Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Context as Important as the Building

By Patrick Londrigan

The influence of materials in design is a major part in today’s architecture.  Along with the topography and the context being other important areas.  These ideas are mentioned in the Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance and are the topic’s in which I searched to find a related article.  That article was The Influence of Building Materials on Architecture.  This article dates back to 1892 in London but does relate in ways I enjoy to the first article.
In the second article it talks mostly about the exterior building materials to be used in good design.  How stone is the best material to use, then follows wood, then after that brick.  Stone being the longest lasting and the best looking.  Brick not yet being as popular of a building material though the author was still trying to push for it to be used more.  He speaks of knowing your surroundings when designing a building.  For instance at the time a coal plant was being built and a factory was being built close by.  The designers of the factory decided to create the building partly with brick and partly with freestone dressing.  The aftermath was the freestone dressing becoming a dirty black and the whole result in whatever architectural design they were going for, being totally destroyed by the dirt.  Had the designers prepared and thought the design through further they could have planned for that.  Putting brick around the whole exterior so if the dirt did affect it, the whole building would be affected the same making the dirt less noticeable.
Another point, which I mentioned in my first writing, was working more with the topography and context of the site.  The idea of creating something that can only be seen in that area of the world.  Mentioned here in article two about how the buildings differ from out in the country to in the city.  To quote William Morris from the second article, “in passing through the country one sees many examples of thoroughly good ordinary country buildings, built of the mere country materials, very often of the mere stones out of the fields; and it is a very great pleasure to see the skill with which these buildings are constructed. They are very often not pointed at all, but you cannot help noticing the skill with which the mason has picked out his longs and his shorts, and put the thing together with really something, you may say, like rhythm and measurement (his traditional skill that was), and with the best possible results.  This quote reiterates what I said in the first article write-up, using your topography and the context to your benefit, to create a memorable building.  The idea of using your context and materials on the site is something you never see in today’s architecture, but is something I find amazing and can truly be defined as architecture.
Relating this second article to the first in the Culture Versus Nature section.  Where as just as the farmer created his building from the site, Mario Botta say’s “building the site.” “It is possible to argue that in this last instance the specific culture of the region – that is to say, its history in both a geological and agricultural sense – becomes inscribed into the form and realization of the work.”  Using your topography and context helps you to create great architecture.  Not only that, when incorporating the use of correct materials you may also design a great building.  Both articles press to know your surroundings and to know the context of your site and you will create a great piece of architecture.

Frampton, K. Towards a Critical Regionalism. Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance, 29.

Morris, W. The Influence of Building Materials on Architecture. Century Guild Hobby Horse, January 1892

Furniture Project

By Ethan Brammeier

One of the classes I am taking this semester is a furniture design class with Stewart Wessel.  For our first project we were all supposed to build the “Red and Blue Chair.”  This chair was designed in 1917 as one of the first explorations by the De Stijl art movement.  The original chair was made with unstained beech wood and was not painted until the early 1920’s. 

Part of this project was to have a concept with our design.  My concept focuses on the joinery of the vertical and horizontal elements of the chair.  The original joinery of this chair used dowels that were hidden once the chair was fully assembled.  I decided to change the joinery by using 3/8” square pegs and exposing them 3/8 of an inch.  The square wooden pegs resemble the horizontal and vertical components of the chair but at a smaller scale (Fig.1). 

I also used reclaimed lumber from a granary built in the 1960’s.  The lumber was used for the granary’s interior structural wall so it had a lot of nails in it.  To express the reclaimed lumber in my chair I decided to put a natural stain on it, and paint the newer lumber to match the color of the original chair (Fig.2).  I also left several nail holes exposed in the vertical elements to help show that it was reclaimed lumber.  There were only four screws in the entire chair while the rest was held together by dry-fit pegs.  I used a 3/8” mortising chisel bit to make the square holes and I planed down the reclaimed lumber for the square pegs.  The pegs were then painted black to make them stand out from the vertical and horizontal components. 

End of Semester Struggle.

By Drew Baldwin

At this point of the semester, it is clear to all of us that our thesis’ should be well into the development stage, almost to the point of near completion as the end of the spring semester rolls around… in just a mere 3 weeks, scary. This, to many, including myself tends to be the most difficult stage of any project, especially with ones like our thesis that run the course of a semester, possibly even since the beginning of the fall semester in a way. We begin to reach that point where we really start to see the light at the end of the tunnel in our educational career and that alone can really begin to make working on anything school related difficult. You just want to be done, get out of school, into the real world and start working in a firm or wherever it is you desire to go. The issue here is that we can’t exactly graduate wait unless we do finish our work and produce quality work at that. This is most certain with a thesis, it is/should be the best work you produce in your college career as an architecture student and in a way, I think that weighs on us in the sense that we do want to put out our best project, not only for ourselves, but for future employers to see and with the strain of finding the motivation from time to time to work, it can be quite stressful. I wouldn’t venture to say it’s too much for us to handle, but it can definitely be taxing. It’s not only the work for our thesis, but the work we have in other classes that we really want to do our best on and receive the best possible grade along-side out studio/thesis work. One factor that comes into play, at least with me and my productivity, is the change in weather. I know this is true for others as well; once spring begins to roll around and temperatures start climbing to the point where you’re not freezing when you walk outside, you tend to want to be outside doing anything, whether its sports, hiking or just sitting out in the warm weather, it becomes exponentially harder to really get yourself to sit down and really work on what it is you need to do, for us that would be our thesis and other class work.

So this point in the semester becomes one of the hardest periods of time, for not only me or my classmates, but all other students and even adults out there working as well. But you just have to really start managing time as well as possible to allow yourself those much needed study/work breaks from time to time while still producing the work required.

Craftsman Style Architecture | Shelter Insurance building

By Michael Young

Many symbols were created in the design of the structure to represent the Craftsman style of work.  A well-known architect by the name of Frank Lloyd Wright is famous for his Craftsman style of architecture. The Shelter Insurance building, located in Springfield Illinois, wanted to create a new vision and look. With the design of the new building it was obviously an upgrade from what the clients were used to seeing. Steve Warren, architect of the project, mentioned the meeting rooms were very spacious and each room was equipped with the latest presentation technology for the groups of representatives that were required to visit occasionally. The view of the building from the higher ranked representations really liked the layout and design elements located in and on the structure. To lure clients in, Shafer and Associates created a modern looking, up scale building at lost cost with a pleasant street appearance. The main goal was to turn heads and invite curiosity. The lobby generates a warm feeling with the colors and furniture used. Also, it produces a surprise when you walk in with the vaulted ceilings and liberal use of stained wood and trim. The floor plan was set up to have an open lobby and secretary desk to make the space look bigger.
To represent the Craftsman style architecture large brackets were placed under the eaves to create an appealing look. Another symbol of the style was how they made the outside look with the stone base and a brick veneer top half. One symbol that is the easiest to point out are the windows. They used the design 4-over-1 double hung windows, which are commonly found in some way in Craftsman style buildings. This means at the top of the window there are four panes of smaller windows over one large window.  Lastly, the roof gives us a clue that it could be Craftsman style because of the step pitch and the hip roof over the windows when the building offsets. The structure was designed to with stand the climate changes in central Illinois. The exterior walls were wood stud bearing walls with brick veneer and on the interior of a second floor space which was under 1000 square foot the walls and floors were built with masonry to up hold the strong winds and even vicious tornadoes that occasionally are present in the Midwest.

Blog 15 | Thesis Presentation Discussion

By Sean Williamson

Hello! Welcome back. With the end of the semester is approaching us, I thought this would be an appropriate time to explain where I am at with my thesis which incorporates the development of a hurricane resistant high-rise structure.

Approximately two weeks ago, I met with my committee for the second time and presented to them the progress I have made on my thesis so far. I have attached the board I presented to them (image 1). At the top left of the board, you will find a brief description of the design that reads;
            My thesis incorporates hurricane resistance into a residential high-rise structure             located in Miami, Florida. This design incorporates wind tunnels throughout its 3             towers to allow wind to easily pass through the structure, regardless of wind             direction. The wind tunnels reduce the lateral forces from wind, as well as provide             energy for the building by forcing wind through vertical wind turbines. Community             spaces within each tower provide residents with a semi-private exterior space excluded             from the general public. The lower levels of the design include retail spaces on the             ground floor, with a parking garage for the residents of the complex located on             levels 2-4. Surrounding the tower is an exterior walkway/ boardwalk that will             contain various restaurants and bars.

Underneath the site analysis on the top right of the board is where you will find the vertical wind turbine diagram. Originally, the form of the building resembled more of a triangle (which according to Buckminster Fuller is the strongest geometric shape), but the building form eventually evolved into the image on the right. This image explains the big idea behind the structure which was to allow wind to travel through the building regardless of direction (as wind would be in a hurricane). The left image explains why a vertical wind turbine was chosen. Its design allows it to function with wind from any direction, along with functioning in turbulent or gusty winds. Compared to a horizontal turbine which must have a constant wind from a specific direction.

Below the site location is a 3d perspective with various callouts, with a ground floor plan to the right.  Below the ground level floor plan is the 5th and 6th level floor which represents the apartment layouts. Each apartment is 2 levels. The lower level will contain the kitchen and public areas, with the bedrooms located on the upper level. The left image is the 5th level floorplan which is the lower level of the apartments, with the right floor plan displaying the upper level of the apartments. The corridors of the tower are found on only the lower levels of each apartment (which is every other level). Although the floor to floor heights within the apartments are 15 feet, the height of the corridors are slightly under 10 feet, allowing for more wind to travel through the wind tunnels. Residents will be able to travel through these low ceiling corridors and view the wind move the turbines through skylights. Each wing contains (2) 2 bedroom apartments, (2) 3 bedroom apartments, and (1) 2 bedroom extended apartment found on the corner of each wing. With a grand total of 180 units with 432 residents throughout the entire tower.

Designed to Fail

By Stephen Tutka

A recent trend in my research has also been a recent trend in my news feed on social media. My thesis has to do with housing those who do not have a home and focuses on a place where they can go in their time of need. This is just a natural thought to me. You need a home? You should be able to find one. However, there is a way of thinking that I had not thought of… designing a place that people cannot lay their head.
This trend of uncomfortable ‘defensive architecture’ is a burden to everyone that uses a space, in my opinion. Rather than using design and creating a solution people are thinking in the other direction… an anti-design. They are identifying a problem and just moving it somewhere else rather than solving it. They make it someone else’s problem, the problem of the people they are designing against.
What is it that I am referring to? In this particular instance it is the so called “homeless spikes” which are like the spikes set on perches to keep birds from roosting. Many people that I have seen post about this have taken a stance of “this is inhumane” and complained of how cruel the ideas behind these spikes are to the homeless. However, I would like to take another, less obvious look at this…. It is not design… it is not comfortable for anyone. Why would you ‘design’ something for a purpose that it cannot be used for? A bench that doesn’t work as a bench? What is the point in the ‘bench’ even existing? I can’t say it any better than Dan Lockton did in this article, “One of the problems with architectures of control is that they don’t discriminate. An uncomfortable bench is as uncomfortable for a homeless person as it is for a tired passerby or for someone looking for a place to read.”
I have been aware of defensive architecture in the past. I have seen benches in cities across the US that are made for only sitting, from Chicago to Miami, Denver to DC, and even in my home city of St. Louis. As an aggressive skater I have encountered objects with ‘skate caps’ that prevent sliding on ledges and rails and doing tricks. You even see defensive architecture in things as simple as the arm that comes down to prevent you from going onto the tracks when a train is coming. But at what point do functional things become just things to prevent a certain behavior? When does over designing something as a precaution override the purpose of the item all together? Why not make public spaces functional for everyone? Design a park bench that a tired business man can take a nap on during his break after pulling long hours at the office the night before. Or design a bench that is relaxing in any way… not just a hard confined surface that is designed to prevent certain actions. Come to think of it, that sounds like I just described a prison cell. Are we designing prison cells or public spaces?  To quote Ocean Howell from the same article, “When you’re designed against, you know it,” he says. “Other people might not see it but you will. The message is clear: you are not a member of the public, at least not of the public that is welcome here.”
Let’s remember to design, to problem solve, to think of that quote we all heard early on… “Form follows function”. If you design something to not function for one person then it won’t function for anyone.


Skate Break: Wood as a Structure

By Ryan Northcutt

Wood is one of the most beautiful materials that we have available to us as humans. This is merely my opinion, but I know there are plenty of others who believe in this as well. Wood has a history though. It is one that is positive and negative, beautiful and ugly, stupid and smart… really whatever you have to say about it has a counter point. With today’s advancements in engineering materials though, wood is becoming a usable resource in many ways that we would have not imagined. I don’t need to say much for people to already becoming skeptical about wood as a building material. We all know it burns and we all probably have memories of the tree house swaying 10 feet side to side and hearing cracking. Given some basic logic though, wood is made tough by our very own mother nature. There are trees that are thousands of years old, so how can we say that wood is not a good material to use. Even as a building material, many ancient structures that are wood are still standing, and to me that is enough to say that wood is good. Plus me being a skateboarder, wood is very important.
            I don’t want to make this a rant about wood or try and sway anyone’s opinion, I would just like to talk briefly of some of what wood can do. Starting at something close to my heart, skateboarding and wood go hand in hand, and there is no doubt that it is here to stay. As a small scale piece of engineered wood, the abuse skateboards go through prove that wood is super strong and durable under many conditions. So how does that translate into a building material? How can we take those properties and experiences and make them building structures? There are many dedicated people looking into wood as a major building material. Much of the research has been positive and continues to be on the positive side as research goes on. As a green product, wood is very sustainable and is our one and only renewable building materials we have really. So why not use it just knowing that? One study has shown that large timbers don’t actually burn like 2x4s, they char and that is that. Just think about when you through a large log on the fire, takes all night to burn that sucker. Now think about a building and how long it would take to burn, if it even gets to that point before the fire team shows up.
            As a structure, wood is not on par with concrete and steel, but it is rising as we speak. Wooden high rise buildings are being tested and researched as a new typology of building. But is it all that new? Not at all. Industrial typologies from the early 1900s prove that wood works. As an interior structure system, large timber frames have been used for a long time, and with new design techniques of today fire prevention is at a high rate. So why did we stop using wood so much? Most likely some media scare or something, but I believe in the next 20 years wood will be used plenty more and prove itself once again as a structure material, and not just a fancy paneled facade.