Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Regarding narrowness of the exercise: Many folks are probably feeling the same way. It is a very narrow exercise, isn’t it? (Well, not really. I hope you will discover ultimately that it is not narrow at all.) What does narrowness imply in a studio exercise? It could indicate a desire in a teacher to restrict creativity and experimentation. Well, I certainly don’t want to do that. Narrowness can also arise from a desire in a teacher to help students see something they normally take for granted. In this case “narrowness” is a preconception, one that the teacher hopes to help students overcome. Consider for example Project 1. The material study often seems very narrow to students at first – an extremely constrained exercise. But once students engage the exploration, they realize that the role of materiality in architecture is far broader and deeper and filled with vastly more creative potential than they had previously assumed. A new realm of creativity is opened, and what seemed narrow reveals its vastness.
Regarding the city: Is it true that we pursue the active life or the contemplative life only when out-and-about in town? Why would such pursuit be limited only to an urban context? Why can’t a person engage in active doing or in focused contemplating while inside one’s own abode or workplace? If this fundamental aspect of life (doing or contemplating) is limited to the outside of architecture, then what is left to the inside? It seems that the inside would be in danger of becoming irrelevant. I hope for the sake of everyone that inhabits architecture that the inside – the stage for the vast majority of human activity – has the capacity to influence the active life and the contemplative life. We sure need it to.
Regarding context: It is true that in order to act, we must act in a context, which I think is part of what Jessie is trying to say. The outside world (i.e., the city) provides part of this context, but not all of it. A person’s psychology and personal history also provides part of this context, but not all of it. Project 4 asks you to consider part of the context that is normally overlooked, neglected by designers as too narrow, too mundane. The context of Project 4 is a person’s interaction with the material framework of architecture – its walls, doors, windows, floors and ceilings. But more precisely: the question is how this material framework filters and constructs a person’s interaction with his own work (Scenario A), other people (Scenario B) or the natural surroundings (Scenario C). Each of these is in fact a crucial part of the context of human habitation.
Friday, March 27, 2009
When trying to grasp my own world view, it always leads down a path of spirituality and religion. Would your convictions about the relationship between Human and Earth differ if you believed in reincarnation? Would your convictions about the relationships between different people differ if you believed Heaven and Hell? I think these are all deep and important questions. I understand that religion and spirituality are often taboo in liberal institutions, Macalester is a shining example of that. So is this what we are talking about when we say "world view"? Or is it a distinct idea, somehow separated from religion and spirituality?
I have another question, but I think I'll save that one for later as I ponder this one...
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
This prototype represents 1/4 of the planned model. It shows top, side, front and corner conditions. It does not include the redesigned straps that now change relative to their span. I'm also going to add rough white bristol to the inside surface, which should highlight the oscillation of overlapping edges on the outer surface.
I updated the wall of pins with my new theme, "a dynamic interaction of opposites," but I'm not totally satisfied with that yet. For me the opposites are expansion and contraction represented by the circles and straps. The system uses one connection type throughout. The expansion of the circle puts tension on the strap. This is repeated with variation in size and degree of folding. Each module (consisting of both systems) is connected to four other modules and because of this the enclosure becomes structurally redundant. So the system is about cooperation, interdependance, and being comfortable operating in larger system of difference. This is how I would characterize my future as a 'digital craftsperson.' I expect opposition, I will however continue to act as a collaborator with change in exploring my ideas.
Monday, March 16, 2009
This is not a statement of subjectivism. It is not meant to say that whatever you happen to do is right just because you chose to do it. Rather, it is a statement of individualism. It expresses the fact that the only way to have any chance at doing what is right is to follow the independent judgment of your own reasoning mind. It is only through independent understanding and evaluation that each person can hope to stay on a path toward truth, and the only real way to deviate from this path is to subordinate your judgment to that of others - be it your teacher, your employer, your client, your friends, your family, or your peers.
According to Mr. Cartwright, nobody should ever substitute his understanding of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, important and irrelevant - for that of another person. To relinquish the responsibility of judgment is to become vulnerable to all the wrongs, falsehoods and distractions that can thwart life, which one could no longer reliably discern.
If this is true, isn't there a contradiction between Mr. Cartwright's dictum and the one put forth in my reply to Manto's comment under "Life at the BreakWater": "The customer is always right"? How can architects be good businessmen, placing the needs of their clients first, and also be good artists - true to their convictions? The service-provider-architect would say, "Ah, yes - this is precisely why it is foolish to hold convictions. Being idealistic will cause you to fail in business. It is the arrogance of architects who believe they know what is right that is the downfall of architecture. It leads to buildings driven by the egos of architects, rather than the needs of inhabitants."
Do we have to choose between business and art? If not, how do we resolve this apparent conflict?
Saturday, March 14, 2009
At long last, here is my progress for Phase 3.
I am developing a double skin structure that uses opposing tension and compression to hold its form. I'm taking advantage of the natural flexibility and resilience of paper to form components that lock together.
I am very excited about the qualities this system is exhibiting. As hoped, it is more like a material than a structure. It exhibits a quality that is much different from traditional man-made materials in that it is shaped and formed by the size and shapes of its components, not by an outside force or frame. This aspect of the material is more like biological tissue which is grown one cell at a time with each cell's size, shape and function determining the shape of the greater whole. It is created with a simple gradient script and the gradient determines the entire assembled shape.
So far, I am happy with what the system is saying about my beliefs in regards to material authenticity. Every part of the whole is visible but to varying degrees and there is nothing added for decoration purposes. Its success would falter if I were to add anything or take anything away. I don't want the whole system to be immediately understood because that leads to a short and ungratifying experience. Instead, I want visitors to experience an opaque exterior shell, only discovering the compression posts and tension pins on the inside. The outside layer does relinquish some clues about the nature of the system. The tips of the posts are visible and the joints are bigger where the skin is thicker.
My thoughts on the issue of Change vs Stasis become evident in the nature of the grid exhibited in the whole assembly. It is a grid based system but, instead of repeating the same component over and over, every component must change slightly to lead the material in a new direction. From this, one would derive that I believe in a slow gradual change (evolution), which is mostly true. However, I also think that, as humans, we have the ability to cause abrupt change due to free will if necessary. I think I could express that by introducing a "rock" into the flow of the pattern. By generating a system that adapts to an agitator. I know this system can do that but it is easier said than done so we'll see about that.
Any input would be appreciated!
Friday, March 13, 2009
Tuesday: 1PM-Until we are finished
Wednesday: NO REQUEST
Thursday: 4PM-Until we are finished
Friday: 4PM-Until we are finished
Agnieszka will be the one assisting us so make sure to thank her
This is the current state of things. The concept driving the model is the idea of the world as a framework for exploration. The images show the progression from ground level to birds eye to overview, revealing and concealing the different elements to be explored and engaged. Also, it looks like a spaceship.
This is a rather crude study of corner conditions. After working with these fairly simple conditions without much success, I realized that the problem was simplicity.
I added more horizontal layers and created a double gable condition. This seems to be working out.
However, I will be creating some components with a triangulated base to make things work. Good thing this puppy is mass customized.
From here I started to investigate the further refinement of component parts and edge/corner conditions.
The newest prototype. The things lacking in the first, have been somewhat resolved in this iteration. The back tying makes it solid, structural, inter dependent and has the latent property of a rhythmic spacing which allows a void between, surprisingly, every element.
The string, I have had the critique, is almost too familiar to the wooden pieces, making the coming together somewhat uncomfortable. This seems counterintuitive, but I see the point. If this is a balance of individuals coming together in a balanced and calm way, should they be less familiar so that the coming together is highlighted in the difference? Or could this critique be more a statement of aesthetics and materiality. The twine, being run through the small apertures becomes somewhat frayed and worked. Is this good? or no? Would more holes and making the connections out of something more thin, perfect and ephemeral like fishing line be better?
In my next iteration I hope to exaggerate and dramatize the "overlapping" of the wooden pieces which create such interesting skin features in their adjacencies (as seen in the first image here). The bending of the twine into the "back wall" will also become more elegant and seamlessly part of the curvature of the wood.
Comments welcomed on the innards.
thanks, have a nice day.
On Change vs Stasis (Evolution of Stasis)...
Chipboard "Ribs" represent status quo(stasis)- has a "forward" propulsion, however, only in terms of time (not necessarily in terms of progress). Wooden "Spines" represent an event(change) that disrupts/informs stasis. Physical layers form in the model because of shifts in stasis, resulting in an overall form respresentational of evolution in stasis.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Here are some quick shots of my latest prototype. The above represents 1/3 of what I laser cut today (overall it is 1/27 of my digital model). I am really happy with the results, especially the quality of the museum board, it almost has a wooden look to it. For those of you I haven't spoken with lately, the basic concept of my project is exploiting the fact that each triangle in my surface has three sides to it. So what I have done is leave one edge of each triangle physically connected to another triangle. There are then three levels to the system with each level containing only connections in one direction. Each level individually is unable to form a surface, but together, the three levels become interconnected and achieve stability.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
More relevant questions: What does the BreakWater mean? What convictions does it express? What kind of life does it promise those who purchase condos there? These are not esoteric questions for architectural theorists to ponder in the classroom, detached from any relevance in everyday life. These questions are simultaneously theoretical and practical. They are desperately important questions, to which every customer of the BreakWater needs real answers. In that spirit:
Comfortable rather than Beautiful
Renner clearly states his intention to make a place that is comfortable for its residents, rather than visually appealing. He wanted to give people entertainment centers, well-equipped kitchens and spacious decks. He values the simple pleasures of ordinary life, rather than the sophisticated delights of the refined life.
Generic rather than Distinctive
Every unit here is basically the same, a fact broadcasted loudly on the exterior by the relentlessly repetitious balconies. Everybody gets exactly the same balcony. Everybody gets basically the same interior living spaces, as well. The conviction expressed is that we are more alike than different. The things that make us distinctive - our individual personalities - are not really relevant. In design we can safely filter that out of consideration. One size fits all.
The same conviction can be seen in the treatment of the structure, enclosure and form of the building. The driving desire is for conformity to an established model, rather than exploration of something new. It is more important to reinforce convention than to deviate from it. We should not question too much (if at all) the way things are normally done. It is crucially important in life to be normal, that is, to be like everybody else.
Money-making rather than Landmark-making
Renner is probably right that the BreakWater will make money for its developer, and maybe also for its residents. According to Renner's own statements making money for his clients is clearly one of his driving intentions. Conversely, he does not even mention such things as pride of ownership. So he conveys to us the conviction that what is most important in life is getting a return-on-investment, rather than garnering rich and meaningful human experiences.
So what is the kind of person who would thrive inhabiting a condo at the BreakWater? It is a person who values physical comfort above beauty, a person without a strong sense of personal identity, and a person who pursues the acquisition of monetary wealth over emotional fulfillment. These are all characteristics of the materialist. Everything Renner says in the debate reveals that he is an extreme materialist, and he has succeeded in giving us a building that embodies his view of the world.
Anyone who purchased a condo at the BreakWater and does not hold these convictions is a poor fool - a sucker who was duped into buying something that stands for everything he hates. That is the real crime here - not that the BreakWater exists - after all, it is an expression of the values of the architect and the client (i.e., the developer), as it should be. The crime is that many of the customers who purchase condos here, now and in the future, are supporting the propagation of convictions they actually consider destructive. If these convictions were identified, as I've tried to do here, those same enthusiastic buyers would run away from the BreakWater with a sick stomach. Ignorance of the meaning and significance of architecture renders people helpless against buildings like the BreakWater, which I actually don't think expresses the convictions of many people.
In an enlightened society the developers (who own the land) have every right to pay to hire an architect of their choosing and construct a building that expresses whatever values they choose. And in an enlightened society, people have every right to buy homes elsewhere, and to watch the BreakWater rot. The fact that the BreakWater is sold-out indicates that either we live in a society with a large number of materialists, or we live in a society with a large number of unenlightened persons, who don't know what the ugly face of materialism looks like. I believe the latter is true.
Postscript: I wanted to clarify a couple points related to the issue of making money through architecture. In this post it might seem like I'm against profiting from architecture. Nothing could be further from the truth. I question two aspects of Renner's mode of business operation. First, his premise that the way to "make money" for your client is to design an ugly, minimalist box. Notice that Renner never even asks the real Capitalistic question: how much money can I make? Is 0.0001% profit really okay? Certainly not. The goal of every good Capitalist is not to merely make a profit, but to maximize profit. The reality is that minimal solutions never maximize profit. People want more (if given the option), and they deserve to have more. Second, I question the process in which customers buy homes in complete ignorance of the convictions embodied there. It is wrong to sell people a chocolate bunny that's really made out of poop. No architect can be considered an honest businessman when he pursues profit by pulling the wool over people's eyes - obscuring issues of conviction and way-of-life under the disguise of "functionality" or "resale value". Architects have a responsibility to help their customers understand the significance of a place, so the client can make an informed decision.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
I am searching for meaning with my own project - and struggling a bit. A thread of meaning has been flowing through my early projects this semester, but distilling it has been tricky. I started with the choatic, but very purposeful, way that connections form in the brain; then moved to a sectional reinterpretation of that idea in order to explore its layering and spatial implications.
Gasometer, Oberhausen. This adaptive reuse project of a museum and concert space in a giant gas container has an interesting connection to my project. The huge truss work pictured here is an inhabited space-- a hallway. You have to walk in, under, through, over and under the truss work to get to the center of the massive space. The structure, which is just an early modern industrial set of parts is truly experienced and open to interaction-- they even wrap some beams in padding so you don't hit your head in the near-pitch blackness.
I am propagating two systems, and their connection is crucial, but I cannot allow myself to forget the whole or stop myself from being seduced by ideas of scale, however changing. I can neither bring myself to separate experience and part. In the images above, the "failing" iteration quickly became a point of immense clarity for me. While I set out to have a changing frame with a sinuous skin following the same lines, the way in which I constructed it did not allow for such things. Instead it has become two interdependent systems, in which the second system (the tensile system) begins to create its own emerging form. By changing the points of connection (the holes of the rigid system), the sectional qaulity created by the position of the tensile system changes drastically, allowing (in my imagination of different scales) a path that changes in experience through the mass-customization of hole positions. diagrams to follow soon.
And this experiential take on structure, for me, is not without thematic understanding. The underlying emotion is about balance, not in one system to the other (however this may be apparent) but in part to whole, tectonic to experience. In the realm of change vs. Stasis, it argues both and neither at once. In quietude, they exist together, without quarrel.
When they started talking about product, however, I dosed. Houminn is symptomatic of leading-edge practice today, which can't talk about product deeply. Houminn's projects were essentially like the Dubai project Manto slammed on Friday - the one that defined "plant irrigation" as its primary design intention. So Houminn defined "natural ventilation" as a primary intention, or on another project, the reduction of solar heat-gain by 1%.
Clearly they had other things in their head. They mentioned racecar air-intakes and camouflage. But... why? What is relevant about those things? Why did they spend so much time justifying their work functionally, and so little time talking about the significance of their sources of inspiration, or the significance of the experiential impact of their designs? When it came to aesthetics, they were basically silent. Were they holding out on us, or are they oblivious to the deeper significance of their work?
The same problem arose in the Office da lecture. In the Q&A she was very explicit: "Our designs are driven by program." Yet clearly they weren't. No purely functional explanation can be offered for the faceted skin of the gas station canopy, nor for the crazy folded-plate roof of the drive testing facility.
What's going on here? If contemporary architecture is supposed to incorporate a return to meaning - a return to the significance of architecture beyond minimum functional solutions - then why do these folks remain so silent on the meaning of their work? The answer can be found in the nature of leading-edge architectural education, and the rediscovery of introspection among leading designers.
The current generation of leading-edge designers is the first of its kind. When in leading-edge architecture school, its members were mostly indoctrinated into the still dominant Post-Modern view of the world, and its corresponding approach to architecture. Central to this approach is the belief that architecture (like everything) is ultimately meaningless. Meaning in Post-Modern thought is subjective, that is, it is arbitrarily projected onto things by an observer, according to each observer's whim-of-the-moment. What a building means to me, Post-Modernists like to say, is not what a building might mean to you. And what a building means to me today might not be what it will mean to me tomorrow. If this subjective view it true, then designers have no control over the meaning of their work, and thus, according to Post-Modern architectural theory, designers should not be concerned with meaning. The idea that designers can make meaningful architecture is a delusion of the past.
This idea is still deeply infused in the thinking of first-generation Genetic designers. It is as though they have habitualized the turning-off of any thinking about meaning. They instinctively avoid any line of inquiry that might lead them there, steering clear of the "hornets nest of unanswerable questions" it implies to them. This peculiar habit of mind makes them blind to the absurdity of such statements as "Our designs are driven by program." They have contorted their thinking in such a way that they've actually convinced themselves this is true.
(This is a dangerous state of affairs - a vulnerable time in the growth of Genetic architecture - in which the whole movement could careen into a New Functionalism.)
The first generation of Genetic designers have been successful in taking back only the field of design process. Here they have aggressively cleaned out the cobwebs of Post-Modernism. They have opened the field back up, allowing architects to reflect on process and experiment with it beyond any prior age. But they have not yet broken the Post-Modern vice-grip on product and the closely linked consideration of significance (i.e., meaning). This, I hope, will be the great achievement of the second generation of Genetic designers. This will complete the pending architectural renaissance. Designers will again develop the ability to reflect on product as well as process.
Ted: Calm, steady change
Kelly: Change as dynamic and chaotic
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
The Peter Principle
The original Milwaukee Magazine article, by Tom Bamberger
"Rebuttal" to the Milwaukee Mag article (click on PDF link in 5th paragraph)
by Chris Corley of Breakwater
How NOT to take criticism
Journal Sentinel smack down, by Mary Louise Schumacher (Art City columnist)
WUWM's Lake Effect, Tuesday, February 17
Interviews with Tom Bamberger and Peter Renner
I think what I'm looking for in this project could best be described as a calm differentiation. Personally, I'm hesitant about progress. For the most part, I think progress complicates life. I think I lean on the side of statis, and of order. But I also think there is a special beauty in dynamism and differentiation. What I would like to do in this project is capture dynamism in a calm and still state. This image begins to hint at what I am aiming for.
Met up with some family from out of town last night at the Mitchell Park Conservatory (Domes) for a concert- looking at the modernist interpretation of genetic architecture got me thinking how tough that must have been to rectify a design challenge so easily solved with GA within Modern constraints- the geometry (and maintenance) issues are apparent at the domes- but I give an E for effort! (4 decades later Grimshaw gives it another Modernist go...pictured here is Eden Project.) Anyway, looking at the vegetation was inspiring- if you have a chance, stop in.
Jeff caught using his rapid-prototyping powers and Robyn defusing a chipboard nuclear device.
Seriously. I'm looking for ideas on how to restart my research. At the moment I'm making connections, as many as I can think of. My plan is to let the connection turn into the component rather than making a component that needs a connection. I'm also trying to start with the corner. The idea being that it will be easier to turn a corner into a surface than a surface into a corner. Oh yeah, the last strategy is 'no frame'. Hopefully my bus ride in will produce an epiphany.