Architecture | Monocle

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Essential material: Copper by Aurubis


Scandinavian architecture is known for its clean lines and use of wood, yet one of the region’s most characteristic materials is copper; designers have been using it since at least the 13th century.

Today some of the best architectural copper products come from Pori on Finland’s west coast. By the banks of the Kokemäenjoki River, German-owned Aurubis operates its copper foundry and rolling mill where raw materials are rolled and pressed into copper sheets.

Aurubis produces more than one million tonnes of these copper products each year. During the past 20 years it has been developing its own line of factory-applied surface treatments to take advantage of the way that copper ages. Exposure to the atmosphere causes its surface to darken to a chocolate-brown colour and eventually a distinctive green, favoured by designers.

Three projects with copper

Lahti Travel Centre, Lahti, Finland
For this travel centre, architecture firm jkmm concealed lights behind perforated copper cladding.

The Goldfish, Hamburg
Metallic scales with a brass finish cover the curved corners of this office block that was designed by Trapez Architektur.

Adelaide Oval, Australia
For the redevelopment of this iconic sport stadium, the architects chose bronze-finish copper inside and out.

Bremen has it in the bank

To blend with Bremen’s historic district, Caruso St John’s overhaul of the offices of Bremer Landesbank borrows from north European traditions. Elaborate brickwork is used for the building’s ornamented façade and the structure follows the steep Gothic lines of the town hall and the city’s cathedral. As an international architecture practice, Caruso St John is known for sensitive interventions that are respectful of historic buildings; this project adds to those solid foundations.

Native art

by Nolan Giles

It’s a brave designer who travels beyond their borders to grow their practice but it’s an equally courageous one who dedicates all of their creative brilliance to just one place. Typing “sense of place” into Google generates 30 million results yet the meaning of actually creating it only hit home as I sifted through jars of Portuguese sand, soil and rocks at the materials library of Porto-based architecture firm Skrei this month.

In an industry that has ground the notion of localisation into hyperbolic dust, Skrei is generating an architectural expertise in northern Portugal that is hyper-sensitive to the region. It’s a rigorous approach that receives little attention from the outside world but one that affords clients tremendous benefits. Skrei’s earthen-walled wineries, for example, naturally maintain a steady temperature despite the changeable climate. They’re simple enough structures but ones that could only be developed after years of literal on-the-ground research.

My respect for this hands-on attitude was solidified in the Swiss Alps where I met Gion Caminada, an architect with talent to rival his more famous compatriots. While Peter Zumthor and Jacques Herzog have shaped the global architectural map, Caminada has been methodically refreshing the vernacular of his hometown of Vrin (population: 250-ish). His intimate knowledge of the place is reflected in everything from timber cow barns to the mortuary. Caminada says the only real purpose of history is to be used in the moment in which he is working. In Vrin this wisdom radiates across structures that faithfully address their users’ needs while forming a natural connection to their surroundings.

While it’s easy to admire the boundary-breaking work of design-industry titans let’s not forget its hermits, meticulously forging work that advances from the past while remaining true to its place.

Let’s fix: The Cahill Expressway


The problem?
Constructed in 1958, the Cahill Expressway was designed to connect Sydney’s eastern communities with its northern neighbours over the Harbour Bridge. Its purpose has been fulfilled but its appearance is tarnishing the city’s image.

What went wrong?
It was not designed to service the city’s growth and six decades on it is traffic-clogged during peak hours. Plus, its positioning hampers pedestrian access within the tourist precinct.

Monocle fix.
Russell Olsson of Olsson & Associates says land reclamation on the harbour front could create more room for pedestrians and that the expressway itself could be removed. A more realistic option is favoured by Sacha Coles, director of Aspect Studios. “Keep the existing infrastructure and build on top of it,” he says, proposing that the new area include pedestrian and cycle ways to connect Sydney’s touristy quarters with its vibrant inner-city suburbs.

Studio profile

Barcelona — Maio

Maio is a multidisciplinary studio that’s masquerading as an architecture practice, bringing together 14 individuals with very different yet complementary skills. Sure, Maria Charneco, Alfredo Lérida, Guillermo López and Anna Puigjaner are all architects but they founded the company in 2011 with the aim of gathering interioristas, landscapers, graphic designers, surveyors and engineers under one roof to collaborate on all manner of projects.

Their office is the epitome of their approach, an open-plan space of interior and exterior rooms that reaches many metres back from an unassuming frontage in the Catalan neighbourhood of Gracia. “The office is based on how we work; we like to collaborate with people so we developed an open structure. We wanted the office to reflect that,” says Puigjaner. It took three years to find and renovate the building and the most important stipulation was to make sure there was space for a 12.5-metre-long table that could seat everyone.

Since inception Maio’s projects have ranged from public commissions and private residences to artistic interventions. The studio delivered the keys to its most recent and ambitious project in January; it is set in the heart of the city’s central residential neighbourhood of Eixample. The nine-storey block of flats with roof terrace, communal garden and open-air reception is a rare addition to the city’s established stock of apartment buildings.

“We won because of the flexibility of the space and our respect for the traditional apartment typologies,” says Charneco.

Notable projects

A display system was developed for the exhibition Species Of Spaces at the Macba gallery – and was in itself included in the curator’s list of works.

Lighting grid:
A modular lighting grid commissioned by Barcelona city hall, designed to change in consultation with residents.

Arper: The Italian firm approached Maio to develop its exhibition space for this year’s Milan Salone on the strength of its office design, in which the company had shot a catalogue.

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