Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Photoshop Architecture

I would like to be more euphoric, but we have lost another battle in architecture. Thanks to Photoshop, we can keep the virtual loss to a minimum and cover up the most severe mistakes of the execution of the project. We have put a lot of effort into a small project, which we believed, was a no brainer.

What happened? We had a great and simple scheme, that fit well within the budget of the client, we had an interesting facade material, which is based on colored cement render and graphite, pressure blasted onto the still wet surface. We have produced mockups, called the client and contractor on a weekly basis. The site is in Foshan, China and requires a 3 hour travel from Hong Kong. Yet every time the same answer: No progress, no decision on contractor yet etc. With the limited budget and fee, we would have ended in a financial disaster, if we would have just gone there randomly (which confirms, that good architecture can only stay a hobby for those, who can afford to loose). Unfortunately only when the building was up, they told us, that they have already completed it. With great frustration, we slotted in an emergency trip, which confirmed, that the patient is dead already. At least the spatial qualities outside and inside are really good, so it confirmed, it would have been a great scheme.

Unfortunately I have to say, this is actually a good client of ours and the result is not really their fault, but a series of unfortunate events. Yet such process also shows, that architects are becoming more of a nuisance, the longer the planning and construction process lasts: We always nag, insist on quality, integrity and consistency and pump up the budget through our rather intellectual approach towards a building. If I would be a client, I would also prefer to get rid of us as soon as possible. Yet I am an Architect myself, and I am constantly wondering, how can we actually not only achieve highest quality, yet even lower the budget through our intelligent coordination and cost saving design ideas? A friend recently told me, that architects are a pain, as they always try to intellectualize something, which is actually very banal and simple (as a building). Obviously, I have to agree as well as to disagree. The discourse will continue about the quality and necessity of our profession...

The building is located in an industrial city, sitting under a gigantic steel shed, which will contain construction steel for trading purpose. With the oppressive roof, we decided to make the building more prominent by pushing the meeting room out of the volume, creating a slightly distorted box with a prominent window. To optimize the efficiency of the spatial flow within, the staircase landing will be extended to become a conference room. The introduction of this mezzanine floor also creates a clearer spatial sequence from public to semi public to private spaces.

The scheme is a 300 m2 office and residential management building for a steel trading company. The staff, that works there also lives in that unit. On the ground floor, we find all the office area and public facilities, the mezzanine contains the conference room and the upper floor is the residential floor.The material of the facade is a cement based render with black pigments. While the surface is still wet, graphite will be blasted onto the surface (similar to sandblasting of glass). Both materials are extremely reasonable and overcome the problems of concrete or cement finishes, as the graphite covers up the (un-)precision of the construction.

Team: Ulrich Kirchhoff, Claudia Wigger, Tim Mao Yiqing

© 2010, ice - ideas for contemporary environments


  1. Wow great design, I like the cement based resin that your using to.

  2. Thanks, Dan. Glad, you like it.