Monday, September 30, 2013

Challenges/Complexity of Modern Architectural Research and Services and What this Could Mean for the Future

By Julius Mitchell
             Modern Architects unlike the architects in previous history face social and economic challenges that were unheard of in the past especially with the declining resources and the increase in technology, the merging of multiple cultures/diversity in large and medium sized cities, racial and cultural tensions, the rising of a new diverse middle and upper class, and the declining of resources that the Clients/Patrons of the past had such laborers and what it seemed like infinite resources.
            Before architects served those of the elite class and had little to no concern with what the public wanted unless the client informed the architect. Today architects are faced with challenges of not only ensuring the public’s safety, but also pleasing clients (who most of the time don’t provide money or pay for their projects on time or up front), doing research on the project, following building codes, coming up with a design solution, and their designs impact on the environment.  Architects also work for clients with little to no outside resources and need to provide or provide services to supplement their services, such as engineers, and contractors depending upon the delivery method (traditional, design build, contractor manager led/contractor advisor, etc…) the architect and the client agree upon.  This puts current architects in very uncomfortable positions, where they not only have to do the design and lead the project, but also fund the project in the initial stages. This often means paying workers’ wages and that of your consultants. This type of process was unheard of before the 20th century. Architects usually were provided with ample pay and resources. During and before the 17thth century architecture was the highest paid profession in the entire western world and in most of the rest of the world.
             Today architects are struggling to stay in business and are even going in debt on projects clients can’t afford are for some reason not paying for. Architects are finding themselves suing and being sued more often than before over “Cost”, not public safety or negligence. It seems that the field of architecture is suffering from an indirect relationship between increasing complexity in projects while wages are decreasing.  This trend seems to be pressing architecture firms into more inefficiency, since they usually don’t have the money and resources to go about a project properly at the speed clients want them to. So they are left finding loop holes and means of increasing efficiency such as computer software and internet resources that may save them time and money.
            If this trend continues as cities are becoming more diverse in economics and cultures and the social climate changing constantly. One may wonder if the field of architecture will continue to draw the brightest students; seeing that the wage of architecture field is decreasing while the complexity of projects is increasing because of social and technological innovations. One may ask what is to keep those who with good mathematical and visual skills from going into other fields of science such as engineering or medical fields, being that these fields’ wages are in general increasing and are fairly technical; meaning that the problems these fields have clear and explainable answers unlike architecture which problems may cross multiple fields of study.
            In the end if the field of architecture is to continue, which it must since architects design the environments that humans inhabit, how is the field able to continue to attract those with the necessary skills and talents to become architects and how is the field able to keep the current architects interested in continuing their careers in architecture? Themselves perceiving and understanding that they could make more money with less stress doing something else with same skills they already possess. What is to keep them from diverting to something more lucrative, easier, or more rewarding for them and their families?

Sunlight Use in Greek and Roman Era

Nicholas Mosher
Grad Blog #2
             Architecture has included the usage of sunlight since the beginning on man.  Light needed to 
penetrate cave mouths for cavemen to live in.  The first civilized use of natural sunlight was the ancient Greek era, the Greeks reacted accordingly to the sun as a use to heat and illuminate spaces.  One main architectural feature of buildings such as the Parthenon was by placing the hallways on the outside of the structures. This created a pleasant, covered pathway that blocked the sunlight yet still had open ventilation.  The city of Priene was known to have their courtyards facing south to capture maximum sunlight. Socrates showed his knowledge of the sun in his writings and drawings. In a house that was built, he referenced the sun's summer angle as well as the winter angle (Holloway, 2011). This is shown by the following image of Socrates' sun-tempered house.
Image taken from (Holloway, 2011)
             This was genius architecture that was perfectly rationed to allow the low winter sunlight to penetrate all the way to the back of the room to give more warmth.  The roof also stuck out long enough to block as much summer light as possible. That technique along with having open ventilation creates a cooler environment inside.  This simplistic design worked very well, however it did not capture and hold all of the heat gained by the sun.  The opening of the south wall did not allow for the house to contain the heat so as soon as the sun stopped shinning, the heat went away.  This was a flaw when dealing with maintaining the heat in the winter and at night. Later on the Romans figured out that by placing glass on the south walls or windows, it still allowed the sunlight in while trapping in the heat (Holloway, 2011). 

             During the Roman era, their culture and their use of the atrium and peristylium were a very common style of design.  This was known as the Roman Patio House Style.  This style was based on the availability of light, and was an open floor plan (Phillips, 2013).  Typical roman house consisted of the atrium and peristylium which were used for circulation and the light source.  The atrium is a large open space, usually used as a small shallow swimming pool, to allow for the sunlight to shine throughout the house.  It was often used as a greeting center for guests and typically included a fountain. The atrium was in the center of the house and was most elaborately decorated, and was the main room of the house.  This was due to the amount of light and air circulation.  The peristylium was a garden built off of the atrium.   They were a garden surrounded by pillars and were used to display wealth and education.   In the standard Roman house hold it was built to face inward with no windows this was because the house drew all its sunlight from the atrium and peristylium (Roman Empire, 2007).  These two rooms were the most important elements in Roman architecture because they supplied the available light and circulation.  The house was built around these rooms, mainly to the north with south facing windows, because of their importance with the light.

Image taken from (Holloway, 2011)
              Octagonal rooms like in the Domus Aurea (Latin for Golden House) had five rooms connected to the northern most sides of the octagon room.  The southern side was perforated to allow solar gain as well as having a giant skylight in the ceiling to get even more light shining further into the rooms (Holloway, 2011).  This technique of adding in a skylight was also used in the more famous Pantheon in Rome. 

Holloway D.R. (2011) Sun Tempured Architecture: A Simple Design Methodology For Passive Solar Houses. [Web log post] Retrieved from
Roman Empire (July 10, 2007). The Roman House. Retrieved from

Friday, September 27, 2013

Strange, is it not?

By  Randy Thoms

I am sitting here, with the computer, watching “Garfield” with my daughter, whom is home sick today, and thinking about school, all the deadlines and about what to blog?
            So let me express what I am planning for my graduate thesis.  Could the following be called a literature review, an abstract, a problem statement, a proposal or an introduction? Or is it for A1, A2, A3, A4, or A5? Or Panel Z1, C1, S1, or A1?  Half the time I do not know what I am writing about or for which of the “chapters” in something that seems so far off in the future.
            Once upon a time…sorry, I have been reading too many books for my daughter…. Let me start over…..

            The Baby Boomers are coming…the Baby Boomers are coming!  Well, coming of age.  It has been 70 years since World War II, but after the high of victory, all those men coming home (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), and the following economic prosperity we get a boom in births in the United States.  The time period is defined as, by Encyclopedia Britannica, “increase in the birth rate between 1946 and 1964” (2013). With the psychology and understanding of how to handle and care for our “growing” aging population moving forward, so too should the architecture.  By using a unique set of rules and current best practices, the following paper will examine research and benchmarks to inform a new approach for the design of senior living housing.

            One place where this idea is accomplished, an approach to housing and community in a dense environment, is Europe.  At the age of 12, I was lucky enough to live in The Netherlands for a year with my whole family.  To this day, let me just say over 30 years later, (yes, I am designing my retirement utopia) it still holds as one of my ‘great awakenings’ in my life.  We lived in a flat, on the fourth floor of 12, in one of three similar building on a one way street.  My mother biked to the grocery store, what seemed like every other day, due to the dorm size refrigerator.  I would ride my bike to school 4 miles away and play in the canal, as well as ice skate, behind the tower. But what this meant to us and my mom was fresh food, exercise and a sense of community.  Not only was the mode of transportation slower, but living in a tower and walking to the Saturday market, lead to getting out more and talking with your neighbors.
Therefore, going back to my own experiences, an “old world” European village with its organic pattern of growth, and small unique enclaves begin the discussion of a new benchmark for a senior living village.  Working in concert with this pattern, is the way buildings setback from the alleys to form streets and then plazas, opening up the possibility of public spaces to be used by the residents whom are biking or walking within their community.  Other ideas expressed in European towns are the many pedestrian only streets, which allow for the walk ability to goods and services and inherit since of community and support.  Next is an impressive public transportation system in place and utilized, so if the need arises to travel faster and further, a well maintained and easily accessible train and bus systems connect places far afield.  All of these impressions, which will inform a new design for senior living, have a setting here in America.

Sounds like New Urbanism?  So what has Europe been doing all this time?

Strange, is it not?

Digital Fabrication as a Design Tool

By Tim Shotts
As a graduate assistant in the Digital Fabrication Lab, I have the opportunity to see a lot of student's models. It's really quite amazing to witness the birth of a model from a 3D shaded rendering. All these have started as an idea, gone from sketch to digital representation, and then fabricated either on our laser cutter, 3D printer, or CNC. Some of the recent projects fabricated at the DFL have been installed around our home, Quigley Hall, study models for the Furniture Design studio, topography for site study models, and case study models.

First, I'd like to state that anything that comes out of the DFL can be made without it.
The machines we have available to us are no different than any other tool use. In fact, they're very similar. For instance, CAD is more popular than hand drafting, but both are done and each has its advantage.

With that caveat, digital fabrication can democratize our designs. We can realize our designs despite any lack of skill in model making. Digital fabrication also allows us to create many iterations quickly and test them to refine our designs. The value of study models is priceless. There is no replacement for having a physical model to hold in your hand.

Here's a quick sample of what SIU Architecture Students have been creating in Prof.  Wessel’s studio.
Students:  Patrick Szczecina, Margaret Kramer, Paula Golz, Lucas Flaa

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"We Are Good at Putting Up Buildings, but We Are Bad At Making Places"

By Lani Walker
           What makes a place memorable?  What is it that makes you want to return to that place?  For myself, I associate the good places I have been with the good experiences and memories I created there.  Within architecture and urban planning, the term ‘Placemaking’ was used in the 1970s to explain the process of creating attractive and interesting public places which will appeal to a variety of people.  Placemaking capitalized on a community’s existing resources and assets, while drawing from the community’s inspiration and potential to be a great place.  Placemaking is both a process and philosophy of urban planning.  Originally, placemaking involved squares, plazas, parks, streets and waterfronts that are landscaped well and designed to bring people into the place.  Today, the term placemaking can be used to improve all of the spaces that people gather in and invite greater interaction between people within the community.  Placemaking is not about just a building or a public plaza, placemaking is a process which creates places to encourage people’s health, happiness, and well-being.  This process can help to construct strong communities in which people feel a commitment to making their place better.

            In order to implement this process into our studio project located in an abandoned set of parking lots near the United Center and Rush University Hospital in Chicago, IL, we first focused on the communities assets.  For this area, the United Center Arena, Bulls New Training Facility, Rush University Hospital, vibrant local neighborhoods, and the local educational facilities seemed to be this community’s primary economic and social assets.  We researched the people who lived, worked, and played in this particular space to discover their hopes and needs for this site.  From our research about the people of this area and the analysis of the site, we created a strategy and vision for our place.  We focused on how the Sports and Entertainment industry (from the United Center) affect the north side of our site, while the Medical industry (from Rush University Hospital) affects the south side of our site.  Our goal is to fuse the two distinct areas together with art.  In creating this place, we are attempting to give the local communities an enjoyable and safe place to inspire greater social interaction.  We have been working on this project for about a week and below are our initial plans for the site.   
Image 1 by: Brittany Ricker
Image 2 by: Lani Walker
Image 3 by: Lani Walker
Image 4 by: Brittany Ricker

Quote:  “We Are Good at Putting Up Buildings, but We Are Bad At Making Places” by Bernard Hunt

Manshiet Nasser

By Mazen Aziz
Egypt is one of the most modern countries in the Middle East and Africa.  Cairo is the capital city of Egypt, which has some of the finest hospitals, shops, restaurants and all the trappings of modern life in the area. However, Egypt has a lot of hidden secrets that no one talk about either from officials or tourists because it’s never shown to them. Egypt and particularly Cairo got so many mega slum areas that are actually ranked in the top 10 most populated areas in the world. Manshiet Nasser or the “Rubbish City” is one of the top mega slum areas in Cairo with about 600,000 to 1 million people.

Cairo has a population of 16 to 20 million people living in it. A survey shows that 200 US dollars is the average income a month but found that 68% of those canvassed made less than 143 dollars. Moreover, the extremely poor make less than 20 dollar a month. In Manshiet Nasser, 50 dollars a month is the average and many wage rates much lower with gradations of poverty. Egyptians call Manshiet Nasser the Garbage City since the Coptic Christians who works as garbage men (the Zabbaleen) in Mokattam area collect the majority of garbage all over Cairo and bring it back beside their homes. The Zabbaleen children and mothers will then try to go through the garbage all day and find pieces they can resell. Those people consider lucky, as they are able to make some sort of subsistence living. However, by the years, with all that amount of garbage beside the houses got spread all over the area and became uncontrollable. 

             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.”
            Aribar we Noz, which means “4 ½” is a darker and more poverty-stricken area in Manshiet Nasser. Its called Aribar we Noz as a reference to its size of the inner slum of slums in Manshiet Nasser. Aribar we Noz is where the Sudanese ended up after escaping the Darfur genocide. The Egyptian government couldn’t stop them from coming in but they do stop any services reaching them but also putting them in a 4 ½ square kilometer space. Egyptian tour guide Carlos said, “The Zabaleen are very poor. Many here are in poverty but they are able to at least maintain their poverty with their jobs. The poorest of the poor are the Sudanese refugees. Most of them have nothing. Actually, I have a friend who works with them.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thesis Research has Begun...

Alan T. Kirkwood
Written: 9/18/2013
Well, I have begun to research my thesis topic and think I have one narrowed down. I have a personal interest in this project and it is something that I am passionate about which will more than likely help push me along in researching for it. I am focusing on suburban redesign. The areas of focus are the suburb I live in back home, Olympia Fields, as well as two neighboring ones. These areas each have their own individual situations they are dealing with, but they all seem to fall under this blanket of socioeconomics. This term is simply defined by Merriam Webster as "Of or involving both social and economic factors." Wikipedia goes on to further explain it as "…the social science that studies how economic activity affects social processes. In general it analyzes how societies progress, stagnate, or regress because of their local or regional economy, or the global economy." In the case of these three suburbs, there is a failing of business or a lack there of, which I believe is having an effect on the sense of community and vice versa. The property taxes for home owners in some of the areas have increased substantially because of the lack of business, the mall and shopping centers are on the decline due to the failure of large corporations as a whole in this country and the local people not supporting the growth of them. Rather, the people of these suburbs travel elsewhere to do their shopping instead of encouraging and opening more businesses here. My family's is one of the areas that have been affected by the spike in the property taxes which brings in my personal interest, as well as the fact I would not like to travel 15 miles to purchase things I could right down the street from my house.

In my research for my topic, I came across articles and lecture videos of a professor from Georgia Institute of Technology. Architect Ellen Dunham-Jones is one of the leading people in the big sustainable design project of the next 50 years called "retrofitting suburbia". She gives examples of cities that are thriving due to the retrofitting of former mall areas and major streets and how these encourage people to walk more in suburban areas. More so developing an urban feel in a suburban setting. The goal is to "reduce the ecological footprint and energy consumption while improving the health and communities and providing living options for all ages within these communities." ( In the video, She gives case studies all over the United States to prove her point. I also found competitions going on worldwide to redesign suburbs of large cities, particularly one in the UK for some suburbs outside of London. The name of it is Adaptable Suburbs with the purpose of studying "the relationship between networks of human activity and the changing form of urban and suburban centres through time". These sites have also been helpful in my urban design studio project as well just in some of the concepts and ideas presented. I will share more on this in a later post..... 

The Dialogue Between Computational Design and Architecture

Joshua Fowler here, as a means of a little clarification regarding my thesis, the following is an excerpt from my writings about computational design, enjoy.

            Within the ethos of architecture design, new-coming technologies are extruding forth new potential for optimization. Structure, fenestration, form, skin, materiality, and more, all now becoming viewed in progressive ways though the utilization of technology for optimization. Architecture following such a technological inclination can be viewed as having a parameter based genetic code which can be digitally altered and optimized in order to save time, material, money, etc. Imagine designs and architecture having all of its components meticulously mapped out in a genetic code which contains the generative instructions for design form, tectonics, structure, etc.  as well as generates the capability to adapt to certain situations. Thereby allowing designs to not only function optimally in three dimensions but break a boundary into the fourth dimension of time. Now imagine being able to alter this genetic code relatively simply, rendering the results entirely different or involving fewer or greater parameters.  Entire spaces could perform on their own to optimize for certain situations, fenestration which alters itself for various desired purposes, all without the direct attention of the occupants within. By giving architecture a responsive and genetic code, we can create a new breed of living buildings. Emerging technologies are now allowing for an easier transition toward this responsive and algorithmic genetic code based method of design. Aesthetics could also then become responsive and therefore provide a potential for greater user interaction with the architecture.  New dialogs can be created between the architecture and the occupants, based on proximity, number of occupants, and other various parameters. Algorithmic genetic design as a design implementation opens the doors for a new echelon of digitally based design intended for the optimization of numerous aspects of design.
            Computational design in architecture has established a new epoch in design process methodologies evolved from the digitization of more traditional design process. "'Computation'… allows designers to extend their abilities to deal with highly complex situations. Sean Ahlquist and Achim Menges define computation as 'the processing of information and interactions between elements which constitute a specific environment; it provides a framework for negotiating and influencing the interrelation of datasets of information, with the capacity to generate complex order, form, and structure.'" [1] Many more factors can now be considered while utilizing algorithmic design permitting an influx of information and parametric data to permeate design decisions and thus the design and architecture itself. This informed approach based method aids in creating additional purpose and meaning to design and architecture.
            Perhaps one of the more appetizing rationales for computational design lies in the capability to seamlessly translate the notions of complex genetic algorithmic designs into tactile, fully functioning,  physical entities. With the potential for a multiplicity of complex forms available through modern technologies and practices along with the compressed timeframes of construction, it has become inherently necessary to involve projects on a computational level for speed and accuracy. This technological involvement is now also shifting toward the construction and fabrication trades allowing for a smoother transition between digital designs and construction and fabrication. Such design, construction, and fabrication techniques have also allowed and supported the creation of parametric families rather than a specific repetitive detail. Computational design also contains the capability to ease the transition to digital fabrication through the calculation and deconstruction of a design into its specific pieces for fabrication.

[1] Peters, Brady. "Computation Works: The Building of Algorithmic Thought." Architectural Design 83, no. 2 (2013): 8-15.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hanging On

By Ryan Kinports

There is a great deal of pressure in the SoA on your time. When I transferred in last summer I was spending upwards of 14 hours a day in Quigley. I thought this demand on my time might be alleviated once the fall semester began but there was little change to this pattern. One of the few routines I could establish was going to Walgreens at 4:00 AM for cereal to eat before class began again in a few hours. Over time I learned to deal with the inconsistent lifestyle while many of my peers continued to struggle. Sleep deprivation took its toll. One oddity I discovered is the negative correlation between time awake working and the ability to complete work for every class on time.  Eventually I learned that the initially sensible idea of staying up for days at a time to maximize work time overlooks the drop in productivity and quality that accompanies it. You will end up spending a great deal of time in Quigley and the Blue Barracks, but you must find time to sleep. That first summer there were many times I or a peer slept on a desk or pile of cardboard which, while uncomfortable, was better than nothing.
One particularly dangerous way to deal with the constant time demands is to neglect one class to work on another’s. You might think that “it’s only one class period” or “I understand this so it’s a waste of time” but it can quickly develop into a habit. Most of my peers and I are guilty of this at one time or another. Many of the professors in our program understand this problem, however that does not mean you should take advantage of their leniency. They know that in the long run it will only hurt you.
There will be times that you think you should change your major. From observation this is usually the result of a bad experience with a single class rather than the result of a prolonged struggle with Architectural concepts. You may be told by a faculty member that it would be best to change your major. What you need to remember is that no single class should decide your career path, the advice of your mentors should be welcomed, and you must evaluate your own progress from an objective position. It may be that you are in the wrong major. It may also be that you tried to apply academic expectations of a less demanding field to your own expectations and have yet to realize Architecture is a different animal. This major will encompass the vast majority of your time. The particular day of the week starts to lose meaning as weekends are spent in studio like any other weekday. You’ll know you’re in the correct major for you when you realize you’re in studio working on a Saturday night and you don’t mind - you might even be enjoying what you’re working on.

Get out once and a while though.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


             Design in architecture in our world today is depicted by so many limiting factors which restricts the design part of the profession to a point where designing is almost not a part of the profession. Architecture is generally described as an art of designing and constructing buildings. In what is called architecture in today's world you can barely refer to it as an art. Art is an act of creativity. How much in today's architecture is an act of creativity? Very little because architects have refused to push their thoughts and idea beyond what was already the norms of architecture, that is the already known means of doing things in today's architecture.
             Architects have so many factors and limits restricting the outcome of the profession and that are one of the main reasons why the creative and artistic aspect of the profession is going down the drain. Is architecture all about problem solving? Yes for the most part. But the problems being solved in the architecture industry today are not necessary the ones that should be worried about. Structures commissioned by the government are mostly for the people, but architects are more interested in pleasing the people in charge of or the people involved in the commissioning. people in high government positions are chosen to represent the people, that is a well understood fact, but in a case where an architect designs a public building as an architect you should understand what is best for the people and design something that works best for its purpose and not what the government authority wants.
            Various personnel out of the profession have developed a lot of say and impact of how things should be done within the profession and architects are left with no choice but to oblige with it because in most cases, that is their only source of income. Architects have been doing this for so long that now it feels more like a norm to be under these sorts of limits. When this limits are removed it appears that architect execute less. And this is mainly because they are not used to do working under that kind of condition.
             It has been several cases where architect have opposed to the ideas of the authority in charge for the better of the project and most of them end up losing the contract. “Most of us remember, for example, what happened to Mr. Koolhaas in the 1997 competition for a major expansion to the Museum of Modern Art. Choosing to ignore the museum’s internal politics, he indiscreetly highlighted the museum’s corporate agenda in his design. An enraged MoMA board instantly dropped him." (paul, 1991). This is a typical example of where the profession is. mr koolhaas is a well recognized architect from Netherland, who is well known as one of the most influential architects in the world. This is a typical example of where the profession is today.  If the architects can’t beat them they are left with no option but to join them.

Aqua Tower Chicago

By Kayla Fuller
              The tallest building designed by a women-owned architectural firm and first skyscraper from Jeanne Gang, Aqua certain makes quite the impression along Chicago’s skyline. The mixed use skyscraper is located just north of Millennium Park at 225 N. Columbus Drive. Three components are integrated into the singular design of Aqua, the hotel space occupies floors 4 to 18 providing 225 rooms, apartments on floors 19 to 52 and condominiums from floors 53 to 81.  The adjoining park provides retail, parking and additional residential space in townhouses that face the park.  
striated limestone outcroppings

              The concept of the Aqua Tower design was inspired by the striated limestone outcroppings common in the Great Lakes area.  The shape of the building originated from a strategy to extend views while maximizing solar shading. The curving balconies stretch from 2 to 12 feet providing a shield the apartments from intense sunlight while adding a sense of privacy. Gang is known for her talent of turning mundane materials into poetic forms, turning the concrete structure into a sculptural form. As you approach the tower the presence of the balconies oblique angles create waves that flow across the building, relating it back to the limestone outcroppings in the great lakes.

            What I found fascinating about her design, was her ability to maintain a rectilinear floor plan for the comfort and ease of the residents while breaking the repetitive, right-angled elements of the typical skyscraper that becomes an aesthetic monotony. She created a residential skyscraper, for people to live and enjoy their surroundings rather than another building to work in. As well as an 80,000 square foot park atop a podium that not only reduces the heat island effect from the surrounding skyscrapers, but provides a recreational element to the design as well as parking space below. She also achieved geometric naturalism through the incorporation of paths that meander between evergreen and deciduous trees in the park.
             Although the original concept was not focused on designing a green building, they ended up achieving LEED status for their final design. Sun studies were completed to analyze the different glazing types needed to provide energy savings, the most common used were Low-E glazing and frit. While the balconies provide excellent shading and energy savings during the spring and summer months, they are inefficient during the winter months. As the concrete balconies extend from the building they slim down, causing significant heat loss during the colder months.

             The building is to attract a younger crowd who prefer the apartment’s light and airy feel, with balconies, views and the opportunity for recreation right outside their front door. Aqua contributes to sustainability and is said to “foster a sense of urbanity and a related life style.”
I hope you enjoyed my post, see you all next time.
-          Kayla

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Response to: Bringing Imagination Back?

By Kris Teubel

            The practice of creative arts can be such a mysterious thing.  Mathematics and the sciences, being more observable and quantifiable in nature, can be more easily explained in many circumstances.  There are always outliers. To those studying quantum mechanics and non-Euclidean geometry, I tip my hat to you.  For those of us who are more familiar with using our right brain, the creation of aesthetics and qualitative elements can easily be the masters of our craft one day, and the next, completely at a loss as to why we can't get our creation to find its momentum.
            The folks at have provided us a great article that may help to shed some light on our dilemmas.  Our friends in the science corner of the room have taken a look into the biological nature of our imaginations and how it relates to education.  Though the research noted focuses on adolescents, much of the information could be applied to more advanced age groups.
            Researchers currently point toward the frontal lobes of our brains as a major player in the creative process.  According to Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., “Our brain’s frontal lobes are inspired by newness and creating novel ideas, and research has shown that adolescent reasoning and innovative problem solving skills across America have stagnated in recent decades.”(Chapman Ph.D., 2011)   With this general stagnation comes a higher need to understand what the underlying processes are when one undertakes a creative process.  With the ever pervasive nature of the globalized economy, individuals and countries alike ought do what they can to stay competitive.
            One of the more evident culprits of this cognitive dilemma is the idea that, regardless of  socioeconomic levels, students don't seem to be creatively engaged in grade and high school.  The three more elemental aspects of creative thinking are strategic attention, integration of information, and creative processing.  One must be able to recognize important information pertaining to the problem at hand in order to successfully reach an optimal outcome.  They must also understand how to use the given and interpolated information to create a positive outcome.  A tool of any kind is useless with the knowledge of how to use it.  Last, one ought to have the capacity to problem solve creatively.  This is the key to producing optimal solutions versus an acceptable one ("Brainhealth teen reasoning," 2013) .
            Doctor Chapman and her colleagues are making great strides with their efforts into understanding how educators can promote higher levels of creative thinking.  They currently are managing a program called the Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART).  It focuses on cognitive neuroscience principles in order to learn how to best engage our frontal brain networks.  The goal is to build strategic thinking, problem solving skills, and advanced reasoning (The Center for BrainHealth, 2011).  These and other principles help to build one's mental flexibility and to promote healthier brains.
            As Einstein, a master of thought experiments, once said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” (Chapman Ph.D., 2011)

Chapman Ph.D., S. B. (2011, July 19). [Web log message]. Retrieved from   

Brainhealth teen reasoning initiative. (2013). Retrieved from         reasoning-initiative

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Friday, September 20, 2013


by Tyler Dunahee

                Everyone has a hometown, likely the place one spent the most time during their developing years and the place where the community and one's friends had the most influence on that person.   I feel sorry for those who have a hard time claiming a hometown, those who moved from place to place for whatever reason. I was lucky, although some may say unlucky, enough to spend my first twenty years of life living in the same great town, community, and group of friends.  A place where the people of the community, my friends, and my parents helped shaped me and to who I was to become.  To everyone reading this, I suggest you take the time to research the history of your town, the land on which your hometown sits is billions of years old, there's surely something interesting you've yet to uncover, and what you may uncover may be great.
                The subject of this post came about while doing some research on my hometown of Centralia, Illinois, the subject of my thesis.  Centralia was founded as a railroad town, and named for it as well, as the Centralia was built around the Illinois Central Railroad.  The railroad was finished in the area around 1852, and Centralia was founded in 1853, officially becoming a town, with a form of government in 1859.  The year before, in 1858, Centralia hosted the Illinois State Fair, which both Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas both attended, making many appearance as they were campaigning against each other for an Illinois Senate, the vote to take place a few months later. 
                Another defining event in Centralia's history, although this was not a positive event in any sense, was the Centralia No 5 Mine Disaster of 1947.  An explosion shook the mine right at quitting time on March 25th, 1947 and 111 of the 142 men who were working below were killed.  The Centralia Mine No 5 had been operating for 40 years when the disaster took place. The coal mining disaster is the second worst in United States history since 1940 and signaled the end of the coal industry in Centralia. 
                Possibly the most interesting story to me, because of the proximity to where I actually lived, was the oil boom that took place in Centralia in the late 1930's to early 1940's.  Oil was struck northwest of Centralia in 1937 and would be a great producer of oil over 6,200 barrels of oil daily on the field covering 1,000 acres. Although good for the city, when the Texas Oil Company struck oil east of Centralia in 1938, less than a half mile from where I grew up, the area wouldn't be the same.  At its peak the field was the largest producing oil field east of the Mississippi River in the United States.  2400 wells spotted the area producing over 300,000 barrels of oil and 250,000,000 cubic feet natural gas daily.  These fields and the product they produced made significant contributions to military efforts in WWII.  Today, the fields are still in use, used and owned by Citation Oil and Gas.

                That last story is what gained most of my attention, to have grown up next to and drove past those fields hundreds of times and to never have known what took place there 70 years ago blew my mind. Hundreds of men would have lived and worked there over several years, and today it stands pretty barren, a very rural area with houses speckling the landscape, I doubt they even know what took place on the land they own. That being said, take the time, do the research, you never know what you may find.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Brunswick Transit Village

By Lauren Hale
            Our studio professors have assigned a case study analysis that is due in a few days, so I figured I would share what a case study is and then talk about the project I have been assigned.    Architects and designers are constantly referencing what has already been done to learn about what is successful and what isn’t for that particular building type.  In our current studio, we are charged with designing one piece of a masterplan of three city blocks (which we also design ourselves, in teams of three).  Our masterplan has an urban context and is located in Chicago, IL, right next to the United Center.  Currently, it is parking lots with the train track going right through it.  We have to design, on our own, either a hotel or residential component that is part of our group masterplan.  Since we are dealing with mass transit, mixed-use urban context, our professors have assigned us examples with similar program for us to study.  I was assigned the New Brunswick Transit Village in New Brunswick, New Jersey. 
            The New Brunswick Transit Village is referred to as transit oriented design (TOD).  The intention of a TOD is to fully incorporate all modes of transportation and make them easily accessible to residents, visitors, and in this case, students.  Rutgers State University is just a few blocks away.  So the site design incorporates the Amtrak station, buses, bikes, cars and pedestrians.  It is also classified as a mixed-use project, which basically means what the names insinuates.  There are multiple programs in one building.  There are 15 storeys which are comprised of 200 condominiums, along with commercial spaces for businesses like the Rutgers University Bookstore, office spaces, and a parking garage.  Probably the most crucial part; however, is the direct physical connection to the Amtrak station and the newly implemented pedestrian walkway, which runs the length of the facades of the commercial side of the first floor.   Without these two components the entire project wouldn’t be easily accessible to students.  Only the lucky few college students have cars, at least from the two universities I have attended.  I walked everywhere for the first three years of my undergrad at the University of Illinois.  Designing the sidewalks for human scale activity is very important.  It’s all about the feel you get walking down the sidewalk.  We have all walked down a sidewalk or an alley or any other path and wished we hadn’t turned down that way.  So an inviting pedestrian space is key and it seems this project was striving for that. 
            This project also filled a gap in the city and connected important neighborhoods.  The older part of the campus is now connected with all the new developments in a way that makes students actually want to use it, and hopefully live within it.  Here are some drawings:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Architecture Education--The Process

By Brittany Ricker

Over the course of five years I have been to 3 different schools (Currently a Graduate Student at Southern Illinois University) and each place has provided me with the tools and basic knowledge to help me succeed not only later in life, but right now. I’m sure if you are in the Architecture field you have probably heard something along the lines of, “Aren’t you worried you won’t be able to find a job?!” or another favorite (insert sarcasm), “Why didn’t you choose a field that has more job security (whatever that means today…) or something that would pay better!?” All of these questions are valid coming from someone who has NO IDEA what a student goes through during school or what being an architect is really about. I cannot speak for everyone, of course, but in my opinion when choosing a career path it should never be about making the most money. If that was the case I would have stuck with computer programming (at the time it was a great career to go into but we are increasingly seeing those jobs being shipped overseas and disappearing in the united states…..job security??? With that said, I wanted to explain one of the many amazing benefits of not only choosing Architecture as my career path but the process of going through the rigorous Architecture program.

Throughout the Architecture program, numerous software programs are introduced which most are even free or at least discounted through educational licensing. There are a few courses that teach you the basics of a few programs but, ultimately it’s up to the student to learn each program to the point where they might not know absolutely everything but they know enough to decide which program would be appropriate for different project designs. It takes practice. Back to the question, “aren’t you worried you won’t find a job!?” The answer is simply no. I am not worried because I, along with numerous other students, have taken the time to not only learn the programs but also understand why certain projects use different programs. It is important to try new things because you never know when it might become useful! Notice how I did not say I would find a job at an architecture firm…because that I have no idea. I would like to think YES but who knows. What I do know is the Architecture Programs have provided the tools that really can fit into numerous professions. Not to say you would be as qualified as someone who studied solely on that subject, like engineering or graphic design, BUT just keeping an open mind and knowing there are several options out there is the best thing.

I have had the opportunity to work for a civil engineer for the past 2 years and it has been one of the most beneficial experiences so far. I am constantly reminded of how valuable it is to have someone who can understand the situation/project and utilize the tools provided throughout my education to solve a problem. It’s not about the money or getting awards, for me, it’s about helping people to the best of my ability (Awards would be awesome though!) and whether that is directly associated with Architecture by designing a building or volunteering my time to important organizations is up for grabs. One important organization I dedicate my time to is for Breast Cancer Research. 

Recently, I was given the opportunity to design, for the second year in a row, t-shirts for the event: Big or Small, Save Them All: 
Illustrations by Author

Ottawa's Annual Breast Cancer Poker Walk held in Ottawa, Illinois. The process of Architecture and Design has really stuck with me and with all my projects I really try to provide various ideas/approaches to one project to give the client some options. Including clients in the decision process is actually one of the most rewarding aspects if it is great collaboration.  Below are samples of a few possible t-shirt design ideas for the Breast Cancer Poker Walk that was given to the fundraiser coordinator to choose from/make suggestions.  With all that being said…October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!!! You can help the effort to eliminate cancer by making a donation or by attending the Big or Small, Save Them All Poker Walk on October 12, 2013. Below is a flyer with all the details.
Flyer design provided by: Amy Vrtis -

Payments are accepted online or by check:
Checks should be written out to:
American Cancer Society ATTN: RFL LaSalle 143 First St Batavia, IL 60510
(Please include “Cons ID: 30225329”)
For tax purposes:
EIN: 13-1788491

per special request I was asked to post this next one as soon as possible, so please check it out.  It is also a coincidence that it is written by the same person as the previous post.

The Right Side

By Brittany Ricker

Hi! My name is Brittany ... I am in the Master's program at SIU but prior to that I attended College Of Dupage and transferred to Bowling Green State University in Ohio (not Kentucky) to get my Bachelors Degree. I loved experiencing what each school had to offer which is why I took the route I did. It might also be that I don't enjoy staying in one place for too long. I have taken every opportunity to travel as well...whether it was just a weekend trip for AIAS or study abroad programs. The most memorable trip would have to be a spontaneous spring "break" trip traveling to over 10 cities in 9 experience by far!!! 

I thought I'd take the time to discuss a book I recently had the chance to read..

 A Whole New Mind - Daniel H. Pink
If you get the chance take the time to read this's awesome !! (In my opinion...)

"The future belongs to a different kind of person" - Daniel H. Pink 

"Designers, inventors, teachers, storytellers -- creative and empathetic right-brain thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn't." Pink argues that we are living in a different time where "thinking different" may be valued even more than ever. Think about it... We are living in a world with rapid increase in automation and outsourcing. Those jobs that everyone wanted us to be when we grew up (doctor, computer programmer, lawyer, accountant...etc.) all have a characteristic that isn't necessarily a good "stand-alone" characteristic anymore. Those were the careers that were considered "secure" but there is beginning to be a huge shift in what is considered to be "secure" careers. Just think...if you go through, say the Architecture program and actually submerge yourself and take the time to learn programs/techniques/research methods ...when you leave school a variety of options are available that you can apply yourself to. Not to say becoming a doctor/computer programer etc. aren't great careers but unless you're able to break the routine aspect of those types of jobs...they will be jobs that are done cheaper overseas and/or a computer will do it faster. 

A few questions popped out that seemed relevant that can either spark discussion or just something to ask yourself..

-- Consider the three questions Pink poses regarding your current work: Can someone overseas do it cheaper? Can a computer do it faster? Am I offering something that satisfies the non material, transcendent desires of an abundant age? Does your work pass the three-part test? --

Currently, the Master's students are on site visits in Chicago, Illinois and Grand Rapids, Michigan.  While in Grand Rapids we had the opportunity to tour the back of house areas of JW Marriott Hotel. One interesting part (besides being on the roof helicopter pad!!) was the laundry facility...It was shocking to see how small the laundry facility actually was but makes sense because everything is so automated. Just to understand how different that part of a hotel has changed BECAUSE a "computer/machine" can do it much faster! The need for the workers in that area are mainly to push the sheets/pillow cases through the machine and grab it after the machine folds it. I don't believe it's a far fetched idea that one day it won't even require a worker to place the sheets on the machine. Below is an image of the laundry facility in JW Marriott. 
                                                   photo by author