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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Today's archidose #65

Ethical Society
Ethical Society by Remiss63.
The Ethical Society of St. Louis by Harris Armstrong. Much more information on Harris Armstrong can be found at Remiss63's own Architectural Ruminations.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Half Dose #32: Hybrid Urban Sutures

One of this year's P/A Awards (now administered by the twice-removed-from-Progressive-Architecture Architect Magazine) is Aziza Chaouni's Hybrid Urban Sutures: Filling in the Gaps in the Medina of Fez, Morocco. Started as a graduate thesis and furthered via independent study, the project that "analyzes the urban, architectural, and social issues affecting Middle Eastern historic districts" is an amazing piece of urban design. The project's main component is her proposal to return Al-Qarawiyin University to the medina from its current suburban location, adding public space and cultural facilities to the dense area.

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Chaouni picked three sites as University research centers, each acting as an anchor along the Fez River, the medina's urban spine.

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The analysis and proposed interventions are helped by the clarity of the graphics, here showing the three anchors, their relationships to the existing context, and their functions.

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One intervention is a theology library inserted into an existing plaza. The new buildings would work with the current flow of pedestrians through the site, bringing a certain level of order to the historically unplanned "chaos."

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Stacked circulation and stepped massing gesture to the local circumstances, though the patterned punctures in the exterior walls seem to relate to a larger, Middle-Eastern context.

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Another anchor is the economics research center, a conglomeration of buildings that incorporates public spaces while also acting as circulation to connect multiple levels.

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In addition to the research clusters, classrooms (in pink) are scattered throughout the medina, an admirable decision that creates improvement in places beyond the spine.

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Chaouni also tackles the existing leather tanneries, proposing to use the pits as reclaimed green space. This decision is questionable as it replaces a piece of economic infrastructure with something that doesn't apparently offer economic potential. Perhaps flowers and vegetable can be grown within and then sold in the medina.

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Regardless of the above criticism, the imagined end result is very appealing.

Chaouni's study is "slated for publication by Paris' Editions Le Fennec." I can't wait.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Book Review: Architecture of the Air

Architecture of the Air: The Sound and Light Environments of Christopher Janney by Beth Dunlop



Christopher Janney is a man of many titles: architect, artist, musician. His creations seem to fuse these three realms into environments that reward playful participation, or, as the book says, "turns spectators into participants." This may occur via panels on a parking garage that light up part of the facade when pushed, via sounds triggered by waving a hand in front of a sensor on a subway platform, or by running around a grouping of columns to release steam. These and other public projects make up the first part of this monograph-cum-(auto)biography on Janney. The remainder of the book presents performance projects, architectural projects, and sonic reflections. This last part gives the greatest glimpse into Janney's thinking, inspirations, and experiences that have led to his creations.
 
Through these sonic reflections, text and images carry equal weight, giving the reader an alternative view on things as diverse as psychoanalysis, drumming, improvisation, sound as a color, and teaching. Certain threads appear: eastern philosophy, jazz music, nature's cycles, technology. Ultimately Janney's creations seem to be about immersing ourselves in our environments with all our senses, especially hearing. He pushes that immersion upon us by creating places that require interaction. (He even rewards persistence with special games, one between the covers of this book.)

Unfortunately, a book can only convey so much about works not only geared to hearing but presence and movement in space. What we're left with are words and images, the former giving us glimpses into Janney's mind and past, the latter showing that his formal talents aren't as strong as his intellectual and conceptual talents. Naturally after reading this book one wants to experience his projects in person, run around the Sonic Forest, try to solve the riddle that lights up the whole parking garage facade, ride the moving walkway at Miami International Airport and see what sounds accompany the rainbow of colors. Well, at least the reader is left with a riddle to a place on "the web where there is more." 

Tietgen Residence Hall



Tietgen Residence Hall in Copenhagen, Denmark by Lundgaard & Tranberg

Photographs are by Mikael Colville-Andersen.

Located directly south of Copenhagen's city center is Ørestad, a 770-acre neighborhood-in-the-making, now in the midst of rampant development. Spurred by the bridge to Sweden, an existing commuter train line, and Ørestad's geographical location at the center of the Øresund region, 20,000 residents, 20,000 students, and 80,000 people working in the area are expected within 20 years. The most developed portion is Ørestad Nord, home to two universities and the Tietgen Residence Hall by Lundgaard & Tranberg.

In this northern portion of Ørestad, water is the unifying element. Two canals, one winding and one straight, hold the Tietgen in its location, providing for prominent visibility on both sides. Generous public space is provided around the residence hall for campus socializing and the ubiquitous bikes of Copenhagen.

The seven-story, ring-shaped building contains 360 studio residences, as well as a café, great hall, study and computer room, workshops, laundrette, music and conference rooms, and bicycle parking area on the ground floor. The massive project is broken down via five cuts that provide access to the residences (12 per floor) and the internal courtyard.

The architects acknowledge the influence of the tulou constructions of Southern China, though where the ancestral shrine occupies the central space in tulous, here that internal space is landscaped. The communal nature of this space is reinforced by the plan of the residences: private rooms are located on the outside with generous views, while circulation, recreation rooms, terraces, and communal kitchens face the inside; the last of these are within projecting boxes that activate this larger internal space. The cross-cultural, cross-temporal borrowing appears to work very well, accommodating public and private spaces in a way that strengthens them both.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Driving is Murder

On my articles page I added one of my papers from last semester, Driving is Murder: The Automobile, Violence, and the City in Film Noir, for the class Reading the City: Film Noir.

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Basically the paper is a response to a consistent theme or trait I saw in the films we watched in class, such as Kiss Me Deadly (above): violence with automobiles. Given that the class was geared towards seeing the city through the lens of film noir and critical responses to that genre, my paper tries to analyze this trait in relation to the car's effect on the city and the American landscape, definitely something taking place during the years of these films. But as I analyzed these films I realized that seeing them in relation to contemporary films or neo-noirs was necessary, to see how attitudes towards violence and the automobile changed as the car became ingrained in the American way of life and urban fabric. Hopefully these things come across in the paper; it's hard to say from my position. So if you are able to wade through the roughly 3,300 words, come back to this post and let me know what you think.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Today's archidose #64

At The Yale Center for British Art
At The Yale Center for British Art by thbonamici.
The Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, CT by Louis I. Kahn.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Graffitecture

A comment by shannon in my last post provided a link to Graffitecture, a book and exhibition with a release party/opening today in Chicago at Hejfina. Forty Chicago-based Graffiti artists were asked to "draw directly on photographic prints of architectural spaces." The online, Flash version of the show is a well-done virtual book that gives a taste of some of the artists' responses, like this modification of the Pfanner House by Zoka Zola.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Today's archidose #63

Reddish Brown Canal
Reddish Brown Canal by Quod Libertarius [Zakka].
Tietgenkollegiet (student housing) in Ørestad, Denmark, a suburb of Copenhagen, by Lundgaard & Tranberg. More information here.

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Update 02.25: This project is also featured on my weekly page.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New Year Reading

So far this year Archinect has posted nine features on its page, a staggering number when one also realizes that only two were posted last year by this time. Of course quantity doesn't mean much if quality is lacking, something the editors don't have to worry about, with a wide-range of what are mostly very thoughtful interviews with upstarts and lesser-known individuals, as well as one catching the Second Life bandwagon.

Naturally, for a voracious reader like me the two-part feature Reading the CNY (Chinese New Year) is the best of the bunch. As much as I'd love to put together my own list here, my schedule just won't allow that sort of free time, so below I've extracted my favorite reads and ones I'd love to read, with quotes from the editor that chose it, a link to their list, and a brief comment of my own; I tried to grab one book from each editor's list but that might not have worked in all cases.

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In no particular order:
Bow-wow from Post Bubble City
"Atelier Bow-Wow. INAX Publishing, 2006.
On the heels of the genius of Made in Tokyo and Pet Architecture, the Bow-wowers this time offer a monograph of their own work demonstrating what they have learned from Tokyo. The book is divided into twelve sections with brief self-interviews serving as thematic introductions to each. The work is thoughtful and restrained, making this Bow-wow book wow yippy yo yippy yeah." [ed. - I loved the two previous Bow-wowers, too, and even though a friend gave me this a gift I've yet to read it; looks great, though.]

Landscape Urbanism Reader
Charles Waldheim, Princeton Architectural Press, 2006
"Circulating between high lines, fresh kills, and waterfronts is an emergent collective of designers and thinkers chronicling a landscape revolution. Landscape Architecture has joined forces with its former nemesis, Urbanism, to generate a seductive elixir for the city’s eager desire for reclamation, brownfielding, and landscape tourism. This Reader compiles 14 authors in search of an emerging choreographed urban field." [ed. - Another book I own but have yet to read, minus Graham Shane's essay for his class.]

Mediterranean In The Ancient World
Fernand Braudel. Penguin Books, 2002.
"A great history book I read on and off." [ed. - I found both volumes used in a bookstore, though I've yet to crack them. Perhaps on and off should be my strategy for tackling Braudel's weighty history.]

Land Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook
Max Andrews. The RSA and Arts Council England, 2006.
"A book that launched with the RSA's No Way Back? conference, this book reaches 'beyond environmentalism,' to take a critical approach to the ways that art can operate in relation to the global debates of ecology, geography, economics and globalization. The most compelling essay examines contemporary projects, including those of The Center for Land Use Interpretation, in relation to the dialogue opened by Robert Smithson in terms of site, non-site and territory. Related: a new publication from The Cape Farewell Project, a series of expeditions that bring artists, scientists and educators to the Arctic to raise awareness of climate change." [ed. - This looks like a great companion to Landscape Urbanism, above.]

Earth: An Intimate History
Richard Fortey. Vintage, 2005.
"For some reason I wasn’t interested in reading this book at all – but then I couldn’t put it down. It’s a geological tour of the earth’s surface, including those strange and unimaginable subterranean pressures that torque, fold, mutate, bend, and shatter the ground we stand on. The American paperback edition is terrifically designed & printed. Really great, frankly, if you have even the slightest interest in geology or landscape." [ed. - Sounds like BLDGBLOG in print form.]

Future Anterior, Journal of Historic Preservation
Jorge Otero-Pailos, Founder and Director. GSAPP, Columbia University.
"Great time every few months when I get my copy of Future Anterior in the post, which is at the forefront of theory on preservation, but most of the issues are also up on on the web as PDF's for y'all. Simply, where else would I have learned about prophylactic preservation?" [ed. - In another life, I'm a historic preservationist.]

Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book of Lists
McSweeney's. Vintage, 2006.
"Unleash the urban planner within by reading "Things This City Was Built On, Besides Rock 'n' Roll" or spice up your next crit with some fodder from "Adjectives Rarely Used by Wine Tasters." In typical McSweeney's fashion, this book presents a completely random assortment of lists which will almost certainly provide no practical benefit whatsoever (except a lot of laughter)." [ed. - These things crack me up when I look them over a couple times a year.]

Guide To Contemporary Architecture In America: Vol. 1 Western U.S.A.
Masayuki Fuchigami. Toto, 2005.
"Please, please, please before you spend your money on a trip to some far-flung country, get in your car and drive (or take a train or bus)! If you live in the US drive to the Grand Canyon, to Toledo, to Denver, anywhere! If you live elsewhere, drive to the interesting, out-of-the-way places that your own home turf provides. It's easy to see the greener grass elsewhere, but America does have some pretty fantastic things to see between NY and LA, and this guide book is a great way to see them." [ed. - I'm really looking forward to volume 2.]

A+U No. 428: Implementing Architecture
Moshen Mostafavi and Mason White. A+U Publishing, 2006.
"Edited and assembled by Archinect’s own Mason White, an in-depth exploration of the realities of architectural practice. By focusing on project architects, this volume is a refreshingly honest dissertation on how buildings get built and how field decisions get made - minus the clutter of theory. Taken together, the essays can be seen as one complete narrative, culminating in a revealing essay by Prince-Ramus on the Seattle Public Library where he sidesteps the question of his role as project architect altogether by espousing the death of authorship. Also included are essays on the history of architectural education at Cornell. This volume should be required reading."

Variations on a Theme Park
Michael Sorkin. The Noonday Press, 1992.
"I picked this up for $7.50 at a used bookstore in Wicker Park (Chicago) over the holiday break. Although 15 years old, many of these essays (by the likes of Margaret Crawford, Mike Davis, and others) still apply, perhaps now more than when they were initially published." [ed. - I've read about half of these essays and definitely agree that they're relevant today.]

Thinking Architecture
Peter Zumthor. Birkhäuser, 2006.
"Here's an excerpt from my favorite portion of the book, perhaps the most telling of his thoughts on architecture, as compared to the thoughts and preoccupations of many others:
'The world is full of signs and information, which stand for things that no one fully understands...Yet the real thing remains hidden...Nevertheless, I am convinced that real things do exist, however endangered they may be...objects, made by man...which are what they are, which are not mere vehicles for an artistic message, and whose presence is self-evident.'" [ed. - I've been known to excerpt myself, but only from the best.]

Gravity's Rainbow Illustrated
Zak Smith. Tin House Books, 2006.
"Weird, difficult, challenging … yet absolutely ravishing in scope." [ed. - Isn't the original weird, difficult, and challenging? Maybe these illustrations make it less so.]

Heidegger's Hut
Adam Sharr. MIT Press, 2006.
"An interesting and detailed analysis on the philosopher and his place. Chalk full of images concerning the man and his hut. Sharr even went as far to produce models and architectural drawings. Can seem overly technical at times, but for me definitely shed a new light on what building, dwelling, and thinking was all about."[ed. - Anything that helps explain Heidegger's ideas is good in my book.]

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Flatland

In my inbox today landed a link to a page called The World as Flatland, with the brief description that it is the "first project of the multi-part series 'Visualizing Feedback' on the design and interpretation of statistics."

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Upon visiting the page it appears to show a snapshot of those viewing the page at that moment. Each time I visited there were very few visitors, as can be seen in the latest view below, a far cry from the e-mail image above. So I'm sharing the page here to spread the word and aid the flatlanders in their project. Additionally, a pull-down menu on the flatland page illustrates some statistics, such as longevity, Nobel Prize winners, and happiness.

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Update 02.25: Less than a week since this post, it looks like the world is filling out:
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Monday, February 19, 2007

Scheepvaart Workshop



Scheepvaart Workshop in Schoten, Belgium by Loos Architects and HUB

The following text and images are courtesy Loos Architects for their design (with HUB) of a Workshop Building for Dienst Scheepvaart.

The workshop building is located in a context of sculptural industrial buildings along the Albertkanaal, a canal connecting the cities of Antwerp and Luik. Our task was to design an inexpensive building that houses an extraordinary multitude of functions: a concierge apartment, an office space, a meeting room, a cafeteria, changing rooms, a wood workshop and a metal workshop, a garage and an outside storage space.

In order to keep the plot free of clutter, we decided to integrate the storage zone into the volume, literally increasing the substance of the workshop building. The required fence around the plot "shrinks to fit": Instead of encircling the whole plot, it becomes a protective skin for the building. In fact it forms an inexpensive facade with an intriguing moire effect, through which its black hypodermis, consisting of insulation material, remains visible.

Inside, the workshops and storage spaces are situated in the body and tail of the building, while the more complex functions are fittingly located in its head. An incision marking the main entrance splits the head into two: one part facing the west and containing the cafeteria and office space, the other facing the south and housing the concierge apartment which has a loggia looking out over the canal.

The result is a beast-like structure that can easily compete with its older neighbors when it comes to sculptural shape and recognizability.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Today's archidose #62

Villa La Roche-Jeanneret by Le Corbusier
Villa La Roche-Jeanneret by Le Corbusier by fotofacade.
Villas La Roche-Jeanneret (1925) in Paris by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, now housing the Foundation Le Corbusier.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Skywalk Update

About a year and a half ago I posted about a horseshoe-shaped, glass-bottom walkway that would jut into the Grand Canyon, sitting nearly a mile above the Colorado River. It was optimistically planned to open on the first day of 2006, but that obviously did not happen. An LA Times article, though, indicates that construction is underway on the Grand Canyon Skywalk, and it is set to open soon.

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Photo by Mark Boster / LAT

The article also indicates that the Skywalk "will be the catalyst for a 9,000-acre development [on the Hualapai Indian Reservation], known as Grand Canyon West, that will open up a long-inaccessible 100-mile stretch of countryside along the canyon's South Rim. [The development] may eventually include hotels, restaurants and a golf course."

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The Hualapai are using the Skywalk and future developments as a means to address social problems within the group, including poverty and alcoholism. People outside the tribe are arguing that the plans will deface the Grand Canyon and turn it into a "tacky commercial playground." These appear to be the two sides of the argument, though the former is the one grounded in law, as the tribe owns the land and any rights to develop it. The latter could perhaps try to steer people away from visiting the Skywalk and paying its $25 admission, towards more sustainable ways of enjoying the canyon.



To me the Skywalk in and of itself is not a bad thing (or not as bad as the rest). It's quite an engineering feat and surely gimmicky, but without the development it's not as harmful to its context; road access, a place to eat, a gift shop, some toilets. But the irony is that Skywalk cannot exist alone. It's a piece meant to generate the other parts of the development. The Skywalk is meant to bring people to a side of the canyon more remote than the usual tourist spots, while the rest of the development is meant to keep them there much longer. It's unfortunate that the Skywalk will be linked to a golf course and other "non-native" amenities, but at this point it's well on its way to fruition.

(via Core77 & The Green Head)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Today's archidose #61

Bamboo scaffolding in Hong Kong
Bamboo scaffolding in Hong Kong by loan Sameli.
"Bamboo scaffolding around skyscrapers in construction in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong."

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Today's archidose #60

Caplutta Sogn Benedetg
Caplutta Sogn Benedetg by photograph er?.
A chapel in Sumvitg, Switzerland by Peter Zumthor, completed in 1988.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Waldspirale

I've never been a fan of the Friedensreich Hundertwasser's buildings. They're a bit too goofy and definitely the product of a painter rather than an architect (which in itself isn't a problem, but the surface treatment of the exteriors I think stems from this). His most well-known building is easily the eponymous apartment complex in Vienna he "completed" in 1986; I put quotes around completed because his buildings are never really finished. They evolve over time not only via the growth of trees and other vegetation integral with his buildings but by the occupants as well, who are allowed to paint the wall outside their unit in the Hundertwasser Haus, for example. This "strident philosophy of ecology and personal freedom," said about the late artist in a New York Times article yesterday on a posthumous winery opening in California, is something I definitely appreciate, though the execution still troubles me.

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Image by Alexander Deppert

In a slide show accompanying the Times article, I was struck by the Waldspirale development in Darmstadt, Germany, shown above and below. While the striped exterior and onion domes leave much to be desired aesthetically, the ramping green roof is just amazing. It extends the green courtyard across the whole development, giving residents easy access to this area. It also helps the project relate to its context, by giving the mass a low scale inside the block but giving the public face a larger, more appropriate scale on the adjacent streets.

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This is the kind of architecture that is in vogue now (witness Aaron Betsky's book Landscrapers from 2002), though in a more tame and less artistic manner. It's an appropriate strategy for a world that needs to get a lot greener.

Book Review: Savages

Savages by Joe Kane



On a recent class trip to Ecuador's Oriente, we were able to visit a Huaorani settlement in the Yasuni National Park. Any ideas of seeing indigenous peoples "on their own turf" were immediately scuttled by the pervasive presence of oil production, from roads to fenced-off compounds. Across the street (a completely foreign phrase for the Huaorani before oil was discovered and drilled on their land) from the settlement, acres of rain forest was felled for even more drilling. Our meeting with the group consisted of an exchange of songs (they did war songs, we did a Christmas song and a Beatles tune) in one of their traditional, thatch-covered structures. But the giddiness during their performance and the small concrete block buildings ringing the one we were inside gave an unpleasant feeling to the whole affair. It didn't feel authentic. This book by writer and adventurer Joe Kane helps to illuminate the characteristics of the Huaorani and the events that led up to that present-day situation.

By the time Kane met members of the Huaorani, oil exploration and drilling were already taking place in the Oriente. Between that meeting and the end of the book, the Huaorani were given title to a large area of land in Yasuni only to have it thrown open for oil exploration, something they tried to stop. (In Ecuador's laws, indigenous groups only have surface rights.) The situation could be best described as prolonging the inevitable: Ecuador's primary export was, and is oil (making up approximately half of its GDP), so the government was not going to place a moratorium on drilling for a group that comprises an infinitesimally small fraction of the country's population. Fight the Huaorani did, but as Joe Kane documents they didn't necessarily know how to fight against enemies like governments and corporations. Spears might instill fear but they ultimately work against the group in the long run.

Kane's first-hand account illustrates the conditions of the rain forest and the difficulty in surviving in it, but he also shows how the Huaorani are of the forest, in ways that most Westerners probably wouldn't guess. A good example is "grandfather" Mengatohue walking Kane through the forest and pointing out many of the plants, not all growing naturally, without human aid. What we realize is that the Huaorani cultivate the forest, just not in the way we think of the word, via clearing and planting. So through this and other examples, the reader sees the disparity between the Huaorani and who they are up against; it almost seems like an unfair fight. But over time they learn, like the groups in Suzanne Sawyer's Crude Chronicles, how to make their voice heard and get something out of it (schools and supplies, for example), while preserving their dignity, if not their way of life. While neither thorough nor academic -- and falling prey to mythologozing the Huaorani and oversimplifying their conflict with the Company -- Kane's account illustrates the complexities of a cultural clash and the struggles of one group trying to influence the other.


Hotel Seeburg



Hotel Seeburg in Lucerne, Switzerland by Scheitlin_Syfrig + Partner

The long history of Hotel Seeburg in Lucerne, Switzerland is immediately apparent: a three-story, 19th-century building and a six-story, 20th-century building sit astride the recent structure by Scheitlin_Syfrig + Partner. The Jesuit courtyard and gardens date back to the 18th century, when the estate was used as a summer retreat. In addition to the hotel's function, Lake Lucerne and the Alps unite these historical pieces, as each addresses this landscape in some way.

The 2003 addition contains the hotel lobby and front desk as well as a restaurant, lounge, and meeting room. The restaurant juts towards the water's edge with a large window overlooking the lake and the mountain scenery beyond, recalling many luxury hotels that take advantage of their natural surroundings. The meeting room accomplishes the same via its generous glazing.

Both the restaurant and meeting room take on a double meaning when seen in relation to the hotel context: the real view out the window recalls a painted view in the Panoramasaal in the old building. Additionally, at night each becomes inverted as the become views from the outside, giving those strolling along the lake a glimpse of the dining and business taking place inside.

The addition's simple geometries, contemporary materials, and dark colors place it in opposition to not only the 19th-century building but the more-recent building with its suites overlooking the lake. This opposition is merely aesthetic, though, as the interior effectively links the two buildings and its low massing plays down this opposition. Ultimately it extends the focus of the previous buildings to the utmost as it brings the distant mountain views inside via the expansive glass.