Archive for August, 2009

Charred Cedar House by Terunobu Fujimori

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Charred Cedar House or by Terunobu Fujimori

This house is called the Yakisugi or “charred cedar” house. Japanese architect Terunobu Fujimori is using a traditional Japanese technique of charring as a way to finish and preserve wood. See another charcoal house by Fujimori here. Fujimori’s buildings often use traditional materials in almost fantastical, quasi-folkloric ways. This house was built to resemble, at least in its interior, a cave dwelling found near Lascaux in France. All photos here are by Edmund Sumner accompanying an article by Yuki Sumner in the Telegraph:

“Fujimori wanted to wrap the exterior of his ‘cave’ with charred cedar boards, a traditional and highly durable Japanese cladding material. Normally, such boards come in lengths of less than 7ft – any longer and they tend to warp when heated. Undeterred, the architect persuaded his clients, plus eight friends, to spend a day with him in a field charring the timber using a technique that he had discovered. A day’s hard work produced 400 beautifully charred cedar boards, each more or less 25ft long, and, although they were slightly warped, the gaps were filled with thick plaster, which created the striking striped pattern of the exterior walls.”

Charred Cedar House by Terunobu Fujimori

Charred Cedar House or by Terunobu Fujimori

Charred Cedar House or by Terunobu Fujimori

Charred Cedar House or by Terunobu Fujimori

More architecture by Fujimori here and here.

Unplugged eco-barn in Normandy, from the Eco House Book

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Normandy eco-house

These photos are from an an article by Terence Conran in UK’s Telegraph online, based on his new Eco House Book(Octopus, 2009). This house is completely off the grid, and was built by one man alone over an 18-month period. Its shape mimics traditional Normandy rural architecture and in many ways its living methods are just as traditional; at night it’s lit with storm lanterns. This may not be the way everyone wants to live, but it’s very comfortable and when the power grid goes out, nothing changes. Its credentials include siting to take advantage of passive solar strategies; minimal foundations; timber structure, recycled timber joinery, cedar cladding; no timber treatment; wood-burning masonry stove; no connection to electrical grid; lighting provided by candles and storm lanterns; and natural ventilation provided by vents and high-level windows. And it’s perfect for anyone who likes the look of wild grain plywood. I’m not sure about the ship-style bunks but the building’s face, at top, is beautiful. For more on eco-building from the Telegraph, which is running a series of these features, start with down on the eco farm.

eco-house in Normandy

Terence Conran on an eco house in Normandy

Terence Conran on an eco house in Normandy

Terence Conran on an eco house in Normandy

Terence Conran on an eco house in Normandy

Terence Conran on an eco house in Normandy

Free Rain – mural in Edmonton, Alberta

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Strathearn mural

It would be nice to have a mural like this in Vancouver. It was designed by B.C. artist James K-M. Information on the mural, and on the collaborative community work of producing it, is here. Click below for a video interview with one of the coordinators.

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Douglas Coupland’s magical white house

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Douglas Coupland's white house, West Vancouver, by photographer Martin Tessler

This is by far one of my favourite houses in Vancouver. It’s in the municipality of West Vancouver, home to many of the best modern houses in the city, and it belongs to the novelist Douglas Coupland. He grew up in West Vancouver, not far from this house. Just as beautiful as this place is the house below it, a beautiful midcentury modern post and beam house designed by the architect Ron Thom. That’s the house Coupland actually lives in with his architect partner David Weir. Coupland is an artist and designer as well as a writer, and the house shown here serves as his gallery, guest house, and many other things. One of the reasons Coupland bought a second house is that the rate of demolition of midcentury modern houses in Vancouver is accelerating, and he wanted to preserve what was in his own back yard. Everything in the house is original – the flagstone floor, the carport, the railings. Lastly I’m sure it’s partly my visual OCD or some pyschedelic tendency, as well as of course their beauty, but his collections of shapes and objects are completely mesmerizing to me. Spools of thread, lego, polyhedra, modernist vases: I’m fixated. There are informative captions on the NYT blog – click on photos to go there (or link at bottom), and see my previous post on Coupland here. The fantastic photos are by Vancouver photographer Martin Tessler for the New York Times.

Douglas Coupland's white house, West Vancouver, by photographer Martin Tessler

Douglas Coupland's white house, West Vancouver, by photographer Martin Tessler Douglas Coupland's white house, West Vancouver, by photographer Martin Tessler

Douglas Coupland's white house, West Vancouver, by photographer Martin Tessler

Douglas Coupland's white house, West Vancouver, by photographer Martin Tessler

Douglas Coupland's white house, West Vancouver, by photographer Martin Tessler

Douglas Coupland's white house, West Vancouver, by photographer Martin Tessler

Douglas Coupland's white house, West Vancouver, by photographer Martin Tessler

Douglas Coupland's white house, West Vancouver, by photographer Martin Tessler

DouglasCouplandWhiteHouse13x

Douglas Coupland's white house, West Vancouver, by photographer Martin Tessler

For NYT captions, click below:

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The “boutique Iliad”, or Smash the State? Or both!

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

The Iliad, Condo developers, and smashing the state

I had a fit of morbid laughter when I saw this redevelopment banner today. The graffiti could be its Greek chorus. Do you think the condo developer actually bothered to read The Iliad before naming a building after it? Or even bothered to Google it? But then why not style a condo as the location of ten years of vicious warfare, flaming arrows streaming past the gates, grieving women tearing their hair in anguish, the dead lying unburied, horrifying and inglorious trips to the underworld, juvenile and narcissistic gods, the death of heroes, and then ultimately the destruction and fall of Troy. Everyone loves a condo building named after a gruesome cautionary tale about fallen cities. Think of the decor potential – let alone the potential for irony! Someone should advise the strata owners that if Greeks/a large wooden horse ever knock, don’t open the door. And the graffiti – do you think they mean Troy? Or Vancouver? Or the 2010 Olympics VANOC committee? Or all three? My mother looked up at this banner darkly, after I pointed it out, and said “The Iliad… well, they’ve never read it!” Then, more hopefully: “Do you think they were being ironic?” You’d think a developer could at least have seen the Brad Pitt movie. Nearly everyone dies, I seem to remember. “Liveability!” Capricious gods! Bloody battlefields! Boutiques!

The Iliad, Condo developers, and smashing the state

P.S. The boutique Iliad building is not being built on this spot. It already exists a few blocks away from this site. It’s on Homer Street, of course, but that street was not named after the blind poet. It was named after an early Vancouver lumber magnate, which makes it similar to most of our downtown streets. But let’s pretend it’s Greek, why not? I wonder what war story the condo developer will borrow for the new building to be built on this spot?  The Das Boot, maybe? The boutique Deer Hunter? And I guess this means goodbye to the William Davis Centre for Actors Study. It was housed in this building – you can see the sign at the end of the block. Davis is the Canadian actor who played The Cigarette Smoking Man on The X-Files. The character was a jerk but I bet he could tell you the plot of The Iliad. Lastly: if you live in the Iliad building, you need this painting for your decor! It’s at the Hastings Street Value Village right now.

Trojan horse, film still

Above, the Trojan horse from the film “Troy,” starring Brad Pitt as Achilles.

When bric-a-brac was part of a revolutionary politics

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Artists Gregg Simpson and Al Neil and others, photo by Michael de Courcy

Vancouver curator Scott Watson’s essay Urban Renewal: Ghost Traps, Collage, Condos and Squats is part of the impressive and totally compelling Vancouver Art in the Sixties website project. It’s a well-organized archive of Vancouver’s 1960s art production and it’s far too large a topic for one post. What I found immediately interesting though was Watson’s historical contextualization of residential architecture and interior aesthetics in the 60s, especially its turn away from modernist minimalism and toward more baroque historical styles. He suggests that the Edwardian bric-a-brac and Art Nouveau styles that were adopted by Vancouver’s arts and hippie communities in the 60s were a reaction against the City of Vancouver’s move to demolish the crumbling inner-city Edwardian houses, which housed its art and social protest, and replace them with corporate architectural brutalism and strata-controlled condos. This was no doubt replayed in cities all across North America. Watson’s essay is particularly interesting in light of the current revival of Edwardian/Victorian granny chic in interior design and craft. It seems to me this is revival without any politics, but I could be wrong. In many cases it seems the farthest thing from radical, however you understand that word, but it could also be an echo of a similar problem in urban planning. Photo above by Michael de Courcy shows a screening on December 31, 1969 of a collaborative video at Vancouver’s Intermedia art centre.

The following are excerpts from Watson’s essay (click the link at top for the whole text).

“At the advent of what we now call postmodernism, the doomed Edwardian building inventory that provided bohemia’s living, studio and event spaces also provided an aesthetic opposed to Brutalism, the heavy concrete fortress style of public buildings that had arisen in response to the riots and demonstrations of the 60s. Late Victorian and Edwardian furniture and bric-a-brac furnished communal houses. In these spaces Art Nouveau was revived and deployed to advertise concerts and events. Rejection of the “brutality of the new” was, in essence, a very real concern about the disappearance of places to live, eat, congregate, exhibit and perform. In defnse of a crumbling inventory of modest, poorly built pioneer-era wooden and brick structures, the art community of the day rejected not only the Brutalist idioms of the 1960s and 1970s, but the gentler suburban modernism of the 1940s and 1950s. Or to be more precise, the authoritarian, normalizing, “design for living” modernism, with its unarticulated suppression of libidinal circulation, was an anathema for the generation of the 1960s and 1970s. The hippie movement as appropriated by fashion and popular music adopted Edwardian and Art Nouveau as its style of protest and renunciation of consumer/spectacle society.” [This excerpt was the last paragraph of several excerpts below. Click for more.]

Doors poster by Bob Masse, Vancouver, 1967Art Nouveau-influenced Doors poster by Bob Masse, Vancouver, 1967. Below, Bob Masse, William Tell & the Marksmen Great White Light, Vancouver, 1960s.

Bob Masse Poster, William Tell & the Marksmen Great White Light, Vancouver, 1960s

Will your home be next? Poster by Don Gutstein, poster, Vancouver, 1975Will your home be next? Poster by Don Gutstein, poster, Vancouver, 1975

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