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Thread: Can modern and 100 year old architecture compliment the other?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian prana's avatar
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    Can modern and 100 year old architecture compliment the other?

    I'm not sure if this correct place for this post, but I'll see what kind of answers come of it before trying elsewhere.

    Basically, I'm looking for opinions on more of the appearance of urban modern architecture (glass, steel, etc) mixing with urban early 20th century architecture (brick, rowhome, etc.) within the same block or series of blocks. I'm specifically looking for 3-6 story projects. Anyone have pictures?

    I'm tight on time, so ask questions and I'll fill in the blanks that I'm leaving in the above post!
    "You can measure the health of a city by the vitality and energy of its streets and public open spaces.”-- William H. Whyte..

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Glass/steel against "historic" brick. Is this what you're looking for?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian b3nr's avatar
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    Of course they can!

    There are plenty of examples of Victorian stone and brick buildings that look great next to their modern counterparts. I'll see if I can dig out any pics.

    In the meantime... try 800 year old and modern, the little yellow building was built about 1420 I think!


  4. #4
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Sure, here is one from Toronto:

    Photo by christopher dewolf from this thread
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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  5. #5
    I don't have a picture of it, but the John Hancock Building next to Trinity Church in Copley Square is a spectacular juxtaposition. (There were lots of problems during construction.)

  6. #6
    maudit anglais
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    The following pictures show a new/old comparison in Montreal, QC. We actually discussed this building a while back and I took some pictures when I was there last November. They're not the greatest, which is why I never posted them until now...






  7. #7
    Here's a link to the Michael Graves-designed Human Building in Louisville from a great angle, showing the existing urban fabric that Graves had to weave Humana into. His solution is elegant and original because he allowed the historic architecture to inform the modern. Not many designers can do that (or even want to do it), and very few can do it as well as Graves did here.

    http://www.city-data.com/picfilesv/picv2253.php

  8. #8
    Cyburbian prana's avatar
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    I had forgotten about the Graves building. That's awesome...a little taller than my site is allowed to go, but still very cool.

    Thanks for the examples. I'll try to dig through some more pics I have to also show what I am looking for. Busy day with a submittal today though.
    "You can measure the health of a city by the vitality and energy of its streets and public open spaces.”-- William H. Whyte..

  9. #9
    Quote Originally posted by prana View post
    I had forgotten about the Graves building. That's awesome...a little taller than my site is allowed to go, but still very cool.

    Thanks for the examples. I'll try to dig through some more pics I have to also show what I am looking for. Busy day with a submittal today though.
    Yeah, the principle mass of the building is taller, but the way he stepped that mass back from the historic buildings, while addressing the street is just great, respectful urban design.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    I think it's a one-way street.

    I've never walked down a street full of Georgian/Palladian buildings and thought "if only there was a mirrored glass, 12-story box on this block..."

    Conversely, if one visits a new development made up entirely of 'modernist' buildings what is striking is the how sterile it all looks.

    I agree that, sometimes, at the right scale, the juxtaposition of old, ornate buildings and 'modernist' buildings can be striking. Given the above observations, though, the question is: what's adding to what?

    Certainly a gothic church adds to a huge, sheer cliff of tempered glass. Does a concrete box or glass box, by its proximity, add much to a Baroque palace?
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  11. #11
    Cyburbian b3nr's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    I think it's a one-way street.
    Given the above observations, though, the question is: what's adding to what?
    They compliement each other, although I might suggest that it is the 'older' building which is generally the irreplaceable and more interesting part of the mix.

    British cities are fantastic for this mixing, partly as a result of WW2 bomb damage, fires and properties simply getting too old and falling down. A street locally has 14th - 17th century buildings, a Georgian theatre, some truly grotesque 60's and 70's concrete blocks, and some 90's post modernist glass and steel junk, all sharing the same street and even the same frontage! Hieghts don't vary all that much, but it makes for a fascinating little walk.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian prana's avatar
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    Well, I still haven't gotten around to posting any pictures of examples I have found, but here is some info on why I asked this question.

    I'm working on a project which is 15 acres of infill. Nothing in Colorado is all that old to begin with, but the neighborhood surrounding is partially 1920's single family homes with a 1910-era "downtown" within a few blocks walk. Our thought on the infill, is a mixed use, nearly 100% LEED sustainable project. We would like to see and have interest in live/work, artist space, entertainment and a boutique hotel, and renewable energy research space. I know, seems like a lot but it is also going to be almost car/street free at ground level and purposely dense. More details as it develops.

    So, as far as the architecture, an idea that we are throwing around is to make any owned livable space more match the neighborhood and downtown architecturally and emulate the early 1900s. Bungalows, brick rowhomes, etc. The more public and business facilties, such as the research lab, hotel and retail spaces will be architecturally more modern, brighter, more glass, etc. The idea being that these spaces will automatically be visually the center of focus.

    With all of that said and this just being random rambling, any more thoughts on mixing these styles when done in a single new project? Can the old look be successfully pulled off without looking "new" and be mixed with the "new" look?
    "You can measure the health of a city by the vitality and energy of its streets and public open spaces.”-- William H. Whyte..

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by prana View post
    I'm working on a project which is 15 acres of infill. Nothing in Colorado is all that old to begin with, but the neighborhood surrounding is partially 1920's single family homes with a 1910-era "downtown" within a few blocks walk.
    Infill? Right there I’m morally “on board”.

    In my experience, most or all 1910s and 1920s buildings in the US range from good to excellent.

    Why did you write “downtown” in brackets? Is it, or isn’t it?

    Quote Originally posted by prana View post
    nearly 100% LEED sustainable project. We would like to see and have interest in live/work, artist space, entertainment and a boutique hotel, and renewable energy research space. I know, seems like a lot but it is also going to be almost car/street free at ground level and purposely dense. More details as it develops.
    Does sustainability take into account the massive, MASSIVE energy saving of re-use of a building vs. tear down and rebuild with newly extracted/processed material??? I wonder.

    I have the impression (but no properly tabulated data) that mixed-use neighbourhoods 9even streets) work, whiel mixed-use individual buildings may ro may not.

    Quote Originally posted by prana View post
    So, as far as the architecture, an idea that we are throwing around is to make any owned livable space more match the neighborhood and downtown architecturally and emulate the early 1900s. Bungalows, brick rowhomes, etc. The more public and business facilties, such as the research lab, hotel and retail spaces will be architecturally more modern, brighter, more glass, etc. The idea being that these spaces will automatically be visually the center of focus.
    Traditional/vernacular architecture can ABSOLUTELY be produced at any time. It WILL look less frayed for a while. That’s inevitable and I would submit that it’s more ‘fake’ to age it than build it spanking new and let it age naturally.

    I don’t see a problem with mixing styles, per se. Might I suggest for the “newer” style buildings something in the spirit of streamline moderne / early Bauhaus? Very sunny without being too impersonal.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

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