North Vancouver architectural firm wins two design awards

North Vancouver architect Michael Green exudes such a potent dusting of Peter Pan, it seems only natural that contracts as diverse and whimsical as designing a Tajikistan town and building a Gastown washroom out of paperback books would be associated with his name.

Now the Chicago-based International Interior Design Association has awarded Green’s firm two of its six 2010 Annual Interior Design Competition awards. Other winners among the field of 300 entries included a Dutch firm, for a project in Austria, and an Ohio firm that won for a project in Dubai.

The fun projects just “fall into our lap. They come at you,” Green said. “We’re working right now with the Aga Khan in Tajikistan, a country on the border of Afghanistan. We’re designing a city for the Aga Khan.” A rock and ice climber, Green’s pleasure at working in the remote, mountainous area is palpable.

On some projects, such as the LYNNsteven startup retail store and the Tajikistan town, fees are “very, very thin,” Green said. “We do them because they are fun and we can help somebody.”

The initial idea behind the LYNNsteven project was relatively random, Green said. “I woke up one morning and said ‘Books. Let’s do this in books.’”

The idea was to take old paperback books and stack them like bricks into a 11-foot-high and nine-foot-in-diameter cylinder to house the washroom/change room, and to be the centrepiece of the store. The books were glued and screwed into place, and toward the top of the tower, gaps were left between books to drop in light.

“Our philosophy is simplicity,” Green said. “Our buildings are pretty quiet. We are not into making big, splashy, look-at-me architecture.

“We found a guy that had 5,600 books in his basement in cardboard boxes that he was desperately trying to get rid of. We found him on craigslist.”

The $8,000 project ($1,200 in books) took less than a week to design and three weeks to build.

International Interior Design Association vice-president of communication Steven McCollom said in a news release that the contest’s winning entries “prove that design doesn’t have to be compromised, whether because of a budget or an international project team.”

Interior designer Michelle Biggar and Green worked together on the extensive, four-year project for Vancouver art collector/realtor Bob Rennie, which transformed Chinatown’s oldest building into modern offices and a private art gallery capable of becoming a working art museum.

Architect Walter Francl was commissioned for the exterior and heritage restoration work, while Biggar and Green were asked to design the interior and the roof garden.

“It was to be simple,” Green said. The goal was to make sure the art in the gallery would generate more attention than the building itself.

“We allowed the old brick to show through. We celebrated those rather than hiding them behind drywall. It became a beautiful marriage of old and new.”

Green echoes Mies van der Rohe, the German-American architect known as one of the fathers of modern architecture, in summarizing his firm’s award-winning approach: “Design is not done when there is nothing more to add. Design is done when there is nothing more to take away.”

Source: Vancouver Sun


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Teacher, an Accountant and a student :)
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