we combine these two?mixture

I see it the way that we get jack of all trades, a person who is kind of architect, bit of engineer, speck of a manager. Something like an army knife of construction site.

So far (In the second semester) we have dealt with (among other things) with (in no logical order):

  • Costing
  • Detailing
  • Schedules
  • Starting own company
  • Plumbing
  • Electricity
  • Ventilation
  • Sewer
  • Water
  • Layout
  • Site conditions
  • Structural stability
  • Construction process
  • Materials
  • Sustainability
  • Architecture (the one with big A)
  • Mathematics
  • Revit
  • SketchUp
  • Budgets
  • Websites
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Fee structure
  • Building regulations
  • Law

And maybe few (dozen) of other things. So yeah, we were quite busy. Is it hard? Sure it is. Do I enjoy it? Absolutely!

And now I do have a small glimpse of who the constructing architect is, and I hope you do too. And eventually, if I will be persistant and do not drop this blog as I tend to, one day, we might compare what does it really take to be a constructing architect and not just play one at school.