Anticipating Omer Arbel's first house

I have been following designs of Vancouver’s Omer Arbel ever since I saw his lovely chair. And could you help but follow his work? He is literally everywhere, a ‘media darling’ – and as far as I am concerned, rightfully so. I got to see some of his work in person at a recent Vancouver museum exhibit, it is all that it looks to be in photographs and more.

Rarely do I get excited about a young designer or a young architect – there are very few. But for me Arbel, with likes of David Adjaye, is one of the few that I will watch like a hawk.

His designs are simple and thoughtful but terribly romantic - right up my alley. And so now I am practically holding my breath since I found out about his new architectural project (first freestanding one as the previous ones have only been interiors) – a house in Vancouver that is “an unusual structure which he likens to "a piece of folded origami" (Japanese paper-folding)”[source: John Mackie, Vancouver Sun, Friday, May 30, 2008].

A few construction images posted on Arbel’s site are only exacerbating my excitement. Check it out for yourself:

Arbel has gotten a few awards (BC Creative achievement 2008 – follow the link to see him with Gordon Campbell; D&AD Yellow Pencil Award; Blueprint Best Newcomer award ) already, been featured in a whack exhibitions and has even been published in NY Times. Here is a bit of light reading if you would like it:

Vancouver Sun



NY Times

Here's also a new Bocci(Arbel is creative director) product making the waves - the plateless socket:


Don't miss these awesome events!

West Vancouver museum is putting on two great events in near future:

First up - a Selwyn Pullan exhibit from June 24th(2008) titled Position the New: Photographs from 1945-1975. The opening reception is tonight from 7pm to 9pm.

All three photos above are by Selwyn Pullan, and the latter (Forrest House, Ron Thom at TBP) relates to the next event as it is a part of it. The Museum is also putting on their annual (but much improved) West Coast Modern Home and Garden Tour on July 12 from 11am to 3pm with apres-tour reception held at one of Thom's houses from 3pm to 5pm. Price is $60.

For more info on both events and infor on how to book the tour go to:
www.westvanmuseum.blogspot.com and www.wvma.net
or book directly with:
webreg.westvancouver.ca (program code 439167)


Kiss's piece of SFU

Although Arthur Erickson and Geoffrey Massey were responsible for the overall planning and design of Simon Fraser University's campus in Burnaby, it is Zoltan Kiss's Academic Quadrangle (1964-7) building that iconically represents SFU to others. Per original campus design competition, each one of the five finalists would get to design a section of the winner's overall plan. Kiss (who came in third) chose the quadrangle section.

Kiss is one of "that generation" of Vancouver architects along with Thom, Binning, etc. Originally from Hungary via Denmark, he,too, like most of that generation worked in Thompson Berwick & Pratt before striking out on his own - a break that was directly a consequence of the SFU commission. At SFU he also designed the President's house, Shell House Residence, and the pub.

The building's setting is incredible, only in part due to how it relates to the SFU plan. Mainly it is the mountains to the north - it feels as though one could look at them for ages. Adding the austere but simple and elegant modernism of Kiss's building to the picture only reinforces this sense of time standing still. Bruno Freschi, a fellow Vancouver architect remarked on Quad's classical restrained nature saying that it would "make an elegant ruin". A compliment that would make me shatter into thousand happy pieces if only it was aimed at my work.

The setting, the plan, the massing, the landscape are all incredible.

This post is picture heavy, but I could not help myself !

(Disclaimer: Yep, all these are my own. I do not attempt to photograph professionally - for that seek out Jimmy Dow or Nic Lehoux - do not judge too harshly + you will know the building looks great if it looks semi-good in my photos!)

His memoir:
Without a Blueprint: Surviving in a Changing World (Sandor Press, 2005)

Other projects that I know of:
Zoltan S. Kiss Residence
Vancouver International Airport, 1968 (?)
Buchanan building UBC
475 West Georgia

BTW, he is also a successful ceramics artist.


The other Thom

Looking through Vancouver magazine on the way to work yesterday I found an article on Bing Thom, one of the elders of Vancouver architecture "scene", founder and principal of Bing Thom Architects(BTA) since 1980. Although looking weathered in the sailing portrait(image: Gregory Crow) of him (he sails on custom built Sonja's Spirit) in the magazine, Thom is quite energetic in person.

He is all over the news recently as a recipient of an honorary PhD degree from University of British Columbia and one - Doctor of Laws - from Simon Fraser University. Thom has also been awarded the Order of Canada, and the Golden Jubilee medal.This Canadian Architect article notes:
While international in outlook, his design approach is always closely rooted in a deep understanding of the culture and history of each project's local community.
Although some of chunks seem to be from straight-up promo material, Vancouver magazine article " The Bing Picture" by Michael Harris is quite interesting for the anecdotal biography and the quotes from the man himself:

on global vs. local living:
I can see that it was the start of the global age. People found they could make their life anywhere. But as I get older, I see that everyone still wants to know where their home is. Everyone wants a sense of where they belong. You want to know where you will make your contribution.
on Vancouver's downtown:
The tragedy here is that people in Vancouver have not figured out where we’re going. We’re drifting toward becoming a resort town—one giant Whistler. Up to 30 percent of the people with homes in the downtown core don’t actually live here. And 30,000 young people in the downtown every day are foreign students. This is the global-city problem: foreigners and visitors outnumber residents; you become a stranger in your own home.
on city's lack of vision:
You can’t just sit back and say, ‘Whatever comes, comes.’ The smart guys, even in a free market, know where they’re going. [] We don’t have any handle on what’s happening. Right now, we’re just putting our fingers in the dam. We need more than a feel-good discussion. And, for the East Side, we’ve got five years to do it.
on what his Central City project is to Surrey:
You give people hope through architecture.
on Arthur Erickson's influence:
It was a defining time, being in Erickson’s class I learned how far I could push myself.
on his power animal:
I wish I were a seagull!
Although a lot of his work is international(with works in China and Washington and - huh? - Fort Worth, TX - how did that happen?), here are some of his recent projects in Vancouver:
  1. Sunset Community Centre - completed December 2007- 3000 sqf $12.3 million project - 6810 Main St
  2. Central City - 10153 King George Hwy, Surrey
  3. Aberdeen Centre -2007 Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia Certificates of Merit for Excellence in Architecture -4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond
  4. Pacific Canada Pavilion at the Vancouver Aquarium - 845 Avison Way, Vancouver
here is a map (click on it to see a larger version):

Projects on the watch:
  • in Whistler - the medals plaza for the 2010 Winter Games
  • in Kelowna - Tantalus Winery, a 50,000-square-foot winery on a 48-acre property set to begin construction in the summer of 2009
  • further afield - Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's (SAIT) Trades and Technology Complex
This is definitely not the last, but is indeed the first of posts on Thom and his firm here. Watch for more.


Ready, set, GO!

Welcome to the inaugural post of ARCHITECTURE WANTED. I created this log to document my interest in architecture, mainly, in and around the "dream city", Vancouver...

As for sticking to this narrow area of exploration - I will probably not do so. If you are reading this, enjoy and, more importantly let me know your thoughts!

Best regards and let the search begin, yours truly,

in dream city.