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Architectural Spotlight

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Dear North American Airports, you wish you were as cool as me… love Winnipeg International

If you are a traveller you appreciate a good airport, when I lived overseas I had the pleasure of transiting through Incheon International Airport on a regular basis on my way to the south coast of Korea and I used to marvel at the experience. Bright airy spaces, fast service and a logical design, I used to think that the half hour average time from gate to subway stop was a byproduct of my ‘professor status’ but that airport has been ranked in the top 5 airports in the world since it opened so maybe not so much.

Until now the top airports have been primarily located in Asia but there’s a new city appearing on the list; Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

It made it on the list of the Travel Channel’s top ten most iconic;

 Renowned architect César Pelli (who designed the Petronas Towers in Malaysia and the International Financial Centre in Hong Kong) drew his inspiration from the vast prairies and sky when he conceived of this terminal, the first freestanding airport building in Canada that’s LEED-certified. Skylights, an atrium and large windows fill the space with light and bring the big sky inside — a design element that (along with “smart” mechanical systems) helps reduce overall energy consumption.  Travel Channel

The existing terminal designed in 1964 is on its way to retirement or to be re-purposed.  The Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA)designed the new terminal with the following principals; abundant use of transparency and natural light, openness to the interior, and connectivity. Special attention was paid to space management which resulted in; wider corridors, larger lounges, more seating, and larger customs facilities, with extra space in the screening and security areas in case any new regulations come along. I guess its important to plan for 1984 even if you don’t want it to happen. s

Either way, the new terminal in Winnipeg is likely to stay near the top of the list for a while, until another North American city gets frustrated that it is being beaten by Winnipeg. To bad for Toronto, and Vancouver, your new Airport’s are already done.

The Winnipeg Airports Authority has a youtube channel if you want to take a closer look.

View Larger Map

For a better gallery of images from inside visit ChrisD.ca for gallery supplied by a local and the requisite photos of college age people wearing inflatable airplanes that authorities love so much.

North America’s Most Sustainable Telecommunications Company Plan’s New LEED Platnum Headquarters

As North American telecommunications companies go, it is hard to find a company with better sustainability cred then TELUS. The firm made the decision to reduce its environmental footprint about 9 years ago, before sustainability was cool and embarked on a now decade long journey to lower it’s impact on the environment.

..everything from diesel generators and chemicals to batteries and pole storage. “As an incumbent telecommunications company, we’ve been around a long time, so we have older infrastructure in some areas,” says Joe Pach, Telus’s environment director. “We recognize the risk that that represents to us, so we’ve embarked on a program to upgrade these systems.  In the past, we have had people say to us, ‘Why are we even doing this? They’re not.’ [But] we can’t take that approach, because the risk to the company in terms of its public profile … is greater to us than the monetary risk of, say, a fine … TELUS wants to send a very clear signal to the investment community that we are a very well-managed company.” And there’s no better way to do that than taking care of all the small, green details. S.

It is all well and  good for a company to say that . it is a green company but the proof is in the details and TELUS has those to back it up.  TELUS has been ranked among the world’s leading companies on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the past nine years. It is the only North American telecommunications company to make the list and one of only 11 Canadian businesses across all sectors included on the global index.S.

As part of its ongoing efforts TELUS has also being upgrading its corporate offices, Known as TELUS Houses, 3 so far have been renovated or constructed,  TELUS House Toronto and Ottawa were awarded LEED Gold, and TELUS House Quebec LEED Silver. For its new National Headquarters in Vancouver the company is aiming for LEED Platinum.  The $750-million, one-million square foot project will radically transform an aging downtown block into one of the most technologically and environmentally-advanced sites in the world

In the Company’s own words:

The million-square foot, $750 million project will see almost the entire block of prime downtown real estate bounded by Georgia, Robson, Seymour and Richards rebuilt into one of the most technologically and environmentally-advanced sites of commerce, employment and living in the world. It will create half a million square feet of much-needed new office space available for multiple tenants and 500 new residential units, all setting new standards for environmental sustainability. The 22-storey signature office tower will be the first building in Canada built to the new 2009 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum standard and the 44-storey residential tower will be built to the LEED Gold standard.

“TELUS Garden will exemplify the TELUS brand and be a truly amazing destination for our team members, the community and the city,” said Darren Entwistle, TELUS president and CEO. “Our vision is that TELUS Garden will be a beautiful and unique location where leading-edge technology, urban living, environmental sustainability and tomorrow’s work styles are elegantly integrated into a vibrant community. This development, which will inject millions of dollars into our economy, will highlight TELUS’ advanced communications technologies and environmental innovation in a way never before seen. TELUS Garden will be a breathtaking place to live and work, an architectural icon that will consume 30 per cent less energy thanks to its responsible, leading-edge design. It will be a celebrated urban oasis that is literally alive with plant life and showcases our great province’s arts and culture.”

The landmark development reinforces TELUS’ commitment to the City of Vancouver, and will make a significant contribution to the city’s goal of becoming the greenest city in the world. Once complete, TELUS’ new headquarters will be unique in North America, featuring 10,000 square feet of green roofs providing organic produce for local restaurants, two elevated roof forests, British Columbia artwork, LED lighting on the western façade projecting programmable coloured images on to fritted glass, and media walls where cultural events such as symphony concerts can be broadcast to the public.

“The fact that TELUS is choosing to build a new national headquarters in Vancouver is a great vote of confidence in our local economy,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Their proposal to build to LEED Platinum is extremely ambitious and sends a signal that in Vancouver, going green is good for business and the environment. I’m very excited that they are investing in Vancouver – we’ve worked hard to build a competitive climate for business, and when companies like TELUS choose to expand their presence it is great for creating new jobs and economic spin-offs in our city.”

TELUS has partnered with Westbank to lead the project, and has engaged Henriquez Partners as the architect that is designing the iconic development. TELUS will fund its share of the development predominantly through leveraging its existing real estate holdings in this block, coupled with the sale and lease of space in the new buildings. The investment is consistent with TELUS’ overall capital expenditure target for 2011 and longer term capital intensity goals. TELUS has just entered into an agreement to purchase the city-owned parkade at the corner of Georgia and Richards, consolidating the entire block, other than the Kingston Hotel, to create a unified development.

While I don’t envy guests of the Kingston Hotel during construction, when the dust settles the hotel will be better situated between two cutting edge and lively buildings instead of a pair of park aids. As an observer of the development landscape here in Canada I have been watching with interest to see what TELUS would decide to do after the company announced it was considering a new Headquarters. In Keeping with its previous property investments in Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec City, TELUS once again delivers an office building that looks forward and sees a city where “the future is friendly.”

Swedbank Selects 3XN for it Spiffy New Headquarters

In architectural news on of our favourite European architecture firms 3XN has been selected to design the new international Headquarters for Swedbank. In keeping with 3XN’s talents as a designer of modern and innovative office buildings, 3XN has based their design for the structure around Swedbank’s core values; openness, simplicity, care and durability.

“The building is conceived and designed from the inside out. We have literally translated Swedbank’s core values into the creation of a modern and groundbreaking head office. Swedbank has conveyed the importance it places on creating an open social environment, which happens to coincide with 3XNs design beliefs and ideology. It has been a very interesting process and we look forward to getting to work on the project”. 3XN Principal Kim Herforth Nielsen

The design further develops these core values with a structure that focuses on transparency, Scandinavian simplicity and dynamic social environments.

The site selected for the new head office is in Sundbyberg; a fast developing traffic centre approximately five kilometres outside downtown Stockholm. The company plans to move approximately 2.500 employees will move into the building before the end of 2013.

3XN explains “With its innovative and transparent expression formed in an unconventional triple-v structure the building will become a landmark among Swedish office buildings. The large volume is broken up to create spaces on a human scale. This makes the building inviting on the inside as well as on the outside.”

For more information on the project visit 3XN’s online portfolio.

A Tour Through Benny Farm

Benny Farm was first developed in the years immediately following the Second World War. Returning veterans needed homes for their families and the country needed housing to deal with the impending baby boom. In the Late 1940s the Canadian government built a number of apartment buildings on the site of what was then a former farm on the western edge of Montreal. The project was, and remains one of the largest government housing projects ever undertaken in the country. The property and the apartments were maintained for a number of years under the auspices of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and then by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, (CMHC).

In the 1950s and 1960s thanks to most residents being of the same age, community life at Benny Farm thrived due the prevalence of many young families (hello baby boom!) Historical accounts suggest that during the 1950s there were over a thousand children on the property. However in the 1980s the age homogenization began to work against Benny Farm as the mean age of residents rose to 70 years. Most of the buildings had not been well maintained, and the post-war three story walk ups with no elevators or air-conditioning were increasingly difficult for elderly residents.

In the early 1990s the the CMHC announced plans to redevelop the property with more accessible units for the aging population and reopen the door to new tenants in more modern units. In order to finance the redevelopment the agency planned to have the private sector develop the rest of the property. The scale of the private development; 1200 units in a number of 6 story buildings, the destruction of the existing post war buildings, and a fundamental change to the social role of the site caused an outcry from members of the community. What ensued next was a 20 year battle over the future of the Benny Farm site.

Arnold Bennett, and Jason Hughes helped spearhead the battle to keep Benny Farm affordable, arguing for public and affordable housing rather then private development.  For a long time it seemed that the site would end up going to private developers who would build standard condo style units that would price many area residents out of the market. While there are many people and events that were responsible for making Benny Farm what it is today, the eureka moment came when the team realized that nothing was stopping the the Habitations communautaires NDG, (HCNDG) a community-run non-profit corporation, from bidding on the parts of the site that were open to the private sector. The idea was to create a non-profit, community-run organization that would offer and manage the units at a below market rate. The proposal went over very well with the community and over 80 people had signed statements of interest by the time the HCNDG submitted a bid to the Canada Lands Corporation for three sites, with a total of 74 units. The ‘Affordable Home Ownership Initiative’ was awarded the sites after beating a number of private developers who submitted more traditional site concepts.

Claude Cormier Landscape Architects was selected to develop the master plan for the Benny Farm Housing project and created a network of promenades that ties the paths, and semi private courtyards of the project into the surrounding neighbourhood streets. An orchard of 170 ornamental crab apple trees is also distributed throughout as a nod to the sites agricultural past.

The new Benny Farm site includes a diverse mix of housing types, over 200 rental properties, a public health clinic, recreation centre, community garden, daycare, and other neighbourhood services. The property was also developed with sustainability in mind and features; Geothermal heat exchange, hybrid glycol/electric solar power, air- and water-based heat recovery. There were plans for grey-water and storm-water reuse, wetland treatment and sub-grade water-table recharge, but news reports indicate that the water reuse was never installed and I was unable to spot evidence of a  wetland on my site visit.  A non-profit, community-run utility owns and manages the energy infrastructure as well as continued  re-investment in sustainable construction for this infrastructure. The utility was set up with a legal structure similar to that of a cooperative housing development. Green Energy Benny Farm (GEBF) is owned and controlled by a voluntary, user-driven board, and the project has won at least one award; The Bronze Prize at Global Holcim Awards.

Of course most of this was laid out in the planning stage so what about now? As the pictures show, Benny Farm isn’t just a concept anymore, it is once again a living and working community. It appears that being at the cutting edge of sustainability in a non-profit housing complex has its risks. Hour.ca published an article in 2007 that reported problems with leaking geothermal pipes, that combined with other leaks have lead to a serious mould problem in one of the Co-ops, and some solar panels have leaked glycol, while some of the radiant floor heating systems didn’t balance, resulting in some residents freezing while others boiled. Some blamed a low-bid contract process while others suggested that there was not enough co-ordination between the parties involved in merging the green technologies. Most news reports on the project and issues stop after 2007 so presumably the kinks have been worked out.

While the process was long and contentious Benny Farm is considered a success for sustainable, affordable housing, and community renewal. I took a walk through Benny Farm in the fall and was very impressed with the site design and landscaping in particular, while a lot of modern buildings can look very similar and repetitive each area felt different enough from the others to make each seem distinctive while still maintaining a connection with the project as a while. There is also clear evidence that the kids are back with all the toys that were scattered about. So was Benny Farm a success? I’ll let the photo’s speak for themselves and you can make up your own mind.

For a great photo-spread of the property before its renovation, take a look at The Benny Farm Condemned Housing Projects @ Citynoise. Also check out our related gallery, Cave Art (ok not really) of  Benny Farm. Reference links and other great places to visit for information about Benny Farm. Story Telling At Concordia Benny Farm Calgary Housing Action Initiative, Alternative Housing Models: Benny Farm. Canada Lands Company: Community Success Stories: Benny Farm

Seattle’s Lighthouse Apartment in the Smith Tower

For those of you who love to look inside other peoples apartments, the New York Times takes us on a tour of one of Seattle’s most interesting and until now, mysterious apartments. Word has it that the apartment had taken on the status of an urban legend in Seattle that oscillated from occupied by crazy cat lady to home for a line of artists who have passed the key from one tenant to the next. Well the legend has passed from fiction to fact as the New York Times managed to get themselves a tour and sets the record straight.

How did a 46-year-old choreographer-turned-venture-capitalist-turned mom win a long-term lease on what may be the most extraordinary apartment in the city: the space at the top of the historic Smith Tower in Pioneer Square?

Read more: A Home in the Pyramid Atop Seattle’s Smith Tower.

See the photo Gallery Here.

First World – Mixed Use Residential New Songdo Style

The Sharp (The #) First World is one of the first completed residential projects in the New Songdo International Business District. The property was designed by international architecture firm KPF, and Korean firm Kunwon.  The project opened in January of 2009 with a lighting ceremony to celebrate the project and residents began moving in shortly after. The Sharp (The #) First World is a luxury apartment and office-tel mixed use development with ground floor retail services. In total there are: 1,596 Residential Units, 1,058 Office-tel Units and 294 Ground Level Retail spaces. The Sharp (The #) is designed to  house approximately 7,000 of New Songdo’s projected 65,000 residents as well as a health club, a daycare center, and a seniors’ center. The complex is located next to New Song Convention center and near the  Northeast Asia Trade Tower and River Stone Mall, it is also near on of several planned subway stops on the yet to be completed system.

As is common with hotly anticipated properties in Korea all of the 1,596 residential units sold out within the first two days they were listed on the market.  To read more about this phenomenon take a look at our article ‘Real estate lotteries, bidding wars, and tax audits in New Songdo’.

New Songdo has master plan that lays out a number of sustainable principals and The Sharp (The #) First world follows these principals. The overall plan is inspired by the pedestrian cities of Europe and North America and the design utilizes a pedestrian-scaled street grid, engagement with the street through the use of continuous street walls, and plenty of open space.

In order to challenge the perception of the super-block as a single “housing estate” as evidenced by the realization of the Radiant City paradigm in urban areas throughout the peninsula, FWT was conceived instead as being an assemblage of distinct communities. An analysis of Korean social hierarchy (the Ma-Ul, the Dong-Ne, and the Yi-Woot) informed the organization of the FWT into four courtyard communities each of which is subdivided into three neighborhoods of approximately 200 households.

The traditional Korean built environment also influenced the design, wherein circulation through palaces and gardens is characterized by repeated shifts in orientation and displaced axes. At the perimeter, gates and seven-story street walls provide a sense of enclosure, beyond which densely planted interior courtyards are viewed through large scale “urban windows”.

Displacement is also a theme at an architectural scale, where the ashlar patterns of traditional garden walls inspired the exterior wall articulation. The discontinuous lines of these surfaces break down the vertiginous effect of windows more characteristic of high-rise building, and in so doing reduce the apparent scale of the development.

The design for FWT further addresses the profound problem of scale associated with the super block typology by varying building heights in a rhythmic, nonlinear progression. Within the framework of the buildings, scalar elements such as large apertures, arcades, and pavilions assist in translating very large elements down to the scale of the individual. S

Fact Sheet

  • Occupancy: January 2009
  • 1,596 Residential Units, 1,058 Officetel Units and 294 Ground Level Retail
  • All Units Sold Out
  • Buildable Area: 5.7M SF/531,670 SM
  • 12 Buildings from 3 to 64 Floors
  • 4,892 Car Parking Garage
  • Architect: KPF/Kunwom
  • Contractor: POSCO E&C
  • Pursuing LEED for NC Certification

Gale International

When Architects Try for a Luxury Hotel, and build a Death Ray.

In news today, a first in building construction! quite by accident MGM resorts has created the worlds first functioning death ray!

Employees call it the “Vdara death ray,” although a spokesman for MGM Resorts preferred to call it a “solar convergence” S

Essentially what happens is similar to a solar camp stove, for those of you that remember your boy scout training ( I guess these architects  were too busy at math camp).  The sun beams bounce off of the concave facade of the Vdara Hotel at CityCenter and travel in a focused beam across the hotel’s pool area.  On a clear day this beam can singe hair and melt drinking cups as it travels poolside. Apparently designers predicted this problem and put a high-tech film on the building glass but it appears to be safe to say that the film was ineffective.

So let this be a lesson to all you Architects out there, the best way to avoid burning people with your buildings is to design smart, and not use a band-aid or ‘film’ to fix the problem.

Masdar Springs From The Desert

“The environmental ambitions of the Masdar Initiative – zero carbon and waste free – are a world first. They have provided us with a challenging design brief that promises to question conventional urban wisdom at a fundamental level. Masdar promises to set new benchmarks for the sustainable city of the future.” Norman Foster of  Foster + Partners

I remember seeing a post about Masdar in the past, back during the height of the Dubai construction orgies when it seemed like every week there was a new project coming out that was fantastic this, super-sized that!  Given that I had a bit of an anti Dubai stance, (take a look back at the Dubai tag and you will see how little attention I paid to it) I have to admit that I wrote Masdar off as just another mega project of a dubious nature. Well it seems that I am now playing catch up on this project as it is in fact being built and it is a significant chapter in the development of new sustainable cities.  My attention was re-piqued after a colleague of mine sent me a link to a New York Times article in the Critic’s Notebook about the opening of the first phase of Masdar. They also have an awesome photo slide show given that they were able to fly a photographer over there.

The New York Times takes issue with the fact that the city is at this point essentially a gated community and identity is not helped by its construction techniques.  Visitors to the city drive through the desert until they reach the blank wall of the city.  While the city wall has a function and basis in sustainable design; enabling the raised city to capture desert breezes and regulate transportation functions to its lower level.  It reinforces the perception that this is a city for elites, and not a city for every one.  Of course given that the city just opened and its first residents are only now moving in the government (who happens to be the landlord) still has time to make sure that the city houses a cross section of society.

Upon arrival to the city a visitor must leave their car at a parking garage just inside the city’s edge. All transportation functions within the city are covered by a fleet of driver less cars that navigate through a series of tunnels at ground level, below the main pedestrian level of the city 23 feet above.  Once the transportation system comes online a fleet of hundreds of personal transportation pods that have been likened to the transportation pods in 2001: A Space Oddessy will transport people and goods around the city by following the destination commands inputted by users through a simple LCD screen interface.  It’s a method of separating circulation functions that Le Corbuiser first envisioned and would have loved to employ in many of his residential projects.

The design aesthetic for the city is a combination of modernism and traditional aribic architecture.  Laboratories and office spaces are predominantly hosted in large concrete buildings that have been clad in panels of ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene. Residential buildings tend towards the traditional and appear similar to the Terra Cotta construction techniques found across the Middle East.

By way of design the city aims to tackle one of the biggest issues in the modern day Middle East; obesity. Elevators from the lower levels are tucked out of sight behind stairwells, and on the main level the only way to get around is by foot.  It’s a design response to the growing problem of obesity in the Middle East as anyone can afford to travel by car to escape the heat does so.  The city also uses traditional wind towers to funnel winds down to street level, and orients the streets at an angle to the suns trajectory in order to maximize shade. On top of all of these features the city is also aiming to be one of the first truly solar cities.

Some of the public spaces will also feature reactive architecture: international architectural firm LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture) won an international design competition for its proposal to utilize a series of giant umbrellas base on the sunflower principle that open during the day to provide shade, store heat, and then close during the night opening the public squares to the sky and releasing their stored heat.

It is impossible to see the city as anything other than visionary in the way it approaches new city building.  While the Times is correct to raise questions about its utopian purity and its creation in isolation from the real city that lives next door, the Times also ignores the fact that brand new from scratch cities is a reality for the next century.  Experts agree that in order to handle the world’s growing population at least 20 new cities will need to be constructed, predominantly in the Asia, Africa and the Middle East in order to handle the world’s growing a urban population.  In Korea New Songdo is being used as a test case for a fully wired its city, and in the middle east Masdar is most definitely a test case for a carbon neutral city that responds to the constraints of its environment.  It is entirely likely that future cities combine the lessons learned from both in their construction.

From Foster + Partner’s Website:

The Masdar Institute

The Masdar Institute (MI) is the first part of the wider Masdar City Master-plan to be realized and creates a focus for the entire programme, as well as setting the context for subsequent development. Initially, five MSc programmes will be established and as well as undertaking research with MIT, Masdar faculty members will be able to work within the Masdar Research Network. The MI campus embodies the principles and goals of the Masdar City Master-plan to create a prototypical and sustainable city, one in which residents and commuters can enjoy the highest quality of life with the lowest environmental footprint. All developments within the city are to be carbon neutral and zero waste.

The buildings are oriented to provide optimum shade and reduce cooling loads. Shaded colonnades at podium level exploit the benefits of exposed thermal mass and transitional thermal spaces are integrated to mediate between internal and external zones. Facades are designed to respond to their orientation and photovoltaic installations on every roof are combined with carefully positioned photovoltaic panels to shade streets and buildings. Green linear parks adjacent to the buildings capture cooling night-time winds, with wind gates employed to control hot winds. The ventilation strategy for the streets and night time cooling is further enhanced by wind towers and courtyards.

Pedestrian circulation is primarily at podium deck level, where a shaded route throughout the campus is provided. The buildings within MI are made up primarily of laboratories and residential accommodation, supported by a gymnasium, canteen, café, library and landscaped areas that contribute to the campus environment and forge a new destination within the city. The laboratories – and the interactive laboratory space – are at the heart of the development and offer the optimum flexible, column free space possible within the strict loading and vibration criteria. The residential element further integrates the principles of the master-plan and provides one, two and three bedroom apartments in low-rise, high-density blocks. These complete the master-plan street-scape and urban form, while acting as a social counterpoint to the intense laboratory environment. Source

Urban Infill: 130 St Philippe

Urban infill

In the urban planning and development industries, infill is the use of land within a built-up area for further construction, especially as part of a community redevelopment or growth management program or as part of smart growth. It focuses on the reuse and repositioning of obsolete or underutilized buildings and sites. This type of development is essential to renewing blighted neighborhoods and knitting them back together with more prosperous communities.[2] Wiki

The city is an every changing, ever evolving thing. Businesses and buildings come and go as needs and uses evolve. The St Henri neighbourhood in Montreal QC has been on a gradual progression to more a more genteel state and as part of this a number of lots in the area are being redeveloped, when I first moved to town 130 St Philippe was a friendly automotive garage that helped boost my car one winter when the battery died. However as time in this neighbourhood rolls on and property values increase the real estate that the garage was sitting on became a little more valuable then its use as a secondary parking lot for cars waiting to be fixed.  130 St Philippe is actually the back half of a larger project that started over on Rue St Marguerite, but I didn’t manage to catch any construction photos for that half of the site.

Infill can be a tricky proposition as in many ways it is simply the less maligned form of gentrification, people often ignore it in the debate as it is usually the creation of something new versus the property inflation of something that was already there, but the effects are usually the same.  Personally I take the long view on gentrification and the life cycle of cities.  Most neighbourhoods that are poor were at one time wealthy and a lot of neighbourhoods that are wealthy will become poor at some point in their lifespan, and eventually cycle back to wealthy, (I am looking at you Harlem.) The city is not a static entity and must be allowed to adjust itself. I just wish that more cities had effective and well funded property development arms so as to take advantage of infill sites in neighbourhoods when they are on the low swing to provide affordable housing. This particular street is a great example of how the Société dhabitation et de développement de Montréal took advantage of the downswing in Saint Henri, (When I first moved here most reactions were that I had moved into the hood) as there are already two low income apartment buildings and two affordable housing multi unit properties on this block. These will help insure that with the pendulum swinging back up, i.e. gentrification, that is  happening in St Henri now, there will still be a mix of income levels as the bourgeoisie move in.

This project was put together by Groupe Vistacorp,  Vistacorp is a property developer here in Montreal that specializes in residential properties and based on their website and project break down appears to develop two to three sites at a time. While the website doesn’t specifically state it, the company appears to specialize in infill and has a construction roll out that is reactive and flexible to the economic climate based on the number of units that they put on the market in a given year.

I was only able to get my hands on a couple of the unit plans by casting about in darkness of the Internet (think randomly adjusting page IDs) as the majority of the condo’s have already been sold. S Whatever your perspective on Infill stay tuned for future additions to the Saint Henri Infill Series as Vistacorp has already started the prep-work for the lot across the street.

Life on the Canal: Hausboot auf dem Eilbekkanal

Houseboat on the Eilbekkanal, located in Hamburg Germany

Compled: 2009

Living and working Surface: 110m²

Architekten Rost Niderehe

If you have ever wanted to change your neighbours without having to buy a new house then Canal living may be for you. Rost Nidereche Archiects has designed a houseboat that is moored on the  Eibek-canal in Hamburg Germany. The boat is a blend of clean wooden lines and modern design.

The Portrait Building, a new face in architecture.

For years buildings have been covered with imagery; signs, graffiti, and advertisements are commonplace on the sides of buildings, but something new is about to happen in Melbourne Australia. The city has a proposal for a building that is itself an image. A 32 storey apartment block proposed as part of the development on the former Carlton & United Brewery site in Melbourne Australia, named the Portrait building will feature an architectural first, the contouring of the building’s balconies and the play of light and shade  will feature the face of indigenous leader William Barak when viewed from the correct angle.

It is an ingenious idea really, while other buildings have featured screen prints of landscapes, think Bjarke Ingles Mountain Dwellings, and others have featured contoured balconies like the Aqua building this building will be the first to combine the two if completed in 2014.

The best line of sight for viewing the image will be from the Shrine of Remembrance, Victoria’s largest and most visited war memorial which is approximately 3 km away. When viewed from close up the building will simply appear to have an oddly contoured facade. The portrait will be created using a number of horizontal white panels that have been cut to make Mr Barak’s face to appear via positive and negative space. The panels will be distanced from the balconies themselves so that residents will not accidentally make Mr Barak appear to cry by hanging a towel in the wrong place.

The building design is by Australian architecture firm ARM and its principal architects; Steve Ashton, Howard Raggatt, and Ian McDougall. The brewery project is a five building development by Australian firm Grocon who is firmly behind paying tribute to an important figure in Australian history.  Grocon’s representative for the Carlton Brewery site, David Waldren states: ”That technique and that idea has not been delivered anywhere in the world before to the best of our knowledge. It is a world first.” … ”It’s not meant to be that from every angle you will get the perfect image of it; it’s that you will get the perfect image in glimpses.” Mr Grollo, and by extension Grocon see the building as an important social statement, and have received the blessing of both the Wurundjeri elders and the trustees of the Shrine of Remembrance. S

William Barak (c. 1824 – 15 August 1903), was the last traditional ngurungaeta (elder) of the Wurundjeri tribe, which was based around the area of present-day Melbourne, Australia. He became an influential spokesman for Aboriginal social justice and is considered to have been instrumental in bridging the gap between aboriginal and white cultures. Barak is now best remembered for his artworks, which show both traditional Indigenous life and encounters with Europeans. wiki

The ARM architecture firm has attempted buildings with portraits on their facades in the past,  the Dupain Building and 347 Camberwell Road however, neither of these projects were completed. Currently the Portrait Building is still in the planning approval process, so we can only hope that it will not meet the same fate.

3XN’s Landmark for Vällingby Parkstad

Our friends over at the always innovative 3XN firm have won the commission for a new mixed use building at the entrance to Vällingby Parkstad in Stockholm Sweden. The concave side of the tower is reminiscent of the Aqua Tower in Chicago with its undulating balconies but the rest of the building strikes out its own form.

The building’s curved design embraces the area, while the lively shaped balconies open the structure up towards the surroundings, seemingly drawing the park upwards into the air. The dense structure at the ground level adds activity at eye level, with further visual stimulation continuing upwards as seen in the active roof tops and flowering balconies.

The area’s traditional ABC-structures are functional and angular – a clear demarcation from the green park next to it. In contrast to this, the new building softly rises from the ground in a human movement. The North facing façade is smooth and plain, the South and West facing sides are curved in an embracing gesture. The design is also functional as its shape minimizes shadow effects on the surrounding areas.

The wave-like variation between floors comes from a repetition of four different shapes in the building.  This diversity adds dynamism and liveliness to the building, one which is further complemented by the individual touches that the tenants will bring through their furnishing and flower boxes of the balconies.


Address: Vällingby Parkstad, Stockholm, Sweden

Client: Svea Fastigheter

Size: 13,000 m2 (14 floors)

1. prize in invited competition 2010

Construction is planned to begin 2011.



Address: Vällingby Parkstad, Stockholm, Sweden

Client: Svea Fastigheter

Size: 13,000 m2 (14 floors)

1. prize in invited competition 2010

Construction is planned to begin 2011.

A Tour Through Steve Jobs Abandoned Mansion

Photographer Jonathan Haeber has a great blog over at: Bearings that chronicals abandonments and other historic forgotten properties.

One of the entries that he accessed is the Jackling house a historic mansion in Woodside, California, designed and built for copper mining magnate Daniel Cowan Jackling and his family by the noted California architect George Washington Smith in 1925. Johnathan was able to access the Jacking House which is currently owned by apple big boss Steve Jobs. He takes a  series of rare, photos of the slowly decaying mansion, which has now been abandoned for over a decade.  Jobs has been trying to get permission to knock the building down so that he can put up his own ihouse (or something like that) while local preservationists have been trying to preserve the structure.  The battle is ongoing. But for now take a look at some of the great photos!

To see more prictures of the structure take a look at Jonathan`s blog.

Welcome to Alpha Dome City

Welcome to Alpha Dome City ‘알파ㆍ돔 시티(αㆍdom city)’! It is a mixed use commercial and residential project that at first glance looks like one massive building. Alpha Dome City a project with an opening 5 trillion won (4.5 million US/CAD) price tag is under construction in Kyung ki do – sung nam si bun dang gu pankyo dong,  near the intersection of the Pankyo Expressway and the Seoul Outer Ring Highway. The project is by commission of the Pangyo Mutal Fund Administration in partnership with Lotte Engineering and Construction Consortium who will be the project manager for the Alpha Dome. Korean news puts the total number of companies involved in the consortium at 16. The project will have a mixed media centre (read movie theatre) department stores, (no doubt Lotte Department Store will make an appearance) discount stores, a hotel, galleries and other facilities, along with approximately 946 residential units. The project team indicates that the development will take lessons from Germany’s Sony Centre, and Le Defence, France.

The Korean National Housing Corporation will have a number of units in the development, indicating that the project will have a number of low cost rental units and housing for sale pursuant to the Korean National Housing Corporation’s mandate to  provide affordable housing to low-income households and also to stabilize residential property prices through the large-size housing supply.

알파 돔

In korean news a member of the project team explains the significance of the name: Alpha (α) as the first letter of the Greek alphabet ‘to No. 1’, ‘first’, ‘the light of the strong astronomical constellation of stars’,’ The most important part ‘, is central to the vision for the site. S

The Most striking aspect of Alpha Dome City ‘알파ㆍ돔 시티(αㆍdom city)’ is, well the Dome. The project is a number of commercial and residential blocks spread over a couple city blocks, with the dome as a pedestrian accessible linking structure. The dome with plans for cultural exhibition facilities in this ‘sky gallery’. The Dome itself with have multiple cuts through the roof structure to allow light to penetrate into street scape within. Inside the development preference will be given to bicycle and pedestrain traffic as the part of the new naturalism movement in Korea.  Special thanks to Chung Eun Young for research assistance.

The Rebirth of Fenwick Tower

Fenwick tower is getting an overhaul, the structure has been a part of the Halifax skyline since 1971 when the vision was to live in airy luxury, but the developer ran into financial difficulties.  A tower inspired by Le Corbusier that became the punching bag for the argument against development and intensification in downtown Halifax.

The website of its new owner Templeton Properties tells the tale:

Fenwick Tower is like no other building in Halifax.  The history of the building has become so rich that the building itself is talked about like an old friend. Fenwick Tower is an icon in the true sense of the word. Like many icons, the lines between truth and fiction have blurred to create a legendary story that is bigger than life and becomes a proud part of your living experience.

A web cam, a Wikipedia page, and being the subject of many news stories, Fenwick is a modern piece of Halifax’s history and culture.

From when the doors opened in 1971, the legend of Fenwick began.  Originally designed as a luxury apartment building, the developer faced financial problems halfway into the project and was forced to sell.

Dalhousie University purchased the incomplete building, finished the development, and offered Fenwick Place apartments to mature and married students, a better alternative to dorm-living. For 38 years Fenwick served as home to thousands of students, many who have moved on to become the leaders in our community.

n 2009 Templeton Properties purchased Fenwick Place and, following the community’s lead, officially re-named it Fenwick Tower.  Finally, Fenwick Tower has come full circle and will be open to the public as it was originally intended.

The developer used dotmocracy which bills itself as a large group decision making  process, and it looks like it turned out some pretty great ideas.

Dotmocracy is an established facilitation method for collecting and prioritizing ideas among a large number of people.

It is an equal opportunity & participatory group decision-making process.

Participants write down ideas and apply dots under each idea to show which ones they prefer. The final result is a graph-like visual representation of the group’s collective preferences.

We’re pleased to share our vision for Fenwick Tower, and exciting plans for the future redevelopment of this landmark structure in the heart of Halifax.

Since its opening in 1971, Fenwick Tower has gained an iconic status as the tallest building within Atlantic Canada. With this redevelopment initiative we will transition both the existing tower and adjacent lands to align with the future development standards of the Halifax Regional Municipality. The Result being a revitalised urban community.

The design of the new tower adds a glass shell to the existing tower and fills in the property at street level with an addition that reshapes the building address Fenwick Street instead of standing back from it the way that it does now. There will be two additional 10 and 8 story buildings added so to give the building a less sudden effect on the skyline and intensify the property. Another major design element is the new pedestrian corridor that meanders around the bases of the three buildings creating a meandering walkway that encourages you to explore. Restaurants, shops and public art. The vision is for a network of local businesses and to connect the neighbourhoods that encircle the property.