Wednesday, April 29, 2009

[pair]ing down

Every building has some sort of conversation, whether it is a MONOLOGUE or DIALOGUE. Architecture takes multiple elements from a variety of places. Hans Scharoun’s Schminke House has a noticeable dialogue with the buildings of Gropius and Mies van der Rohe. It uses the same materials as Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, but has more energy. Sharp angular forms connect it with the dynamics of Expressionism (Roth 537). With the precedent analysis, the dialogue my building has with the HSB turning torso is best understood when considering the intention of the architects: to create a unique skyline. While these two buildings have a dialogue on one level, my building has a different dialogue with the surrounding skyline, and yet another conversation within itself.

Is it possible for a space to hold two opposing conversations simultaneously? This is the struggle I have with my Sacred Space design. I want to find ways to seamlessly integrate areas of CELEBRATION and MEDITATION into a cohesive whole. Aalto had some success with the library for Mount Angel Benedictine Abbey. The furniture is all wood, black leather upholstery on grey carpet. The color is meant to come from the books (Roth 547). This could be seen as a complete celebration of the purpose of the library – the books. Yet it is also a meditation. The neutral tones keep the energy subdued and restful, which is important in libraries. The effect of celebration vs. meditation can vary based on interpretation, time of day, or by looking at different elements within the room.

The rise of interior designers meant a change in what was ‘good taste’ in home decoration. Interior designers have a way JUXTAPOSING different elements to TRANSPOSE a space. The highly decorative, sometimes cluttered, Victorian features of the past were stripped away. Interiors were transposed to a simpler, cleaner, elegant look (Massey 127). This new style also involved the juxtaposition of dissimilar elements, such as a bold check curtain with a hand-painted wallpaper. Good designers can put elements together in unconventional ways that are still aesthetically pleasing. Surrealist painters “attempted to illustrate the threatening world of the subconscious in their paintings, most often by juxtaposing incongruous elements within the picture-frame to startle the viewer and undermine everyday expectations” (Massey 135). My goal as a designer is to take this same approach. In my sacred space, I have found a way to use marble, bamboo, and copper together in new ways to create a unique room.

In any design, LIGHT and SHADOW are important. Syrie Maugham’s signature was the ‘All White’ interior. She was successful with using shades of white and neutral tones to fill a room in a way that was still interesting. Richard Meier has similar success with his buildings, which were often all white. Yet there was simplicity and a play with light that was intriguing and immensely successful, such as at the Douglas House and the High Art Museum. The significance of the use of white and light in both of these cases is that light seems to represent something new, almost divine. The interesting thing is that Notre-Dame-du-Haut, white materials were used as well, but the emphasis was on shadow on the interior. Throughout history, designers have continued to explore the relationship between light and shadow.

One thing our teachers in studio have beaten into our heads is move away from the LITERAL! Get more ABSTRACT! I have found it easier to take inspiration and abstract it to get ideas for a design. It is helpful to start with the literal interpretation, but eventually this can limit the design and thought process. It is hard to push a design further without thinking deeper. In the image above, I created a pattern by painting around the edges of a leaf. However, sometimes literal is where the design stops. Michael Graves’ design of the Team Disney Building features actual caryatids of the seven dwarves. Instead of trying to convey the essence of Disney, he represented it literally. Salvador Dali took the same approach when designing the ‘Mae West’s Lips’ sofa. These designs communicate in a more straightforward way.

This week is about the voice that architecture has. The story or conversation it has with viewers and other buildings around it. Mario Botta recognized “…a need for architecture to speak once again to people, to become ‘presence’ once again…. a need to reestablish a partnership with people after decades in which architecture was so antiseptic, distant..” (Roth 567). These words get back to the idea of an architecture parlent. All architecture has a voice, an idea it conveys, an emotion it evokes. The words this week remind us of that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

action verbs...

When we view architecture, we usually SPECULATE about concepts, what’s the purpose/idea behind the design. We may not know the designers thoughts, but from the architecture itself, we can speculate about the original thought process. This is what we are doing with the precedent analysis. Thinking about how that building relates to the context and the experience of the designers. Some designers make it easy to interpret the design because they had a clear, strong concept to start with. Architecture is made to challenge the norms and to make you think. The works of certain designers are considered modern because they were ahead of the times. Le Corbusier felt that "it is a question of building which is at the root of social unrest today: architecture or revolution" (Roth 530). They forced people to rethink the rules of design and to think about what’s possible.

To encourage speculation, a space has to have a certain energy that draws people in. Designers employ a variety of techniques to ENERGIZE the space, product, etc. At Fountain Place, the architect used angled sides and a classic tapering ‘wu-wu’ construction to bring energy to the building. Not only is energy created in the building with the oddly shaped floors and angled windows, the city of Dallas itself is energized with the addition of this building to the skyline. The fact that he outside is all reflective glass indicates that a common way to energize architecture is with natural light. Alexander Girard used natural light wherever possible to provide a natural element within his spaces (Massey 150). At the Postal Savings Bank, Wagner brings energy to all the floors through a skylight and glass block floors that filter natural light through all the floors.

We SHAPE ideas, concepts, furniture, and perceptions (among other things). We posses the ability to craft things into what we want them to be. Charles and Ray Eames used a new technique to mold plywood in unconventional ways. The result was the famous Eames chairs that were like nothing else. The same can be said of a lot of modern furniture designs. “New techniques for moulding and glueing plywood had been discovered by American manufacturers during wartime production for the navy and were now exploited for furniture design, as were plastics with fibre-glass reinforcements” (Massey 155). Molded woods and plastics bring a new fluid aesthetic that is unprecedented. The mark of a good designer is to use already available and cmmon materials to create something unique and interesting. One of the reasons I like Fountain Place and the HSB Turning Torso so much is that they use glass, steel, and aluminum to create works like no other.

The way a design or presentation is COMPOSED reflects the original driving concept of the work. Every detail is important and works together to convey an overall idea. A musical composition involves the juxtaposition and layering of parts to create a harmonious whole. This definition of composition carries across disciplines. Designers must take into account the qualities of the individual parts and integrate them into a seamless whole. The Eames’s home “was constructed from industrial components.. that provided an appropriately Modern setting forth their furniture-designs” (Massey 156). Everything from the steel joints and decking kept with the Modern aesthetic. The TWA Terminal is also a great example. Saarinen took everything into account to express the idea of flight. Every single thing, down to the handrails, has a form that speaks to the idea of flight in some way. These parts flow into one another to create a well-integrated design. My goal is to do the same thing in my ‘sacred space’ project.

Designers are constantly STRETCHING the limits and thinking outside the box. This is the only way to advance. With the changing times and urbanization, there has been a consistent stretching upwards as skyscrapers become the norm. In some areas, the stretching outward of the prairie and ranch houses provides different emphasis on being connected with the land and staying grounded. There has also been a stretching outward across nations. Movements like the Pop, Modern, International styles are spreading internationally. Modernism became "the appropriate progressive image for multinational corporations" (Massey 145). Designers are no longer reaching backward, but reaching laterally within the same time period to different locations. This brings more similarity across nations, rather than distinctions between regions as in antiquity. The result is more international integration of design.

Overall, this week was about how designs and concepts are formulated. Designers have a clear idea of what they want to convey and how they want the viewer to react. A lot of the modern architecture pushes boundaries and forces us to rethink everything we thought we knew about design. Thinking and speculating is the only way to learn and move forward into the future.

Massey, Anne. (1990). Interior Design of the 20th Century. London: Thames & Hudson

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

Friday, April 17, 2009

unit summary [reflections]

The reflections unit was about deciding the best way to move into the future. Do we continue to recreate the past or do we completely move away from that in new ways? This unit saw designers choosing either of the directions; some used a combination of both. The rapidly changing times of the 18th and 19th centuries were a double-edged sword. Many designers took advantage of the forward thinking innovative atmosphere and pushed into the future in unprecedented ways. However, when things change too fast, it is natural to feel uncomfortable and to revert to what is familiar. These types of designers use forms and techniques they already knew.

An important part of this unit was getting back to the roots. You have to know where you came from to get to where you’re going. Frank Lloyd Wright conveyed this with the design of his personal home. It went back to the basics as far as composition is concerned. The façade features a steep triangular roof, bands of windows, and a door. Wright finds ways to connect with roots with many of his other designs. For example, at Fallingwater, he connects with nature and the surroundings by using local stone and building directly into the landscape. The same is true with other designers. A reconnection with nature seems to be a recurring idea. Designers pay attention special moments within nature and use those as inspiration for elements within their designs.

At the time of our nations formation, there was a struggle establishing an identity and developing a unique architecture. Designers worked hard to change European forms and styles to reflect who we were as a nation. An example is the Trinity Church of Boston, The Romanesque-inspired style used in this building soon became a unique American style used for civic buildings throughout the country. The most successful styles, such as Art Deco over the International Style, caught on because they were adaptable and they reflected the existing architecture.

When thinking about the reflections unit, it is also helpful to think about the word literally as well. With the new technology of mass production, glass and iron became heavily used in new buildings. Glass was no longer an exclusive material, but something that could be used frequently. The glass represented a new era, looking back the past but also moving to the future.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

[road trip]

Designers have to consider MATERIALITY when designing a space, product, furniture, or anything. The materials can limit the design or take it to the next level. We did material boards exploring the cost, benefits, disadvantages and uses of various materials. Each one has unique qualities that convey different feelings and fit into different designs. French art deco designers “used only the rarest of materials, including lizard skin, shagreen, ivory, tortoiseshell, and exotic woods” (Massey 94). These materials add to the exclusive, high-quality feeling of their work. Using more common materials might have suggested a more relaxed and lower-class feeling than they intended. The materials used say a lot about intentions of the designer, but can also speak to the context of the design.

Wright used local stone in Fallingwater. The landscape was the ROOT of the design, both physically and conceptually. The idea for a design can come from the past, the immediate context, or a variety of other sources. Just as the roots provide life to a tree, these sources of inspiration bring life to a building, a piece of furniture, or a painting. They affects the way a design is approaches, the elements that are within it, and how others interpret the design. These roots are the basis for everything else. The Art Deco movement had some roots in the ancient Egyptians. “The [sunrise] motif was probably derived from ancient Egyptian art, a popular source of inspiration…” (Massey 94). The use of the sunrise motif speaks to what the designers thought was important and how they related to antiquity. Architecture has “silently expressed how humans view themselves in relation to the cosmos, to their gods, and to each other” (Roth 519).

After studying numerous works of architecture, I find it easier to notice similarities between separate entities and how parts fit appropriately together within a whole. The planning of Fallingwater reflects CONGRUENCE with the context of the work. It is built from local stone, as well as being molded to fit into the landscape rather than changing the landscape. Fallingwater also has a special congruence with Walter Gropius’ Fagus Factory. At the factory, “the corners are not solid masses but the merging of transparent glass panes” (Roth 522). Wright follows this same idea in the window tower running between floors. As I though more about the idea of virtually eliminating a corner, I thought about the critique room in Gatewood. The corners of that room also feature windows coming together. Similarities can be found throughout time periods and building types.

CONCEPTS begin to emerge as we look as similarities between elements of a space. Concepts can only be successfully expressed when all elements are working together to reflect that main idea. Wright micromanaged everything detail at Fallingwater to ensure that his concept of an open, free-flowing natural environment was being conveyed. Sometimes the concept is not as successfully expressed. “The curious irony in the German Pavillion, designed as it was to demonstrate the ideals of achievement of German industry, was that it was painstakingly handmade” (Roth 528). Mies van der Rohe intended for the concept of showing industry and the importance of mass production, yet the parts had to be assembled by hand. So it seems that the real statement is that both machine and man are needed to create great works of architecture.

After visiting Fallingwater and Monticello, I noticed that although both had vastly different overall feels and concepts, both utilized the idea of COMPRESSION and RELEASE. Jefferson achieved this in his personal area with an alcove bed opening into a room with a high ceiling and a skylight. The compression and release was seen through the opening up of space, but also with the contrast of light between the areas. The same was true in Fallingwater. The narrow dark hallways led to rooms with a lot of window and light. This compression and release of light and space adds to the dynamics of these buildings. My goal was to achieve the same effect in my Light Habitat project.

Overall, this week is about bringing elements together to formulate concepts. My observations at Monticello and Fallingwater really got me thinking about how designers achieve this because both are successful in different ways. Even though the ideas, functions, or even forms between buildings are different, there are still a vast number of ways to make connections.

Massey, Anne. (1990). Interior Design of the 20th Century. London: Thames & Hudson

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

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

between silence and light

With the invention of new technology, there was a lot of debate about which CRAFT was better: handcrafted or machine-made. Morris thought that “good design could only be produced by men and women working creatively with their hands” (Massey 12). The problem with handcrafted furniture and objects is the high cost involved. Mass production allowed the middle and lower classes to gain access to these goods. “Artistic merit was subordinate to matters of technique; but industrial processes were essential to provide for the increased numbers in the middle classes and their requirements for simple, comfortable, and lightly scaled furniture for apartment living” (Blakemore 350). But sometimes nothing compares to a handmade object. It makes the artifact unique and has a certain level of craft that cannot be achieved otherwise. “The more clearly expressed the construction the more honest the piece, and the greater the contrast with the machine-carved, highly polished veneers of mainstream taste” (Massey 15). I believe this is the reason the teachers in studio stress drawing development so much. Drawing by hand gives a better idea and essence of a room than computer-generated images.

VIRTUAL is a visual representation of something without its physical presence. These visuals allow us to understand a space without having to be there… or even without the space or object even existing at all. As designers, we have to do renderings of rooms that do not yet exist so that clients can visualize the space. Using real furniture and materials adds to the realism. The result is a virtual representation of a non-existent space. The same effect can come from faux finishes. “[Ruskin] warned against the common practice of making one material look like another” (Massey 10). Yet this technique is heavily used. At Monticello, the façade appears to be brick, but it is wood sprayed with sand and made to resemble brick. On our campus, the brick crosswalks often are not brick at all. They are asphalt that is heated then stamped into a brick pattern and texture. The faux finishes or false materials are accurate enough to pass as the real thing.

The only way to achieve the desired effects is through specific TECHNIQUES. In drawing, we have experimented with a variety of mediums, drawing styles, and papers to figure out what works best for each project. One thing we practiced earlier this semester was using one colored pencil to make a drawing interesting. I used the same technique above. Techniques can be carried from one discipline to another. A designer can make a room interesting using neutrals with shades and tints of the same color. The English Free Architecture Movement was all about this idea of creating a uniform language across disciplines. What works in one context can often be used or modified elsewhere. This is the story of the Crystal Palace, designed by horticulturist Joseph Paxton. To build greenhouses, he used modular columns and beams and standardized panels of glass that could be translated into a larger building for the exhibition. The result was the Crystal Palace (Roth 487). “In a few years, the same rapidity in invention and perfection would occur in the development of the high-rise office buildings in the United States” (Roth 489).

LANGUAGES can be a combination of multiple influences, each lending unique qualities. The aesthetic movement had heavy British and Japanese influences. “Soon afterwards [Arthur Liberty] opened Liberty’s, the shop that went on to establish the exclusive ‘Liberty & Co.’ look, supplying oriental ceramics and textiles with British-designed metalwork and furniture for the creation of fashionable interiors” (Massey 26). Looking at Monticello, it is interesting to see how the French culture has influenced his work. After he came back from France, he designed Monticello II, which included distinct parquet flooring, elliptical arches, and other additions. The merge of the French and American styles gave the house a new language that made it a standout building. We borrow often from contemporary styles, but just as often from previous styles. We bring old languages and styles from silence into light by emphasizing them in new ways. “The alternative was a new approach to building design in which historically- derived details were inventively manipulated in buildings planned strictly in accord with contemporary functional requirements” (Roth 482). Bringing together a variety of elements can give architecture new life and bring it into the forefront.

As royalty accumulates grand collections of exotic artifacts and designers create innovative masterpieces, they naturally want to move these items from PRIVATE to PUBLIC. “Enlightened European monarchs and princes had been opening their residences to the public so that their collections of painting and sculpture could be viewed and studied” (Roth 473). This is the reason Glyptothek (the Sculpture Museum) and the Altes Museum in Germany were built. These great, exotic collections were moved from silence into light so that others could admire and learn from them. The same events occurred at Monticello and Falling Water. These once private residences became icons in American history and needed to be shared with the world. The only problem with opening up these spaces to the public is that a lot of the original furniture and items in the houses had to be removed to make way for tourists to circulate. At both of these sites, I found myself wishing I could see these places as a visitor to the families, rather than as a tourist. With all of the original pieces still in place, I would have gotten a more complete essence of the buildings.

This week was about ways we transition styles, artifacts, and spaces from privacy or darkness into a more glorified light. There are so many great moments in architecture throughout the world that are not well-known because no one has shed light on them. The same can be said about nature. It is mind-blowing to think about the intricacy of nature and all the things we do not know about it. It is also exciting to think about all the new things we will discover about both architecture and nature in the future.

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

Massey, Anne. (1990). Interior Design of the 20th Century. London: Thames & Hudson

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

precedent analysis [fountain place]: rough draft

Fountain Place is a towering gem that stands out in the Dallas skyline. Designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, planning on the fifth tallest building in Dallas began in June 1982. Construction began in March 1984 and was completed in September 1986. Located on Ross Avenue and Field Street in the central business district of Dallas, this 62-story structure is easily recognizable. Originally, the plans were for a hotel and two identical towers turned at 90 degrees to each other. Yet the second tower and hotel were never completed.

The 720-foot tower boasts 62 stories and 1.88 million gross square feet, including a lobby, executive penthouse, boardroom, dining, and three levels of underground parking for 950 cars. The exterior is green reflective glass, with the inside being home to a variety of merchants and offices. The prism form of the building makes the structure unique, creating unconventional office spaces. Each floor is different in plan.

The clients, Campeau/Criswell Development, wanted to “establish a unique identity on the skyline and an inviting presence at street level.” The intent was to fill a void that they recognized in Dallas downtown. Henry N. Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners seemed to be the right person for the job. Looking at his body of work it is easy to see how Fountain Place fits in. Many of his previous projects feature towers of glass and angled, geometric forms. He takes the same approach at Fountain Place, while keeping in mind the desire for a unique, eye-catching design. The result was this prism shaped form. However he could not forget the clients desire for the building to be welcoming at street level. This is where landscape architect Dan Kiley came into play.

Dan Kiley is an established landscape architect famous for his use of fountains at the Ford Foundation building and the Lincoln Center in Manhattan. At Fountain Place, he found a way to add an element of human scale to the superhuman building through the construction of a fountain plaza at the entrance. This area welcomes pedestrians to the towering structure without intimidating them. As with any monumental building, it is essential to make people feel comfortable approaching it so that they feel they belong.

Although the concept and plans for the building were well thought-out, there was still skepticism. Critics had problems with the sloped windows and oddly-shaped offices. They expressed concerns about the top floor being only 8,000 square feet. Despite the criticism, both the designer and client were confident in the design. In 1990, the building won the National Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects and the Dallas Urban Design Award from the city of Dallas. The building has achieved its purpose and left its mark in architectural history.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

light patterns... take 2

this is the final version of my project. i changed the original version by cutting openings in some of the pieces to let more light in the structure. these openings also allow for more variation in shadows. this final product is sturdier than the original, allowing it to be seen from a variety of views.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

for every action there is an equal and opposite [re]action

MOVEMENT naturally draws attention. Even when looking at a large complicated scene, the slightest movement will instantly grab our attention. Designers want to spark this type of interest in the viewer through their designs. The Beaux-Arts style speaks to this idea. “The style is characterized by the asymmetrical whiplash line that gives a sense of dynamic movement wherever it is applied: to furniture, wallpapers, stained glass and metalwork” (Massey 32). Even in the highly lavish and extravagant interior, items with this whiplash mark will instantly stand out. In my design for studio, I created movement with overlapping curves, constantly leading the eye to new places. This also made me think about Kim Middlebrooks’ presentation for Retail Retold last semester. She designed a camera store with curved walls and digital wave on the walls to lead people through the space.

Movements can also be the organization of people to evoke change. In the arts they are a REFLECTION of the times. It can be a reaction to new technology available, social or political problems, or a new way of thinking. In reference to Ledoux’s city of Chaux: “… but it is significant that so much open space was set aside around it in a green belt. Ledoux was reflecting the new sensitivity to nature that arose in the Age of Reason” (Roth 452). When one person dares to be innovative and take advantage of the changes, others will follow suit. This is the story during the Industrial Revolution when manufacturing plants and mass production were in the forefront. Cast iron and glass became widely used because of their quick production and installation. But not all ideas are met with immediate approval. In reference to the Victorian period, John Ruskin “saw the ugliness which surrounded him as the unavoidable result of the miserable conditions for the majority brought by the Industrial Revolution. He took issue with the Victorian fashion for cramming as much as possible into a room to symbolize the owners’ wealth and status…” (Massey 10). Movements that came out of the Industrial Revolution may not have been approved then, but have become important precedents for modern-day architecture.

Reflection can also involve looking back. We can understand where things came from… their SOURCE. The source of the modern shopping mall is a mix of the Baths of the Diocletian and Burlington Arcade in London. As architects explore different time periods and styles, they “begin to mix historical references, in what could be called synthetic eclecticism, resulting in a new amalgamation of disparate elements” (Roth 470). Bringing ideas from a variety of sources generates new ideas. The source is usually recognizable, but has been adapted in new ways. The study of Greek temples influenced the church at Sainte-Genevieve, which in plan is a Greek cross. The church itself is like a Greek temple turned inside out, with an internal colonnade for structure (Roth 447). In my projects, the source of my inspiration may not be as easily recognizable as coming from a flower’s leaves. The same can be said of decorative artifacts imported by the West from China. The Chinese designed these based on the aesthetics of the specific countries. This time period is also the source/beginning of China’s trade relationship with the West.

As we make links across time periods and genres, we find that no styles or ideas are ever lost. Everything comes back around, just like with fashion. Design and ideas are on a ROTATION so to speak. Forms from antiquity are brought back, such as with the Grecian and Gothic revivals. No idea is ever lost, only put on the back burner for a while. When they come back to the forefront, they are adapted to react to the new context. ‘While designers imitated past styles they also made a conscious attempt to develop a new fashion’ (Blakemore 347). This allows old ideas to be used in new, relevant ways. The ottoman above takes the traditional form, yet revamps it in a new way, using rubber pieces all around. I find that the same is true with me and my designs and drawings. As we were rendering perspectives this week, vocabulary, design concepts, and critiques from last semester and earlier this semester have re-emerged. I had to react to these and find ways to address them in my current project.

Our project in studio is about ILLUMINATION. We were asked to design an artifact that reacts to natural light. I had to think about how each piece of my model affected light. It was interesting to see how light affected the tonal quality of the MDF. From these observations, I further revised my design to increase the control of the artifact over the light. Light can create a sense of theatricality, such as in the Ecstasy of St. Theresa by Bernini. Light can create a sense of divinity, such as in the Gothic cathedrals. Light can also be used to create a sense of openness. The glass and iron buildings created open spaces that let in lots of light and seemed to bring the outside in. Blending the boundaries between interior and exterior makes the walls seem to dissolve away. These are all things I considered when thinking of how to make my project react to light and vice versa.

This week was about how architecture and design reacts to context and about how people react to the architecture. Newton's third law is that every action has an equal and opposite [re]action. This is true in every facet of life, especially design. It is these [re]actions and influences that keep design moving forward.

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

Massey, Anne. (1990). Interior Design of the 20th Century. London: Thames & Hudson

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