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Architecture Interiors

Dwell Home Spotlight

April 20, 2015

Full article here.

Moving from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, Brian Crano and David Craig struggled to find a worthy replacement for the sizable Victorian home they left behind. They finally saw potential in the exquisite views offered by an uninspired apartment building in Brooklyn’s Vinegar Hill. The couple ended up buying two apartments on the top floor and enlisted the help of Sarah Zames, of Brooklyn-based General Assembly Design, to help them merge the two into one coherent unit. “They took a developer’s building that was built without anyone in mind and really sculpted it to be exactly what is right for them,” says Zames.

To bring order into the space, Zames divided the apartment in two directions. She pushed all the functional elements—including a bedroom and home office—against one wall to provide more room for leisure, in the form of an open-plan area for entertaining, on the other.

The division is visible in the choice of materials and color. “We used raw and industrial materials on one side and brought more texture and color to the other,” Zames says. “In the public space all the walls are bright whites since they get a lot of great light,” Zames says, “and on the bedroom side we painted the ceiling a dark blue to make it feel quieter and calmer.” Connecting the two is what was once the building’s public hallway, that makes a strong statement of its own with the help of wallpaper from Flavor Paper.

The wallpaper reflects a desire on the architect’s side to create a balance between the natural and the synthetic. Although both the owners and Zames express a preference for natural materials, Zames was careful not to overemphasize their presence. “I think if you use too many natural materials things can end up looking a little bit too ‘country-kitchen.’” In turn, Zames juxtaposed the raw wood and the custom cabinetry with dark colors and wallpapered walls, creating a space full of dynamic details.

Although extensive, the nine-month renovation was guided by a number of small but key decisions. “When we first started working together Brian picked out a copper BlueStar range for the kitchen,” Zames says. The strong presence of the stove initiated a lot of conversations about materials and colors and the final design was revealed as part of the process. “Maybe some designers and architects come with grand, sweeping gestures of how to transform the space, but I think it’s often a series of small decisions that end up making the design,” Zames says.


Architecture Published

Adventurous Apartment Building Made of 36 Shipping Containers

December 10, 2014

Three dozen shipping containers find a safe port in a modern apartment building in Mexico.

Full article here.

In León, Mexico, Adrián López Menduett sought to create an architecturally adventurous apartment building. After he bought a parcel in the Piletas neighborhood, the city made plans to construct a road across part of his land, trimming the buildable area to just under 2,300 square feet—about a third of the original footprint. This neccessitated a vertically oriented design. To Mario Plasencia, the architect Menduett hired, shipping containers offered a way to keep costs down, to build sustainably with recycled materials, and to use an unexpected construction method. “The containers helped us get noticed,” Plasencia says. “Bringing people out of their comfort zone is a challenge. Everything here is built with the same materials, colors, and shapes.”

Finding the 36 containers needed to complete the eight apartments—a number determined by the number of parking spaces that could fit on the lot—proved difficult. Plasencia scoured many of Mexico’s ports to get them. He repainted each container in its original hue, creating a prismatic exterior. Most of the interior walls were covered with plaster panels for insulation and acoustics—”but it was important to leave one container wall exposed,” Plasencia says, “to preserve that sense of texture.”

Architecture Published

Tadao Ando’s Reimagined Clark Art Institute

June 1, 2014

The striking Massachusetts museum Clark Art Institute reopens its doors after a decade-long transformation.

Full article here.

The new center at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute opens up before its guests almost imperceptibly, the entrance revealing itself only after visitors have walked down a long path framed by a slab of red granite. The granite parts to unveil a dazzling reflecting pool which unites the three central buildings of Clark’s 140-acre campus. This area is the nucleus of a decade-long transformation of the Williamstown, Massachusetts, museum which brought together the famed architects Tadao Ando, Annabelle Selldorf, and Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects and finally reopened its doors on July 4th.

The first stop at the reimagined Clark is Tadao Ando’s visitor center. As his other works in the United States, the Pulitzer Foundation in St. Louis and the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, Ando’s visitor center is austere and meditative, a transitional space that points to other buildings rather than draws attention to itself. Granite and glass are the main materials and their primary role, according to Ando, is to draw the eye to the hill that rises above the Clark. The minimalist visitor center is followed by a restrained reconfiguration of the galleries in the Museum Building, where Annabelle Selldorf turned the long corridors of the previous incarnation into smaller rooms, giving the space a more intimate air, appropriate for the museum’s collection which is famous for nineteenth-century American and European art.

Connecting these buildings is a three-tiered reflecting pool, which was one of the main points of contention in the 14-year-long, $145 million transformation of the Clark. Nonetheless, as it oscillates between turning opaque and reflecting the rolling hills above it, the pool is undoubtedly the crowning achievement of the project. Stemming from Ando’s idea it was made a reality by the landscape firm Reed Hilderbrand, which took into account the practicalities of the site and the need for a sustainable solution that could provide irrigation for the campus and withstand the cold Massachusetts winters. In a particularly inspired detail, the pool will become a functioning skating rink in the winter, drawing in even the most reluctant visitors.

And while on a recent trip most guests elbowed their way to take pictures of Tadao Ando, who had come from Osaka for the reopening, the true success of the Clark lies not in its association with the great architect, but in the thoughtful harmony of its many elements. From the unlikely pairing of the original 1955 neo-Classical building and the 1970s Brutalist Manton Research Center to the way Ando’s Visitor Center responds to the sprawling fields above, the Clark is not a conglomeration of disparate elements but a balanced whole. While many elements of the project, such as the time and the money invested, as well the involvement of a famed starchitect, might have resulted in a overambitious muddle, the reimagined Clark is a subtle work, one that successfully presents art, architecture, and nature as nothing short of equals.