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!