Structures of the Andes: Architecture without Architects
February 5, 2009, 10:13 am
Filed under: Architecture, Industrial Architecture, Rural Architecture, Travel


On a recent trip to South America we took the opportunity to cross the Andes Mountain range.  Los Libertadores Pass reaches an elevation of 11,483 feet and connects Argentina’s wine country, to Santiago, Chile.  The 8 hour bus trip was fascinating and we were stuck to the glass like paparazzi for most of the journey.  Of particular interest were the abandoned structures once used to protect outdated train tracks from the snow, ice and wind.  Odd as it may be, these dilapidated structures seemed to belong within this pristine environment.  There is an uncanny harmony that exists between these modest, horizontal skeletons and the dramatic backdrop of the mountains.


No architect was involved with these structures – they’re too straight-forward and functional.  An architect would have adulterated them by over-designing them.  Ironically, despite the design efforts of architects, it is often the brutally pragmatic, utilitarian structures devised by engineers that fit in most harmoniously with nature.

In order to better communicate the scale and grandeur of these scenes, today’s photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.










[All photos by BUILD LLC]


The Wineries of Mendoza
January 22, 2009, 2:21 am
Filed under: Architecture, Industrial Architecture, Rural Architecture, Travel


Recently we spent some time down in South America, a successful maneuver to avoid the snowstorm, the rain storm and the other snowstorm here in the northwest. We had the opportunity to visit Mendoza Province, Argentina’s highly acclaimed wine country. In so doing we documented the wineries, the dramatic backdrop of the Andes Mountains and, of course, the wine itself. The architecture of the wineries and the surrounding landscapes are extraordinary in Mendoza. While we only photographed a few for today’s post, there are several other modern wineries in the area.


Bodega Septima
Architecture: the long, low structure draws influence from Mayan ruins and the massive form feels like part of the earth. Stairways climb the rough stone walls and lead to a roof terrace overlooking the vineyards and providing a spectacular view of the Andes. The interiors are organized in a simple, straight forward logic; the process of winemaking starts at one end of the building, each sequence of the process following the other.  The construction suggests that labor is cheaper than materials in Argentina.



Wines: Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay Semillon
Their Chardonnay is aged 40% in oak barrels and 60% in stainless steel tanks producing a light, dry, crisp chardonnay (no buttery, oaky flavors).


Because of violent hail storms, Septima has installed nets on each side of the vines running the full length of the rows. Apparently the hail has become so intense in years past that entire harvests have been ruined. While the black nets reduce the amount of light to the vines, they provide insurance of keeping the grapes on the vines in the event of a hail storm.


Interesting design note: Septima uses a different name (Maraso) and makes a different label which is more colorful for the United States; apparently the more colorful labels sell better in the U.S.

[Photos by BUILD llc]

Architecture: an interesting hybrid of heavy brick walls and light steel frames, the winery is smaller than most in the area. The concept is similar to a large barn with appendages for the various functions located on the sides. Keep in mind that Mendoza is a seismic zone – while there is a tremendous amount of brick utilized, it’s actually just infill between a reinforced concrete frame.



Vaulted brick ceilings inside add to the character and provide some natural cooling during the warm days.


Wines: Malbec and Quimera
The small winery prides itself on low yields and high quality. They do not use the vine nets, common at most of the vineyards. The occasional loss of a years harvest, due to the hail storms, may explain the high prices of the wines here (~100 USD per bottle). Tasting a flight of reds at Archaval-Ferrer is wonderful, the incremental qualities of their wines are apparent (even for us amateurs).

[Photos by BUILD llc]

A typical lunch can be overwhelming in Mendoza. The photo below shows 1 of 4 delicious courses at a roadside restaurant.


Belasco de Baquedano
Architecture: One of the more dramatic wineries, the architecture draws from a strange combination of traditional architectures. We’re not typically fans of re-interpreted traditional styles but the building seems to pull it off (or did we just have too much to drink).



Once inside the spaces become stark and almost monastic in their simplicity and minimalism. When not in use, the immense empty rooms are cleaned to perfection.




The highlight is the smelling chamber, an entire room dedicated to the smells relevant to the design and production of wines. The red tones and glowing perimeter lamps are straight out of a Stanley Kubrick film.

[Photos by BUILD llc]

Wines: Baquedano only produces Malbecs: the 4 different labels are Swinto, AR Guentota, Llama and Rosa. The wines here seemed to be the best value per dollar of the wineries we tasted at.

Wine tasting in Napa, the Willamette Valley and Walla Walla we’ve found that hitting 6 or 8 wineries in a day is reasonable. In Argentina, however, you’ll be lucky to conquer 3 tastings. The distances are greater between wineries; most of the tours tend to be private and therefore pre-arranged reservations are required. There’s more discussion and hand waving and you’d be delinquent not to take a nice long lunch. Here are a couple of wineries that, regretfully, we didn’t make it to.

O. Fournier

[Photos by A Texan in Argentina]


[Photo courtesy of Salentein]

As always, don’t be shy with the comment button, we love to hear your thoughts. Cheers

The Modern List Seattle

In addition to a few recent projects here in Seattle, we’ve noticed that there are some great examples of architecture that have been around for decades and should be represented. Today’s post should bring you up to speed with the current work as well as some staples of Seattle design that we should all be familiar with. Many more on The Modern List Seattle… and as always, let us know what we missed.

Recently, the City of Seattle authorized the painting of repetitive geometrical patterns to the underside of some of the more oppressive I-5 underpasses. We got our own up here in Ravenna, and we have to admit that it makes the pedestrian experience much more pleasant. Coincidence that we named this location as one of the top candidates to turn into a legal graffiti park in an earlier post?
[Photo by BUILD LLC]

The geometrical frames also allow for some good impromptu Banksy like stenciling.
[Photo by BUILD LLC]

Four Seasons Hotel and ART restaurant, 99 Union St


[Photo courtesy of The Four Seasons]

Spring Hill Restaurant in West Seattle at 4437 California Ave SW, 206.935.1075 by Heliotrope Architects

[Photos courtesy of Spring Hill]

Remedy Teas on Capital Hill at 345 15th Avenue East, (206) 323-4832 by Adams Mohler Ghillino Architects
[Photo courtesy of Remedy Teas]

Queen Anne Residence on 8th Ave W by Eric Cobb


[Photos by BUILD LLC]

Queen Anne Residence by Olson Architects
[Photo by BUILD LLC]

Sea-Tac Airport Concourse A addition by NBBJ, landscape architect Robert Murase
[Photos by BUILD LLC]

4109 Lake Washington Blvd S. designed by Thomas Isarankura, developed and built by Ainslie-Davis Construction. The house is currently on the market and BUILD kicked the tires at the open house. We were very pleased with the overall design, detailing and amazing lot. Nice job to the develop/design/build team.
[Photo courtesy of Ainslie Davis Construction]

Seattle’s finally got itself a good place to buy European city bikes. Dutch Bike Co., 4421 Shilshole Ave NW, 206.789.1678

Molly Moon’s Ice Cream Shop, 1622 ½ N 45th St, Wallingford, 206.547.5105
[Photo by TinderBOX]

Trabant Coffee Shop downtown at 602 2nd Ave by Bo Hagood of Made LLC and Travis Latta of Lattaworks
[Photo by BUILD LLC]

Seattle Public Library Montlake Branch by Weinstein A|U
Weinstein AU- Montlake Library
[Photos courtesy of Weinstein A|U]

Bethany Community Church‎ at 8023 Green Lake Dr N by Miller|Hull

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

Fremont Peak Park is one of the best little secrets of the city. Located in Fremont near the zoo at 4357 Palatine Ave. N, by Haddad-Drugan. Read about the complicated process to get it realized here.
[Photos courtesy of Haddad-Drugan]

Novelty Hill Januik Winery at 14710 Woodinville-Redmond Rd NE by Mithun


[Photos courtesy of Mithun]

Seattle’s starting to feel a little more big city with the push for better transportation and real transportation maps (inspired by the New York Subway system maps).
thanks to Gavin for the tip
[Image courtesy of Puget Sound Rail]

Pifer House, 1217 Willard Ave W at Parsons Gardens by Ralph Anderson, 1970
[Photo by BUILD LLC]

Marine Sciences Building on the UW campus by Liddle & Jones, landscape by Richard Haag, 1967
[Photo by BUILD LLC]

Nuclear Reactor Building on the UW campus by The Architect Artist Group (Lovett, Streissguth, Zema, Torrence), 1960. The building was recently added to the state list of historic buildings, read more about it here.
[Photo by BUILD LLC]



In our ongoing Google Earth series the Borderscapes theme covers some fascinating interfaces between built-form and nature.  The plan view images of earth, captured from space, are becoming increasing indicative of how human-made landscapes are integrating (or not integrating) with natural contexts.  The images, while only a snapshot of each occurrence, also begin to convey whether the development strategies are mindful or viral.

Farms in the United Arab Emerites at 10.5 miles

Battleship Graveyard in Benicia, CA at 6,000 ft

Jetties in San Lucido, Italy at 3,500 ft

Crater in San Salvador, Paraguay at 2,000 ft

Central Park in Manhattan at 1,500 ft

Florida Keys at 1,500 ft

Suburb in Muscoy, CA at 1,500 ft

Suburb in Palm Springs, CA at 1,500 ft

Suburbs in Salt Lake City, UT at 1,500 ft

Suburb in San Jose, CA at 1,500 ft

Umm-Durrman, Sudan at 1,500 ft

Windfarm in Copenhagen, Denmark at 1,500 ft

Swimming pool in Colares, Portugal at 400 ft

Leca swimming pools by Alvaro Siza in Portugal at 250 ft

Google Earth is now available for the iPhone – check it out here or app it on your iPhone.

AIA Seattle: 2008 Honor Award Winners for Washington Architecture


AIA Seattle hosted the 2008 Honor Awards for Washington Architecture on Monday, November 3rd in Seattle. This years theme was “Perform Transform -recognizing the challenges and opportunities inherent in our work as this new century unfolds.  Our work must perform technically, aesthetically and humanistically.  Our practice must transform itself in response.”  BUILD was in attendance and we took thorough notes for those of you who couldn’t make it. The jury was as follows:

Moderator: Susan Szenasy (SS), Editor in Chief Metropolis Magazine, New York, NY
Patricia Patkau (PP), of Patkau Architects, Vancouver, B.C.
Nader Tehrani (NT), of Office dA, Boston, MA
David Baker (DB), of David Baker + Partners, San Francisco, CA

The ceremony started off with an interpretive dance which was a new twist – although beautifully done, do we really need to make this thing any more esoteric than it already is?  But, just when team BUILD thought the ceremony was going down in flames, the jury stepped in and provided a thought provoking, down-to-earth discussion and selected some projects that we are big fans of.  Enjoy…



Vo Shed by Atelier Jones
PP: The small shed which recycles vegetables brings about invention and delight
NT: Diminutive in scale it acts like a folly
SS: The jury was hoping for more of this type of work


Bumper Crop by The Miller Hull Partnership
DB: We take for granted that the suburban landscape can be transformed, this project is a re-colonization of the parking lot.
PP: This project isn’t conceptual enough




Banner Gateway Medical Center by NBBJ
DB: The architecture speaks to how the patient is treated, it humanizes the experience
NT: The project reinvigorates the entire medical facility
PP: Breaking down the hospital into smaller chunks is better for the architecture and medical practice


The Terry Thomas by Weber Thompson Architects
NT: The ephemerality of the interior and quality of the space makes it a wonderful environment to be in.  Unfortunately the same level of sophistication was not matched on the outside of the building.
PP: The courtyard makes for a greater sense of community and the interior provides a value of the work environment.
DB: The systems were well integrated


56 Piles by E. Cobb Architects
PP: The project presents spatial organization as a future tool for architecture.  The overall composition rethinks the singular space.


Agnes Lofts by Weinstein A|U
NT: It’s rare to see a project like this with such a sense of reduction, the project is really about taking away, erasing.
DB: The building adopts key views and activates the ground.



Kitsap County Administration Building by The Miller Hull Partnership
DB: It is rare to do something of this level in a city this small
PP: There were no plan drawings turned in with this entry – plans should always be included.


Envelope House by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
NT: The problem of the site is engaging like a puzzle piece, while compact that project extrudes out bays and rooms
DB: The project is sustainable because of its density


Gym by E. Cobb Architects
PP: The spaces are nestled in intelligent ways.  The inventive compaction is offset by loose fabrication.  The space divides and also reinterprets the historic architecture.


Noah’s Ark by Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen
PP: Animals made out of recycled materials.


EX3 Ron Sandwith Teen Center by Weinstein A|U
PP: The warehouse construction has a quality of ephemeral light.


Seattle Public Library Montlake Branch by Weinstein A|U
NT: There is a strong relationship between the whole and the parts, and between the inside and the outside.  The building doesn’t over scale the neighborhood.  The downspouts gotta go.
Weinstein AU- Montlake Library


Woodway Residence by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
DB: The project is a good example of sustainability by reusing a 1960’s case study house.
PP: A good exploration of possibilities and investment.


7 by Hutchinson & Maul
PP: The project is abstract but deeply embedded in place.
NT: There was something about the project that was unnamable.


In conclusion:
The jury mentioned that the notion of bottom up sustainable design is very relevant and that inventing new categories for sustainable design will be increasingly important.  All the 2008 honor award entries can be viewed here.

A huge thanks to the 2008 AIA Honor Awards Committee Members that must have worked their tails off to make all this happen.

Throw down a comment and let us know what you think…

The Modern List St. Petersburg

This post on St. Petersburg is the 3rd and final modern list guide from our recent travels which also include Stockholm and Helsinki.  There are many reasons to visit St. Petersburg: a robust and fascinating history, political importance, physical size and opulence, world class museums, theater… the list is long and primarily exclusive of anything modern.

Unfortunately for those of us interested in modern architecture, design, art, food and culture, St. Petersburg can be challenging, taxing even.  Recent design is minimal and spread out – and when we say recent, we mean within the last 150 years.  The city of 5 million inhabitants seems to have been frozen in time since Alexander II.  The “Venice of the North”, “Paris of the East”, or however travel agencies want to market it, doesn’t seem to have a personality of its own now that it has stepped out of its communist past.  Despite the well conceived urban plan and endless avenues of architectural grandeur, there seems to be an awkward gap between the city’s original intentions and the tedious reality, the emptiness behind the facades, the lack of urban soul.  Given the amount of time and expense it takes to get into Russia and the effort required to navigate St. Petersburg, we actually don’t recommend it to modern go-getters.  Your resources are better spent on the Scandinavian neighbors to the west.  However if you’re hell-bent on visiting (as we were) here’s a quick and dirty guide.

Mini-hotels have become popular in St. Petersburg as they are a bit cheaper and easier to book.  Our advice is to spend the extra Rubles and book at a larger hotel in the city center.  While more affordable, most of the mini-hotels are on the outskirts of town requiring a subway ride into the city center.

[photo by BUILD llc]

The outskirts of town are authentic but gray and dismal.  Beautifully boring but perhaps not the environment you want to come home to each evening.  A good resource for hotels is Tablet Hotels.

[photos by BUILD llc]

The subways are extraordinary in their monumental design and excruciating cleanliness.  Unfortunately most subways stations do not allow photography for reasons that were unclear to us – we snuck in a few shots despite the discouraging stares.

[photos by BUILD llc]

We’re not entirely sure how St. Petersburg made the Wallpaper* travel guide collection but it’s one of the only modern guides out there on St. Petes.  Although half of the establishments we searched for in the guide have since shut their doors, for ten bucks it’s still a good resource.

One of the few modern buildings in the city is known appropriately as Vanity, which houses high end retailers and a gorgeous café/restaurant on the roof.  The views from the circulation spaces and café are very pleasing.

[photo by BUILD llc]

Located in the residential area on the bank of the Neva River is the Barcode Building, a collection of offices and shops by Vitruvio & Sons completed in 2005.

[photo courtesy of Alexey Naroditsky]

If the weather is nice, Aquarel (14a Dobrolubova Prospekt) will take care of you for lunch and dinner.  The reticent service industry in St. Pete’s requires constant effort from the patron’s side, which is a bit upsetting when you calculate the prices.  But the food is good and the atmosphere is pleasant.

[photo by BUILD llc]

Tucked behind a traditional façade, the modern interior of the Fasol Café is a welcomed find (17 Gorokhovaya Ulitsa).

[photos by BUILD llc]

The Hermitage cafe sits within the Palace Square at Dvortsovaya Pl. 8

[photo by BUILD llc]

The amount of walking necessary to hunt down the modernism in St. Pete’s is excessive.  Russian drivers also have a different relationship with human safety and a pedestrian’s right-of-way.  Subsequently the drama of finding these interiors is either a tremendous victory or quite frustrating.  This is where the vodka comes in.

Day Night (Posadaskaya Str 6)

Maison Martin Margiela (Bolshaya Konushennaya ulitsa, 2)

Mania Grandiosa Shoe Salon (Nevsky avenue, 41 & Bolshoy 1)

Di Versia Shoe Salon (Vladimirsky Avenue, 8)

While the line to enter the Hermitage can be up to 3 hours long the Russian Museum rarely has a line at all. The Russian museum has an outstanding collection of traditional and modern work.  It also has a nice collection of Russian contructivism and subsequently has yet another edge over the Hermitage – that everything in the collection isn’t stolen.

The Modern List Finland

BUILD llc recently returned from Scandinavia where we tracked the latest modern architecture, design, art, food and culture. Helsinki is a convenient overnight boat ride away from Stockholm – the cost of taking the overnight ferry is actually less than most hotel rooms in either city. Helsinki is small enough to get your head around, pedestrian friendly and full of rich design. Scandinavian’s have a knack for subtle, sensible design and Helsinki didn’t let us down with it’s no-nonsense warm modernism. The people are a bit reticent, but maybe that’s what happens after you’ve been in between a Swedish-Russian tug-of-war for several hundred years. At any rate, since 1917 Finland has held its own politically and as a hub of design. The Modern List 2 page 14KB PDF download can be found here: TML-Finland. The list is full of restaurants, design shops and other finds, here are some of our favorites:

Temppeliaukio Church, or church of the rock, is not to be missed. Designed by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and completed in 1969 the church has been inserted within a natural rock depression at the city’s center. The church is a photographer’s daydream in terms of the photographic exploration and serendipity. And a nightmare due to the shear number of tourists pouring out of buses and incessantly flashing their point-and-shoots.

[photos by BUILD llc]

The approach to Steven Holl’s Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum is every bit as interesting as the museum itself. The various corridors and surrounding buildings provide a dramatic sequence of views.

[photos by BUILD llc]

A skateboard ramp out front brings some needed activity to the museums lawn. Even the ramp was beautifully constructed out of stained, curved glue-lam beams.

[photos by BUILD llc]

Just next door to Kiasma is the Sanoma Building by Antti-Matti Siikala & Jan Soderlund. It seems all too delicate a building for the brutal winters Helsinki receives, but gorgeous nonetheless. Although the massing is huge and blocky, the transparent facades and reflected grey skies lighten up the building and alleviate the enormous massing.

[photos by BUILD llc]

Another not-to-be missed venue is Alvar Aalto’s Savoy restaurant. Everything from the textiles to the lamps is original Alvar Aalto design. If you don’t feel like dropping a second mortgage of your home on dinner just go for drinks and enjoy one of the better views in town.

[photo courtesy of Artek]

Harbor and cafe

[photos by BUILD llc]

Underneath Helsinki Cathedral (the most prominent church in town, you can’t miss it) is a café and gallery. Being the design geeks that we are, we headed straight for the restrooms to see how the Fins resolved new in the context of old. The result was impressive: the new wall planes are held out from the original foundation to differentiate the two and allow the viewer to see the traditional construction, even in the bathroom! The plumbing fixtures, including the sinks and toilets, are all stainless steel to further separate new and old.

[photo by BUILD llc]

There is mastery in most of Scandinavian architecture when it comes to inserting design of the current time into a traditional context. The commercial buildings below are a good example in Helsinki. A weathered copper bridge gracefully connects the new to the old.

[photo by BUILD llc]

Many of the new commercial buildings have a design of solidarity and permanence. Heavy stone and marble facades are often combined with expansive teak windows and copper roofs.

[photos by BUILD llc]

Finlandia Hall by Alvar Aalto is a massive building, entirely clad in white marble.

[photo by BUILD llc]

Helsinki has been experimental and creative with their housing and it seems to be paying off with some very handsome projects and pleasant living environments. Most striking was the number of decks and terraces for such a northern climate. Most of the “outdoor rooms” were lined with single pane glass sheets. The projects below are: Kesakatu, Laivapoika, Sinebrychof Brewery Block & housing across from the ferry terminal.

[photos by BUILD llc]

This park facility building was one of the most refined and clever designs we came across. A board & batten siding system uses longer battens for attachment of the horizontal slat rainscreen.

Even the utility structures have been carefully designed. Vertical steel fins line the circumference of this vent stack.

The Helsinki train station speaks to the bold forms and dramatic architecture of its neighbor to the east.

Some other great Helsinki resources:
Architectural Map Guide by the Finnish Association of Architects
Design District Helskinki
materialicious has a great spread on Alvar Aalto’s home

Let us know if we missed anything and stay tuned for St. Petersburg next…