The Bercy

•July 7, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Photobucket

The Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy (POPB) or simply the Bercy, as the locals call it, is an indoor arena that has hosted countless sporting events, concerts, spectacles, and other forms of entertainment since its construction in 1984.

The Bercy, with its unmistakable grass-covered façade, was designed by a select group of French architects, consisting of Andrault-Parat, Jean Prouvé, and Guvan.  The venue, which can hold between 7,000 to 17,000 people, depending on the type of event, annually hosts the world’s most prestigious indoor tennis tournament, the Paris Masters ATP Tour, in addition to a myriad of other sporting events, such as boxing, gymnastics, track cycling, basketball, and show jumping.

Most notably, the Bercy hosted the FIBA European Championships Final Fours in 1991 and 1996, and the European Basketball Championship in 1999, as well as the European Gymnastics Championship in 2000.

The Bercy has also been the favorite location for A-list artists and bands performing in Paris, including Madonna, Beyonce, Shakira, Céline Dion, R.E.M., The Smashing Pumpkins, Gwen Stefani, Björk, Mariah Carey, P!nk, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Cher, The Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Coldplay.

When I was last in Paris, I stayed right next door to the POPB at the Novotel Paris Gare De Lyon and was serenaded at one in the morning by enthusiastic, drunk fans. When I left my hotel later that morning, I walked over the remains of the prior night’s party: a sea of discarded fliers.  There was something eerie about the scene, as though the entire world had left the earth in a rush and had forgotten to inform me of the departure.

I took advantage of the area’s desertedness and the early morning light to inspect the building further and was impressed that the designers had been able to conjure such a mountainous effect from such a typically sized arena, an effect that was only further exaggerated by the reflecting pond in front of the stadium and the roof’s steel supports. The design reminded me of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and was enough to make me wish I had bought tickets to the concert the night before so I could have seen the inside.

 

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

The Tower Bridge in London

•July 1, 2008 • 8 Comments

Photobucket

The Tower Bridge in London, often mistaken for the London Bridge, which spans the Thames somewhat further upstream, clearly outshines the rather nondescript London Bridge with its quite ornate and elegant facade. However, the Tower Bridge does owe its existence to the tolls levied on the London Bridge, which paid for its more than one-million-pound construction fee.  The bridge was completed in 1894, and both Sir Horace Jones and George Daniel Stevenson are credited for the structure, as Stevenson took over the responsibility of constructing the bridge after Sir Horace’s premature death seven years prior to the bridge’s completion.

Architects around the globe consider the Tower Bridge to be one of the most impressive civil engineering projects in history, requiring over 400 men and 70,000 tons of concrete to complete the combination drawbridge and suspension bridge. Made almost entirely of concrete and Scottish steel, the bridge was actually completed in sections and then shipped downstream to the building site.

Most find the bridge’s dual bascules to be its most remarkable feature, and if I were merely a civil engineer, I am sure I would feel the same, but as both a devoted art admirer and architect I see structures from an aesthetic standpoint, and although I admire the bridge as whole, I am most impressed with the bridge’s twin supporting towers or piers that are composed almost entirely of concrete.

The Bridge was originally painted brown at its creation, but it was repainted the nation’s patriotic colors of red, white, and blue in commemoration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 25th year as the United Kingdom’s reigning monarch.

There is a rumor floating around the Internet that the purchaser of the 19th Century London Bridge, Robert McCulloch, bought the bridge mistakenly, believing he was acquiring the Tower Bridge instead, but the story has proved to be unfounded.

I chose the Tower Bridge as the subject of this post, as I will soon be returning to London, this time for pleasure. I have already visited, or rather driven over, the Tower Bridge in one of the city’s world-famous taxi’s, but I hope to visit it again, this time to take a leisurely walk across and visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition, where I understand you can view the old steam engines that once operated the bridge’s massive bascules.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Tower Bridge, London

The Premature Heat Wave

•May 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Northern California has been experiencing some unusually warm weather as of late. We typically have a couple nice weeks in April and May, but the number of ideal construction days has been considerably high for this early in the “Construction Season.” The stable weather has brought out the home improver in several of my past clients and created countless new ones, and the extra work has been daunting for my small business, which is only three years old.

I’m really excited about all of the challenges and the growth we are experiencing, but the workload has kept me busy. Long gone are my lazy winter evenings, when I could keep up with my hobbies, like blogging. Now I spend every spare moment out on the job, assessing homes’ structures, consulting and giving estimates on various structures, visiting and supervising job sites, and the like, and the lengthening periods of daily sunshine are only adding hours to my already long days, but I have to admit, the business has been great for my company, and it came just at the right time, when so many companies are fearing going under due to the sub-prime market. A1 Construction Consulting is in a good position to pick up the slack some closed businesses will be creating.

López de Heredia Wine Tasting Pavilion

•April 18, 2008 • Leave a Comment

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia exterior at night

The historic R. López de Heredia Viña Todonia winery, located in Haro la Rioja in the heart of the Spanish wine country, is home to one of the world’s most unusual tasting rooms. Zaha Hadid Architects designed the wine tasting Pavilion specifically for the winery as a display stand for the 2002 Barcelona Food Fair and later reassembled it in Haro for the winery’s use. The Pavilion, which resembles a wine decanter, was one of the five structures to be awarded with the Great Indoors Awards 2007.

Like a fine wine, the building’s seemingly compressed structure when viewed from the exterior gives way to a complex, powerful, and bold interior, which conspicuously, and yet fittingly, houses the winery’s elegantly carved oaken and mahogany kiosk built for the 1910 Brussels World’s Fair. The interior space is a harmonious blend of the old and new, the classical aesthetics lending credibility to the contemporary style.

The stunning Pavilion serves as an inspired portal to this world-renowned winery, and while some may feel the modern styling of the Pavilion and its glass, L-shaped encasement are ill-suited to López de Heredia Viña Todonia, one of the oldest and most traditional family-owned wineries in Haro, the wine tasting room is much more than a point of interest or marketing ploy. Although it may appear to diverge from the stoic warehouses complexly spread across the winery’s property, the Pavilion actually numbers among several of López de Heredia’s nods to architectural excellence, and the 2002 display stand is simply another iconic structure added to the winery’s already distinctive and eclectic list of commissioned artifacts, such as its 1886 multicolored bridge that connects the López residence to the office with plates of glass painted in the Victoriana vein, the turn-of-the-century colorful lookout tower known as Txori Toki: “the birdhouse,” and an American-styled windmill built in 1910.

As both a wine and architecture enthusiast, I am fascinated by structures that seamlessly blend the two elements together, and Zaha Hadid Architects deserves all the recognition they have received for their creation, which has effortlessly conjoined the components that are, at their core, artistic, scientific, and labor intensive. Without further ado, here is the López de Heredia Viña Todonia Wine Tasting Pavilion:

Click on the images for a full-sized view.

winery, R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia,

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Interior

winery, R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia,

winery, R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia,

winery, R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia,

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Pavilion

Think Green

•April 8, 2008 • 7 Comments

School of Art Design and Media at Nanyang Techno

The recently completed School of Art, Design, and Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore won the 2007 Design Share Honor Award for its organic composition, particularly its turfed roofs, which successfully enables the building to blend into the surrounding landscape and further blur the line between the natural and the structural. The building’s skeleton consists almost entirely of concrete, while its skin is composed mainly of sheets of grey-tinted glass that act as mirrors during the day, reflecting the campus’ wooded areas, grassy roofs, and the sky above, seeming to cause the building to disappear into a grassy knoll. At night when all the building’s lights are on, the opposite forces are at work, transforming the building into a beacon of light that illuminates the surrounding area.

The building’s designers, CPG Corporation Consultants, were given the unique challenge to give physicality to the art department’s values of uniqueness and creativity. The University wanted a building that was conducive to the free flow of ideas as well as to education, and the new structure accomplishes just that: epitomizing originality, while giving both professors and students unobstructed views of the outdoors, as well as unique spaces for work, study, or research. The structure’s extraordinarily designed interior is a credit to the designers’ genius. They craftily used the 5-story, heavily sloping roof to their advantage, creating classrooms and offices of a variety of shapes and sizes, which are easily adaptable for a variety of artistic pursuits.

Although the entire structure is a wonderful example of extraordinary design, my favorite feature is the way the designers chose not to impose a building on the landscape, but to make it apart of the terrain. From any angle you choose to look at the building, you see a bright verdant slope that invites exploration, and the building’s rooftops feature cement steps along its edges for just such purposes. In addition to aiding in its blending, the grassy roof also assists in keeping the building and the immediate area cooler, than if it was just a glass structure sitting in the middle of the campus, which is a very positive side effect to thinking green.

The School in Daylight

School of Art Design and Media at Nanyang Techno

School of Art Design and Media at Nanyang Techno

School of Art Design and Media at Nanyang Techno

School of Art Design and Media at Nanyang Techno

School of Art Design and Media at Nanyang Techno

School of Art Design and Media at Nanyang Techno

The Plans

School of Art Design and Media at Nanyang Techno

The School in Twilight

School of Art, Design, and Media at Nanyang Techno

School of Art, Design, and Media at Nanyang Techno

To find out more information on Nanyang Technological University’s School of Art, Design, and Media, visit DesignFlute.

The Federal Building in San Francisco

•March 27, 2008 • 6 Comments

Thom Mayne’s SF Federal Building

Featuring a perforated-metal exo-structure and an a-typical, slender frame, the 18-story San Francisco Federal Building is a triumph of architectural excellence, and its celebrated architect Thom Mayne, the Pritzker Prize winner who also designed the La Defense business district tower in Paris, deserves to bask in the glow of his building’s architectural success.

Over the past few years, Mayne’s signature fusion of conventional industrial-machine aesthetics and his idiosyncratic designs have made him one of the next generation’s great industrial building designers, and his latest completed project numbers among his many outstanding achievements. In addition, the building has added much to the often austere and industrial San Francisco cityscape, and although I have not seen the building in person yet, I am already fascinated by the structure.

Thom Mayne, with his powerful and brazen structures, is an inspiration to me. Like myself, he has stepped out on his own and founded his own design company, Morphosis, based in Santa Monica, California, and since then, he has designed some of the best work of his career. I am amazed what the man has done with Postwar Modernism, and I applaud his achievements.

The following photos are the few glimpses I have seen of the Federal Building, and I am looking forward to making a trip to the City for a closer look in the near future.

San Francisco Federal Building by Thom Mayne

Federal Building in San Francisco

Thom Mayne’s Federal Building

The Federal Building Lobby

Federal Building Lobby

Federal Building Stairwell



San Francisco Federal Building

Young Center For The Performing Arts, Toronto

•March 22, 2008 • 1 Comment

Young Center For The Performing Arts

KPMB Architects is a collaborative design firm located in Toronto, Canada that was founded in 1987 by four dynamic partners, Bruce Kuwabara, Thomas Payne, Marianne McKenna, and Shirley Blumberg, on the principals of environmental sustainability, performance, and harmony. Most recently, the design team was responsible for the design of the Young Center For The Performing Arts, which was a cooperative effort among the Soulpepper Theater Co., the George Brown College Theater School, and the city of Toronto.

Formerly two 19th century storage houses, the Young Center For The Performing Arts spent almost 10 million dollars renovating the industrial buildings into aesthetic classrooms, rehearsal halls, and four separate performance areas for the use of both the professional and college theatre groups as apart of Toronto’s large urban-planning venture to restore the Distillery District and turn it into an arts and culture focal point. The theatre groups could not have been more pleased with the venue’s outcome, and the building was even honored with an Award of Excellence from BusinessWeek Architectural Record Awards, but all the actors care about is the new facility, which finally allows them to share the same modern rehearsal and performance spaces.

Back Stage

Back Stage

Rehearsal and Teaching Space

Rehearsal and Teaching Space

Performance Venue

Performance Venue