Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Stockholms Stadsbibliotek

I have seen it at last! The great Gunner Asplund's creation in Stockholm: Stockholms Stadsbibliotek. It was great remembering aspects of what professor Chan taught us in Modern Architecture history and actually "experiencing" the form.

For the non-architect readers, the Stockholms Stadsbibliotek is a rotunda library, finished in the early 30s, so pre modern era for architecture. So upon going there, one notices the simplicity of the form (a rotunda on a square platform), as well as the toned down details and patterns (seen in bah relief with simple pictorial detail and geometrical form patters on floor and shelving units). The materials are primarily brick exterior, steel and concrete structure.

Located in Northwest Stockholm, by Stockholm University's campus, the library is situated in a very vibrant, diverse setting with its proximity to public transit and green area.

I would suggest getting off the metro stop at Odengatan (top left) and walking a few blocks instead of taking the R├ądmansgatan (bottom right) stop. Both streets are busy but the Odengatan is more vibrant, with plenty of venues of outdoor seating. Most importantly, the journey to the library is more poetic coming from the angled street rather than just a straight street view.

The library has an openspace for outdoor restaurant & vendors during nice weather.

When its nice out (like when I went), there are a diverse mix of locals & visitors, but being that its a college based area, a lot of students with backpacks can be seen.

In my case, I got a few cat calls from some American students that appeared to not realize that I speak English (I suppose I can look a bit ambiguous at times)...luckily I played along and pretended not to know English.

Exterior views:

interior views:

this is the central room, with books sectioned off in different languages. The center has the information desk, computer stations, and sitting area (where I sat and sketched).

I think a few people stopped me to tell me not to take pictures. Since we could not understand each other, I see no issues posting these up.

Here is a typical wing.
Below is a detail from an entrance.


This is a diagram of the rotunda
set in rectangles with the axis
of sections determined by subjects

The elevational sketch shows the main proportions of the building, the first lower "half" carrying three levels of open shelves book and the upper half for windows & light creating grandiosity. This is the best space in this library: it serves as an atrium, a spot for socializing, studying/etc. In essence, similar to the outdoor social culture here where numerous type of gatherings take place in one big square, the rotunda form gives opporunity for a diverse mix of actitivies to take place in the center.

In retrospect, one major element I wish I did check out is the water on the southside. Since I'm here for a while, next time?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Absolut Ice Bar

This being my second summer in Scandinavia, I had to swallow my pride and give into my curiosity to go to one of the hottest tourist attractions: Absolut Ice bar in Stockholm, located in the Nordic Ice Hotel.

Ice Glass...yes it starts melting as you drink.

Of course, its fun for anyone going through town no matter what age. Its entertaining and charming, with just about everything being made of clear ice blocks, from the walls, furniture, AND accessories. I head the ice is harvested from Torne River on the border between Sweden and Finland (basically the arctic circle), where the Nordic Ice Hotel is (temporary hotel made of ice and snow).

Ice bucket made of clear ice block

Bar furniture


The bar is kept at a temperature of 5 celcius, so they give you a cape and gloves to wear. I was under the impression that they give you boots as well (atleas the one in Copenhagen), but in Stockholm, this is not the case. So if you ever plan on going, don't be like me and wear heels because you will be COLD.

With a entrance fee of 20 bucks, you get to stay there an unlimited time, and get one absolut vodka drink. I myself had a berry based & summer drink to help me stay warm. What would I ever do without my absolut?

No design is ever perfect, so here are my issues with it: the design for the bar seems like it was an afterthought after the hotel was already built, while its form should've been incorporated within. the form could've (and should've) been something more organic in nature with more variations in the ceiling other than a flat run of the mill one. I know, I know, budgetary constraint...even then, one could run with the "ice block" concept and design very bold, straight cubes as a start.

Secondly, they could've paid more close attention to how the ice block walls meet the solid walls of the hotel because from the way it is, its very haphazard. Then there is the issue of how the sprinklers are placed without any sort of creative thought on the ceiling. I guess they figure...cold+alchohol=no one will notice these details. Perhaps I should've drank more?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Lesson #1: Always back up your files & ORGANIZE

As I sit in Stockholm, lamenting over how unorganized my work style led to chaos when my computer crashed last month I came to accept the fact that I will HAVE to back up my files frequently this point forward AND learn to organize my work better even though it feels like a waste of time. If only I had better tendencies to back up my files & organize things in a coherant way that atleast I can remember, my life right now would be so much better (although what I would do in a rainy cold summer day, I'm not sure...but its the concept that I'm talking about).
I don't like to dwell on the past, but in this case, looking back will hopefully help me with better productivity and avoid further crisis situations. For amusement's sake, I'll try to make this entertaining as possible

Where I went wrong:
1. Always relied on my place of work to back up my files:
American Office did spoil me with their frequent backup through the design server, both for the DC office & the designers intra office. Once I quit, there was no AO support to ensure my work is safe.

2. Always relied on my place of work to organize my work flow for me
Yes, from organizing how to file my government & commercial file to how and when to enter my hours, my entire work process was organized for me. I guess I could've retained some of that structure....but what student wants a stuffy corporate process to take over their life? I guess a well organized one!

3. "It could never happen to me" attitude.
I was above it all; I don't download anything unnecessary and thought doing daily spyware checks would ensure my computer never failed. There was no way I would be one of those people whose computer would crash, and they wouldnt know why, let alone lose everything!
Except it did happen, and still might again. Lucky that my friend was able to retain most of my files, otherwise I would've lost about 3 years of my life...

4. Using a PC instead of a Mac.
Yes, I said it. If this is found by a PC manufacturer in the future, here is what I say to you: As a post Mac user, I just simply got spoiled and started to expect same sort of efficiency & security from apple. Its not a an extra task with good old apple to take care of spyware. In addition, the interface is so much more user friendly, especially for a non-so-tech-savvy-designer. And, for the record, I switched to PC not primarily for the lower cost, but at the time of the switch, mac did not have a stable foundation to use CAD based program. Will I use a PC again? probably. Will my next computer purchase be a Mac? DEFINETELY.

5. Not checking my system requirements before downloading programs.
This very well could've been the cause of of my computer crashing. But as the computer industry is moving towards a 64bit, it is very imperitive for a 32 bit system like mine to make sure all the requirements for new downloads are met. I know, its hard to think you're computer's aging...either keep upgrading or becareful.