As architects, most of our experience and understanding is gathered in our way of designing things, building procedures, as well as communication with different parties, such as citizens, government officials, academic experts, etc. Even though an architect may perhaps achieve fame and greatness without doing much reading, but rather achieveing mastery of the study through practical and communicative experience, books are nevertheless generally an essential part of the architectural practice. They have long been the media that has spread new ideas as well as a critical look towards the existing built environment. Personally, I believe architectural litterature to be an essential part of the practice and have decided to add this subject as a seperate category in the blog. It will serve not as a "review" of books in a sense of one that features a grading system of the literature, but rather one that summarizes the contents of my readings.

I have chosen Rowan Moore's Why We Build as the first book to write about simply due to the fact that it is the most recent piece of architectural litterature I've read. The author, Rowan Moore, was formerly director of the Architecture Foundation in Britain, and has since 2008 worked with architectural journalism. He is currently an architecture critic for the Observer. Moore's book Why We Build - as the titel implies - explores the relationships between architects and different actors in their work, such as patrons and contractors, organizations and citizens, as well as more complex factors, such as economical power, political forces and even attempts at civil control.
Each chapter within the book explores a different theme through architectural examples. Here, some of the examples illustrate both a success within a certain theme, and also the failures. These examples are shown and explained in a linear and fluent manner, and as the reader recieves explanation to the different projects and their contrasts, the chapters end with a summary that is a sort of open conclusion. Even though this may seem more like a dry reading of building and city analysis, the narrative and the language chosen to tell the stories is very fluent and readable, often feeling more like story-telling rather than being a book of an academic nature.
In my personal oppinion, the examples are well chosen and although I don't always agree with mr. Moore's oppinions, the book has surely given me a different perspective on a lot of architectural subjects - both in general and within the different examples in the book. I can highly recommend this book for its exploration of architecture's hidden and/or unknown agendas as well as its exploration of the complex systems that drive the different actors in the world of building. It doesn't offer answers or solutions, but it definitely opens towards new perspectives on subjects that one might either not have noticed or not thought about, but nevertheless subjects that can actually be so vital to a building project, that they might ultimately decide its faith.

Further reading:

- Andy Minchev


As mentioned in my previous post, about our model workshop, I promised to do a post on the actual winning proposal on the real site as soon as it was published. I expected it to appear a few weeks after my previous post, but to my surprise, it came only a few days after.

The winning project is designed by Copenhagen-based Entasis architects, who have designed the projected in collaboration with WITRAZ architects, who have especially been involved in the design of the landscape(s) created on the site. The buildings and landscape on the site are expected to stand complete by the year 2018.
Just by looking at the bird's eye picture above, the approach to the site is quite clear. The architects have followed the block structure of the neighbouring buildings and continued it onwards. At the the last plot of the site, the architects have chosen to leave the area empty for a public park instead of completely filling the site with the institutional buildings. The kindergarden is the white building placed closest to the lake at the bottom of the site.

As for the architectural language of the project, the new buildings have almost strict, contextual facades that strongly relate to their surroundings. As a whole, the architects themselves describe their project as a direct continuation of the local urban-structure (also architecturally), rather than being a more radical or different architectural site in relation to the surroundings. The picture above shows how the new buildings follow the structures surrounding it, acting as a natural continuation of the street scene.

There are many elements of this winning proposal that can be discussed. First of all, the direct continuation of the block structure is very questionable. Guru and I (our group from the Model Workshop) had a similar approach as a part of our concept process. It seemed natural to continue working on the site in a contextual sense, but we rather quickly learned that the scale would be to large and this development would seriously limit the possibilities for views from the different rooms. As a matter of fact, Entasis' and WITRAZ's approach has created such a density on the site, that it not only leaves the vast majority of rooms without views towards the lakes, but also introduces a height that would allow very, very limited sunlight in the courtyards created, thus making them uncomfortable, perhaps even claustrophobic. It is like all the buildings are squeazed into one part of the site, in order to open up for a park. In our group, we believed that it seems more harmonious to evenly spread out the buildings, in order to create varying outdoor spaces from private to semi-private and public. 

Also, the location of the kindergarden is questionable, since I believe it would be more suitable for it to be located facing the newly created park, rather than steal the view of the lakes from the elderlys lving there. As for the facades, I believe that the archtitects have made a right choice here. They relate contextually to the surrounding buildings in a positive way, as well as adding some more modern details, such as the roof areas and also at buildings such as the kindergarden's facade. Furthermore, I am curious to see whether or not the newly defined park area will actually function as an active recreational area. It is well defined as a space in my oppinion, but I can't see how well defined the expected activities of the park are. It seems to be a bunch of trees with some paving around them and a few benches - you would expect more from such a vital location in my oppinion.

To sum things up, I generally believe that the architects could have had a greater focus on integrating the site actively with the green pathways around the lake, rather than closing the institutional buildings up even more, in order to strictly stick to the context of the area. This is perhaps an example of the result of too strict contextual design. As always, the visualizations of the project are optimistic and light, but I am very sceptic as to the actual outcome due to the highly concentrated density, lack of a variation in public, private and semi-private exterior spaces as well as the lack of views from the rooms. It is naturally hard for me to not be critical towards this project, due to my personal relations and readings of the site as a result of our model workshop, so I am also looking forward to see how the final result works out (but there is a long time till 2018!).

Further reading:
- Entasis Architects
- WITRAZ Architects

- Andy Minchev


After a tiresomely long research assignment (the first half of the Atlas assignment), we finally got a design project! Having not designed anything at all during the entire summer vacation, I was really excited to once again be able to put my creative skills to use. The joy was limited though, since it was only a model workshop that lasted mere two weeks.

The goal of the workshop was primarily to learn more about a method of design through trial and error with concept models. The workshop was done in groups of two, and for this, I joined creative forces with Guru. We were told to basically do as many models as possible and keep trying them out until we get a concept for our site that was right. Secondarily, our goal was to practice working in a larger scale (one that is between local and urban planning). Our site was located directly by the beautiful lake areas of Inner Copenhagen as shown above. 

The existing area on the site is a home for the elderly, and our goal was to redesign the existing slab complex into a more pleasant and vibrant area. Function-wise, the area would remain for the eldery, though with an addition of a kindergarden. Our first thoughts were to (quite obviously) preserve the opportunities for views of the lakes for the elderlys. This was a high priority, though not our primary. Our greatest focus was to open this rather large plot towards the public and allow for cafés and public recreational areas. By planning the site with a somewhat dense city structure, we have tried to create small spaces and passages between the newly created buildings on the plot. We believe that this narrowing of the site will create more spaces for activities and relaxation, as well create a balance between public and semi-public spaces.

Our approach towards achieving this vibrant new area, was firstly by sticking to a contextual design. At first, we took our first steps through mimicing the Copenhagen block structure, which is basically a closed rectanglur structure with a private inner court. We took great efforts in reading the surrounding area, and placed our structures according to the existing trees on the site, pedestrian movement lines, the surrounding road connections, building heights, etc. After having placed our abstractions of the Copenhagen blocks around the site, it still seemed to closed and uninviting. This led os to reverse our perspective on the Copenhagen block, and rather take the qualities of the very diverse inner courtyards of these. By doing this, we ended up with three large buildings (formally in the shape of the Copenhagen block), which were now fragmented into smaller connected structures with different shapes, heights and perhaps even facades. This design strategy creates a sort of city-within-city kind of development, that appeals to the human scale, and also avoids looking like a hospital-like structure (something we also took great measures to avoid!). Finally, our kindergarten was placed in the upper right area of the plot. The kindergarten is a stand-alone building, but it mimics the design language of the elderly home and creates an almost replica-like structure. The area between the kindergarten and the lake opens up as a completely public green area with facilities such as a small football plane and a green belt that connects the lake path to the street on the other side of the plot. All this should be visible on the plan photo above.

The most interesting part of this workshop, was to work with this model-based method. This method is very popular among young Danish architectural firms such as JAJA Architects, Adept Architects, BIG and so on. The model is (and has always been) a very powerful tool during the design process (in my oppinion), but personally, I believe this method has its issues. One thing I noticed very early during the design process, is that the shape and form of the created models is too dominant. It felt like working with shapes rather than context most of the time, and personally, I am against that sort of architecture. As a matter of fact, Guru and I had to stop after the first week and rethink our entire project through a process in which we primarily focused on the context for a start (which is more like our normal design method). This approach led to much more specific concepts and in the end led to our final model. My personal conclusion was quite simply, that thorough study of the site's context in the beginning really pays off, rather than taking a more form-based approach. This is undoubtfully a personal matter, but nevertheless my own oppinion.
As for the crit; the majority of the comments were largely positive towards the result of our work, while our design process was slightly questioned. The latter is without question due to our change of method towards the more contextual one, but since the result was welcomed very warmly, I am quite satisfied with our choice of sticking to our own methods.

P.S. This site has an actual competition that is completed at this point of time. The result of the winning proposal is expected to be made public within the coming few months, so it will be very interesting to see which group in the class came closest to the winning proposal (if any). I'll post about this in the future.

- Andy Minchev


Christopher Nolan's Inception is one of my favourite movies when it comes to the science fiction genre. It is a prime example of Nolan's mastery in the art of creating suspense and action, while also creating a complex and at times mysterious storyline for the viewers. The twists and turns of the plot, as well as the countless symbolic and secret details in the movie make it in my oppinion, a modern science fiction classic, which despite delivering massive action scenes for the masses, also challenges the more demanding viewer with a complexity that is otherwise rare in contemporary mainstream Hollywood productions. 

Having said the above the, there is also a down-side to the otherwise great movie. The limbo architecture. Now for those who haven't seen the movie yet, I'll try to sum the specific scenario up. The protagonist and his wife spend years in a so-called limbo world, where they live a lifetime together and create their own dream world. It is their creation that troubles me. The above picture illustrates the result. Endless rows of near-identical, modernist skyscrapers. Now why, oh WHY couldn't they think of something more... Well... Anything more humane?! The protagonist, Cobb, was an architect before embarking on his career as a dream-thief, and assuming that the story in the movie takes place in the early 21st century, I just can't accept the fact that Mr. Cobb and his wife, Mal, are still followers of the early modernistic movement at this point of time. As a matter of fact, their limbo world seems to resemble an endless version of Le Corbusier's infamous Plan Voisin as illustrated below.

Many people still discuss the ending of the movie, but my greatest personal mystery is why Christopher Nolan chose to make the limbo world into a modernistic dystopia. Was it really an aesthetic detail that would illustrate the married couple's idea of utopia, or rather another of his symbolic messages - perhaps one that rather illustrates a certain meaninglessness and artificialness of their dreamworld. Like a certain ending of a certain movie, I'll leave this post unfinished as a tribute to the mysterious nature of Inception

Further reading:
- Inception Wiki

- Andy Minchev


Having made a short visit to Jakriborg on the way to Lund, I later arrived at my destination and atlas workshop site. In this post, I have directly copied the text from my analysis, since I believe it explains my thoughts and oppinions of the area quite clearly as it is.

Lund University's Faculty of Engineering is located in the north-western part of the Swedish college town of Lund. It was founded in 1961 and was planned after functionalist principles. The faculty consists of two large building complexes, which are designed to be dense on the vertical plane in order to take up little space of their site and thereby leave space for an open landscape. The open landscape created from the dense building has allowed for the creation of a park area west from the building complex and car-parking areas in the easr. In this case, the complex acts as a buffer zone between the pedestrian paths on the western side of the faculty and the motorized traffic on the eastern side. This buffer effect allos walking and cycling students to move freely and unbothered by the vehicles on the western side, while the motorized vehicles can move with greater ease on the eastern side.

Dense building was a way of planning that was typical for the time. This was done in order to use as little land of a site as possible in order to create large, open natural areas where inhabitants, visitors and workers could take walks and enjoy fresh, clean air. Such urban planning was a reaction to the often highly polluted and unsanitary European old-city areas during the time after the Second World War.

Despite the positive effect of creating harmony in the local traffic and a green belt for pedestrians and cyclists, the consequences of such planning are too great to justify the benefits. This is because of the enormous non-pedestrian, car-parking areas that would end up dominating the landscape of the site as a result of the planning ideologies of the time. The site as a whole illustrates how highly prioritized motorized vehicles were in urban planning during the first decades that followed the Second World War and the immeasurable landscape that was sacrificed in order to maintain this urban planning idealogy.

To make a comparison to the previous post about Helge's Jakriborg, my site is quite the opposite. It is a classic example of rationalistic architecture, where the different functions of the complex are divided in different zones and where motorized vehicles are a great priority compared to pedestrian recreational areas. I believe this should sum things up. It's been interesting to focus intensively on two different sites and their idealogies and create a comparison between the two. With all currently 34 students in my class having made such analysis of different sites throughout the Øresund region, we've taken our first step towards our contribution to the Copenhagen atlas. The 34 different sites are indeed greatly different from one another and paint a rather eye-opening picture of how different urban planning can be both historically and ideologically. Since we are currently still working on the next step of the atlas project, there are yet more updates on the atlas workshop to come in the near future.

- Andy Minchev