I hope you don’t mind, but might you indulge me today?
A year ago I hired a consulting firm to review urbaneer.com’s website and offer us some guidance on how to best refine it.
For a real estate sales, marketing and renovation / design firm, they thought our propensity to feature architecture from around the globe was losing sight of our ultimate objective – selling real estate in Toronto. They also recommended toning down the personal nature of the posts, including those occasions when I’ve blogged about traveling with a quest to find the perfect seafood chowder in Charlottetown, or the best cheesecake in Victoria.
The consultants had a point.
In fact, their recommendations prompted my recent launch of HousePorn.ca, a site that focuses on Architecture, Landscape, Interior Design, Product and Real Estate in Canada. Better still, I developed the website as a student mentorship and internship program supporting Canadians studying any discipline involving Housing in Canada. So far I’ve had a dozen student contributors, whose posts are helping to shape a better understanding of our country’s vernacular, and how our Canadian identity is being expressed in all matters of domestic dwelling. I LOVE it, and the gift of helping the next generation shape our country’s built environment.
As for my inclination to write about food and travel, I’ve restrained myself but still occasionally pop a post about where I’ve gone and what I’m doing. Granted it doesn’t directly serve the business model, but it does offer personal insights into the motivations and passions which compel me to do what I love. And I think on some level that’s important as urbaneer.com establishes its brand. For this reason, I continue to pepper urbaneer.com with little snippets like these.
If you’re rolling your eyes right now, I apologize. However, I can’t help myself and insist on sharing some photos of my visit to The Amankora Hotel in Thimphu, Bhutan yesterday, where I indulged myself a delicious apple mint iced tea while photographing what I consider the ultimate in breathtaking architecture.
I consider the most successful structures are those which have a respect and relationship with their site; incorporate honest timeless natural materials like stone, wood, glass and metal; which capture and celebrate the local vernacular; and enhance the human experience through the building’s scale, context and proportion.
I don’t often come across places like these, so when I do I consider it essential to share. If more architects, designers and housing experts promoted examples which illustrate what healthy human-scale environments look like, then perhaps we’d be destined to have more enlightening properties instead of the same old same old dreck which I believe damage our psyche and well-being.
Constructed as a U-shaped compound with four buildings made of rammed earth connected by indoor and outdoor loggias, the ravine setting of this boutique hotel allows for a public courtyard entrance serving arriving and departing guests and, up a staircase, the hotel’s common dining and lounging courtyard. Featuring just 16 rooms (at around US$1550+ per night inclusive of meals), the luxe structures face a deep river ravine on one side and the Himalayan hills on the other. What I especially appreciate is the use of local building materials executed in a contemporary manner which still references the vernacular of Bhutan, including the stone and stucco exteriors, wood windows with ornamental detail, broad eaves on pitched steel roofs supported by massive timbers, and furnishings that reflect Bhutanese craftsmanship.
Take a look at these images which capture what I mean:
My own efforts with posts like these are to remind Canadians that we, too, have the capacity and creativity to create meaningful places for comfort and joy (though hopefully not this expensive!). Although I’m on the other side of the world finding this inspiration it informs me, and I hope you too!
Want to see the interiors of this hotel? Click HERE to see more gorgeousness!
~ Steven and the urbaneer team
House And Home