You are currently browsing articles tagged architecture.

Ten years ago I was obsessed with staying at a Swedish ice hotel. The closest I came was having a shot of Aquavit in an ice cube glass at Quebec City’s ice hotel bar, running my mittened hand over the deerskin blankets that covered the beds and freezing my toes off gawking at the amazing and abundant ice sculptures.

My obsession has shifted to craving a stay in one of the lofty tree houses at the Treehotel in Harads, Sweden in a forest high above the Lule River valley.

Treehotel was inspired by the film ”The Tree Lover” by Jonas Selberg Augustsen. It’s a tale of three men from the city who want to go back to their roots by building a tree house together. “The Tree Lover” is a philosophic story about the significance of trees for us human beings.

Each architect-designed “treeroom”  is unique and was built with minimal environmental impact using eco-friendly materials and energy solutions.

The stunningly, almost invisible “Mirrorcube” is hidden among the trees and camouflaged by reflective glass that reflects its surroundings.

To prevent birds from flying into the mirrored walls, they are clad with infrared film. The color is invisible to humans, but visible to the birds.


“The Blue Cone”, which actually is red, is based on simplicity and accessibility, both in terms of material and design. Its traditional wooden structure, with three foundations in the ground, gives the sense of height, lightness and stability.


“The Bird’s Nest” is my favorite. Its exterior is nothing but a gigantic twiggy bird’s nest that disappears into its surroundings. The sleek interior defies Its rustic shell.


Cast in durable composite material that is both strong and light, “The UFO” is the complete opposite of The Bird’s Nest with its space age sleek shape and porthole windows.


To access “The Cabin”, a cube-like capsule, one must traverse a horizontal bridge among the trees. There’s a splendid view from its rooftop deck.

The Scandinavian-modern interiors are ingeniously compact and cozy looking and do not give the impression of being too cramped. They even have bathrooms. Treehotel’s website has more photos and nice floor plans for each “treeroom”.


Share This Post

Tags: , , ,

One of the highlights of my recent ski trip traversing the alps from Italy to Switzerland was staying in the new Monte Rosa hut. The old Monte Rosa hut was a lovely stone structure with painted red shutters built in 1940, and is my romantic idea of the perfect mountain refuge. When I caught sight of the sparkling angular architecture of the new hut as I skied down the Grenzglacier I was unexpectedly delighted by what I saw. Called the “Bergkristall” (mountain crystal) it’s modern design blends into its snowy and icy environment.

Built by the Swiss Alpine Club in 2009, it is a wonder of self-sufficiency. Isolated by mountain ranges and glaciers it sits alone at 2,883 meters and is accessible only by skis in winter, and foot in summer. The building’s shiny aluminum clad exterior is broken up by a band of windows and south facing photovoltaic panels. A small supplemental heat and electricity unit runs on rapeseed oil. Meltwater, collected in the summer and stored in a rocky cavern above the hut provides hot and cold water. Waste water is purified in a biological microfiltration plant and uses the grey water for flushing toilets. Surplus water is cleaned and returned to the environment. The new Monte Rosa hut is 90% self- sufficient.

The warm timber framed interior defies it’s cold metal exterior. The supporting timbers in the sunny dining room are digitally carved with lines that resemble the rings of a tree, or the contour lines of a map. The meals served by the hut keepers were surprisingly delicious. Tucked into my wooden bunk and covered with a duvet I slept like a log.

Photos Via

Share This Post

Tags: , ,

Last week, while exploring Reykjavik with tourist map in hand, a point of interest called “The Raven’s Nest” piqued my curiosity. The short blurb on the map read,

“I’m like a raven, I collect things,” Icelandic film director Hrafn Gunnlaugsson says of his seaside hidden abode. The house as Laugarnestangi 65 can easily be mistaken for an eclectic museum or an enormous unfinished sculpture. Like so many artists, Gunnlaugsson has a vision for his anomalous haven – a living, breathing display of history, his travels, family, nature, and above all, recyclable materials. It’s simply not enough to observe, only active participants are allowed in this bizarre existence that Gunnlaugsson calls home.

Impossible to resist this description, we found ourselves bumping down a dirt driveway at the outskirts of town. We were greeted by massive sculptures fashioned from discarded metals, stone and paint. Beyond lay Gunnlaugsson’s low-lying recycled home on the water’s edge – a fascinating and colorful hodge-podge of rusty ship parts, satellite dishes, driftwood, concrete and glass.

We approached the house, and were disappointed to discover that no one was home. As we poked around the periphery of the homestead I hoped that the eccentric homeowner, who certainly must have a sense of humor, would pop out and invite us in for a cup of coffee. So many questions to ask the creator of such an abode!

© Poppy Gall 2011

An all-seeing eye at the end of the driveway made us suspect we’d found the right place

© Poppy Gall 2011

A Viking warrior greets us at the edge of the property

© Poppy Gall 2011

Unfortunately no one was home when we stopped by…

© Poppy Gall 2011

The house is set right on the rocky shoreline – minutes from downtown Reykjavik

© Poppy Gall 2011

I loved all the rusty sculpture. To see more of my infatuation with rust click here and here

© Poppy Gall 2011

A raven, fashioned from what appears to be an old TV antennae

To become an interactive part of Poppy Gall Design Studio on facebook click here.


Share This Post

Tags: , , ,

This prefabricated A-frame, sold by a company called Stanmar, Inc. from Boston, was built in 1960 at Mad River in Vermont for an assembled cost of $3,900. Does anyone recognize it?

Have a great Weekend!


Share This Post

Tags: , , ,

I’ve always considered electrical transmission lines – especially the monster ones marching across the landscape – a bit menacing and definite eyesores. Imaginative and humorous new pylon designs prompted by an international design competition could change my opinion.

Brookline, Massachusetts based architects Jin Choi and Thomas Shine of Choi+Shine have re-thought the humble pylon in their entry “The Land of Giants” by transforming them into human-like statues.

The competition was sponsored by the Icelandic power company Landsnet, which owns and runs the electrical transmission system in Iceland where 80% of the electricity is from green sustainable sources, such as geothermal power. The goal was to obtain new ideas in types and appearances for 220kV high-voltage towers and lines that encircle the country.

According to Choi+Shine, “we sought to make an iconic, unforgettable pylon, that created an identity for Iceland and the power company.”


The pylon figures in Iceland vary in position. As the carried electrical lines ascend a hill, the pylon-figures change posture, imitating a climbing person. Over long spans, the pylon-figure stretches to gain increased height, crouches for increased strength or strains under the weight of the wires.


The pylon-figures can be placed in pairs, walking in the same direction or opposite directions, glancing at each other as they pass by or kneeling respectively, head bowed at a town.


Despite the large number of possible forms, each figure is made from the same major assembled parts (torso, fore arm, upper leg, hand etc.) and uses a library of pre-assembled joints between these parts to create the pylon-figures’ appearance. This design allows for many variations in form and height while cost is kept low through identical production, simple assembly and construction.

For Icelandic color inspiration click here and here.


Share This Post

Tags: , ,

My husband and I made a quick dash out of town last weekend before the holiday madness descends, and skiing commands all of our attention. One of our stops was Yin Yu Tang, the two hundred year old restored Chinese house at The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.

Yin Yu Tang is a stately sixteen-bedroom courtyard house from China’s southeastern Huizhou region that was dismantled and moved to the U.S. The house arrived in Massachusetts in thousands of wooden and stone pieces, many in sad disrepair – all tagged with Chinese characters. My husband, an architectural preservationist, was part of a team that spent over three years putting the puzzle back together, painstakingly restoring the intricate timber frame structure and wooden details. For him, visiting the house is like visiting an old friend he knows intimately.

It was impossible, as the wife of someone working on such an immense endeavor, not be lured into it the excitement of it. Dinner conversations revolved around its progress and challenges. I met and became friends with my husband’s co-workers and started reading Chinese literature and history. I traveled back and forth between Vermont and Massachusetts to visit him during the reconstruction and was fortunate to see many phases of Yin Yu Tang’s rebirth.

Standing again in Yin Yu Tang’s courtyard I was awed by the immensity of the undertaking and by it’s unequivocal multi-layered success. I was looking forward to taking pictures, but found that no cameras are allowed. The pictures here are some that I took before the house was open to the public (and before digital cameras were much good), but they’ll give you an idea of what a special place this is. If you get the opportunity, you should really see it for yourself. This is the gem in The Peabody Essex Museum’s crown, but other the exhibits are a treasure trove for designers and non-designers alike.

1downstairs coutyard2

2bicycle in foyer

3main hall

4screen close up

5looking across

8entry door




Share This Post

Tags: ,