House K; Israel

In a rural setting in the center of Israel, sits a ultra modern precast concrete residence designed by Auerbach-Halevy.  The home is very much unlike any traditional structure in Israel's countryside, which makes it easy to be mistaken for something else.  The structure is made of concrete block standing 9 meters tall without visible openings from the front and sides.  The north elevation facing the street and both sides facades seem completely opaque and yet they are not alienated to their environment.  The entire structure is covered with a uniform system of prefabricated exposed concrete panels, which are integrated with heavy wood Latticework (A reminder to the traditional oriental element) the eastern trellis ("mashrabia").  The combination of material and distribution throughout adds warmth, easing the rigid system.

The pre-cast concrete panels find their way in the interior space, governing the rhythm and acoustics of the spaces they inhabit.  The layout of the interior blocks mirrors the exterior, giving the illusion that the entire structure is made of pre-cast forms.  The layout of the forms also serve as a guide for furniture layout and decorative objects.  This idea translates further to the fine details including the design of the book shelves.

Combining the exposed concrete elements with the wooden trellis work, creates a unified and coherent language, producing complexity in an otherwise simple structure.  This combination of elements transcends beyond the contrasting and complementary nature of the materials, resolving the symbolic collision produced by the components, and therefore creating a unity between traditional Arab style and modernist Architecture.


Seattle Developer Seeks Advice from Community Creatives

One Seattle developer decided it was in their best interest to bridge the gap between creative community voices and neighborhood development projects.  Swedish developer Skanska is letting the community influence what shops and restaurants go on the ground floor of a new 13-story office building near Amazon's headquarters.  Before beginning construction, Skanska decided to ask the local community what they would like to see in the open-air market space on the first floor of the yet-to-be-constructed building.  Instead of a town hall meeting, the developer is using an online service called Popularise that lets people submit ideas for local projects and vote on them.  For the digitally handicapped, Skanska has also set up chalkboards at the projects site for people to write down their suggestions.

Of the 36 ideas for the 400 Fairview project, suggestions include everything from a sex toy store, brewery, yoga studio, to a blow dry bar and sushi bar.  Skanska is talking to a variety of retailers, based on popular ideas, to determine who will be the best fit.  By tapping into what the community wants, Skanska can ensure that small businesses thrive.  For example, if a large portion of the community is in favor of a brewery, that business will likely do well.

Many developers around the country do not take the time to meet with members of the community to seek their opinions on projects that will ultimately be apart of their everyday lives.  After the building is built, developers try to lease it with whatever they can, often filling the spaces with companies the community does not need.  The ultimate goal is to create a space that facilitates community, encouraging users to interact with each other sharing in the most basic actions of human communication in a post digital world.


O14 Tower; Reiser + Umemoto

Dubai's O14 Tower is a beautiful icon of innovative office tower design, stretching traditional limitations we place on these structures.  The 22-story tall commercial tower comprises over 300,000 square feet of office space for Dubai Business Bay.  It is located along the extension of Dubai Creek, occupying a prominent location on the waterfront esplanade.

Typical office towers today are identified by curtain walls of glass often paired with a grid work of masonry in between.  O14's bold design is sheathed in a forty centimeter-thick concrete shell perforated by over 1,300 openings that create a lace-like effect on the building's facade.  The concrete shell of O14 provides an efficient structural exoskeleton that frees the core from the burden of lateral forces and creates highly efficient, column-free open spaces in the buildings interior.  The future tenants can arrange the flexible floor space according to their individual needs.

The shell of the building is not only the structure, it acts as a sunscreen open to light, air, and views.  The openings on the shell modulate depending on structural requirements, views, sun exposure, and luminosity.  The overall pattern is not in response to a fixed program, rather the pattern in its modulation of solid and void will affect the arrangement of whatever program comes to occupy the floor plates.

A space nearly one meter deep between the shell and the main enclosure creates a "chimney effect", a phenomenon whereby hot air has room to rise and effectively cool the surface of the glass windows behind the perforated shell.  This passive solar technique essentially contributes to a natural component to the cooling system for O14, thus reducing energy consumption and costs.

The holes are achieved by introducing computer numerically cut polystyrene void forms into the rebar matrix, and sided with modular steel slip forms prior to the concrete pour.  Super-liquid concrete is then cast around this fine meshwork of reinforcement and void forms resulting in an elegant perforated exterior shell.

This concept has received international attention in the architecture and construction world, admired by many, expect to see expanded innovation in this form of concrete construction.


Tokyu Plaza; Omotesando Harajuku

Tokyu Plaza is great precedent for cities around the world that are considering developing a future urban mall or revitalizing and old failing shopping district.  This is a precedent based on design not economic turnover, simply because this was a project that enhanced an already thriving commercial shopping district.

Omotesando is an avenue lined with flagship stores of international fashion brands in one of Japan's foremost fashion streets.  As the frontal ("Omote") approach to the wooded compound of Meiji Shrine, the avenue is lined on both sides with zelkova trees.  The branches of the trees form a canopy over the avenue and provide an experience of shopping under sunlight filtered through trees.  An environment that blends architectural spaces with spaces under trees, is the special character of Omotesando designers of Tokyu Plaza felt and therefore proposed a style of environment giving emphasis to this special character.

What particularly charmed designers about the mortar-shaped terrace is how visitors naturally gravitated to the lower levels of the terrace seeking a center.  There the visitors seat themselves in the countless nooks around the terrace and share the scenery before them.  In these times when internet shopping is on the rise it is important for commercial spaces to maximize the value they posses that cannot be replicated online.  They felt that the relaxed sense of unity one feels in this comfortable environment abounding with distinctive places and pleasant physical experiences is precisely the quality demanded of commercial facilities in the future.

Memory of the site's past has been maintained in the entrance tube leading visitors to upper floors.  The tube's mirrors recall the mirror wall cladding of the Central Apartments which once occupied the site ( a building that came to symbolize Sixties and Seventies youth culture).  To see fashionably costumed people reflected repetitively in the mirrors like colorful objects in a kaleidoscope is dazzling in effect.A special sense of excitement evocative of the fashion world is produced and the ride on the escalator becomes a rich experience.  Attracted by the mirrored reflections of people passing through the intersection one peers into the tube.  On riding up the escalator a great atrium appears with tree-filtered light spilling down from a skylight in the ceiling.  Thus begins a shopping experience true in character to Omotesando.

Live In Glass; By Santambrogio

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to live in a glass house; Exposed, elemental, cold, extreme minimalism.  Well you can experience this in two of Santambrogio's glass concept homes.  Surrounded by wilderness these two transparent jewels embody all the elements of the landscapes they inhabit.

Santambrogio, and Italian Architecture and design firm, based in Milan is lead by Carlo Santambrigio and Ennio Arosic.  The two Architects created two housed created primarily out of glass, except for the colts that hold the pieces together and the floor.  Even the furniture from the bed frame, to the dining room table is glass creating symmetry and fluidity throughout the structure with unobstructed views.

Their philosophy based on simplicity is when, in the act of creating the dwelling, matter becomes transparent, a medium for aesthetic values, the stage and theater of representation.  Carlo Santambrogio and Ennio Arosio pursue and achieve their design intention in which glass figures as the unquestioned protagonist, excluding the mediation of supports that would challenge its leading role.  Everything is possible in Simplicity, everything can be achieved, provided it embodies a sensitive interpretation of the basic function aimed at satisfying aesthetic needs.