Sunday, February 24, 2013

don't forget to look up in Seville

Colorful tiles hidden on the under sides window balconies in Seville offer a delightful surprise to those who remember to look up. The tiles in the last photo even appear to tell a story.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

recalling Viollet-le-Duc in Boston and Toronto

The miniature columns cantilevered at an angle off the side of this townhouse on Exeter Street in Boston recall the imaginative designs of 19th-century French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. In his designs for concert halls, arcades, and other civic spaces, gothic columns fashioned out of cast iron were tilted on an angle and used to support cantilevered balconies, domes, and walkways over wide open gathering spaces. These angled columns became a central design element and an expression of structural might, and were often highlighted in Viollet-le-Duc's magnificent drawings, as can be seen below. Interestingly, the gothic decoration and branch-like grouping of these angled columns that characterizes Viollet-le-Duc's designs seem to have been loyally retained, albeit in miniaturized and distilled form, by the architect of the townhouse in Boston who would have been a contemporary of Viollet-le-Duc.

Another interesting comparison to Viollet-le-Duc's work can be made with Alsop Architects' 2004 expansion of OCAD University in Toronto, a structure that is supported by immense, angled steel columns grouped together in pairs, as can be seen below. Painted in bright colors, these columns are highlighted as a central design feature framing a wide open covered gathering space that acts as a passageway to an adjacent park.

Monday, January 28, 2013

the space between houses in Toronto

As a result of curious zoning regulations most houses in Toronto's downtown core are built with a very narrow open space between them - very close together but not quite attached. Apparently unable to stand this separation, the roofs of these two houses on Dundas Street in Toronto appear to have grown together over time.

In contrast, a gabled facade on Augusta Avenue appears to have been pried open to make room for a snug pair of storefronts. Although the unifying facades that surely must have once joined these fragmented gables into a tidy composition of rowhouses are long gone, the haphazard infill that took their place nonetheless produces a peculiarly symmetrical massing of building forms.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

classical portal with a heart, in Portsmouth

Set against a comparatively anonymous gray-clapboard facade, this multi-chromatic classical portal framing the entrance to a home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, impresses upon guests and passersby alike to pay heed to its crisp, carved-wood moldings and panels. Perhaps the most curious and intriguing detail contained within this assemblage of sentimental decoration is the small, iconic heart set proudly into the decorative keystone above the the fanlight. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

plywood veneer on a Manhattan townhouse

A knotty plywood veneer covering this townhouse entry court merges rustic and minimalist design sentiments on the corner of 10th Avenue and West 21st Street, Manhattan.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

embellished terra cotta portal in Boston

A doorway embellished with layers of Neoclassical moldings and reliefs baked in glazed terra cotta draws attention to this commercial office entrance, vying for attention among surrounding storefronts.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

more geometric brickwork, in Montreal

Art deco-influenced brick detail on a building near Jean Talon Market, Montreal, Quebec.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

suspended linear ceilings in Fes and Lisbon

Wood planks from scaffolding, striped awnings, and colorful garlands suspended over pedestrian lanes in Fes, Morocco, and Lisbon, Portugal, form temporary structures that appear to float over the street. These light, permeable "ceilings" help to create defined space within the void of the street without blocking out the sky or the urban backdrop of church towers, windows, balconies, and television antennas that add vitality and interest to the street. The flexible suspended structures twist in accordance with bends in the street, heightening the pedestrian's awareness of the shape of the street void. The linear, stripe-like visual patterns that they create produce a strong sense of movement through the space as they point towards an imagined vanishing point and lay out a trail for the pedestrian to follow.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

more brick forms in Boston

Rounded bricks stacked atop one another give the appearance of miniature columns on H.H. Richardson's Trinity Church Parish House on Clarendon Street in Boston. Other bricks on the facade appear to have been carved in place to form a sort of three-dimensional mosaic of swirling vegetal forms. The undulating surface of the carved bricks is remarkably similar to Frank Gehry's recently completed residential tower at 8 Spruce Street in New York, which also consists of undulating stacked modules:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

rounded brick geometry in Boston

Echoing cubist architectural details, these rounded bricks form geometric patterns on the facade of a Victorian townhouse on the corner of Fairfield and Marlborough Streets in Boston.

Friday, October 19, 2012

tile billboards in Seville

Colorful glazed tiles form vintage advertisements on the facades of buildings in Seville. Now a curiosity, this was once a common way to advertise goods in this Spanish city. Geometric patterns painted onto the tiles outlining the edges of the ads give the illusion of architectural decoration.

Monday, October 1, 2012

story tiles in Lisbon

Blue and white tiles depicting biblical stories and other allegories line the corridors, cloisters, and stairways throughout the Sao Vincente de Fora monastery in Lisbon. Movement through the monastery becomes an adventure in religious and mythological tales.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

symbol of a sartorial past in Montreal

This sculptural relief above a doorway on Avenue des Pins in Montreal memorializes the sartorial history in this particular section of the city. While this warehouse-like building now houses a fabric store, artist lofts, and offices, it is likely that it was historically part of the garment manufacturing industry that once dominated this area of Montreal's Plateau neighborhood, centered around Boulevard St. Laurent and Avenue des Pins. Etched in stone, this iconic figure wielding needle and thread is a reminder of this area's pre-gentrification commercial history.

Friday, August 31, 2012

expressive face on the Pont Neuf, Paris

This expressive carving, on a corbel atop the Pont Neuf in Paris, is one of many exuberant faces that watches over the River Seine from the top of this bridge. This face appears directly over the promenade on the north side of the Ile de la Cité, watching with skeptic gaze over centuries of unwitting tourists that have passed underneath.