Iran Journal: UNESCO places Trans-Iranian Railway on World Heritage List.

South line, Lorestan, Absirom Bridge, Freight Train (photo © Hossein Javadi)

by Ron Bernthal

In summer, 2021, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added the Trans-Iranian Railway to the organization’s World Heritage List during its 44th session.

The Trans-Iranian Railway connects the Caspian Sea in the northeast with the Persian Gulf in the southwest crossing two mountain ranges as well as rivers, highlands, forests and plains, and four different climatic areas.

South line, Lorestan, Absirom Bridge, Freight Train (photo © Hossein Javadi)

Started in 1927 and completed in 1938, the 866 mile-long railway was designed and executed in a successful collaboration between the Iranian government and 43 construction contractors from many countries.

North line, Bon-e Kuh Region, Passenger Train (photo © Hossein Javadi)

The railway is notable for its scale and the engineering works it required to overcome steep routes and other difficulties. Its construction involved extensive mountain cutting in some areas, while the rugged terrain in other areas mandated the construction of 174 large bridges, 186 small bridges and 224 tunnels, including 11 spiral tunnels.

North line, Zarrindasht Mahabad route, Passenger Train (photo © Hossein Javadi)

 the 1394 kilometers long Trans-Iranian Railway was built with a width of 1435mm and 90 working stations along its route. It starts at a point north of Torkaman port located southeast of the Caspian Sea. After going through Sari and Qaem-Shahr cities, the railway enters the mountainous region of Alborz through the high Firooz-kooh Pass which is linked with Tehran and Varamin Plain by numerous bridges and tunnels.

North line, Veresk bridge, Abbas Abad Mountains, Freight Train (photo © Hossein Javadi)

After crossing the flatlands of Qom and Arak, the Trans-Iranian Railway continues through the Zagros highlands in Lorestan Province, passing through a large number of tunnels and bridges before reaching Adimeshk which is located in the low Kuzestan Plain, and continuing to the vicinity of Dezful, Ahwaz, and the railway’s large bridge over the Karun River. The 590-mile Karun is Iran’s longest river.

One of the larger bridges on the Trans-Iranian Railway (photo Tehran Times)

The Trans-Iranian Railway is divided into two branches ending separately at the Khoram-Shahr and Imam-Khomeini ports on the Persian Gulf. Unlike most early railway projects, construction of the Trans-Iranian Railway was funded by national taxes to avoid foreign investment and control. 

France opens for U.S. travelers, here’s what’s new.

Ron Bernthal

France opened its borders to U.S. citizens in early June, 2021, and by the end of June most Covid restrictions were dropped (see graphic at bottom of page). The information below is from the France Tourism Development Agency, also known as Atout France, the organization responsible for promoting France as a tourism destination. For information about visiting France go to Atout France.

La Samaritaine

Samaritaine | Inaugurated June 23, 2021

Another development worth celebrating by Parisians and visitors alike is the opening of what can be called the “new” Samaritaine. It was founded in 1870 by Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise Jaÿ, with a first boutique at the Pont-Neuf. They expanded to include the now landmarked Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings that made the department store so iconic. This shopping & family destination of Paris was purchased in 2001 by luxury powerhouse LVMH. Closed in 2005, the new iteration, overseen by the award winning SANAA Agency, artfully melds contemporary architecture and restoration of the historic buildings and includes a socially diverse component—offices, subsidized housing and a child care center in the ancillary buildings that stretch two blocks between the Quai du Louvre and the Rue de Rivoli. The three main buildings house a department store, food courts and restaurants, and in the Art Deco building facing the Seine River a 72-room Cheval Blanc hote–which is scheduled to open September 7, 2021. An undertaking that would have made its founders proud. For more click here

Hotel de la Marine

Hôtel de la Marine | Inaugurated June 12, 2021

Having postponed its opening to the public from last July, this June,,the Hotel de la Marine is now finally open to the public. It is located on the Place de la Concorde right across the rue Royale from the legendary Hotel de Crillon. The former headquarters of the French Navy from the French Revolution through 2015, the 18th century palace is being restored to showcase the royal and state’s period furniture, tapestries and decorative objects to be displayed in the palace’s ceremonial ball rooms.

Cheval Blanc Paris

The Seine on Show—Cheval Blanc Paris opens on September 7, 2021

Paris, June 21, 2021 — Overlooking the Seine, in the heart of the capital, Cheval Blanc Paris is opening the doors of its urban haven. Contemporary, it embodies the French art de vivre: epicurean pleasures, hospitality for family and friends.

Bathed in light, from intimate hideaways to big city wonders: 72 accommodations — 26 rooms, 46 suites — and 4 restaurants.

Cheval Blanc Paris comes to life thanks to passionate visionaries, artisans and artists. Remodeled by architect Edouard François, the listed building’s décor was reimagined by architect Peter Marino in the style of a Parisian residence, with the help of exceptionally skilled artists and craftsmen. Along with their brigade, Arnaud Donckele, Chef of the gastronomic restaurant, and Maxime Frédéric, Pastry Chef, invite diners to embark on a journey of flavors.

The Dior Spa Cheval Blanc Paris boasts 6 treatment rooms for bespoke rituals, a gently rippling swimming pool and state-of-the-art exercise facilities.

Not forgetting Le Carrousel, an area dedicated to children, celebrating the family spirit that is so dear to the Cheval Blanc Maisons.

Cheval Blanc enjoys striking panoramic views: the Seine, mesmerizing and majestic, is everywhere, its reflection lapping over the terraces and the all-bay-window façade. A haven for all occasions, with attention to every detail provided by women and men of character: Cheval Blanc Paris is more than just a new address. It is a destination.

Bourse de Commerce |Collection Pinault | Inaugurated May 22, 2021

This new contemporary art museum first scheduled to open this January has finally made it’s entrance on the Paris culture scene this May. Designed by architect Tadao Ando, it is housed in the former Commodity Exchange, the Bourse de Commerce |Collection Pinault in the heart of the city. The dome topped building with 3000 square meters of exhibition spaces will host the 10,000-piece Pinault art collection.

The opening exhibition is called “Ouverture” – opening in French and features works from 32 contemporary artists. 

Musee Melies

Musée Méliès | Inaugurated May 19, 2021

Film buffs will be happy to hear that the Musée Méliès (French language only) at the Cinematheque Francaise in Bercy has opened its doors. Named for the pioneer film director and illusionist Georges Melies, the museum will retrace the history of cinema including such themes as the origins of visual effects to today’s most stunning special effects.  

Manufacture de la Mode de Chanel

Manufacture de la Mode de Chanel | 2021

Paris will also welcome to its immediate suburbs an innovative project, The Manufacture de la Mode de Chanel, Northeast of Paris at the Porte d’Aubervilliers. Designed by architect Rudi Ricotti, the building will welcome all luxury crafts in one place, which means workshops of jewelers, bootmakers, embroiderers, glove makers and luxury ready-to-wear brands.

French Regions

Bassin de Lumières, Bordeaux - Dufy
Bassin de Lumieres

Bordeaux | Bassin de Lumières | Re-opened May 19, 2021

You will be happy to hear that Bordeaux’s Bassins de Lumières has just re-opened, a grand digital and immersive exhibition space housed in 4 huge basins of the former WWII submarine base. Its two inaugural are still ongoing: « Gustav Klimt, gold and colour » and « Paul Klee, painting music” running concurrently with “Monet, Renoir, Chagall Journeys Around the Mediterranean” & and on the same theme an exhibit of Nice native “Yves Klein: Infinite Blue.”The neighboring Cité du Vin and recently opened Musée Mer Marine are all a 15mn tram ride from the city’s central Place de la Bourse. 

Les Franciscaines

Deauville | Les Franciscaines | Inaugurated May 12. 2021

After a relatively brief postponement, a new cultural venue has recently opened in the chic seaside resort of Deauville in Normandy. Known for its horse racing, photography and the American Film Festival, Deauville will also be known for Les Franciscaines, an innovative cultural center featuring a museum, media center and auditorium. It will be housed in former buildings used by Franciscan nuns since 1876. Les Franciscaines’ architectural rebirth will meld the historic building with ultra-contemporary elements and interiors. The museum’s collection will include 546 art works donated at his death by figurative painter André Hambourg—all of which were inspired by Deauville’s beautiful coastline known as the Cote Fleurie. An additional 100 paintings from the artist’s personal collection will be permanently exhibited including works from his contemporaries Marie Laurencin, Foujita, Van Dongen, and Derain. The city has also embarked on an aggressive acquisitions program to grow its collection with works by Eugène Boudin, Paul Signac, André Lhôte, Moïse Kissling, Raoul Dufy and others.

Abbaye de Royale Fontevraud

Fontevraud | Modern Art Museum of Fontevraud | Inaugurated May 19, 2021

The 12th century Fontevraud Abbey near Chinon and Saumur in the Atlantic Loire Valley has just welcomed the remarkable, new Modern Art Museum of Fontevraud, which includes the private collection of Martine and Léon Cligman. These 900 works from the 19th and 20th centuries include paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec, Corot, Degas, Delacroix and Soutine, and sculptures by Rodin and Germaine Richier. They will be displayed in the Fannerie, the former stables of the mother abbesses.

Airlines’ First East Coast route in the U.S. between Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and Paris Orly Airport (ORY) launches on July 15, 2021

New York – June 30, 2021 – Starting July 15, 2021, French bee will launch its first East Coast route in the U.S. between Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and Paris Orly Airport (ORY), making French bee the only and most economical non-stop leisure carrier from New York to Paris.

Bringing the global center for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture closer to tri-state residents, the airline will operate three weekly direct flights from Newark Liberty International Airport to Paris-Orly International Airport, increasing to four direct flights weekly in August.

● Starting Price: Fares start at $139 one-way from New York to Paris ● Outbound Flight: Operating on Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays Departure from EWR at 10:55pm with an arrival at ORY the following day at 12:20pm ● Return: Departure from ORY at 6:45pm for an arrival at EWR at 9pm

Air France is first SkyTeam Alliance member to provide transatlantic service at DEN

DENVER – July 2, 2021 – Today, Air France became DEN’s 24th airline and 11th foreign flag carrier with the start of nonstop service to Paris-Charles De Gaulle (CDG) from Denver International Airport (DEN). A Boeing 787-9 aircraft filled with excited passengers departed DEN for the inaugural flight.

“Denver’s international reach continues to grow as Air France’s nonstop flight to Paris marks the 15th international destination to be added at DEN in the last ten years,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “Our ability to attract a new international airline during a pandemic, speaks to the strength of our City and our airport and we are excited to welcome Air France. This flight will not only help connect passengers and businesses to Europe and beyond, but it is expected to create up to 150 new jobs and generate up to $16.5 million for Colorado’s economy.”

Flights are scheduled to operate three days per week through Oct. 29. Air France will join SkyTeam Alliance members Delta and Aeromexico at DEN, marking the first time a SkyTeam Alliance carrier will connect Denver nonstop with Europe.

“The launch of Air France service from Denver, our 12th destination in the U.S., reaffirms our belief that people are eager to travel again and want to do so with an airline committed to the highest standards of safety and service,” said Stéphane Ormand, Vice President and General Manager, USA for Air France KLM. “We look forward to connecting Denver to our global network via Paris- Charles de Gaulle, offering passengers a gateway to close to 200 destinations this summer. We hope travel restrictions in U.S. will also be lifted soon to be able to give tourists from Europe and beyond the opportunity to experience and explore Denver and its surrounding areas. We believe in the potential of this route because of Denver’s dynamic economy and outstanding outdoor recreation which appeals to tourists from around the world.”

Recently, the U.S. was added to the EU’s “green list,” which allows fully vaccinated American travelers to enter without submitting a negative COVID-19 PCR test or going into quarantine. Non-vaccinated American travelers are required to submit a negative COVID-19 PCR test with result taken within 72 hours of departure and they do not have to quarantine.

“Prior to the pandemic, Paris was Denver’s second-largest market in Europe after London and we have no doubt, that as more travel restrictions are lifted, will see an influx of Denverites exploring Paris using this convenient nonstop flight,” said DEN CEO Kim Day. “We also know that travelers from France love to visit our National Parks and outdoor recreation and we are excited to share our beautiful city and region with the world once our borders fully open to European travelers.”

For additional information on Covid regulations concerning travel to France go to the U.S. Embassy and Consultates in France Covid-19 Website.

Banner photo: By Patafisik – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Amsterdam Journal: A new floating residential community is more than just houseboats.

by Ron Bernthal

Schoonschip, a unique floating residential community project in the Buiksloterham district of Amsterdam, is managing to catch the attention of local residents, and many EU residents as well, in a city where canals and houseboats are as common as apartment buildings in New York City. So why the large interest?

Although the project actually began infrastructure and boat construction in 2011, it’s design, location and philosophy have touched a nerve with many folks who really want to live there, and many more who love the idea of a floating community where every resident is concerned about sustainability, climate change, and sharing their public space with like-minded neighbors.

This group of individuals, the initiators of Schoonschip, commissioned the Dutch architectural firm Space&Matter to design a smart urban plan based on their own private and shared dreams about living an almost perfect lifestyle.

Early stage of construction (photo © Jan Willem Sieburgh)

Each resident designed their own floating house, together with an architect of their choice, and therefore the neighborhood has a unique appearance with great diversity of materials, styles and building types. Along with a team of multi-disciplinary consultants and residents, Space&Matter designed the urban plan, which includes a smart jetty connecting each house within the neighborhood, and with the necessary technical infrastructure they need.

Schoonschip consists of 30 water plots. About half the boats are shared by two families, creating 46 unique water dwellings for more than 100 residents. In addition to the overall urban plan, Space&Matter designed two of the floating houses, the last of which will be completed in late 2021.

Graphics above and below ©Schoonschip

“‘Seventy percent of the world is covered in water, and the good thing is that we can easily live on it! Since urban areas struggle with high density, we should make better use of the space on the water. With Schoonschip we want to set the example, and show how living on water can be a great and better alternative for people and our planet.’

Schoonschip is built on a circular community model, which rethinks how we organise our cities, both socially and spatially, to tackle the systemic roots of climate change and create a connected community with strong social values. With decentralised and renewable solutions to water, energy and waste systems, Schoonschip includes solar panels connected to a smart-grid where residents can trade energy, submersed heat exchangers for heating and cooling, and water treatment technologies used to (re)collect energy and nutrients from wastewater.

 Copyright Isabel Nabuurs
 Copyright Isabel Nabuurs

 Copyright Isabel Nabuurs

Above photos © Isabel Nabuurs

Schoonschip is not only sustainable in an ecological sense, but also socially: the residents work closely together to realize and improve their residential area and coordinate their plans. They have agreed to give up their personal cars and instead share electric cars together. The ‘smart jetty’ that connects all houses serves as a pavement and meeting place for the neighbors. Schoonschip demonstrates how circular neighborhoods can be created by residents, taking responsibility of their resource consumption and waste, and working together to achieve local loop closure.

Photos above © Schoonschip

Living on water offers a great solution for places where climate change and a rise in sea levels are a looming hazard, as in Amsterdam and other coastal cities. Housing on water not only protects people against nature, it also protects nature itself. Housing on water can be completely footloose, reversible and has very little impact on nature, especially when combined with smart energy and water-sanitation systems like those deployed within this project. Building on water has other advantages too: houses can be manufactured elsewhere and towed towards their destination, enabling residents to avoid construction noise.

On a small scale, Schoonschip is ready to explore innovative solutions to some of the global challenges that come with the changing climate, including water scarcity and drought, extreme rainfall and flooding, and rising sea levels. It applies simple yet effective innovations which offer not only environmental but social and economic benefits as well. The Schoonschip project has been hailed internationally as a prototype for other floating urban developments, and hopefully this new, floating community will help urban planners to rethink where and how are cities can be designed.

Photo ©Alan Jensen
Photo © Alan Jensen

Schoonschip is open source. VvE Schoonschip aspires to a role as frontrunner and pioneer: a breeding ground for the latest sustainable techniques and solutions. To achieve this, the association cooperates with innovative companies and shares its experiences. “We find it enjoyable and necessary to share the sustainable and social mindset with others and to advance knowledge and skills,” say Schoonschip organizers. “We like to learn from others and everyone is welcome to learn from us. By jointly formulating ambitions and frameworks and offering freedom to residents and architects within those frameworks, a very diverse, creative residential district is created.”

For additional information link here: https//

Photo © Alan Jensen

Bucharest Journal: Rooftop running track is one of many building amenities, says Swedish developer Skanska.

by Ron Bernthal

With new office construction in Romania rapidly increasing throughout the country, developers are competing with their peers by adding more sustainable, healthy and environmentally friendly features to their projects, including tenant amenities like easy access to public transportation, on-site dining venues, and elaborate fitness centers.

Campus 6, Bucharest Romania, exterior view (photo Skanska)

Campus 6, located in the Central-West area of Bucharest, in the proximity of University Politehnica, is one of several office buldings developed by Skanska in Romania. When fully completed Campus 6 will have a total leasable area of 872,000 square-feet consisting of four Class A buildings. The first phase, with eleven stories above ground, and two levels of underground parking, was completed, with Campus 6.3 in 2020 and 6.2 in 2021.

The last two structures were the first office buildings in Romania to earn the WELL Core & Shell certification. Earning a Well Core certification verifies the performance of the building, and communicates to tenants that the company they work for is committed to partnering with them in creating a healthy environment for their employees.

Campus 6.2 and 6.3 also offers the first office rooftop running track in Romania, a beautiful 280 meters-long (920 feet) track that employees are now using. The track stretches across the connected roofs of the Campus 6.2 and 6.3 buildings, at a height of 138 feet above ground. Employees working in these two buildings can enjoy outdoor exercise without leaving their building, or just relax in the specially arranged terrace seating next to the track.

Campus 6 rooftop running track (photo Skanska)

According to Skanska, the company plans on “creating futureproof workplaces with unique placemaking, where workers will enjoy spending their time.” With this Bucharest project they offer a building “for tenants who are looking to expand their business in the coming years, and who are focusing more and more on the well-being of their employees.”

Campus 6 rooftop running track (photo Skanska)

Located at the intersection of two main boulevards, Iuliu Maniu and Vasile Milea, Skanska’s new Campus 6 project benefits from excellent visibility and exposure, having great access to public transportation (a metro station is just across the street, with trams, buses, trolley stations within 150 feet). Proximity to the Basarab highway fly-over also ensures easy connections to the North and Center districts of Bucharest by car.   

Additional Campus 6 amenities include campus-wide high-speed Wi-Fi, co-working green spaces, an amphitheater for hosting small business and social gatherings, restaurants, and self-serve cafeterias with outdoor terraces.

“We are happy to talk about the rooftop running track, an innovative feature that highlights the two buildings on Campus 6,” said Igor Hristenco, Project Manager within the construction division of Skanska CEE in Romania. “The construction of the running track lasted four weeks, and 13 tons of tartan were used in its construction. Although it is a recreational track, the high-quality material used for the surface of the track is certified by the International Association of Athletics Federations.” Tartan Track® is a trademarked, all-weather synthetic track surfacing made of polyurethane used for track and field competitions, and manufactured by 3M. It lets athletes compete in bad weather without serious performance loss and improves their results over other surfaces.

The Visonary is a Skanska-designed building in Prague, opened in 2018 with rooftop running track (photo Maxim Burov)

The rooftop track in Bucharest is not Skanska’s first project of this type. The developer also integrated this kind of tenant amenity in a building in Prague’s, where the 150-meter (492-feet) running track on the roof of the Visionary building opened in 2018. This building was the first administrative building in continental Europe with a running track on the roof.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Bucharest_-The-rooftop-track-the-Visionary-building-Prague-photo-Karel-Burian.jpg
Rootop running tracek at Prague’s Visionary building, first office building in Europe to offer this healthy tenant amenity. (photo Karel Burian)

“People are spending more and more time at work, and so they need a place to escape and let go. That’s why we decided to put a running track on the roof of Prague’s Visionary building,” said Petra Machartová, Skanska Property’s Marketing and Communication Director.

The oval located on the roof of the Visionary building offers a full 360-degree view of the Holešovice district. Showers and terrace seating are also available, and for workers using the track to practice for a half-marathon, that would be about 162 laps around the roof.

Skanska is also creating the same amenity in Budapest, where a running track will be built on the rooftop of the city’s new H2Office building, which started construction in 2020. Other amenities in the building that will appeal to the physical and mental health of the tenant’s include bicycle storage, changing rooms and showers, and electric charging stations that encourage the use of environmentally friendly transport options.


Tom Kundig: New book showcases architect’s global reach in 29 projects.

Cover photo of Tom Kundig: Working Title showing Martin’s Lane Winery, in Kelowna, British Columbia, designed by Tom Kundig (photo Nic Lehoux)

by Ron Bernthal

Like his large body of work, even the title of a new book celebrating the wide-ranging portfolio of American architect Tom Kundig – “Working Title” – is both smart and subtle.

Published in 2020 by Princeton Architectural Press (PAP), Working Title spans 29 recent projects from Mr. Kundig’s work in the U.S., Australia, Costa Rica, Brazil, South Korea, British Columbia, and in his home-base of Seattle.

Kundig’s work, which draws heavily on context and space, both urban and rural, displays his interest in the ways people interact with both built and natural environments. This awareness is present in his designing private residences, as well as his work for larger commercial and cultural structures.

Shinsegae International bulding, Seoul, South Korea, designed by Tom Kundig (photo by Nic Lehoux)

The projects covered in this newest Kundig title by PAP includes residences, hospitality projects, cultural spaces and workplaces, and includes beautiful color photos, plans and sketches. There is great diversity in their locations, as well their purpose, from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture (Seattle) to Martin’s Lane Winery (British Columbia), to a high-performance tower for the South Korean retailer Shinsegae Interational.

Kundig’s use of wood and glass as prominent materials often results in mesmerizing buildings whose purpose is often quite common, but the business function in each is elevated to the highest levels through design. Two examples of this in the book is the new Tillamock Creamery Visitor Centert on the Oregon coast.

Exterior view Tillamock Creamery Visitor Center, designed by Tom Kundig (photo Matthew Milman)

Located adjacent to the company’s manufacturing plant, the new Visitor Center contains exhibits, a retail shop, restaurant, an ice cream counter and a lovely outdoor lawn with grasses and treets native to the Oregon coast.

The use of glass and wood is also seen in Kundig’s lovely and unique Wagner Education Center at the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle, a perfectly designed building for the building’s purpose. It is indicative of most of the projects covered in this large, hardcover book showing how context and space are so important in Kundig’s work.

Wagner Education Center at the Center for Wooden Boats, designed by Tom Kundig. (Photo by Aaron Leitz)

Restoration is also important to Kundig, as seen in a 1931 factory building in Long Island City, NY, which has been occupied since the 1960’s by MrSteam, a company that manufactures steam showers. Keeping many of the original elements of the interior, including original concrete columns, and adding modern touches, like retractable, overhead bifold doors to connnect office spaces, Kundig has transformed the working place into a magnificent display of historic preservation.

MrSteam HQ renovation of 1931-era factory, Long Island City, NY (photo Nicholas Calcott)
View of original concrete columns after renovation at MrSteam factory. (photo Nicholas Calcott)

A Tom Kundig-designed Tree House in Costa Rica, is located within the lush vegetation of the site.

Costa Rica Treehouse, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, designed by Tom Kundig (photo by Nic Lehoux)
Millerton Farmhouse, Millerton, New York, designed by Tom Kundig (photo by Nic Lehoux)

CheckMate Winery tasting venue, prototype of pop-up cabin that can be transported to other sites_ (photo Nic Lehoux)

Be sure not to miss the smallest project in the book, Kundig’s 575 square-foot pop-up wine tasting venue for CheckMate Winery in Oliver, British Columbia. A clever prototype that is sized to fit atop a flatbed truck for easy transport.

Tom Kundig is a principal and owner of Seattle-based Olson Kundig, founded 54 years ago by Kundig’s fellow University of Washington graduate Jim Olson. Kundig is a member of the National Academy of Design, and received the AIA Seattle Gold Medal in 2018.

Tom Kundig – Working Title

ISBN: 978-1-61689-899-1 / 10″ x 12″ / 368 pp / 300 color & b+w photos / Publication Date 2020 / Princeton Architectural Press /

Other Tum Kundig titles: Tom Kundig: Houses (2006); Tom Kundig: Houses 2 (2011); Tom Kundig: Works (2015)

Austin Journal: Nicely designed new stadium for soccer-loving city.

Q2 Stadium opened in June, 2021, as new home for Austin Football Club (FC) Stadium sits 20,500 spectators. (images by Gensler)

by Ron Bernthal

Opened in spring 2021, Austin’s new Q2 Stadium is a modern stadium and soccer park at McKalla Place, in the North Burnet section of North Austin. The Q2 Stadium is Austin’s first major league sports stadium and home to Austin FC, one of Major League Soccer’s professional teams.  

One of the VIP suites at Q2 Stadium. (Gensler)

The $260 million venue rises high above its surroundings in North Austin. Designed by Gensler, one of the world’s largest architectural firms, it was their Gensler Sports division that took the lead with the project. The venue is a soccer-specific stadium built to accommodate about 25,000 spectators. The project will provide the city of Austin with a park and trail accessible to the public year- round.

Exterior view of Q2 Stadium. (Gensler)

Additionally, it will offer space for cultural and community events, local food and beverage options, and other amenities. The new stadium will enhance the area’s North Burnet Gateway Project and will provide another space for entertainment, leisure, and outdoor activities for residents and visitors of Austin, when not being utilized as a world-class, professional soccer venue.

One of the food and beverage venues at Q2 Stadium. (Gensler)

Traffic, sound and light studies were conducted to ensure that the stadium complies with all standards and regulations, including walkability, easy access to public transportation, and environmental considerations.

Rooftop dining venue at Q2 Stadium. (Gensler)

Before Austin FC had a chance to play before their fans in the new stadium, the venue will host a game in mid-June between the U.S. women’s national team and Nigeria’s women’s national team. A capacity crowd is expected for the Q2 Stadium’s debut. Although parking at the new stadium is somewhat limited (only 800 parking spaces are available on-site) fans who live within close proximity to train services will be able to take the CapMetro Red Line directly to the Q2 once CapMetro builds a new train stop next to the stadium in the near future.

Q2 Stadium during evening soccer match. (Gensler)

London Journal: Mixed-use community hub in city’s Westminster district.

The Village Square at 105 Victoria Street (image DBOX)

by Ron Bernthal

The Copenhagen-based architectural firm Henning Larsen, whose urban project, “105 Victoria Street,” is located just a short walk from Buckingham Palace, will contain not just office space, but a reinterpretation of the typical commercial building lobby as an urban plaza.  A menu of indoor and outdoor amenities will enable a more active workday for building tenants and visitors.

After almost two years of flexible, at-home working conditions due to Covid-19, many have questioned the future of commuting to a traditional office building. But while many workers have found success while working from home, others have found that the lack of “adult” activity and social interactions have posed huge challenges to their mental and physical health.

As Henning Larsen’s first project in London, 105 Victoria Street is a prototype for what the active and social office of the future can be. To be located in the heart of Westminster, a vibrant inner borough of London, just a short walk from many of the city’s most well known attractions, the 470,000 square-foot Victoria Street building will not only be a mixed-use office building, but also a community destination with spaces for public forums, dining, retail spaces, cultural events and entertainment.

Trafalga Square, Westminster (photo Ed Parsons)

“Our ambition for this project is to create an active urban destination in the heart of London, a pocket of public space equal in energy and diversity to the city itself,” said Jacob Kurek, Partner-In-Charge at Henning Larsen.

With 105 Victoria Street’s central location and vast pedestrian flow, the project has a unique opportunity to become a popular public destination that enhances the urban setting. Instead of a traditional office lobby and reception area on the ground floor, the company is proposing a covered public plaza, called Village Square, as a large community hall that angles through the ground level, flexibly outfitted with a diverse group of small and large venues that will allow it to adapt for various building and city-wide events.

The Village Square at 105 Victoria Street (image DBOX)

The Village Square is designed to be a vibrant market hall, a natural short- cut through the city where informal get-togethers can take place outside the urban rush on Victoria Street. With the ability to accommodate music events, fashion shows, and art exhibitions, in addition to the traditional food and beverage outlets, retail stores and co-working spaces, the project will expand the definition of what an office entrance is designed for. Supporting opportunities for health and wellness throughout the building were key drivers in the design of the amenity spaces.

Connecting the Village Square with the underground bicycle parking and workshop, gym, and multi-purpose event and conference hall, is a winding staircase and bicycle ramp wrapping around a small pocket of indoor greenery.

Old Bond Street, Westminster (photo Tony Hisgett)

On the 10th floor, a looped indoor and outdoor “walk and talk” track connects a range of amenities and functions with landscaped terraces to enjoy the London skyline and while getting a moment of fresh air.

The Village Square at 105 Victoria Street (image DBOX)

When designing Victoria Street, we thought not just about our goals for a sustainable and active office building, but what stops people from making those healthy choices now,” said Kurek. “By focusing on solving those problems, we are giving agency to the tenants and community around the building.”

The design also takes a macro view of sustainability and is designed to meet BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ standards and reach net zero embodied carbon by 2026, setting a high standard for future development in Westminster and London at large. The rigorous sustainability agenda of 105 Victoria Street takes a holistic view of environmental and human wellness, and the process of microclimate, wind, and acoustic research will create an environment that is as comfortable and healthy as it is energy and resource efficient.

The Village Square at 105 Victoria Street (image DBOX)

The project is being developed by BentallGreenOak on behalf of the Welput Fund and is designed in collaboration with Adamson Associates Architects and KPF. Planning permission has been granted by the Westminster City Council, and construction is expected to begin in August 2022.

New York City Journal: A park along the Hudson will create Manhattan’s first public beach.

Rendering of beach area at Gansevoort Peninsula, proposed for Hudson River Park. (image James Corner Field Operations, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

by Ron Bernthal

New York City’s Hudson River Park Trust has begun construction on Gansevoort Peninsula, a riverfront park designed by the noted landscape firm James Corner Field Operations that will be home to  Manhattan’s first public beach.

Construction began in May, 2021, and the 5.5-acre park, which will also include lawns and sports facilities, is expected to complete by spring 2023. The $70 million project is funded primarily by the City of New
York. “We are thrilled that the Trust is continuing to build on the success of the recently opened and very popular Pier 26 with the redevelopment of Gansevoort Peninsula,” said Deputy Mayor Vicki Been. “The
creative and unique design will add to New York City’s diverse and ever-growing selection of world class parks and community spaces. The City is proud to invest in expanding open spaces for New Yorkers and
moving the Hudson River Park one step closer to completion. Thanks to CEO Madelyn Wils and the talented team at the Trust for the vision and drive it took to get to this milestone!”

Aerial view of Gansevoort Peninsula (image James Corner Field Operations, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

“Gansevoort Peninsula will be a spectacular public space for all New Yorkers, whether they’re enjoying Manhattan’s first public beach, playing on the ballfields or looking out in the salt marsh,” said Madelyn
Wils, President & CEO of the Hudson River Park Trust. “As Hudson River Park moves closer to completion, we are excited to be in position to start construction on one of our signature projects. Thank you to our funding partner, the City of New York, for its support of what will be the
largest single greenspace in Hudson River Park.”

Located in Hudson River Park between Gansevoort Street and Little West 12th Street, Gansevoort Peninsula will be part of Hudson River Park, the nation’s longest riverside park, running for four miles from Chambers Street to 59th St, connecting riverside locations at Green Piers in Tribeca, in the West Village, Meatpacking District, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. 

The Gansevoort Peninsula will include a sandy beach area with kayak access on the south side; a lawn and seating area north of the beach; a large sports field; a salt marsh with habitat enhancements on the north side, a dog run and on its western side, picnic tables and lounge chairs.

The ballpark at Gansevoort Peninsula (image James Corner Field Operations, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

The Whitney Museum of American Art is also building “Day’s End” a monumental sculpture by David Hammons on the southern edge of the Gansevoort Peninsula in partnership with the Hudson River Park Trust. This will be one of the country’s largest public art projects upon completion later this year.  

Pier 26 Tide Deck (image Olin Studio, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

Gansevoort Peninsula is just one of a slew of signature projects either recently opened or underway along the four-mile park. Overall, the Trust is spearheading more than $1 billion in public-private partnerships in ongoing construction toward completion of the Park.

In September, 2020, the Trust opened Pier 26 at the foot of North Moore Street in lower Manhattan, the first new public pier to open in the Park in a decade. The park features a first-of-its-kind tide deck, a sunning lawn, a sports court for children’s play, and multiple lounge areas with sprawling views of the city skyline and Hudson River. The 2.5-acre expanse is the city’s only public pier dedicated to river ecology.

Construction has completed on Little Island, a planned public park and performance space in the Hudson River where the old Pier 54 once stood. Little Island opened to the public in spring, 2021. Planned in partnership with the Hudson River Park Trust, the project was made possible through funding from the Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation along with the City of New York.

Aerial view of Little Island, in New York City’s Hudon River, which opened to the public in spring, 2021. (image Heatherwick Studio, courtesy The Hudson River Park Trust)

Components of the pier, nestled among more than 350 species of flowers, trees and shrubs, include a 687-seat amphitheater and an intimate stage and lawn space, along with dazzling views of other portions of Hudson River Park, New York City and the Hudson River. 

Little Island was designed by Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studio, with landscape design by Signe Nielsen of MNLA. The landscape provides a visually surprising and inspiring experience as visitors walk across the park. The plantings are varied to provide an environment that changes with the seasons, with flowing trees and shrubs, fall foliage and evergreens. More than 66,000 bulbs and 114 trees have been planted, some of which will grow to 60 feet tall. Every day through the end of September, timed entry reservations will be offered every half-hour starting at 12:00 Noon through the remainder of the day. Once you enter the park, there is no time limit to your stay. There is no cost to visit Little Island.

Pier 57 (image !melk landscape architecture & urban design, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

Work is ongoing at Pier 57, a mixed-use development by RXR Realty/Youngwoo and anchored by Google, which will include more than three acres of public open space, including a rooftop park and
perimeter esplanade and substantial indoor public space anchored by exhibition and classroom space for Hudson River Park’s River Project, expected to open in summer 2021 as a popular place for music, dining and relaxing, both indoors and outdoors.

Pier 57 (image !melk landscape architecture & urban design, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

The pier, originally designed by American architect and civil engineer Emil Praeger in the early 1950’s, was the largest dock ever built by the City of New York. Originally constructed in 1952, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, in large part because of the innovative engineering techniques that keep it afloat. Just below the water, three large concrete caissons support the main structure in lieu of traditional piles. Furthermore, these underwater containers serve as unique basement spaces, unlike any other pier.

In 2011, Handel Architects was hired to lead the renovation and restoration of the pier into a new mixed-use destination. Google is leasing 320,000 square-feet of office space, and City Winery is opening two performance venues, including a seated 350-seat concert hall and a smaller 150-capacity loft space. Also included will be a 100-seat capacity restaurant and tasting room and wine production facility. Retail will anchor the ground floor, and, working with !Melk Landscape Architecture, the rooftop is being transformed into an 80,000 sq.ft. public park with a screening venue for the Tribeca Film Festival, panoramic views of Manhattan and New York Harbor, as well as a rooftop pavilion restaurant.

Until 2004, Pier 57 was used for New York City bus parking, but now it is undergoing its final restoration and open all venues in 2021.

Pier 57 (image !melk landscape architecture & urban design, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

Pier 97 (image !melk landscape architecture & urban design, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

At the same time, an exciting expansion of the Clinton Cove Park area is now underway. In November 2018, the Trust hired !melk to undertake the design of Pier 97 as the park’s northernmost public pier. Pier 97 will include a lawn, playground, sunset plaza, and youth soccer fields, along with an esplanade connection to Riverside Park South; and a reconfiguration of Chelsea Waterside Park, which will include a rebuilt ball field, picnic areas and an enlarged ball field, joining the new and popular playground.

Pier 97 (image !melk landscape architecture & urban design, courtesy Hudson River Park Trust)

Pier 97 was built between 1921 and 1934, and then served for decades as the hub for the Swedish America Line. Movie buffs might recognize the façade of the old Pier 97 terminal building from the opening sequence of Taxi Driver.

The project will provide flexible gathering areas, surrounded by flowers and plants, for organized or impromptu events. The pier is also being planned to host a historic vessel on its south side. At the pier entrance, a new building will contain a small concession and public restrooms.

Kolonaki Journal: Yes, stunning design and pain chocolat are quite compatible at new Athens bakery.

by Ron Bernthal

View of product in windows (design: en-route-architecture/photo: Mariana Bisti)

One of the nicest looking bakeries in the world opened in December, 2020, in the city of Athens, Greece. The bakery is not only beautifully designed by the Athens-based firm called en-route-architecture (e-r-a), with designers Katerina Kourkoula and Hannes Livers Gutberlet leading the team, but the pastries and breads taste like they have been highly designed as well.

Window display at Kora bakery (design: en-route-architecture-
photo: Mariana Bisti)

The tasting part comes from Kora Bakery founders Maria Alafouzou and Ianthi Michalaki. Maria is a writer and editor who later became involved in the bakery industry, and Ianthi is an acclaimed pastry chef and baker who has worked in some of the world’s finest restaurants. To understand how truly unique this bakery is here are some of the attributes which the owners claim is important to them:

“We have a goal of becoming a carbon neutral certified business by 2022.”

“We work with Protergia (the Electricity and Natural Gas Unit of MYTILINEOS S.A., the largest independent electricity producer company in Greece) to ensure that all of our machinery runs on electricity from renewable resources.”

“We practice low waste initiatives in our bakery and are conscious of food waste. Any unsold products are donated to Athens Municipality to help people in need.”

“All of our packaging is either biodegradable or recyclable. We charge 10c ($.12) for each of our carrier bags, and 100% of those proceeds go towards supporting the efforts of World Wildlife Fund Greece.”

“We donate portions of our sales to charitable organizations. As of February 2021 we’ve partnered with Doctors of the World Greece by donating money from each brownie that we sell.”

Exterior facade from street level (design: en-route-architecture-
photo: Mariana Bisti)

Kora, which means “crust” in Greek, is located on the edge of the stylish neighborhood of Kolonaki, an Athens hub for upscale shopping, where Greek designer boutiques share space with sleek concept stores and galleries. Mid-range and fine dining restaurants offer international menus, as well as the best Greek cusiine, and trendy bars offer live jazz or DJs. Walking paths and a funicular railway lead to the summit of Mt. Lycabettus, with panoramic views of the city and the Agios Georgios chapel. The bakery is also just a 30-minute walk from the Acropolis.

Kora stands out among other stunning little shops nearby with its two white tiled columns topped with yellow. A few exterior stairs lead to a terrace, and a lovely glass windowed facade where the shop displays its pastries and breads.

Wide view of customer window (design: en-route-architecture/photo: Mariana Bisti)

“We are a sourdough and viennoiserie bakery,” say the owners. “We use long fermentation methods, which make our products more nutritious and digestible than conventionally produced breads. We search for the finest ingredients on the market, championing dedicated growers and producers across the country.”

Kora owners Maria Alafouzou (left) and Ianthi Michalaki (photo provided)

Viennoiseries, which translates as “things of Vienna” are baked goods made from a yeast-leavened dough in a manner similar to bread, but with added ingredients, which give them a richer, sweeter character that approaches that of pastry. The dough is often laminated. Viennoiseries are typically eaten at breakfast or as snacks.

Two views of Kora side facade (design: en-route-architecture/photo: Mariana Bisti)

Kora makes their sourdough bread using only water, salt and flour. Their starter, the leavening ingredient that gets air into a loaf of bread, contains various types of wild yeasts that make their bread tastier and easier to digest than breads that are made with fast-acting yeast. All of their breads are fermented for at least 16 hours, giving the yeasts time to pre-digest the flour. This process also allows for better nutrient retention when the bread is eaten, it is said that many individuals who have had issues with gluten sensitivities are able to eat sourdough breads.”

Their viennoiserie takes a total of up to 72 hours to make, an obsessive, detailed process. Their croissant doughs, just like their bread doughs, go through long fermentation periods, and are layered with a type of French butter that has a particularly high fat content, giving the pastries the perfect flake and crumb, and they are filled with “the best seasonal ingredients we can get our hands on.” The prebiotics and lactic acid contained in the bread also help extend its shelf life to up to ten days, when stored properly.

In an interview with Metropolis newsletter, Maria Alafouzou said that “I think we have a good eye, aesthetically, but we definitely went into this hoping that our design firm [e-r-a-] would be translating our ideas into a space,” says Alafouzou. “We needed the space to be functional, we needed our machinery to fit in, we needed a display that wouldn’t appear empty even as we started to sell out. We weren’t disappointed with their effort”

The design team created a system of shelves that can be rotated towards the facade and act like screens when emptied. It’s a unique detail that creates a continuously changing window frontage, and lets customers get more visually involved with the actual production taking place right before their eyes. The celebration of functional elements on the inside compliments the perpetually changing spectacle in and around the façade. Producing and consuming bread (and pastries) turns into a performance, whereby the boundaries between performers and spectators are blurred.

Kora interior with shelves and view of street (left) and white tile sink (design: en-route-architecture-
photo: Mariana Bisti)

According to the design team at e-r-a the threshold between inside and outside is joined by an interactive perforated metal wall. A kinetic wall that can act as a shutter, an aperture or a display surface. The metal wall is comprised of 50 individual trays that rotate independently around a central axis into different positions. When vertical they offer the least transparency while allowing for views of silhouettes and light coming through the perforation of the metal. When horizontal they provide the maximum transparency and also become a functional surface for display, ready to accommodate a great variety of baked goods.

Making product using dark Valrhona chocolate (design: en-route-architecture/photo: Mariana Bisti)

Finally, the 45-degree angle allows for partial views to the background as well as an ideal product display for the visibility of customers. Through the addition and sale of different goods, the kinetic wall is thus always changing in its outer appearance. It simultaneously acts as shutter, boundary towards the outside, aperture to the spectacle of baking and a mechanism for displaying baked products along different scenarios.

Beyond the front doors and the customer service area, customers can watch the weighing of flour and rolling of dough on wheeled work counters, separated only by plastic strip curtains which are needed to assist with keeping a constant temperature in that part of the shop.

Plastic strip curtains separate customers from the production area (design: en-route-architecture/photo: Mariana Bisti)

For the designers, the decision to highlight the baking processes was a reaction against the design of most other, more traditional bakeries in Athens. “Baking wasn’t considered a very high-profile job, it was something hidden in the back,” said Katerina Kourkoula of e-r-a. “But there’s a lot of artistry in baking, not only here, but with every baker. We wanted to glorify that.”

Menu items and ingredients change based on seasonality (design: en-route-architecture/photo: Mariana Bisti)

Suggestions: The pain chocolat, alot of dark Valrhona chocolate within the classic croissant. The lemon meringue, custard and chocolate ganache tarts to order (10-12 tarts). The seeded sourdough with toasted poppy seeds, black and white sesame and pumpkin seeds.

Brno Journal: Designers save Brutalist building in Czech Republic.

by Ron Bernthal

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Exterior view of waiting room at redesigned Zvonařka Central Bus Terminal in Brno, Czech Republic (all photos by alex shoots buildings/
Courtesy of Chybík + Krištof Architects & Urban Designers)

In May, 2021, the Czech Republic-based Chybík + Krištof Architects and Urban Designers announced the completion of the redesigned Zvonarka Central Bus Terminal in Brno, Czech Republic.

Self-initiated in 2011, this redesign and restoration project saw the architects actively engage in preserving the existing Brutalist structure and its original architectural identity, reflecting Chybík + Krištof’s
commitment to perpetuating architectural heritage. Stressing the station’s central role in the city and region’s sociocultural fabric, the firm addresses the urgency to rethink the use of a decaying transportation hub and public space.

Placing transparency, and access, at the root of their design, the designers
have transformed the bus terminal into a functional entity adapted to current social needs.

The new redesign of the 107,639 square-foot terminal, which was originally built in the late 1980’s in the concrete Brutalist style common under Soviet rule, is now an inviting and colorful building while preserving much of its historic architecture.

Exterior view of original bus terminal

This Brutalist style, which first began in the 1950’s/60’s, was especially popular in the architecture of Eastern Europe from the mid-1960s to the late 1980’s. In Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia, Brutalism was presented as an attempt to create not only a “national” movement, but also as a “modern socialist” architectural style. Such prefabricated socialist era buildings, especially those in the former Czechoslovakia, are called panelaky. The Zvonařka Central Bus Terminal in Brno was probably one of the last panelaky style buldings constructed in Eastern Europe before the fall of communism in 1989.

For most residents and city officials of Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, it was thought that the bleak-looking and obsolete bus terminal, used by more than 17,000 people every day, did not make a very good visual impression on travelers to the city, and definitely was not a comfortable place to wait for buses.

Architects from the local Chybík + Krištof studio co-initiated the modernization and describe the design project’s results as “aesthetically unifying the space and at the same time increasing its functionality and clarity.”

“Demolitions are a global issue,” said co-founding architect Michal Krištof. “Our role as architects is to engage in these conversations and demonstrate that we no longer operate from a blank page. We need to consider and also work from existing architecture, and gradually shift the conversation from creation to transformation.”

All bus platforms are now connected by a new barrier-free sidewalk, and a new information system with easily readable screens facilitate passenger orientation. The steel structure of the roof was given a new coat of paint, and the entire space is optically enhanced by new lighting, the intensity of which is adjusted automatically to ambient daylight, which not only and saves electricity costs, but is beneficial to the passengers as well.

An elevator to the roof has been added, where bus passengers can now use the 53 parking spaces to leave their cars if they wish. Before the redesign, only buses were parked on the roof. However, the capacity for a hundred parked buses on the roof was maintained. There are now also bike racks in the terminal area.

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“The design and implementation of the reconstruction deserves great recognition,” said Brno Mayor Vaňková. “The building has not lost any of its authenticity, while gaining a modern face. Speaking for the city, I can promise additional modifications to the public space in the immediate vicinity of the Zvonařka terminal.”

“We shaped the building to guide passengers inside. In addition, its distinctive red roof freely transitions into the public area of ​​the station. It was from the position of the hall that a new numbering of platforms also resulted, the first one is now right next to it,” said architect Ondřej Chybík.

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