Liberated Architecture
February 15, 2009, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Rural Architecture, Travel

Recently on a trip to South America we visited Tigre, a community about an hour north of Buenos Aires by train. Also known as the archipelago of Argentina, the area is a web of inter-connecting rivers and streams. Within the labyrinth of waterways were hundreds of homes and cabins representing the full spectrum of form, size and design philosphy. There didn’t seem to be any master-plan, development or overall scheme.  Aesthetic covenants seemed to be excluded from the community and, judging from some of the structures, it didn’t even seem like a permit process or building department was involved. It appeared to be a community of liberated architecture. Some projects were clearly built from an architect’s drawings; others could have been crafted on site without a single piece of documentation. Needless to say, we were fascinated.

[Photo by Andrea CB]

[Photo by Magdo-50]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by Gabriel Robledo]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by Hanneorla]

[Photo by Hanneorla]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by BUILD LLC]

[Photo by bdnegin]

[Photo by Bloggingsouls]

It’s easy to imagine that an environment like this is the product of a community that solves differences through communication rather than filing lawsuits.  A population of individuals who maintain an open mind about appearances and design rather than trying to control and manipulate the built environment through review boards and covenants.  A society that designs and builds responsibly because it’s the right thing to do, not because a building department required them to do so.

The diversity of architecture and construction in Tigre was refreshing and it seems like there are some fundamental lessons to learn here about society and behavior.


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  Of particular interest were the abandoned structures once used to protect outdated train tracks from the snow, ice and wind.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 Architecture of Significance
January 30, 2009, 9:34 am
Filed under: Architecture, Rural Architecture, Travel


Today’s post is not so much about architecture as it is about what it takes to create a significant place.  Recently on a trip to Argentina’s wine country, we came across Casa Glebinias, a rural bed and breakfast at the foot of the Andes Mountains.  This wonder of a place is extraordinary because of the patience, thoughtfulness and intentionality that went into it.  No amount of money or architectural glamor alone could achieve this level of quality and substance.



The main house is approached via a dirt road lined with gorgeous lush trees.  Until you actually reach the steps to the home, it’s not clear where the house ends and the landscape begins.


This assimilation between built-form and vegetation has been a delicate 25 year process for owners Alberto and Maria Gracia.  Setting out on a labor of love, the grounds became a laboratory for exploring the harmony of form, color and aroma.  Each tree and flower has been carefully selected and placed over the years, additional cabins for their guests have been delicately worked into the setting.


The guest houses, spread out around the grounds, are small heavy structures which shield from sunlight during the day and radiate heat throughout the night.  They are not sleek and modern yet they don’t attempt to reference design styles from the past.  The structures do not subscribe to any notion of today’s fashionable “green architecture” practices, yet they will be standing long after most homes clad with solar panels and boasting greywater tanks have been demolished.  Doors open up to veiled sitting areas carved out of the landscape.  Handwoven shades cover the windows during the hot afternoons.


In speaking with the owners, the architect didn’t even come up.  I’m sure they have great respect for the architect, and the architecture is an important ingredient to the eventual outcome of the grounds, but this place just isn’t about the architecture.  It’s about going out each day and getting your hands dirty.  It’s about taking care of something you’re dedicated to. It’s about life and friends and plants and gardens.  It’s about cultivation and the process of life.  At the same time there is a tremendous amount for us architects to learn from situations like this.



There is such a harmony reached by this setting that it may in fact be one of the best examples of minimalism we’ve seen.  Over time, the trees and vegetation grow and flourish until one day the house disappears in the landscape.  The house is just as functional and enjoyable as ever – it’s just become part of the environment.  Something we struggle our entire careers to create.


Bringing some thoughts back home; there seem to be some lessons that we could greatly benefit from here in the Northwest.

Staying in one place and cultivating a sense of “home” makes for better environments. In our transient society of constantly moving up the real-estate ladder, staying in a home for 25 years must seem absurd.  But it is this dedication to place that creates significance.

Allow living things and the process of weathering to play a role.
We’re not saying that you should leave that moss growing on the north side of your cedar shingled roof, but the culmination of a home should be a process that unfolds over time in conjunction with nature.

Some of the best work never gets published because it’s too mindful.
The Casa Glebinias will never get published in an architectural book or magazine.  It’s too reasonable, to modest and too difficult to encapsulate in a sound-bite.  The architectural press often focuses on drama and fashion, leaving truly significant works by the wayside.  While publications are important, such direct correlation between publication and the success of a project seems unhealthy.

[All photos by BUILD LLC]

If you’re planning on spending any time in the Mendoza region of Argentina we highly recommend staying at Casa Glebinias outside of Chacras de Coria.  For more information click here or drop us a line, we’d be more than happy to keep blabbering on about how wonderful it is.

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 Work of Carlo Mollino
December 7, 2008, 3:04 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Design, Rural Architecture

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

There’s a good chance that your college design professors never introduced you to the work of Carlo Mollino (1905 – 1973). Of the 7 architecture degrees here in our office – not one of us ever heard of the guy until recently. Maybe our professors didn’t want to create any more illusion around the profession of architecture than already exists (with Mollino’s playboy, jet-set lifestyle and all). Maybe it’s that architecture was only one of many hobbies for Mollino; who’s interests included car racing, flying airplanes and skiing. Or maybe it was that, later in life, he developed an affinity for photographing street hookers in his hometown of Turin. Tough to say, but here’s your primer on Mollino. For any of you that did happen to study him – we’d love to know how the guy was portrayed in academics.

Mollino has a strong portfolio of furniture design. The “Trestle Structure Table” (1949) below seems to have a heavy influence from his father, an Italian engineer. The design fits nicely into the northwest contemporary design philosophy that we’re still working to refine, 60 years later.

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]
Although not as technical, the “Table for Colonna House” (1954) also exhibits an elegant and refined form.

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

The gorgeous “2690 Cavour” desk is still in production by Zanotta and can be purchased here.


It was Mollino’s ski lodge architecture that first caught our eye. There is such a strong design intention with his alpine projects; the contrast it creates with most of the ski lodge architecture here in the northwest is embarassing. Mollino’s designs better represent the nature and luxury of skiing. The structures themselves reflect the elegance and craft of gliding down the slopes on a set of attenuated wood skis. The unbuilt Furggen station, below, creates patterns and rhythms from the required structural elements. The project also incorporates cable-car transportation to the structure – when’s the last time you worked a cable car into a project?

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

The Lago Nero Sledge-Lift Station (1947) in Salice d’Ulzio explores spatial form, structural expression and separation of materials. The finished geometry is indicative of current modern design – only Mollino was experimenting with these forms 60 years ago… and getting them built.


[Photos courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

Apartment building in Aosta (1953). So clean and modern it would still push the envelope of design in most American cities.

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

Chamber of Commerce of Turin (1972). One of the few buildings from the 70’s that doesn’t make us cringe.

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

Teatro Regio in Turin (1973). Did we mention that he had an erotic side to him?

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

Casa del Sole Building in Cervinia (1955)

[Photo courtesy Museo Carlo Mollino]

Mollino next to one of his aerobatic biplanes which crashed in 1958.

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

Mollino’s design for a aerobatic airplane (1962)

[Photo courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

Mollino in his Bisiluro race-car design (1955) which utilized an asymmetrical geometry made of two separate hulls: one for the driver and the other for the engine.



[Photos courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

In addition to being an accomplished downhill skier, Mollino helped document the art of skiing through photographs and text books on technique.


[Photos courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

So let’s see, we’ve got architecture, interiors, furniture, race cars, airplanes, skiing, did we leave anything out? Oh, right, the photo collections of scantily clad Italian prostitutes. You didn’t think we were going to leave that out did you? Afterall – we’re not your college architecture professors. Between 1956 and 1962 Mollino used traditional photography methods, from 1962 until his death in 1973 Mollino adopted Polaroid technology for the series.  If you’re doing your math like we are, you’re putting together that this was a 17 year project for Mollino.  Alrighty-then.



[Photos courtesy Carlo Mollino arabesques, Electa Press]

So there you go, the cliff notes on Carlo Mollino. Overachieving-genius, James-Bond-like stud, jet-setting-renaissance ladies-man or eccentric, fruity-ass, crazy guy with too much energy. Whadaya think?

If you are taken by Mollino’s life and work we highly recommend getting one of his books in your hands. The selections above are only a fraction of the thorough documentation available on each project and aspect of his life. “Carlo Mollino arabesques” by Electa press is our personal fav, and it can be purchase here or here.

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.