Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What do you get when you cross a P, a B, and a D?

A few months ago, I filled you in on the first half of my spring semester studio assignment, where we worked with letter form to create intersecting objects.  As I prepare to go back to school in less than a week, I figured I should finish up my summer vacation by writing about the second half of that assignment, when we made our objects into buildings (arguably).
            The letters I chose to form my building, which was intended for the SMART museum quad at the University of Chicago, were P, B, and D.  I chose them because I liked their similarity, how the curves made up a sort of family of shapes that could huddle together, in a way.  However, I learned that modeling double curves and intersecting curves was hard!
We started with some study models, like this one, where all of my letters were extruded horizontally, leaving a pretty flat roof and flat floors.  These were section models, where we pochéed anything that could be viewed as interior space, to get an idea of the volume that our buildings could hold.  After a number of these quick models, I decided to play around with tilting the letters so that they could form vertical spaces as well as horizontal, also becoming less legible from an elevational view.

a render of my final design, east elevation
            As we progressed with our designs, we studied more of these interior spaces, and where the intersecting letters would afford us large volumes, that we could use for our largest program: a gallery space and an auditorium space.  Because of this, the 3D print that I did for the final review was also sectional, to show off the large spaces and how the letters formed an appropriate space for their use.
a photo of my 3D print, taken from a similar viewpoint; northeast elevation

my 3D print for final, opened up to show interior sections

east section, as modeled

east section, as drawn

ground floor plan

I had mixed feelings about this project overall.  On the one hand, I found it a little kitschy, that we would use familiar forms in this way - it felt kind of Disney.  On the other hand, I think that it gave us an opportunity to create something new with those familiar forms, more than a boxy building, which is what I ended up with the previous semester.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pavilion for a Garden

 We wanted to give the gardeners new opportunities for activities in their garden.  We were drawn to a structure that was something clean when it was together, then could break apart and become useful in new ways.  We saw possibilities in objects when they were cracked opened, turned upside down, or hollowed out.  We wanted to design surprises.  

            To prepare for our presentation to the gardeners, we decided on a scheme that was a "puzzle" of 9 pieces that were each like a malformed box.  When they were put together, they were a cohesive whole, but when separate, their unique shapes lent each piece to a different specific purpose.  We split up into 9 groups of 2 or 3 and were each assigned one of these boxes to design in a new way: turn it on its side, open it up, etc.  The use for my box was to be seating, like an amphitheater.  My partner and I consulted on it and came up with a scheme where we split the box in two halfway up, and had it open out to double the size, and create a stepped seating area.  My partner also had worked on the overall design, and ended up spending most of his time on that, so the presentation of the amphitheater was mostly up to me, with some help from a few generous souls.  
            Here is my cardboard model that we showed the gardeners.
and open

The gardeners liked the overall idea, but were mainly worried that we were biting off more than we could chew, so they pared us down to 5 different programs, and the remaining 4 boxes, we decided, would become dummy boxes, used for storage or something.  Teams were merged based on similar programs, so my group was merged with the "rest" group (they had designed something they called a "dream box") and we were to start new designs the following day.  However, the teachers decided that we needed to start building ASAP, and my design was the one that they felt was ready to go.  So by the end of that following day, we had built the bones of the base piece.
bare bones after day 1
The progress of the work was slow, compared to how quickly some of the other pieces came together, but my piece was the only one that was meant to hold serious weight (4 people perhaps?) above the ground with somewhat of a cantilever system, so I'm glad that we took our time to get it right.
In the days following, we built the top half and tested out a few different hinging systems.
trial opening . . .

Once all the pieces had been constructed, more or less, at school, we took them all apart to transport them in a van out to the site.  Then the real fun began.  We could finally put in as many screws as we felt necessary to hold the dang thing together!  There were a lot of structural details and decisions that we put off making at first, that we finally got to make out there in the field.  And I definitely got a sunburn!  
bits and pieces
and it supports my weight!
Knowing that the gardeners will probably not want to ever put this thing back together was a little hard, but we decided on a paint scheme to connect them all in a way beyond just the shape.  We painted it white and blue/purple stripes, which I think was a little funky - I was worried about the whole thing being just too over designed - there was plenty going on without adding color to the mix!  But in the end, I did like it, and I think it shows a sense of relation and cohesion throughout the garden.  
 We also spent a lot of time on the infographics and icons - to show how to use each of our pieces and how they function. 
theater seating
how to open
moving my piece to its final resting place in the garden
and voila
This project was great because I feel like it was like being an architect in hyperdrive.  We went from concept to design to build to even seeing it get used and appreciated within 2 weeks.  What a whirlwind!  

this piece can support 4 kids at least
and 2 little girls playing patty cake

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pavilions for Berlin

My summer study class has been in Berlin now for 3 1/2 weeks and in that time, we've toured a lot, tasted a lot, and worked a decent amount as well.  The goal of our work is to design a pavilion to be located at Tempelhof Airport, which has been a public park since the airport shut down in 2008.  At the east end of the runway, there is a community garden and we are designing our pavilion with the hope that the gardeners will want to incorporate our structure into their garden.  We had a meeting with a few of the gardeners 2 days ago, which went decently well, and we are carrying on with our final plans, which I will write more about at a later date.   In the meantime, I wanted to show you some of the designs that I've gone through on the way to a 20-student collaboration.
Our first assignment was to each design a pavilion by ourselves with the maximum dimensions of 10X10 meters, and going up to 5 meters high.  We could either build one structure filling this space, or divide the space up into smaller structures, which is what I chose to do.  I used the basic form of the Operation Airlift memorial, which is in front of the Tempelhof Airport terminal, but designed it to be a trellis.
From there, I changed the shape to curve down, creating five different spaces with different degrees of enclosure, each for a different use.

My hope with the repetition of form was to create a sense of cohesion across the garden, which is quite large and varied, as it is a hodge-podge of materials put together by each of the gardeners themselves.  The idea of the trellis is that they would eventually become part of the garden, over time becoming less of a foreign element and more of a unifying structure.
my cardboard models of the trellis system.

After presenting each of our designs, we were split up into 4 groups of 5 to come up with a new collaborative design.  My group focused on the found objects that we had noticed on the site visit.  There were a few spots in the garden where people had repurposed doors and we decided to take that element as a jumping-off point, using it in a few new ways, or taking off from the typology of a door (as entrance) or the movement of a door (open vs. closed) to give us different design elements.
My friend Sam designed a comically large door, that reached our maximum 5 meter height, to be an iconic entrance to the garden, and a message board to inform visitors about the garden community.

I designed a few different-sized kiosks to be placed around the garden to provide shelter or shade, depending on if they are open or closed.  At each end, a traditional door would open (to the side) to allow access to the building.  On each side, a larger door, more like an old garage door, could open (up) to allow for shade.

What both of these designs have in common is that they are each part of a unifying theme.  As we move forward with our entire class design, we are again utilizing separate structures with a strong part to whole relationship.  But more on that later!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Transparency vs. Obscurity in Berlin

Heavy title, I know.  This is a duplicate of a post that I just put up on the studioBERLIN blogsite, ruminations on some things that we've seen in the past week while touring Berlin and Copenhagen, thoughts that might contribute to the pavilion we will be designing in the next few weeks.  Please check out the website to see what my classmates are writing about.

On the first day that we toured Berlin, we saw the Holocaust Memorial, designed in the early 2000’s by Peter Eisenman.  I found this memorial, considering its subject, to be surprisingly calming and pleasant (although I’m not sure if Eisenman would appreciate either of those adjectives).  
What I liked about it was the play between visibility and obscurity.  When we first walked out into the field, people became lost, to a certain extent.  But each “aisle” is a straight shot from one side of the memorial to the other.  So that, in a way, things are all very visible.  Like looking through venetian blinds, things can go from being obscured to almost fully visible if you only change the angle that you’re looking through, or the point that you’re looking from.  So that, yes, you can hide here, but you can easily be found when you would need to be.  From one direction everything is a jumble, and from another it is all organized and clear.
walking into obscurity at the Holocaust Memorial

but paths are clear from end to end
We’ve actually been seeing a lot of buildings that look completely different, depending on which angle you look from.  And most of them are made of glass.  Glass is such an interesting material because it is technically, physically, transparent.  However, in certain light, at certain angles, it is nearly impossible to see through it, and you end up seeing only what is outside the building again.  A building surface that is constantly changing and never committing to being one thing.  So many pictures I took throughout our tours are of glass buildings, but I took the picture because it was showing me something other than the building itself.  
Helmut Jahn in Berlin: now you see it . . . 
now you don't
A sculpture by the DR Byen complex in Copenhagen (yes, very much like our Chicago bean), which exists as an object, but, like a mirror in a room, can be a sort of negative-object, which is there only to not-be-there, and give the illusion of extra space instead.
Copenhagen's version of Chicago's Cloud Gate

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wisconsin Trip with my Mom

About a month ago, my mom came out to Chicago for an extended (10 day!) visit.  She's visited me about once a year since I moved here in 2005, but this was the longest time she's stayed with me and also the first time she's visited that I didn't have to work while she was here.  Because of that, we finally got to take a trip outside of Chicago, since mom doesn't have much of any experience with the midwest.
Tara Donovan: untitled.  Photo borrowed from archblog.
Our 3 day trip was pretty packed.  The first leg took us to Milwaukee, where I managed to get us tickets to see the Cubs play (and beat) the Brewers.  But earlier in the day, we made it to the Milwaukee  Art Museum to see the Calatrava wings close and open at noon.  We spent a number of hours in the museum, also enjoying the work of many artists, especially Tara Donovan.  The museum had a special exhibit of her work at the time, all made with everyday objects, like this piece: plastic sheets like you would use to separate papers in file folder, coiled up to catch the light in surprising ways.
There were a few other pieces we really liked, including a full room's worth of furniture and wallpaper, surprisingly from Vienna, from the early 19th century.  Pretty funky if you ask me.
I took a full slide show of the museum's "wings" closing at noon - here are a few . . .

And it was the perfect day to walk around the museum campus and over to the Milwaukee County War Memorial, designed in the 1950's by Eero Saarinen.  I've been seeing a lot of him recently, haven't I.

The following day, we made a stop at Ten Chimneys, the summer home of Broadway legends Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne.  Mom and I had had nothing planned for the day, only a drive from Milwaukee to Madison, but we found the brochure for this spot in the hotel lobby and really enjoyed the visit.  Lunt had grown up in Milwaukee and Finland, and so this compound showed off his Scandinavian heritage, which we liked because it hearkened back to our trip last summer, especially the visit to Carl Larssons's home in Sundborn, Sweden.
The main house at Ten Chimneys
That evening, we wandered around Madison, enjoying the more modern architecture and rather modest looking town surrounding the impressive capitol building.  This picture of the capitol also shows a vegetable/herb garden that's on the capitol property.

Our final stop in Wisconsin, on the third day of our tour, was Taliesin in Spring Green.  This was actually my second visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's home that he built in the early 1900's, but I was happy to go again so my mom could see it.  I didn't take as many pictures as I took 4 years ago, but I still enjoyed the experience and was glad to see a few more rooms than my last visit, which had been under restoration until just recently.

Here are a few views from the "top of the hill" at Taliesin:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Seattle Trip

Back in May, a high school friend was getting married in Seattle, and I took it as a great opportunity to go and visit my cousin, who moved to Seattle 5 years ago, after living in Connecticut for a few years (with me!).  I was there for ~6 days and really had a lucky streak with the weather - sunshine up until the last day and a half.
            A few blog-worthy highlights of the trip were the visit to the Japanese Garden that my cousin took me to, first thing when I got off of the plane.  It was a really peaceful little place for us to catch up on the last 5 years (more or less, really less, but still) and a few good photo ops as well.
            My cousin lives in Edmonds, which is just a little north of Seattle proper.  A few other outings we did while I was staying with her included a trip to see the locks in Ballard, a drive out to Snoqualmie Falls, and a tour of the Red Hook Brewery.
            The second half of the visit was in downtown Seattle, to see my friend Josh get married at the Four Seasons hotel (swanky swanky!).  The day after the wedding, there was a post-wedding brunch cruise that went in and out of Pier 56.  By this point, the weather was turning on us a little bit, but we still had nice enough weather to enjoy the views of Seattle and the surrounding islands/peninsulas for a few pictures.
           My boyfriend was enjoying all of this touristy sight-seeing a little too much, though, so I had to remind him what we're really here for: research.  Had to get to the Seattle Public Library, REM central! So we hiked (yes, hiked up 60 degree hills or so) a few blocks northeast from our hotel (it looked like a very quick walk on a map, but turned out to be harder than a few miles in Chicago, I think), to get to the glass monstrosity.

Ray spent much of the visit in the library saying how crazy and unnecessary it all seemed, but deep down I think he did appreciate its grandeur, and that, at the same time, it felt not a bit stuffy or heavy-handed, really.

Monday was our dreary day, but after going to the Klondike Gold Rush Museum (Ray's choice) we headed back to Seattle Center.  We had done a quick trip up the Space Needle on our way into town two days before, but decided to go back because on that very Monday, the new Dale Chihuly museum was opening right at the base of the needle.  So we were two of the first-iest visitors to the museum.  I'm not a huuuuge fan, but I have to say some of the pieces were very impressive, and the best thing about the museum, I thought, was that most of it was black walls, which meant that the pictures I took came out pretty well, looking more professional than most I take, and also making it seem more like we were alone in the museum.

We also made a quick stop into the Experience Music Project before heading back to the airport.  This is the first Gehry building I ever went into, back in 2002, the last time I visited my cousin in Seattle (she was a senior at UW at the time).  My first Gehry, whatever significance that has, I guess!