Clean-Lined Contrast : Winter Architecture



I’m all for the traditional cozy cabins we think of when we consider a winter retreat. The fireplace, the log structure, the puffy couches, the views! Its all so quaint! But, there is something about modern or contemporary design in the wintertime that has me second guessing the traditional motif. The following ‘winter cabins’ are perfect examples of the wonderful contrast of the clean-lined geometry of modernism, against the organic and billowing nature of the winter landscape. They also just show you that despite this contrast, there is a deeper connection between the simplistic contemporary design and the stillness and crispness of a winter landscape that makes them just ‘fit-in’.

Methow Cabin – Eggleston | Farkas Architects – Winthrop, Washington (USA)


This little retreat is located in a valley that provides a number of a cross country ski and bike trails. The design is functional and minimal, and can accommodate up to 8 people (not sure if that is comfortably but) with space for communal gathering. The sloped roof sheds snow easily, but also mimics the contours of the surrounding hills, as well as opening up the views on the end to align with the end of the valley.


The interior is arranged to maximize space – with the service areas on the far side (of this image) where the road is located, and the living space towards the views with a slotted window aligned with the ski path to watch as people ski by (the few people I would think). I like that the outside appearance is understated – the colour of the wood blends in with its surroundings – and that there is warmer wood used on the inside giving the users that cozy, cabin feel.


It is the definition of a ‘sleek’ ski lodge, but still has all the important amenities you need after a cold trip on the trails.

Rolling Huts + Delta Shelter – Olson Kundig Architects – Mazama, Washington (USA)


The Delta Shelter is a 1,000 SF vacation home nestled in a floodplain valley in the Mazama region of Washington. Though it varies from other ‘cabins’ as it is constructed of metal, which is a material that contrasts highly to what architects consider ‘natural materials,’ it still maintains a connection to its surrounding landscape. The metal is the kind that patinas (like CoreTen Steel), so as the building ages the metal naturally rusts creating a beautiful texture.


This house is particularly interesting, because the metal panels or shutters can actually close when the owner is away (you crank a neat metal wheel to close the shutters). I also like two other design elements on this house – the first is the way that the building is built up on stilts – making its connection with the ground much lighter and less impactful – and the second is that the kitchen and living space is located on the top level maximizing the views of the valley.The only complaint I have about this cabin, is that there is manicured grass around the thing in the summer… it should be wild grasses that are long and tall in my opinion – really connect the building to the landscape and let it be wild!

Rolling-Hut-Mazama-WinterThese little guys were created after the Delta Shelter, and you can see a clear connection in terms of the aesthetic. However these structures utilize wood, which in a way makes sense as they are lower to the ground and therefore more connected to the direct surrounding landscape. These cabins are also very ‘sustainable’ in that they are movable (they are up on wheels!) – which was purposeful as they are intended to have a decreased impact on the site and allow for the landscape they sit upon (a former RV campground) to regenerate.

Juvet Landscape Hotel – Jensen + Skodvin Architects – Norway

700_juvet-landscape-hotel-minimal-wood-structureI really want to visit this hotel…

The design was intended to allow for guests to reconnect with nature, in these 7 small cabins each situated in a different position on the site. The views vary from the local stream and pond, to the dense forest, to forest clearing. Each of the cabins has a different layout, in order to enhance and focus those views, and each has at least one completely glass wall. Similarly to the other two the cabins are built on stilts, creating a floating effect.

700_juvet-landscape-hotel-in-norway-modern-minimalist-glass-hotel-with-viewThe interiors are also purposefully dark and spare to further highlight the views. The only parts of the cabins that are more colourful are the washrooms. Let’s just stare at this picture in awe…

Juvet-26Similarly to the first project the cladding is made of wood that closely matches the colouring of the surrounding landscape. The architecture is simultaneously contrasting through its geometry, and blending in with the colour and vertical lines of the facade. This one is going on my list of architecture to visit! (Which is getting to be a very long list ;))

Each of these projects demonstrates that you don’t have to have a large cabin to have everything you need in architecture. Views, rich materials, cozy interiors, and minimal impact on the landscape are the concepts that make these places so special.

Thanks for reading!





One of the easiest ways to find inspiration for your own project presentations, particularly during school, is to look at what other people are doing in competitions. There are a number of amazing competition sites out there that put many or all of their participant’s projects up on their websites. I have highlighted three here that I found particularly useful for layouts, but also for rendering and general drawing inspiration. (Click the titles to visit the websites!)


This website is quite specific to this particular design competition but is a good example of how you can utilize ‘real’ architecture competitions a a source of inspiration. Though this one does not have layouts like many of the others, there is a HUGE number of entries (1700!) that you can look through. Each has two images of the project (the Guggenheim Museum design) and a project description. For the most part the rendering quality is fairly high, and some of the designs are pretty neat. I would use this to see commonalities between firms and how they set up their renders, how many people they’ve added, lighting, etc. I would also take a look at some of the project descriptions to see how firms are talking about their projects to get better insight into how I might talk about my own work.






I love this website! It has a number of different links to various competitions, and the quality of the layouts and rendering found in these competitions is amazing. My particular favorite is the OBA link which was a competition for an arctic observatory. If you want to see how people represent snow and ice in their architectural drawings and renders, this is the site to go to. There is a range of projects too, so you can see how someone lays out a single board and fits all their information onto it, or how someone lays out many boards.





Okay so good ol’ pinterest. I just stumbled upon this (I am a little slow), and I wish I had found it before now. I bet most students have found it… but I am posting it anyways! Sites like pinterest are really fascinating to me, it is great to have everything right in front of you – its a good way to compare and determine what kind of stylistic choices you like in layouts too!






I always look at eVolo for inspiration – mainly because the skyscrapers produced in the competition are so thoughtful – but also because the presentations are spectacular. See last year’s winner below – not super tall like some of them, but like I said – super thoughtful!





Color_pencils (Okay so I know its not Thursday but I am trying to catch up on the blogging thing!) Who doesn’t like fun colours in their architecture? Surprisingly a lot of people. Most professors I’ve had, and many professionals (not all of them of course) will tell you to use colour sparingly in your work to make sure things are “toned down.” But these projects show sometimes it just has to be loud.   CINQUE TERRE plentyofcolour_cinqueterre110                       Cinque Terre is located in the Italian Riviera and is a beautiful example of how places can be almost literally frozen in time. This series of villages (Monterosso al MareVernazzaCornigliaManarola, and Riomaggiore) are linked together by footpaths, the ocean, and train. That’s right there are NO cars in the “Five Lands.” I stumbled across this as I was searching for colour + architecture on the internet, and I am so enchanted that I cannot wait to get to Italy to see it!plentyofcolour_cinqueterre211   And this place certainly does not lack in colour. Terraced along the rugged coast, the houses and businesses come in every shade you can imagine. According to the history of the place, the buildings were painted so brightly so that the fishermen (which obviously was the main economy of the towns) could see their homes from the ocean as they worked. Lucky for us the tradition has been continued! What I love is that it is not only the architecture that is colourful and bright but also almost everything you can see from the street. The boats, the signage, the awnings, the furniture, the textiles! Even though everything is so differently coloured, and heck there are a lot of what we would call clashing colours, it comes together in a beautiful, lively, yet seemingly peaceful harmony. plentyofcolour_ct26   CENTRAL ST. GILES Central-Saint-Giles-Court-Mixed-use-Development-By-Renzo-Piano-Fletcher-Priest-Architects-01   This is a mixed-use development located in London, completed in 2010, and designed by Renzo Piano.   I used this development as a precedent for a skyscraper project during my master’s degree, and what I liked about it the most was that it is extremely colourful without being over the top. Here I doubt something like Cinque Terre would have worked, as the scale is so much different. Interestingly, however, though the scale is quite large, I feel like the blocks of colour work well because of the minute detail that has gone into the facade. Though the bright facades may look like painted metal pieces, they are actually 134, 000 glazed terracotta tiles. I think this helps the building relate to its surroundings, as well as older London architecture. It also blends seamlessly with the more modern elements of the building in the steel and glass. Finally, each of the terracotta facades are set at a slight angle from one another, which breaks up the entire building making it more approachable and engaging. fo_gallery_4c4e829031c9c_Stgiles6 On another note, I am a huge fan of mixed-use developments. I believe that all new developments should be a mix of residential, commercial and retail as well as green space/urban park space in order for our cities to grow better. Particularly in Calgary, where our past has isolated the downtown to strictly commercial with suburban sprawl all around, we need to start enlivening our inner city and densifying through these means. We are headed in the right direction luckily, with development like the East Village, though things are moving rather slowly with the rest of downtown. central_saint_giles_4-538x600   PORTA FIRA TOWERS Porta-Fira-Hotel-Barcelona-02-600x899 This is another precedent project from the same skyscraper studio that I discovered. It is a project by Toyo Ito, and is located in Barcelona, Spain. It is a hotel and office combination and was completed in 2009. Though it is less colourful than the other architecture in this post, the red tower is striking due to the combination of the bright hue with the organic form. Again here I feel that the facade is working due to the fact that despite having such a huge scale the detail helps make it less monolithic. The facade here is made up of red metal tubes that shift angles as they run up the tower. It creates a dynamic effect as the pipes flow up the curves of the building. I think the effect is heightened by the fact that the pipes are set out from the building, creating a dark backdrop of emptiness behind. Porta-Fira-Hotel-Barcelona-01   I do feel however that the second tower is a bit of a failure. I am not a big fan of how the two towers interact, and feel that they should have been two completely separate projects in different locations. I understand that they were likely intended to be a foil to one another – the red tower being voluminous and organic, with more traditional geometry punched in – and the grey tower was intended to be traditional geometry with a touch of organic added in, but still I just think there could have been a better way. Same with how the podium interacts with the organic tower – the tower hits the podium almost like it was tacked on at a later date, as opposed to the podium embracing or flowing up into the tower which would have enhanced the curving effect. (But of course who am I to argue with Toyo Ito ;)) Porta-Fira-Hotel-Barcelona-03-600x600 I hope these projects inspire you to utilize colour more freely in your own projects 🙂 or have let you in on a few new destinations you may want to visit!





Don’t we all wish that we could work like this! Still accomplishing something but enjoying the great outdoors or having more fun in general! Studies do show that employees who are provided with built in “break” spaces and/or connections to nature are much more productive and of course happier. That said, obviously we can’t work outside all the time – but these companies have come up with some great solutions to keep their employees engaged:




This Architecture office, located in Madrid, Spain, takes “going outside” quite literally with the clear glass walls and submerged floor plate. The space almost looks like it is outside at first glance, which must make for a pretty serene work experience. The perspectives of this building must be very interesting, as employees are sitting with the ground directly at eye-level – a view you normally do not get to see! I like the fact that the interior of the space is very simple, which does not distract from the views. It hearkens back to ‘glass box’ spaces that Mies van der Rohe and others were designing in the Modern period – and at the same time the curved edges and wacky colors are a bit more space-age.


The organization of the office interior is really well done, given the tightness of the space. The desks are cantilevered off the wall to reduce the space required underneath the desk and it does make it look cleaner (though of course when a photographer is taking photos usually you do clean up!) I like the playful bands of green and yellow, it would be a pretty bright (uplifting) place to work throughout all the seasons. The only thing I wonder about is how often they have to clean that huge glass wall/roof!


Images from:




This office, in Paris, France, literally brings the outside inside! The trees in this greenhouse-esque structure are embedded into the desks. The whole thing reminds me of a boardwalk through the rain forest, and definitely takes ‘employee desk plants’ to a whole new level.


In fact the entire office is a series of levels – it was a renovation of an existing 19th century industrial warehouse (hence the greenhouse-esque steel structure! Think Eiffel). The hall was restored, and then in order to create the space needed for the offices, the hall was split into several built-in levels. The lower level accommodates board rooms, a recreational room, and restrooms (as well as all the comms requirements, electrical, and soil/watering of the trees); the main level consists of the embedded desks; and the surrounding space contains executive offices, archival space as well as the kitchen and staff area.


Atop the ‘cubicle’ desks among the trees are these strange pod contraptions – they call them ‘telephone’-domes and they are made of plexiglas. They are there to keep the reverberation from phone conversations to a minimum as the ceiling of the space is so high (in a normal office there is usually a drop ceiling or something similar that makes this unnecessary). I am not totally sure I like that aspect (it would look a lot cleaner without it) or perhaps there was a more organic way to deal with the sound issues – but in the end it does look pretty cool. (Below is another example where things are a bit cleaner – though note the ceiling is a lot lower and the trees are tiny!)


Images from: &



I actually don’t have much to say about this next set of images… they kinda speak for themselves! Other than it looks like so much fun to work there! (And I do have to say some of the spaces are waaaaayyyy too themed for me –  BUT still really really neat).






Till next week! Ciao

THursday Three



These Gardens located in the Hedong District , Tianjin City, China are a whirlwind of colour and texture in both landscape and hardscape. The project, completed in 2008, was a remediation project to improve the soil and water conditions on a site that was highly polluted and full of garbage. It looks to be a bright and happy place with a variety of ‘banded’ gardens (different levels with different types of ecologies) that make the development very engaging. The designers abstracted important local patterns in their design of the park, including water borders, crop fields, harvested farmlands, rivers, marshes, meadows and pastures. According to many articles, the place has become an extremely important to the hugely populated communities surrounding it.

turenscape.com2What I like about the project in particular is the tactile nature of the design. This picture expresses that well, I can imagine how the grass would feel as I ran through it – something that some people may have never felt before. That is why I am a huge fan of city parks, urban landscapes, and anything that brings a bit of nature into the craziness of the city. The feel, the smell, the sound of grass, flowers, water, trees etc. has no replacement.


(Bridged Garden images from


This project is quite exciting to me. Though it is extremely simple when compared to many other designed landscapes, its simplicity is what makes it so powerful. The project done by Balmori Associates for Bilbao Jardin 2009 Competition, literally stretched the rules. Each architect was given a 100 square meter square to design a garden in, and Balmori decided to stretch that square so that the garden could extend up the staircase. What resulted is a temporary structure that created a dynamic interaction for users of the staircase. It is a contradictory feature in many ways. First, the nature of the design, that is something that attracts you and wants you to stop and literally ‘smell the roses’ is so different from the movement and transitional nature of the stairs.

I have always thought that wildflowers are rarely taken advantage of in our designs. We prefer to choose obedient and clean lined plants to line our streets and parks, but the unruly wildflower is so much more attractive! Here we can see another juxtaposition in even the materials of the project. The boxes containing the flowers are made of core-ten steel which is more of a permanent and slowly changing material. On the other hand the flowers themselves are so fleeting and seasonal in comparison.


(All The Garden that Climbs the Stairs photos are from:



The Edge Park looks a bit more traditional now-a-days in terms of edgy (hehe) park designs (somewhat like the high line). Shapes and angles and divisions have been thoroughly explored in a variety of spaces. I like this project because it expresses the struggle between the natural and ecological forms of the river, and the geometric gridded form of the city. This project is located in Brooklyn, New York and was completed in 2011 by W-Architecture (who are also currently working on Calgary’s Riverwalk).


I like how the park looks to be a mix of features that provides a place for everyone wishing to use it – the busy families and active people, and the people just looking for a place to sit and enjoy the views. I also think that the variations of textures, materials, and plant life are particularly well done here (though it does look like there is a lack of wildflowers!). For example the rockiness and grittiness of the river stone, contrasts with the smooth and particularly coloured pavers. It keeps people interested through variation – which is so important in public spaces – but at the same time all works together in harmony.


 I think the only thing missing for me in this project is a greater variation in the levels at which the pedestrian inhabits. The whole site seems quite flat despite the changes in pattern and texture. It would be nice if a more dramatic change occurred to facilitate different views or frame them, but perhaps that is just my personal preference :).

(All The Edge Park photographs are from

Thanks for reading the first “The Thursday Three” Posts – I hope you enjoyed the projects! I look forward to any suggestions or ideas for posts so leave a comment!