Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Opus entry 13 - [PAIR]ING DOWN

A WEEK AND A HALF LEFT! Will I still be alive? I think so. When I think back about the projects and assignments we have completed so far this semester and then about how much more we have left to do, it makes my head hurt. My biggest consolation is that one way or another, it will all be over with in 10 days!

The Unity Temple by Frank Lloyd Wright brings the words MEDITATION and CELEBRATION to life in a physical form. The concept of the structure is inscribed in the wall over the doorway of the holy place, “For the worship of God and the service of man.” This building is the one I am exploring and representing for my precedent analysis. For me personally, lately I feel starved for time needed for meditation. However once this semester is over, I am positive I will have a great celebration on May 9th.

The use and control of the balance between LIGHT and SHADOW are imperative for good design. Obviously the overall usefulness and the mood of a room are controlled by light. The Unity Temple has a grid pattern ceiling with skylight windows in all of the gaps as well as windows lining the tops of the four walls in order to let light shine down on the people in the space from above. In the drawing above of the column detail, I used line weight in a simple way to make the parts of the column appear more 3D showing a difference between light and shadow.

For our final presentation boards for our precedent analysis project require a lot of thought and consideration. It is our task to TRANSPOSE the images and ideas in a way to tell the story of our building. We have to be careful to intentionally JUXTAPOSE all of the pieces of the board in a way that comes across in a cohesive and legible manner. This is my layout scale sketch for how my final board will be arranged.

In history we have been looking at the modern and post-modern architecture of the mid 20th century. It seems a lot of the structures of the period played with blurring the lines between the LITERAL and the ABSTRACT. The Air Force Chapel in Colorado was a nice example from class of a building that was intended to be an abstraction from the literal form of the Native American teepees that once inhabited the area. The building also looks to me as if you took the Air Force symbol and stretched out in an accordion like fashion to make it stand upright and reach towards the heavens.

One of the biggest things I feel I have continues to learn more about through my time in the IARC program is how much communication happens without ever using words. With the never ending technological advances, it seems our MONOLOGUES and DIALOGUES must constantly adapt to some new media. In drafting class, we are getting what for most people in the program’s first introduction to Google Sketchup. The above image is my rendering in sketchup of the corner offices of Gatewood. This is just one of many ways designers must learn to communicate and experiment ideas.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Opus entry 12 - Action Verbs

Now in the 12th week of the semester, I am positive that I am not alone when I say that I am wearing thin. Only a couple weeks left, but I can explain how excited I am for this semester to be over. I do not mean this in an all-bad way; rather I am just ready to move on from the classes I am in. Not to mention of course the immense amount of ACTION VERBS that I currently have to undertake while struggling to keep up with the work load of the 5 classes I am in. Lately I find myself in a kind of bi-polar mind frame bouncing from feeling either completely overwhelmed, exhausted and “over it” and then finding myself feeling totally excited and inspired for the pieces I am planning on completing over the summer.

If I had to SPECULATE, I would say that these feelings and challenges everyone in the program is feeling right now are intentional and implied. I would also speculate that this is in an effort to instill a work ethic in us as students and also perhaps to push us to see where everyone’s breaking point is. I am okay with this and though I can’t honestly say I enjoy it, I understand the point to some extent and anticipated this being the scenario for the end of the semester. How does this apply to what we are learning in history and drawing and drafting? I feel that the modern movement of the early to mid 20th century involved designers SPECULATING what they thought would be the template and pattern or style if you will for the future of architecture and design. An epicenter for this was the Bauhaus in Germany. I would speculate that they definitely left their mark and made an impact. Did it totally transform everything that came after it? I would say probably not.

We have all been working countless hours on our composite illustrations for drawing class. They turned out pretty good, but after staring at mine for so long, I feel like all I can see are its flaws. Our huge final project for both history classes is to COMPOSE “diptych” that represents our precedent analysis project. As designers we must take care and put thought into everything we do, on every scale. “In 1927 Mies was involved with the first international statement of Modern architecture when he directed the Deutscher Werkbund housing-scheme at Stuttgart, known as the Weissenhofsiedlung.” (Massey, p.79) This was a group of designers making a conscious decision to “compose” a style or architecture and design. While we work on “composing” thumbnail sketches for final presentations, we also must “compose” our class track and overall plan for the rest of our lives. To be completely honest, while I’m glad I have the foresight to think about the composition of everything I do, it is a part of my personality that is overwhelming at times. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to think about anything at all. I truly cannot imagine what that would be like.

Like many people, I rely on coffee to ENERGIZE myself. Lately I’ve had to rely on that quite a bit. People use coffee to energize themselves because of the caffeine. I have always been perplexed by the phenomenon of the ability of an environment to affect the mood of people as well. The fact that you can walk into a space indoors or out, and be “energized” by your surroundings is crazy. For example, Noguchi’s coffee has something about it that gives me energy. A certain group of designers recognized this and made use of design to control the feel of a space. “The early Modern designers hoped to change society for the better with the creation of a healthier and more democratic type of design for all.” (Massey, p.63)

When talking about the Modern movement in design, SHAPE was an important element. I think particularly the square was important, considering the cubist types of plane and stripped down buildings that became iconic of this era. While curvy, freeform organic shaped furniture was developed at this time, the work of architects like Mies Van Der Rohe shows a strong influence of the basic square and rectangular right angle shapes.

The exaggerated STRETCHING of the rectangle in the horizontal direction is a defining characteristic of much of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. This is demonstrated well in the Fallingwater house. As Massey says on page 84, “The vast living area has extensive windows to integrate indoors and outdoors, and a natural stone floor.” This element of “stretching” the space of the great room became popular in many houses of the mid 20th century.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Unit summary 3 - REFLECTIONS

Crystal Palace, London ca 1851

The Reflections unit covers a period in Architectural history which I feel can be classified by two major influential elements: technology, and the pursuit of self-identification of cultures through design. At the beginning of the unit, we discussed the Architecture Parlent which involved the “re-writing down of the rules” in France during the 18th and 19th centuries. Coming out of this was the design and construction of palace like town homes with open space courtyards in front of them in an effort to resemble the wealth of royalty and establish themselves as significant in society. This spurred on the trend of the desire of people to desire a sense of belonging by looking like your neighbor is the sense that if you had a home that looked like a palace, you are of a higher status in society.
England at the time was interested in diving back into the classical Roman influences which was marked by the Classical Revival. As I mentioned previously, this was heavily influenced by technological advances. This is obvious in the steel and glass structures such as the Crystal Palace that was built in London in 1851. The components of the building were fabricated in a factory and then assembled on site. Across the Atlantic Ocean, in colonial America, log homes were being constructed during the late 1600’s and well into the 1700’s. “Georgian” style houses such as the ones by Samuel McIntire were very popular for this period in colonial America.
During the early 1800’s, the eastern influence of began to work its way into western society via the use of trade routes between China and England. The Royal Pavilion by John Nash in Brighton built sometime between 1815 and 1826 is perhaps one of the best examples of the use of worldly influences in Architecture and interior decoration in and English building.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the emergence of the “Arts and Crafts” movement gained popularity in America. Following the Revolutionary War, American designers wanted to find and establish their own voice in design, setting themselves apart from the traditional styles embodied by England. The Arts and Crafts style uses a lot of simple lines and much less flamboyant in nature when compared to the Classical Romanesque style. Typically most structures and furniture were hand made out of wood that was abundant and readily available in America.
At the same time and moving out of the Arts and Crafts movement was the rise of urban design, as more Americans moved into cities. This is hugely characterized in Chicago during the late 1800’s. Following the great fire of 1871 in Chicago where most of the city burned, a huge void had to be filled architecturally. Many designers came to the city and contributed to the recreation of its buildings. Sullivan’s early skyscrapers were mostly un-precedented at the time and started the “race for height” in buildings between Chicago and New York. Again, these buildings would not have been made possible without the development of new technologies such as the elevator and the use of iron skeletal construction.
Looking back and forward, it is apparent at this time in architectural history that America as a country is searching for its voice in design and did so with the Arts and Crafts movement. The work of Frank Lloyd Wright began in this era and was exemplified in his early “bootleg” houses, but his work transcended the Arts and Crafts style over time. The Reflections Unit was characterized by a rush of technological advances and stylistic advances as well.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Opus entry 11 - ROAD TRIP

I spent the majority of the past six years of my life on a ROAD TRIP. I have been to all but six of the United Sates of America. And I have seen all of it traveling in a van and trailer with at least 5 other dudes. Last weekend we went on a road trip with the whole first year program. I have to admit I was really ready to get off that bus by the time we got back to the Gatewood building. But there is truly something to be said for the importance of traveling, exploring and experiencing other places relative to my inspiration and motivation to create things. On the bus Friday morning I filled up three pages of my sketchbook in about 20 minutes. This is something that would be a regular occurrence while I was on tour but honestly hasn’t happened since I’ve been back in school. This is largely attributed to required assignments and drawings dominating my time and creative capacity. Needless to say it felt great to want to draw just for the sake of drawing again.

Though the two destinations we saw on the trip were very different, they both have significance in the ROOTS of American architecture. I did the drawing of the tree above while sitting on the bus, looking out at the Virginia hillside. The roots of the tree symbolize the roots of American government, and American architecture done by Jefferson and shown in his Monticello. We saw some great examples of where one of this countries founding fathers lived and got a little taste of what life may have been like for him. It is really weird to me how completely different things were back then.

The family of fish in the drawing above illustrate a little bit of CONGRUENCE in the way they fit and flow together. I feel that this word is one of the focus words for this week so we can try to explain the congruence of Monticello and Fallingwater. From my understanding, the two are from totally different time periods, and created with different intentions but there are many correlations that can be drawn from the two. For instance, both houses were created in an effort to achieve creating a truly significant structure, and both accomplished that. They were both created with the intention of being somewhat of a retreat, though due to the constant crowdedness of Monticello, Jefferson had to build another place to retreat from Monticello. Monticello crowns the top of the hill while Fallingwater crowned the waterfall of the Bull Run River where it is located.

Though I have seen many images of both Monticello and Fallingwater, I couldn’t truly begin to understand the CONCEPT that either architect had for the buildings until I was actually in them. It was very clear that Frank Lloyd Wright wand Fallingwater to be set in the wilderness and make you feel truly part of nature. From walking in and around the house I can confidently say he achieved that goal very well. I would have to guess that Jefferson’s concept for Monticello was to borrow themes and ideas from classical Palladian architecture the concept for the creation of Monticello. I think it is also true that part of his concept for the house was to constantly be evolving and changing and adapting the plan since it took him so long to design and he changed it so many time and that was still uncompleted when he died. This definitely echoed his spirit in the way he was constantly pursuing knowledge.

Of the two places we visited, I think Fallingwater had a stronger sense of MATERIALITY. The material being primarily ones found locally onsite. The bedrock of the river and waterfall itself were used for the foundation of the house. The rest of the stone was quarried onsite which helps the house to fit into its environment even more. And while the use of local materials was present and significant to the house, the re-enforced concrete construction is also an obvious construction choice that makes the building stand out with its massive cantilevers. The above drawing is the beginning phase of the rendering of the stone chimney sections of the house which was made from the local stone.

Fallingwater also incorporated Wright’s concept of COMPRESSION and RELEASE. While being in the house, you can easily get a sense of what exactly this means when walking around any of the rooms. Wright uses the raising and lowering and bringing together and pulling apart of all of the walls, ceilings and floors to create this feeling of being in a tight compressed space with low ceilings then moving into a room where the ceilings aren’t high by normal standards, but they feel that way because of the compressed feeling you just got from being in the previous space. Wright definitely accomplished this feat, but I still am not sure if I am a fan of this technique or not. I am still wondering if there is a need to feel compressed when I am in my home. Is it wrong to want to feel comfortable anywhere in my house? The sketch I did above is of the contour lines of an off-ramp of a highway from the bus window. The two curved lines to me converge and compress together then come to a point and release to the left. It is funny how often the simplest fluid lines I draw always tend to be my favorite.

I have a great deal of respect and admiration for both Wright and Jefferson. And I was truly impressed by both of their structures. But I can honestly say that if they were my buildings, I would have done many things different. I think this is a good thing however. If another architect had already created the “perfect house” I can honestly say I would be kind of disappointed. For if someone else already figured everything out, what then would be my purpose and goal as a designer. It’s nice to know that I still have a lot of original ideas for my own house that I will one day build and that the masters before me didn’t accomplish everything already.

- Jeff Linn

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Precedent Analysis - ESSAY

The story of the unity temple begins in 1871, when the Unity Church, (Unity Temple’s predecessor) was built in Oak Park, Illinois. The church was in the gothic revival style and was built for a congregation who in the late 1880’s was lead by Augusta Chapin. Chapin happened to be a long time friend of Anna Jones Wright, mother of Architect Frank Lloyd Wright. On the night of June 6th 1905, in the midst of a severe thunderstorm, lightning struck Unity Church and by morning the entire structure had burned to the ground. Eager to help out his congregation, Frank Lloyd Wright volunteered himself to design the churches replacement the next morning. Construction began on the new “Unity Temple” as it was now called in 1906. The congregation initially wanted the church to be done by mid-November 1906 and for a budget of $40,000. When the building was finally completed in 1908, the costs had moved up to $60,000 which was still moderate when compared to the cost of most other churches and government buildings of the time.
Important qualities of the Unity Temple are easy to find. First off, the title of Unity “Temple” rather than “Church,” stems from Wrights idea that this structure should reflect the power and simplicity of the ancient temples and pyramids. When looking at the building, it is obviously stark in contrast to any other traditional church or cathedral that came before it. Massive concrete planes with no visible door in the front fa├žade helped to quiet the noise of the busy street when one is in the main worship space of the structure. No front door meant that to enter the building one must walk by the enclosed central space where its importance and private nature are implied by the heavy physical and visual weight of the concrete walls. Upon entering the main space, your eye is intentionally directed upward by the use if vertical wood details and lines in the construction.
The control and use of light is also a key element to the essence of overall “holiness” of the space. The use of a grid-like pattern of concrete beams, enclosing massive skylights provide a wash of a constant yellowish light over the main worship space. Equally important to creating feelings of connection to heaven from earth while in the temple are the three balconies that wrap the space. It is quite amazing that while the room has a capacity of four hundred people, no matter where you are in the room, because of the use and placement of the balconies, you are never more than forty feet from the lectern.
The main overlying reason this structure is important to architecture in the context of the beginning of the twentieth century is its concrete construction. This is one of the earliest examples of the use of what previously had been considered a solely construction material, not to be shown as a finished surface. One example of how this construction process was innovative is evident when you look at the plan of the building, its four main corners are symmetrical, which meant once the concrete set for one corner section, the form could be taken away and reused for the next corner of the building. Ultimately the quiet power of the Unity Temple and its presence can be felt from inside the space as well as in its influence which echoed out into the designs of the early twentieth century and beyond. Wright no doubt achieved building a structure that achieved the words he inscribed above the entrance, “For Worship of God, and Service of Man.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


A lot can be said with out using any words at all. I have no doubt when someone says that someone’s neon orange and yellow car with an airplane wing bolted to the trunk in the parking lot is “loud” even when it isn’t on, you know what they mean. Equally, I’m sure you can recall a room or an outdoors space that you would call “quiet,” knowing that obviously the walls can’t make any noise. The acknowledgement and control of this visual phenomenon is something we as designers must control and use to our advantage, for if we ignore it we will surely end up with some pretty rough work.

The piece of furniture pictured above is a media stand I built and required a lot of CRAFT. Not only in the physical woodwork, but also in the considerations of the dimensions for the whole piece, the drawers and shelf placements were all carefully calculated in order to make it work the way I needed it to. Aside from the design on paper, bringing it to life absolutely required a lot of attempts and failures to pull this piece of with the amount of flaws it has. The building of furniture by hand became popular in the “Arts and Crafts” movement in the nineteenth century. “The most important design reform movement to affect the interior in the nineteenth century was that of the Arts and Crafts” (Massey, p 7.).

The control and balance between PUBLIC AND PRIVATE spaces is especially important in a residential structure. Thomas Jefferson knew this and did his best to control it in his Monticello house that we visited last weekend. The above drawing is a quick 5 minute sketch of the rear porch of Monticello. I was pretty surprised at how small the main structure of the house actually was, considering how much time and money went in to its construction. But as the tour guide told us, the house was constantly flooded with uninvited PUBLIC guests. So I don’t blame Jefferson at all for taking up probably a third of the main floor space for his PRIVATE quarters.

In our drawing and drafting classes all semester we have been working on refining our TECHNIQUE. The above drawing is the plan view rendering of the room I designed for the project last week. I did it with chartpak markers on vellum and tried to use good technique in order to communicate clearly what was happening in my space.

As I mentioned earlier, as designers it is imperative for us to be cognoscente of the LANGUAGE we are using in our designs. Everything counts and should be considered. The medium used, the color choices, the weight of the paper, etc. all has an impact on the successfulness of any project. What makes up the language can be determined and interpreted differently by everyone which is actually one of the great things about what we do. I drew this reflection of my own eyes in the window on the bus when we were driving through the Virginia countryside Friday morning. There is definitely a body language that is present and can be understood universally by other people and even animals without using words. I’m not sure what exactly I’m saying with my eyes here, I’ll let you decide…

In order for people to communicate their designs and ideas in a visual representation, we must create a VIRTUAL representation of the things we create. This 2 point perspective cube I drew for drafting brings to mind some images of my 80’s early childhood where large breakthroughs were happening in video games and VIRTUAL reality. Our generation seems to be largely one of information and technological breakthroughs. No one ever predicted the internet. But now it is the SILENCE : LIGHT that controls almost every facet of our daily routine. I spend a lot of time thinking about what else will happen in our lifetime that no one will predict, but will completely change our lives.

- Jeff Linn

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Opus entry 9 - [RE]ACTIONS

I’m nine weeks in to my first semester back in college after taking 5 years off. What is my REACTION? I definitely have a lot of thoughts and opinions about what I have learned, the work I’ve done, and what I think about moving forward in the program. Most of my reactions I can’t really talk about hear. But I will explain how the five focus words for this weeks entry work with the idea of REACTIONS.

What you see in the photo above is a full scale model of the base of a coffee table I’m working on. The piece you see is one of two that will sit side by side t support a glass top. The form is created by one piece that is repeated 3 times in ROTATION. The initial shape is inspired by a bird but when they are rotated and connected, the form looks something like a bowl. Another use of rotation we have learned about in history class is the trade routes dating back to 1858 where Europe and Asia established the intermingling and influence on each others cultures.

The period we recently discussed in history class included the MOVEMENT of societies; largely important, the movement of the colonial Americans to present day America. During the revolutionary period, there was a lot of movement of cultures exploring and trading with different parts of the globe. In the perspective drawing above, the many lines moving toward the vanishing point create a lot of MOVEMENT of the eye around the image.

The word REFLECTION can be used in a couple different ways. In one sense, reflection could mean looking back and think about something that has happened and sorting it out in your head, much like a REACTION. In another sense, reflection can mean the mirror image of anything in a shiny surface. The drawing above is a reflection in the literal sense because it is symmetrical, a horizontal reflection of itself from the center outward. But in another sense because it is my reflection of how I was inspired by tree branches I was looking at one day, I reacted, and came up with this composition drawing that I later turned into a painting that is seen in last weeks post.

The premise of the study of history involves looking at the SOURCE of where everything that came before us originated. In the above image, you see the staircase at the Paris Opera by Charles Garnier from the Massy textbook. This is an example of the baroque version of the Beaux-Arts style. As Massey says on page 31, “For the grander type of interior the prevalent style was the Beaux-Arts, so called because its SOURCE was in the teaching in of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.” We are now moving into the study of the nineteenth century, where due to the rise in technology and travel, the sources of inspiration for things become more intermingled and diverse.

All along the road of knowledge we are pursuing the ILLUMINATION of not only our field of study, but also the illumination of life, culture and original ideas. Over the past week in both the drafting and the drawing class, we have been working on perspective drawings of an interior space which we had complete creative control over. In the above image, I chose to ILLUMINATE the room will windows that wrap the entire space. In particular, the skylights were very important in achieving a well illuminated room.