The 3 Art Books on My Coffee Table

artbookI don’t know about you, but it’s not as fulfilling to view art on a computer screen.

I very much enjoy appreciating art in paper form, specifically, in those large hardcover photo books. They are perfect for casual viewing on your coffee table with breakfast or for guests to browse.

On my coffee table right now, I have 3 specific books that just never get old. Even if I have read them 100 times, they still fascinate me with every gander. Additionally, they are printed beautifully and are almost a decoration for my living room. In this post I’m going to show you what I have for my coffee table. Continue Reading →

Movie Posters Redesigned

movieI love movies. There is SO much work they put in one shot to get it just right that is really isn’t anything besides art.

A great example is Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie Django (the “D” is silent), which uses fantastic cinematography, soundtrack, and script that creates a masterful movie piece with such a unique style that anyone can guess it’s his work. I love that.

I have a lot of favorite movies though and each one has many fans, as they should. Continue Reading →

An Architects Perspective of Swimming Pools

I have studied many different styles of buildings, ranging from homes, factories and religious buildings. I have yet to really look at the evolution of swimming pools over the many thousands of years that humans have been constructing them in their various forms. In this post I want to take a closer look at some of the different styles of pools from roman era, the 20th century and the present day.

Roman Baths

Probably one of the most well-known eras for a society that embraced swimming and bathing for health and socializing. Roman baths were widespread throughout the empire and many are still around today. In England I have had the pleasure of visiting the Roman baths in the city of Bath in the south west of the country. The baths there are in fantastic condition and the architecture in them is stunning. In fact the whole city, which is a world heritage site, is a must-see for anyone who is interested in architecture.

The thing that also sets Bath apart from many of the other roman baths still around is that the water is naturally warm from geothermal energy as it flows deep underground from the nearby hills. The baths also had suspended floors to allow warm air from fires to create one of the world’s first under-floor heating systems.
19th – 20th Century Swimming Pools
In England, swimming as a competitive sport became more popular at the end of the 19th century and many swimming pools were constructed, mainly for the wealthier upper-classes. These structures were often lavishly designed in the Victorian style featuring ornate columns, tall arch windows mixed in with cast iron roofs. The pools were much more similar to the pools that you would see today, designed for swimming, so most were rectangular in shape.

Modern Day Swimming Pools

Today swimming pools are widely available and seen in a variety of buildings designed for different uses. These range from large pools for swimming that can normally be found in most towns and cities. These pools are available for public use and are normally funded by the local government. Smaller pool are mostly privately owned residential pools, and more often found in affluent neighbourhoods particularly in warmer climates where cooling off in the summer is important. However there are more alternatives for people on a tight budget to enjoy having a pool with above ground pools with some of the best above ground pools designed to be just like in-ground plastic mesh or concrete pools.

Modern Public Pool Architecture

I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting any private pools of the rich and famous however I have some experiences with public pools throughout my time in England. Publicly funded pools in the last 30 years have changed in appearance and most tend to reflect the popular styles of each period with some public pools from the 70s and 80s situated in large concrete structures, completely devoid of any aesthetic features and a sore sight for the eyes.

Thankfully local governments and those in charge of building design now take a lot of time to ensure that any proposed publicly funded building enhances the appearance of the local area, which is an important part of community enrichment, people need to feel proud of their community.

Future Proofing the Beauty of Your Building Designs

As an architect it is my job “[...] to plan, design and oversee the construction of buildings.” Our jobs can include houses, office buildings, residential high rises, parks, parking lots and shopping malls. No matter the space we are hired to plan, design and build the first aspect is imagining how the people who will be using it will use it. That includes, for the shopping mall example, the shoppers, the shop workers and the mall janitors and security guards. The separate spaces all need to suit the respective people using them. Once a young architect can grasp this they’ll be on their way to being a good architect. As part of the planning and design stages it is also really important to future proof the design. If you make fixing something easy – it will get fixed. If you make it really hard – it will get put off and ignored. A perfect example would be providing access to spots that need regular inspection. Let’s look at some other aspects and examples of future proofing.

As part of the planning stage I need to take into account how maintenance and cleaning will be done both on the exterior and interior of the building. A bad architect will simply ignore this fact and not provide boom lifts on the roof that allow easy access to the exterior of the building. Yes there may be, for example, telescoping lances for pressure cleaners, but that doesn’t mean I should just assume that someone in the future will have one and use it to clean my building. I make access easy for them in the first place.

If you look at the picture you’ll see that those guys power cleaning the exterior of the building with high pressure hot water are on a platform suspended from the roof. And although they let that building get way too sludgy and gross, it is good design to have this ability. And this access to the exterior isn’t just for cleaning, it’s perfect for inspecting the structural integrity and making repairs. Without it, the building staff would need to hire an expensive portable crane to come in each time.

In the design stage I need to provide a safe, beautiful and functional space that is easy to maintain and suits the people that are going to be using the space. For example: I wouldn’t make 6 foot doorways if I’m designing basketball changerooms. Basketball players are tall so you design for that and make big doorways. In England we get a lot of cloudy weather and it can feel quite dark. So taking that into consideration you would want to maximise natural light, keep interiors and exteriors lighter colors and ensure that buildings have regular plans to keep the exteriors clean.

In the oversee stage I need to ensure the plan and design gets implemented to high quality and standards. I need to ensure the building is going to be there for a long time to come. This includes being on-site for many hours a day inspecting work and solving technical queries.

At the end of the day I enjoy my job and especially enjoy driving past my buildings and seeing that all the hard work and stress paid off and increased the aesthetics of the are.

Solar Panels and their Relationship with Architecture

Just like any other modern invention, solar panels were at first, just functional, with no focus on aspect whatsoever. Those heavy, rectangular boxes with aluminum frames had the precise role of catching the solar rays and transform it into electricity. Yet, with time, increased attention was given to their appearance and the bulky, black panels have been reduced in size and their aspect has been polished so as to have a minimum impact on the overall house design. Furthermore, a new trend, called “building-integrated solar technology ” has set in among architects. This trend involves integrating photovoltaic cells in the house architecture so as to create a modern design and a functional solar power system.

Innovative solutions for new buildings

Solar panels have become a common requirement for new buildings. The latest innovations in the field offer a good conversion rate per solar cell, thus giving owners a real alternative to highly pollutant and extremely expensive fuel power. Therefore, cleverly introducing these solar panels in the architecture was the new challenge for professionals all over the world. The “building-integrated photovoltaic” was the solution for this challenge and spectacular buildings started to appear all over the world. They have solar cells incorporated in walls and on the roofs, masked as shingles. There are no metallic frames, no glass squares to pop on the roof, just a uniform aspect which pleases the eye.

The shape of the new buildings is also adapted so as to perfectly integrate the solar power system . Broad facades staring at the sun and roofs with one way tilting facing the south are the new standards in “green” buildings. Custom-made solar panels which match the texture, finishing or color of the materials used can be ordered to the solar panel producers. With different sizes and shapes, they make a perfect fit for all the innovative ideas of architects. Of course, these variations come with additional costs, so that building owners should be ready to spend extra money for the personalized look.

Solar panels for old buildings

While for the new buildings, solar panel systems are already incorporated in the design, the old buildings are an even greater challenge for architects. If there is no place to put the solar panels on the ground and create a solar plant (like the Vatican did), there is always the option of placing the solar panels (or solar cells) directly on the building. But how can you do that without affecting the esthetics of the building? The options vary in accordance with the building’s style and condition. An interesting approach was used by Netti Architetti in Italy, at Hotel Leon D’Oro, where the existing sunshades from each window where replaced by solar panels with a double function, to provide shade and electricity. When the sunshade option is not available, the solar shingles can successfully replace the traditional roofing and provide enough electricity to power your home/building.

Regardless of the building’s age, architects can choose between standard photovoltaic modules and building-dedicated solar panels. The standard modules come in different sizes and shapes (ranging from square to hexagonal) and are more affordable. However, their crude frames, as well as their rather limited diversity make them hard to incorporate in daring building projects. This is where the building-dedicated solar panels come into discussion. These panels do not have a stiff framing and can be personalized in accordance to clients’ requirements. Furthermore, their performance can be adjusted so as the client can benefit from as much electricity as possible. It is up to the architect to use them wisely!

Integrating Noise Cancelling Technology with home architecture with style – Making Your Home A Paradise

Noise cancelling technology and its importance in architecture may sound like a relatively new concept but the truth is that the idea of noise cancellation was entertained only by the elite class because noise cancelling equipment sold at prices that the common man can’t afford. If you look at the architecture of world famous ‘Taj Mahal’, you will find one of the finest example of noise cancellation was integrated into the design wonders of all time. But it wasn’t cheap. The most expensive stones were used in conjuction with the most spohiticated geometical allignment of its time. In more recent times, some of the early advocates of noise cancellation technology includes Ian McHarg, who discussed the importance of noise cancellation in his architecture classic “Design With Nature.”

The concept of noise cancelling using earbuds is nothing new but it has become very popular among every home owner these days as the quality of life is improving day by day and everyone wants the best for themselves and their family. My personal favourite is KEENE. It is the most sought after name in the industry when it comes to noise cancellation. I have recently used them to help me with my own renovation and my experience has been a great one, which I wanted to share with you.

 Home improvement blueprints beyond imaginations

KEENE understands that a luxury urban development project can’t settle for the same standards of a budget housing project. Their noise cancelling plans are designed carefully to use the best of noise cancelling equipment for each project, suiting their budget and quality expectations.

  • Planned Separation – while advanced noise cancelling technology for your home can make your home noise proof, they deliver a lot more than this to their customers. Vegetation and local terrain is successfully used to reduce the noise pollution from the outside.
  • Space – Designing transportation corridors, play area etc can make or break a development’s noise cancellation efforts. KEENE carefully works with their clients to deliver the best in each situation.

How it Works?

Any noise cancellation efforts post construction can significantly increase the building costs so your efforts focus on making use of the best noise cancelling equipment from the beginning of each construction project. You must incorporate the latest noise cancelling earmuff technology for best results.

  • Glazing – State 0f the art glazing technology ensures that your doors and windows are insulated very well. Windows and doors are usually the weakest points in noise cancellation efforts.
  • HVAC – Strategic design of HVAC systems can substantially reduce noise. KEENE make sure that HVAC systems are not designed just for ventilation but the design also gives consideration to noise cancellation.
  • Insulation – Even a well layered wall can transmit significant noise through a crack or any other open area. Sometimes these openings are not visible to the naked eye but the amount of noise these cracks can transmit could hamper all your noise cancelling efforts.
  • You also need to pay attention to the internal noise sources. Internal noise sources such as entertainment room, living area etc can affect the quality of life in a house.

KEENE’s noise cancelling equipment is carefully chosen for each home instead of following a ‘one size fits all’ approach. They understand that customers have different expectations. They incorporate noise cancelling technology to the early stages of construction so that you can get the best results from your noise cancellation efforts. In addition to noise cancellation, their projects are also energy efficient and environment friendly.

How to use typefaces in an effective design- from Futura to Helvetica

They are almost everywhere. From inside a subway wagon to the heights of the most prestigious buildings. Small or large, well designed or (most of the times!) not very well designed, signs, logos and especially advertisements are ubiquitous in cities. It really annoys me when I see a beautiful old building with an ugly yellow ad hanging with some words written in a typeface totally non-related to the context. On the other hand, there are rare places in the world in which the colorful nature of advertisements has been used to make a memorable scene, the most well-known of which is the New York’s time square.

I think one of the most important factors in designing an effective ad is to use a suitable typeface. Even if you want to put an ad on the board of your local coffee shop, it is better to use a font which can make people notice without being annoying. A good balance of image and text, even in the simplest form, if written in an appropriate typeface with suitable colors can be more effective than large words in bold screaming colors.

In this post I want to introduce two of the most well-known fonts and write about their characteristics and how they can be used. Both of them are extensively used, and there is a good reason for it. They work! Helvetica and Futura have been on the top of their games for decades. For Futura it is actually close to a century (it was released in 1927). Both of them belong to sans serif family (basically they do not have small strokes at the end of letters) and both are still as popular as they have ever been. You can buy Helvetica and Futura from their distributor, Linotype, from here and here, respectively. Like other prominent phenomena they created a wave of followers with similar style. You can also download Helvetica , or Futura font similars.

Let’s start with Helvetica. There must be a reason why Microsoft, Apple, Avis, American Apparel and many other companies use it in their logos. It is arguably one of the most famous and most used typefaces of all times. From the logos of the companies to small text columns in old books, no font does gets the job done better in such a wide variety of tasks. It is stylish and simple at the same time. Though it is so ubiquitous, it is so neutral that you almost cannot see it, kind of like water.

Because of this characteristic, Helvetica is extremely versatile and can be used in many different contexts. If you want to use a font that conveys the message without diluting it with any other emotion, no matter what the final size is, you can count on Helvetica. The magic of Helvetica is in its simplicity. Its simple look gives it a sophisticated personality.

Now let’s turn to Futura. It is a sans serif like Helvetica, but unlike Helvetica, it is full of character. It has sharp angles, letters made of almost perfect geometrical shapes (it actually belongs to a type of sans serif known as geometrical sans) and is the farthest thing from being neutral.

Futura has been on numerous logos as well, from Absolut Vodka to Best Buy you can find Futura on a wide variety of logos. When it was released, designers embraced it because of its modern look. The surprising thing is that it is still considered to have a modern look! No wonder Futura was the favorite font of Stanley Kubrik and was used in his movies’ titles and credits, including “2001: A Space Odyssey. Futura not only went to space in a movie, it is actually the font used on a plaque left on the moon by Apollo astronauts.

The geometric style, gives Futura an honest and straightforward look. Because of its non-neutral nature, Futura is not very suitable for the small texts, for example in books. It is meant to be seen, not to be seen through. Its dramatic efficiency if put in an appropriate context will make the design shine.

These two typefaces are the safest bet in a very wide variety of situations and designs. It is hard to go wrong with them. They are powerful. So like every other powerful thing, try to use them responsibly!

How Norman Shaw Revolutionised English Architecture

It is an architect’s duty to not only look forward but to look to the past. We must never forget the many great architects that came before us, as we will one day hope our names sit alongside theirs. I’m only too aware that my architectural heroes have helped define my career – and Norman Shaw is one such person, as he helped shape the English landscape with his influential designs.

Before I moved to the UK, I was, admittedly, relatively unfamiliar with Norman Shaw and his work. Surprising, as he has had such a major influence on the many plans and buildings in London. In fact it was Shaw, and his lesser known partner, George Davey, that popularised the Queen Anne style, which offers a series of terraced, detached and semi-detached designs.

Queen Anne Style

The Queen Anne style didn’t just influence British architecture, as the design was adopted by both the United States and Australia. The American Queen Anne style was loosely influenced by the English designs, but lacked Shaw’s Gothic Revival style. While the Australian Queen Anne replicated Shaw’s design whilst replacing the penchant for Victorian wrought iron.

Architectural Talent

Shaw was such an architectural force to be reckoned with due to his combination of practical planning and picturesque designs. Once referred to as “an architectural Picasso”, his designs predominately ranged from Gothic Revival to Neo-Baroque. He also had the remarkable ability to produce houses that were not only aesthetically pleasing, but were relatively cheap to construct – some feat in the 1800s and 1900s.

One of the qualities I most admire in Shaw is his ability to let go of a project. He never supervised the construction of his designs, allowing additional architects or builders to adjust his works at their leisure. A quality which I myself, and other architects I’ve spoken to, often struggle to do.

Anyone that has walked down an English street has most likely seen one of Norman Shaw’s architectural creations. whether they know it or not. His designs were commissioned in a variety of cities across England, including Kent, Yorkshire, Shropshire, Northumberland, Liverpool, among others.

Churches

Norman Shaw is believed to have wrote to J. D. Sedding, an English church architect, and said “you know I am not a church man, I am a house man”. Yet he restored several Anglican churches and built sixteen new ones, each featuring his trademark gothic style. However, he was modest with his talent, believing George Edmund Street and G. F Bodley were Britain’s foremost church architects. I sometimes laugh when I consider what Mr Shaw would of created today if he had access to modern building tools and techniques such as laser measures and theodolites.

Shaw’s Legacy

Anyone that grows up dreaming of being an architect can only hope to create designs that will live on long after we’re gone – and Norman Shaw’s legacy has most definitely survived long after his death on 17th November, 1912. His work still influences budding and professional architects to this very day, and his buildings have stood the test of time, with the National Trust acquiring many of his buildings.

The Norman Shaw Buildings, which were formerly called New Scotland Yard, was also refurbished between 1973 to 1975, as the external walls were cleaned and the interior refitted for office use. Originally designed in 1887 as a replacement offices for the Metropolitan Police, it is now used as offices for 128 MPs, including David Cameron and Ed Milliband.

Albion House in Liverpool, otherwise known as 30 James Street, was architecturally inspired by the Norman Shaw Buildings. Designed in 1896 by Norman Shaw and J. Francis Doyle, Albion House has recently had its architecture restored to its former glory. The Grade II listed building was originally built for the Ismay, Imrie and Co. shipping company, which later became the White Star Line – the company that built the RMS Titanic. The building will now be used as a Titanic themed hotel in Liverpool, with a room dedicated to the pioneering Shaw in tribute, and will feature his ingenious Grand Hall open plan design that the architect was renowned for.

Now regarded as England’s greatest architect, Norman Shaw, without doubt, impacted the English landscape we

Recommended iPhone Apps For Architects

Hey again.

I am trying to update this blog on a regular basis so I thought I would make a post today about 4 apps that I use on my Apple iPhone.

As an architect I find that using technology to make my job easier is a must and the iPhone is great for this. These apps are available from both the Apple App Store and also the Cydia App Store if you have managed to jailbreak iOS 7.1 and they are fantastic for designers and architects alike.

So if you work in design then here are the best apps and software that I use on my iPhone!

Sketchbook

Sometimes I am commuting in the morning or sitting in a café and I get the urge to design. Ordinarily I don’t carry a pen and notebook with me but I do have my iPhone with the Sketchbook app. This recently updated piece of software on the Apple and Cydia app stores lets you sketch on the iPhone screen using a variety of different tools and pencils with your finger. It is really good for people that can draw intricately like me and sometimes I even use it to just draw some basic designs and expand on them later.

Magic Plan

Magic Plan is another app that is widely available for default and jailbroken Apple iPhone’s and it is great for interior designers and architects. Basically you can take a picture of a room and it will create a floor plan for you. This can be exported via the iPhone to another device where you can work on it later. The recent updates for this app have made it even better and it is really good for people who work with interior design.

Adobe Ideas

This is a really good app for architects who want to draw simple designs really quickly. I have used this software on my Apple iPhone a few times without being disappointed. I actually really like its simplicity and how I can get a basic idea down quickly and then expand on it later on. For iPhone use it is great as well as the app isn’t complicated to use and works well on a small screen.

AutoCAD 360

Finally I can’t forget about AutoCAD. This was one of the first pieces of software I learnt about when training to be an architect and I still use it extensively today. It works really well on the Apple iPhone and I can do virtually all the things I need when commuting or if I have to produce a quick sketch. For architects I highly recommend AutoCAD 360 as an essential app.

So these are the top 4 apps that I recommended for any architects who are also Apple iPhone users. Some of these apps do work better with a jailbroken iPhone as opposed to a default device however that might just be me imagining things.

Anyway, I’m glad I got to update this blog with a new post again and I will try and do so more frequently. I have some exciting projects starting in the coming weeks and months and I will update you guys then.

Bye!

Architectural Escapades in Australia

It’s a beautiful thing when you actually take the time to watch the season transition. As I sit on my deck, I can feel the crisp air coming from the North; gently reminding me that it is time to wind down and tend to the spirit within. I can see my beautiful trees starting to change colours slowly but surely. The sun is setting, bringing with it a rush of warm colours in many shades of gold. In this moment, I love watching its reflection play on the side of my log cabin. Here in England, our seasons change rather quickly. Change is an inevitable yet vital part of life. Ironically, so is balance and structure. With me being an architect and all, that is one truth that I have come to terms with, both literally and figuratively. So as I sit here watching the sun play across my home on this cool late September day, I start to remember my vacation adventures during the summer just two months ago.

A good friend of mine invited me out to his home in Australia. I hadn’t seen Charles in some time. The last time we connected, he came here to England to pay me a visit. It was only fair that I return the favour. Plus, I love to travel and marvel at the unique architectural designs that are present in other countries and cultures. I look back on the pictures that I took from visiting those places and use them as a reference point for inspiration when my projects are assigned. Another great incentive for me to visit Charles was that he extended his invitation conveniently around a summer holiday. I had previously planned on taking a few needed extra days off, so this was simply perfect. With all these great reasons to travel across the world for a nice time, why not engage on the expedition?

Once I arrived in Australia, I was delighted to discover that he actually had an immaculate beach house right on the water! Now I wouldn’t expect any less from Charles, as he is a dapper individual in all facets of his life. But I was completely blown away by the style and architectural design of his house. To prevent myself from automatically going into “work mode” mentally, I decided to save the architect talk for a little bit later. I had to remind myself that I was there for relaxation. However, I still kept that talk as an ongoing internal conversation between me, myself, and I.

When I approached the beach house with my luggage in tow, I immediately noticed the sharp features of the house itself. It reminded me of a Japanese-styled house I encountered some time ago with very calculated geometric lines. I thought this was a bit different from the kind of designs I usually see for the standard of waterfront homes. Nevertheless, regardless of the seemingly out of place design, it really worked and blended quite nicely with its environment. It meshed together, yet stood out enough to make a statement.

Upon further observation of his house, I also noticed the lightly tinted features throughout some parts of the house. There was still a sense of privacy with the glass features because it was cleverly placed in the common areas of the home, such as parts of the living room and kitchen. The other sections of the house were covered in neutral gray siding. When I put all the pieces of the exterior features together, I clearly saw the logic of it! The lightly tinted glass of the beach house was designed to counteract the harsh sunrays that threatened to beat down on any unsuspecting guests. At the same time, the modification of the house helped to harvest the cool sea breezes in order to keep the house at a nice temperature when the heat rises. Another bonus is that it was light enough to still allow the beautiful views of the ocean from any window. As I entered the house, I looked down to see the cobblestone pathway helping to guide the way. The natural sand from the beach itself was a great surprise in between the elaborate cuts of the cobblestone. It gave me the nagging urge to want to take my shoes off right there and then to enjoy the sand between my toes.

After I settled in and made a few drinks with my friend, he gave me an exclusive tour of the place. I was really drawn to the living room area. The style of the living room was very open and inviting with an historic, yet modern feel. The colour scheme was that of a distressed silver and bronze. As I surveyed the room, the cushions on the ivory couches caught my eye. They were macho shades of browns, deep golds, and silvers. I couldn’t help but ask where he found cushion covers like these and he suggested that I buy some Australian souvenirs online from Simply Cushions.

With these monotone colours, Charles still managed to create a warm invitation to lounge and reminisce on the old days as we finished up our drinks. As we caught up on life a little more while listening to a soft jazz band play, I started to look around more. The massive wall clock on the opposite wall really caught my attention. He managed to pull in the antique colours throughout the ivory backgrounds. The wall clock featured Roman numerals in a way that instantly transported me into ancient royalty. Once again my intrigue gave way to politeness and he suggested I visit Purely Wall Cocks and view their range of wall clocks online.

For the rest of our trip, I successfully learned how to turn off my work brain and really enjoy the scenery and beauty of Australia. It was one of the best holiday vacations I had been on in years. It seems like just yesterday when I was heading back to my home in England to resume my regular duties. Time really flies. Now that the sun has gone down to expose a gallant night sky, it is time for me to turn in as well.