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Cliff-hanger house nails top prize

Cliff House, Halifax architect Brian MacKay-Lyons’ creation, has won his firm its sixth Governor General’s medal. Since Christmas, the firm has won 14 national and international design awards.

A modest wooden house soaring over a rocky cliff has earned Nova Scotia architect Brian MacKay-Lyons a 2012 Governor General’s Medal in Architecture.

“We’re still the only architects in Atlantic Canada who’ve ever won it since it started in the 1950s so it’s kind of special for sure,” says MacKay-Lyons.

This is the sixth Governor General’s medal that MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects of Halifax and Lunenberg has been awarded by the Canada Council through a peer jury process.

“Your peers are the toughest audience, in that sense it means a lot,” he says, on the phone from Lunenburg.

“If you’re a musician, you want Bruce Springsteen to say you’re good.”

Since Christmas, the firm has won 14 national and international design awards and seen the opening of the Canadian embassy it designed in Bangladesh.

MacKay-Lyons and his family are off to Washington, D.C., this week to pick up the American Institute of Architects Honor Award for the Shobac Campus, a collection of buildings in Upper Kingsburg, Lunenburg County, that serve as a home and satellite office.

Still it frustrates MacKay-Lyons that after 35 years of working in Nova Scotia his company is not designing more public buildings in Atlantic Canada.

“We have this big international reputation and we can’t get any work at home,” says MacKay-Lyons, a Dalhousie University architecture professor for more than 20 years.

“Things are very political here, very parochial. Unless you’re well connected you don’t get a chance.”

The Governor General’s Award was presented for his work on Cliff House. Perched somewhere on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, it is a timber-frame minimalist box that juts out from a cliff on stilts anchored by heavy concrete onto the rock below. Its form is inspired by the fishing shacks in Blue Rocks and Peggys Cove, says MacKay-Lyons.

The house has a row of front windows looking out to sea.

“You get a sense of vertigo when you’re standing in it. When you get to the front you are, ‘Oh, my God, I could go flying.’”

However, it’s very safe. “It’s not going anywhere.”

MacKay-Lyons describes Cliff House as “monumentally modest.”

“The way it is in the landscape, it’s very proud and forceful and yet it’s just a simple building. It’s modest and inexpensive.”

It has a light timber frame construction, the type of two-by-four construction that is typical of the way houses are built in North America.

“Small timber is the only renewable building material other than bamboo. Even concrete uses tremendous energy.”

Cliff House has also won a North American Wood Design Honor Award, which pleases MacKay-Lyons because “it’s hard to get architects to appreciate light timber frame,” he says. They prefer “sexier” wooden buildings with large timbers and beams.

“The idea of touching the land lightly is something we’re becoming more and more interested in, disturbing the land the least.

“The buildings tend to be more hovering above the land, kind of cantilevering.”

In their statement, jurors praised Cliff House saying, “Perfectly judged for its setting, it elevates plain vernacular form and ordinary materials into a potent meditation on the relationship between the manmade and nature.”

Architecture is a team sport, says MacKay-Lyons. For Cliff House, he relied on project architect Kevin Reid, who’s worked for the firm for seven years, builder Gordon MacLean and structural engineer Michel Comeau of Campbell Comeau Engineering Ltd.

MacKay-Lyons has worked for 30 years with both MacLean and Comeau. He and Comeau grew up together in Arcadia near Yarmouth.

MacKay-Lyons and his Newfoundland-born partner Talbot Sweetapple are leading proponents internationally of regionalist architecture.

Wherever they build they look to the local material culture.

In this region, their design language is “influenced by the rural industrial building tradition in the Maritimes.”

“When we build in Bangladesh, we build it all of bricks. That’s using the culture.

“Our work is about that, about the idea of regionalism, about the idea of place and looking at the local material culture wherever we are.”


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Haus W – Pott Architects Ltd. Architecture

The individual home of character as the place to enjoy private family life seems to have been increasingly sidelined in these times of standard-pattern pre-assembled housing units, perhaps no longer keeping up with the need for mobility and flexibility. It therefore pleased us very much when a young family of four had the wish and the confidence to work with us to design a custom-built home meeting their needs. The objective was a flexible design that could evolve as family circumstances evolved, and would allow harmony between individual needs for time alone and family needs for time together. The house they had in mind would function like a living thing and would have a place for all the bits and pieces that make up everyday life. It would be a friendly house, with special places for feeling at peace and secure. Over a period of dialogue together, and using a series of variations, models and simulations, we reviewed in depth just what it was felt a family home should offer, and an overall concept was developed.

The building, completed in April 2005, is the result of this intensive process and reflects a very real need for new, characterful home living environments. The house in question is located in the Lichterfelde district of Berlin, in the former garden of a villa built during the prosperous Gründerzeit years of the late 19th century. The actual property is accessed via its own laneway, leading past the villa in front. As it stands transverse to the access lane, approaching visitors can look through a large window straight into the central part of the house. The glowing fire in the fireplace here is in keeping with the historic and elegant appearance of the house itself. The paved forecourt leads to the entrance area, which is designed to meet the topography of the grounds. The entrance to the house is at a sunken ground level, where there is a spacious foyer with a cloakroom and service areas. The single flight of stairs leads directly to the house’s main communal space, including kitchen and dining area. Beyond the fireplace and the freestanding stair to the next floor, and on a split level, are the living-room and the parents’ private rooms.

The upper storey has the children’s bedrooms, the gallery in front of them being intended as a shared play area. Structurally the house is a single volume, zoned off through wall and ceiling elements. The arrangement of the rooms along two parallel access corridors running from the study in the east to the patio creates an enfilade effect which can, where required, be extended or shortened by sliding doors. At the same time, the house’s longitudinal height change marks a zoning-off of private and communal space, offering the alternatives of seclusion or participation. The fireplace is at the centre of this series of rooms and can be seen from all sides. A soothing and cheering central focus. Cupboards and shelving space have been positioned along the whole length of both storeys, on north and south sides of the house, to provide the entire storage and servicing space needed for the adjoining rooms. This feature minimised the need for free-standing furniture and helped create living-space. All internal walls can be moved to meet new accommodation requirements as they arise. The organisational principles involved here were a priority in planning and the outcome contributes greatly to the restful appearance and great flexibility of the interior design. The interest generated by the external shape of the building derives from the central, hall-like interior space, in turn resulting from the remarkable horizontal displacement of the upper storey and thus also of the opening up of the interior space.

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Hill House – Andrew Maynard Architects

Design is complex. There is little that is more complex to design than a home, however fundamental issues offer an architect a starting point; where is the sun? How do we capture it in winter, how do we exclude it in summer?

The thin allotments that dominate Melbourne’s northern suburbs often provide indomitable constraints to solar access and therefore require the production of unorthodox ideas to overcome these constraints and convert them into opportunities.

The site faces north therefore relegating the backyard, the family’s primary outdoor space, to shadow throughout the year. In the 90s a two storey extension was added reducing solar access even further while creating deep dark space within the house. A family of five wished to create a long-term home, which could meet the requirements of three small children and their slow transformation into young adults over the years.

Rather than repeating past mistakes and extending from the rear in a new configuration, the proposal was to build a new structure on the rear boundary, the southern edge of the block, upon the footprint of what had been, until now, the back yard. The new structure faces the sun, the pure cantilevered box above acts as the passive solar eave, cutting out summer sun, while letting winter sun flood in.

Following the decision to build at the rear of the block a ubiquitous modern box was first imagined. Soon it seemed necessary to pursue the opportunity to activate this new, once shaded, now sunny facade. A seat along the new northern facade? Perhaps a series of steps like the Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti? But how does one lounge in the sun on steps. Perhaps a slope instead …. And the hill house evolved/emerged.

The new structure faces the original house. The backyard is now the centre of the house activated by the built form around it. Beyond solar gain, the benefit of the new structure being in the backyard is that it borrows landscaping from its neighbours’ gardens. The high windows about the entertainment cabinetry and the dining area are enveloped in trees. Internally one gets the sense that Hill House is enveloped by bush rather than part of the suburban mix.

Along one boundary a 2m high fence was created, but unlike most houses the Hill House has a one metre wide fence; a corridor lowered into the site to achieve head height. This in turn creates a lowered dining area. One rises into the living space. The change in floor level creates a bench seat for the Maynard designed ZERO WASTE TABLE.

Front Street no longer provides the main entry to the home. Family now enters via the side lane. The original house, now private dormitory spaces, no longer has a typical relationship to the N#@$%k street’s “front” door. The original house, as with most narrow blocks throughout Melbourne, demanded that visitors walked a long corridor past bedrooms to the living area. Stolen quick glances into dark private spaces always occurred along the journey. At the Hill House the entry is reorientated. The kitchen, the nerve centre, the hub of the house, is the new greeting point. Beyond is the park. Adjacent is the living space, the yard and the “kids’ house” beyond.

The old house is converted into “the kids’ house”. The old house is as it once was. The rear of the simple masonry structure, though spatially connected, is not reoriented, a face is deliberately not applied. It is left honest and robust. With a restrained piece of “street art” to be applied.

Andrew Maynard Architects was established in 2002 following Andrew’s receipt of the grand prize in the Asia Pacific Design Awards for his Design Pod. The core principles in the establishment of AMA was a balance between built projects and broad polemical design studies. This is demonstrated in AMA’s highly crafted built work and socio-politically based concepts both of which have been widely published and have garnered global recognition.

Andrew Maynard Architects explores architecture of enthusiasm – AMA treats each project as a unique challenge, offering unique possibilities and prides itself in experimentation. All of AMA’s designs are concept rich, left of centre and sustainability conscious; styles and singular themes are avoided. AMA specializes in ideas rather than building type, whether the project be a house in Fitzroy, a library in Japan, a protest shelter in Tasmania, a plywood bicycle or a suburb eating robot. Andrew Maynard Architects continues to be published in many prestigious international journals such as Mark Magazine [Amsterdam], Architectural Record [US], Architectural Review [London], Monument. Houses A + T [Spain], Architecture Australia, Wallpaper [London] and Pol Oxygen. AMA’s conceptual and built work has been exhibited in New York, Budapest, Melbourne, Sydney, Osaka, Milan, Sao Paulo, Tokyo and more.

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Real Madrid building $1 billion resort island in the United Arab Emirates

What Real Madrid Resort Island will look like. (Getty)

Have you ever dreamed of a place where the warm sun dries Iker Casillas’ tears before they reach his cheek, the Persian Gulf breeze blows through Xabi Alonso’s beard and Pepe stomps someone to death on the beach? Then welcome to Real Madrid Resort Island — a holiday resort on an artificial island in the United Arab Emirates scheduled to open in January 2015.

From Reuters:
A presentation at the Bernabeu on Thursday showed plans for sports facilities, a marina, luxury hotels and villas, an amusement park, a club museum and a 10,000-seat stadium with one side open to the sea.

“It is a decisive and strategic step that will strengthen our institution in the Middle East and Asia,” said Real president Florentino Perez.

[ Related: Photos of Read Madrid Resort Island ]

The 4.6 million-square-foot venture is in partnership with the government of the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah and is expected to attract a million visitors in its first year of operation. But since that’s a whole three years away, Jose Mourinho probably won’t be one of them.

Hopefully Barcelona will build its own island right next to Real Madrid’s, but make it so everything is miniature and inhabited by Ewoks.

Look at the tiny computerized people! I see Ozil! (Getty)

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Corallo House / PAZ Arquitectura

The floor plan is free of columns and the changes in level adapt to the existing topography. Both façades are mostly glass in order to connect the interior to the exterior.

Located on a dense hillside forest in the Santa Rosalía area of Guatemala City, Corallo House integrates the existing forest into the layout of the house. It merges nature into the architectural intervention. The design process began with the aim to preserve the existing trees, in order to have the trees interact with the living space.

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