Style.  It is the aesthetic perception of an object, artwork, or architecture.  And although it may be said that, oh look, there is a “new style,” the reality is that style is an evolutionary process.  It is only at that “oh look” moment that it clearly breaks from its evolutionary state to become recognized as a new style.  This idea of a “recognizable style” often only becomes verbalized clearly when the history books are written.  When an author sits back and reflects, categorization comes to bear, and there the styles are titled and delineated.  Now, these thoughts on style are important to consider as an architecture student, whether novice or experienced, because style, I believe can unnecessarily confound students and prevent other education goals from being reached.  There are two approaches to design studio when it comes to style; the first is to give a student the building program and let them, through contemplation and research, find a style that fits their own artistic/functional inclinations for the program.  The second is to give students a stylistic vocabulary from which to take concepts or materials.  Now, I have been in both studios before.  In the first case, I believe there are often students who struggle unnecessarily with “picking a style.”  At some times, I believe it is a fear of copying.  In reality, as was stated, it is better to think of style’s as evolutionary.  And if one does decide to “copy,” it still takes skill to execute a building in any style.  Thus, I think it is important that students are taught to understand styles, what makes them successful, and how they are executed.  Now, style, I mean could be the difference between Zaha Hadid and SHoP.  I do not mean “Modernism” vs “Art Deco” etc.  On the other studio model, encouraging students to start with a “style,” allows them to concentrate on many of the other important lessons an architecture student should learn, such as creating a well developed building, site, choosing materials, and developing building details.  It was only in my first year of graduate school, where the program was “Holland in Holland,” where we were encouraged to use dutch design principles for a civic center in Holland, Michigan.  Now that style had been narrowed within a genre, I was less concerned and was able to to develop further other areas of the building, including plans, sections, material details, etc.  

This reflection comes to me in my conversations with Jeff and Brian.  At the start of our projects, we often start with something we have already done.  Jeff often has an image of something he likes, a project he has done, or an idea that has been started but hasn’t been successfully implemented.  Now, it is to say we don’t look for “genesis.”  Our projects are in physical places that have history, the clients have preferences, and style is often not their first concern.  Because of this, our projects beginnings are much more located per se in a soil bed – only certain plants will truly grow here, so our job then is to pick the best plant and grow it into the best tree it can be – not all the trees are an option.  In contrast to school, where style may be lamented for a long time, in the work place, we often know fairly quickly what look we are going for; and the project begins.

So, to the student, novice or experienced, remember that “genesis” – the creation of a new thing – may be too much to ask.  Look, borrow, modify and adapt; that’s what real architects do.  And after one point, when years of experience come together, that evolutionary process may come to a recognizable moment, and then genesis just might be. 

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Creation of Frit Gradient

 

Python Frit Pattern generator uses a bezier curve to create a gradient frit pattern.

The python script can use any size panel, subdivide it, and generate a frit.

Presentation below illustrates the details of its performance.

Sample Frit Patterns (Circles, Squares, Lines)

Frit Pattern Maker Presentation

Stadium_Renders

Stadium Light Simulation

Hexagonal panels generated in Python are assigned a custom color material (ranging from black to red) which is then mapped across the stadium’s exterior.  Stadium exterior shows position of the ball within the stadium through changing LED panels.

Recently, I have been able to attend three of the lectures of the Aesthetics series at TCAUP.  First, Mark Scogil and Meril Elam spokes about the creating an architecture that had multiple readings, that was somehow “strange.”  In their most recent work, which departed from their tested process, was an interest in surprising themselves and “getting into trouble.”  Mark further spoke of having being “uncomfortable with your design.”  In an overarching way, he was speaking of determinism in architecture; he seemed to believe that determinism resulted in unsatisfying and the expected.

The below diagram charted what he believed the paths of an architect in terms of developing an aesthetic.  Functionalism and rationalism, he believed, were short lived aesthetic trials that ultimately could be accomplished, but would also result in a lack of opportunity for the architect.   The paths of pursuing the “sublime” or the “beautiful,” however, were both more challenging and more rewarding.

 

The next speaker was Ken Smith from Workshop LA.  He presented on various landscape projects both at the scale of cities to individual roof gardens.  Most interesting of his thinking was his discussion about “inductive” versus “deductive” design.  Inductive, he stated, was designing from the detail to inform the whole.  Deductive was designing the whole then down to the detail.  He particularly believed that inductive design occurs on smaller projects, which makes sense, while deductive design is for fronted on larger projects.  This simple discussion, however, made me rethink my on design process and place it in in comparison to writing’s framework; do you write the beginning first or start with the ending of a narrative?

 

Lastly, we heard form Mark Gage from Gage Clemenceau architects.  His presented an interesting reflection on the nature of the profession. He said that architecture is moving away from the “starchitect” model and towards a more transdiciplinary practice, where different skill sets are brought together in collaboration.  I think this is profoundly true, given that the world continues to seek more greater performance from nearly ever physical or digital object.  It seems the starchitect practice where one opinion dominates is incapable of adapting to the rigorous problems presented by the clients and public.  I think this shift has occurred in other firms, who are looking both inside their people and to outside of their firms to create a more diverse and flexible entity.  Mark Gage, given his classical training from Notre Dame, interestingly brings up the topic of patrons of architecture.  He relates each period of time to particular patrons, who funded the design of the most progressive architecture of the time period.  Today, he believes the patron is no longer corporate america but rather the industries of fashion and media.  His opinion is that architecture should look to insert itself where the architectural is wanted or desired, such as in pop up installations, fashion shows, etc, where a physical space and affect are the most charged.

Daniel from Alberici Contractors presented the CEE Construction Seminar with a few profound things to think about.  First, he referred to the construction industry as a whole as either “process” buildings or “shade/shelter” buildings.  As an architecture student, I rarely think of buildings in these terms, but this was an enlightening way to classify the entire industry.  When we consider it in this light, it becomes evident that “architecture” comprises a small portion of the actual physical buildings being built around the world.  Furthermore, we can also begin to reconsider how the function neglects or simply does not require aesthetics.  Process is clearly associated with the production of a physical commodity, and the physical appearance of the building becomes less important.  Often, it is these ancillary spaces of production that could use a more thoughtful touch to the accommodation of workers.

In an effort to investigate the relationship between design and construction, this blog will begin taking a closer look at architecture under construction, at projects that blur boundaries between design and construction, and at innovative project delivery methods.

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Today, while I was walking on campus, I began to think about how architecture values art and engineering.   This thought particularly came to me upon reflecting on the SOM 2012 Prize Winner Mr.Kryvozub’s submission to the competition, which was a masterful, artistic submission that did address some technical design aspects.  Architecture, interestingly, as a discipline that resides at the intersection between art and engineering, does not favor each equally.  Typically, it seems, architecture is more reliant upon art in forms of presentation and engineering in terms of execution.  This typically results in the academy placing greater emphasis on artistic ability and the profession placing more emphasis on technical proficiency.   It is at the idea stage of architecture where art must be employed to communicate the project.  The idea must be communicated visually to a varied audience, with the technical problems reserved for later renditions to contractors or the client’s boards.   Not until the idea has been sold to the client or the public do the technical problems need solving; one does not need to know the type of foundation a building must employ or the exact size of the structural elements at the conceptual phase.  Furthermore, given the focus of architecture on space and surface, structure often is hidden behind a visual layer, making this even less important to “figure out” during the conceptual phase of the design process, as it has little visual impact on the spatial experience.

It is apparent when viewing Mr. Kryvozub’s portfolio that art has the ability to seduce and communicate simultaneously, giving rise to emotions and sensations in the viewer.  Technical proficiency can do no such thing, but it can convey logic, order, and a comprehensive thinking that lead towards the actually production of the project.  My projects typically aim to simultaneously convey both technical and creative aspects, asking of the viewer to partake in both the visual image and its notation of construction.  This choice is driven by my own interest in how the construction logic and assembly creates the architectural project.  Given that structure is the primary driver of form, I believe its communication is essential in understanding the building as an entity that not only is experience, but also as an asset that outlives the performance of its surfaces.

Architectural practices have acknowledged this emphasis of “art” or revealing of “technical proficiency” differently.  Some practices, such as Renzo Piano Building Workshop emphasizes the concept and technical proficiency simultaneously, in diagrams that primarily use sectional views that show columns, roofs, and environmental factors.   Other practices, such as SHoP, convey technical proficiency and construction concepts as part of promoting their design concepts, aiming to illustrate their proficiency while also mobilizing the imagination of contractors and developers alike, showing how economy and aesthetics intersect.  This often communicated through flow or web diagrams illustrating relationships between the parts or in 3D revit Diller Scofio + Renfro, a more researched based practice, emphasizes the visual experience and atmosphere, with the technical information communicated elsewhere from the conceptual drawings.

It is understandable therefore, that either an emphasis on art or technical proficiency communicates different messages to those who view and purchase architectural services.  Each student or architect thus frames their abilities through their representation methods.