Tag Archives: architecture

Going to the Dogs: Architecture for Animals


As a self-proclaimed crazy cat lady, I’m always looking for new products for my fur babies. Even so, I’m always shocked at the lengths that some people will go for their pets in terms of creature comforts.

Image: If It’s Hip It’s Here

I could totally see myself settling into this mod, minimalist home. It’s a shame it was made for slightly smaller occupants.

Image: If It’s Hip It’s Here

Yep, this tricked-out pad, complete with a spa pool, 52-inch flat screen television, and a retina-scan security system was custom built for a surgeon’s dogs on her property at the lavish Lower Mills Estates in England. The price tag? A mere $382,000 (!!!).

Image: Design Milk

Thankfully, if you are looking for a doghouse that is a little less fido and a little more Frank Lloyd Wright, there are options out there. The custom-made Architectura Modern Dog House by Pre-Fab Pets certainly won’t be an eyesore in the backyard!

Image: Design Applause

The idea of architecture going to the dogs really came to a head this past December, with the Architecture for Dogs Exhibition at Design Miami. The innovative installation provided over a dozen architects and designers with the opportunity to develop the ultimate dog house, each created with a certain breed in mind.

Image: Architecture for Dogs

Some participants, like Kazuyo Sejima, chose to mimic the characteristics of the animal, so that “dog and architecture would become one.”

Image: Architecture for Dogs

Other’s projects resemble conceptual art projects. I’m not sure that many pups would be happy going for a walk in Reiser + Unemoto’s Christo-like Chihuahua Cloud but it sure is cute.

Image: Architecture for Dogs

Torafu Architects really thought about what a terrier might like, creating a simple frame upon which its owner’s old clothes could be stretched, creating a cozy hammock that would have a comforting scent but could be easily washed or changed as needed.

My personal favourite is the interactive beagle playhouse designed by MVRDV. You have to see it in action to truly appreciate it.

Image: The Coolist

I love this project for its creativity and how it challenges already innovative designers to think outside the box of conventional (human) architecture. And I applaud their decision to make all the blueprints available for free, allowing DIY types to build something special for their pets (or even a petless art project). It allows the exhibition to continue on another level, as the curators encourage people to upload pictures of their own versions to the website. Now that’s something to bark about!


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Back to School: Divine Dorm Rooms

Despite the fact that I have spent over 15 years in university, I have never lived in a dorm room. I really don’t feel like I have missed out on much. I mean, who wants to live in a small, dark room decked out with ugly, utilitarian furniture that must be shared with a complete stranger?

(Photo: Crushable)

Seriously- I think there are prisons with more hospitable accommodations. Thankfully, some schools realize that quality of life can improve the quality of their students’ work and have designed some pretty impressive residences.

(P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S’ Proposed PUCPR Student Dormitory; Photo: ARCHIscene)

Can you imagine a futuristic skyscraper with 90,000 ft2 reserved for a mere 120 students? This is what LA-based architecture firm P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S has proposed for the Pontificia Catholic University of Puerto Rico in Ponce.

(P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S’ Proposed PUCPR Student Dormitory; Photo: ARCHIscene)

The daring design focuses on open spaces within the center of the structure to encourage interaction amongst students, while a series of outdoor walkways on one side of the building provide impressive views of the city’s historical center.

(P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S’ Proposed PUCPR Student Dormitory; Photo: ARCHIscene)

As much as I like the concept, I can’t imagine a university building such a large residence for so few students. And yet some schools have managed to put similar ideas into practice.

(Tietgen Residence Hall; Photo: Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitecter)

The award-winning Tietgen Residence Hall in Copenhagen is the brainchild of the Danish firm Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitecter. They designed the building in the round to focus on the communal aspect that dorm living provides.

(Central Courtyard; Photo: Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitecter)

As such, communal areas like the spacious kitchen and dining rooms (shared by 13 students) face into the central courtyard, which serves as a meeting area.

(Communal Kitchens/Dining Rooms; Photo: Tietgenkollegiet)

The exterior of the building projects out in varying lengths, stressing the individuality of the 360 residents. And there really is a sense of individuality here- over 90% of the rooms are singles, with private balconies and bathrooms. While the walls are utilitarian concrete, the included furniture is an attractive wood that is super-practical; the wardrobes are movable and create room dividers so that students can arrange their rooms to meet their own needs.

(Dorm Room; Photo: Tietgenkollegiet)

The ground floor is open to the entire community and provides necessary amenities like laundry facilities and quiet study halls.

(Laundry Room; Photo: Inhabitat)

They may be functional but they sure are pretty! I especially love the Pantone-esque washers and dryers.

(Study Hall; Photo: Tietgenkollegiet)

If more college residences adopted innovative design elements that stress practicality and comfort, I might just have to stay in school and give dorm-living a try!

Inspiring Architecture: Ancient Petra

So often when I think about what to write for this blog, I turn to the latest innovations in architecture and design. But on my recent trip to Jordan I was reminded about how inspiring the ancient world can be.

Al Khazneh (“The Treasury”); Photo: Tracey Eckersley

The highlight of my journey was a visit to Petra, which allowed me to cross off yet another site on the 1000 Places to Visit Before You Die list (it’s going a little slower than I had hoped). Even if you haven’t heard of Petra, I’m sure you have at least seen a picture of Al Khazneh (The Treasury), made famous in India Jones and the Last Crusade:

But there is a lot more to see; I was there for nine hours and only scratched the surface of this magnificent site. Petra was home to the ancient Nabateans and the center of their caravan trade network. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most-visted tourist attraction in Jordan.

The Siq (“Shaft”); Photo: Tracey Eckersley

The middle of summer is low season and with the temperature soaring to 45° C, I’m not surprised that people are hesitant to visit. The payoff? I felt like I had the whole place to myself. This was especially great for the walk through the mile-long gorge, known as the Siq (“Shaft” in Arabic). The narrow path winds gently downward, providing several opportunities to admire the slowly eroding sandstone that soars hundreds of feet above and provides welcome shade.

Photo: Tracey Eckersley

You can choose to take a horse and carriage down to The Treasury but they careen through the Siq like Indiana Jones did on his horse and you risk missing the several statues and shrines carved into the rock.

Photo: Tracey Eckersley

After about half an hour of ooh-ing and awe-ing, I turned the corner and caught my first glimpse of The Treasury. And yes, I stopped to hum the Indiana Jones theme song before I went any further.

Al Khazneh (“The Treasury”); Photo: Tracey Eckersley

The Treasury is a misnomer; the structure was actually an elaborate tomb with motifs adapted from the contemporary Hellenistic Greek style. Pictures cannot do it justice; it is overwhelming beautiful in person.

The Royal Tombs; Photo: Tracey Eckersley

But there are hundreds more tombs carved into the rocks. Some, referred to as the Royal Tombs, are almost as elaborate as The Treasury, while many are decidedly less ornate. A Tomb Raider enthusiast could spend hours climbing and exploring.

Tombs at Petra; Photo: Tracey Eckersley

I kept my feet planted firmly on the ground, by way of the Roman road that leads through the site. Built in the first century C.E., it is a lasting example of the Empire’s impressive infrastructure.

Roman Colonnaded Road; Photo: Off Exploring

Other Roman remains have fared less well. The theatre is badly eroded, with the worn seats mimicking the striations in the natural rock from which they were carved.

Roman Theatre; Photo: Tracey Eckersley

Photo: Tracey Eckersley

The site is so large that many tourists decide to enhance their desert experience with a camel ride. I held out until halfway up to The Monastery, when I gave up and hired a donkey. This in itself was an adventure- those stairs are steep and the pack animals often get very close to the edge (not surprisingly, I chose to walk down on my own two feet).

Photo: Adventure Without End

Cave Housing; Photo: Tracey Eckersley

The hour-long climb is arduous but it affords some excellent views of the carved spaces used as houses by both ancient inhabitants and modern Bedouins in the area.

Cave Café; Photo: Tracey Eckersley

At the end of my (well, my donkey’s) trek I got to experience one for myself, in the form of a delightful cave café which was a wonderful sanctuary from the sun. And the view?

Ad Deir (“The Monastery”); Photo: Tracey Eckersley

Another magnificent tomb, high above Petra; the views of this and the surrounding area were certainly worth the long climb. Intrepid souls can explore even farther from here but it was time for me to retrace my steps. Trust me; the four-mile walk seems much longer on the way back!

Photo: The Telegraph

I hope that you will one day get the opportunity to cross this off your list of places to visit. I’m being greedy and am already planning another trip, perhaps a night-time adventure to see the monuments of Petra in a whole new light.


Posted in Design, Travel | Tagged

House On The Water

Lake Huron Floating Home via dwell

I always admire people who come up with unconventional places to live:  treehouses, minihomes, and converted shipping containers are great examples of this.  Literally living on the water in a houseboat however is a unique housing option; it is also quite romantic for those with a love of the aquatic. The houseboat, or “floating home” as some people prefer to call it, can mean different things to different people. Let’s take a look at a few houseboats that are drastically different in style and size.

Sweetpea by Mike Auderer found via Apartment Therapy

The Sweetpea floating home is an affordable and green house with ample character. This tiny and efficient home was built by Mike Auderer of Olympia Construction. At a mere 550 square feet it’s beautifully designed inside and out to take advantage of the harbour surroundings.

Sweetpea by Mike  Auderer found via Apartment Therapy

The interior of the Sweetpea is small but comfortable, feeling more like an urban apartment than the interior of a ship. To get a home like this you would only need to pay a reasonable $150,000 american. For more info on the construction and specs of the Sweetpea head here.

Josie Curren Houseboat image via Bright Bazaar

British author Josie Curren’s bright and colourful houseboat is bursting with style and beauty. Nothing about the interior of this house would clue you into the fact that you’re on a boat, until you look out the window.

Houseboat via Design Sponge

Feminine colours and vintage style furnishings, combined with occasional nautical touches, make this home playful and thoroughly original. What I love about Curren’s home is that there are so many details that feel personal and that reflect the personalities of the people who live there.

Lake Union Floating Home via Freshome

This Seattle home is a contemporary architecture lover’s dream. Gorgeous views on all sides and stunning details on both the interior and exterior make this home all luxury. This home was created by architects  Vandeventer + Carlander Architects.

Floating Home via Freshome

The interior takes advantage of the abundance of natural light using light-toned wood and large windows. The inside and outside blend seamlessly into one another with sliding doors that allow you to step out onto a waterside patio perfect for a morning coffee or evening cocktails.

Stockholm Floating Home via a simple life afloat

In European locations like Stockholm and Amsterdam floating homes and houseboats are not at all uncommon. It makes sense when you are dealing with densely populated cities where traditional real estate options are limited. This Stockholm houseboat looks like an unassuming tugboat on the outside, but inside it’s an elegant residence with natural wood, clean white surfaces and sailor chic touches like portholes and a captain’s prow, complete with ship’s steering wheel, paying homage to the home’s history.

Stockholm Floating Home via a simple life afloat

The master bedroom features benches that utilize the ship’s natural curves, and the soft palette of dark wood, creams and blue are relaxing and nautical without being overly literal. You can find more pictures of this seaworthy home here.

Happy Friday Everyone!


Posted in Design, Travel | Tagged

Design and the Olympics 2: Olympic Architecture


Image via Art Design Cafe

This year’s Olympics have been quite eventful and a pleasure to watch, both in terms of the games themselves, the stories surrounding the games, as well as the landscape in which the games are taking place. Much like other summer games, London has sprouted a slew of new structures, specially designed for the events.

Olympic Stadium by Populous Architects (International)

Image via Wikimedia Commons

The Olympic stadium, which acts as the cradle for the track and field events and acts as the main event space is also usually the main architectural feature for the games. This year’s stadium in London was designed by Populous, an international architectural firm that was previously known as HOK sport.

Image via Dezeen

Image from Dezeen

The stadium features a convertible design that will allow the now 80,000-seat stadium to downsize to a 25,000-seat arena that will be used for different types of events aside from sports. The demountable design, the first of its kind for an Olympic stadium, is a response to the problem of long-term use for an Olympic arena and its integration with the needs of the community.

Aquatic Center by Zaha Hadid Architects

Image via Zaha Hadid Architects

The aquatic center is perhaps my favorite architectural feature of this year’s games. Zaha Hadid’s futuristic and fluid aesthetic was a fitting match for the water sports. The design’s dynamic lines give the hard concrete construction an organic feel. The combined effect of the architecture and program is thus a literal immersion of water, and every event associated with it.

Image by Zaha Hadid Architects

Image by Zaha Hadid Architects

Much like the stadium, the aquatics center also features a demountable design, that will allow the design to adapt to the needs of the community once the Olympic games are over. After the games, seating as well as game-specific areas such as the athletes’ waiting areas, and judging and score control.

Velodrome by Hopkins Architects (UK)

Image via Milimet Design

Host to both the Olympic and paralympic cycling events, the Velodrome is one of the Olympic venues that remain in essence the same after the games. The design of the Velodrome was conceived by Hopkins Architects, a firm from the UK.

Image via East London Advertiser

Image via Hopkins Architects

The Velodrome’s design was conceived to be “lightweight and efficient,” to reflect the same characteristics of the cycles used in the events that will take place inside it. The outside geometry also serves as a reflection of inside track’s. Much like the other big venues, it was designed with a sense of sustainability as well.

ArcelorMittal Orbit by Anish Kapoor

Image via Art Log

As part of the attractions of the Olympic park, award-winning artist Anish Kapoor was commissioned by London’s local government to design a new public art work, that will also add to the legacy of the games. The 115-meter high sculpture Kapoor realized is now thought to be the tallest sculpture in the UK. The sculpture resembles a space-age roller coaster, made from tubular steel formed into lattices that also serve as structural support. Views into voids and the spaces formed by the structural steel present Kapoor’s unique sense of perception and aesthetic that gained him a Turner Prize.

Image via Arch Daily courtesy ArcelorMittal

Image from Arch Daily by Gautier Deblonde

Kapoor designed the piece in collaboration with structural engineer Cecil Balmund of Arup. London’s Mayor Boris Johnson envisioned the sculpture to help keep the spirit of the games alive long after they are over.

Throughout the architecture of this year’s games, sustainability and the “legacy” of the Olympic village was certainly a theme. It represents a growing trend in contemporary architecture that also considers the needs of the community and environment when conceptualizing, designing, and building these new icons. It will definitely be exciting to see what the future will bring to these structures of sportsmanship.

Enjoy the rest of the games everyone!