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.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

plants as architecture, in Boston

In contrast to the overgrown ivy covering the Istanbul townhouse in my last post, these examples below show how "green" architecture can be cultivated as a purposeful design element.

A carefully cropped patch of ivy defines this ground-level storefront and frames a large display window on Newbury Street.

The occupants of this apartment on Fairfield Street have grown two stripes of colorful leaves. The plant leaves create a soft surface that contrasts with the hard brick facade, and add a contained block of bright color to the street.

It is unclear if the architectural contribution of these rooftop trees is wholly intentional on this Fairfield Street townhouse. Evidently part of some landscaping for a rooftop deck, the effect is a dog-ear pair of living finials to add height and flamboyancy to a blocky facade. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

green architecture in Istanbul

Ivy leaves cover the entire facade of a townhouse in Istanbul. This green wall filters sunlight and produces its own energy - a photosynthetic curtain wall.

Monday, August 6, 2012

shadow of a building in Montreal

This shadow of a demolished mansard-roof townhouse clings to the side of a taller building in a vacant lot in Montreal. The back-to-back arrangement of rooms typical of Victorian-era townhouses is evident in the twin chimney shafts that pierce the house's broken floor plates. As the empty urban lot waits to be filled in, this shadowy imprint suspended in brick serves as a tenuous index of the site's history and reminds passerby of the house that once stood here.

This ghostly ruin, signifying at once both a void and a monolithic monument, calls to mind the concrete sculpture "House" by British artist Rachel Whiteread, documented by noted photographer John Davies in the image below:

In this work, Whiteread filled the interior of a London townhouse with concrete and then tore away the walls around it. The eery result serves as both a symbolic intervention in defiance of the demolition of a row of historic homes and as a palpable inverted record of what once stood on this site. Like its unintended counterpart in Montreal, it is ultimately a sort of architectural fingerprint.