Solar Decathlon

April 10th, 2011

Yesterday marked the end of the 2009 Solar Decathlon.  The event “joins 20 college and university teams in a competition to design, build, and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house.”  The Solar Decathlon is an educational project of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  It takes place each year on the national mall in Washington D.C.  You can learn more about the event at the  Solar Decathlon’s site.


We’re obliged to share this year’s winning design by Team Germany:


I was disappointed to see that the University of Texas didn’t enter this year.  Since we couldn’t root for our alma mater, we were behind Cornell’s cor-ten steel silos.  No prize for them this year, but still a nice design in our book.


October 26th, 2009


Most Architects wouldn’t be drooling over a commission to design a warehouse/office building in an industrial complex. Yet this simple building set in the Dutch area of Westland shows that good design can improve any building type. I love the simple use of color and material. The building provides office and warehouse space for three separate companies. Each company’s entrance is defined by a different vibrant color along with a simple box projection. I applaud Sputnik Architecture for their creativity with what typically would be viewed as a mundane building.


The Kenig Residence by Slade Architecture has created a sleek renovation that blurs the boundary between home and shopping experience. I don’t know if I would want all of my shoes on display all of the time, but I do like the idea of using those items that we typically conceal as a design feature. I also don’t have nearly as many shoes as this person does. I think this works though. The shoes start to inform and create the aesthetic of the spaces. They become decorative elements, at the same time defining spaces.


Zo-Loft Architecture’s WheelLY is a unique prototype design for a mobile homeless shelter. The WheelLY is made of recycled material, expands easily, and rolls of down the street with the aid of handle in a matter of seconds. The unit even provides for sponsor’s advertising on the side.


LOT-EK repurposed used shipping containers to create this mobile Puma Store known as PUMA CITY. The design is completely dis-mountable, making it able to be shipped anywhere. The idea of creating buildings out of shipping containers is not a new one, but it is finally starting to be played out in reality rather than simply discussed in theory. The results are fascinating, a building built out of plentiful, economical “building blocks” if you will. I look forward to more exploration in this area.


September 23rd, 2009


Welcome to our first installment of another ongoing series of posts. Our main goal with this series is just to have fun designing. Our other goal is to provide vignettes that demonstrate how design can affect our built surroundings. We'll be finding buildings (homes, commercial or otherwise) that we feel need some design love. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do creating them.




September 18th, 2009


I thought it fitting to offer this building example with our economy in a current state of recession. The San Petronio Basilica in Bologna, Italy offers a real world example of a building project that ran “dry”. The basilica ran out of funding towards the end of construction leaving, as you can see, the façade only partially complete. The stone cladding stops abruptly, with the structural brick walls behind exposed for the majority of the building. As we explored around either side of the church, we quickly discovered the exterior wasn’t the only feature missing. Apparently the notice that the money was gone came in right about the time the side wings were being built. The side alleys now reveal corners literally cut off, still in construction process as it was many centuries before. They did however brick up the walls where the wing ends.Although, not what the Architect envisioned and designed, the juxtaposition between the highly ornate, refined stone work and the simple, rough brick creates a very unique façade. Particularly in the realm of Italian basilicas. Unintentionally the building starts an interesting conversation about the idea of ornamentation in architecture. It seems to be pulling back its fancy robe, saying “See, underneath this fancy stone I’m really just this ordinary brick. This is what is true”. The side wing cut off in mid air recalls the work of Gordon Matta-Clark and his “de-construction” of buildings. There is certainly an uneasy tension when viewing the incompleteness. You get an x-ray slice through the building, bones sticking out and all.

Architecture By the Bottle

September 15th, 2009


I love the idea of taking an object or a piece of history and using those items or ideas to develop details of a design or concept. The wine rack above is a detail from Circa restaurant in Memphis, TN designed by 3SIXO architects. The modular design serves as both screens, creating privacy for diners as well as storage for wine bottles. Simple idea, we need storage for our wine, we need privacy for our patrons. Two birds, one stone. They could have just as easily designed privacy walls and wine storage independent of each other. I think the combining of the two creates a new beauty, an added layer.

Blatz 03

Johnsen Schmaling Architects used the history of the Blatz brewery company as inspiration for it's conversion into a mixed-use building. These pivoting walls of beer bottles from the old brewery act as both door and lighting element.