What makes architecture “experimental?” This notion is explored in our next Color and Design Trend, "Experimental Dreams." Designs in this realm attempt to address the influences of technology, context and vernaculars on architecture. They garner a strong emotional response and test the limits of adapting unusable structures to create beautiful spaces. These projects challenge conventional and consolidated architectural practices, explore original paths of thought, and develop innovative design tools and methodologies. Below are a few examples of this trend:
Liepaja Thermal Baths
Titled "Balboa Im Viadukt," this latest gym space is the second branch developed for the urban fitness start-up "Balboa" by design practice Helzinskizurich. The project is located in a former industrial district of Zurich-West, below and between the massive stone arches of a still-functioning, railway bridge built in 1894. Just like Balboa itself, Helsinkizurich designed the "Im Viadukt" with an emphasis on urbanity, functionality and authenticity. Below the heavy stone arches, the training area of the ground floor opens up on one side towards a public park and, on the other, onto a street and waste treatment plant. The necessary infrastructure — waiting area, lockers and wardrobes — is located on a raised platform, which opens up towards the ground floor and the park.
Balboa Im Viadukt
Soon you’ll have yet another good reason for visiting southern Norway — having dinner at 5 meters below sea level. Under, designed by Snøhetta, will be Europe’s first, and the world’s largest, underwater restaurant, inspiring patrons and activating all the senses — both physical and intellectual. With its immediate proximity to the forces of nature, the restaurant, which will also function as a research center for marine life, is a tribute to the Norwegian coast and to Lindesnes — to the wild fauna of the sea and rocky coastline of Norway’s southern tip. The level below ground has been designed with sensitive consideration for its geographic context and aquatic neighbors. The sleek, streamlined form of the building is encapsulated in a concrete shell with a coarse surface that invites mussels to cling on. Over time, as the mollusk community densifies, the submerged monolith will become an artificial mussel reef that functions dually to rinse the sea and naturally attract more marine life to its purified waters.
Boldness isn't usually a concept that melds with luxury hotel concepts, but this is absolutely the case of The Mira Hong Kong and its awarded design. Located in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui and overlooking Kowloon Park, it combines urban luxury aesthetic and cutting-edge design. Described as pure, contemporary and effervescent, the interiors take you into another world. Neon lighting and undulating forms populate the lobby, while bold colors and eccentric furniture are in the guest rooms. The indoor pools include LED lighting on the ceiling and luxe materials such as granite and metallics.
The Mira Hong Kong
The Oberholz Mountain Hut restaurant, designed by Peter Pichler Architecture, splits into three gabled volumes that lift off the hillside and face toward different mountains in the area. The main body of the building is embedded into the hillside with just the roof peaking above the surface. As it extends outward, the roof branches into three curved forms that top the volumes below. Large windows front each volume to offer views for dining skiers, while the blackened larch-cladding and pitched shape are intended as a reference to the style of the mountain hut typical to the area. Inside the main restaurant, the spruce wood structure remains exposed. Two curvilinear spines extend down from the roof to form partitions between the dining areas that occupy it.
Oberholtz Mountain Hut
Santa Monica-based studio Steven Christensen Architecture was recently awarded the American Architecture Prize for its winning competition proposal for the Liepaja Thermal Bath and Hotel in Latvia. In an exploration of the role of the dome throughout the architectural history of public baths, the project utilizes dome shapes — both upright and inverted “as a rhizomatic formal and organizational embodiment of a contemporary public that is democratic, horizontally empowered, and increasingly networked." Through these spherical forms, the project aims to create an unorthodox spatial experience. The structure inhabits a regular rectangular footprint extruded four levels, with a series of spherical voids of varying sizes cutting into the concrete volume. With bedrooms lining the south and east sides of the floor plan, the center is a series of circular chambers creating social gathering spaces for both the baths and eating/seating areas.
Liepaja Thermal Baths
All images used with permission