Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Break!

Those were the last few posts we did just before the semester ended.  We will resume with new posts when the second half of our Master's program begins in January!


By Ryan Kinports

The recent death of Paul Walker could cause someone to question their contributions in life. The premature and foolish nature of the accident left a billion dollar franchise without its captain. Now maybe you've never seen any of the Fast and Furious movies, and they are not high art, but the effect on a generation of young people was profound.

When we move out into the world as designers and architects we should aspire to impact as many people as we are able to in a positive way. We sort off lucked out here with our profession. The nature of buildings means that if you create quality work a single structure could see millions of people pass through and by it during its lifespan. Your potential to affect future architects, how people view their environment, or how someone feels should drive innovation in your designs. I can imagine that among architecture students there has always been a drive to create wondrous structures that push boundaries, but modern society has only in recent decades begun to express the same interests through popular culture. Building materials are changing so rapidly that even our most fantastic designs are within reach. The opportunity these conditions afford us means we are in a position students 20 years ago could only dream of.

But then we must come back to reality. We aren't all going to create a Birds Nest. Most of us will design for more necessary infrastructure such as schools or homes. The positive side to this is that people are becoming more conscious of their built environment and are willing to spend slightly more to experience unique features. The other component is the push to lessen our impact on the environment, which is now substantially driving our industry to advance materials and methods at a rapid pace. As we move forward with more tools and ideas the real value we bring is the vision to form a complete structure that incorporates the many complex concepts we have learned in a way that makes sense to the client. This is one of the eternal struggles we must deal with – the balance between the project requirements, what the client thinks looks good, and the vision you want to realize. New materials and processes may remove restrictions and allow you to more accurately define the client’s desires, but the costs involved often place more traditional methods as the preferred. It is important not to get caught up in designing for materials. It’s an arduous process to design within the many restrictions, but if you are able to work your concepts within those limits you will get noticed. Anyone can create a building; your goal should be to create an experience.  Just remember it takes time to get noticed – don’t get discouraged if years go by without recognition. Focus on your work and some day you will be held up by the communities you affect, but more importantly you will see how you have altered their approach to life. It's an exciting time to be an architect.

Examples of Grid Structures

By Sufiyanu Momoh

A good example of grid shell roofing structures would be the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington dc. In the article “Smithsonian celebrates hip and 'Artragious'” the author Christina describes this structure as “a glass-enclosed engineering marvel it shares with the National Portrait Gallery”. This grid shell gives this courtyard a whole different feel to it. The 63 million dollar glass and steel structure was designed by fosters and partners. It covers over 28000 square feet. This roof structure sits above the court yard space. It is supported by some aluminum clad column so that the weight of the roof does not damage the existing historical buildings. Its structural frame is made out of steel which frames a double glazed glass panel. The roof structure allows day light in but also studded with a cluster of white lights which also gives it an elegant feel in the dark. The yas hotel located in Dubai, designed by asymptote architecture. A grid shell hangs over the structure acting like a skin. During day time this grid shell reflects the sky and the environment and by night it is lit by a color changing LED lighting system that incorporates video feeds that pass through them. The geometry of each unit in the grid shell was designed to mimic the ancient Islamic artistry. In an article describing this structure the author describes one of the effects of this grid shell. He says "the outer “grid shell” breaks the sunlight and generates a stack cooling effect" (gideon 2010). Considering how hot the location of this hotel can get, the effect of this sort of structures would definitely make spaces within this structure to feel better. The author further describes the function of this grid shell as he says "Starting at dusk, the grid shell becomes a light source of its own. LED luminaires—5,800 of them, each containing 144 bulbs—mounted in the vertices of the lattice function in unison as a wraparound screen, turning the Yas Hotel into something of a lava lamp, or a phosphorescent sea creature. Frits in the glass panels reflect the light sources outward, according to Rashid, without compromising transparency from within." (gideon 2010) explaining the elements of this structure when it gets dark. The Grid-Shell visually connects and fuses the entire complex together while producing optical effects and spectral reflections that play against the surrounding sky, sea and desert landscape.In most of this grid structure designs the major variables within them are lights. “Strikingly faceted with tons of holes letting in natural lighting, the pavilion offers a unique place to relax while also heralding a new technique for architects to consider. The pavilion was even outfitted with swinging hammocks for passersby to rest in." (meghan 2012) describing another grid shell structure which reacts with light to produce a well relaxing space within.A lot of these grid shells satisfy their design needs but do need really go deep into solving solutions and in cooperating environmental variables which can better the space. Pushing the boundaries on what these grid shells can be done; one can consider these shells to serve as templates for sustainable solutions such as solar panels thereby having certain parts of the templates orientated in ways they can get full potential of the suns energy. they can also serve as templates for other sustainable solutions such as heliostats. These heliostats can reflect light into darker areas within the region to brighten things up in those areas. Another possible function of this grid shell is to let them function as trellis which can act as a very good design element. The potential of these types of structures can go on and on.

What My Education Has Taught Me

By Kayla Fuller

During this past Thanksgiving, I was discussing with my family about what my plans are after graduation. Although this question is frequently asked, I am never satisfied with my response. I have lived in the Midwest my entire life, so I have been hopeful that upon completing my masters there would be an opportunity to travel west.  Recently I got engaged to my fiancé, as exciting as this is, it is also extremely terrifying. The choices I make not only effect my future by his as well.  My biggest fear is that my lack of experience and will greatly hinder my success.
As students we spend countless hours learning the importance of form and function and how the spaces we create effect those that occupy it. We are also taught the technical side, this has been extremely valuable because we understand how a building must connect and how to create more realistic designs. The one element that I have struggled with during school is renderings. With all the improvements of technology, I am constantly learning new programs but never completely understanding their capabilities. Sometimes my fear of not knowing what to expect and the possibility of failure has caused me to overlook certain programs. As a designer, you cannot let your fear restrict you, because you won’t fail if you try your hardest to succeed.
My classmates are my biggest competitors for a successful future and for a while I never wanted to share my ideas because I knew I could do better or I didn’t want someone to use them. In fact my classmates are the most beneficial part of school because we push each other to strive for our best and lend a helping hand when we are confused. Everyone needs a little influence to spark their design ideas and if no one is willing to share then there will be no improvement.
I will never give up on my dreams and never allow others to tear me down. As long as I have goals and try my hardest to achieve them I will always succeed. We tend to allow others to limit our success by not being ourselves. You can’t find yourself if you allow others to control you.
How do I take everything I have been taught these past five years and use them to become a successful architect?

First you must prove to yourself that you can follow your dreams. Next you must have confidence in your decisions, if you cannot explain why you chose to do something then you haven’t fully considered your options. No firm will employ you if you do not thoroughly think through your actions because the choices we make effect the lives of others.  My goal to be successful in life is to believe in myself and prove my confidence through my designs.

Keys To Surviving Architecture Finals Week

By Alan Kirkwood

Final presentations, final presentations, final presentations……. Oh the stress it brings. They say, “Tis the season to be jolly…”, well, that is not the case when it comes to architecture school. This week prior to our final presentation for the semester, we are all frantic and running around crazed because of the things we have yet to accomplish and/or the overachieving that some students do has set them behind. One of my group members has really been stressing with this project particularly because of his responsibilities to his graduate assistantship position along with the dependencies we have on our wonderful technology. All in all, there are many contributors as to why our “jolly season” doesn’t start off so holly jolly.
1.       Prioritize! This is key to keeping your stress level down in an indirect way. When you sit down at the start of the project and ask yourself, what is important at this time? Is this project the main thing you plan to give your attention to, is it hanging out, friends, family time, sleep? All of these things are very important to keeping your sanity, but there is an order of importance that you must see and then you can move into scheduling and time management. Managing your time can also help you deal with setbacks due to technology, which we all know can and will happen.
2.       This leads us into our second key, time management. Sit down and come up with a schedule for how you are going to spend time during your days individually as well as just what you plan to accomplish each day. This will give you a sense of accomplishment daily which will make you feel better about yourself and what you’re doing. Make time to exercise, eat regularly, spend time with friends, go out and enjoy the world beyond your computer….  This gives you constructive outlets to relieve your stress.
3.       Mentioned in the previous category was social time. Being social is very important because it’s how we express our ideas to be able to bring them from our brain to paper, hear new ideas from fellow students, as well as to just calm the brain by talking about completely other unrelated ideas. I went to my professor’s office the other day and talked about relationships which actually gave me more perspective on my project indirectly. I often walk around my studio as well to see what other students are doing, joke a bit, find out what’s going on in the world and go out to eat as a group sometimes just as a social break from studio.
4.       The forth topic I’m going to end with is personal life. The idea of having a personal life means having a life outside of school, outside of architecture. This piggy backs on topic 3 but expands upon it. Don’t neglect family, friends from outside of school, your relationships. Spend time with the people who love and support you, who have been a part of your life for years and care about you, wanting to see you succeed. Positive reinforcement that you receive from a girl/boyfriend, mom and dad, your best buddy growing up or maybe even an old teacher or religious figure you know. Just a “you can do it”, a “that looks really good and is interesting”, and especially a “we’re proud of you” can go so far in making you feel good and confident. They may not understand what you’re doing or whether or not your design is ‘architecturally’ correct, but it still just makes you feel empowered to work harder, to do more when you may feel like you want to give up. I look forward to bringing my work home and showing my family and friends… it’s fun!

Well, I hope that you can use at least some of these tips to help relieve some of your stress next time you are facing the dreaded final presentation week monster!!! Have a happy holiday season and a happy new year!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tips to Get You Through

By Joshua Fowler

Its getting to be that time of year again, the Christmas trees are arising, Those heartwarming songs from our childhood are playing yet again on the radio and all over the country, students are stressing out about finals, and final projects. It’s the most… stressful time… of the year, especially for college students. And for us Architecture students it means frantically putting the final touches on our designs and boards and models for those final critiques. Oh yes this is the time of year where the studio lights will be on nearly 24/7 for that last week before final presentations. The key to surviving this time of the year for architecture students involves several techniques…
1. Don't waste time panicking
                While you know these last days and hours are coming to a close, just remember that no matter what happens, life will go on, so don’t sit there worrying about what you do or do not have when you could be spending that time working on finishing strong.
2. Plan, plan, plan
                A good way to avoid panicking in the first place is to set a schedule for yourself. Don’t just work willy-nilly on things hoping you will finish because often times one may become stuck on making one aspect of their project perfect but missing other crucial material. Give yourself due dates if your professors haven't already and stick to them. This will force you to catalog all of the aspects of your project you would like to accomplish and then you can focus on doing them in the allotted amount of time you, or your professors, have given yourself.
3. Keep your self-confidence high
                This also tends to be the time of year some architecture students will begin to doubt their abilities. You have worked all semester on your project/s, now it's time to show them off. Don’t worry about what student 1 or 2 has or the quality of what they have, rather focus on what you need to do, just remember you can do this.
4. Focus
                With Christmas time right around the corner and Thanksgiving just past, there is a chance that you have let slip into some workless days or weekends. No harm done but try to relieve yourself from as many distractions as you can. Or work on your project when confronted with one of these distractions. For example, a family member may be able to give you some insight into how well your project is understood, presented, etc. Their interest and comments on your project may just inspire you to a great presentation idea or lead to a crucial missing element you may be missing in your project. Just look at the finish line, c'mon we're almost there.
5. Finish strong

                No matter what happens it is important to end the semester with a head held high and confidence that this is your project, your work which you have been developing throughout the semester, and dig your heels into the ground and push as hard as you can to finish to the best of your abilities. When it comes down to it, if you can step back and honestly say that this is the best I personally could have done on this project in the given amount of time, then you have a successful project. 

A Familiar Model

By Timothy Shotts

Speaking with Daryl Oster of ET3 about my thesis project – a station or hub for high speed tube transport – I realized that I may be approaching this on the wrong scale.  Not the wrong scale as in the capsule size, but the distribution of stations.  The Hyperloop plan is more like a high speed bus, transporting small groups of up to 28 occupants per capsule to more central stations, where the ET3 system is modeled more on the personal automobile with up to six occupants per capsule and multiple access portals.  For instance, a household may have three access portals.  I have reservations and concerns of the cost-benefit ratio of creating this infrastructure to solve the “last-mile” problem of transit.  When discussing the last mile of transit, Mr. Oster pointed out that 96% of the U.S. population lives within 20 miles of a Wal-Mart (Wal-Mart Nation.  Zook, Graham. 2006). Herein lies the interesting connection and an interesting option for the last mile of transit.  First, if we establish ET3 access portals at Wal-Marts, Wal-Mart would benefit by lower shipping costs, but could also be integrated with personal access portals which could offset shipping costs by collecting a fee for personal use.  A transit oriented village could be centered around big box stores, but small businesses could benefit even more so by being able to make smaller purchasers from distributors and also bring people into the store to use the access portal.  In this model, the access portal is really no different than the parking lot in front of stores – a small business receives packages from Fed-Ex and UPS often through the front door that is also shared with patrons.  Second, perhaps we don’t address the last mile but instead we use ET3 up to the last 20miles of transit needs.  Combining Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) or non-autonomous transit with ET3 would be able to reduce congestion in Los Angeles, reduce pollution, decrease the cost of shipping, and reduce the need to build wider and wider highways.

Here are some capsule and access portal renderings from ET3.

Matthew Zook and Mark Graham, "Wal-Mart Nation: Mapping the Reach of a Retail Colossus," in Wal-Mart World: The World’s Biggest Corporation in the Global Economy, ed. Stanley Brunn (London: Routledge, 2006), 20.    

Architectural Fun Facts

By Nicholas Mosher

The spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg was finally completed in 1439, 424 years after construction started1.

The Empire State Building may sway several feet to either side caused by strong winds1.

England's Stonehenge is 1500 years older than Rome's Colosseum1.
Work on St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, began in 1506. Construction took over a century, reaching completion in 16121.

Frederic-August Bartholdi sculpted The Statue of Liberty1.
There are 403 steps from the foundation to the top of the torch in the Statue of Liberty1.

The Hoover Dam had enough rock excavated in its construction to build the Great Wall of China. It is 726 feet tall and 660 feet thick at its base1.
The Hoover Dam was designed and built to last over 2,000 years. 500 years from now the concrete will finally be fully cured1.

If any of the heads on Mt. Rushmore had a body, it would be nearly 500 feet tall1.

On July 28th, 1945, a US Army bomber crashed into the 79th floor of New York's Empire State Building, killing 14 people1.
There are 10 Million bricks in the Empire State Building2.

The Eiffel Tower is 984 feet tall1.
There are 1,792 steps to the top of the Eiffel Tower1.

300 tons of reddish-green paint are used to paint the Eiffel Tower every seven years1.

The estimated weight of the Great Pyramid of Egypt is 6,648,000 tons1.
The base of the Great Pyramid in Egypt is large enough to cover ten football fields. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, it took 400,000 men twenty years to construct this great monument2.

The great Gothic cathedral of Milan was started in 1386, and wasn’t completed until 18051.

The largest movie theater in the world, Radio City Music Hall in New York City, held just under 6,000 people when it opened in December, 19321.

The Taj Mahal was commissioned in 1630 by Shah Jehan to honor his wife Mumtaz, who died in childbirth.  The reflection of the onion domes on the water represents tears1.

The world's largest art gallery is the Winter Palace and Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. There are 322 galleries holding nearly 3 million pieces of art and it spans over 15 miles1.

The world's largest Gothic cathedral is in New York City. It is the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Amsterdam Avenue and 112th Street. The cathedral measures 601 feet long, 146 feet wide, and has a transept measuring 320 feet from end to end1.
A bridge built in Lima, Peru around 1610 was made of mortar that was mixed not with water but with the whites of 10,000 eggs. The bridge, appropriately called the Bridge of Eggs, is still standing today2.
It takes a person fifteen to twenty minutes to walk around the Pentagon once2.

Viewed December 4, 2013. Art and Architecture.

Viewed December 4, 2013. Interesting Facts – Architecture.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Park It Mister

 By Phil Mevert

Growing up in a small village/community the issue of parking rarely comes up. There are only a handful of times that parking is indeed an issue which are the three annual downtown celebrations and maybe a few high school basketball games. Even though they do not have many massive parking lots, putting a few in would not be too much of an issue given the amount of available land. When you get to larger cities similar to St. Louis, Chicago, NYC and LA, and even the smaller cities such as Grand Rapids, MI Parking becomes a major issue as the value of open lots for buildings is far greater.
A common solution for inner city parking is to build parking garages and these can take up a lot of space by themselves but do they have to? This semester for the Grad studio project we were tasked with a group master plan as well as developing our own individual buildings of either a hotel or an apartment complex in a downtown setting. We had the choice of doing the project in either Chicago, IL or Grand Rapids, MI. I chose Grand Rapids for my site which is just north of a major interstate/highway as well as along the Grand River and a major arena is also on the site so there are plenty of parking lots between the arena and the riverfront. The site for my proposed apartment complex (130 units and approximately 200,000+ square feet and 20 stories high (240’-0”)) is currently a massive parking lot of about 200 plus spaces. 

As you can see in this photo my building along with the riverfront development covers up the existing parking so the question is how do we replace the parking and add in some for the new residents that will be occupying the proposed apartment complex? Luckily with where the bedrock is on the site and how tall my structure is I would need to go down to bedrock anyway so it makes perfect sense to put in an underground parking garage. However, as you can see the site is fairly tight with space so there would not be much room for a traditional garage with ramps and driving lanes and all that jazz. Another good thing with the studio is the fact that Shannon McDonald is one of the instructors and has a vast knowledge of parking facilities and pretty much wrote the book on them (check out Parking Facilities). Professor McDonald suggested looking up Automated parking and in doing so I stumbled across Robotic automated parking systems which are a vast improvement upon traditional automated systems in that they do not require a track and can have free movement in all directions.

This system allows less travel lanes and can have 66% of the parking filled before having to move cars around. This system allows cars to be park right next to each other without the fear of door dings. There is an old saying that you can fix stupid (aka people driving cars in parking lots/garages) if you eliminate the stupid from the situation you are almost fixing the problem which is what these robotic systems allow. The pluses of these systems are great and the cost can almost wash out when you factor the compact space they allow you to design to and the elimination of ramps and driving lanes. Some of the negatives for these systems that I can think of is when someone is shopping especially this time of year and has a lot of bags that they have to go have the car retrieved and put the bags in the car and then send it back down can take a little more time than just walking up to the vehicle and putting bags in before continuing shopping. I could also see a lot of frustration with black Friday shoppers that are in such a hurry and these systems causing traffic jams of people waiting to pull their car in to be placed but in my opinion it is still better than driving around a lot looking for a spot and wasting gas. Anywho, here is a link to a video of the system I found and really like you should check it out when you have time.


By Brittany Ricker

A trip to a library a few years back… (Kent Free Library – Kent, Ohio) These are the ideas..questions..thoughts I had as I left. These thoughts are still stuck with me and guide me through my personal design process…

We [as architects, designers, artists, students, and humans] need to: See. Think. Do.
There is a division between art and life!
There is no happiness-We are selfish human beings!
(We need to all see and experience the lives of those who have nothing. Step in their shoes for a day and imagine their struggles! The difference is they don’t know any better so they don’t see their lives as a struggle! We have the library but do we take advantage of it? NO! They have nothing yet we complain. We are the selfish ones. We are the ones ruining the meaning of life. HARSH? No, Not harsh..TRUTH! We are one way or another, we are all greedy!
Technology is crippling us!
Revolution is needed! (Spiritual and public realm)
There is no heartfelt emotion!
There is no unity! ­
We thrive on form resulting in formalism!
Where is the emotion in architecture?
Why don’t more people think critically?
Is there a reason we aren’t more curios?
Why is there no medium in design? Extreme formalism or extreme boring is the “color palette” in today’s architecture.
Can we have revolution to change the spiritual and public realm?
Is it possible to focus on the people in design rather than our selfish desires?
Hold yourself accountable.
Destroy the division between art and life!
Solve the d*** problem!
Get curious now!
Prepare for tomorrow!
Do what you love, and do it with PASSION!

Use your skills and help someone.
(Life goal: make life less difficult for each other! Imagine how life would be if everyone went out of their way to help someone... Now imagine if all architecture served a purpose and created heartfelt emotion just by occupying the space…just imagine!)

Believe in yourself and don’t settle for anything!
(If everyone was a follower we would never get anywhere in life! The most magnificent creations and revolutions happened because someone didn’t want to settle. They broke away. Anyone is capable in doing just that! Just believe in yourself and think outside of the box. Don’t be selfish…just don’t be followers!)

Do away with the useless. Eye-candy is useless.
(We thrive on eye-candy but it does not thrive on us. It’s useless and serves no purpose. What is the library building doing for me? Nothing! The books are the purpose and should have been the ultimate focus! Instead, the books are pushed off to the side and why the heck is the children’s area upstairs!? Children are the future and should be given INFINITE space to learn and enrich their lives! Disagree if you must. At least you are thinking critically!)

Start asking those “DUMB” questions.
You know there’s a time where you sat there contemplating whether or not you should ask or speak up about something because you were worried that others might judge/laugh/think you’re dumb…. Well there’s a pretty good chance at least one other person did not know either but wouldn’t speak up. I’m guilty of this…sometimes I catch myself running the question or thought in my head trying to think of the best way to say or ask it so it doesn’t sound “stupid” or crazy….before I know it… the conversation switched and I’m left still curious. So instead of asking the question and getting an answer or sparking a discussion…I’m left clueless about that topic AND the topic I missed while I was trying to figure out what to say…. This is something I have struggled with for quite some time...I’m working on it… and I challenge you to start asking those “dumb” questions too. 
Image by Author

Monday, December 9, 2013

School Bus Converted to Recreational Vehicle

By Kristopher Teubel

For those of us who have been bitten by the bug that is wanderlust, the motivation to pick up a transient lifestyle can be overwhelming at times.  The mode of transportation one may choose can be chosen from many different options.  Each one carries different amenities.  For a long trip, few of us may consider to travel via a school bus.  They are commonly noisy, smelly, and a rough ride.  But just as with many other situations, there are always exceptions.
            Hank Butitta, a graduate in architecture from the University of Minnesota, recently modified a common school bus to accommodate a more refined travel experience.  He stated that the project was a response to his disillusionment from working on imaginary architecture projects that would not be fully realized in real life.  In his design, he included skylights, LED lighting, and reclaimed gymnasium flooring.  All casework and cabinetry in the bus was kept below the bottom of the windows to maximize natural lighting and views from within the vehicle.  The bus gave Butitta approximately two-hundred and twenty-five square feet to work with.
            The emergency hatches were replaced with skylights to allow for top-lighting.  Drop-down translucent insulation panels were installed on the windows to allow for privacy at night.  Much of the  artificial lighting within the bus was installed tucked into a reveal where the ceiling meets the walls of the bus.  Many of the LED lighting circuits are set on dimmer witches as well which adds to the variability and usability of the space.
            He bought the bus itself off of for around three-thousand dollars.  After an investment of approximately six-thousand more dollars the bus was converted into the state that it is in now.  An investment of nine-thousand dollars is a mere fraction of the cost of a mobile home or similar recreational vehicle.
            Beginning in late July, Butitta took his work on the road to test its functionality.  Over one month, he traveled to various national parks and cities with the goal of visiting family and friends.  He even kept a blog pertaining to the trip.  It can be found at
            Mr. Butitta stands as a great example of someone who found the fortitude to fully realize a goal of his.  He channel his resources to create a functional work of art.  The unique character and artistic expression found in his converted bus can be found in so many of its elements.  From the unique lighting scheme, to the cabinetry and furniture the bus exudes the artistry and character of its designer.  Beyond its refined appearance, the bus can  inspire others to take up projects of their own.


All information and photos were retrieved from:

Wang, L. (2013, August 21). Architecture student retrofits school bus into sleek mobile home for the           ultimate road trip read more: Architecture student retrofits school bus into sleek mobile home            for the ultimate road trip | inhabitat - sustainable design innovation, eco architecture, green      building . Retrieved from   sleek-mobile-home-for-the-ultimate-road-trip/

Thesis Research- Egyptian Slums

By Mazen Metwaly

Ezbet Bekhit is another typical neighborhood in Manshiet Nasser. The average income is 50 dollars and the average gross floor space per person is 6.2 square meters. You will be lucky to have a cook stove or a bed, although few do. There is little light or electricity and even less drinkable water. Moreover, officials said the attitude to the slums is summed up by a response to some in a better area complaining about no drinking water. "Hussein Fadl, vice chairman of the municipal water department in Cairo’s Giza district, says such an expansion is planned, but delivery of the treated water will remain a problem. As a stopgap measure for Saft al-Laban, the neighborhood will be temporarily connected to adjacent districts by sets of new pipes by November." “You won’t hear them crying after that,” said Fadl. “These neighborhoods grew up by themselves, like cancer cells, and we are trying to keep up.”
50 percent to 75 percent of the urban housing stock in Egypt suffers from market constraints according to conservative estimates. This causing very market weakness with making people not wanting to move to the new projects and stay in he slum areas since its easier and closer to the city. In 2005, the government announced several different plans of how to make those new units more active and attract people to them. First, by launching a housing finance system, reforming the land and property registration system, formulating an improved property tax law and a unified building code, implementing a new rental law, and finally, expanding the variety of affordable housing typologies offered under social housing programs. But also improving the mechanics of targeting, subsidy and delivery.

Structures II - Concrete Construction Project

By: Lani Walker

For the junior year structures class at SIUC, teams of two constructed a concrete structure from a bag of Quickrete and various other materials.  The constraints of the project were the following requirements; Using no more than one - 40# bag of Quickrete (4000 psi), groups are to construct a cast concrete rigid frame monolithic structural unit that will conform to the configuration required with the cantilever of 18 inches and clear span of 30 inches and clearances of 4 inches anywhere below the spanning structure.  Live Loads will include 8 – 5.5# modular units at end of cantilever and 16-5.5# modular units at center of main span.  The structural unit is to be 50 inches minimum overall length.  Units weighing more than 46 pounds will be disqualified. 
To begin, I sketched out some different trials of structures and calculated their capacity to hold the required loads.  After several trials and errors, I found a design that I believed would meet all the requirements and could withstand the concentrated load and the uniform load.  To begin making the formwork, I purchased ½” black foamcore and duct tape to line the formwork.  It took almost four hours to measure and cut all the pieces for the formwork and glue them together with a hot glue gun.  Once the formwork was constructed, I lined it with duct tape so that the concrete mix would not stick to the formwork.  Other groups tried lining their formwork with saran wrap or spraying it with pam.  I am unsure if those projects were successful, but I had tried the duct tape once before so I was confident it would work.  After I made the form, it was time to form the rows of 19 gauge galvanized steel wire (20 pound safe load) which would act like rebar in the concrete structure.  I cut strips of wire to stretch the entire length of the concrete structure for both sides, and strips of wire which would be inside of the columns.  For each strip of wire, I cut multiple strips of wire at the same length so that I could wrap them together.  Using a battery powered drill (and some major help from my father!) I put five strips of equal length wire together and turned on the drill to wrap the wires together tightly.  After doing this for each section that needed wire, all of the materials were ready to take to school the next morning (when the project would begin). 
The next morning, our class met at 9am to begin mixing and pouring out concrete structures.  We found it was so difficult to mix the entire bag of Quickrete with water in the cylindrical shaped bucket we had brought.  After we mixed the concrete with water, we did a slump test to insure we had the correct ratio of water to concrete mix.  Once we were sure it was correct, we poured the concrete into the foamwork and hurried to place the 19 gauge wire strips and the 6-32 12 inch threaded plated steel rods into the concrete in the locations in which I decided needed the most reinforcements (from the prior calculations I had done).  After that, it was time to cover the formwork with a tarp to allow the structure to cure. 
After about a week, our class went outside to remove the formwork from our new concrete structures and test them!  Each structure was weighed, to insure none of them went over the maximum weight limit of 46 pounds.  I was very relieved that my structure passed all the preliminary tests of length measurements (18 inch cantilever and 50 inch minimum overall length) and weight limit.  Then, it was time for the load testing.  We loaded our structure with the ‘Live Load’ of 8 (qty) 5.5# modular units at end of cantilever and ‘Dead Load’ of 16 (qty) 5.5# modular units at center of main span.  Our structure withheld all the weight loads!  I was so relieved and so proud of myself for everything that I had learned through the course of this project.  I had to do many calculations and trials with the design of the structure and the formwork to make the project successful.  I am not sure how many schools of architecture get the opportunity to do a project like this, but I can assure you that it was one of the best learning experiences I had at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.    

Concrete Project and Testing,  Photo by Author

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thesis Abstract

By Michelle Harris

Passive Houses exceed typical construction standards in their strictly regimented reviews. They are designed for carbon neutral living- minimizing energy use through year-round  temperature and humidity control inside the home. This design approach establishes Passive Houses as a means of scientific success. However the implications of the design’s success is not just measured in thermal barriers. There is also a need for aesthetics. The aesthetics that inspire home or a sense of belonging is an point I seek to explore through my research. My objective is comprehensive study of individual’s brain functions in experiencing the comfort and the aesthetics in a typical Passive House. This study will inform the participants and researchers of the home’s success.
The need for belonging and the enjoyment of the context reflection is subjective to each individual. Defining a stable perspective of how the individual mind views space is to delineate matrices of information to a conglomerate parameter. Individual uniqueness can also be attested for within this matrix of information by noting and organizing key mental assumptions of space.  This will be represented by an interval metric study of social responses to different Passive House scenarios within a regulated environment, whereby many stigmas that occur prior to exposure. This will provide a means to understand the responses and the stigmas in a constructive manner.

One assumption that has greatly influenced the Passive House movement in the United States is the availability, selection and cost of the products used in construction. For example the windows are typically triple pane, gas sealed and imported from Switzerland. The exotic material options may be a stigma for  clients to retreat specifically because there is not a particular style that reflects their design preferences. My observation of the struggle to please the client interested in a Passive House triggered further investigation of the mind’s creation of a satisfying space. Visually pleasing and comfortable spaces are what a resident is searching for in a home. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Life of a Saluki Architecture Grad Student

By John Svast

Hello again readers!
Before I was an exotically handsome architecture graduate student here in the lovely land of Southern Illinois building wonderful models that make women love me and men want to be me, I built other things to pass my time… I built bombs and missiles for the United States Air Force.  It wasn’t as gritty and high tech as it is on television… but I don’t tell my friends that.  While serving my time in the service of servicing explosives, I become privy to a little know Saint by the name of Saint Barbara.  Saint Barbara is the patron Saint of folks of in the explosives careers (field artillery men, ammo and ordinance troops etc…) 
 How did that come about?
Many moons ago, Saint Barbara wanted to become a Christian.  This would have been all fine and dandy if it wasn’t for her big wig King father forbidding it due to him being pagan.  So what did he do?  He had a huge tower built and shoved her in there until he could figure out what to do with her. Time went by and he came to a conclusion on what to do with his new Christian Daughter…. He was going to execute her.  So he took her out of the tower dragged her into the street, whipped out his huge sword above his head and when he was about to bring his sword down to lop off here head… BLAM!... the king gets struck by lightning.  Bickity Bam!.. patron of explosives. 
So where are you going with this?
You remember that tower the king had built to throw his daughter in?  People Associated St Barbara with that tower… then in turn, she also became the patron Saint of Architects and today, December 4th, is St Barbara’s day.
Happy St Barbara’s day to fellow architects and architecture students and happy St. Barbara’s day to the folks in the military that work with explosives.



Joshua Fowler here, and for this blog post, I would like to discuss a side hobby of mine regarding architecture… photography. I have been on a photography activity spike and have recently had some interesting conversations with some people on the subject. As this is just a hobby of mine I may not be the best authority on the subject but I do have experience as well as personal opinions on the subject of architecture photography.
My very first architecture studio project here at SIU as an undergrad  involved  an experimentation with the methodology of observing, recording and diagramming motion as it exists within space. Through the use of photographic and custom lighting techniques I realized a marriage between photography and videography as a means to visually display the entirety of motion via luminary emitters within the confines of a single image. These techniques function to track conditions similar to the anatomical visual perceptions of kicking a ball over a period of time…

This was my first conscious experience with the dialogue between architecture and photography, and I loved it. Since that project I have learned a great deal in composition, lighting, etc. symbiotically between architecture and photography.
While having a recent discussion with a man named Bob from B & L Photo here in Carbondale, some very interesting points came up from this discussion that made me think.  Just as there are many different avenues of architecture and art, there are many different types of photography. I personally prefer artistic photography, just as I prefer more artistic expressions of architecture. I would align myself with the post-modern movement of art, architecture, and thusly photography. I also like to express a sense of motion in my photographs as I feel it gives what is thought of a traditionally stagnate entity, more of a dynamism and energy. The act of capturing a great deal of energy and motion in a single photo  fascinates me. There is also more traditional means of photography, as in portrait photography, which serves its own purpose as well; it is all just a matter of preference.
Composing a photograph is not much unlike capturing similar elements in architecture, both have a composition, both exhibit a choice of color and how much versus no color, materiality choices, positive & negative space,  the list goes on.  Just as there is a notion of scale and a sense of parts to a whole whether it is architectural drawings or the architecture itself, architectural photography can express these same values and notions if done well and correctly. Such elements of architecture can be highlighted in photography in an almost redundant bold statement. Just as the building is composed, so must the photograph be, and the choice of focus or perspective of the photograph can range from the entirety of the building to a single door handle within it. Architecture photography is in a way architecture itself, as the various elements that are composed, in both architecture and the photographs of it, in such a way to either stand alone or relate to one another in some form of context. Architecture photographs have the ability to embody the essence of the architecture they convey. 

Logical Argumentation

By Brittany Ricker
Throughout any design research, theoretical thinking is the underlying structure. When there is a broad explanatory theory within the outcome of a research logical argumentation method should be used. Within logical argumentation there beholds the Stewart Brand’s Six “S”: Site, Structure, Skin, Service, Space Plan, and Stuff. Can any building only have 6 layers? These layers can change either what they are or what they consist of. Nothing should ever stay the same from one building/ design to the next. Taking a look at social logic of space leads to diagramming which can help explain/ reveal patterns that one wouldn’t necessarily recognize just looking at numbers or statistics. The floor plans to gamma maps are a perfect example which revealed the patterns of spatial adjacencies. Just simply writing out the adjacencies most likely wouldn’t stick out as clear.
Strategic Traits within logical argumentation include:
Paradigmatic Innovation – See the link between research and cultural realties.
Priori Argumentation – Denote the enabling conditions in relation to the subject at hand
Logical Argumentation Framework – Tend to be interdisciplinary, meaning they are so basic that they blur the boundaries.
Primary & Secondary Logical Frameworks – Secondary studies go deeper into the domain mapped by the primary system, usually not expanding it with new material.
The whole process of logical framework is quite difficult to conceive at first. It takes time…lots of time… and experience (useful experience) to eventually begin to connect the dots. To first establish your terms you need to understand the underlying principles of: Quantity (K.I.S.S.), Quality ad Origin. Once these terms are established you must demonstrate rational links to make the system coherent. Start defining relationships in terms of: necessity, contingent and nomic necessity.

The rhetorical tactics in cultural/discursive systems really stuck out. Using AUTHORITY as a rhetorical tactic would be successful and IS successful in many cases…BUT one must be very skeptical from whom the criteria is being spoken by! Who’s to say “they” are an established voice and have authority….Hitler comes to mind. If someone says you are the BEST… take a step back and understand… those collections of books take YEARS to compile and gain recognition the way they have… so just realizing the authority, context and WHY. When it was brought up that being persuasive and charming can sometimes get your idea to “sell”… it bothers me in that.. that’s just how the Freedom Towers were established.. So really being skeptical and not so naïve…. You know those people who, if he/she had to could honestly sell a bag of S&#@ and make it sound good to a room full of people…. Do your research. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Final Review Week...

By Lauren Hale

We are currently in the middle of the worst week in the semester.  Everything we have been working on this entire semester is due in two days.  Finished models, finished site models, finished boards with a ton of graphics that aren’t finished yet, and a finished PowerPoint presentation all due this Friday.  We are all feeling the stress and staying up until the sun rises every night.  Sleeping through classes the next morning, in short we are all a mess.  Some people seem to handle this week better than others.  There are always those students that have everything done and then never stop complaining to everyone else about how much they still have to do.  All it does is add to the stress of everyone else who has to listen to them. Every time you ask them what they have left to do, they say one little thing and you give them that look like, are you kidding me? Then they always try to add other things to make you feel better.  Then they ask you what you have left to do and you just sigh. 
                I have been doing this for five years now and every semester without fail, there is always panic.  There is always a freak out point where you are sure you are going to fail and be laughed right out of your review.  By some miracle, I’m still here and for some reason, I’m still doing this to myself.  This is always the time of year when I question what I’m doing with my life and if it is all worth it.  I still really don’t know to tell you the truth.  I don’t know where I will be this time next year or if I will even want to keep working in architecture.  Who knows? Maybe I will actually love it, here’s hoping. 

                At the moment, I’m working on a rendered section perspective of a 33-storey building that I have been designing all semester.  First I built the digital model in Google Sketchup, then I brought it into 3DS max to render it.  Basically I just shoot for the natural shadows formed by the daylighting system you set up in 3DS then let Photoshop do all the work, well I do all the work.  I just feel like I have more direct control of materiality in Photoshop.  Most people just do it in Revit, but I haven’t used Revit in a very long time.  It all depends on how you learned in undergrad and what you are comfortable with.  So basically, I have to finish this rendering, do two more renderings, make all the floor plans presentation ready, update all the diagrams from mid review, draw wall section details and put everything on a board and cross my fingers during plotting.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Personal View of Architecture

By Sufiyanu Momoh

Coming into college to study architecture I had the impression that architecture was all about creativity in design, bringing out inner thought of design to reality and the view of the public. It did not take me long to realize that architecture as an occupation expands way beyond that. I personally feel architects could be regarded as artists but architecture as an occupation requires way more than that Realizing that designing a building with the aim at it being built goes way beyond it just looking really fancy.
   A lot of people outside the occupation would think an architect’s job is just about drawing floor plans. This leads me to thinking architecture as a profession was more about creativity in three major areas. our response to reality with our design. Economical manipulation within our budget and finally creating our selling points. One of the major things that distinguishes an architect from an artist is the scale of our products. Architects design things at such a large scale that not every single design can be brought to reality. Which brings me to mentioning that an architect is not only responsible for designing the looks of the building but also responsible for designing how the structure is going to be built and how it stands. This is part of the things that separate an architect from a designer.
    Secondly a good architect is one that can think for a good design which is highly feasible at a very low cost. This is usually done by putting a lot of thoughts into the construction method and materials put into it. Personally I feel like architect is way deeper than the looks. The best architecture to me are the once that represent the saying “less is more” ludwig mies van der rohe. Simplicity is best, the most simply things could end up being the most amazing things in design. These designs might have required a whole lot thoughts before getting to that one solution that cost a whole lot less due to its simplicity in construction and solution of materials used. This further applies to how sustainable the structure is and how much it can save your in the long run. As an architect I feel like every client wants the best for their money’s worth. The more money you can save the client the more amazing things you can do with extra money on the budget.  the st Louis arch is an example of the structure that looks very simple or perhaps very simple because of the simple shape. But the thought of applying the concept of a very stable structure such as the arch to make an architecture lard mark of that size is amazing.
    Finally Ill touch on what I call the selling point. The public eye doesn’t see a lot of things that we architect focus taking time out to design a structure that functions and works very well at a very low cost and focusing on certain things that would probably catch the public eye seems to be the most admired architecture. But another thing that makes a great architect is being able to pick the selling points that would definitely sell. “You have to sell the selling point” said maja horst

  the aqua tower Chicago designed by studio gang architects is one structure that amazes as it has great selling points with a very simple structure. This building is literally a tall rectangular building with extruding curvy balcony which serves as a selling point from both the out because of the wavy aquatic look it gives the structure and the inside because of the view the clients get from this balconies. 


By Ryan Kinports

Architecture employs fashion to a great extent. There are two dominant views about this that I have seen in this school, and the industry overall. One is to ignore the idea that your work could be considered as something besides a serious contribution to society. The other is to fall in line with what is in popular demand without applying thought to improving upon or creating the next standard in design. They are both narrow paths to walk.
We all want to make significant contributions to our field, as any motivated professional does. There is a growing concern across this country to focus on rebuilding the public transit system we had 60 years ago that functioned so well. We need to become less dependent on personal vehicles. Systems like this require network master plans, transit hubs, smaller stations for bus and train, and numerous support buildings. Fortunately for us the public is paying more attention to how their built environment looks. Unfortunately for the public many designers are focusing on building their coliseum rather than a building that people want to see and interact with daily. One prominent example of focusing on standing out rather than function was the Kemper Arena roof collapse in 1979 that was a result of poor drainage and structural planning. The building had won much appraise from the architectural community. It was an outstanding design for the time; you can see a similar steel exoskeleton on the Recreation Center. Had the arena been in use at the time there would likely have been deaths. There seemed to be such a focus on creating an iconic building that other concerns were neglected. Perhaps this was motivated by the concern that Kemper would be considered “just another arena.”

Like any fashion driven field architecture has a strong design component that draws from the works of peers. This is an efficient system to spur innovation. The downside is that it creates a retail mentality where a few designer brands define an industry. The trends now are large curtain walls, expansive organic surfaces, and in interesting compilation of buildings that appear as though they would interact with the surrounding environment but ignore it almost entirely. Prominent examples of tends setters are Santiago Calatrava (despite enormous cost overruns and complaints of maintenance issues), Herzog & de Meuron (Bird’s Nest, empty most of the year), and Frank Gehry (MIT Ray and Maria Strata Center, severe structural issues). You may have noticed that despite all three of these architect’s creations having severe problems they have become icons in our field. In this school we are expected to be able to build what we design, which often means that our initial unique designs must be reworked. More significant though is the driving force these superstars have on design. So much of classical design has been left behind simply because it is old rather than there being critical problems with those aspects. The real innovators are those that are able to take only the best aspects of various styles and create their own visions from them. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Relationships and Architecture….

By Alan Kirkwood

            It is often said that Architecture school and maintaining a dating relationship can not coexist with each other… If you are in one, it will be hard and eventually it will be ruined by the Arch monster!!! From my observations, I have seen many architects and former architects who have had failed dating relationships, marriages as well as even friendships due to the demands of the major. Personally, I have lost a few friendships as well as a relationship because of my workload and at the time, it really bothered me, but I was in school and had to do what I had to do in order to be successful.
Well, as I have been in the program for a while now and would consider myself a pretty decent student, I have grown to realize that it is possible to not only maintain friendships but also dating relationship at the same time. YOU CAN ALSO HAVE A PERSONAL LIFE!!!!! WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT?!?!?! I have learned to manage my time better, which mentioned in an earlier blog of mine, is the key to much happiness in architecture. Balancing your priorities is another. There are times where you have to separate yourself from your peers in order to get work done, but there should also be "You" time. This time is what helps you maintain your sanity. I guess it's an all around responsibility thing, responsibility to your work in making sure you allot the proper time needed to accomplish tasks and stick to that schedule, responsibility to yourself by taking out time to do the little things: exercise, read, write, go out to eat, shop, watch some television, and a thing we neglect often, just sit back quietly and think... Another responsibility is that to others. This includes friends, families, significant others. While in school, your number one priority is your studies; I mean, you're paying for it which is reason enough to put effort into it. But your relationships are important and those people can be the ones that help you get through many trying times, so don't blow them off. Just regulate the time you give to them and find that balance with your work.
                I spoke with a couple of my fellow classmates, some in close proximity relationships as well as some with very long distance relationships like myself. I have also observed other students in their relationships, whether married or not, and see that it is very possible to not only sustain those relationships, but also grow in them. My relationship has been very blissful even at 4,000 miles between us partially because she is in medical school so she understands heavy workloads, but also just a general understanding of what the two of us have to do and how my success or failure in school will impact our future life together. One of the people I spoke too mentioned that they have had their struggles in their relationship, but they made up their mind that they wanted to be together and they worked through their issues. They are actually engaged now. Once again, I think it's a balance and an understanding of your priorities in life. If you understand that school is important but also understand the importance of the people in your life as well as yourself, you can find that many things in your life can be blissful.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fiber Optic and Tubular Lighting

By Nick Mosher

               Today our society is becoming more aware of just how important daylight is and its effects it has on people.  Tubular lighting has brought another way of allowing daylight to enter into an interior space.  It acts like an extended vertical skylight that carries light through a roof and even a floor and then diffuses it into a space.  The diffuser looks just like any ceiling light and can be made to look like a standard industrial light or a more elegant one.  Fiber optic lighting has recently developed and acts very similar to how tubular lighting does.  It collects direct sunlight and redirects it into a space where it then diffuses it.  Both are efficient and use natural free lighting compared to the use of artificial lights that require electricity consumption. 
                One tubular lighting unit is made out of a singular hollow tube with the internal lining covered in a highly reflective coating, usually aluminum, and like mentioned before a diffuser at the end where the light enters into a space.  At the beginning of the tube there is a half-sphere magnifying lens that collects the sunlight and redirects it into the tube. The tube sizes can vary from 8” up to 22” diameter and a 13” diameter tube provides the same amount of light as 7 100 watt light bulbs on a sunny day.  This system is very efficient in allowing a space with no windows to receive sunlight.  Up to 12 feet of straight tubing can provide 95% of the light that it captures from the outdoors.  Angles can be applied to the travel of the light but it will reduce the amount of light that reaches a room.  The light reduces also when the length of a tube system increases.  The system can reach lengths over 20’ but it is not as common2.  Compared to the fiber optic system tubular lighting is cheaper and it has been around for a longer time which makes it the more common choice today.
                 Fiber optic lighting may be more expensive but it does have advantages over tubular systems.  Fiber optic systems can be very flexible and bend around corners as well as travel a longer length than tubular systems.  This is because the system is made out of not one large hollow tube, but several small glass or plastic solid tubes that carry the light. At the beginning of the tubes there is one Fresnel lens for each tube. The lenses can rotate in several directions and are programmed to follow the sun’s path to optimize on maximum light collection.  This allows more light to be directed into a room and the length of travel to be longer but it still does not allow 100% of light into a space.  At 33’ only 64% of light is provided and at 65’ only 40% of light reaches a space1.  But those distances are much greater than tubular lighting.  Because the tubes are solid, there wouldn’t be a problem of critters entering into the tube and causing problems.  Overall for shorter distances up to 20 feet the tubular system is a better choice but for longer distances that need flexibility, the fiber optic system is the way to go. 

1.            Alex Wilson. (May 11, 2010) Fiber Optics for Daylighting.

2.            Alex Wilson. (May 4, 2010) Tubular Skylights Introduce Daylight to Dark Homes.

Monday, November 25, 2013


By Timothy Shotts

On Saturday after Halloween, the Varsity Center for the Arts hosted an art exhibition of paintings, sculpture, and photographs of buildings and the objects inside of them.  The artists “explore the odd, unknown, and mysterious aspects of old homes in a uniquely personal way” (  The theme of the show, so near to Halloween, seems appropriate, but it was interesting to see how people relate to the buildings in their town and the houses they grew up in.  We learn in architecture classes about the phenomenology of architecture – the experience of a place.  Like art, everyone’s experience of a place is dependent on every fiber of your being – personal history, morals, background knowledge of the artist / architect, emotional state, etc.  The feeling of place is what makes a house a home.  It is what makes a place memorable and unique.  It is the spirit of the place and what it means. 
Just prior to the That House show, The Carbondale Times ran a story of an abandoned building owned by SIU being razed.  Building 207, Jackson County Poor Farm, old insane asylum, or Sunset Haven has [probably] been abandoned since 1957 when the university purchased the land for agriculture use (  Since then, the building has been vandalized and become unsafe (Ritter).  Prior to SIU owning the building, it has been used as a home for the poor, mentally ill, and in need of nursing care (Ritter).  There are also at least 87 graves dating back as far as the Civil War (Ritter) which probably lead to the legend that the place is haunted.  I would have loved to experience this old building before it was torn down.  At the very least documented it.  There’s a lot of history that was just leveled.  What was the feeling of the place, and how was it experienced by its previous residents?  Someone knows, but I’m not sure who.         
Stephen Holl, the architect of the Bloch Building addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo is a modern example of an architect concerned with phenomenology.  The inside – experienced during the day – allows you periodic views to the outside through “lenses”.  The outside – experienced best during the night – glows due to the structural channel glass with lights embedded between the outside and inside walls.  The glass walls not only change the whole way we think about buildings and their materiality, but also the typology of museums – who have traditionally restricted the amount of natural light for concerns about damage from UV wavelengths, and also about how we should view art.

Watch how people use buildings and space.  Watch how you use the space.  Experience it during the day and during the night.  Try to look at architecture not as a place for an single activity, or a machine, but as a creator of history, a creator of activity, and a creator of feelings.
Image by Scott Doody
Image by Sarah Fiola