Wednesday, February 25, 2009


We naturally learn from the past to move into the future. There is always a PRECEDENT that we can draw inspiration from, whether we use it or not. Looking at the details and special moments in these previous buildings, we can use the elements that work and incorporate them into the new design. All civilizations have borrowed from those before. A building type favored by early Christians was the centralized plan, derived from royal tombs. The tomb Diocletian built for himself is an example (Roth 280). “Saint Peter’s and other early churches were clearly derived from the great imperial basilicas, but additional modifications were necessitated by the special needs of Christian worship” (Roth 282). Precedents serve as inspiration that is adapted to suit present needs. In drawing, our assignment was to mimic the style of other artists. However, the purpose was to expose us to new styles that we can use in the development of our own style.

The juxtaposition of opposites forces a designer to find a way to deal with the DUALITY. Dualities can occur on a variety of levels, whether from abstract ideas, or in the details of the architecture. The designer is forced to find ways to bridge the two… or keep them separate. these elements can serves a foils that bring out qualities in the other (much like characters in a novel). In studio, we designed a series of models based on the light/dark relationship. I handled the duality by contrasting the two and keeping them separate. The form of the basilica started out as a clash between the classic shapes of circle and rectangle. Eventually, designers found ways of integrating the two into one cohesive form. One solution was the dome on pendentives. After the development of the pendentive, Byzantine architects were able to evolve numerous plan variations with domes on top of large subdivided squares (Roth 293). Finding a way to accommodate dualities opens up new heights and special moments that otherwise would not be achieved.

A big part of what brings out the voice of a building or work is the MOMENTS within it. These are unique details that set it apart from its surroundings. Moments are usually achieved through details. In the critique room, a special moment might be the placement and form of the concrete columns, or the joinery of the beams in ceiling, or even the translucent ceiling itself. None of these elements are found in other buildings on campus. This idea of uniqueness should also be translated into a designer’s personal style. When I was looking for inspiration images for drawing class, it was interesting to see how each artist’s style was different and to notice the little quirks that make their style different from the rest. Moments in any type of work make it distinct and special.

It is important that a space evokes a feeling in the user. This makes the space memorable, but also allows the user to relate to it. How is this conveyed? The special moments and details create PRESENCE. In the Temple of Amon, the superhuman scale conveys an awe-inspiring and important presence. The space has a voice that is resonant and distinct. A lot of times in studio, we relate the appearance and presence of our artifacts to a type of music. The same can be said of buildings and the voices they possess. “Unlike the static and rationally perceivable forms and spaces of Classical architecture, [in Hagia Sophia] all seems in motion, surfaces curving and intersecting, bathed in a mystical, suffused light issuing from marbled walls and mosaics” (Roth 290). The architectural details and surfaces in Hagia Sophia give it a presence that makes it unique and lets the work speak for itself.

METRIC is defined as a way of thinking about a building as a system. Buildings are all a function of parts linked by a common element. I find myself looking at buildings in terms of circulation zones. How do the parts work together to direct (or not direct) people through the space? I created a model of a hallway in which a series of panels gradually opened up to create a less restricted flow. Gothic cathedrals direct flow in a different pattern. “The Christians required not only buildings that would accommodate large numbers of converts, but also enclosed spaces that would facilitate hearing the spoken word and chanted psalms” (Roth 279). The central nave is the largest space in the center. The walls reach upward, seemingly forever, creating a grandiose scale that draws people to that area. At the same time, the path to salvation is personal. The side aisles and ambulatory have lower ceilings than the nave and are the circulation paths around to the apse and radiating chapels. The smaller scale of the space invites the user to these spaces and makes them feel that they belong.

As we look at a building, we are at least subconsciously aware of the voice it has. All of the above elements are important to how a user experiences a space. The ultimate goal is to create a space that engages the viewer. A successful design speaks for itself and leaves a lasting impression on those who experience it.

Roth, Leland M. (2007). Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, and Meaning. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

Friday, February 20, 2009

precedent analysis: justification

my building of choice is fountain place, located in the arts district of dallas, texas. it was designed by i.m. pei & partners and completed in 1986. i am drawn to this building because of clean lines and apparent simplicity. it is not the tallest building in the city, yet it demands attention. its seamless construction gives it a sleek look. i also like fountain place as an example of designing from all angles. the view changes depending on where it is viewed from. through my research, i hope to understand more about the design process behind this building and to make connections between the designer's culture, american culture, and the context in dallas at the time. since i.m. pei is chinese, it will be beneficial to understand how fountain place reflects his culture and ours. i.m. pei's other work follows the same trend of being clean cut and intriguing at the same time. the use of all glass adds to that sense of awe and neatness. it also makes the architecture fit into the surroundings. i hope to uncover more information about the context and concept of the building.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


As humans, we naturally seek ORDER. We are constantly looking for ways to organize the space around us. Aedicules are ways of dividing a larger space into smaller spaces. Think about the way we put up dividers or use furniture to subdivide a large room. Order is used for clarity and ease of moving through the space. The Romans learned orthogonal planning from the Hellenistic Greeks, setting their cities on a grid pattern (Roth 253). For military reasons, having central axes facilitated movement through the city. Modern cities also use grids for the same reason of circulation. As designers plan their work, they organize the space so that their artifact is seen in a specific way. The Greeks relied heavily on this concept in the arrangement of the Parthenon and the Acropolis. The Romans followed suit in that they “set up an axis that dominated the orientation of the temple, the space in front of it, how it was approached, and how the temple was placed in relation to the forum” (Roth 250).

The arrangement and order that is established reflects the HIERARCHY of the elements within it. Objects near the center are deemed most important. At Pompeii, the civic buildings were around the largest forum near the entrance to the city. Residential building and the amphitheater were at edge of the complex. Public architecture was important to roman civilization because the city was their main focus (Roth 247). As designers, we decide what is important in a design and how to emphasize those elements while creating a complete whole. Traditionally, the most important things are in the center, at the top, or in front. In drafting, we use a hierarchy of line weights to delineate between foreground and background. The heavier lines indicate objects that are closer (but not necessarily more important). In either case, hierarchy provides valuable information that shows how a given object relates to its surroundings.

The surroundings of an object are just as important the object itself. An ENTOURAGE gives information about the full picture. The mood or atmosphere of a setting can be expressed through this small scene. With our drinking and drawing assignment, I tried to convey the subdued, low-key mood of Caribou Coffee by choosing the right colors and capturing the light in the space. I also indicated a hierarchy of importance by limiting the color to the girl in the foreground and leaving the other people blank. My thumbnails of the EUC are also an entourage used to convey the energy of the building through multiple drawings. However, an entourage doesn’t have to be sketches. The remains of Pompeii provide enough of a picture to help us understand Roman life as a whole. “When the site was uncovered… the first detailed evidence of everyday Roman life came to light” (Roth 264).

As designers we constantly look to others for inspiration and borrow bits and pieces of other designs. When we know the original SOURCE of these elements, it allows us to understand how its use and form has changed. Using fairytales and creation stories for inspiration, I created a 3-D model based on the interaction of light and dark. From that, I did thumbnails abstracting moments of that model. Knowing the original inspiration for my work can help a viewer understand my thought process and make connections to the initial light/dark relationship. The Romans were also guilty of borrowing. Unlike the Greeks, they used columns more for decoration than for support. Pilasters and freestanding were common (Blakemore 46). Understanding how the Greeks used columns allows us to see the ways the Romans adapted them to new uses.

Thinking about how societies use each other, the idea of PROTOTYPE/ARCHETYPE/HYBRID comes up. Ideas, concepts and designs are constantly evolving and building on previous models. Hopefully, later models take advantage of the failures and successes of predecessors to improve. I was thinking about examples of this concept and I thought about my thumbnails of the EUC. As I was drawing the main hallway, it made me think about the hypostyle hall of ancient Egypt. There is a row of relatively large columns that people walk through. I think I exaggerated the scale in my sketches, but nevertheless I like it and I think it works. The EUC hallway is a hybrid of the hypostyle and other works like it because our hallway bears a resemblance to ancient Egypt without copying it. There are plenty of other examples throughout the buildings I see on a regular basis.

Overall, this week was bout parts that create layers to form a whole. Understanding design is about collecting the information given, and using speculation to put the rest together. They always say you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. To fully experience a design, you have to know the journey behind it. At the same time, the surroundings and context are equally important to get a complete picture.

Blakemore, Robbie G. (1997). History of Interior Design & Furniture. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Roth,

Leland M. (2007). Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, and
Meaning. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

design defined

UNITY: many things can create unity throughout a composition (color, ideas, scale, materials). The Greeks created proportional unity by basing all the measurements of a structure on the diameter of the columns. The tripartite system of the megaron is a system that unifies architecture throughout time periods. I found unity looking at my friends desk. I was thinking about my opus when I looked up and saw a sea of green, which seemed rather appropriate.

SECTION: things are usually not what the appear to be. This is why we look at section views of an object. They allow us to see what is beneath the surface. Sections of walls reveal the studs, insulation, and other components. The Egyptians also proved that things are not what they appear to be. They frequently used veneers of expensive wood or material over lower quality products (Blakemore 15). The use of veneers makes a statement about the fact that rulers built structures of increasing grandeur to convey importance, yet they may not have been as great as they believed themselves to be.

SCALE: throughout history, architecture at a superhuman scale has been used to create a sense of awe or otherworldliness. The ancient Egyptians used it in tombs and temples because the gods and pharaohs were powerful and important. Why shouldn’t they have the most imposing buildings on the landscape? Blakemore argues that the large scale due to the nature of the stone and materials used (2). I think it shows the importance of religion and the afterlife. My church at home is at a superhuman scale relative to the other buildings in the vicinity. There are many instances in which religious architecture is excessively large to convey importance, and perhaps be closest to the heavens.

BOUNDARIES: The boundary between outside and inside becomes increasingly important. The hot, sunny climate in Egypt yielded “features that fostered indoor-outdoor relationships, including flat roofs, porticoes and loggias, windows placed high on walls… and open interior courts” (Blakemore 3). It is sometimes desirable to blur the boundary between interior and exterior. They can also create distinctions between the spaces. Entrances are a transition into a new environment and designers use that them to set the tone for the space you are entering, such as with the Propylaia at the Acropolis. I do find it interesting that the Greeks were not open to welcoming citizens from other city-states, yet they placed so much emphasis on entryways (Roth 221).

VIGNETTE: snapshots or pinhole peeks into life can reveal useful information about the context of the scene. The ruins of ancient Greece and Egypt are in essence vignettes because they almost never provide a complete picture, yet they still reveal facts about that time in history. The difficult thing about Egyptian remains is that “once the forms of Egyptian religion, literature, art, and architecture had be defined… they changed very little for almost three thousand years” (Roth 191). These vignettes of ancient Egypt reveal the same information for each time period (to the untrained eye).

To sum it all up, I think the words this week are important in how we define designs. It is important to delineate the components of a design and to decide how they will be perceived. Defining the parameters of a design provides a setting for better analysis.

Blakemore, Robbie G. (1997). History of Interior Design & Furniture. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Roth,

Leland M. (2007). Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, and
Meaning. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

Monday, February 9, 2009

drinking [cinnamon dolce lattes] and drawing....

i decided to go into work at panera early to get some sketches done and i found this guy. the caption says great food, free wi-fi... but he wasn't even eating anything! so great food for me, free wi-fi for him.

next stop... barnes and noble. i tried a cinnamon dolce latte for the first time... it was amazing! :) i also noticed that A LOT of people were there studying, which i could never do with so many distractions. while i was drawing, my friend and i were trying to figure out what language the people behind me were speaking... the only other language i know is french and that definitely wasn't it...

on to... caribou coffee. this is my favorite because i focused on not second guessing myself and putting lines on the page based on what i saw. this girl had the LONGEST hair! it was longer that what was visible to me. i wonder when was the last time she cut it (if she's ever cut it at all)...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

showing scale

richard lovelace uses realistic figures to show the scale of the building.

these are my favorite figures because joao catarino uses contrasts of light and dark, rather than lines, to show the figures. i love it!

james hobbs
' figures are on the opposite of the spectrum. they are very simple and cartoon-like, which fit in with the drawing.

i like how enrique flores does his scale figures because they are quick and sort of abstract, yet you can still tell they are people.

i was also looking for other ways to show scale without using people. marina grechanik indicates scale with a glass

i chose this one because paul heaston shows scale with cars instead of people... it just shows other objects to use for scale.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

designing a design

idiom: region, culture, and context all influence the styles that designers use. egyptians used sandstone in their architecture because they were surrounded by sand. carvings of religious artifacts reflected their highly religious way of life. as we journey through the iarc program, the goal is for us to create our own idiom and style of work. as designers work, they develop a characteristic style that reflects their personality, time period, or region. their style manifests in their work.

materials: the context of a design impacts the materials. in turn, materials influence and sometimes limit the design. prehistoric civilizations used stones, wood, mud brick, and animal skins to build because these materials were readily available. many used naturally occurring negative space in the form of caves, such as at ajunta, india (roth 61). designing a combination chair/table/server out of mdf also presents challenges because we only had a 4’ x 8’ sheet of ¾” mdf. when planning the design, we had to be creative to create the maximum work area with the minimum material. designers must adapt and respond appropriately to the material available.

illuminate: throughout classes, we talked about ways to emphasize specific areas through contrast. every design has aspects that are more important or ideas that are being conveyed. one way to illuminate is through light. according to louis kahn, “there is no true architecture without natural light” (roth 85). in ancient Egypt, the sun was important because of its regularity and the sun god ra. when designing the pyramids at giza, the white limestone finish and gold peak were intended to direct sunlight in the four cardinal directions and to make the pyramids gleam and shine. using light to direct attention can also be seen in the ecstasy of st. theresa, with hidden natural light and golden rods illuminating the area (roth 86). i use watercolors to highlight an area of a drawing. when constructing designs, we think about the important parts of the designs and how to showcase those elements.

commoditie. firmness. delight: sir henry wotten says that “well-building hath three conditions: commoditie, firmeness, and delight” (roth 11). when constructing a design, we must think about how the work fulfills all these conditions in a cohesive manner. my design for pat’s chair satisfies these, with an emphasis being on commoditie. i also created a pair of earrings inspired by a fairytale. their function was to convey the essence of my story in a non-literal way. they were structurally sound and pleasing to the eye. the problem with delight is that it involves subjective responses that differ between individuals and cultures (roth 67). what is aesthetically pleasing in one culture may not be viewed the same way in another. the appearance of a work is determined by the creator’s background and cultural background.

a lot of thought and planning goes into a design. all of these elements discussed are things the influence or limit designs. bringing these things together makes a cohesive, well-rounded product.

Monday, February 2, 2009

a wearable artifact...

these earrings were inspired by my fairytale the three languages. listening was important in the story because the main character listened to frogs, dogs, and birds to gain knowledge. The shape is linear and divided into three parts to reflect the journey throughout the story. a gold trinket emerges from the white because i felt the essence of the story was about emerging into triumph and success in the end.