30 December 2010

...strip.....!

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Formwork is off for M House!

The structural concrete foundation and walls are now strong enough to stand by themselves, so the supporting braces are also removed.

Although we have slight delay due to the weather, we are ready to proceed as soon as weather permitted.

Wish you all a great holiday, and see you back in 2011!

formwork is stripped off the concrete structure, exposing the bare concrete. scaffolding remains for erection of the roof structure later

inside of the walls. diagonal steel bracing are removed, which means the walls are standing on their own.

LOOK AT THE SNOW!! I would have to say great progress on site in this weather!

28 December 2010

...peep.....

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So this is the site office for M House...... I was very impressed!  Everything was very organised even for a single residential dwelling project.

I must admit, good partnership makes our life designing from overseas (from site) a lot easier!

Inside site office with a lot of safety cautions. they aim to have monthly safety achievement. There is a list that it is talking about the attitude of new construction workers like a mini propaganda! Too much cautions. I guess this it typical Japanese culture...

These are structure drawings. They are all laminated, so it won't be wet. Isn't this amazing?

When shit happens...... There are contact details who they need to talk to. Of course, we are one of them on the list..... Police station, Fire station, hospital etc very impressed how they are organized.

24 December 2010

testing...testing

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A few decisions to be made on site urgently for M House ...here are some examples....

on the left are different colours for the wall finish - シラス壁 ("shirasu-kabe" external rendered finish with volcano ash); on the right are the different timber decking types


bolt testing at the top junction of roof rafters (if you look closely, the bolts are all different colours and sizes); this is quite important because after 20m of exposed continuous roof rafters, bolts can be very distracting...  here we realised the length of the bolt thread (the long bit that has the grooves) is of vital importance and we need to find the one that is the same size as the nut (the hexagonal donut that goes around the thread)

timber sealant; the idea is to be as close to the raw timber as possible. here we tested this product "木肌美人" (timber skin beauty....), on the left is timber sealed with oil based product, on the right is raw, unsealed timber.  On the top right corner of the raw timber is a small testing patch with "木肌美人", water based product ....Once when the "木肌美人" is dried, it becomes just like the raw unsealed material. Timber has to be sealed to control moisture content, termite attack etc for longevity....we can't just ignore the practical side for our aesthetic preference... Best is to be able to have both!

23 December 2010

M House update

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Lets have a look of the M House construction site in Niigata, Japan.

Due to poor weather condition, there is delay in construction progress but the construction team is still pushing for the in-situ concrete base and walls completion before end of 2010.  The timber beams are being manufactured offsite in the factory during the cold season.

on site the formwork is ready to wall height, and building base is already poured; to the right of building is the entry to garage

from the inside; looking very crowded with the scaffolding...

offsite in factory. this is the beam on top of the concrete walls, where the roof rafters will come down to interlock with

the roof rafters being carefully shaped and trimmed one by one in the factory

20 December 2010

Facet Studio Interview at Yellowtrace blog!

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We are very excited about our interview on Yellowtrace blog!

(You can read the interview HERE)

Thanks to Dana from Yellowtrace for her support!

15 December 2010

Suzhou - Yipu Yuan (Garden of Cultivation) 蘇州 - 藝圃園

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Small and simple, this artistic Ming garden may be missed by many who visit Suzhou.  There is an elegance in the garden's simplicity, and the elimination of unnecessary details has a much more modern ambience than some of the later gardens.

A good explanation of the garden layout HERE:
The Garden of Cultivation is a small scale garden with artistic characteristics of the Ming dynasty. The entire garden's layout is plain and open, with a natural and simple style; not overly elaborate and affected. Its artistic value is much higher than Later Qing gardens. The layout of mountains and waters, pavilions, terraces and buildings, as well as the detailed arrangement of a single rock and a single tree express simple, unsophisticated and elegant attributes. A method of condensation is used to express the garden construction's basic theory and concepts.

What I found the most fascinating, and the most distinguishable character of Yipu, is its entry sequence.  The unusual proportion of the access way giving the sense of mystery and curiosity, is very sophisticatedly minimal.



this garden pavilion is of a very old structure system - I am observing a balancing, see-saw kind of force arrangement. Any insight is welcomed!

14 December 2010

Suzhou - Huan Xiu Shan Zhuang 蘇州 - 環秀山莊

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Can I be more impressed by ancient wisdom and mastery?
Huan Xiu Shan Zhuang ("Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty") is a tiny garden.  In fact it is a part garden remained after partially demolished.  It is located inside the Embroidery Museum, and when I was lost on my way there, no locals (including taxi driver) could help me with direction because they have never heard of it.  But I am speechless.
Wikipedia has a good summary of a description, probably the best I would be able to phrase it to someone who has never been:
The 2,180 m2 garden is composed along a linear axis with three main elements: a grotto called Autumn Hill, and Flying Snow Pool, fed by a waterfall called Flying Snow Spring, and a main hall. The rock work in this garden displays every technique and effect used in Chinese gardens. In addition, it is a recreation of the five important mountains of China, and shows a mastery of creating a sense of vast space in a small area.
The rockery within the garden is the work of Ge Yuliang (戈裕良), some nicknamed "Master of Rockery" in China.  Although the Garden itself could be dated back to Jin Dynasty (around 300CE), it was  Ge's involvement with the rockery in 1807CE set the garden's reputation.  The garden was inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.

Suzhou - Huan Xiu Shan Zhuang 蘇州 - 環秀山莊

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Can I be more impressed by ancient wisdom and mastery?

Huan Xiu Shan Zhuang ("Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty") is a tiny garden.  In fact it is a part garden remained after partially demolished.  It is located inside the Embroidery Museum, and when I was lost on my way there, no locals (including taxi driver) could help me with direction because they have never heard of it.  But I am speechless.

Wikipedia has a good summary of a description, probably the best I would be able to phrase it to someone who has never been:
The 2,180 m2 garden is composed along a linear axis with three main elements: a grotto called Autumn Hill, and Flying Snow Pool, fed by a waterfall called Flying Snow Spring, and a main hall. The rock work in this garden displays every technique and effect used in Chinese gardens. In addition, it is a recreation of the five important mountains of China, and shows a mastery of creating a sense of vast space in a small area.

The rockery within the garden is the work of Ge Yuliang (戈裕良), some nicknamed "Master of Rockery" in China.  Although the Garden itself could be dated back to Jin Dynasty (around 300CE), it was  Ge's involvement with the rockery in 1807CE set the garden's reputation.  The garden was inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.

13 December 2010

Suzhou - CangLang (Surging Wave) Pavilion 蘇州 - 滄浪亭

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"If the Canglang River is dirty I wash my muddy feet; If the Canglang River is clean I wash my ribbon" - The owner of the Canglang Pavilion quoted this verse from Songs of the South and derived the name of the garden he resided in after the his removal from office.  The verses alluded to the manner in politics - one rather be honest and be removed from office rather than behave in corrupted manner to fit in.

Canglang Pavilion was built in 1044 CE.  It is the oldest garden with literature, recording its existence back from Tang Dynasty.  Due to its longggggg history, there were 32 essays written about the Pavilion, rendering it one of best recorded garden.  It was once "flattened" during Civil War, and rebuilt to re-establish its "outlook" (not the actual building fabric as such).  Canglang Pavilion was incribed on UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000.

If "man-made nature" was an abrupt summary of Chinese Garden philosophy, then Canglang Pavilion could be representing just that.  The critical mass of "time" the garden has encapsulated can be experienced in every corner, with all vegetation taking its own shape and form, whether or not originally intended.  I am curious to know, to what extent was the current form of the garden "designed"?  What is distinguishing between the "intended" and "unintended"? Maybe it is not important.

12 December 2010

Suzhou - Master of Nets Garden 蘇州 - 網師園

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Our first day at Suzhou was greeted by Master of Nets Garden.  I had this fascination about the naming... what kind of master is Master of Nets?

The garden was originally named "Fisherman's Retreat" - the owner of the garden who was hinting a lifestyle of peace and subtlety with the metaphor of fishing, nicknamed himself "Master of Nets" hence the naming of the garden.  It was built in 1140 in Southern Song Dynasty, and inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.

The garden is small in scale but delicately composed.  A irregularly shaped pond is the centre of its layout, with pavilions and gardens arranged seemingly spontaneously around.  There are layers beyond layers of scenes designed and constructed over hundreds of years; with a lot of architectural elements but without cluttering the scenery.

central pond of irregular shape, hinting the power of nature and boundlessness of water

irreugularity of the water edge is to stimulate imagination, and to play on man-made vs nature. truth is, after hundreds of years, the intention is to design how the garden would grow into....the garden is still being formed, it is a living thing.

each wall in the garden has a face permanently in sun, the other permanently in shade; the face in sun plays with shadow and object dimension, the face in shade plays with lack of depth and painting-like compositional quality

one of the entry gardens, with layering of rockery and vegetation of different density

garden niche next to entry with the beginning of the large pond. This serves as water level control and has the smallest miniature bridge in all of Suzhou over it

Later on we will be dissecting the gardens and their design elements - it is mind boggling!

11 December 2010

Shanghai Suzhou

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Facet Studio will join the University of NSW field trip to Survey Chinese Gardens - Suzhou and Shanghai.

Dec 10 - 19 we will be writing from China.



ok I need to go catch the plane now...yai!

9 December 2010

introducing Seatondale

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We have been working on the schematic design for a heritage house in Sydney, called "Seatondale".

The building history could be tracked back to 1815, and several important people have owned the property.

The client is looking to renovate the existing heritage house, and add 2 new dwellings to the rear of the heritage house....our task is, "how?"

With 3 dwellings on the same land, there is inherent issues on privacy, overlooking, and overshadowing to address.  Easiest is probably to build a wall around the dwellings to isolate them from each other.....but then, there is no interaction, and no benefit for them to be next to each other.  It is a rare situation to have 3 dwellings on the same land, of course we should make something interesting out of it!

So the idea is, "garden as the sharing, buffer zone between the dwellings." - ok this is still rough, there will be many more refinements to come along the design process... - rather than using fences to block each other out, we started exploring ways to screen and borrow views to expand the imaginative boundary whilst maintaining the privacy of individual dwellings.

we first looked at off-setting the building volumes from the heritage building articulation. Down side is access and overlooking.

We then tried to reduce building bulk by building smaller (but more) volumes, so the dwellings become part of the landscape - but the building appeared bulkier at standing height, and overshadowing was aggravated (this is like the 10th scheme already...)

..............So.............

So we decided to go simple - minimise building footprints, orientate to face the sun (and away from each other) to improve building amenities

We will get busy on this project in 2011, hopefully I can tell you more about it soon!

8 December 2010

site update

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Quick peek on the M House construction site....

Reinforcement for walls is up, ready for pouring concrete.

I find it always exciting to start seeing the 3 D shape of the building, like a happy expectation of something exciting on its way!





7 December 2010

Making of Phamish - Part II

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Today lets talk about the lightbox at Phamish, following the previous blog entry on making of Phamish (HERE).

Half way through the design process, the client raised issue about something they had some serious problem with in the original shop - the lightbox.  It was also nicknamed the "lobster pot", or the "broomstick cupboard"..... the love showed in the naming.  Apparently it was shipped down from Gold Coast, costed a bomb and weighed a tone. Arrived smashed, it didn't deliver much light if any to the shop.  In order to relieve their agony, we had to come up with something in line with our design concept.

the original lightbox - this was as much light as it could deliver

...so this is what we proposed after a week of brainstorming.

together with the panels, the shop could have a festive atmosphere, quite so Chinese

One of the main imagery we had during design phase of the shop, was people dining amongst the field of chrysanthemum flowers, surrounded by the amicable and mysterious ambience.  By incorporating the lightbox into the scheme, and with the light projection on to the ceiling, it could add another dimension to the ambience we aimed to create.

Here are the process we went through to make the lightbox possible....

we had to create a 1:1 prototype to test out the lighting condition, to see if it actually works...



the sun filtered through the prototype cutout, looks like the idea could work



we then went into the restaurant after it closed at night, to test on site. It was difficult to see if it actually would work on site, because the lightbox had diffused fluorescent tubes as light source which was not too good at projecting shadows. With the success earlier with sunlight, we decided to replace fluorescent tubes in the lightbox with spotlights, in order to cast clearer shadows on to the ceiling.

electrician installing spotlight. We also decided to remove the dowels on the side (see earlier perspectives) because they were loosening up and could fall on patrons dining directly below

testing light effect with the new spotlights.......hmmmmmm........we could see "something"......

at that point there was no going back, we had to keep progressing with the new lightbox (it would still be better than what was there even if light projection didn't work)

miraculously after it was installed properly, the projection worked beautifully!!!!!

effect at night. Because the restaurant only opens for dinner, the lighting effect was of vital importance

sitting underneath the new lightbox, looking towards the wall panelling...surrounded by chrysanthemum flowers...

reopening night after (3 days of) construction. people dining amongst the chrysanthemum flowers in a festive atmosphere...exactly how we imagined!

With every project there are things we can not expect or test before we go for the real deal, but it is important that the decisions were made with background study and a level of confidence.

Try out Phamish and experience the ambience we have tried to create when you walk past it in Darlinghurst - their duck and prawn pancake is absolutely the best!