Misfits’ Inflexible House

My new favourite blog misfits’ architecture posted about Yemeni traditional housing under the title The Inflexible House.

You might know about Yemeni buildings from famous photos of cities like Shibam or Al Hajarayn, where 500 year old medieval skyscrapers rise up with tapering walls clumped together often on rocky outcrops. Nothing looks quite like them and also on the inside they are perhaps quite different than how you might imagine1.

They have no spatial hierarchy on the inside just essentially the same plan repeated upwards. Ground floor is for storage of food and 1st floor with main reception room and kitchen off of it, above that are the floors for the family but there is no hierarchy, no ability to subdivide just larger and smaller sized rooms stacked onto of each other. Its inflexibility of plan opens it up to a different type of flexibility which a standard modern western house lacks;

There’s much that’s good in the Yemeni convention of building a house having all floors the same plan and deciding later how to use those spaces. Some patterns of use are more established through custom or necessity but the spaces can still be reallocated to suit temporary situations such as the visit of a relative or longer-term changes such as an eldest son marrying. This is simply how these houses are lived in and part of it is because they can be lived in this way. Changing the use of a room involves no architectural trauma because the houses weren’t planned to have a hierarchy of spaces. – misfits’ architecture

The apartment building designs I have been involved with in Finland over the last few years are all about culturally arbitrated spaces designed for specific purposes. An eight floor Finnish apartment block will have a sauna block on the entrance floor with a bomb shelter space in the basement both of theses generated from specific Finnish cultural assumptions, fear of imminent attack by the Russians and a culturally required love of the Sauna.

Apartments within the block must all have balconies though not necessarily bedrooms at all, with wet room bathrooms, larger apartments will have their own Sauna and the biggest apartments are on the top floors to maximise price per meter. Kitchens and Dining rooms as separate spaces from the living room have virtually ceased to exist. All this means that the main living space is super flexible within certain spatial bounds and that apartments can’t really accommodate much more than couples or nuclear families living in a certain type of way with a certain set of contractual obligations (a mortgage!) as there is no privacy within these types of apartments.

Quite standard Finnish layout with 1 bedroom, balcony, kitchen incorporated into living space and a sauna, all under 50m2.

Other types of living, co-housing, lodgers, multi generational families even kitchenless housing don’t fit at all into these programmed plans. I’m not saying that any of these ones are better than what we have now only that these different programmes and housing types could inspire different more practical and more flexible ways of living and in turn adding variety and value to our cities. The Yemeni inflexible house could inspire more flexible planning in modern housing still.

  1. See Misfits’ amazing post about Yemeni Architecture here []

Finnish Students Refugee Furniture

Rehome are ten student furniture designers from Lahti University. They have designed cardboard and plywood furniture that can be assembled without the need for tools. Because they can be manufactured and deployed quickly, among other things they can be used to help house refugees where an efficient, quick and flexible response is needed. From first concept to implementation this is a really great idea.

They have just been to Milan design Fair so hopefully their ideas will be exposed to as wide an audience as possible.

Further Reading;

Mimoa 2.0

Mimoa has been around for a while, it’s a great resource for finding good modern architecture anywhere in the world and is the first site I go to when planning to visit a new city. So this morning when I signed up for the office architectural trip in the spring I saw that they are running a kickstarter campaign to raise money to update the site.

Also I saw John Hill over at DDA posting about their campaign so I put in a pledge. With crowd sourced photos, reviews and project information it harks back to a more open time on the web. It’s become a great took for anyone interested in Architecture while travelling, but it is not optimised for mobile and nowadays thats of primary importance, so they need money to redevelop the site for mobile first.

Here is a guide I made for a trip to Berlin a few years ago. Please go to the kickstart page and support Mimoa 2.0

Amsterdam Chanel by MVRDV

When I lived and worked in Amsterdam MVRDV was one of my favourite Dutch Architects Offices, I loved their experimental bent and when I was back in Amsterdam in 2016 I saw their recently completed Chanel shop a refit of a 19th century Amsterdam town house.

The new shop front is a lovely play on the old brick facade and a modern glass fronted designer shopfront. The bricks of the old facade at the top slowly dissolving into the new glass ones of the shop front.

The shop is in PC Hooftstraat which has since I lived there has been a street for luxury brands and shopping situated beside Vondel park just outside of the old Amsterdam. It’s outside of the 9 streets or the old city main shopping lanes but thanks to that can probably accommodate an older richer clientele.

It is worth noting that increasingly Amsterdam is a major player in the Fashion world. Major brands have their world HQ’s there like Tommy Hilfiger the home of preppy US fashion is based in Amsterdam, and many others have  their Euorpean HQ’s there like Nike for example. The Chanel shop is a small piece of evidence for Amsterdams fashion chops.

Further reading:

Week Update 18.11

The story of 666 Fifth Avenue the New York Skyscraper that might help bring down the Kushners. Finland tops 2018 UN global happiness index (up from 5th last year) good job since I live in Finland! Kottke is 20, looking forward to the next 20 Jason. The Portland Building a Postmodern posterboy back in the day is getting refurbished, I have never understood why this building is famous….Also RIP Stephen Hawking.

Secret Cities come with Kitchens

This 1945 photograph shows the giant 44 acre K-25 plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where the uranium for the first atomic weapon was produced.

An exhibition Secret Cities will start 3rd May at the National Building Museum in Washington. The Manhattan project sites where Americas Nuclear program built the first atomic bomb are now national monuments read about them here, also a great essay or two about the building of the secret cities that had to be built alongside.

The Building of the city to support this effort is fascinating, the scale of it required immense planning and of course prefabrication so these projects give an early glimpse into the way buildings more and more are conceived now. Looking at the floorplans from them the only thing really that looks out of place with a contemporary plan is that the kitchens are separate from the living and dining spaces.

In 70 years the typical housing layout of kitchen, dining and living room as separate rooms has given way to the open plan living space where all of these spaces are in a single space, kitchens in most Finnish new builds are open. It is through the Kitchen that we see the most change over time in the design of homes and it’s through the kitchen I think we learn the most about our ancestors, Though maybe things will change?

Week Update 18.10

MIT releases A/V lecture material for a bunch of courses including Architecture. A new 6 storey high vertically stacked school by Hayball in South Melbourne looks great with other community services in the ground floor this is the way many better designed schools end up looking at the moment, like community hubs. Rent an Architect designed house at Living Architecture (via things). Some awards have been handed out for 2018 Balkrishna Doshi wins the Pritzker prize this year, the first Indian to do this. Peruvian Architect Sandra Barclay is Woman Architect of the Year and Gloria Cabral from Paraguay is emerging Woman Architect of the Year a nice summary of their work can be found here.

Treet Tower

The tallest timber framed tower in the world (just now).

Treet or Tree in Norwegian is a 14 storey apartment block in central Bergen. At 49 meters its the tallest timber framed building in the world, although there are a few on the drawing board that if built would dwarf it.

The higher cost of the structure in wood as opposed to concrete and steel was able to be offset by the quicker and easier erection time, four storeys per 3 days and it also meets passive house standards. The building was erected in modules of 4 the already completed apartments slotted into the wooden framework as it was erected.

The exposed glulam structure front and back really makes this project, instead of hiding the structure at the ends they are on front and back elevations infront of the glazed balconies providing a striking feature for the building and also for the inhabitants of the tower.

all photos by ARTEC

Further reading:

Reimagining The Olympics

Pyeongchang, South Korea, built a brand new Olympic stadium to host the Winter Games this year. The 35,000-seat stadium cost $109 million to build. And it will be used just four times before it’s demolished. -(Vox)

This is an appalling waste of money, but still cheaper than the cost of maintaining a useless stadium for years after the Olympics have gone. This stadium had been designed to be dismantled but it’s story points to an interesting history and future for the Olympic Games.

Read moreReimagining The Olympics