Architectural balance: The art of making it look right

Architectural balance: The art of making it look right

One of the main things that stick in the craw of many building design enthusiasts in many modern homes, particularly the infamous McMansions, is the host of bad decisions made in their design and construction. The most glaring of these is architectural balance.

Architectural balance is the art of making both sides of a building appear visually even all throughout. The building, ideally, should have aesthetic unity while remaining visually appealing and generally pleasing to look at. The key issue to avoid is not to make the building look cluttered or uneven, a common design sin in many less-than-stellar executive homes.

While one part can be bigger, it should not appear to overwhelm the other side. Balance is commonly thought to be related to symmetry, but they are not the same thing. While a building whose sides are identical are definitely balanced, so can a structure whose individual parts, while far removed from one another, look visually pleasing due to the harmonious contrast between them.

Balance also requires a bit of variety and regularity to break the monotony without overloading the eyes. Too much detail can be painful to look at, while too little detail can be rather monotonous and plain. As with the apparent bulk of the building, this level of detail needs to be distributed to achieve either symmetry or contrast.

Finally, unless the house was built in a medium-density area, it’s quite likely that balance must be considered on any side worth looking at. Likewise, it may be impossible to achieve balance on all sides of the house, especially when considering the needs of the interior. In those cases, we try to get as close as we can.

Jonathan Bunge here, an architect by profession serving clients in Chicago and the surrounding areas in Illinois. For more on my thoughts on architecture and interior design, check out my blog.

TAGS: architectural balance, architecture, visual appearances, aesthetics,


The year in review: 2016’s most remarkable architecture

It’s always exciting when the year rounds up with amazing new structures from around the world. Here are the most notable architectural masterpieces completed in 2016:

Malmö Live, Sweden, by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects. The canal-side complex that features a concert hall, conference center, and a three-tower hotel was one of the winners of the World Architecture Festival held in November this year. The architects worked around the concept of a small city, and the single structure appears to have a cluster of buildings in different forms.

National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC, by Freelon, Adjaye, Bond/Smith, and Group JJR.. The historic landmark is just a few yards away from the also historical Washington Monument. The 420,000 square-foot structure’s exterior is covered in bronze mesh as a remembrance of the ironwork done by emancipated slaves in the south.

MM House Palma, Spain, by Oliver Hernaiz Architecture Lab. This energy-efficient house which is a cluster of white blocks oriented towards different directions, groups four “programs” in different boxed spaces: kitchen, living and dining, main bedroom, and guest bedrooms. Each box can rotate on its axis so that the different function rooms can comingle or be used separately.

Hi! I’m Jon Bunge from Chicago, Illinois. As an architect, I take inspiration from historical and modern designs. I also enjoy exploring building interiors for ideas since I also work as a part-time interior designer. Subscribe here for more updates on architecture.

Tags: best architecture 2016, award-winning buildings 2016

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Best buildings of 2016 revealed at day one of World Architecture Festival 2016

Four angular white volumes form house in Mallorca by OHLAB

The most influential architects in history

Architecture is everywhere. All over the city, all over the country, there are infinite designs of structures once imagined by architects. And of all these infinite designs, most, if not all, of them are influenced by architects that came from the past. Here are some of the most notable architects who have change architecture forever.

Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho is widely regarded as the revolutionary architect who first used reinforced concrete to make structures beautiful. The Brazilian skyscraper he built, which was completed in 1943 is regarded as the first ever building showing Brazilian modernism. Another astounding achievement of his is the United Nations HQ in New York.

Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí i Cornet is an architect from Catalan who primarily worked during Art Nouveau. But be that as it may, his work shines from other influences including Spanish Late Gothic and Baroque. He broke the barrier set up by modernism. Arguably his most popular work, is the Sagrada Familia, which is one of most famous churches on Earth.

Louis Henri Sullivan is known as the father of modern architecture. His forms are simple. The ornamental details come out from the structure and theme of the projects. Sullivan is credited for creating what the world now knows as the modern skyscraper. Among his most famous works are Chicago’s Auditorium Building, St. Louis’ Wainwright Building, and New York’s Prudential Building.

Jonathan Bunge is an architect based in Chicago, Illinois. For more on architecture, follow this Twitter account.

Reader’s nest: How to use books as a decor

I have seen other designers try to design the perfect library or reader’s nook for their clients. And you must have seen homes where some of the old books were left in the attic only to be destroyed by termites and dust. Instead of letting these books go to waste, why not show them off—in an extraordinary way? Here are some ways to transform books into décor:

1. Use book pages as wallpaper.

Old books that have pages falling out are great for this DIY project. Find an empty wall in the house that you can fill with pages. Or if you can’t put up with chipping paint yet, perhaps this could be a creative way to fill in the gaps.

2. Use books as table legs.

Do you have an old table with unstable legs? Don’t throw it away just yet. Create stacks of unused books that will serve as legs. If you want to make it unmovable, superglue the covers so they won’t fall off one by one.

3. Use books as frames.

Cut a square in the middle of the page (or pages, if you want that layered look), and insert your favorite photos. Let the book stand on a table and now you have a book frame. Just a word of caution: do this only with books that you’re never going to read again.

If the shelves can no longer accommodate all the books you have in your home, perhaps these three projects will help you unclutter and recycle.

Hello there! Thanks for stumbling upon my page. I’m Jon Bunge, an architect from Chicago, Illinois. Let’s keep in touch on Twitter.

Tags: books, home décor, home improvement



Architectural wonders: Some of Chicago’s tallest buildings

Chicago is a home to some of the best architectural geniuses on the planet. With so much creativity condensed in a single locale, it is no surprise that it is also a home to some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. Let’s take a look at a few record-breaking structures.

1. Willis Tower (1,451 feet)

The Willis Tower is often referred to with its original name, the Sears Tower. When it was completed in 1973, it surpassed the World Trade Center to become the tallest building in the world at the time, reigning supreme for about 25 years. To date, it is the 13th tallest building in the world.

2. Trump International Hotel & Tower (1,389 feet)

This tower is named after American tycoon Donald Trump, a billionaire real estate developer and the Republican candidate in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Simply referred to as the “Trump Tower,” the skyscraper is a condominium-hotel that has a total of 92 floors, making it the world’s 14th tallest building.

3. Aon Center (1,136 feet)

The Aon Center building has a total of 83 floors. It is more fondly known as the Standard Oil Building. When it was erected in 1974, it became the world’s tallest marble-clad building, thanks to its sheathing of 43,000 slabs of pure Italian Carrara marble. This is the 6th tallest skyscraper in the United Sates.

4. John Hancock Center (1,128 feet)

The Big John, as it is most popularly referred to, is the 7th tallest building in America and the 38th tallest in the world. It started undergoing construction in 1965, but it was concluded with some renovations in 1995. It has a total of 100 floors, all containing over 700 condominiums, many popular restaurants, and offices.

Jon Bunge of Chicago, Illinois, is a product of the most vibrant architecture industry in America. Know more about his practice by following him on Facebook.

Culture, climate, and history: A look at Caribbean architecture

The Caribbean is known for its pristine sand and clear waters, but a big part of its culture lie in its architecture. The place features a blend of historic and modern architecture, which leave tourists, and even locals, amazed with what they see.

Its architectural identity is considered a melting pot, and is greatly influenced by different groups of people who lived there. The Indigenous people from the Caribbean, mostly of Amerindian descent, lived in oval-shaped huts. These huts also have conical roof made out of grass and palm leaves.

Because some of the islands were controlled by the British for a long time, some buildings feature Jacobean, Victorian, and Georgian designs. African, French, Spanish, and Creole styles can be seen in smaller towns and villages. Buildings influenced by these groups have bright colors and ornamentation.

Hurricanes frequent the Caribbean, which is why a lot of homes feature low and rectangular designs. Even with the mix of cultures, modern architects work on maintaining historical elements while considering environmental factors. Because of heavy rainfall, gable roofs are often found in locals’ homes. Open verandas are commonly seen, too. Other striking features include courtyards that enable residents to move to different rooms under shade; postigos, which provide light and ventilation without having to open the whole door; alfajares or vaulted ceilings; and mamparas or decorative glass panels that allow air to enter between rooms.

I’m Jonathan Bunge from Chicago, Illinois. Check out my Twitter page for the latest on architecture.

Opening up to an open concept design

The U.S. economy is swelling, and the market confidence in housing is going strong. Given these circumstances, the next months could be the most apt time to construct and renovate homes – built in accordance with the specifications and requirements of the homeowner.

A current trend that is fast becoming popular is the open concept design, a layout wherein a home space blends some or all rooms into one.

Having separate rooms is still alluring for many homeowners, but putting down the walls that divide the living room, dining room, and the kitchen is charming as well. For a generation of multitaskers who are tech- and media-driven, this style is rather appealing.

An open floor layout also makes even the littlest space seem larger and brighter. A “big room” is ideal for keeping an eye on or interacting with family and friends while doing other tasks and chores like preparing meals or even working on the computer. It allows residents to enjoy cooking, eating, and watching in just a single space.

Of course, there are challenges that open concept designs face. For example, there is a loss of privacy and wall spaces that could be meant for decorations, storage, and electrical outlets.

Even with the drawbacks, the efficient utilization of space and multifunctional elements make open concept designs a preferred choice of designers and homeowners.

Architect Jonathan Bunge here, from Chicago, Illinois, and designing is my life. To read more about architecture and the current industry trends, visit this blog.

Choosing the right wood finish for your apartment

In terms of wood finishes, interior designers say that no particular rule determines the kind of finish that works for a specific kind of wood. It truly depends on the specific kind of look that the homeowner wishes to achieve. That said, there are still certain considerations to note for each desired look and outcome.

Rub-In Oils: These are pure oils that are rubbed directly in the floor. The oil needs a few minutes to penetrate the wood and then wiped off. The most typical of these types of oils is tung oil and linseed oil. These oils are recommended for darker, richer woods such as oak, cherry, mahogany, and walnut as the cured finish adds warmth to wood surfaces. Linseed oil, in particular, accelerates the patina of the wood and leaves a satiny, natural wood look.

Oil-varnish: These are the most common form of wood finish and are generally used for most wood. Oil-varnishes leave a thin, slightly glossy finish and are easy to apply. They are used more often than rub-in oils because of their versatility and increased durability.

Varnishes: These are considered the most durable of wood finishes. There is also more variety; varnishes can range from satin to glossy. The beauty of varnishes is that it builds over time. That is, multiple coats are suggested for better protection. They are harder to apply but generally last longer. Because of this, they are ideal for wood like teak, cherry, or white oak which need more care and maintenance.

Again in must be noted that there is no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to wood finishes. Homeowners who truly want a personalized look at their wood should consult with their local interior designer.

Jon Bunge of Chicago, Illinois, practices interior design part-time. He writes helpful guides like this and posts them on Facebook.

Fallingwater: Frank Lloyd Wright’s magnum opus

Every day, new buildings are being created, and architecture will continuously evolve without even giving a warning. Some of the most iconic historical architectural designs include the Great Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. However, the contemporary era boasts of great marvels as well. One of them is the Kaufmann Residence, more popularly known as Fallingwater.

Fallingwater was built in Pennsylvania between 1936 and 1939. The house is so remarkable because instead of being erected on solid ground, it was built over a 30-foot waterfall. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, who is often cited my many as America’s most prolific modern architect. He designed it for his clients, the Kaufman family. After being featured on the cover of Time magazine back in 1938, it became famous almost instantaneously. The Fallingwater was even voted as the most important building of the 20th century in a poll done by the American Institute of Architects. Now, it is a National Historic Landmark under the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Understandably, it is considered as Wright’s most important work.

The Kaufmanns, the previous owner of the house, were city dwellers. They lived in an urban area around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but during vacations they loved to go to the mountains where they would hike, swim, and fish. They then turned to Wright to design their vacation home. When he submitted his design to the family, they were nothing short of surprised. He said he wanted the Kaufmanns to live ‘with the waterfalls’ and make it part of their lives, instead of just seeing them once in a blue moon. After a few decades, Edgar Kaufmann Jr. then decided to hand the estate over to the conservancy.

Hello! I’m Jonathan Bunge, an architect from Chicago, Illinois. Like Frank Lloyd Wright, I aim to create my own magnum opus. I hope that happens before I turn 50. See you on Twitter!

The Evidence Room exhibit: Confronting the architecture of Auschwitz

“The Evidence Room” is an exhibit that is featured at this year’s Venice Architectural Biennale. It confronts the architectural design of the gas chamber in the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camps, which was one of the most horrific things that man has ever made.

Conceived by an architect, the exhibit features a steel-mesh column in the middle. Just like everything else in the room, it was painted white. To some, it looks seemingly harmless. However, a couple of decades ago, that very structure was what the Nazis used in order to lower down pellets of Zyklon B poison into the gas chambers. This replica is only one of eight chutes that were used at the time.

Robert Jan van Pelt is the historian that is responsible for reiterating to visitors the significance of the very same steel-mesh column. He is also an expert witness and a leading authority on the construction of the Nazi concentration camps. His testimony is what the artistic director of the biennale, Alejandro Aravena, calls as reversed architectural logic.

According to Director Aravena, Mr. van Pelt has studied the camps extensively to such an extent that it seems he was given the burden of designing the camps themselves. He also added that Mr. van Pelt used his knowledge in order to triumph over the negationism that was the horror of Auschwitz. Mr. Alejandro also wanted the visitors to experience a balance between subtlety and respect, while communicating the unspeakable dread that have transpired within its walls.

My name is Jonathan Bunge. I am an architect based in Chicago, Illinois. For more interesting stories about buildings (old and new), homes, bridges, and other structures, follow me on Twitter.