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  Of particular interest were the abandoned structures once used to protect outdated train tracks from the snow, ice and wind.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]


Special Projects Division Cabinet Shop
February 2, 2009, 12:46 pm
Filed under: Architecture, BUILD LLC, Design, Seattle, Trades

We’re ready! Today marks the official launch of our new cabinet shop.  Several months ago BUILD LLC created a partnership with a master woodworker, acquired an industrial shop space and set up “Special Projects Division LLC”.  Since then we’ve knocked out a couple of sharp, modern cabinet packages and the website is ready to go public – check it out here.  Those of you on our twitter feed got a sneak peak last week.


The cabinets are designed and constructed to be cost-effective – so that normal people can actually afford nice modern cabinets.  The packages range from single stand alone cabinets to entire house packages.


There are a couple of  supplements on the website you should know about:

We’ve got a section of smokin-hot details that show how the cabinets are outfitted with stainless steel custom pulls, organizer drawer units, countertops, sinks and appliances.



Our materials category includes photos of over 30 different wood species from Alder to Zebrawood.  Note to architects & designers: you can download these images for use in your 3-d modeling programs.


The sawn lumber diagram page has straight-forward diagrams of how wood is sawn and how it looks depending on the method of cutting.


We figured, as long as we’ve got a cabinet shop with all the cool tools, we might as well crank out some furniture too.  So we’re designing a line of furniture which includes modern benches, coffee tables, chairs, rolling bars, and shoe racks.  Stay tuned, as we’ll be revealing the designs very soon.


In the furniture designs you’ll notice our BUILD developed joinery which uses a system of aluminum kerf plates and pegs to join a variety of woods – found only in the SPD furniture line.  We’re also developing a line of cabinets from re-used wood products which is even better and more earth-friendly than recycled products.



So go take the tour and let us know how we’re doing.  If you or anybody you know needs cabinets or furniture – you know where to go.


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.

On the Radar
January 26, 2009, 6:58 pm
Filed under: On the Radar

Our new favorite architecture blog is arch Daily.  Not only do these guys keep you up to date on hot international projects but they provide all that delicious data as well.
-thanks to senior field correspondent Josiah

We’re constantly struggling with our philosophy of digital, architectural rendering.  Producing photo-realistic renderings is costly, time consuming and not necessarily needed if you can visualize the finished product in your mind.  At the same time there is an important craft to renderings and a good rendering illustrates key aspects of reality.  We’re always on the lookout for groups who are finding that balance between efficient renderings and photo-realism; the digital rock-stars at XTEN are doing just that.
-thanks to Josiah
[Rendering by XTEN]

Thank God for long exposure photography – any dull scene can become something brilliant and dynamic – check out some of these super-slick shots.
-thanks to Jason
[Photo by BUR?BLUE]

Our new favorite application for the iPHONE is “Camera Bag” available for $2.99.  It’s full of cool filter tools like “1962″, “1974” and “Instant” as seen in the shots below.
-thanks to Chase Jarvis Photography
[Photos by BUILD LLC]

For some clean, simple logos, get your eyeballs on Logofavs; a logo design inspiration gallery that represents a variety of designers
-thanks to Josiah
[Design by Muamer Adilovic]

At the moment we’re reading “Rise of the Creative Class” by Richard Florida.
“Florida’s theory asserts that metropolitan regions with high concentrations of high-tech workers, artists, musicians, lesbians and gay men, and a group he describes as “high bohemians”, correlate with a higher level of economic development. Florida posits the theory that the creative class fosters an open, dynamic, personal and professional environment. This environment, in turn, attracts more creative people, as well as businesses and capital. He suggests that attracting and retaining high-quality talent, versus a singular focus on infrastructure projects such as sports stadiums, iconic buildings, and shopping centers, would be a better primary use of a city’s regeneration resources for long-term prosperity.” –Wikipedia

The December issue of the Atlantic Monthly has a great article by P.J. O’Rourke titled “Future Schlock” based on Disneylands newest “House of the Future” exhibit – intended to evoke the enthusiasm of the project from the 1950’s.  The result?.. Dumb, beige and mediocre.

Clothing design isn’t usually part of our gig here at the BUILDblog but when a uniform is so well engineered that every stitch counts – we take notice.  You’ve most likely already come across the clip “wingsuit base jumping” of the flying Norwegians… absolutely incredible.  As if pushing a mouse around all day didn’t seem boring enough before flying suits.
-thanks to John

We admit it, okay.  We’re the last ones to the party on this one – everyone but us has covered it.  But nonetheless, it’s news and it’s an indication of the tough times ahead.  John Morefield’s Ballard Sunday market booth which sells architectural advice for 5¢ symbolizes the spirit of our time – architects just try’n to do architecture.
[Photo courtesy of the Seattle P.I.]

Orginally started in Germany, “Passive House” design is quickly making “Green Design” seem like dumping toxic rocket fuel in your backyard.  The technology and mindset of Passive Design are making their way to the states; educate yourself here or attend the Northwest Ecobuilding Guild presentation on February 8th.
-thanks to Donald
[Photo courtesy of Wikipedia]

The University of Washington is hosting a lecture by Lise Anne Couture on Wednesday, January 28th at 6pm in Architecture Hall 147.  Couture is principal of uber-super-future design shop Asymptote with Hani Rashid. This event was canceled.  Instead of noting this on their website, the UW department of architecture simply removed it from their lecture series as if it never existed – leaving us potential attendees entirely out in the dark.  Thanks for the clear communication UW!
[Photo by Alex Cao]

Is it terrifying or absolutely hilarious that even the starchitects are fighting over insignificant projects out there?  You be the judge.

We’ve come across some really handsome, modern residential design lately.  Check out the work of Garduno Architects out of Mexico…
[Photo courtesy Garduno Architects]

…and Steven Kent of southern California.
-thanks to Josiah and Mike
[Photo courtesy Steven Kent]

We’ve been keeping the wraps on our little cabinet shop until we’re ready for the full press release -so if you say anything about this we’ll deny everything and blame it on alcohol.  The cabinet shop will include a line of custom designed furniture and we thought we’d give you insiders a sneak peak at some of the sleek, modern connection details that are coming together.  Stay tuned…


We love diagrams.  And when a diagram can convey a bulk of complicated information as well as a bit of humor, all the better.  The Folks at Goldstar Beer covered both bases -then continued on to tackle the male/female dynamics of modern day society.  Larger versions of these BRILLIANT diagrams can be found here.
-thanks to Chris


[Flowcharts by Goldstar Beer and McCann Erickson]


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

Mid-Century Modern Remodel
January 16, 2009, 10:22 am
Filed under: Architecture, BUILD LLC, Seattle, Suburban Architecture, Technical Posts


BUILD LLC recently completed the design and remodel of a mid-century modern home in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood and has some valuable information to share.   As with many of Seattle’s mid-century residences, this home was overdue for considerable updates.  The “bones” of these structures are typically very solid; the concrete and framing can be surgically retained and, oftentimes, featured for their richness and texture.  Efforts and funds can be directed toward reorganization of the space planning as well as the kitchen, bathrooms, cabinet package, surfaces and systems (heating, plumbing, electrical).

Mid-century modern plan Model (1)

As with any project, a great final outcome can be directly attributed to extraordinary clients.  This family understood the value of their mid-century modern home and put an importance on smarter space rather than more space.  The team was able to maintain the mid-century modern character of the home and, at the same time, fully renovate the home, site and pool for the current era and many years to come.

With several mid-century modern residences in our portfolio, we’ve developed some good strategies for cost-effective remodels and updates to these homes.  The cost of the house remodel was $150 per square foot including hard costs, tax and builder fees.  The technical information can be found below and a photo-montage video of the construction process can be found at the bottom of the post.


1. Existing light well upgraded with new roof and Milgard aluminum windows
2. Galvanized steel channel frame at chimney cap
3. New single-ply roof membrane over new rigid insulation
4. Existing brick stained deep caviar
5. Hardie-panel siding painted pewter
6. Existing brick planter boxes
7. Clear finished fir door with reeded glass panel
8. Milgard aluminum window package
9. Fleetwood aluminum sliding door package
10. Galvanized steel handrail verticals with Feeney Cable-Rail components and ipe top rail
11. Ipe decking and fascia
12. Stained clear cedar slats with vertical cedar posts (code required pool enclosure)
13. Open risers with precast concrete treads by Diamond Concrete Products


14. Raumplus sliding glass doors with laminated glass
15. Original T&G refinished decking, over original roof joists painted deep caviar
16. Original sandstone masonry left untreated
17. Eurotech Lighting ET-2 cylinder pendant lights
18. Custom steel firebox and hearth inserted into original fireplace
19. Original oak floor with new ebonized stain
20. Shoemaker AFP series aluminum floor register
21. Custom dining table with steel frame and anigre top by Special Projects Division
22. Honed Raven Caesarstone countertop and anigre cabinets by Special Projects Division
23. Kohler Ladena undermount porcelain sink with Whitehaus Luxe single hole faucet
24. Stainless steel backsplash
25. Solid core door with Omnia 025 passage lever
26. Fisher Paykel RF201ADUX stainless steel refrigerator
27. Porcher Newson Vitreous China 6’-0” freestanding tub
28. Fisher Paykel OS302 stainless steel wall oven
29. 12” x 18” Porcelain floor tile
30. Gaggenau AH 900-791extension hood
31. Miele KM3484 gas cooktop
32. Anigre custom cabinets with full length stainless steel pulls by Special Projects Division
33. “Floating” anigre shelf with integrated Seagull ‘puck’ lights, satin chrome finish.
34. Custom stainless steel countertop with orbital finish and integral sink, extended to exterior for bbq platform.

Photo-montage construction video

[All photos, images, videos, diagrams and drawings by BUILD llc]

4 Cities in South America
January 13, 2009, 6:07 pm
Filed under: Architecture, The Modern List, Travel


After sneaking off to South America over the holidays we’re back in the saddle here at the BUILDblog.  Our travels were brief and the cities we visited are immense, so we figured we’d post quick impressions of each along with a few images, rather than comprehensive modern lists like we’ve done for other cities.  To bring the discussion back around to the northwest, we think there are elements from each South American city that Seattle can learn from.


Buenos Aires, Argentina
Population: City = 3 Million, Metro = 13 Million

Apparently, it is every citizen’s God-given right to have a terrace in the city of Buenos Aires.  And cheers to that – flourishing vegetation drapes from the buildings over tree lined avenues and creates a lush urbanism.  Buenos Aires is bold with new architecture situated directly alongside the traditional.  Overall it creates an environment that is both authentic and fascinating.



A few recommendations:

The Recoleta and Palermo neighborhoods


MALBA museum

Recoleta Cemetery

Puente de la Mujer Bridge by Santiago Calatrava

Banco Hipotecario Nacional

Biblioteca Nacional

A good source for apartment rentals is apartmentsba , we recommend the SAN1 apartment at Defensa 1035 unit 5
[photos by BUILD LLC)

Santiago, Chile
Population: City = 5 Million, Metro = 7 Million

Santiago is a good town to be a tourist in for a bit.  The funicular and gondola, which take you up and back down Cerro San Cristobal hill, are a great way to get the lay of the land and also see the spectacular backdrop of the Andes mountain range behind the city.

[photo by Trip Advisor)

A few recommendations:

Avenue Nueva Costanera has it all, modern shops, furniture showrooms and incredible restaurants like La Mar and Sole


The food market in the historical downtown

Amoria restaurant at the base of the funicular

Some modern work downtown

A modern addition to a traditional school near the base of the gondola

[photos by BUILD LLC)

Sao Paulo, Brazil
Population: City = 11 Million, Metro = 22 Million

Our theory is that at some point in the 80’s or 90’s they were giving concrete away for free in Sao Paulo.  The massive amount of concrete in the city is staggering, as are the ambitious forms and bold geometries.  Even as modernists, Sao Paulo struck us as brutally modern.  Walking the city is fascinating but it can also be grim and dismal, we recommend selecting key destinations and cabbing it or taking the subway between.  While the individual pieces of architecture are worth seeing, the landscape and space in between seems neglected and left to chance.



A few recommendations:

Hotel Unique and its restaurant + bar provides spectacular view of the city

Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo

Praca do Patriarca

Avenida Paulista


[photos by BUILD LLC)

Also check out Pinacoteca do Estado Gallery and Spot restaurant for dinner

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Population: City = 7 Million, Metro = 14 Million

Rio is the perfect balance between urbanism and natural beauty.  The neighborhoods are big enough and dense enough to keep the design-minded fulfilled in exploration.  At the end of the day the pristine beaches are just a walk away, all with stunning mountain backdrops.  Gathering at the shore is a religious experience in Brazil and the beach seems to be the common denominator of culture.  It’s free, everyone is welcome and everyone strips down to as little as possible regardless of what they look like.



We didn’t take many photos in Rio because we were too busy doing nothing at the beach, but here are a few recommendations: Portinari Design Hotel, Fasano Hotel, Santa Teresa Hotel, Second World War Memorial, Palacio Gustavo Capanema, Museu de Arte Moderna, Forneria Rio restaurant, Frederico + Alessandro restaurant, Bar Luiz Beach Kiosk on Copacabana beach, Zaza restaurant, Londa bar at the Fasano Hotel

Fasano Hotel and Londa bar

Travelers waiting for the clouds to clear around Christo Redentor
[photos by BUILD LLC)

So to bring the discussion back home, here are 4 key elements from these South American cities that we think Seattle could use a little more of:

1. Mix the old with the new. Take good care of the older architecture and build new architecture using current materials and methods.  A city like Buenos Aires has retained its authenticity by doing so; at the same the layering of the different architectural styles is pleasant and interesting.

2.  If you’re going to build tourist transportation, do it well.  Santiago has a train with a cool name that goes straight up the side of a mountain and a gondola that takes you to terrifying heights.  Both means of transportation take you somewhere that you want to be and offer views of the city and mountains along the way.  Seattle has a waterfront streetcar (ding ding) and a 47 year old monorail.  Neither take you anywhere you couldn’t get by walking in the same amount of time you’ll spend waiting in line.

3. While we have our criticisms with Sao Paulo we like that they push the envelope of materials and design.  Concrete is great stuff and has potential to do amazing things.  Seattle could use a bit of that ambitious, bold design intention.

4. Seattle needs a place to do nothing.  We’re so geared to multi-task all the time that most of us Seattleites would probably bring a laptop to the beach.  Like the Brazilians, we need to establish a place in the city and a ritual of relaxing.  The Olympic Sculpture Park is on the right course if we can just keep the Master of Fine Arts students from blathering on about the theory of three dimensional form.

Cheers and let us know your thoughts…