Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Drawn and Architectural (well maybe not so much)

Part of our architecture program has been training us to see the world through our pencils, seeing in a whole new way. Here are a few sketches done over the past week, experimenting with medium and taking contour drawing (not letting the pencil leave the page, or at least try for one continous line) into my daily practice.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Two Views

More snapshots from within the GSD... maybe this will be a weekly feature?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Week 2: Down and Up again

This week, thankfully, we started a two-week project. The first week had been a little frantic and quite disorienting. This week we began to think about housing but from an abstract perspective.

We began by abstracting a relationship from pop culture. I picked Carl and Russell from the most recent Pixar movie, Up. I deduced the absence of a loved one brought the two characters closer together. From that I abstracted the idea that void brings together. Sort of like a central piazza, or a building's courtyard.

After quick sketch models and watercolors exploring the relationship, we plunged into the task of constructing 19 rectangular cube volumes. We would then have to put them together putting smaller volumes around two bigger volumes in two contiguous sets, all the while keeping our abstract idea in mind.

From this model we then tried to draw the space between the two volumes and formulate a diagram of our idea that would serve as a guide for the development of our project. The idea of void as a force to bring together developed further into the process of contraction and expansion (which makes sense since narrow streets expand into large open city squares.

Then we drew axonometric drawings of our cube compositions. As if learning plans and sections wasn't enough, this week we ventured into three dimensions! It was a wild ride, and I was seriously confused for a long time. Trying to use my T-Square and my triangle to figure out how to do things... But in the end I came out with a lovely drawing and a cool overlayed diagram done on vellum.

From here, we were instructed to build models of the exterior spaces and the interior spaces, keeping our idea at hand, along with the distilled diagram and the cubes. I came up with a model showing exterior spaces in foamcore and interior spaces in chipboard. I tried to use the ideas I had developed to push my design idea further.

Along with this design process, I also had very strong emotional reactions to the whole process. The first week had really tired me out and I was feeling drained, physically, emotionally and mentally by the whole process so far. It's a rigorous program. There's no doubt about it. They really try to show you how architecture school will be. Some people can handle it, others can't. At a certain point in the week I was just resistant to all tasks set before me. I am the type of person who wants to understand the way things work, who wants to understand how to do things. This program has really thrown me into things and it can be very overwhelming because you don't always have the time or the know-how to complete tasks to the best of your ability. Or at least you don't have the time to really reflect on what it is you are doing. So far, it's all super fast-paced (although it is slowing down somewhat).

But I rose above. My instructor was very encouraging. I took two nights off to myself. I found inspiration in So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD), dancers who have to face new styles without knowing anything and having to perform like pros. I adopted the acronym SYTYCD and substituted Design for Dance. It will be my inspiration. I will breathe, I will do my best, I will learn how to not take things too seriously, have fun and do it all with a smile.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Drawn and Architectural

My first attempts at sections, plan and elevation. The line weights are all wrong, but you've gotta start somewhere. Trial by fire... more like trial by inferno.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Two Views

I turned around during our critiques last Friday and noticed lovely views of Memorial Hall and the Science Center. Very geometric sectional views. And I love the overlay effect of the light reflections on the windows.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Coop Living

For these 6 weeks I am spending in Boston, I managed to find a nice cooperative house located between Harvard and Porter Squares. It's fun to come into a living arrangement where there are 8 other people milling about and where we share things. There's always good food in the fridge and plenty of grains to choose from. You never know who is doing what, or where you'll encounter your next conversation. It is a lovely little micro-community and I definitely feel safe and happy to return to the house after long days at the GSD.

Part of my routine is packing a lunch for my day in design. This past week there were massive amounts of 4 bean chili and rice and beans prepared and so I paired those with salads and fruit and granola bars to complete my lunches. I don't think I have ever eaten so many beans in one week in my life. Beans, beans good for your heart...

Part of living in the house means taking part in communal dinners on Wednesday. Right in the middle of my very hectic first week, I made the resolve to come home and eat with my housemates. It was so nice to have a sit down dinner, a moment of silence and gratitude beforehand and just be surrounded by the din of dinnertime conversation.

That's all for now, more news, photos and adventures to come as they unfold...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Week 1: Career Discovery Boot Camp

Last week was my first week and first foray into architecture. Only it wasn't a foray so much as a full blown waterboard immersion. Initially I was inspired; here we would be introduced to architecture and its design process, go on a wild ride. Over the course of one short week, we had learned to construct a cubic-shaped model (first image below), talk about the quality of spaces, and construct an architectural project consisting of a stair connecting two spaces. This last project involved everything from initial conceptual work in sketch and watercolor forms to building miniature sketch models out of bristol board to making a final model and its accompanying plans. Some days lasted longer than intended (I was at the Graduate School of Design [GSD] for 17 hours one day this week), and I definitely had multiple moments where I felt clueless and lost and also had one moment where I just broke down sobbing, anxious, restless and trapped. But the week culminated in a day of final critiques where we were exposed to other people's projects and we got to learn a little more of the process of design and how we could refine our own.

Welcome to the GSD, trial by fire in architecture.

I definitely consider myself to be a person who likes to know how things work before I plunge into a project. Thus, this week has been thoroughly disorienting. But I have learned a few things for sure.

The greatest lesson from this week that I have learned is that of knowing when to throw away your ideas and move forward in the design process. Previously, in my writing, I had always done very little editing, waiting for the moment of inspiration and forging ahead with clarity. In architecture, or at least in this process of design at the GSD, I am learning that you have to try things out, throw them away, forge further ahead, ambling through the jungle of design, every now and then stepping back to see your work, your ideas and try to be objective.

Let me show you/walk you through this week's project and tell you what I've learned through it.

We started with a task: bring in a staircase done by another architect. From this staircase we were instructed to extract an idea of the space it created. My staircase was the organically-winding one designed by Frank Gehry's for the Art Gallery of Ontario. The idea I extracted from it was the concept of intimacy. When you use this circulation device at the AGO, you feel surrounded, almost enclosed by the ascending space.

From the idea inspired by the staircase, our group leader, Quilian Riano, asked us to sketch the idea abstractly, explore it conceptually, let loose. We subsequently tried to continue looking for the idea in real spaces around campus. While Quilian loved the sketches I did, I wasn't exactly sure what I was doing, I felt lost, suspended in a conceptual space I didn't understand, without a view of where I was heading.

From these sketches, Quilian further asked us to explore the conceptual world of our idea and create a watercolor and three sketch models from that watercolor. I meandered into my watercolor, trying to follow the few guidelines given and reinterpreting my creation into 3D mock spaces to see what they created. I was captivated by my little yellow squares in my watercolor, thinking that they represented the moments of intimacy because they were sided closely by variations of the same colour. I then created models that mimicked those moments in the watercolor.

It was only at this point that we were given the real-world prompt for our staircase project. We were to build a staircase or circulation path from a tall space to a long space. I struggled to make the 1/8 scale model (1 in. = 8 ft.). I wasn't really sure how to create an architectural space. I wasn't sure what questions to ask so that I could build such a space. So I designed a little path but it didn't really inhabit the tall space, so I started over, and failed and then had a break down and then went back to the spaces in my watercolor to start again.

I then had a moment of inspiration to create small enclosed spaces of intimacy to be juxtaposed against larger wide-open spaces. I created a few little corners juxtaposed with wider spaces/landings. The little enclosures were meant to hold artworks, with the final moment at the top of the stair looking into the long room which would be a long gallery salon-style, filled floor to ceiling with art.

So the week brought me from foamcore to bristol to bass wood, from exacto knives to olfa blades, from sketch models to watercolors to drawings and plans. I was fully immersed in architecture without really knowing where I was. My mother very astutely compared it to learning a foreign language. It was as if I was thrown into the country where I knew nothing and asked to communicate. So I definitely struggled. I was thrown into the conceptual framework without having an idea of the final destination.

During my final critique I was praised for being able to inhabit the conceptual part of the project, finding a language of circles inside parentheses as a way of communicating intimacy. Where I failed, and I quite agree was in translating those sketches into architectural spaces. I did manage to create one space of intimacy in my final model -- that moment at the end of the long suspended hallway that looks into the longer gallery. The critics thought it had really succeeded because it was only at that moment that I had a specific purpose (or program) for that space.

An idea that kept coming up was the idea of architecture as a 'language'. This idea, inspired by Sartre and his contemporaries, expresses that architecture or math or someone's individual behaviour all represent languages. We are in essence trying to find our own language, finding the coherent system of elements that will make up our vocabulary and fill our imagined projects.

My task now is to more quickly get to the architectural moment and really work them out, figure them out, figure out how to shape spaces starting from an initial and seemingly disconnected idea. In the next project I will make that leap from Concept to Form/Architectural Space while more closely holding on to the Program for whatever it may be. Onwards we go, hopefully shedding the 17-hour days. The discover goes on...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Back to Boston: Comforts and Discomforts

Returning to Cambridge made me both excited and nervous. In a way, it felt like a home-coming, the places familiar, my new home a cooperative house literally one block over from my apartment of two summers ago. My first night saw the death of my cellphone charger (panic! my line of communication!) and the mass making of chili in the coop kitchen (hoorah for sharing and communal living), thus full excitement.

Tomorrow begins the adventure of Career Discovery at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. I've heard excellent things and I've heard scary things. The Architecture program is supposed to be top notch and intense. It is also supposed to consume your life. For 6 weeks? I'm all in.

I'll hopefully be blogging more about the trials and tribulations of the program and provide a window into my developing design process.

Stay tuned.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Blue + Yellow = Eco-Green!

A fashion and photographic (fash-ographic? phot-ashion?) chromatic experiment...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

In The Details...

I like wearing funky socks or wild Italian underwear. Only the observant (or lucky) few will notice my subtle love for colour.

Enjoy two colourful details, through sock shots. Orange in San Francisco. Purple in Montreal.