Tuesday, March 31, 2009


As the first leg of my leg of my trip is fast approaching [t-minus one day till back in the States] I've understandably been doing a lot of thinking about the future and the next places to visit. I'm in a hostel basement turned bar right now and don't have access to what you could quite call a noteworthy library, so I've had to do with 'ol reliable internet googling. In searching out prospective places to visit, I've ran into a stream of projects under the heading "extreme climatic architecture", or shortened "XTREME Architecture!!!" which is better at grabbing attention I think. Its all about marketing. In vain have I been trying to search "remote construction", "isolated building", or "remote architecture", which usually garners such results as this, though which arguably informative, is definitely lacking on the graphic end. I think they are still using Adobe Paint 2.o.

But back on track, there is a distinctly prominent vein of writing about architecture in extreme climates, or places that are prone to some of the harshest and coldest temperatures, hot/stinging winds, and over saturated rainfalls. As "remote construction" and "extreme environments" usually have much in common, the searching has brought some interesting new projects/proposals to my attention. In instances of extremity, you no longer have the option to ignore the environment around you. You must confront it head on, or risk blundering about and being swept away by the often merciless forces of nature. By being forced to analyze an exaggerated climatic condition, many theories and ideas can be found that are as equally relevant in locations much more temperate than their harshly bitter climatic stepbrothers. Here, in no particular order, are some of the projects I've recently ran across. Please feel free to comment if you have ideas about more buildings/places that fit into this criteria.

[Project (linked)
Place : Architect]

Glacier Museum
Norway :
Sverre Fehn

Mammoth Museum
Siberia, Russia : Leeser Architecture

Hotel Tierra Atacama
Atacama Desert, Chile
: Rodrigo Searle & Matias Gonzalez

Eso Hotel Cerro Paranal
Atacama Desert, Chile
: Auer + Weber Architects

Kyororo Museum of Natural Science
Matsunoyama, Niigata, Japan
: Tezuka Architects

Lavarack Barracks
Townsville, Australia
: BVN Architecture

Center of Gravity Foundation Hall
Desert Hot Springs, California, USA
: Predock_Frane Architects


postethotic said...

The only thing I would say (as a total outsider and fairly recent scopophilic reader of these here writin's), is that from the images you posted as examples of extreme building in extreme climates, versus the images you've been posting from your travels re: isolated architecture, you're losing a great deal in translation (in my attempted humble opinion).

You're going from architecture that was developed on site, from the site, to architecture that is arguably stylistic, global, and merely fiddled with to supposedly fit into a site, landscape, and environment. Just from those images you posted, for example, there is nothing inherently 'siberian' to me about that building. It is something else. It is more about a time than a place to me.

Plus while the notion of extreme climate is fascinating (I've always been one to privilege the body and its relationship to space and the built environment), it seems like you lose something that is so crucial and rare right now with impending mass-globalization - which is the uniqueness (I cringe at the word and the generalization but bear with me) of a certain kind of architecture - that gorgeous suturing between place and people that stretches over time.

Yelling, "EXTREME ARCHITECTURE!!!" is, I admit, terribly fun, though.

Ken P. said...

This guy has a point, however, I would argue that the building images you posted are just modern interpretations of what you have seen thus far, if not strongly/loosely based (depending on who you ask).

I don't know what other direction your research is taking you, but it might be worth it to take advantage of more stylistic buildings that attempt to address the same cultural, environmental, and practical issues that its predecessors have perfected. You might find that there is a common thread connecting the more primitive structures to these more contemporary buildings.

postethotic said...

Femme, not guy. But thanks. And yes, the connections would be fascinating - I guess depending on what you want to do with it and how much you want to enter into a specific discourse, there's the whole notion of what is style and how is it married to or divorced from function - could be interesting how the same function is attained both in the 'traditional' and in the 'modern' via different methods, and how technology might function as a translator/appropriator/distortion mechanism of that function (if that makes any sense, it's been a long day).

Taylor Medlin said...

Thanks for the comments, its great to hear some more outside opinions on these topics. I think that there is a lot to gain from looking at how both the new and old forms of building interact with their surroundings. Projects in cases of extreme climate conditions could be one of the few places where the building form is generated solely from site factors.

The globalization/style issue is one that is going to keep coming up in architectural discourse. How are architects that are stationed in NYC able to design a project in Siberia for instance? How much can you really know about a site, climate, and culture when you are designing for it halfway around the world? I think that it has to exist somewhere in between the low-tech vernacular and high tech possibilities generated by global resources.

I definitely think that one of the hardest problems is going to be keeping a uniqueness present in the global architectural scene.

Brad said...

If I can add, my humble opinion of course. I believe both "Femme" and Ken bring up good points and good questions for your research. I would add that the forms and materials, or stylistic expressions are a derivative of the architect's need to express a new structure in a historic and overwhelming site. I will always defend architecture of place, and believe that regional understanding of site is needed for an appropriate response to the site. Style can be argued, but if it is style that is responding to site, climate, and traditonal materials, then the style is justified. For example, the church you posted, in Japan, is very stylistic, but creates a courtyard with its form, and makes a wonderful gesture to its place, and function. "Extreme architecture" is a catch word for such things, I believe. The response is that architects should search for their own place, not style, and develop the world around them with intelligent responses to a land they are intimately familiar with. I would encourage you to continue to look at what is developed in the place, and not the style, but how the architecture "frames" its site, and adds to the experience of an already "extreme" place.

Keep it up Taylor, I think your research is starting to help us all ask important questions that should be investigated through our careers...

gate valves said...

this cool architectural wonders are so cool! the buildings are really amazing. someday i want a home designed like this. contemporary and modern in design. what a nice blog.