Monthly Archives: September 2011

OFIS Explores Architecture & Organicism in Slovenia


What happens when an architect foregoes the glass box and disregards sci-fi geometry? One result is the interpretation and manifestation of organicism such as that by Ljubljana, Slovenia-based OFIS ARHITEKTI.
Aesthetically appealing organicism is hard enough in architecture today, and usually results in something absolutely hideous. Add to that the challenge of favorably placing a mixed-use seven-storey building contextually into a historical district. For OFIS ARHITEKTI’s recently unveiled plans, however, the anticipation of the firm’s successfully rising to the challenge with its contextually and organically sensitive response is almost palpable. One might hypothesize even now while the building’s under construction before its slated 2012 completion date, that the Copova Devetka will bare an esoteric sense of place.
Consider the future building’s curvilinear facades, its method of gracefully transporting the public through various topographic levels, its modest height, and its inclusion of a spectrum of private and public spaces. Amorphous bands of glass, metal, and greenery will wrap around the seven-storey edifice like garland around a tree, silver bracelets around a wrist, glass rings around a carnival bottle. They aren’t merely pretty little elements thrust upon otherwise thoughtless, dreary architecture, no.

‘The terraces are created by curving back each (storey) in an organic fashion to create patios and decks for shoppers, a cafe, and residential patios on the top levels. The organic mesh wraps the edges of each level,’ publicity materials document. The soothing visual effect will mitigate the temporal contrast of the architecture with its surrounding historical context, as will the gently sloping ground that gives the appearance of two underground levels from one perspective, and one underground storey from another.
The proliferation of windows throughout the building will help prevent a visual frisson between the brick and mortar town and its new glass and steel cousin. Furthermore, patios studding the terraces will offer multiple views of the historic distinct, including the Ljubljana Castle. First mentions of the castle ostensibly date back to the early twelfth century, and in the late 1990s renovations spanning three decades had been completed in such a sophisticated manner that it became a popular staging place for weddings and other high-culture events.
‘Even if it is a large scale building we tried to integrate it into small scale historical site. The building is between a pedestrian street and a park that are on different levels. Looking from the park, there is one storey under ground, and looking from the street, two,’ says Andrej Gregorič, project designer. Take for instance, the public passage that perforates the building and extends from one to another topographic level.
‘Mesh wraps the edges of each level, softening its appearance and adding greenery to the building,’ says Gregorič. ‘The fall/winter appearance is covered in silver and sometimes covered in snow. On the other hand, the spring/summer appearance is green and sometimes it flowers.’
The Terraces will rise 24 meters above ground and be divided into seven stories. Boutique shopping and cafes will occupy the bottom four storeys among 5,474 square meters, with residences comprising the remaining 3,222 square meters among three storeys. A public passage will run through the building, traversing the sloping street-level surroundings. Parking will be available in a nearby building, which is common for this historical site in an effort to promote land conservation and encourage pedestrian activity, according to Gregorič.
Guests can take an espresso at the al fresco cafe at lower and largest terrace plateau. This is an excellent space for observing the community yet feel somewhat removed from it. OFIS achieved this by tactfully design the architecture for subtle yet highly effective multiple functions. For instance, terrace waves forming floors above offer a seemingly undulating rooftop that morphs among each seat in the café. Such a semi-private, almost cat-perch-like space in an urban setting is rare yet always desirable.
Another tremendous vantage point comes via the residences on the top three floors. Part of these luxury apartments will be located in the existing atrium of the historic district, according to Gregorič.
‘There is an existing atrium with historical stone arcades that will get a glazed roof. Some of the apartments will be facing this atrium on one side,’ he says.
By carefully articulating a building’s language around its sensitive neighbors and by materializing it as an amplification of green space the Copova Devetka will likely make a timeless addition to the city. By working copesetically with topography rather than bulldozing through it and by mixing not only uses but also privacy levels more completely, OFIS ARHITEKTI’s design illustrates that good architecture rises superior to the current global trend of chasing superlatives.

See more of my published architectural writing and my other blog in Hong Kong’s Perspective magazine.

Travel Blog Recommendation for an International Read


In a traveling writer’s quest to network, connect, banish the void she places herself in, I’ve found some good travel blogs as of late. One example is Camden Luxford’s The Brink of Something Else, an international, regularly updated travel blog from the perspective of a solo woman traveler.

Check out travel blog "The Brink of Something Else" by Camden Luxford

Two years in Europe and the Middle East preceded six months in southeast Asia. And now she’s in Peru, having spent the past two years bustling around Central and South America. When I see creds like that the first thing to enter my mind is, “God, what terror her parents must live in.” I realize I’m doing the same thing, traveling from China and Hong Kong to India and now South America, but my relationship with my parents wouldn’t be any closer if I lived next door. Perhaps I’m inserting myself into a mindset I imagine most parents would have.

Luxford also has some creds to her name. She’s a featured blogger for Lonely Planet and has a bona fide ad on her blog about another writer’s glossy, professional travel book. (These are things I hope to someday achieve.) She’s also been at this blog solidly since 2009. The site is, furthermore, well designed and easy to navigate.

Some reasons to read the blog:
Crazy trips:
She’s a bit less trepidacious than I as a traveler. I wouldn’t live in Bahrain, for instance. On the other hand when Luxford travels from Cuzco to Columbia in a combi, it reminds me of my train rides through Mumbai. My Mumbai travels alone warranted almost an entire chapter in my in-process book.

Span of depth:
She can direct a humorous post toward women who travel sola about dealing with Latin men or review a book about an exiled Jew.

By no means would I say this travel blog is flawless (as I wouldn’t say mine is). One post described itself as a tip list for learning Spanish through music, for example. While it is a good idea, and one I occasionally practice whilst here in Peru, how can one learn Spanish with a non-vocal band, which is one of her recommendations? This blog is one, however, that has made it to my RSS feed out of the hundreds of blogs I’ve seen or read.

If you’re interested in having me review your travel blog, send it on. I will be reviewing ObjectsBlog and WanderingJustin shortly.

Writing: The Essay Who Took Sleep for Ransom


I don’t think that when French philosopher Gaston Bachelard said, “How can one not dream while writing? It is the pen which dreams. The blank page gives the right to dream,” that he meant writing therefore takes sleep for ransom.
Several hours had already gone into writing what would lead to the essay, “Burka to the Loo.” Months later it was time to move its growth along, edit it, sell it. The piece started infiltrating my thoughts, occupying my days and evenings, until it finally co-opted my social life like a jealous lover, imprisoning me in my house rather than letting me go out with friends. She would not rest now that she saw the dawning of completion.
I knew what she wanted. She wanted a bit more undergirding information here, a few more literary references there. Her communication was either clearer than my other literary lovers, or I had grown into a better listener. My writing and I were in synch, and she was shaping up well on Sunday night…or so I thought.
Come 2 AM her voice had become a whisper when I climbed into bed. Over ninety minutes of tossing and turning later, however, her voice crescendoed from a wimper to a full blown sob. I tried to calm her by promising a prompt return tomorrow. She refused.
She wants a new intro. She wants an abbreviated conclusion. She chimes on about adding details. She’s asking me about rhythm, humour, how readers will feel about her. She drones on tirelessly.
“A vulnerability to insomnia might well be the trait most commonly shared by serious writers throughout literary history,” Greg Johnson wrote in an essay in the Virginia Quarterly Review. (Did he too suffer insomnia whilst writing that one?)
Later that night, the essay creeps into my dreams to turn them into nightmares. Then she simply decides sleep is not on my agenda. If she cannot enjoy my computer keyboard caresses, I cannot enjoy the luxury of sleep.

“I know what you want. I’m pretty sure I know what you need, too. Please trust me, you are tomorrow’s priority, but I have to work too. You aren’t exactly paying the bills yet well as I’d like,” I delicately think. Perhaps the cerebral lobe from which this side of cognitive dissonance arises is strong enough to overcome the other. It works, but not until 10 AM, after I’ve already had to cancel my first appointment of the day. It would, after all, have required me to leave the house. And this depth of insomnia had left me intoxicated with bloodshot eyes. Finally as soon as I’m able to get to the computer and start massaging her again, she backs off. She yields to my paragraph moves, arches her back when sentences slide into place. She’s satiated as a post-coital lover. Then finally, all notes trashed, all edits accepted, all punctuation complete, the writing sleeps.
And that night I do too.