Saturday, 28 April 2012


"Look at that! How incredibly beautiful! Oh my! I'm not that used to having cherry trees around, you know." - Johanne, ecstatically discovering the blossoming cherry trees at St. Olavs plass, Oslo. I love spring.

Friday, 27 April 2012


And you thought that skewed and twisted building parts were only for silly deconstructivists and 'Harry Potter' set designers? Well, you were wrong!

The witch window is an otherwise normal (usually sash, sometimes casement) window, including millwork and the whole shebang, but tilted to follow the pitch of the roof of a gabled house. It originates in Vermont, USA, and is installed in houses where there is a gap between the main volume, and a smaller addition with the same roof pitch.

This allows for the use of full-size windows, letting in a lot of light, and also means that you don't have to order custom windows for getting light and air (and a view and a means communication and all the other things a window does) into your attic room, in a climate where dormer windows are hard to maintain, lead to heat loss and are susceptible to leakages.

Sometimes, the weatherboarding on the wall around the window will follow the same direction, making it look even more absurd and ignorant of the direction of gravity.

The name allegedly comes from the belief that witches can't fly their brooms through these windows, but could also come from the fact a window like this is a real b*tch/witch to open.

From an online comment discussion on an article about witch windows:

"3. Fran
      Aug 26th, 2010, at 8.51 am

Now how in the world would you hang a curtain over those things?

4. Matt
   Aug 26th, 2010 at 10.35 am

"Now how in the world would you hang a curtain over those things?"

With witchcraft of course.

5. ernest
    Aug 26th, 2010 at 4.46 pm

Witch windows, really piss me off."

Thursday, 26 April 2012


Sometimes, it's just the appropriate word to say.

"and even if my house falls down now"

The sugarcoatedly cute and colourful music video for this song, released January 2001, must have made preservationists out of many a pop-loving teenager back then. (I mean, couldn't they at least have moved the house instead of tearing it down?)

Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Having been a fan of natural materials since forever, I instantly fell in love with this product, designed by Rainer Spehl and Ucon, when I discovered it online recently. There's also a version in a natural oak colour, available for purchase at at unknown price on his homepage. Anyways,  I want one! Maybe I'll just try and build something like it myself.

Monday, 23 April 2012


My sister and I went swimming yesterday!

In 1915, architect Harald Aars won the competition for the design of a new public bath in the neighbourhood in Oslo called Bislett. Construction of the brick-walled, concrete-floored building was completed in 1920, and it's still in full use.

The facility was considered to be among the most modern and advanced in Scandinavia at the time, and  the "Classicism meets Nordic New Baroque"-architecture suggests a temple of health and natural well-being for the whole population, for whom bathing was considered a privilege at the time, but also necessary to combat diseases, and to provide exercise and "strengthening of the body". For an illustration of the Norwegian people, pay notice to my sister, standing in front of the car in the above picture.

The whole building, including sculptor Anders Svor's statue "After the Bath" outside the main entrance, is protected by the strictest Norwegian preservation laws, called "fredning". (Sorry about the Coca-Cola logo being included in the picture; I don't even like that company, as they're mean to Indian farmers.) It was owned by the municipality of Oslo until 2005, when the right-wing city government sold it off at a loss. It is now owned by a famous Norwegian investor, and is well-managed by friendly people. The alterations done to modernize, however, are crudely done and aesthetically offensive and/or uninteresting. The investor, Olav Thon, is known for not caring too much about old buildings and sabotaging preservation.

There are several artworks throughout the building, including more statues and stained glass windows. It appears not all of them have titles.

There's also an old clock at one end of the main hall, hand painted and signed "H. I. KNOPH, KRISTIANIA", Christiania/Kristiania being the name of Oslo in the period 1624-1925.

The old changing stalls, seen to the right in this picture, are made from wood and painted pink. They're not currently in use. The railing is made from poured concrete and terrazzo, borrowing its organic lines from the Baroque.

The walls have beautiful ceramic and marble tiles. (I prefer the ceramic ones, as the marble tiles are too shiny, and don't look they were there from the beginning.)

The building also has lots of corners and winding paths and nooks, like this one, just above the entrance. Currently, it is occupied by a chair and an electronic plastic object telling about workout hours. I wonder what the space was used for originally?

The main hall has a glazed ceiling and is lit mainly by natural light, and almost all the other rooms have big windows with opaque glass, admitting generous amounts of sunshine. I also like the slightly absurdly detail of having two clocks, which also underlines the weird symmetry.

Bislet public bath (that's "Bislet bad" in Norwegian) is definitely worth a visit if you're in Oslo, and not too expensive to visit. Apart from the interesting architecture, it also has a pool with a counter-current, a jacuzzi, saunas, yoga classes and nice hot showers.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


Is the wall you're designing flat and boring? A window or door or climbing plant would be out of place? Why not try a niche, like this marble one, to be found in the courtyard of Istabul's Blue Mosque? With the word deriving from Latin nidus, meaning nest, the architectural niche has been around for about 2000 years, and still works as a way to break up monotony, disperse light and shadow in different ways, house books or statues or birds, create a warm and sheltered space in the sun, or just remain empty and, if you're very lucky, once in a while being occupied by cute girls eating turkish delight.
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