kottke.org posts about architecture

Papercraft Four-Color Houses

”tidy

Papercraft artist Charles Young has been sourcing color combinations from this book and using them to construct extremely tidy and precise little buildings.

Starting in May 2020 I used Sanzo Wada’s Dictionary of Colour Combinations as inspiration for a new project introducing colour to my paper work for the first time. The book is made up of two, three and four colour combinations drawn from Japanese design and publishing in the early 20th century.

Check this out to get a sense of the scale — they’re really tiny. You can see many more of these on Instagram. It is actually hard to believe these are made out of paper and not computer generated. (via present & correct)

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The Cody Dock Rolling Bridge

Designed by architect Thomas Randall-Page, the Cody Dock rolling footbridge opens with a “surprising and playful motion” to let boats pass through by simply rolling out of the way.

The bridge rolls on undulating rails cast into the concrete abutments on either bank. Ballast fills the top of each square portal, countering the weight of the bridge deck that connects them. This symmetry allows the whole bridge structure to smoothly role through 180 degrees to a fully inverted position facilitating movement of boats from the river to the dock. This finely balanced is this system allows the 13 tonne bridge to be operated via hand winches only.

Here’s a video about the then-proposed bridge from 2019 that shows the unique rolling mechanism:

And here’s a video from earlier this year that shows the design process and how the finished bridge works:


New Writing Shed Desire: A Detachable Studio on Rails

Designed by Olson Kundig Architects, the Maxon House features a studio that’s attached to the main house but can be rolled away on railroad tracks to be closer to the trees. From Dezeen:

The two-storey structure was based on the design of the “traditional caboose”. A workspace sits on the first level while the second, accessible via a steel ladder, serves as a cupola for taking in views and functions as a “calmer zone for creative exploration and restoration”.

The control panel that operates the rails was taken from a Burlington Northern locomotive, while the door colour and the wood used were directly informed by colours and materials commonly found on American trains.

The railroad ties for the track were repurposed from the Great Northern Railroad line, though the studio noted the steel tracks “are a much larger gauge than is typically used”.

There’s even a Wes Anderson connection (because of course there is):

Inspired by Wes Anderson’s love of trains in cinema, Maxon Railway takes some visual cues in the form of on-board artifacts and props from The Darjeeling Limited.

You can read lots more about the house and the railway, including more than you’d probably want to know about the history of rail travel and commerce in the Pacific Northwest.


Why Do American Diners Look That Way?

In this video from Architectural Digest, architect Michael Wyetzner runs us through why American diners look the way they do. Early diners took their cues from trains:

So let’s take a look at a typical American diner. So the outside has a shape that’s reminiscent of a train. In fact, that’s how diners got their name. They’re named after the dining car on a train.

Many of the design elements in a diner are based on the necessities of dining on a train in a railroad car, like booth seating and counter seating, and an open kitchen.

So I like these two photos because they show all the elements that go into the classic American diner. On the exterior, you have that stainless steel smooth curvature, you’ve got that Art Deco typography. And then on the interior you have the checkered floor, you have the booths, you have the globes, and you have the jukebox.

In the early part of the 20th century, trains were the dominant form of travel. If you look at some of the earliest diners, they were in fact, actual train cars that were placed permanently on the ground.

Later, cars and space travel provided inspiration in the diner’s evolution.


An Incredibly Tidy Little Park For All Ages

Yesterday I posted about the 2023 Drone Photo Awards and one of my favorite shots was of a playground/park in Poland. My curious pal Neven tracked down more information about the park and, well, it’s so cool and cute!

overhead view of a colorful and tidy park in Poland

overhead view of a colorful and tidy park in Poland

”overhead

Here’s part of the description from the park’s creators, SLAS Architects:

“Activity zone” is a multifunctional public space which is the first phase of regeneration and integration of the University of Silesia campus with the urban tissue of Chorzów City.

The site is located in the place of the demolished military building with a number of old existing trees. “Activity zone” is designed as concrete platform strongly perforated and filled with a diverse programme that includes: students leisure zone, children’s play devices, fitness, individually designed elements of street furniture and greenery including all existing trees. Some parts of the garden are possible to develop by local seniors. The platform connects the diverse program, intensifies the use of the place and becomes itself an element of play. Variety of attractions enhance interactions between users of all age groups and integrates academic community with local inhabitants and the surrounding nature.

My only complaint: it’s maybe a little too small? But otherwise: top marks.


Copenhagen’s Circle Bridge

”Copenhagen’s

In 2015, artist Olafur Eliasson designed the Circle Bridge (Cirkelbroen) to span a canal in central Copenhagen. The pedestrian bridge was designed to slow people down a bit:

The bridge is made of five circular platforms, and it contributes to a larger circle that will form a pedestrian route around Copenhagen Harbour, where people — cycling, running, walking — can see the city from a very different perspective. As many as 5,000 people will cross this bridge each day. I hope that these people will use Cirkelbroen as a meeting place, and that the zigzag design of the bridge will make them reduce their speed and take a break. To hesitate on our way is to engage in bodily thought. I see such introspection as an essential part of a vibrant city.

Small boats can travel easily under the bridge but a section of the bridge also swings gracefully away to let larger boats pass. (via greg allen)


Japanese Company Buildings Shaped Like the Things They Sell

I’m totally charmed by this collection of Japanese company buildings from Spoon & Tamago that are shaped like things related to what they sell. For instance, here’s a chocolate factory that looks like a big chocolate bar:

”a

You’ll have to click through to see the rest, which include a building for a pet food company shaped like a dachshund and tanks at a brewery painted to look like beer glasses.


Architecture in Music

interior view of a piano

interior view of a piano

”interior

Charles Brooks takes photographs of the insides of musical instruments like pianos, clarinets, violins, and organs and makes them look like massive building interiors, enormous tunnels, and other megastructures. So damn cool. Some of the instruments he photographs are decades and centuries old, and you can see the patina of age & use alongside the tool marks of the original makers. Prints are available if you’d like to hang one of these on your wall.

And if you liked those, don’t miss these Dreamy Cave-Like Photos Taken Inside Musical Instruments. (via moss & fog)


The Beautiful Skyscrapers of Early 20th Century America

photo of the top of the Union Ferry Depot in San Francisco

photo of the top of the Emerson Tower in Baltimore

”photo

Using drones, a team led by photographer Chris Hytha has been traveling around the country capturing images of the tops of some of America’s most beautiful and notable early 20th century skyscrapers.

The prosperity of early 20th century America resulted in a boom of skyscrapers that still tower over cities across the country today. Focusing on the character and craftsmanship on display at the top of these landmark buildings in a way that can’t be seen from street level, the Highrises Collection reveals fascinating details and stories of these distinctly American icons.

They’ve done almost a hundred of them so far and are planning on adding about 100 more to the tally before they are finished. Hytha recently shared some of his favorite Art Deco buildings from the project. (via @mwilkie)


Drone Dives the Full Height of the Burj Khalifa

Based in Dubai, video artist André Larsen spends a lot of time shooting the Burj Khalifa which, at 2,722 feet and 163 floors, is the world’s tallest building. In this video, a drone piloted by Larsen dives the entire height of the building…and it’s kind of astounding just how much of it there is. Floors whiz past by the dozen and still there’s so far to go.


Why Car-Centric Cities Are a GREAT Idea

I was skeptical but if you listen carefully, there are some really solid ideas in this video on why designing cities around lots of cars makes sense.

Brb, currently buying some cars and moving to cities.


Love a Good Train Station Mosaic

Dang, look at these new mosaics by Kiki Smith and Yayoi Kusama for Grand Central Madison, the MTA’s newest LIRR station.

mosaic in Grand Central Madison by Kiki Smith

detail of mosaic in Grand Central Madison by Yayoi Kusama

”detail

As a former (and future?) New Yorker, I know a lot of the city’s dwellers appreciate the MTA’s commitment to public art and to mosaics in particular. Like the Dude’s rug, it really ties the city together.


How an Architect Redesigns NYC Streets

In this video, using before-and-after satellite imagery, Claire Weisz of WXY, an architecture and urban design firm, explains how her company helped redesign three of NYC’s unruliest intersections: Astor Place, Cooper Union, and Albee Square. Unsurprisingly, the redesigns all involved taking space away from cars and giving it to larger sidewalks and more green space, to benefit people other than drivers.


The Bagworm Caterpillar’s DIY Mobile Log Cabin

The bagworm caterpillar is quite the animal architect. In preparation for its transformation into a moth, the caterpillar builds itself a house that it carries around on its back out of materials it finds in its habitat, like sticks or leaves. When it enters the pupa stage, the caterpillar fastens the house to something solid and hunkers down inside.

a little house a bagworm caterpillar has built on its back out of twigs

a little house a bagworm caterpillar has built on its back out of twigs

”a

I couldn’t source the top photo but the bottom two were taken by John Horstman, who has a bunch of incredible photos of bagworm caterpillar houses on Flickr. Nicky Bay has also taken many photos of bagworm caterpillar architecture.


An Elegant Bamboo Structure in Vietnam

the exterior view of a welcome center made from bamboo

interior view of a welcome center made from bamboo

Vo Trong Nghia Architects designed this resort welcome center on Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam out of approximately 42,000 pieces of bamboo, rope, and bamboo pins. Beautiful. From Dezeen:

Skylights incorporated into the building’s thatched roof also allow daylight to illuminate the interior, while the grid system enables breezes to ventilate the space naturally.

“The light comes in beautifully and, along with the natural colour of bamboo, creates a warm and intimate atmosphere, even though the structure is very open in terms of airflow,” the studio added.

(via colossal)


Impeccable Digital Recreations of TV Game Show Sets

digital recreation of the set of Jeopardy!

digital recreation of the set of The Price Is Right

”digital

If you, like me, grew up semi-obsessively watching game shows from the 70s and 80s, you will get a big kick out of this. Photographer Steven Rosenow makes incredibly accurate digital renderings of the sets of old game shows like Jeopardy!, The Price Is Right, Wheel of Fortune, Match Game, and Family Feud, which he shares with a Facebook group called Eyes of a Generation. David Friedman shared some of these recreations in his newsletter. Here’s Rosenow’s notes on the Price Is Right set:

This was a fairly difficult set to model in 3D even though I had blueprints of the set to work with, as well as blueprints of CBS Studio 33… Assistance in this project was provided by the current owner of Door No. 2, who bought it from CBS when it was auctioned off.

I might have a new aspiration in life: to be “the current owner of Door No. 2”. (via waxy)


Lovely Precise Watercolor Paintings of Hotel Rooms

Architect Kei Endo creates really lovely watercolor paintings of hotel rooms that she’s stayed in — you can find her work on Instagram and her website. The paintings include floor plans of the rooms, exterior and interior views, illustrations of the food, and even precise renderings of the bath products. I love these so much.

watercolor painting of a hotel room by Kei Endo

watercolor painting of a hotel room by Kei Endo

watercolor painting of a hotel room by Kei Endo

watercolor painting of a hotel room by Kei Endo

You can check out her painting process on Instagram (for instance) and YouTube. (via spoon & tamago)


How Insulated Glass Changed Architecture

Before the invention of insulated glass (i.e. double-paned windows) in the 1930s, builders and architects had to balance bringing light into a structure with keeping heat transfer to a minimum. For buildings in most climates, that resulted in the use of small windows and not a lot of natural light. Insulated glass meant you could keep the heat in (or out) while letting in large amounts of light and this changed how both residential and commercial buildings were built. (via the morning news)


The Giant Chainmail Box That Stops a House From Dissolving

The Hill House in Helensburgh, Scotland is considered an architectural masterpiece, but it’s falling apart in the wet Scottish weather.

Mackintosh was a revolutionary designer, but the materials and techniques at the cutting edge of architectural design in 1900 haven’t withstood a century of the west of Scotland’s harsh, wet weather conditions.

The external render of the property has not proved watertight and the walls have gradually become saturated and are crumbling, with water now threatening the interiors.

If we don’t act soon, the house will be irreparably damaged and we’ll lose its iconic architecture and unique interiors forever.

So what they’ve done is put a giant structure built mostly from chainmail around the house to dry it out. And cleverly, they built a system of observation platforms within the box so that visitors can see the exterior of the historic house like never before. (via waxy)


1980s Dollhouses Designed by Architects

a dollhouse designed by an architect for a 1983 Architectural Design Magazine contest

a dollhouse designed by an architect for a 1983 Architectural Design Magazine contest

”a

From a 1983 Architectural Design Magazine contest, a collection of dollhouses designed by architects, courtesy of Present and Correct.


Bold Proposal to Make Central Berlin a Mostly Car-Free Zone

”Berlin

A group of Berlin residents has put forward a proposal to turn all of central Berlin (an area larger than Manhattan) into a car-free zone. What would that mean in practice? Adele Peters at Fast Company explains:

As in other cities, “car free” doesn’t literally mean that no cars could enter the area, but private car use would dramatically drop. Special permits would be given to emergency vehicles, garbage trucks, taxis, commercial and delivery vehicles (though many deliveries in Berlin already happen on cargo bikes), and residents with limited mobility who depend on cars. Others would be able to use a car, likely through a car-sharing program, up to 12 times a year to run longer errands. But most people, most of the time, would walk, bike, or take public transportation.

That sounds amazing and reasonable. There are five main goals the plan is trying to achieve for Berliners: better quality of life (walkable vibrant streets), better health (less pollution & noise), space for people (not vehicles), less climate impact, and street safety:

Berlin’s streets must become safer. There are still too many traffic deaths and injuries in Berlin. Especially the weakest must be protected: pedestrians and cyclists. Children and senior citizens in particular should be able to feel safe on Berlin’s streets; otherwise their mobility will be restricted because the risk or fear of an accident is too great.

The city is currently considering whether to turn the proposal into a law. This would be amazing to see in Berlin (and in some American cities too).


Ghost Signs of London

”London

From Bloomberg’s CityLab:

Study the buildings flanking London’s older streets closely and you’ll see one soon enough: an old painted sign that, once bright and eye-catching, is now faded into the masonry, the name of the business or product it promoted flaking and faint.

Such “ghost signs” are fixtures of older neighborhoods in many cities around the world, but the U.K. capital, which bustled with competing commercial enterprises in the 19th and early 20th centuries, is unusually well-supplied with them. Ghost signs aren’t always easy to spot, but for sharp-eyed passersby and enthusiasts of urban history, they add an extra dimension to London’s appearance, their florid Victorian or cheerful art deco script and images a spectral reminder that once, not that long ago, these were somebody else’s streets.

London’s ghost signs are merely a fraction of the signage that used to greet 19th city dwellers, an era when cheap paper and a movement towards universal literacy made cities unusually alive with letters. But they are the special project of a new book by Sam Roberts and Roy Reed. From the book’s website:

Ghost signs are fascinating pieces of urban archaeology. Imposing yet hidden in plain sight, these faded advertisements are London’s history written on to the contemporary cityscape. They reveal fascinating stories of everyday life in the capital and each sign has its own tale to tell - not just of the business it represents and the people behind it, but of its own improbably survival.

A feast of history, typography and the urban environment, Ghost Signs: A London Story showcases London’s most impressive and historically significant faded painted signs, located, photographed and presented with archival andother contextual images.

Introduced by Wayne Hemingway MBE, the opening section shares insights into topics such as production techniques, economics and preservation. The themed chapters take on subjects including building, clothing, entertaining, branding and, ultimately, burying the city.


How to Build the Perfect Medieval Castle

Castles across Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages were all pretty different, but by looking at the trends over a period of several centuries, you can determine how to build the perfect castle.

We trace the origins of the castle in the feudal system that emerged in France c.900 CE, and look at the early motte-and-bailey castle, used by the Normans to subjugate England and Wales in the 11th century. We then look at how castle’s became stronger and more sophisticated, with the addition of stone curtain walls, massive keeps, towers (square, round and D-shaped), as well as powerful gatehouses, barbicans, machicolations and moats.

(FYI: The sponsorship in this video for a medieval role-playing game is a little annoying but easily skippable and ultimately doesn’t detract from how interesting & educational the video is.)


Recycling Center Made From Recycled Materials

I love this: the local recycling center in the town of Kamikatsu, Japan is itself made of recycled and upcycled materials. Most prominent of those materials are the hundreds of mismatched windows that form the building’s facade:

side of a building with many differently shaped windows

cozy inside of a building with many differently shaped windows

Brilliant. From Dezeen:

Kamikatsu’s main industry was once forestry, but all that remains of this today are neglected cedar forests. Nakamura’s studio worked with Yamada Noriaki Structural Design Office to design a structure using unprocessed cedar logs that reduce waste associated with squared-off lumber.

The logs are roughly sawn along their length to retain their inherent strength and natural appearance. The two sawn sections are bolted together to form supporting trusses that can be easily disassembled and reused if required.

The building’s facades are made using timber offcuts and approximately 700 windows donated by the community. The fixtures were measured, repaired and assigned a position using computer software, creating a seemingly random yet precise patchwork effect.

Recycled glass and pottery were used to create terrazzo flooring. Materials donated by companies, including bricks, tiles, wooden flooring and fabrics, were all repurposed within the building.

Unwanted objects were also sourced from various local buildings, including deserted houses, a former government building and a junior high school that had closed. Harvest containers from a shiitake mushroom factory are used as bookshelves in front of windows in the office.

”exterior

The recycling center also includes a “take it or leave it” shop where residents can exchange used goods and a small hotel. (via colossal)


An HD Walking Tour of the Giza Pyramids

If you, like me, haven’t had the opportunity to visit the Giza Pyramid Complex outside of Cairo, Egypt, this 2-hour HD walking tour is probably the next best thing — it feels like walking around about as much as a video can. Strap on those headphones for the full immersive experience. (via open culture)


Nomad Architecture: Pitching a Yurt in the Arctic Winter

Every few days, Nenet reindeer herders in the Siberian Arctic break camp and erect their tents (called chums) in a new location. This video documents how they do it.

The Nenet reindeer herders need to move their tent every few days throughout most of the year. Every time they migrate they must pack the whole tent away, drag it across the tundra on sledges, and erect it again in a fresh place, sometimes in temperatures of minus thirty degrees. Survival depends on working together as a team.

After staying in the wooded taiga for two months they start to migrate north following the ancient paths of migrating reindeer (caribou). In four months they will travel up to 1200km and must pack and move every three to five days to keep up with their herd. They must reach their summer quarters before the snows melt and flood great rivers with icy waters too cold and deep for the calves, born along the way, to cross.

See also How to Build an Igloo. (via the kid should see this)


Continuous Sidewalks

This video highlights one of the ways in which the Netherlands makes their streets safer for pedestrians: continuous sidewalks. Instead of sidewalks ending at the curb and picking up on the other side of the street, many sidewalks in Dutch cities continue across roadways, at the same height and using different surface materials, forcing cars to slow and signaling to drivers to be alert for pedestrians.

It’s hard to describe how much nicer it is to walk in an environment like this. It feels like the people walking are in control and that drivers are a guest in their environment, not the other way around.

(via @davidfg)


Fiat’s Rooftop Racetrack

a photo of the racetrack on top of the Fiat factory in Turin, Italy

a photo of the racetrack on top of the Fiat factory in Turin, Italy

When it was built in the 1920s in Turin, Italy, the Fiat factory was designed with a racetrack on the top of the building, both for car testing purposes and for racing.

The factory’s best-known symbol is the test track, which is a superb piece of design modeling, and construction that occupies the whole roof surface of the workshops. Two 443 meters straights, joined by parabolic bends, form a continuous track for testing the cars.

Originally, as soon as the cars left the assembly lines they could flow directly upward to the test track through the snail-shaped ramps completing the whole processing cycle inside the factory. Moreover, these spiraling ramps inside the building allowed the cars to be driven back down and into showrooms.

The track was a little over 1/2 mile long. Many more views at Rare Historical Photos. (via @laxgani)


Surrealist Architecture

a tall building with surreal addiitons coming out the top

a tall building with surreal shapes

”an

For his City Portraits series, Victor Enrich digitally modified photos to create absurdist and surrealist buildings that look like a lot of fun to live in.

See also 13 Jaw-Dropping Examples of Photoshopped Architecture.


Evergreen Architecture

large building atrium with a bunch of trees and plants

a building with plants and trees all over it

a building with a green roof

a residential building with plants and trees on every balcony

I’ve been a bit obsessed recently with urban architecture that incorporates nature & greenery into the mix, especially since seeing the technique employed so creatively in Singapore last year, so this new book called Evergreen Architecture is tickling that fancy right now.

As more of the earth’s surface is swallowed up by the built environment, architects are increasingly advised to integrate urban flora and fauna into their designs. Whether developing green roofs, living walls, abundant indoor courtyards, or balconies that connect interior and exterior spaces, the urge to intertwine nature and architecture has never been more apparent.

Embracing this ubiquitous trend, Evergreen Architecture surveys a broad spectrum of residential, institutional, urban, and rural spaces. But as change occurs and solutions to the climate crisis are being integrated on the ground, many new questions are posed. How do residents keep moss-covered walls alive? How can a skyscraper uphold the weight of hundreds of trees?

You can order the book from Bookshop. (via colossal)


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