Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Guest Lecture Estonian Academy of Arts

If you are in Tallinn the 19th of September, the VD-team will do a guest lecture at the Estonian Academy of Arts (Eesti Kunstiakadeemia) showing old and new architectural show stoppers. Remember that there are cheap boats from both Stockholm, St Petersburg and Helsinki to Tallinn and the buses from Riga are quite cheap as well, so this is a lecture for the whole Baltic region.
The lecture starts at 6 pm and we hope to see you there.
For more info and how to get there; click here!

Monday, September 9, 2013


Botanize and follow the visiondivision board on Pinterest, where you will see all of our projects divided in different categories. You will also find the complete vd guide in a massive folder. Other things will also appear in a near future, so make sure you bookmark the board and follow our architectural adventures.

Monday, September 2, 2013

VD Guide XV

It’s time for the VD Guide XV where we bring you a sample of some of the most curious architectural achievements as well as a couple of outstanding natural phenomenon that occurs on our planet, all in the interest of getting a greater understanding in how we can produce an architecture for today.
You will for example see some repetitive housing projects, postmodern architectural explorations, small worlds made of bat droppings, tacky, but interesting, constructions in Latin America and a lot more.
Sit back and enjoy this kaleidoscope of delights!
/The management

Basento Viaduct - A bridge with an extra layer
Birth: 1967
Location: Potenza, Italy
Architect: Sergio Musmeci
VD says: A smart Calatrava

Musmeci, who along with contemporaries Frei Otto, Eladio Dieste, and his mentor Luigi Nervi, derived his forms from the stresses incurred upon different materials and structural systems, usually through extensive studies using large-scale models, reversing the typical design process which first prescribes arbitrary geometry to specific conditions or problems before seeing to structural issues. The finalized form was the result of its optimization, which ensured maximum efficiency in performance and minimal material usage.
The Basento Viaduct is comprised of a road deck supported below by a continuous structural concrete membrane 30 cm thick. The flatness and expanse of the carriageway’s top layer is subverted by as “underworld” of complex surfaces, whose curved, fluid forms can only in the most vulgar sense be called organic. This cavernous space functions as a pedestrian walkway–a perverse iteration of the High Line, avant la lettre, a kind of public (skate-) park sandwiched in mid-air.

Whereas Musmeci’s bridge may seem an over-elaborate solution to a relatively standard problem, it speaks to the aesthetic capabilities of the engineer, whose forms here are not given over to some Calatrava-like exuberance for expressivity’s sake, but are instead justified by their inherent efficiencies.


Kinkaku-ji - A gold temple inserted in a well-kept garden
Birth: First in 1397 and then rebuilt many times, last time in 1955
Location: Kyoto, Japan
Architect: Ashikaga Yoshimitsu
VD says: So perfect that a monk got insane and burned it down

Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion) is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Formally known as Rokuonji, the temple was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and according to his will it became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect after his death in 1408. Kinkakuji was the inspiration for the similarly named Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion), built by Yoshimitsu's grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, on the other side of the city a few decades later.
Kinkakuji is an impressive structure built overlooking a large pond, and is the only building left of Yoshimitsu's former retirement complex. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Onin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and once again more recently in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.
The garden complex is an excellent example of Muromachi period garden design.The Muromachi period is considered to be a classical age of Japanese garden design.The correlation between buildings and its settings were greatly emphasized during this period. It was a way to integrate the structure within the landscape in an artistic way. The garden designs were characterized by a reduction in scale, a more central purpose, and a distinct setting. A minimalistic approach was brought to the garden design, by recreating larger landscapes in a smaller scale around a structure.


Coats Coat Coat Store - A sales scheme
Birth: Early 1900s Death: Same year
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Architect: Coat store owner
VD says: Great commercial stunt

Ovesrstocked with a large supply of men’s spring and winter coats, a clothier in Copenhagen, Denmark, adopted a unique sales scheme. He erected a scaffolding around his store building and completely covered it from roof to sidewalk with more than a thousand overcoats. The novel display attracted prospective customers in such droves that police were summoned. Although the police ordered the proprietor to remove the display, he succeeded in selling all the overcoats.


Rocas Baimbridgen - A flamingo lagoon with a perfect observation slope
Birth: A long time ago
Location: Galapagos, Ecuador
Architect: Earth
VD says: A natural delight

Not only a visual stunning rock formation, but also a very important feeding site for millions of flamingos.
The stark, rocky island teems with life at times with its brackish lagoon waters. The way the rock slopes it should also be a perfect observation point to see the great birds.


Dragon Descendants Museum- A huge fiberglass dragon with a museum inside
Birth: 2008
Location: Supan Bhuri, Thailand
Architect: Unknown
VD says: Funny

The main purpose of the exhibition space inside the tremendous golden dragon is to broaden the knowledge concerning the close relationship between Thais and the Chinese, as well as to present this long-running history in an enjoyable way.
The 35-meter high and 135-meter long gigantic fiberglass dragon building in the shrine of Suphan Buri city pillar is known as the Dragon Descendants Museum. The museum was founded in the year 1996 when Banhan Silpa-archa was the prime minister of Thailand to commemorate the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. There was an official grand opening on the 24th of December 2008, and after that, the museum became the province’s new and magnetic cultural attraction. The museum inside the dragon building is arranged into twenty one display rooms , presenting 5,000 years of Chinese history, philosophy, beliefs and its close relationship with Thailand. In addition, there is an interesting exhibition showing the background of Thais with a dash of Chinese.

Rehabilitation Center - A brutalist housing with interesting balconies
Birth: 1985
Location: Dombai, Russia
Architect: Unknown
VD says: Brutal

A part from the location and when it was built, we haven't found out much more about this building, if you do, drop us a line.
But even without so much info, the repetetive facade with the balconies are very fascinating to look at.


Kolmanskop - A ghost town reclaimed by the desert
Birth: 1954
Location: Namib desert, Namibia
Architect: Sand and people
VD says: Stark contrast between nature and building

Kolmanskop is a ghost town in the Namib desert in southern Namibia, a few kilometres inland from the port town of Lüderitz. Once a small but very rich mining village, it is now a popular tourist destination run by the joint firm NamDeb (Namibia-De Beers).
In 1908 the worker Zacharias Lewala found a diamond while working in this area and showed it to his supervisor, the German railway inspector August Stauch. After realizing that this area was rich in diamonds, lots of German miners settled in this area and soon after the German government declared a large area as a "Sperrgebiet", starting to exploit the diamond field.
Driven by the enormous wealth of the first diamond miners, the residents built the village in the architectural style of a German town, with amenities and institutions including a hospital, ballroom, power station, school, skittle-alley, theatre and sport-hall, casino, ice factory and the first x-ray-station in the southern hemisphere, as well as the first tram in Africa. It had a railway link to Lüderitz.
The town declined after World War I when the diamond-field slowly exhausted and was ultimately abandoned in 1954. The geological forces of the desert mean that tourists now walk through houses knee-deep in sand. Kolmanskop is popular with photographers for its settings of the desert sands' reclaiming this once-thriving town. Due to its location within the restricted area (Sperrgebiet) of the Namib desert, tourists need a permit to enter the town.


Concattedrale Gran Madre di Dio - A church with perforated reinforced concrete
Birth: 1979
Location: Taranto, Italy
Architect: Giò Ponti
VD says: Muy bella

This Church the "Great Mother of God" is the Co-Cathedral of Taranto. It was conceived considering the close link with the maritime tradition of Taranto. The façade, in fact, represents a kind of canopy that reflects in the pools of the courtyard to symbolize the sea. These perforated reinforced concrete structures reach 50 meters in height and contain the stairs to the use of the tower hidden in the structures of the wing. The interior has three aisles from the essential character in the coating in white plaster, green and ocher. Even in the decorations, there is the hand of the architect, Gio Ponti in fact to give prepared and the Annunciation painted on canvas, the seats for the dignity of the Chapter and stalls for the rest of the canons. The same baptismal font in the chapel of the same name in the middle of the aisle, was designed by Ponti.


Svínafellsjökull Ice Caves- Spectacular ice caves
Birth: Unknown
Location: Svínafellsjökull Glacier, Iceland
Architect: Ice
VD says: Falleg!

Ice caves are temporary structures that appear at the edge of glaciers. They look amazingly beautiful from the inside. This particular cave is located on the frozen lagoon of the Svínafellsjökull glacier in Skaftafell, Iceland. The centuries old ice coming down the slopes of Öræfajökull via Svínafellsjökull glacier has metamorphosed into highly pressurized glacier ice that contains almost no air bubbles. The lack of air means that it absorbs almost all visible light, apart from the blue fraction which is then visible to the naked eye. However, this blue ice can be seen only under certain circumstances. It can be seen in winter after long periods of rain when the surface layer of the glacier has been washed away. It can be seen in ice-caves like this one and on floating icebergs that have recently rolled over.

This cave in the glacier ice is the result of glacial mill, or Moulin where rain and melt water on the glacier surface are channeled into streams that enter the glacier at crevices. The waterfall melts a hole into the glacier while the ponded water drains towards lower elevations by forming long ice caves with an outlet at the terminus of the glacier. The fine grained sediments in the water along with wind blown sediments cause the frozen meltwater stream to appear in a muddy colour while the top of the cave exhibits the deep blue colour. Due to the fast movement of the glacier of about 1 m per day over uneven terrain, this ice cave cracked up at its end into a deep vertical crevice, called cerrac. This causes the indirect daylight to enter the ice cave from both ends resulting in homogeneous lighting of the ice tunnel.

The cave is accessible through a 22-foot entrance on the shoreline. At the end it tapers to a tight squeeze no more than four feet high. Ice caves are in general unstable things and can collapse at any time. They are safe to enter only in winter when the cold temperatures harden the ice. Even so one could hear constant cracking sounds inside the cave. It was not because it was going to collapse but because the cave was moving along with the glacier itself. Each time the glacier moved a millimeter loud sounds could be heard.


The Fang Waterfall - A frozen waterfall
Birth: On cold winters
Location: Vail, Colorado, USA
Architect: Ice
VD says: Not often you hope for cold weather

Ice climbers flock to The Fang in Vail, Colorado. The enormous ice pillar forms from the cascading waterfall only on exceptionally cold winters, and when it does the column can measure up to 50 meters high and has been known to have a base measuring 8 meters wide.


The Syracusia - A lavish antique supership
Birth: 240 BC Death: Unknown
Location: Syracuse, Greece
Architect: Archimedes
VD says: The Titanic of the antique world

Syracusia was a 110 m ancient Greek ship sometimes claimed to be the largest transport ship of antiquity.
The Syracusia was designed by Archimedes and built around 240 BC by Archias of Corinth on the orders of Hieron II of Syracuse. The historian Moschion of Phaselis said that Syracusia could carry a cargo of some 1,600 to 1,800 tons and a capacity of 1942 passengers. It reputedly bore more than 200 soldiers, as well as a catapult. It sailed only once to berth in Alexandria, where it was later given to Ptolemy (Ptolemaios) III Euergetes of Egypt and renamed the Alexandria.
Of particular interest in the discussion of the construction of the ship is the detailed description of the efforts taken to protect the hull from biofouling, including coating it with horsehair and pitch. This may be the first example of proactive antifouling technology (designed to prevent the attachment of fouling organisms, rather than to remove them.
In terms of passenger comfort, the Syracusia would be the equivalent of the Titanic compared to other ships of the era. Its innovative design and sheer size allowed for the creation of various recreational spaces aboard, including a garden and an indoor swimming pool with hot water. The lower levels of the ship were reserved for the crew and the soldiers on board, while the upper levels were for the use of passengers.According to Athenaeus, the ship was beautifully decorated using materials such as ivory and marble, while all public spaces were floored with mosaics depicting the entire story of the Iliad. The ship was also equipped with a library, a drawing room and a gymnasium for use by the passengers, as well as a small temple dedicated to Aphrodite.


El Peñon de Guatape - 650 cheaply done stairs to an observation deck
Birth: 1960s
Location: Guatape, Colombia
Architect: Someone that didnt care so much
VD says: The uglyness of the stairs becomes an attraction in itself

The stone rises from the bottom of the hydroelectric dam of Peñol-Guatapé. This monolith was spotted as a border landmark between country farms and the two cities.
At its highest part, on the rear (southeast side), it has an elevation of 2,135 metres over sea level. with an average temperature of 18 °C. The "Peñol" has 185 cubic metres of rock mass and it is 385 metres long, with an approximate weight of 10,000,000 tonnes. It has some rock breaks, one of which was used for the construction of the 650 stairs that can be used to go to the top.


Waimangu Geyser - The world's former most powerful geyser
Birth: 1886 Death: 1904
Location: Near Rotorua, New Zeeland
Architect: Earth
VD says: Must have been an incredible sight

The Waimangu Geyser, located near Rotorua in New Zealand, was the most powerful geyser in the world. Its workings were apparently created by the great 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption, which opened a 14km-long fissure down the mountain, through Lake Rotomahana and the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley.
The geyser was first seen erupting in 1900. Its eruptions were observed reaching up to 460 metres in height, and it excited worldwide interest. As a result of a landslide which changed the water table, the geyser became extinct on November 1, 1904.
The water expelled by the geyser was black with rocks and mud from the surrounding terrain, so the indigenous Māori people named the geyser Waimangu, meaning 'Black Waters'. The geyser gave its name to the surrounding geothermal region, the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley.


Casa de Retiro Espiritual - An iconic villa merged with the nature
Birth: 1975 - 2005
Location: Outside Sevilla, Spain
Architect: Emilio Ambasz
VD says: Like a piece of art

Emilio Ambasz originally designed the House of Spiritual Retreat in 1979 for an imaginary site near Cordoba, Spain. It was constructed in 2005, on a hilly, arid landscape outside of Seville. Featuring two white walls situated at a ninety-degree angle and a long stairway descending into a sunken patio, the house reformulates the vernacular Andalusian courtyard house into a surrealistic reverie, a mythic, phantasmagorical dwelling. The living quarters, which surround the patio on the other two sides, are recessed below the ground, using the earth’s covering to insulate them from the strong southern sun.


Mackerel Ball - A defensive, although ineffectiv, mechanism performed by the mackerels
Birth: A long time ago
Location: Atlantic Ocean
Architect: Mackerels
VD says: Nice try mackerels

Mackerel perform a natural defense mechanism called a bait ball. Giant schools of mackerel rush together and swim in a giant circle. The idea behind to move is to ward off predators with the massive size of the fish ball. Unfortunately for the mackerel, tuna and dolphins don't really care. The tuna and dolphins swarm on the mackerel and pick the ball apart. The ball is so huge that even birds swim down to grab a few bites.


Whitehaven Beach - A river surrounded by a tropical beach
Birth: A long time ago
Location: Queensland, USA
Architect: Earth
VD says: A good example of why people should travel more

Whitehaven Beach is constantly being named amongst the world's best beaches and is the most photographed beach in Australia.
The crystal clear aqua waters and pristine silica sand of Whitehaven stretch over seven kilometres along Whitsunday Island , the largest of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays.


Xanadu Houses - A series of experimental houses
Birth: 1979
Location: Kissimee,Wisconsin Dells and Gatlinburg, USA
Architect: Roy Mason and others
VD says: Übercool

The Xanadu Houses were a series of experimental homes built to showcase examples of computers and automation in the home in the United States. The architectural project began in 1979, and during the early 1980s three houses were built in different parts of the US: one each in Kissimmee, Florida; Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin; and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The houses included novel construction and design techniques, and became popular tourist attractions during the 1980s.
The Xanadu Houses were notable for being built with polyurethane insulation foam rather than concrete, for easy, fast, and cost-effective construction. They were ergonomically designed, and contained some of the earliest home automation systems. The Kissimmee Xanadu, designed by Roy Mason, was the most popular, and at its peak was attracting 1000 visitors every day. The Wisconsin Dells and Gatlinburg houses were closed and demolished in the early 1990s; the Kissimmee Xanadu House was closed in 1996 and demolished in October 2005.


Kubuswoningen - A series of cube houses meant to create a forestlike structure
Birth: 1977
Location: Rotterdam, Holland
Architect: Piet Blom
VD says: A great uprise against the conventional

Kubuswoningen, or cube houses, are a set of innovative houses built in Rotterdam and Helmond in The Netherlands, designed by architect Piet Blom and based on the concept of "living as an urban roof": high density housing with sufficient space on the ground level. Blom tilted the cube of a conventional house 45 degrees, and rested it upon a hexagon-shaped pylon. His design represents a village within a city, where each house represents a tree, and all the houses together, a forest.
Three test versions were first constructed in 1974, and in 1977 18 houses were constructed in Helmond. The many houses required for a "woonwoud" (English: living woods) were never realized. The houses in Rotterdam were designed in 1977 in a plan of 55, of which 39 were built. The cube houses in Helmond surrounded a theater, Theater 't Speelhuis, which was destroyed by a large fire on 29 December 2011.
The houses in Rotterdam are located on Overblaak Street, and beside the Blaak Subway Station. There are 38 small cubes and two so called 'super-cubes', all attached to each other.
As residents are disturbed so often by curious passers-by, one owner decided to open a "show cube", which is furnished as a normal house, and is making a living out of offering tours to visitors.
The living room of the "show cube" in Rotterdam.
The houses contain three floors:
ground floor entrance
first floor with living room and open kitchen
second floor with two bedrooms and bathroom
top floor which is sometimes used as a small garden
The walls and windows are angled at 54.7 degrees. The total area of the apartment is around 100 square meters, but around a quarter of the space is unusable because of the walls that are under the angled ceilings.
In 2009, the larger cubes were converted by Personal Architecture into a hostel run by Dutch hostel chain Stayokay.

Huacachina - The Oasis of America
Birth: A long time ago
Location: Huacachina, Ica, Peru
Architect: Nature and people
VD says: Well worth a visit, try the sandboarding

Huacachina is a village in the Ica Region, in southwestern Peru. It is located in the Ica Province, near the city of Ica in the Ica District. Huacachina has a population of 115 (1999). The oasis features on the back of the 50 Nuevo Sol note.
Huacachina is built around a small natural lake in the desert. Called the "oasis of America," it serves as a resort for local families from the nearby city of Ica, and increasingly as an attraction for tourists drawn by the sports of sandboarding and taking dune buggy rides on sand dunes that stretch several hundred feet high.
Legend holds that the lagoon was created when a beautiful native princess was apprehended at her bath by a young hunter. She fled, leaving the pool of water she had been bathing in to become the lagoon. The folds of her mantle, streaming behind her as she ran, became the surrounding sand dunes. And the woman herself is rumored to still live in the oasis as a mermaid.


Ixtapaluca Mass Housing - A result of a copy paste low-income housing politics
Birth: 2000
Location: Ixtapaluca, Mexico City, Mexico
Architect: Different real estate investors
VD says: Iconic from a distance

In 2000, Mexican presidential candidate Vicente Fox Quesada proposed an unprecedented plan to build two million low-income homes throughout the country during his six year term. On the eve of his election, Fox proclaimed, "My presidency will be remembered as the era of public housing." To enact this initiative, the federal government agency INFONAVIT ceded the construction of low-income housing to a small group of private real estate investors. Then, almost overnight, grids 20 to 80,000 identical homes sprouted up, and they continue to spread in remote agrarian territory throughout the country. To encounter these developments by land, by air, or even via satellite imagery, evokes a rare sensation. In these places, urbanization is reduced to the mere construction of housing. There are nearly no public amenities—such as schools, parks, and transportation systems. There are few commercial structures—such as banks and grocery stores. Yet demand for these low-income homes continues to increase and developers continue to provide them with extreme efficiency. During Fox’s six-year presidency, 2,350,000 homes were built, at a rate of 2,500 homes per day, and this trend is set to continue.
The Ixtapaluca complex consists of more than 10000 units and has been the posterboy for this housing campaign.


Ramot Polin - A geometrical feast
Birth: 1972
Location: Eastern Jerusalem
Architect: Zvi Hecker and others
VD says: Maniac in a way

The background to building this neighborhood, as well as several other neighborhoods in Jerusalem - including additional sub-neighborhoods in Ramot and in Gilo, was to settle wide parts of Jerusalem through new building after the Six-Day War. This phenomenon was characterized by urban and architectural trials by many Israeli architects, building designers, and engineers to design new shapes of residential, community, and local structures. In charge of planning the project of Ramot Polin, which is one of those settling projects, was the Israeli architect Zvi Hecker for both the neighborhood and the architectural planning. Hecker, who is known as an experienced architect in unique, innovative geometrical shapes, included in his plan several architectural proposals that were very innovative at the time.
Ramot Polin was built in 1972–1975 It is an unusual prefabricated apartment complex with 720 non-rectangular components.The apartments were expanded later,incorporating more cubic rather than pentagonal components. The design idea of the neighborhood may seem to be purely geometrical, but it has been likened to a chemical structure.
The Ramot Polin complex has been named one of the "World's Strangest Buildings" and has been described as a "housing project for honeybees". The entire neighborhood is organized upon a hill in central Ramot in a shape resembling a five-fingered hand or three-branched leaf. Each finger, which represents a different level of the building that lasted until the mid-1980s, is a series of 5-6 "L"-shaped apartment buildings incorporated in each other, creating a wide zigzag. In each of these 'fingers', there is an inner courtyard, which was designed to remember the traditional courtyards of the older Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem.


Hotel Camino Real Ixtapa - A massive sloping hotel
Birth: 1973
Location: Cancun, Mexico
Architect: Ricardo Legorreta
VD says: Megahotel made with style

Mr Legorreta's own words about the project:

"Cancún is more water than land. The Hotel Camino Real site was originally 70 percent water. It had been filled during the urbanization process.
I wanted to return the site to its original status, so we built the guest room block on solid rock and the public areas on piles, and then excavated what was originally the lagoon. The difference in tide levels provides the necessary water circulation to keep the new lagoon clean.
Public areas stretch from the entrance past the lobby bar and pool bar, restaurants, lagoon-side terraces, and finally across a causeway to the pavilion of private rooms. The blocks of rooms—one vertical, the other overlook either the sea beyond or the placid lagoon area. All rooms are approached through a lushly planted sheltered space created by the juxtaposed blocks of rooms."


Ksar Ouled - A fortified granary with an otherworldly look
Birth: 15th century
Location: Tataouine, Tunisia
Architect: The Berber
VD says: Artistic and functional

Ksar Ouled Soltane is a fortified granary, or ksar, located in the Tataouine district in southern Tunisia. The ksar is spread out over two courtyards, each of which has a perimeter of multi-story vaulted granary cellars, or ghorfas. Like other ksour (plural of ksar) created by North African Berber communities, Ksar Ouled Soltane is located on a hilltop, to help protect it from raiding parties in previous centuries.
Ksar Ouled Soltane is now a tourist destination, with visitors coming to see its well-preserved granary vaults. It was also featured in the film Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in some of the scenes used to represented the slave quarters of Mos Espa, where the character Anakin Skywalker lived as a boy.


Osaka Dontobori District - A Blade Runner cityscape
Birth: After the WWII
Location: Osaka, Japan
Architect: Various
VD says: Best visited during Halloween

Rollercoaster facades and eateries with huge moving mechanic lobsters and squids. They also have world's largest covered mall, which is so long that you cannot see the end of it.