New To Me: BLOCK

Why do I like French architecture firm BLOCK? 2 reasons: clever adaptive reuse projects and because they live up to their name, dammit. “BLOCK.” The name provokes images of solid mass — even the letters somehow read heavy — and I like a certain weight in architecture. It seems difficult to find a successful contemporary work of architecture that just allows itself to be heavy. Without resorting to outdated “styles,” BLOCK’s projects manage to merge the gravitas associated with scale & mass with a contemporary design aesthetic. The weight, however, manages to avoid becoming unweildy or awkward, as it is often balanced with a lightness to offset the heft and a thinness that balances the thickness. Take the folowing (proposed?) project for example:

Blockhouse is a one-time WWII bunker that has been repurposed as an experimental arts facility. A ghosted image of the original structure elegantly floats above the thick, concrete bunker. This thickness helps shape the program of the new form, as the 2nd story circulation width parallels the thickness of the original bunker’s outer walls. Passage is derived through what was designed to prevent just that. Form follows function follows irony follows poetry.

Similar ideas can be seen in this sports complex in Brest:

The structure sits like on the site like a well-formed boulder, but it’s exterior belies the open space within. In their own words, “The design appears as a hybrid form that lies somewhere between an industrial hangar, the generic image of sports graphics and a bunker. “

And just for good measure, let’s round out the project lineup with a housing design:

Again, an adaptive reuse of a concrete structure; and again, a response with a light touch — this time with a natural element added to soften the somewhat intimidating existing building.

Thoughtful work from another great French office. I might even be inspired to brush up on my français to keep up with these guys.

· BLOCK Architects [Wallpaper]

[all images via BLOCK]

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Jimmy Stamp

Jimmy Stamp is a freelance writer, researcher, and recovering architect. He has contributed to The Guardian, Wired, Smithsonian, The Journal of Architectural Education, and many other websites and publications. His first book Pedagogy and Place: 100 Years of Architecture Education at Yale comes out in spring 2016. If you're looking for writer with a penchant for Piranesi and pop culture, or if you just want to say hi, you can find him on twitter @LifeSansBldgs or instagram or email him at

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