Big Ideas, Small Buildings: Some of Architecture’s Best, Tiny Projects

Suzuko Yamada, Pillar House, Tokyo, Japan. Image © Iwan Baan/TASCHEN

This post was originally published in The Architectural Review as “Size Doesn’t Matter: Big Ideas for Small Buildings.

Taschen’s latest volume draws together the architectural underdogs that, despite their minute, whimsical forms, are setting bold new trends for design.

When economies falter and construction halts, what happens to architecture? Rather than indulgent, personal projects, the need for small and perfectly formed spaces is becoming an economic necessity, pushing designers to go further with less. In their new volume Small: Architecture Now!, Taschen have drawn together the teahouses, cabins, saunas and dollhouses that set the trends for the small, sensitive and sustainable, with designers ranging from Pritzker Laureate Shigeru Ban to emerging young practices.

REX Designs Conjoined Media Towers with Retractable Facade for Middle East

Two sister Middle Eastern media companies have commissioned REX to design a conjoined headquarters that references traditional Arab iconography. The result, two ultra-thin, stone-clad towers that are shielded from the ’s “unrelenting sun” by an array of retractable sunshades whose shape was inspired by the Arab Mashrabiya pattern. 

Measuring nearly 15 meters in diameter, these sunshades can be quickly deployed, transforming the building’s glass facade into a “blossoming” shaded tower within minutes.

“The headquarters’ instantaneous transformation forges a new kind of powerful iconography, one that rejects the tired—and ephemeral—pursuit of being the tallest,” described .

REX Unveils Details of Five Manhattan West Development

450 West 33rd Street / Rendering of building with completed renovations

Joshua Prince-Ramus of REX, together with Brookfield Properties unveiled today the $200 Million redevelopment of 450 West 33rd Street in . The 1.8 million-square-foot building will be integrated into the Manhattan West Development.

The architectural firm REX designed the redevelopment of Five Manhattan West, including a new pleated façade which will create floor‐to‐ceiling windows on every floor, maximizing daylight penetration while reducing solar gain through geometric ‘self‐shading.’ The interior program includes a redesigned lobby, upgraded and expanded elevators, and enhanced HVAC and other mechanical systems. New retail storefronts will provide a welcoming streetscape. The renovation is expected to be completed in 2016.

More details on the project after the break.

REX Proposes Retractable Facade for ‘Equator Tower’ in Malaysia

REX has been selected as one of five finalists for a 173,000 square meter proposal located near the equator in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Dubbed as the “Equator Tower,” the concept wraps a retractable, PTFE-coated, fiber-reinforced sun shade around a slender 80-story tower, blocking direct sun exposure from all four sides.

Material Inspiration: 10 Projects Inspired by Metal

To celebrate the launch of ArchDaily Materials, our new product catalog, we’ve rounded up 10 awesome projects from around the world that were inspired by one material: metal. Check out the projects after the break…

Necklace Residence / REX

Courtesy of Luxigon

REX has just released their winning competition design for a unique residential competition: a private residence for three generations. The estate includes the parents’ home, four children’s homes, event space, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, gym, spa, library, study, home cinema, and performance space.

Ten Firms Shortlisted to Renovate Mies’ MLK Jr. Memorial Library in D.C.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library / Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Image © Flickr user Elvert Barnes

In August, we reported a Request for Qualifications for the renovation of Mies van der Rohe’s Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Memorial Library in Washington D.C. - Mies’ only library and the only building in D.C. A few days ago, the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL) narrowed down the list of potential firms from 26 to 10 and revealed that it was looking for community input on the library’s future spaces and services.

The ten firms that made the cut are:

Four Teams Shortlisted to Design New Central Library in Calgary

Site Image via

Four shortlisted teams have been asked to design proposals for a new central library in the Canadian city of . Selected from 38 submissions, the competing teams of local and international architects will harness the power of platemaking to envision a 280,000 square-foot “landmark” for the East Village . The four shortlisted teams include:

Yongsan International Business District ‘Project 6′ / REX

© Luxigon

YIBD ‘Project R6’, designed by REX, is an urban boutique residence for short-term business people, young urban professionals, and foreign residents in Seoul, . To meet the trends of its users and compensate for its small unit size, R6 must engender a strong sense of community and its residences must be highly attractive, providing generous views, daylight, and cross-ventilation. Maximizing daylight and cross-ventilation are also paramount to providing a highly sustainable residence. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Yongsan International Business District / REX

© Luxigon

Architect: REX
Location: Seoul,
Built Area: 115,500 sqm (1,240,000 sqf)
Completion year: 2016
Program: 47,800 sqm of luxury housing for short-term residents, 27,000 sqm of retail, and 929 parking stalls
Renderings: Luxigon and Rex

CLC & MSFL Towers / REX

© Luxigon

REX shared with us their proposal for two of China’s major financial institutions, CLC and MSFL, which chose to consolidate their new headquarters on a single site within ’s CDB. Although the planning regulations permit tall buildings on the site, the maximum allowable building area and the proposed combination of offices and retail seemingly dictate a perfunctory tower-and-plinth scheme. Instead, CLC’s and MSFL’s offices are organized into two highly efficient blocks with: an ideal 9 meter distance between core and façade; an entirely flexible, column-free plan; the largest floor area allowed by code and urban design requirements; and an efficiency ratio of 80%. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre / REX | OMA

2599_2_20 Wyly Exterior

Architects: REX | OMA
Location: Dallas, USA
Key Personnel: Joshua Prince-Ramus (Partner-in-Charge) and Rem Koolhaas, with Erez Ella, Vincent Bandy, Vanessa Kassabian, Tim Archambault
Executive Architect: Kendall/Heaton Associates
Client: The AT&T Performing Arts Center
Consultants: Cosentini, DHV, Donnell, Front, HKA, Magnusson Klemencic, McCarthy, McGuire, Pielow Fair, Plus Group, Quinze & Milan, Theatre Projects, Tillotson Design, Transsolar, 2×4
MEP/FP Design Engineer: Transsolar Energietechnik, Germany
MEP/FP Engineer of Record: Cosentini Associates,
Structural Engineer of Record: Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Seattle
Theatre Design: Theatre Projects Consultants, Connecticut
Acoustics: Dorsserblesgraaf, Netherlands
ADA: McGuire Associates, Massachusetts
Construction Management: McCarthy Construction
Cost: Donnell Consultants, Florida
Facades: Front, New York
Furniture: Quinze & Milan, Kortrijk Belgium
Graphics/Wayfinding: 2 x 4, New York
Life Safety: Pielow Fair, Seattle
Lighting: Tillotson Design Associates, New York
Vertical Transport: HKA, California
Project Area: 7,700 sqm
Project year: 2006-2009
Photographs: Iwan Baan, Tim Hursley, Jeffrey Buehner

2370_2_Wyly - view from terrace 2598_2_18 Wyly Exterior 2602_2_25 Wyly - Performance Hall

Architecture City Guide: Dallas

is hosting both the Super Bowl this coming Sunday and this weeks Architecture City Guide!  If you are heading there for the big game be sure to take a look at our list of buildings featured after the break.  We want to hear from you, so take a minute to add your favorite can’t miss buildings in in our comment section below.

The Architecture City Guide: Dallas list and corresponding map after the break!

Museum Plaza update / REX

© Luxigon

Like many large scale projects around the country, REX’s Museum Plaza, in the city of , , had just broken ground and had given light to many dreams for the downtown community when the nation’s financial crisis hit the city. Needless to say, financing came to a standstill and funding for the towers the city had been hoping for was no longer an option. Their current construction loan of $140.5 million, city contributions, bonds and funds already put forth by the team was not enough to proceed in their construction efforts until positive news came their way at the turn of the month. More images and description after the break.

Songdo Landmark City Block A4 / REX


© Luxigon

Architect: REX
Location: ,
Client: Songdo Landmark City (SLC)
Program: Residential towers with a total of approximately 2,000 units, community facilities, retail, and underground parking
Area: 342,900 sqm
Project Status: Completed Concept Design
Landscape Architect: Bureau Bas Smets
Executive: HYUNDAI Architects & Engineers; SAMOO Architects & Engineers
Key Personel: Adolfo Albaisa, Haviland Argo, E. Sean Bailey, Keith Burns, Nicolas de Courten, Rob Daurio, Jeremiah Joseph, Hui Lee, Katharine Meagher, Clinton Miller, Roberto Otero, Michelle Petersen, Joshua Prince-Ramus, Jacob Reidel, Nikolas Rychen, Tal Schori, Hala Sheikh, Nuo Xu
Consultant: Magnusson Klemencic Associates

Update: V&A at Dundee shortlist designs

© Luxigon - proposal

Last month we shared with you the six designs from the shortlisted group for the future Victoria & Albert Museum in Scotland:

Delugan Meissl Associated ArchitectsKengo Kuma & AssociatesREXSnøhettaSteven Holl ArchitectsSutherland Hussey Architects

The six designs are now on exhibition at the library of Abertay University on Bell Street in Dundee until November 4th.

We now have more photographs and a short description of each proposal plus a video after the break.

Vakko Headquarters and Power Media Center / REX

© Iwan Baan

Last year we presented you this interesting project by REX during its construction stage, where you could see how an unused structure was converted into the new headquarters for Vakko, integrated with a new complex steel structure. The project is now completed, and we can see the final result with photos by Iwan Baan and a complete set of drawings and diagrams courtesy of REX.

Despite the mix of the existing concrete structure with the new additions and the complex inner core (dubbed the “showcase”), the exterior of the building is read as a whole. The structural “X” of the panels on the facade break the monotony of the box on the outside, contrasting with the mirror like finish of the volume on top.

© Iwan Baan

The “showcase” fills the central void with a mirror finish that turns the volume into a sculpture (as seen on the photos and on the showcase elevations below), while housing different programs that benefit from the arrange of the boxes, such as the auditorium, meeting rooms and showrooms.

REX once again shows innovative structural solutions in relation with the program, together with new uses of materials as we previously saw on the Wyly Theatre in Dallas.

After the break, the architect’s description:

Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Clientes: Vakko and Power Media
Architect: REX
Key personnel: Erez Ella, Tomas Janka, Mathias Madaus, David Menicovich, Tsuyoshi Nakamoto, Joshua Prince-Ramus, Ishtiaq Rafiuddin, Tieliu Wu
Consultants: ARTE, Autoban, Buro Statik, Cedetas, Dora, Eleksis, Front, Gurmen Muhendislik, Lamglass, Norm Tecnic, Say Yapi, STEP, Superpool, Cem Mimarlik
Area: 9,100 sqm (98,000 sqf)
Completion: 2010
Program: Headquarters for a Turkish fashion house—including offices, showrooms, conference rooms, auditorium, museum, and dining hall—as well as the television studios, radio production facilities, and screening rooms of its media sister-company
Photography: REX, Iwan Baan

Joshua Prince Ramus on the Wyly Theatre at TEDx

Joshua Prince Ramus is one of the best architects I’ve meet, and also a very good speaker. I think most of you have already seen his presentation at TED back in 2006, where he presented the Seattle Central Library, a powerful talk on which he talked about the role of the architects in the process, as an editing/team approach rather than authorship. We interviewed Joshua back in 2008, where we first heard about his position regarding the separation of conception and execution on architecture, as architects became the “artists” leaving the execution to engineers, which can be seen on the first minutes of his talk at TEDx posted above, before explaining how the Wyly Theatre re interpreted the typical theatre programatic configuration.

I like the story about his silver hat, for decorative purposes only… same as architects (here’s a photo of us while visiting his office, reflected on the mentioned hat).

After our interview, we talked a lot about the role of the architect on the production of buildings, the importance of BIM and more… sadly we didn´t record that but I hope we can have a chance to talk to him again soon, and bring you more on that.