Top 5 Buildings of 2015

It is that time of year when we reflect on the past 12 months and think about what we’ve accomplished – or not – and then wonder what the next 12 months will bring. For many of us in the publishing world, December is when we take stock of our work, which in the case of Masonry Design means looking back at the projects we profiled this year.

In 2015, we profiled some amazing buildings from across the nation and around the world. Below we have assembled a short list of our favorite structures – in no particular order. After you check them out, tell us what your favorite masonry structures are. Perhaps we can feature them in the magazine. Send your suggestions to

Grimmwelt Kassel
GRIMM2_5291©JanBitterThe Grimmwelt Kassel museum – a reinforced concrete and natural stone structure (Gauinger Travertin) – at the Weinberg in Kassel, Germany was designed to present the Brothers Grimm’s works. It translates the historical and topographical features of a surrounding park into a continuous open space and invites visitors to explore the exhibitions at their own pace. On display are a multitude of presentations about the Grimm Fairy Tales, the brothers’ biographies, and even personal artifacts from their homes. READ MORE

The Apiary
Apiary -34There’s a new architectural gem in Lexington, Ky., that is getting national attention. The Apiary is a catering company and 15,500-square-foot event space on Jefferson Street in the so-called “Horse Capital of the World’s” emerging restaurant district. While the food and service from Cooper and Mandy Vaughan’s kitchen deserves praise (and it has many times), it is the design of the Apiary’s brick and stone facility that is turning heads from the media including Garden & Gun magazine, Keeneland magazine, and Sophisticated Living magazine. READ MORE

Museum at Prairiefire
MuseumAtPrairiefireDesigned by Verner Johnson Museum Architects & Planners (established in 1978), the $17.3-million Museum at Prairiefire opened in the spring 2014. Its main exterior feature is a wall of colorful dichroic glass that is meant to reflect the imagery of the tallgrass prairie, including one of its most unique aspects: the prairie fire burns. According to Verner Johnson, “The expansive lobby is enclosed by ‘lines of fire,’ facetted vertical planes composed of tinted vision glazing, dichroic glass, and iridescent stainless steel panels, set in a composition invoking flames. The glass and steel are color shifting, depending on the viewing, creating a vibrant animated glow of color around the building.” READ MORE

Rijksarchief in Bruges
Rijksarchief 2In the center of Bruges, among the medieval churches, old-world homes, and Brick Gothic structures, sits a modern, new building that wouldn’t look out of place in any major European or American metropolis. Yet this building – known as the Rijksarchief – blends beautifully with its surroundings and is changing attitudes toward new construction in Bruges. The $17-million project consists of a newly built public library with a reading room at street level, as well as the restored convent, which is being used as office space. Both structures are connected via a glass-enclosed bridge that provides breathtaking views of a new courtyard (public space), the canal that flows past the Rijksarchief, and the nearby, famed towers of Bruges. READ MORE

Waltham Watch Factory
Watch,  Bruner Cott, arch.For nearly a century, throngs of area residents of Waltham, Mass., made their way to work in the iconic 1854 factory of the Waltham Watch Company along the Charles River. The first enterprise to produce watches on an assembly line, the company operated in its expansive, 405,000-square-foot facility until 1949, after which a few light industrial and office tenants occupied the buildings. Today, the factory is enjoying a second life, thriving once again through a mixed-use renaissance by Bruner/Cott and Associates (Cambridge, Mass.) that provides innovative living and working spaces in its restored and renovated buildings. READ MORE


The Symbol of Sibenik

St. Jacob’s Cathedral, Sibenik, Croatia


St Jacobs Cathedral.jpg

Photo courtesy of Dreamstime


It’s no surprise that many of the western world’s most enduring, beautifully crafted and well-preserved structures are churches and cathedrals. For centuries, they were the center of all community activity in remote villages and sprawling cities throughout Europe. In many instances, this still is true today. In fact, a trip to any European city is incomplete if one does not tour at least one historic house of worship. Regardless of your religious beliefs or affiliations, these structures offer not only great learning opportunities about the daily lives of past civilizations, but the buildings themselves also are key historical characters – not to mention architectural treasures.

Of course, everyone is aware of the great churches and cathedrals in Spain, France and Italy, but cross the Adriatic Sea into Croatia (the town of Sibenik to be precise) and one will find a little-known, 16th century stone cathedral known as St. Jacob’s. Built between 1431 and 1536, this UNESCO World Heritage site (2001) is constructed entirely of stone and is a blend of Venetian Gothic and Toscano Renaissance styles. The naturally white structure and domed roof certainly stand out against the red tiled coverings of most of the buildings in this coastal town, but it is all the wonderful details (inside and out) that make St. Jacob’s Cathedral the cultural and architectural focal point of Sibenik.

In the early-to-mid 15th century, Sibenik’s city council commissioned a young architect from Zadar, Croatia to design the cathedral. Juraj Matvejev Dalmatinac, who at the time was studying art in Venice, Italy, took on the project with great fervor and incorporated his love for Venetian Gothic architecture. He managed the construction for St. Jacob’s until his death in 1475, but his vision for the cathedral’s final design and exquisite detailing did not die with him.

Juraj Matvejev Dalmatinac’s design called for a triple nave basilica with three apses and a cupola (interior height is 32 meters), all made from stone. The roof of the central and lateral nave forms a semicircular vault. Where these sections meet emerges a rectangular base bearing an octagonal tambour with 16 windows; the final part of the dome rises above it. The main portal dominates the lower, gothic part of the facade. Its inside frame is abundantly decorated with stone carvings and sculptures, including the 12 apostles. The baptismal font lies at ground level in the southern apse. It is a small, round space with niches meeting within the columns. Dalmatinac set statues of prophets in this space and he roofed it over with a mildly bent arc.

Prior to Dalmatinac’s death, the side naves, the sanctuary, the ornamental apse and the sacristy were erected. Perhaps the most remarkable aspects of the exterior are the 72, life-sized carved stone heads representing the citizenry of Sibenik during Dalmatinac’s residency – peasants, soldiers, fishermen, etc. The frieze has held up quite well for more than 400 years.

Nikola Firentinac took over the cathedral’s construction until his death in 1505 and is credited with completing Dalmatinac’s designs for the dome (stone slabs fitted into grooves); the sculpture of Saints Michael, Jacob and Mark; the roof complex (a barrel roof of stone slabs); and the upper part of the façade. However, he continued the work of Dalmatinac, but did so in more of a Toscano Renaissance style. Within the cathedral, he built parallel galleries within the side naves, and completed the presbytery and sanctuary sections. Following Firentinac’s passing, the project continued under the direction of another Zadar architect and a pair of constructors from Venice.

It is because of this unique blend of architectural styles and cultural influences that this cathedral remains important today. Among its justifications for including St. Jacob’s within the World Heritage registry, UNESCO said these cultural interchanges (Northern Italy, Tuscany and Dalmatia – the early name for this region of Croatia) created the conditions for unique and outstanding solutions to the technical and structural problems of constructing the cathedral’s vaulting and dome.

St. Jacob’s Cathedral finally was consecrated in 1555, and still stands prominently in a town square with Sibenik’s Renaissance town hall, the Prince’s castle and other houses of worship and palaces. But none of those other buildings – despite their own unique histories and beauty – can be called the symbol of Sibenik. That title alone belongs to one of the most charming and inspiring examples of sacral architecture in Croatia.

From 1431 to 1536

Architectural Style:
A mix of Venetian Gothic and Toscano Renaissance

• Triple nave basilica
• Vaulted roof and dome, constructed solely of stone
• Apse features a crown of 72 stone-carved heads portraying residents from Sibenik present during construction.

Locally sourced stone brought from the nearby islands of Korcula, Susak, Brac, Rab and Krk.

UNESCO World Heritage site

In 2008, when we first launched Masonry Design as a print publication, I would write an article for each issue about a unique masonry structure in another country. I thought I would give these older articles new life by posting them here. This article originally appeared in the fall 2009 issue.