Monday, April 25, 2011

VD Guide XI

The VD Guide XI gives you a range of vernacular delights and animal ingenuity sparkled with some natural phenomenon and sharp architecture.
Thanks once again to our Australian friend Charles Ranken for his contribution "House of Mirrors". If you are holding on to a piece of great architecture that hasn't been featured yet, feel free to drop us a line (
/the vd team

Social Weaver's Nest - Huge bird nest that can accomodate hundreds of birds
Birth: A long time ago
Location: Southern Africa
Architect: The Social Weaver bird
VD says: Proves once again that some animals can compete for the Pritzker Prize

The Social Weavers are small African birds that are extremely gregarious. Sociable weavers construct permanent nests on trees and other tall objects. These nests are the largest built by any bird, and are large enough to house over a hundred pairs of birds, containing several generations at a time. The nests are highly structured and provide birds with a more advantageous temperature relative to the outside. The central chambers retain heat and are used for nighttime roosting. The outer rooms are used for daytime shade and maintain temperatures of 7-8 degrees Celsius inside while outside temperatures may range from 16-33 degrees Celsius.
The nests consist of separate chambers, each of which is occupied by a pair (sometimes with offspring) roost and breed. Nests are built around large and sturdy structures like Acacia trees or sometimes even telephone poles. These nests are perhaps the most spectacular structure built by any bird.


Loess Belt Dwellings - Dug out settlements for ten million Chinese
Location: Loess Belt, China
Architect: Chinese
VD says: Great site adaptation and agricultural finesse

One of the most radical solutions in the field of shelter is represented by the underground towns and villages in the Chinese loess belt. Loess is silt, transported and deposited by the wind.
Because of its great softness and high porosity (45 per cent), it can be easily carved. In places, roads have been cut as much as 15 meters deep into the original level by the action of wheels.
The photographs show settlements of the most rigorous, not to say abstract, design near Tungkwan (Honnan).
The dark squares in the flat landscape are pits about the size of a tennis court.
Their vertical sides are 9 to 10 meters high. L-shaped staircases lead to the apartments below whose rooms are about 10 meters deep and 5 meters wide, and measure about 5 meters to the top of the vaulted ceiling.
They are lighted and aired by openings that give onto the courtyard.
Not only habitations but factories, schools, hotels and goverment offices are built
entirely underground.
The floor/roof has a double function: shelter and crop field. Neither additional air-conditioning nor heating is required, due to natural thermal lag kept in the soil mass. Furthermore, grain from the fields may be dried above ground, and afterwards
storaged downstairs in the cave dwelling, simply by letting it directly fall into the storage room, through a hole on the floor/roof.
The weather conditions are very extreme in this part of the world, with harsh long winters and very hot summers, thus the cave dwellings make the climate more stable for its inhabitants. It is estimated that over ten million people live in underground settlements in China.


Dutch Tulip Fields - Three billion tulips in various colors
Birth: Beginning of the 17th century
Location: Fields all over Holland
Architect: Dutch farmers
VD says: A kaleidoscope of colors

With more than 10,000 hectares devoted to the cultivation of these delicate flowers, the Dutch landscape in May is a delight of colors when the tulips burst into life.
The bulbs were planted in late October and early November, and these colourful creations are now ready to be picked and sold as bunches of cut flowers in florists and supermarkets.
More than three billion tulips are grown each year and two-thirds of the vibrant blooms are exported, mostly to the U.S. and Germany.


Byholma Lumber Storage - Worlds largest lumber storage due to a hurricane
Birth: 2005
Location: Byholma, Sweden
Architect: The hurricane Gudrun
VD says: Immense scale

The fierce hurricane Gudrun swept over Southern Sweden in January 2005 and caused over 300 000 000 trees to fall in this region, an airbase outside the small town Byholma has been converted to the largest lumber storage in the world, now including 1 000 000 m3 of timber. This will stay at this place until 2010, otherwise the market would be saturated. It is now a popular tourist place with a tourbus going in the summer.


Kariakoo Market - A water collecting market place
Birth: 1972
Location: Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania
Architect: Beda Amuli
VD says: Great solution

The Kariakoo market in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, is such an example. Built in 1974 by the architect B.J. Amuli, the building offers three layers of market area and forms the centre of the Kariakoo market which is spread out in the neighborhood. The building is perfectly adapted to its function, but also to its environment. It provides for the necessary air circulation and the roof exists of a series of gigantic funnels to harvest the rain, to be stored in underground collection tanks.


Teatro Olimpico - A trompe oeil theatre scenery
Birth: 1580-1585
Location: Venice, Italy
Architect: Andrea Palladio and Vincenzo Scamozzi
VD says: Staggering stage set!

The Teatro Olimpico ("Olympic Theatre") is a theatre in Vicenza, northern Italy: constructed in 1580-1585, it is the oldest surviving enclosed theatre in the world. The theatre was the final design by the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, Renaissance, and was not completed until after his death. The trompe-l'œil onstage scenery, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, to give the appearance of long streets receding to a distant horizon, was installed in 1585 for the very first performance held in the theatre, and is the oldest surviving stage set still in existence.

The Teatro Olimpico is, along with the Teatro all'antica in Sabbioneta and the Teatro Farnese in Parma, one of only three Renaissance theatres remaining in existence. Both these theatres were based, in large measure, on the Teatro Olimpico.


Danakil Desert - A volcanic desert
Birth: A long time ago
Location: North-eastern Ethiopia
Architect: Earth
VD says: Wonderous and grim landscape

Danakil Desert in northeast Ethiopia has been called “Hell on Earth,” but that doesn’t dissuade thrill-seeking travelers from flocking there to see some of the strangest conditions on the entire planet.
Walking in the incredible landscape of the Danakil desert is probably as close as you can get to stepping foot on an alien planet. The desolate landscape is marked by volatile volcanoes and the scorching hot air is filled with hazardous gases.
It was named by National Geographic as the "Cruelest Place on Earth".


Southampton Versailles - Renovation of boring apartment into French Royal
Birth: 1985 and still going
Location: Southampton, UK
Architect: Adrian Reeman
VD says: Admirable effort

Being a proper British eccentric, Mr Reeman has spent 25 years transforming his once ordinary flat in Southampton, Hampshire into the lavish Palace of Versailles, once home to the French Royal Family until 1789.
His two bedroom flat, nine stories up an unremarkable tower block, is now covered in opulent wooden panels, ornate glass fittings and elegant scroll work from ceiling to floor.
Adrian has never even been to Versailles, which is on the outskirts of Paris, despite it being only 300 kilometres away from his home, about the same distance as between New York and Boston. But with a home like his, he's no need to.
But tragically, Adrian and Annette may have to rip out all his hard work if they ever move.
'The council have a policy that tenants must restore flats to their original condition before moving out,' he says.
'There's no way I could put this place back to how it was, it would be impossible, so it looks like I'm trapped here until they pull the whole block down.'


Prince Saint Vladimir - A floating church
Birth: 2004
Location: Volga River, Russia
Architect: Russian Church
VD says: Great concept for religious buildings

The Prince Saint Vladimir is basically an old boat converted into a floating church that could make the sacred relics on board accessible to people in remote areas along the Volga River.

Built back in 2004, the unique church was designed to reach even the shallowest waters, so that all the people of the Volvograd region could have access to a church and priest. There were two other similar churches built before, but because they were practically converted barges, they could only be moved by tugboats. The Prince Saint Vladimir is, however, a self-propelled craft.

On September 13, 2010, the great river voyage of the Prince Saint Vladimir began. The floating church will travel around 3,000 kilometers along the shores of the Volga, from the river mouth, all the way to Moscow. It will make stops in both cities and small communities along the shores, allowing people access to relics of eight great saints from the era of the Undivided Church. Its voyage will take the sacred ship to areas that have suffered from drought and terrible wildfires, and the Russian Church hopes it will bring comfort to locals.


Galathee - An underwater house for ocean observation
Birth: 1977
Location: The Mediterranean
Architect: Jacques Rougerie
VD says: Cool design, but even cooler mission

French architect Jacques Rougerie suggests that we should build underwater. Between 1977 and 1981 he constructed underwater habitats and villages, named Galathee, Aquabulle and Hippocampe, which have been tested in the course of scientific and educational operations in the Mediterranean.


La Tomatina - A tomato fight event
Birth: 1950
Location: Buñol, Spain
Architect: Buñol townsmen
VD says: One hour is all that is necessary to radically change the public space - in this case the change is done with tomatoes.

La Tomatina is a festival that is held in the Valencian town of Buñol, in which participants throw tomatoes at each other. It is held the last Wednesday in August, during the week of festivities of Buñol.
At around 10am festivities begin with the first event of the Tomatina. It is the "palo jabón", similar to the greasy pole. The goal is to climb a greased pole with a ham on top. As this happens, the revellers work into a frenzy of singing and dancing whilst being showered in water from hoses. Once someone is able to drop the ham off the pole, the start signal for the tomato fight is given. The signal for the onset is at about 11 when a loud shot rings out, and the chaos begins.
Several trucks throw tomatoes in abundance in the Plaza del Pueblo. The tomatoes come from Extremadura, where they are less expensive and are grown specifically for the holidays, being of inferior taste. For the participants the use of goggles and gloves are recommended. The tomatoes must be crushed before being thrown so as to reduce the risk of injury.
After exactly one hour, the fight ends with the firing of the second shot, announcing the end. The whole town square is coloured red and rivers of tomato juice flow freely. Fire Trucks hose down the streets and participants use hoses that locals provide to remove the tomato paste from their bodies. Some participants go to the pool of “los peñones” to wash. After the cleaning, the village cobblestone streets are pristine due to the acidity of the tomato disinfecting and thoroughly cleaning the surfaces.


Flood Spider Webs - Enormous spider webs in trees after the Pakistan flooding
Birth: 2010
Location: Sindh, Pakistan
Architect: Spiders
VD says: Spiders are going Christo, but in comparison with him, these webs also have a positive function; an anti-malarian effect.

When Pakistan experienced severe flooding in 2010, it had the unexpected side effect of driving millions upon millions of spiders to the trees, where they could escape the floodwater. Since the flooding lasted for such a long time, many trees became blanketed in thick layers of web.

But according to the UK government, which assisted in the flood release effort this may have actually had a positive health effect: On-the-ground reports suggest that there are fewer mosquitos than would have been expected after the influx of so much stagnant water. This, in turn, may have reduced the very real risk of malaria to local populations afflicted with flooding.


Bliss & Son's Tweed Mill - Victorian looking factory
Birth: 1872
Location: Chipping Norton, UK
Architect: George Woodhouse
VD says: A quite humoristic building

The Bliss Valley Tweed Mill built to resemble a great house in a park and far removed from the simplicity of Early Victorian industrial architecture. It has a balustraded parapet and square corner cowers with urns. A chimneystack of the Tuscan order dominates. It rises from a domed tower and is dated 1872. The architect was George Woodhouse from Lancashire, who specialised in the design of mills and factories.


Nash Tower of Value - Stacked cars in moving glass elevator
Birth: 1933 Death: 1933
Location: Chicago, USA
Architect: Nash Motors
VD says: Wonderful and ingenius display

The Nash Tower of Value was a feature of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.
This parking tower is 25 meters tall, and it carries sixteen cars,
each car in a pocket, its full height. Colored lights bathe the tower,
and Nash cars pass up and down in continuous movement,
bringing each car into a glass-fronted show room at the tower's base.
The tower’s sleek see-through design also demonstrated the space-saving advantages of mechanical car storage in a parking garage.


Valle de la Prehistoria - A vast park of dinosaur statues
Birth: 1980
Location: Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Architect: Cuban inmates
VD says: What stirs the imagination better than real size dinos?

Valle de la Prehistoria, near the city of Santiago de Cuba, is a prehistoric-themed tourist attraction that features life-size models of over 200 dinosaurs and cavemen.

Located inside the Bocanao National park, Valle de la Prehistoria spreads over 11 hectares of land and is as close as it can get to a real-life Jurassic Park. The vast recreational park dedicated to science and palaeontology is split into multiple areas separated by geological epochs, and features lush vegetation, man-made waterfalls and 227 concrete statues representing 59 different species, including dinosaurs, mammoths, felines and early cavemen.
According to people who visited this popular tourist attraction, it is indeed a fun way to travel back in time, and no other facility manages to recreate a prehistoric atmosphere as faithfully.
Valle de la Prehistoria was opened to the public in 1980 and its detailed statues were apparently built by a group of inmates, using a popular technique known as ferrocement.


Horsetail Fall - A waterfall that glows in some February sunsets
Birth: A long time ago
Location: Yosemite, USA
Architect: Earth
VD says: Earth shows one of her many natural spectacles, what a magician

Horsetail Fall is one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the North American continent, but it’s only truly special for two weeks a year. The first firefalls of Yosemite Park were man made. Large fires were started atop Glacier Point and the red-hot embers were pushed down the granite wall, in the evening. It was a nice show of fireworks, until the fire hazard of the 1960s, when the dangerous practice stopped.

But that didn’t mean Yosemite was left without a firefall, if anything, people got to discover a much more beautiful one. When the natural conditions are just right, tourists can enjoy a unique spectacle where water turns into burning fire. During the last two weeks of February, when the sun shines above Yosemite Valley, and water pours down the granite wall, the firefall phenomenon takes place. But because clouds and storms are common during the winter months, and sometimes California has dry years, Horsetail Firefall can only be witnessed rarely, and timing is of the essence.


Tower of David - A squatter skyscraper
Birth: 1994
Location: Caracas, Venezuela
Architect: David Brillembourg
VD says: An interesting skyscraper paradox

Some people still call the 45-story skyscraper the Tower of David, after David Brillembourg, the brash financier who built it in the 1990s. The helicopter landing pad on its roof remains intact, a reminder of the airborne limousines that were once supposed to drop bankers off for work.
The office tower, one of Latin America’s tallest skyscrapers, was meant to be an emblem of Venezuela’s entrepreneurial mettle. But that era is gone. Now, with more than 2,500 squatters making it their home, the building symbolizes something else entirely in this city’s center.
The squatters live in the uncompleted high-rise, which lacks several basic amenities like an elevator. The smell of untreated sewage permeates the corridors. Children scale unlit stairways guided by the glow of cellphones. Some recent arrivals sleep in tents and hammocks.
Few of the building’s terraces have guardrails. Even walls and windows are absent on many floors. Yet dozens of DirecTV satellite dishes dot the balconies. The tower commands some of the most stunning views of Caracas.


Hyderabad Windscoops - Windscoops to cool down houses
Birth: 16th century Death: The introduction of air condition made them obsolete
Location: Hyderabad, Pakistan
Architect: Hyderabad inhabitants
VD says: A repetetive object that changed the skyline

From April to June the temperature in Hyderabad, Pakistan can exceed 50° C, but the wind always blows from the same direction, so the position of the windscoops is fixed. Rudofsky (Architecture without Architects): “In multistoried houses they reach all the way down, doubling as intramural telephones. Although the origin of this contraption is unknown, it has been in use for at least five hundred years.” I suppose modern air-conditioners, punched into the buildings’ walls, have replaced them – but soon afterwards satellite dishes will have taken their place on the roof.


Garbage City - A waste management slum
Birth: Some time ago
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Architect: The Zabbaleen
VD says: This looks like a Wall-E dystopia

The Manshyiat Naser slum, on the outskirts of Cairo, is often referred to as “The City of Garbage” because of the large quantities of trash shipped here from all over Egypt’s capital city.
Like in any other normal community, you’ll find streets, houses and apartments throughout the settlement, but everything and everyone here depends on garbage. The inhabitants of Manshyiat Naser (called Zabbaleen) bring the trash into the city, by truck, cart, or any other means necessary, and sort any recyclable or useful waste.
Every street and every building in Manshyiat Naser is stacked with mountains of garbage, and you’ll see men, women and children thoroughly digging through them, looking for something they can sell. Although it may seem like an outdated system of handling trash, the Zabbaleen do a far better job than any of the waste handling systems of the modern world. Around 80% of the trash is recycled and resold, while the rest is either fed to the pigs roaming through the city streets, or burned for fuel.
The Zabbaleen barely manage to survive on what they make sorting out garbage, but many of them have done it for generations and wouldn’t conceive living their lives otherwise. They dispose of about a third of Cairo’s garbage, at no cost to authorities, and manage to make a decent living for them and their families. The Model of Manshyiat Naser has been copied in various cities around the world, including Manila, Bombay and Los Angeles.


Chand Baori - A deep and well-crafted stepwell
Birth: 9th Century
Location: Abhaneri, Jaipur, India
Architect: Thirsty Indians
VD says: Beautiful solution for a well

Chand Baori is a famous stepwell situated in the village of Abhaneri near Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
It was built in the 9th century and has 3500 narrow steps in 13 stories.
All forms of the stepwell may be considered to be particular examples of the many types of storage and irrigation tanks that were developed in India, mainly to cope with seasonal fluctuations in water availability. A basic difference between stepwells on the one hand, and tanks and wells on the other, was to make it easier for people to reach the ground water, and to maintain and manage the well.
In some related types of structure (johara wells), ramps were built to allow cattle to reach the water


Seventh Kilometer Market - An enormous market made up of containers
Birth: 1989
Location: Odessa, Ukraine
Architect: Ukrainians
VD says: The big daddy of all container-architecture

Empty shipping containers are commonly used as market stalls and warehouses in the countries of the former USSR.
The biggest shopping mall or organized market in Europe is made up of alleys formed by stacked containers, on 170 acres (69 ha) of land, between the airport and the central part of Odessa, Ukraine. Informally named "Tolchok" and officially known as the Seventh-Kilometer Market it has 16,000 vendors and employs 1,200 security guards and maintenance workers.
The independent traders on the market sell goods in all price ranges, from authentic merchandise to all sorts of cheap Asian consumer goods, including many counterfeit Western luxury goods. According to the impressions of S. L. Myers of the New York Times who visited the market in 2006,
"the market is part third-world bazaar, part post-Soviet Wal-Mart, a place of unadulterated and largely unregulated capitalism where certain questions — about salaries, rents, taxes or last names — are generally met with suspicion."
And Zerkalo Nedeli wrote in 2004 that
"it is a state within a state, with its own laws and rules. It has become a sinecure for the rich and a trade haven for the poor."


House of Mirrors a.k.a. Miracle on the Mountain - A 7-story house made by found objects and recycled materials
Birth: 1940-72 Death: 1974
Location: Ohayo Mountain, New York, USA
Architect: Clarence Schmidt
VD says: Stubborn architect = great architecture

Clarence Schmidt was born in 1897 in Queens NY. At the age of 31, he moved to an inherited property on Ohayo Mountain in Woodstock. By the late 1930s, Schmidt had built and sold his first house, called Journey's End. He began work on the second, a single room log cabin, at the same time.
By 1967, that single room cabin had evolved into a seven story structure with ramps, balconies and rooftop gardens. Schmidt referred to the original cabin space as his "Inner Sanctum" and to the gardens as his "Mirrored Hope."
The large house was a labyrinth of passageways leading to spaces covered in aluminum foil, paint, flowers, wood and shards of mirrors.
Schmidt resurfaced the house with foil over tar and added projections of aluminum foil-covered string. Outside, the branches of bushes and trees were wrapped in foil and small shrines and grottos were added in the area he called the "alleyway." Most striking were the shrines that incorporated rubber masks, hands and feet.
In 1968 a fire fueled by the gallons of tar Schmidt had used to "preserve" the huge house of mirrors destroyed it. He stayed at a motel for the winter, returned to the property in the spring, and began work on a second house.
This second structure, known as the Mark II, consisted of three rooms built over a station wagon. The walls were covered with tree branches wrapped in aluminum foil and the surrounding foliage was wrapped and decorated as well. In December 1971, the Mark II was destroyed by fire.
Clarence Schmidt moved back into town, sleeping in doorways and wherever else he could find shelter. A local agency placed him in a state hospital for observation and when he was found to have diabetes, Schmidt was placed in a nursing home in Kensington NY.
By 1974 only rubble from the houses, some fragments of the shrines and grottos, and the gardens with their stone terracing remained.
In the 1970s-80s, Schmidt's son Michael added some of his own sculptures to the remains of Journey's End. This site has vanished due to vandalism.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Paper Cut Parlor

Visiondivision with Wild Windows has made a waiting room for a private clinic in Stockholm that specializes in athletic injuries. The clinic has two functions; it consists of a rehab gym and an arthroscopic centre. The clinic is occupying a storey in a larger hospital with a staircase and elevator unit that goes through all the floors in the building. We wanted to separate the clinic from the rest of the rather bland hospital environment when creating the new waiting room, and make a clearly defined space that is fresh and diverse while still being comfortable and relaxed to hang around and work in.

A glass partition with an automatic sliding door is separating the common corridor from the new waiting room to make the new space more secluded. What stands out most in the room is the ceiling which has its origins in the usual 60cm x 60cm plates as is found in the hospital and in most public spaces around Sweden, but here we have made a custom disc of form pressed transparent paper which also serves as lighting. The module looks like an upside down pyramid found in three different modes: closed, semi closed and open. The closed version is the most common that even though it is closed also lets through some light because of the semi-transparent properties of the material. The semi-open module sits above the benches and the open ones are located above the reception desk, tables and spots that need to be well lit. Behind the paper sheets are LED-lightning that can change colour, which changes the character of the room and makes the whole room vary slightly depending on when you're there. In addition to the three variants, there is also another unique module that is larger than the others and that can be projected from above and becomes an information display which can be seen from four directions. Here you can view information about the clinic, photo slideshows, movies or whatever is suitable according to the occasion. The ceiling itself is thus a sort of a light fixture that you can focus your attention on while waiting and with its jagged shape it also has excellent acoustic properties. The 60cm x 60cm modular system means that we also can use many standard fixtures regarding electricity, ventilation and so on.

The actual interior is made out of different woods that are darker closer to the floor and lighter closer to the ceiling and the light. The floor is a plastic mat due to cleaning reasons that mimics dark walnut parquet. The reception desk is 75 cm high so it will be easily accessible for people in wheelchairs and the low height also gives a relaxed first impression, opposite to the high reception desks which can feel somewhat stiff and bureaucratic. The reception desk has three computer stations where individuals can check in to the gym or to the arthroscopic centre with a proximity to the concierge if any questions should arise. The gym and the clinic each have a clear sign at each receptionist. The two height adjustable workstations are built-in the desk for a cohesive look. A small gap between the desk and the wall creates a small short cut for the receptionist closest to the gym. The waiting room consists of 27 seats and some spaces next to a high table for clients that prefer to stand while waiting. The table has also gym products at display and some informative brochures. The clients gets a small beep gadget that alerts them when it is their turn, which means that the doctors doesn’t need to come out in the waiting room and call up the patient. Overall it is a pleasant and comfortable waiting room that works well for both the gym and the arthroscopic clinic. The ceiling gives the room a visual consistency and also the ability to vary the experience for those waiting.
Expected completion date: late summer 2011.

Plan, click on the image for a larger view Section, click on the image for a larger view