I’m Back (again)!

Hello!

I apologize for my very prolonged absence (it’s been over 3 months since my last post? Holy bajeezum) – Life in the architecture student world is a stressful and busy one. Though each semester presents its own set of new and exciting challenges, this one was particularly ambitious. Not only was our studio project on a completely new scale (designing a housing development with over 80 units) and provided my first experience with cooperative deign, I also found myself in the concert choir, and took on the challenge of Musical Director for my a cappella group (i.e. I had to run every rehearsal and teach all the music). Time flies when you’re having fun, so I must have been enjoying myself because this semester flew by ridiculously fast – but coupled with that speed was a huge amount of new and different work to tackle, so this blog fell a bit by the way-side.

At any rate, here I am back at the blog! Now that summer is here, I should easily be able to update at least once a week, if not more. Stay tuned!

–August

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Construction Systems #2: Framing Systems

Through the midst of the whole exciting by crazy process of designing the artist residency, it was nice to take a break and do something a bit more concrete. Our second Construction Systems project had us creating a two-story “shed,” using either wood framing or some form of accretive (masonry) technique – I was assigned to the wood frame section. This “shed” consisted of two floors, and had to be 10′ bu 30′ by 20′, with a slanted roof section. The entire project was to be hand-drafted, to scale at 1″ = 1′.

Construction Systems - Wood Framing.  scale 1" = 1', hand-drafted

Construction Systems – Wood Framing.
scale 1″ = 1′, hand-drafted

A Step in the Right Direction – Incorporating Pevsner

After struggling through the past few weeks trying to create something resembling a building, I brought my project to my section critic to ask for some guidance. His first response: “Where’s the Pevsner?” And that’s where it hit me – After spending weeks analyzing and exploring our given sculptures, I had moved on to creating the building and parti from scratch, with no consideration to our previous project. Where was the Pevsner indeed?

With a new direction, I returned to the drawing board so-to-speak, and recreated the massing from scratch using my generative version of the Pevsner sculpture “Developable Column.” I used my initial parti to guide the placement of four “columns”, which I them melded and merged and mushed together in Maya (ahh, alliteration), using the shape of the generative model to create the forms and spaces, and also the voids or “light wells.” The interior spaces of the model became tunnels through the center of the massing, allowing for circulation through the building. This gave me the idea of using these interior spaces as circulation paths for the public visitors, allowing them to enter, move around, and then exit the building without ever moving into the spaces of the artists. Thus, I added one more large depression at the rear of the building, with the intent of creating a “whirlpool” to pull visitors down into the building from the main museum building and Storm King facilities above.

Two contour drawings of the 2nd iteration of my residency - one in plan showing various circulation paths, the other in elevation (from the front).

Two contour drawings of the 2nd iteration of my residency – one in plan showing various circulation paths, the other in elevation (from the front).

A preliminary section of an uncreased (no hard edges) version of the residency, to begin illustrating the interior tunnels.

A preliminary section of an uncreased (no hard edges) version of the residency, to begin illustrating the interior tunnels.

The next step of the project was to build a model for our midterm review. I used the same process as the previous Pevsner sculptural exploration – a stacked model made of 1/16th taskboard. This created a massing model of the building that nicely illustrated my intention to have it flow directly from the site and surrounding landscape.

Residency v2 - Massing Model (front)

Residency v2 – Massing Model (front) (photo credit Andrew and Christian)

Residency v2 - Massing Model (rear)

Residency v2 – Massing Model (rear) (photo credit Andrew and Christian)

I also created a few preliminary renders to help illustrate the form – one from the exterior, and one inside the tunnels.

Residency v2 - Exterior Render

Residency v2 – Exterior Render

Residency v2 - Interior Render

Residency v2 – Interior Render

Light Wells, or “I’m Underground – I Need Light!”

With a preliminary parti and a site location, now I had to deal with the actual structure. I knew that I wanted to have the residency merge from/into the surrounding landscape, but how to accomplish this? Since we were modeling in Maya at this point (and for the rest of the semester pretty heavily), I decided to quite literally take the landscape into Maya, and drag/drape it over the parti to create the building’s massing. Once again, this was a very crude and unsuccessful method (and I very quickly changed it), but at this point I was a bit lost as to how to proceed.

This draping technique, and the fact that a lot of the rooms were underground, led to another problem – light. How could those underground see without using tons of artificial light? My answer? Light wells, or “whirlpools” as they became. This was also a great opportunity to try and re-introduce some of the design elements of the Antoine Pevsner sculpture and my generative reforming of it. This using of our previous sculptural explorations was also part of the assignment, and something that I had yet to properly address.

I also decided to elevate the studio spaces, in an attempt to allow them to see more of the landscape/site, and also to prevent the public that may be milling about to peer into their private space. This also allowed me to bring the public spaces out from behind the rest of the spaces by putting them down below the studios and gathering spaces.

The second version of my preliminary siteplan (left) and a basic wireframe parti (right), this time with light wells.

The second version of my preliminary siteplan (left) and a basic wireframe parti (right), this time with light wells.

Interior rendering of the first version of the residency (massing only)

Interior rendering of the first version of the residency (massing only)

Exterior rendering of the first version of the residency (massing only)

Exterior rendering of the first version of the residency (massing only)

 

 

Choosing a Site Part 2: The Parti

One of the biggest challenges I had to face with the designing of the artist residency was dealing with the parti – in other words, how the building and site are organized. How should people move into, out of, and around the space? Where should the different programs be located? What kinds of governing geometry should be used?

Not really knowing how to begin challenging these questions, I started with a simple box-frame of spaces inserted into the landscape. This approach was very crude and in hind-sight perhaps should not have been used. However, up until this point I had yet to actually design a proper building with specific programmatic requirements. While the “brute-insertion” technique may have ultimately been a poor choice, I learned a lot from the process and how I might better approach it in the future.

To begin, we were all provided with a list of the different programs needed within the space, and what kinds of (rough) square footage they required – this included things like living space, museum spaces, parking, administration, bathrooms, etc. Each project had to include housing for eight artists. Each artist needed at least 400 sq ft of living space, and a 400 sq ft studio. I originally wanted to have two large, shared studio spaces, with four living quarters clustered around each. In the center of the two would reside the dining and communal spaces (such as a computer lab). We also had to include public space as well, where visitors to Storm King might go to see examples of the artist’s work, etc. I wanted to make sure that these spaces were kept separate, as I did not want the public to disturb the artists. Originally, I was unsure where to put the different exhibit rooms, and so I essentially just stuck them under the ground behind the main building. Clearly a poor choice, but this is just the start of the project you must remember.

I knew from the get-go that I did not want my residency to be the “main attraction” of the site. Artists who came would come because of the beautiful Storm King at large, and so I felt that my building should help facilitate this (and their subsequent work) and not intrude on their experience. Ultimately (with the help of my professor – otherwise I may have built something extremely timid), this changed a bit, although the basic idea of making it meld into and form from the landscape stayed throughout the project.

Below I have attached some preliminary drawings that I attempted to put together to illustrate my intentions. As the project changed quite drastically over its tenure, these drawings were never actually used in the final presentation – however, I have included them here to help illustrate my point.

Preliminary siteplan (left) and a basic wireframe parti (right)

Preliminary siteplan (left) and a basic wireframe parti (right)

Beginning Phase 2 – Choosing a Site

At this point we had completed the “Sculptural Analysis” portion of our 3rd studio semester – now it was time to dive into the second portion: designing an artist residency. This section of the class consisted roughly of two phases – one before our midterm, and the other between midterm and finals. The first of these two (phase 2 of the semester), was driving mainly through our exploration of a “parti”. This included attempting to interpret what a parti consisted of and how such a system might integrate into our previous sculptural explorations of phase 1.

But before we could begin any of this, first we needed a site. This particular artist residency was set to occupy a space at the near-by Storm King Art-Center. Located in New Windsor, NY (~2 hours south of Troy, NY / RPI), Storm King is essentially a sculpture garden, but laid out over nearly 500 acres of woods and fields. Most of the sculptures are permanent to their site, with many built/designed by the artist specifically for Storm King. Currently their exhibit boasts over 100 sculptures, including pieces by noted artists Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, Henry Moore, Richard Serra, Andy Goldsworthy, Sol LeWitt, and Roy Lichtenstein. You can find out more at their website: http://www.stormking.org/

For our particular section, we were instructed to choose a site situated near the main museum building. This was intended partly for ease of access, but also because the museum building sits on a hill overlooking the rest of the fields, and working with such a hill would require us to take into consideration other landscape factors.

Part 2 of this post will discuss my approach to choosing a preliminary parti /organizational system for the residency.

First Look at Construction Systems: The Retaining Wall

While we all moved along with our analyses of various sculptures, we also dove headfirst into our Construction Systems class. Here we were taught about the various systems that go into building a structure, mainly focusing on super structures (wooden framing, structural steel/concrete, accretive (masonry) systems), and the systems that might build off of them. This included questions like “How does the structure connect to the ground?” (foundation systems), “How do cladding systems attach to the super structure?”, “How about corners? Roofing systems? Openings for windows and doors?”. The class consisted of five large projects in which we tackled these questions. Four of the five projects were to be hand-drawn, allowing the class to also function as a drafting class.

Our reference material for most of these projects consisted heavily of Francis Ching’s “Building Construction Illustrated.”

For the first of the five projects, as sort of an introduction to the world of construction systems, we were tasked to develop a retaining wall system, and then illustrate its parts in section and plan. The section had to be hand-drawn, while the plan was constructed digitally through Rhino/Illustrator. We also had to draw how our wall dealt with the three main modes of failure: overturning, sliding, and settling.

Construction Systems - Retaining Wall Section cut of a generic retaining wall, showing all parts as well as how it deals with the various forces (hand-drawn).

Construction Systems – Retaining Wall
Section cut of a generic retaining wall, showing all parts as well as how it deals with the various forces (hand-drawn).

Construction Systems - Retaining Wall Plan, Section, and Axon of the designed retaining wall (digital)

Construction Systems – Retaining Wall
Plan, Section, and Axon of the designed retaining wall (digital)

Construction Systems - Retaining Wall Diagrams showing how the designed wall deals with the various forces/modes of failure (hand-drawn).

Construction Systems – Retaining Wall
Diagrams showing how the designed wall deals with the various forces/modes of failure (hand-drawn).