06 August 2009

ut på tur with Seattleites

One of my classmates at UW and fellow Valle scholar, Todd Coglon and his awesome wife Margot, came to Oslo this week. Todd has been living and studying in Copenhagen for the past two months.We had a packed day of touring Oslo: visiting the architecture school (AHO), meeting Einar Jarmund and Ane at Jarmund Vigsnæs office, visiting DogA by Jensen Skodvin, the Opera by Snøhetta and the National Museum of Architecture. It was so much fun to have Todd and Margot here and I really felt I have gotten to know Oslo quite well after acting as tour guide for a day!
Ane shows us the project she is working on at Jarmund Vigsnæs office.

Einar Jarmund discusses a current project in downtown Oslo.

We visit the Opera, by Oslo firm Snøhetta.The building is a wonderful public platform that rises from the fjord. We spent most of our time there walking around the sculpted landscape, admiring the discreet silhouette of the building and the way it meets the water.

On to the National Museum of Architecture, a renovation and addition by Sverre Fehn. After a few months of contemplation: I think this space is my favorite in Oslo. It seems we planned our day perfectly: after leaving the Opera by Snøhetta, we discovered their work on exhibition at the museum. Unfortunately I think the exhibition design by Snøhetta really detracted from the main exhibition space. I don't think Sverre would have approved Also, I was disappointed to see small trees and mounds of grass planted in front of the beautiful panes of glass on the exterior. To compare, I've included a picture from when I visited the museum in the fall (pre-trees).



Snøhetta folding. This image is for UW professors Wyn Bielaska and Nicole Huber- who will forever pop into my mind when I think of 'architectural folding'.

Exhibition pavilion.

The seam of old and new. The original building was built in 1830 as a division office of Norges Bank, designed by architect Christian Heinrich Grosch. The new exhibition space is a juxtaposition of classicism and modernistic architecture- a meeting of Fehn and Grosch.

30 July 2009


Recently, I took a great trip to Hamar, 120 kilometers north of Oslo, to visit the Hedmarksmuseet and Domkirkeodden - the Hedmark museum and Hamar cathedral ruins. I have been dreaming of visiting the Hedmark museum for a long time. The medieval museum, renovated and added to by the fabulous Norwegian architect Sverre Fehn, is by far one of the most beautiful works of architecture I have ever visited. Fehn contrasted the existing stone structures of the medieval ruins in a beautiful mix of concrete, wood and glass. Also, nearby is a large glass and steel structure by architect Kjell Lund to house the ruins of Hamar's medieval cathedral. There is so much to see on this site and within the museum I was a bit overwhelmed- I will add more later, but wanted to share some photos up of the trip.


Before leaving Hamar, we stopped at the Town Hall, designed by Oslo firm Snøhetta. At 8500m2 the Town Hall houses the council chambers, administrative functions, a public vestibule, cafe and small health center. The building is arranged diagonally across the square city block, creating public plazas open to the street. The building seems to be trying to combine too many forms and lacks any cohesive strategy. However, the triangular piece on the north (below), a new interpretation on the bell tower, is quite beautiful. The tower is clad in metal that resonates and projects the bell across the area.

(Image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hamar_city_hall_S.jpg)

On the walk to the Hedmark Museum we follow the coast of the beautiful lake Mjøsa.

21 July 2009

Thoughts from AHO_what is architecture for?

I apologize that my blog has been a bit quiet lately- I've been spending most of these rainy summer days in the library researching and writing. Here's a quick thought from an interview I am reading with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, it returns to the question I asked in this blog a few months ago, What is architecture for?

Ok, so it hasn't been raining all the time. Here's a shot from a cafe where I've been doing some reading, writing and people watching.

05 July 2009


I have just returned from a five day trip to Finland where I met up with my good friends Amanda and Ben. Amanda is half Finnish and organized a wonderful stay for us in Tampere (Tammerfors)
, a city of about 210,000 people in southern Finland. I really enjoyed Tampere- there is something about the scale of the city and the proximity to lakes Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi that made me feel immediately comfortable. The city manages to feel like a small town and a good sized urban environment simultaneously. There are many red brick, adaptively reused buildings lining the Tammerkoski, remnants of Tampere's large-scale industry. The photo above is the view of Pyynikki Park from the observation tower, overlooking Lake Näsijärvi and Tampere. After climbing the tower we had a traditional Finnish donut, munkki (heaven!), coffee and milk in the sunshine.

Amanda's friend Timo takes us across lake Näsijärvi in his boat, to his 100 year old cabin on Anttinsaari. After three trips to the sauna and the lake, a game of cards and grilled dinner I feel totally relaxed.

Squeaky dessert.
A traditional Northern Finnish dessert: Leipäjuusto with lakka hillo. This is a bread cheese served with a cloudberry jelly. The dessert really squeaks as you chew. The milk is curdled and then either baked or grilled, which gives the cheese the dark dots on top.

Amanda & Ben relax outside the condo, next to Tammerkoski, with a few bottles of wine, strawberries and chocolate, Salmiakki, Dooley’s, and Lapponia.

Finland = Marimekko!

(image from http://www.docomomo-fi.com/selection/pietila-tampere.gif)

We visited a great project: the Kaleva Church by architects Raili and Reima Pietilä. The church is very beautiful, a tall concrete interior (30 meters) with strong vertical lines of light. From a publication I picked up at the church:

"The basic atmosphere of the nave is created by the tall wall elements, resembling giant pillars; their finish brings to mind the coarse fibers of unbleached linen. The walls of the church hall are slide-cast concrete."

This is a view looking straight up. As Amanda pointed out during our visit, the space certainly feels 'heavenly', lifting the visitor up to the sky.

We arrive back in Helsinki on Friday, July 3. The weather is cool at 18-20C- almost 10C cooler than Oslo. Although we traveled out of the train station on Tuesday, the glass roofed area by Eliel Saarinen has a totally different feel bathed in sunlight. I really enjoyed walking through Helsinki- the Esplanade Park is a great promenade and in general there are well connected and dedicated pedestrian/cyclists routes.

Once in Helsinki (Helsingfors in Finnish) we set off for a hostel on Katajanokka. On the way, however, we spotted a cool, old brick hotel and decided to check it out. The hotel turned out to be a former County Jail- now adaptively reused as a hotel with a restaurant and conference facilities. I couldn't manage to turn this down. Portions of the building are protected by the National Board of Antiquities: the garden walls, exterior building walls and central hallway. These are all preserved almost in their original form. The cell wings, where we stayed, were built around 1888. With 164 cells, the county prison received approximately 40% of all the prisoners landing in Finnish prisons. The hotels rooms combine usually three cells: two for the sleeping space, one for the bathroom. The rooms have high arched windows, with one newly punched at waist level.

We visited the KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Art by Steven Holl. This entry space is really wonderful, but I was underwhelmed by the overall form, exterior entry sequence, exhibition spaces and the circulation in general.

Next we visited one of my favorite pieces of architecture from the trip: the Temppeliaukion kirkko, in the Töölö neighborhood. The church was designed by brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and opened in 1969. The church is beautiful: nestled into the ground and rough rock, opened to light from above from a glazed dome. My good friend Amanda was baptized here and her parents married in the church as well.

What would a trip to Finland be without a little Aalto?

The wonderful Karl Fazer Cafe. Thanks to Fazer I am now addicted to Dumle Original : Soft toffee covered with milk chocolate. I bought two large boxes.

25 June 2009

Jarmund Vigsnæs x3

Recently I visited three projects by architects Jarmund Vigsnæs- one being the school where I work and study, AHO. These projects vary in their approach but they are all examples of extending a building's life, both with the existing use and new uses.

Galleri Trafo in Asker, Norway is a 1200 square meter art gallery, formally used as a railroad transformer. The addition to the back houses circulation, clad in corten steel.
The Oslo School of Architecture (AHO) was a complete adaptive reuse of a building from 1938, whose exterior was protected by conversion status. Parts of the original building were taken down to allow for light to penetrate deeper into the space.
The Oslo International School in the Oslo suburb of Kekkestua is a private school with an enrollment of around 500 students from over 50 different nations. The project required 3900 square meters of new structure and 3300 square meters of renovation.

(Image from http://www.archdaily.com/16715/oslo-international-school-jva/#more-16715)
Plan diagram by JVA

The project was divided into three phases to ensure school could remain in session during the construction period. The orange represents Phase One, renovations and additions to the existing structure. This is the portion that interested me the most. Phase Two, in blue, is the new addition and Phase Three (green) is a planned addition for a gymnasium (not yet built). What is particularly interesting about the areas highlighted in orange is the way Jarmund Vigsnæs wove organic forms into the existing rectilinear space.

New, organic shapes protrude into the courtyard, enclosed by the existing facades.
Facade of the existing 1960's building.

The intersection where old meets new.