The 100 Day Project 2018

Hey it’s that time again for Instagram’s 100 Day Project. @katiegeppert has convinced me to go along for the ride again this year.

Apologies for my terrible sketching in advance! Katie’s watercolours you should check out. You can follow my Instagram feed @chhachi on this page.

 

2017 UQ Architecture lecture series: Maytree Studios & Atelier Chen Hung

The running of a small practice faces many challenges. To make a success of the business requires some innovative ways of finding projects and working in different ways to get that start in the industry. This lecture invites two young Brisbane practices, Maytree Studios and Atelier Chen Hung, to give the audience insight into the way they work and run their office and how they address the challenges. Working on projects of a small scale both practices are client focused and passionate about achieving well designed outcomes satisfying their clients briefs as well as architectonically. The engagement with client and the project during the whole process is critical to achieving satisfying outcomes.

The choice for young architects to start their own practice comes from a conscious work/life balance decision. Many start out practicing in larger firms to gain industry experience and knowledge but dissatisfaction for some in the roles given to them working in big practices, instead of quitting the industry, find they need to go out on their own to enjoy working in architecture. Most small practices tend to gain experience on small scale projects at first, these found through personal contacts, either family or friends, such as residential and extensions and small interior work. When starting out working collaboratively enables small practices to gain experience and exposure to larger scale projects and budgets which trying to do on their own would not be possible. By which time they have made contacts or published enough work to market themselves to win future work. Successful outcomes are important for gaining repeat work and recommendations to new clients.

Both practices demonstrate a disciplined and pragmatic way of working, there is an understanding of budgets and other constraints that are reflected in the architectural outcomes. The disciplined way of working is also demonstrated by the emphasis they make on presenting the clarity of their working process with their clients which seem key to the successful running of their business. They discuss a passion for engagement in all aspects of the design process and show a great level of involvement but also a good level of understanding of the value of their projects so they know when to step back. Clearly setting out the terms of the contract with the client, both understanding the output expected and an agreed approach to the design helps do away with any ambiguity that leads to problems on a project.

Finding new and interesting work is always a challenge for every architectural practice no matter the size, big or small. As a young practice this challenge of finding new work is greater, your pool of resources to find work is limited until you have built up a reputation and client base. Gaining new work is what enables the business to grow, and a successful business can rely on satisfied clients to help bring repeat work or new clients through referrals. As a small practice working closely with your client to navigate them through the design process so they better understand your processes as well as enabling you to obtain a clear brief is a sure way of achieving successful design outcomes.

2017 UQ Architecture lecture series: Welsh + Major

Welsh + Major is a New South Wales based architectural practice led by Chris Major and David Welsh started in 2004. Their work is described as having modernist sensibilities and the aim in their architecture is to design in such a way that is responsive and evolving rather than just reacting. This design ethos is demonstrated in a number of their works discussed, their projects range from small alterations and extensions, to public and commercial projects. All the projects are connected in the method of intervention of the new to the old. From each project they build on a body of work that grows in depth the quality of detailing and attention to the expression of the modern additions either contrasting or complementing the existing fabric. Their design embraces the beauty of the ordinary through the simple gestures and selection and use of materials.

History and memory are strong recurring themes in the works of Welsh + Major in part dealing with mostly heritage properties but also the notion of place making which resonates in their work. Particularly in their residential projects the idea of memory is integral to the life of a house and its story. Whether it be in the building itself or the landscaped spaces and the spaces in between, all are integral to creating that sense of place. Their approach to design termed as “modernish” is reflected in the material palate they work with, usually constraining themselves to a few simple materials, generally chosen for their robust qualities and detailed simply and sparingly but to a considered affect. Always designing for light and ventilation to enhance the spaces to allow users an appreciation of the materiality of these spaces.

There is a sensitivity needed when designing in an historical context but also ambition to make more of the existing building, respecting the building but also enhancing it to give the building a successful new future. How do we work with existing buildings and their fabric to further its use as well as acknowledging the its former life? That requires an understanding of the buildings weaknesses and strengths and not being afraid to change the things that do not work to better so new life can be breathed into the building but does not compromise the qualities of the old. Adaptive reuse must consider the social, economic and environmental impact of the design.

Protecting our architectural history and heritage is critical to preserving the memories of a city. There are always layers of history as a city grows, as things are pulled down and added to, this builds on the memories. The decision of what stays and what intervention should be undertaken can quite critical to the preservation of our built environment.

2017 UQ Architecture lecture series: Muge Belek & Frederico Fialho

The way we use technology as a tool for design is changing greatly with more possibilities for experimentation than ever before. Architecture becomes a field for experiential based understanding where we react to the design and find new paths for understanding our built environment and innovative ways to realise it. This follows the ideas of Frederick Kiesler in his work titled Correalismwhich understands space being as important to design as the object itself because of how people interact with their environment and make use of it, this is the natural and also technological environment. His interest was in the ways and methods utilized by people to achieve their needs, he found these need are constantly evolving and therefore so will the tools used evolve along with them.

The work of f[Flat], Muge Belek and Frederico Fialho presented at this lecture follows Kiesler’s theory with their study of transvergence architecture or Transarchitecture. This form of architecture theory is transdisciplinary in that it is an experience based understanding, pulling together all strands of disciplines to form the basis of its research, continually evolving to reach an idea, finding new paths and understanding to reach a solution or conclusion. Belek and Fialho work in the method of Parametricism, Algorithms and Interaction researching morphogenesis behavior. Their research uses computational tools studying sound and movement to establish form-making through a reactive and interactive process.

Designing in architecture is no longer just a clear and precisely setout discipline, there are many influences and methods that can be employed to reach an outcome to meet the desired need. Along the way though there are outcomes that weren’t intended however this is part of the evolution of design. The world is constantly changing and so as designers there is an evolution that we are also undergoing through our technological advances and research that allows us to better respond to the changing demands and needs of the built environment. In the field of architecture there is continual adaptation and testing of how we perceive and engage with the space surrounding us.

Every generation brings its own tools and the technological advances in the last few decades have changed the way in which architects addresses the method and output of design production. It also seems how we engage in spaces and our demands for these spaces have changed from previous generations. Kiesler theorises demand as driving the need for the innovation and evolution of design. Computational analyses has radically changed the appearance of buildings, how we perceive its form and its realization through new construction methods. As designers we have the freedom to choose how we want to engage with the design and building process to reach our chosen outcomes but will we be left behind if we do not embrace the technological movements?

Welt Museum Reopening, Vienna

We spent a weekend in Vienna primarily for the Weltmuseum reopening event but also took the opportunity to take in the classical architecture (and cakes) Vienna has to offer. Along with the Welt Museum we also toured the Albertina, Naturhistorisches Museum, Schloss Belvedere, and the Leopold Museum.

A little bit about the Weltmuseum, it has one of the world’s most important ethnographic collections with origins dating back to the 16th century and the private collections of the rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The museum is situated in the Corps de Logis – part of the Neue Burg -a monumental extension of the Vienna Hofburg, which was built in 1881. In 2013 they appointed the team of Hoskins Architects and Ralph Appelbaum Associates to redevelop the exhibition and visitor facilities.

The challenge for the design was to implement the refurbishment of the content of the museum and at the same time to remain sensitive to the qualities of the listed building and its context. The team took a holistic approach of architecture and exhibition design with a common starting point demonstrating the cultural diversity of the collection in their current and historical relationship to the world and to Vienna.

Following changes within the Culture Ministry in 2014 the construction budget of the project was reduced by approximately 40% to €17 million. The design was adjusted to suit a smaller footprint and the design team worked to maintain  the original principles.

As well as the exhibition spaces itself, Hoskins Architects designed an event space with a media cube defining the front of the main entrance; it is used for film screenings, as a stage and also as a café-bar, bringing the museum out to the public and improving the civic quality of the Heldenplatz.

The materiality of the refurbishment was carefully considered, new elements in the public areas of the ground floor, such as the foyer, shop and café, on the other hand, use patinated brass surfaces to reflect materials from the existing building fabric itself.

Also part of the scheme visitor routes were adapted so that the impressive ‘Säulenhalle’ or Hall of Columns can now be entered for the first time without a ticket, creating an indoor civic space that is being widely enjoyed. An auditorium was developed with a barrier free connection to the Säulenhalle offering the museum new opportunities for cultural mediation and hosting of external events.

The reopening party on the 25th October was well attended by the public (a bit of star spotting towards the end of the evening, Tilda Swinton and Wes Anderson who were in town for the Viennale popped in for a look). There was a big outdoor show  being filmed for tv as part of the festivities. A fun evening all round, thanks to Hoskins Architects for the tour and the invitation to the reopening of the Welt Museum (and the project information).

2017 UQ Architecture lecture series: Jeremy McLeod

There is a current housing crisis in Melbourne which is only expected to worsen as the projected population growth of 100,000 per year will put increased strain on the housing market. This problem has been exacerbated since the government has abandoned its social responsibility for providing housing and shifted the responsibility to property developers whose main target is profit and not the people. This is as described by Jeremy McLeod, director of Breathe Architecture in Melbourne and who also heads the Nightingale Housing not-for-profit organization whose aim is to provide affordable sustainable housing through architect-led residential property developments. Looking to change the way the housing market is provided through a triple bottom line investment he discusses the processes and the outcomes learnt from his inaugural project Nightingale 1 in Brunswick Melbourne and his endeavour to push these ideas to the mainstream housing market.

There is a current housing crisis in Melbourne which is only expected to worsen as the projected population growth of 100,000 per year will put increased strain on the housing market. This problem has been exacerbated since the government has abandoned its social responsibility for providing housing and shifted the responsibility to property developers whose main target is profit and not the people. This is as described by Jeremy McLeod, director of Breathe Architecture in Melbourne and who also heads the Nightingale Housing not-for-profit organization whose aim is to provide affordable sustainable housing through architect-led residential property developments. Looking to change the way the housing market is provided through a triple bottom line investment he discusses the processes and the outcomes learnt from his inaugural project Nightingale 1 in Brunswick Melbourne and his endeavour to push these ideas to the mainstream housing market.

The Nightingale model of housing developments is based on a democratized capital which aims to create affordable housing. The decision makers in the current housing market are the financiers and they set the goal posts. The housing developers set the market trends and stock and dictate the price of property and the driver for them at the end of the day are the profit margins. There is the danger of residents themselves not keeping with the Nightingale model looking for profit themselves. The success of the building whilst a great tool for pushing this type of development into the mainstream it has put the aims of community and long term ownership and affordability at risk.

It is admirable to see architects taking the lead in housing developments with the passion to create an urban environment that is socially, economically and environmentally responsible. But how do we make this the mainstream so developers are on board to think beyond profit? There is demand and growing awareness for building in a more sustainable way however this is still only at grassroots (and middle class) level and yet to find mass appeal.

Mies van der Rohe House Lemke, Berlin

It was a cool autumnal day when I toured the Mies van der Rohe House Lemke and its courtyard garden. On the banks of Obersee, about 10km north-east from the city centre, the brick house was completed in 1933, whilst Mies was director of the Bauhaus, for a couple, Karl and Martha Lemke and their small family. They lived there until 1945 when the Soviet army gained control of east Germany and they were forced to leave their home.

The house fell into disrepair over the years and then in 1977 it was put under state protection but it was not until 2000 that extensive renovations began in earnest, a lot of the brickwork around the windows and the corner facades had to be replaced.

The house is a simple L-shape single storey courtyard house with a very uncomplicated floorplan. It demonstrates the many design ideas we know to be typical of Mies’ buildings, unfussy fenestration and facade treatments and detailed to make the most of the materials.

The house wraps around a tree in the courtyard which opens out from the living spaces. The house provides views into the garden and a view down to the lake from the main bedroom. The simplicity in the materiality and detailing creates a serene residence sitting within a still and lush suburban garden.

At the time of my visit was an exhibition titled Dekor und Deformation showing the work of glass sculptor, Julius Weiland. The minimalism of the glass pieces was in harmony with the architecture of the house.

100 days of sketching urban scenes

100days3

I spent 100 days of those 6 months sketching the city, thanks to the lovely Katherine Geppert, who suggested a group of us try out the Instagram 100 Day Project. Armed with a notebook and pencil I sketched urban scenes from October through to January.

100days4

As well as being a good reason to explore the city, practising my sketching was another thing on my to-do list. What I’ve learned from the 100 days is definitely practise, practise, practise. I might compare some sketching in the summer to see how different the urban scenes would be.

100days2

 

Check out Miss Geppert’s wonderful watercolour instagrams @katiegeppert. Also many other wonderful 100 day projects to explore on Instagram.

Change is as good as a holiday

After a three year hiatus from this blog it’s probably a good time to start this whole wandering architects endeavour again since Tim, Edie and I have moved to a new city. It’s now been 6 months living in Berlin, most of it feeling homesick for Glasgow where we’ve left some wonderful friends and a three-quarter renovated flat. We’ve also spent the time making this new city our new home; learning a new language and exploring the many wonders this energetic and complex city has to offer. It’s been exploring architecture, history, public transportation, play parks, city parks, cafe culture, bar culture (not so much these days), markets, museums, galleries, and so forth.

100 days montage

 

6 months and I’ve barely covered any great breadth of this city. I guess starting this blog up again would ensure I made a concerted effort to get my arse out of P-berg and see parts of Berlin I haven’t seen before.

manchester

We missed the first snow of the season this weekend, instead dodging sleet and hail on our first visit to Manchester.

We stayed with an old colleague of mine in the lovely village in a suburb of Chorley. We packed a fair bit in on Saturday, with a visit to the new architecture at Salford Docks as well as the highlights of the city centre, including the beautiful John Ryland library – a great secular temple.

The new stuff was generally pretty bland (though better than anything Scottish) as my preparatory reading of the relevant chapter of The New Ruins of Great Britain had made out.

On Sunday after an adventurous evening that ended up in an eclectic Cuban cafe we pottered around the lovely Whitworth Museum, whose luminous red brick was quite striking against the grey.

Monday we spent exploring the fantastic Northern Quarter in more detail, with great warehouses and fire escapes, along narrow streets combined with the requisite cafes and vintage shops creating our natural habitat 😉