Sunday, July 31, 2011

Abandonment Week (Sunday)

Ok, i know this is a link to a page of links, but you know what?  They're pretty dang amazing.  Click the link to be amazed.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Abandonment Week (Saturday)

Today's photography link comes from German photographer Alexander Rentsch.  His photography of an abandoned infant clinic in Lichtenberg (Berlin) is more than a little bit terrifying.  You can find it on the Behance network at

Friday, July 29, 2011

Abandonment Week (Friday)

   Today's video link comes from Australian television corporation SBS Dateline.  While you can watch the video embedded here on the blog, i recommend you visit the actual video on youtube for a higher resolution (link below video).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Abandonment Week (Thursday)

Today's set of pictures on abandonment comes from megablog Twisted Sifter.  I'm hesitant to link to articles which may not be the original source, but i'm fairly confident this one is legitimate.  On that note, you might notice that i'll never repost an article in its entirety inside this blog -- i know clicking on a link can be a lot of work, but i like to think that preserving intellectual property rights is worth a bit of extra effort.  The picture above was sourced from Wikimedia Commons, however, so i'm completely fine with using it as a teaser.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Abandonment Week (Wednesday)

It's links week, which means new posts EVERY DAY THIS WEEK.  I just made up links week, that's not a real holiday.  Today's link comes from Michigan native James Griffioen, whose "feral houses" project showcases homes in various states of overgrowth.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rojo Partridge Creek

   Last year the architectural firm i work for began several project for the owners of the Rojo Mexican Bistro restaurants.  Most of our work tends to be remodels of restaurants, and our first two Rojo projects were no exception.  The third, however, was a completely new freestanding structure in the Mall at Partridge Creek, which is in Clinton Township, Michigan.  Now that the project is all wrapped up, let's take a look at the design process from start to finish.
All Images Copyright by Author
   The green field there is the future site of the restaurant, along with a few more feet off to the left of the image.  The mall is set quite far back from an extremely busy road by a vast swath of parking lot.  To the credit of the original design, however, many of the businesses in the mall are oriented towards the interior pedestrian courtyard areas, which helps to mitigate the awfulness of all the surrounding asphalt.  Don't take that as an endorsement of malls, though -- i'd much rather see businesses spring up in downtown areas than on cheap plots of open land that promote sprawl and a reliance on our already excessive driving habits.
   If you happen to live in the Detroit area, you might notice that the design for this project is very similar to the Rojo in St. Clair Shores.  That restaurant was a rework of a building constructed in 1906, but the design process happened concurrently, so there are quite a few visual similarities in the exterior.

    Because i've scaled these images for the blog, the scales are no longer accurate.

   A note before you hurt your brain by looking at the following plan: plan north is true south, which is to say the plan is upside down, and the elevation above is actually the west elevation.  I would happily rotate it for you, but then the text would be wrong, and in any case it makes sense since you enter from the north west (bottom right of plan).
   As much as i look at plans, i still find it hard to really conceptualize what i'm looking at without seeing the space or at least getting some guidance, so i'll try to break this down into manageable morsels of architecture. The rightmost rectangle delineates the outdoor seating, and those dotted squares are umbrellas above.  If you visit the site you'll notice we opted for smaller umbrellas than shown, which was partly a time and cost concern, but also the smaller umbrellas fit under the foliage of the nearby trees better.
   Just to the left of the patio is a three-seasons enclosed seating area with large doors to the main interior.  This effectively creates a secondary seating area to the main dining, which is the area just right of the kitchen.  The dark black columns between the bar area and the main dining space mark the line of a visual separation between spaces.  Two steps along this line further separate the areas and place the dining lower in the restaurant.  To avoid a cave-like feeling, a large hidden skylight washes the north wall (the bottom wall) in light.
   Here's four months of construction in four pictures...

   And the final exterior on the north facade.

    The red fabric swags are a recurring theme in the Rojo spaces.  Let me tell you, it is NOT easy to get these things to hang straight.  In the unfortunately washed-out background you can make out a bit of the original mural commissioned for the restaurant.  Painted in the style of Diego Rivera, the mural depicts the farming and processing of the blue agave cactus into tequila.
    I had to search the strangest places to find these old cruisers -- Craigslist and antiques malls ended up coming through for me, though.  Although the top left bike is painted white, during certain times of day you'd swear it was teal.  The hidden skylight plays funny tricks on the brain, especially with the bright pink backdrop.
    Getting closer to completion here.  Tables and chairs are out, the health inspection passed, and the boxed up kitchenware has been trundled off to the back.  There's only one more picture to go before opening...
   My fingers were calloused beyond belief twisting up all the wire cages for these tequila bottles.  While i constructed this piece, the design (like most everything that goes through our office) belongs to my boss.  I've never been here late enough to see it lit up from below, but i imagine it's much more dramatic than this picture shows.
   That's all for this week!  Check back next Tuesday for more architecture.  If you've been to this Rojo, please comment what you thought of it!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Beating the Summer Heat

   Most of the U.S. is basking in yet another summer heat wave, so this week we'll take a look at some ways to stay cool and maybe even save some money.  Now, any hack writer could tell you to drink plenty of water and close your blinds on the sunny side of your house, but here at F/stop Architectural i like to think my readers are a little bit smarter than that.  Depending on your living situation, some of these suggestions might not apply to you, but hopefully they'll get you thinking.

  1.  Paint your roof white.
   I wanted to post a picture for each of these ideas, but i'm confident you can figure this one out.  If you've forgotten what color white is, glance at one of the blank areas of this blog.  Steven Chu, the Nobel laureate and current Secretary of Energy, who i mentioned previously in the post about nuclear power, said in a meeting in London a few years back that painting roofs white could save 10-15% on your air conditioning's electricity.  It also would help combat global warming, not only because of the energy savings, but because the white color reflects more solar energy back into space which would otherwise be absorbed by the earth.
   Applying this strategy commercially would also help create jobs -- an idea which New York's mayor Micheal Bloomberg hasn't overlooked.  Last year he started a program which has painted at least a million square feet of rooftop.  That's a nice round number, isn't it?  New York City has approximately 13 billion square feet of ground space, though, so a lot more could be done.  Admittedly some of that is parks and roads; the parks are fine, but all that pavement isn't helping (concrete is preferable to asphalt, though both contribute a significant toxic load on the environment).
   Painting shingles is another issue.  You can buy specially formulated roof paint which is designed to withstand the heat of a roof, but make sure you understand that after a few years the original color of your roof will begin to show through.  That's not the fault of the paint, shingles just shed, usually into your gutters, and the paint goes with it.
2.  Install a radiant barrier.
   This is more or less the flip side of jamming towels around your Saran-wrapped windows.  Radiant barriers are surfaces with very low emissivity, which is the inverse of reflectivity, at least for our purposes here.  That is, very shiny surfaces have low emissivity.  The barrier looks a lot like an over sized roll of aluminum foil, and you install it shiny side up inside your attic.
   In some climates and houses, especially humid ones, it can be important to use a perforated barrier so that humidity isn't trapped between the barrier and any insulation.  Because of this and any other potential unknowns, make sure you talk to a professional before attempting this home improvement yourself.
3.  Install a ridge vent on your roof.
   A ridge vent raises slightly the ridge line of your existing shingles and provides a flow of air from your attic to the outdoors.  The negative pressure from the hot air moving out of your house pulls in cooler air from elsewhere outside, assuming you aren't using your AC.  Make sure you've got plenty of insulation on your roof in the winter -- if it's properly installed the ridge vent shouldn't be a burden when it's cold outside.  Improper installation of roof insulation can result in costly ice dams.  Definitely consult a professional on this one, too.

4, 5, & 6.  Trees, Fans and Lights
   Ok, so maybe i'm a little bit of a hack writer, but seriously -- plant some trees on the south face of your house, use a ceiling fan, and turn off your incandescent lights.  Nice big deciduous trees block light in the summer and let it through in the winter, resulting in $100-$250 energy savings per year, in addition to looking pretty.  Ceiling fans can lower the perceived temperature as much as 9 degrees (some architects like to call this field of study psychrometrics, which i've always thought sounds made-up). LEDs give off 90% less heat, and come in better qualities of light than ever before.

More pictures next week, i promise!  Also lots of pictures go through the Facebook page, so hit that like button on the top right of the page!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Future Posts

   Earlier this week i was offered a chance to tour the new Zaha Hadid designed Edythe and Eli Broad Art Museum in downtown East Lansing, MI, which is currently under construction.  Rest assured i'll be bringing along my trusty camera and notepad (those are two separate items, it isn't a camera-pad, although that would be pretty cool), and i'll be sure to share my tour with everyone here.  Look for that mid-September.

  In other news, a good friend of mine from my days as an undergraduate has a project looking for some funding over at Kickstarter.  It's an ambitious project, so take a minute to look it over and consider backing it if it seems like a worthwhile endeavor.  Plus you get neat, unique goodies when you donate.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Three Factory Floors I'd Sleep On

After that last post i thought we might relax a little bit and look at some neat renovation projects.  This one, in downtown San Francisco, used to be the Smitty Knitting Factory.  Remodeled originally in 1998 by Abrams and Milliken, it is once again on the market.  In fact, all of these projects are currently for sale.  I've presented them with the barest minimum of commentary, so you can make up your own mind what you think of them.

75 Lansing St. Unit 3
San Francisco, CA

Vital Stats:
3 Bed
2.5 Bath
~3,100 sq. ft.

All images credit:

208 212 New St.
Philadelphia, PA

This building was once the annex to an 1850s brewery (which is itself now condominiums), and was renovated in 2001.  The price per square foot is barely a quarter that of the previous home.

Vital Stats:
? Bed
1 Bath (2 half)
5825 sq. ft.

333 W. Willis St. Unit 405
Detroit, MI

I had a hard time finding any information on if this was actually a Willys-Overland motors station.  What i do know is that Willys (that's will-is, not will-ees) opened in 1908, and this building was constructed in 1900, so it must have been something else for a decade or two before being the service station.  In any case, it's a condominium now.

Vital Stats:
2 Bed
2 Bath
1,400 sq. ft.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Intern 101

I just noticed a question i posted was featured on Intern101 a few weeks ago -- very cool.  You can check it out by glancing at the links bar to the right, under "Blogs", or by clicking this link.  It's the post titled "Lulu's Mailbag -- How do you find a mentor?"