Architecture People & Places


Ralph Rapson - Small House Competition Design

Rapson's second-place design for a 1950 NAHB competition. Image: Ralph Rapson

In 1950, the National Association of Home Builders held a nationwide housing competition for a small 1,000-square-foot house plan tailored to a particular region of the country. Amazingly, the competition drew some seven thousand entries, making it the largest competition in its day.

The rules permitted only one entry per person, but since I had worked out two designs, I decided to enter one in Mary's name. At the last moment. I flipped a coin to decide how to credit the designs.The entry submitted under my name received second national overall prize and first prize for homes designed for the southeast region.

RDH Architects near Mississauga, Ontario

The Lakeview Library is one of three remodeled by RDH Architects. Photo: Tom Arban

The Mississauga Library Project is an adaptive re-use strategy recently completed upgrades and additions to the Lakeview, Port Credit, and Lorne Park branch libraries, in Mississauga, Ontario. Toronto, Ontario-based RDH Architects Inc. designed the building renovations.

The three library projects date from between 1956 and 1967 and the three renovations were treated as one project, a strategy put forth by the client as a means to use public infrastructure stimulus funds in an efficient manner.

Overview of the Lakeview Library. Photo: RDH
Each of the libraries is situated in park settings. Lakeview and Lorne Park stand within established 1950's suburban neighborhoods, while Port Credit is situated adjacent to the Credit River along Lakeshore Road, the former commercial 'high' street of the old town of Port Credit.

Caption. Image: RDH Architects

The libraries are mid-century modern buildings with similar physical and aesthetic characteristics. As such, the new design for the buildings is based on the development of a single vocabulary of consistent parts, applied differently to each of the three libraries.

The result is the transformation of three tired modern facilities:  a complete gutting of the interiors, a re-cladding and expansion of all glazed areas, the refurbishment of exterior masonry, and the development of a canopy frame system and set of exterior terraces intended to change the building aesthetics.

Lorne Park Library. Photo: RDH

The existing exterior elevations of each library are composed as a basic rhythm of solid and void. The solid areas are predominantly masonry while the voids areas are glazed. This composition was respected and accentuated by increasing the amount of glazing in each void area, extending the glass from floor to ceiling and using a minimal detailing methodology.

The new steel frame canopy systems form an enclosing colonnade that incorporates the existing building volumes and engages with the park setting while providing infrastructure for building elements such as canopies, shading, lighting, and plants. Custom ceramic frit patterns reinforce the vertical rhythm of the colonnade.

Port Credit Library. Photo: Tom Arban

The buildings' new interiors emphasize openness and transparency. Where walls between public spaces are required, most are made of structural glass. Low shelves and an open plan design also contribute to a sense of interior spaciousness in these modest branch facilities.

Port Credit floor plan drawing. Image: RDH Architects

Project Details
  • Buildings:
    • Lakeview Library, 1110 Atwater Ave, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
    • Port Credit Library, 20 Lakeshore Road East, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
    • Lorne Park Library, 1474 Truscott Drive, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
  • Date of Occupancy: Jan. 2011
  • Construction Budget: $8,900 000.00
Glazed partition walls inside the Port Credit Library. Photo: Tom Arban
Project Credits
  • Architect: RDH Architects Inc.
  • Client: Mississauga Public Library
  • Landscape Architect: NAK Design
  • Structural Engineers: Halsall Associates Ltd.
  • Mechanical / Electrical Engineering: Jain Associates Ltd.
  • Civil Engineers: Valdor Engineering Inc.
  • Contractor: Brown Daniels Associates
Lorne Park Library floor plan drawing. Image: RDH Architects

Inside the Lakeview Library. Photo: Tom Arban

Inside the Lorne Park Library. Photo: Tom Arban

Inside the Port Credit Library. Photo: Tom Arban

AIA Housing Design Awards

Rooftop vegetable gardens are a part of the Via Verde affordable housing development, in Bronx, New York, designed by Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects. Photo:  David Sundberg/ Esto
The winners of the 2013 national AIA Housing design awards include four high-end private residential projects in Washington, California, Colorado, and Texas, an affordable housing project in Bronx, New York, and a 1,650-student housing development in Seattle, Washington.

Via Verde is a 222-unit affordable living development built on a former brownfield site in Bronx, New York. Designed by Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects, the project combines high-rise, mid-rise and townhouse residential structures unified by a common color scheme that includes bright red, orange, and yellow highlights.

BCJ designed the Halls Ridge Knoll Guest House, in San Francisco, California. Photo: Nic Lehoux

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson's contribution to the single-family housing category is the latest in a long line of thoughtfully modern luxury dwellings incorporating the firm's signature moves – copious glazing, a rigorous and logical timber structure, and living spaces that blend indoor and outdoor spaces. The Halls Ridge Knoll Guest House, located in San Francisco, California is a simple shed-roof structure sited among oaks on a sloping lot, surrounded by a generous deck, adjacent to a large swimming pool.

A complete list of the winners includes:

Photo: Will Austin
Eagle Ridge; Eastsound, Washington
by Gary Gladwish Architecture

Photo: Nic Lehoux
Halls Ridge Knoll Guest House; San Francisco
by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Photo: Steve Mundinger
House in the Mountains; Colorado

Photo: Patrick Wong
Lake View Residence; Austin, Texas
by Alterstudio Architecture LLP

Photo: David Sundberg/ Esto 
Via Verde - The Green Way; Bronx, New York
by Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider
West Campus Housing - Phase I; Seattle

The jury comprised: Kathleen Dorgan, AIA, Dorgan Architecture & Planning; John Isch, AIA, RWA Architects, Inc.; R. Thomas Jones, AIA, California Polytechnic State University; Stephen Sharpe, Hon. AIA and Charles L. Travis, AIA, The Housing Studio, P.A.

Ralph Rapson in Otaniemi, Paimio, & Myyrmaki

Otanemi Technical University, in Otanemi, Finland, designed by Alvar Aalto, 1949 to 1964.

Sketch by Ralph Rapson, from Ralph Rapson Sketches and Drawings from Around the World, courtesy of the Afton Press.

"The arts, including architecture, have always played a basic role in Finland's cultural history. The harsh Nordic climate demands special awareness of materials, energy, and light. Nature is central and buildings are placed into the landscape with great care."

"Unfortunately, my time in Finland, with its lush virgin countryside, endless lakes, and magical green forests, was somewhat limited. Even so, I was able to witness people's love and respect for their land and their love of beauty and quality – in both nature and human-crafted design. Helsinki, the nation's capital and largest city, is wonderfully modern. Everywhere, the architecture is uncluttered and functional, pure, and often beautifully understated."

Tony Fretton Architects - Housing in Den Helder

The Monplein housing development by Tony Fretton Architects has been completed in Den Helder, Netherlands. Photo: Christian Richters

A 3,200-square-meter (34,000-square-foot) multiunit mixed-use residential development has been completed in Den Helder, Netherlands, on a site between two canals and overlooking a former Napoleonic naval yard.

Commissioned by Dutch developer Proper-Stok, the Monplein development comprises two- and three-story dwellings designed by Tony Fretton Architects with Geurst en Schulze Architecten in a full-city revitalization masterplan by West 8.

The formerly vacant site is a single, irregularly shaped block that resembles a boot in plan. Units are arranged at the perimeter of the block, defininig a series of private outdoor spaces in the center. On one side of the block, rows of narrow townhouses form unbroken walls onto the streetscape with a familiar Dutche residential scale and rhythm.

Rowhouses of the Monplein development. Photo: Christian Richters

On the block's other long side, larger separated dwellings form an alternating rhythm of solid and void. At the boot's bottom, a large five-sided open space is ringed by an array of mixed-use buildings.

Ralph Rapson in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul, Turkey, designed by Isidoros and Anthemios, 532 to 537.

Color sketch by Ralph Rapson, from Ralph Rapson Sketches and Drawings from Around the World, courtesy of the Afton Press.

"I may be one of the few people who have seen Istanbul and the Straits of Bosporus from atop a minaret. I'd long wanted to see the Hagia Sophia, once a mosque, a Christian church, and now a museum, and when I suggested to a guide I'd met in the streets that I'd like to see the city from one of the towers, he miraculously found a way For twenty dollars, I not only had several meals and a day's worth of touring, but I also got to see the city's narrow, jostling streets and port from one of its finest vantage points." – Ralph Rapson

Overview of Istanbul, Turkey. Image: Ralph Rapson

Robert M. Gurney Architect - House in Lewes, Delaware

308 Mulberry Street in Lewes, Delaware, by Robert M. Gurney Architect. Photo: Maxwell MacKenzie

Robert M. Gurney Architect redesigned and significantly expanded the house at 308 Mulberry Street in Lewes, Delaware, to create a luxury residential compound that emphasizes outdoor living. The original one- and three-story shingled home has neoclassical proportions and detailing that has been meticulously restored. Four outbuildings are located in the rear of the home and, together with the main house, enclose three sides of an outdoor living space dominated by a patio and swimming pool.

The building was a recipient of the 2013 AIA national Small Project Awards in the  category.

Looking from the breezeway along the living pavilion toward the historic dwelling. Photo: Maxwell MacKenzie
Besides a formal entry and classic double-angle stair, the three levels of the historic home contain the bedrooms and their supporting spaces. A large master suite occupies around two-thirds of the ground floor, with french doors that open onto the rear patio. Two modest bedrooms and a bathroom are found on the second level.

And tucked under the main gable is a fourth bedroom with an all-glass interior end wall, two skylights overlooking the back yard, and with bathroom functions split into two small adjoining spaces.

The top-floor bedroom of 308 Mulberry Street. Photo: Maxwell MacKenzie

Thomas Phifer and Partners at Clemson University

Thomas Phifer and Partners designed an addition to the Lee Hall College of Architecture at Clemson University. Photo: Scott Frances

Located in upstate South Carolina, on the Clemson University campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a new steel-and-glass addition to the Lee Hall College of Architecture provides generously daylit spaces for students and faculty.

The 55,000-square-foot (5,100-square-meter) building was designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners as a highly energy-efficient facility that intermingles the studios, classrooms, and offices of four major departments in response to the close-knit community of the school.

Front facade of Lee Hall. Photo: Scott Frances

The building's metal roof structure is supported by a forest of branched steel columns and its long, main facade is almost entirely glazed. The main facade, together with round skylights spaced across the roof and a consistently white interior finish, help to reflect daylight deep into the building.

Wilmotte & Associates at St. Pancras Square

King's Cross Central, a mixed-use development by Wilmotte & Associates is now under construction. Image: Wilmotte & Associates

Construction has begun on King's Cross Central, a 50,000-square-meter (540,000-square-foot) mixed office and retail development adjacent to London's recently renovated St. Pancras and King's Cross railway stations. The London office of Wilmotte & Associates, designed the £80-million-project for BNP Paribas Real Estate UK.

The building is being built on a site bounded by the German Gymnasium and the Stanley Building, in addition to St. Pancras Station. Once complete, the development will comprise 37,500 square meters (404,000 square feet) of office space over ten floors, and 17,500 square meters (188,000 square feet) of retail across the ground and lower ground floors.

The atrium of King's Cross Central. Image: Wilmotte & Associates

Ralph Rapson in Quito, Ecuador

Ralph Rapson's unbuilt competition design for a legislative building in Quito, Ecuador, 1941.

Color sketch by Ralph Rapson, from Ralph Rapson Sketches and Drawings from Around the World, courtesy of the Afton Press.

I was more than eager to travel to Quito, once the center of an advanced Indian civilization and Ecuador's current capital. Some years previously, with my friend, architect Robert Bruce Tague, I had won an international competition for a new legislative complex in Quito. Unfortunately, for reasons never made clear to me, the project was not commissioned. I very much wanted to see what was built instead.

The opportunity came on a trip through western South America in the mid-1970s.The legislative building – which resembled my design not a whit – functioned poorly. But the city, which lies near the equator was interesting nonetheless.

Image: Ralph Rapson

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