Friday, January 31, 2014

Moving Forward...

By Randy Thoms

           Thesis time is in full swing. So what does it take to keep moving forward?  Passion?  Drive? Committee Chair?  Debt?  Ego?  Nothing better to do?  The list could on for 440 more words left to meet requirements of this blog, now 430 words.  Yet all of these words or concepts do not necessarily fill the need to keep going, but they do allow for many different avenues to drive one's project.  As the ideas begin to surface from the flood of research; reading, reviewing, searching, requesting, meeting, talking, thinking, the more one could get pigeonholed into a singular thought or process.  Not just out of fear but to perhaps stop the madness of too many ideas swirling all around one's head.
            As my chair asked after I revealed my "design" two weeks into a 15 week process, "come back with six plans,"  it was back to the drawing board and trace paper.  The further I stretched my preconceived notions of what was best for my site, the more the ideas and configurations began to flow and develop.  They all had a same basic premiss, but they were beginning to expand and grow into a liberal mix of possibilities and outcomes.  Where is the sun coming in?  Where is the sun going?  Who will be walking where and why?  Do I really need seven levels?  Can or should I design this with the bones of wood rather than concrete and steel?
            The exciting part of doing all this work, other than the long nights and cups of coffee, many cups of coffee, is the process.  While working through the multitude of distractions and the synthesis of research a project begins to take a life of its own.  Some may liken it to an elephant lumbering along  pushing its way and weight around to get to the watering hole for a bath or a drink.  Others may see a cheetah fast and sleek as it takes down its prey from behind.  On the other hand I try to relate the process to a Red Tailed Hawk sitting in a tree facing the sun, warming itself while observing the land listening, watching and thinking only to soar up into the air, hover then dive down and grab its reward.
            So, the process of the flood waters building up behind the dam of inspiration allows for the burst of creativity to have some semblance of order to produce a final project that not only works, looks good but has a well thought out design and functionality benefiting the client as well as the community at large interacting with the built environment on a daily basis.  This pushes one forward to keep producing better ideas and hopefully better communities in this service industry we call....Architecture.

Eco-Challenge in the Dominican Republic!

By Lauren Hale

            One of the amazing perks of being a grad student in the School of Architecture here at Southern Illinois University is the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic over spring break!  Last semester, our advisor told us about a trip that one of the professors in our department was organizing and leading; this professor also happens to be the chair of my thesis committee.  His name is Dr. Jon Davey; you will definitely meet him throughout the program here.  He has traveled very extensively himself and has put together a trip that uses our skills as architecture students (but you don’t have to be in architecture to come on this trip).  It is handled through EF tours and works together with the Green Brigade to complete the Eco-Challenge.  There is a group of around 20 students who have signed up to go and we have volunteered to help build a community center in Jarabacoa.  While we are there we will be working directly with the local people who will be using the building once it is done and other guides to help us navigate and get the job done. 
            Spring break is from March 8th to the 16th and we will be there the entire time.  The general schedule is community volunteer work in the morning and fun stuff every afternoon! Some of these activities will be snorkeling, white water rafting, hiking to a waterfall, sand volleyball and a visit to a manatee sanctuary.  And to end the trip we will be spending the last day and evening in Santo Domingo, the capitol city of the Dominican Republic!

            So on top of all the wonderful things I just said about this trip there are a few more perks to choosing to participate…this trip counts as school credit, three credit hours!  The grad program has three credit hours of electives (one class) built in to the spring semester.  This is how I will be spending my three credit hours this semester which means I don’t have another class I have to actively show up to all semester.  It definitely opened up my schedule quite a bit and it has been awesome.   
Here are some traveling tips I found about going to the Dominican Republic:
1.      Everything and everyone runs on Dominican time, which means perpetually about an hour late.
2.      A sanky panky is not someone you want to cozy up to unless you are willing to take this man back to the U.S. because all he is after is your visa and citizenship, not you.  They typically hang out at beaches and romance female tourists.
3.      The rule of thumb for public travel is, you can always fit one more guy in whatever vehicle you happen to be sitting in.  Yes, the roof counts.
4.      While you are still on board the plane that is about to land in the Domincan, you will hear any natives next to you clap when the plane lands safely.  Just join in, it’s basically the law. 
5.       Baseball is the national pastime, and pretty much everyone is good at it. 
6.      Drinking during the day, at night, and on Sunday’s is very accepted, and pretty much required.
7.      Speedos are definitely NOT required beach attire.  Casual dress is pretty much the norm around the island but shorts are disrespectful in church. 
8.      Do not drink the fresh or tap water.  Brush your teeth with bottled water and never have ice in your drinks.
9.      Always get your shots and vaccinations up to date.
10.  Don’t forget your passport and all the important paperwork.
11.  You will have to exchange currency when you arrive but the American dollar gets you very far in the Dominican. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

City Cycling Matures

By Kristopher Teubel

              For those that have worked on an urban project where transportation is among the designed aspects, there are various options one may investigate.  Perhaps the local mass transit system needs upgrading.  Or there could be a lack of parking in the project area.  One low-tech mode of transportation has been at the forefront of some architects' and city planners' minds for decades.  Cycling has come a long way in the recent decades as a viable mode of transportation in the urban landscape.  Some cities, such as Portland, Oregon or Copenhagen, Denmark, have become the standards for cycling integration.
            Cycling is believed by many to be the main opportunity for cities to reduce local pollution and traffic congestion.  In Portland, a new housing development is planned that will provide enough bike storage for two bikes per unit.  The city is so bike-friendly, it still may not be enough for the tenants.  It also is a great way for people to stay fit even on short commutes.  Currently, cycling proposes the ability to open up new markets in cities.  Various cities around the world have bike rental programs that could help to offset other municipal expenses.
            A current, high-profile topic in urban planning is the paring of Foster+Partners and Space Syntax to design the Skycycle.  The project is planned to be a superhighway in London for cyclists only.  It will be built over the existing railway system that runs through the city.  The one of the largest motivators for the project is the alleviation of traffic congestion.
            Even though many believe it will be a true asset of the city, still others raise some rather serious concerns.  Some city members believe the proposed design will be unnecessarily expensive.  Surely, being built over the existing railway will call for structure that could be done without with a different design.  One of the project's lead designers even mentioned concerns about the promotion of an “us versus them” mentality.  Some cities have seen this realized in the use of elevated skywalks.  Skywalks are elevated paths commonly intended for foot-traffic only.  In colder climates, the skywalks are usually enclosed and can problematically feel isolated from the activity found on the streets below.
            In Spain, citizens have rioted and protested against a proposed bike-friendly boulevard in Burgos.  The issue again lies closely with the finances of the project.  Recently, the city made severe budget cuts.  These cuts were felt directly by public service workers.  Many citizens feel that the cuts are unjustified as the city continues to make plans for new construction.
            Though cycling has yet to find its identity in some major cities, the triumphs and follies it has found are only signs of its maturation as a viable mode of transportation in the future.  Just as the automobile in its early years, cycling must be investigated by each individual city to find what the community needs from it.  With it will come setbacks, but, if architects and designers are diligent, it can become the transportation savior that some believe it can be in the future.

Stott, Rory. "Has Cycling Hit A Speed Bump?" 25 Jan 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 Jan 2014. 

Rain Gardens

By Lani Walker

During the course of my Master’s work, I have the opportunity to take a class in Sustainable Landscape Practice this semester as an Elective.  I am hoping this Elective will help me in my Thesis work, which uses the outdoors as a classroom itself.  For the second week of class, we are studying Rain Gardens; gardens which are designed to capture and hold rainwater which would otherwise be surface runoff water.  I had never heard of a Rain Garden before this particular lecture, and I found it to be a very interesting and innovative solution for runoff water.  The project I decided to study in depth was a residential Rain Garden in Falls Church, Virginia.  The Rain Garden is located in the backyard to collect water directed from the home’s gutter downspout.  It appears that the homeowners built the Rain Garden without the assistance of a contractor.  The homeowners Rain Garden serves as the model in the guide, Rain Garden Design and Construction: A Northern Virginia Homeowner’s Guide.   It is stated in the above document that many of the techniques shown were taken from an earlier document, the Rain Garden Manual for Homeowners: Protecting Our Water One Yard at a Time by the Geauga Soil and Water Conservation District and the Northeast Ohio Public Involvement Public Education Committee. 
            This Rain Garden in Falls Church, Virginia was built to use the surface runoff water down a small slope in the backyard to water the garden and redirect the water to a storm sewer.  The homeowners sized the Rain Garden based on how much storm water they wanted to treat.  The Rain Garden was shaped to be wider than it is long, with the width perpendicular to the flow of the runoff.  The Rain Garden was created by digging into the sloped area to create a level area for planting.  Then, the underdrain was placed several inched below the surface.  The underdrain was surrounded on all sides with a thin layer of pea gravel.  The excavated soil (or engineered soil) was used to fill the planting area.  To prevent erosion, they immediately seeded the berm and covered the area with straw while the grass took root.  The soil was then ready to be used for planting the native plants.  Once the plants were planted, the area was mulched and the Rain Garden was completed.  Below is part of the case study I did on this particular Rain Garden, but the information could be applied to most Rain Gardens in general.   

The Rain Garden will capture and hold rainwater which would have otherwise became surface runoff.  The Rain Garden is covered with mulch, which filters out pollutants in the rain water and protects the underlying soil.  Using native plants in the Rain Garden can provide a habitat and food for native species.

The Rain Garden enhances the backyard because it will give the area more visual appeal.  Also, it is possible that the Rain Garden will attract butterflies and hummingbirds, which make the backyard an enjoyable place to site and view.  From the pictures, the backyard appears to have more landscaping surrounding the house, therefore, having a Rain Garden within the backyard will unify the site.

Aside of the environmental purposes, this example doesn’t seem to have any functional purpose for the homeowner other than collecting and filtering water. 

This example improves the social atmosphere because it is in the backyard, a highly visible place where people generally have gatherings.  The Rain Garden makes the area more peaceful and enjoyable for the homeowners and guests.

Since it appears that the homeowners used a How-To guide to create the Rain Garden, the building process became a learning experience for the homeowners and neighbors. 
Additionally, this example was used to create another guide for Northern Virginia.  Therefore, this project is a model for the public who are wishing to build a Rain Garden from the Rain Garden Design and Construction: A Northern Virginia Homeowner’s Guide.

It appears that the homeowners built the project without a contractor, therefore, they saved money by doing the project on their own.  It is difficult to determine the long term financial benefits of this particular Rain Garden, however, using native plants need less water and fertilizer once they are established (which save the homeowner money long term).

I have read that psychologists say gardening is a calming pursuit; therefore the maintenance of a Rain Garden could improve the psychological well-being of the homeowners.  Also, the Rain Garden could serve as a place in the backyard where people can sit near and relax.

CONSTRUCTION DETAIL:  Below is a quick sketch of how the Rain Garden preforms.
Image 1:  Section through the Rain Garden.  By:  Lani Walker
I found the idea of Rain Garden very interesting and now when I am on campus, I see many areas where this solution could be used.  In the future, I might even want to build one!  The sources I used for this information are below.

Rain Garden Design and Construction: A Northern Virginia Homeowner’s Guide

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Grid Shell

By Sufiy Momoh

Architects are taught to work with the basic walls and roofs. If architects design frames to no specific dimensional or shape restriction to solve problems and involve some environmental factors, spaces would be more amplified and better perceived. Architects can do this by creating something sort of like an unrestricted shell. This can be described as a frame with the potential to do a lot of problem solving on its own and also act as a strong design element. These types of structures can be designed to remain structurally sound and stable without obstructing the solution and resultants of the factors taken into consideration by understanding the possible pressure point of the structure. "High strength and rigidity of modern filaments, which ensures good weight efficiency of composite grid structures consisting of edges reinforced in the longitudinal direction, are combined with a relatively low shear rigidity, which necessitates taking into account shear strains" (Azarov 2010). By doing this one can end up with a structure that can be well described as a freeform shape in architecture. These shells can also be described as a template to the solutions, literally.
Architecture in most cases should be allowed to be freeform instead of the boxes and circles we put things in these days. It should be left to solve problems, react to limits and have the solution in the exact position where it works best to make the space a better place to be in and experience. With that being said the various solutions should be able to link up together in a way that they act as a whole system. Architects should be disturbed less about how to use walls to connect these solutions and just let them flow together. There is really nothing wrong in using walls and flat horizontal roofs but in most cases you find out that the solutions and results due to the various variables have been moved around so they can fit theses geometry that is the walls and the roofs.
Freeform architecture goes beyond just buildings; there have been several structures which follow the same concept. Referencing a well-recognized architect like Zaha Hadid; a lot of people look at this type of architecture as futuristic. Yes, it can be described as that because it’s pushing the boundaries of today's architecture and allow itself to flow as a system with little or no restrictions to the boundaries. This could also be described as an unrestricted shell in the cases where it acts like a façade of a roof shed over a certain area and in some cases it acts as both facades and roof sheds.
A creation of just a freeform shell would not be the solution but one that actually does function beyond its looks. 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.
The grid is a structure that derives its strength from double curvature. A couple of things to look into when implementing something like this is how cost effective it will be. In order to do this, exploring several materials that would be structurally sound would be a good idea. Looking at materials ranging from different types of woods to different kind of steel materials would be an example of this. Exploring various anchoring methods to make this structure work in a very feasible way would also be something to look into.

Spaces are strongly impacted by the architecture surrounding it but an architectural piece that in cooperate exterior natural factors into the space can make the space be perceived in various intriguing ways

Left Brain- Right Brain- Where is creativity?

By Michelle Harris

When I began reading the book ‘Opening the Mind’s Eye,’ by Ian Robertson, I was in search of different methods of creativity. However this book introduced to me the process of the use of language and images. These functions are located in different places in your brain. Alternative means of creative thought whether visualization or speech prompted me to reflect on the stereotype of left and right brained people. What I found from this research is that creativity functions through both sides of the brain where logical demands connect with empathetic reasoning.
Left brained people have the stereotype of being technical and calculated. Right brained individuals are stereotyped to be artistic and subjective. The dominance of left or right is essentially a development of skills. The meaning of art comes from the latin word ‘artem’.  Artem is defined as a skill resulting from practice. The meaning of technical comes from the Greek word ‘tekhinos’. Tekhinos means skilled in a particular art or subject. Architecture is a combination of the Greek words, ‘archon’, chief and ‘tekton’, builder. Architecture has evolved significantly since Ancient Greece and is now known for being a visually oriented practice.
As someone who considers myself as being visually oriented I see the process of creation as initiating regardless of the means. I was curious where in the brain creativity occurred. As I learned in ‘Opening the Mind’s Eye’ by Ian Robertson, object and face visualization fires the temporal lobes on either side of your brain. The movement of triggered neurons travels along both sides of the brain. The ‘where’ of spatial imagery is conducted in the parietal lobes. The messages communicated by active neurons travel over the top of the brain. The theory that one portion of the brain dominates the creative process is a myth. The interaction between left and right must occur concurrently to accomplish creativity.
In a study by researcher, Lisa Aziz-Zadeh, looked at brain scans of architecture students using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The participants looked at the shape of a circle, the shape of a C and the shape of an 8 while undergoing the brain scans. Then, the participants visualized what new images could be created if they rearranged the circle, C and 8. This was considered a creative task.
The architecture students also imagined arranging the three shapes together to make a square or rectangle. This was not considered as a creative task but rather a spatial processing task. The researchers found that during the creative task, the participants' brains lit up in the left hemisphere more than the right. This showed that the left brain was working to support the right brain's creativity. As foun in this study both sides of the brain work together to formulate creativity.
As an architecture student, creativity means to me learning and applying my education. Reading about the cooperation of both sides of the brain has encouraged me to consider creativity in architecture as a means of innovation. Innovation means responding to a challenge with more answers to foster a solution. Universally, this is true for creation. As I see it, the logistics of being an architect is to search for the intangible in a created form. By learning and applying a multiplicity of tools the solutions that we create will be able to be more varied. Creativity is discovered in the practice of architecture.

Rogers, M. (2013). Researchers debunk myth of "right brain" and "left-brain" personality traits. University of Utah, Office of Public Affairs. Retrieved from
Mansaray, David. Sept. 2011. Accessed Jan. 15 2014 <>
University of Southern California (2012, March 5). Scientists search for source of creativity.ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 15, 2014, from­/releases/2012/03/120305132438.htm

Robertson, Ian. ‘Opening the Mind’s Eye: Opening the Mind's Eye: How Images and Language Teach Us How To See’. St. Martin's Press; 1st edition, 2003.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Windows in Architecture

By Nicholas Mosher

                The main uses of windows are to allow light and air to pass through a solid surface into a building or a house. They come in many different variations of sizes and functions along with different shapes. Today there is a window that can match any need in a wall, ceiling or even a floor.  This allows for the window to become an important part of architecture.  The windows alone can make a house look more aesthetic while still maintaining their function.  Entire walls can be replaced with curtains of windows to allow maximum views in and out of a space.  An argument can be made that the window is just as important as the wall itself when it comes to getting a desirable look. 
                Windows have been used since the ancient Egyptians were creating structures.  During that time a window was just considered to be an opening in the wall.  It still serves the same purpose as current windows today and that is to allow light in as well as air.  In ancient Greece, the design of housing rarely had a window in it.  Due to the rooms being open in a single central location, the door ways were used to allow light and air in.  The Romans were the first civilization to use glazed windows.  Glass was placed in the openings of the windows to still allow for light to pass through while retaining the heat inside the buildings.  The early Christian and Byzantine era still use glass panels in the openings but started to get creative with the framing of the windows.  Instead of just having the brick or concrete from the structure of the wall as the frame, marble was added.  This allowed for a difference and patterns to be created making the entire structures more aesthetically pleasing.  Later the effect of having different colored glass was used along with the different materials for the frame.  This allowed for many different styles to be made and compliment both the exterior of the building as well as each interior space1
                The addition of adding curves to the shape of a window became very popular.  Arch-shaped windows became symbols of important buildings.  Also, by the advancement in structural technologies, windows were able to become larger and allow for more light into a space as well as show off more works of art through stained glass1.
                Today the progression of windows have allowed for even more options to customize the color, material and size of the panes and frames.  Typically, the frames are all metal and the panes are glass.  This is because of how cheap and easy it is to manipulate and form the materials1.  The metals can be painted any color and the glass can be colored in many different options (typically they aren’t) as well.  This much customization can allow for the every window to compliment any feature in a building and is why windows in architecture are very important not just for their functions, but also for their aesthetics. 


1.       (Window.) Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2014.

3D Printing

Joshua Fowler here,

                So there is a great deal of interest growing at a seemingly exponential rate around the subject of 3D printing here at SIU. I recently visited our Morris Library where there was a demonstration of 3D printing via a non-profit organization called New Blankets. As a supervisor of SIU Architecture department's Digital Fabrication Lab, I work with 2 Makerbot Replicators and what really intrigues me is the dialogue between 3D printing and architecture. There appears to be a great potential in this area regarding complex physical design, easing the transition from design to a final physical entity, and speed of construction as compared to traditional means. Such potential can be witnessed through various conceptual projects  such as…\
For more information visit these Links:

Architect Enrico Dini believes that the future of not only architecture, but also the very way we construct buildings will be based around 3-D printing. He has currently developed and constructed his own large scale 3D printer which is currently the largest in the world. With this machine, Mr. Dini is researching and developing near-full scale geometries and redefining how structures could be constructed. This technique utilizes a type of 3d printing known to the 3D printing community as granular 3D printing as opposed to the more common and desktop friendly 3D printers which utilize a heated extrusion 3D  printing.
For more information visit these links:

Behrokh Khoshnevis is director of the Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Program at the University of Southern California, and is in the process of developing full sized 3D printing machines that would theoretically be able to 3D print a house in 20 hours. This process he is developing is called contour crafting and would be able to print full size houses and buildings. according to Ryan Neal from International Business Times, "NASA is currently sponsoring the Contour Crafting project to construct 3D printers that can produce lunar structures. Khoshnevis said his goal with the project is to quickly, safely and more efficiently produce entire neighborhoods in impoverished areas. Since the design of each house could easily be customized on the computers, Contour Crafting can even avoid a nightmare of homogenous track homes."
For more information visit these Links:

The concept of 3D printing on the moon was recently endorsed by the European Space Agency (ESA) which is now collaborating with architects Foster + Partners to gauge the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil. This has the capability of allowing us to building on the moon using the moon itself as a construction material. This technology is currently being tested and researched but is still in its infancy in regards to what it would truly take to make an operation of this size possible.

These are simply a few examples of how 3D printing can change the future of the built environment. The line does not stop here either, 3D printers are also being developed that can print metal, prosthetics,  and even food! 3D printing has already changed preconceptions of how to accomplish so many things, which begs the question what preconceptions will it challenge next. 

Opportunity at SIU

By Ryan Kinports

When I began searching for a college that had a degree track for students with an undergraduate major in a non-architecture field it became clear there weren't many options. Many programs require applicants to go through an unabridged undergraduate track which would require another four years, followed by another two or more years that many masters programs take. I was not looking to spend another six years in school. Of the programs that had fast track degrees many required so much experience in architecture that you may as well have an undergraduate degree in the field. I ended up applying to two schools and was accepted at SIU.
Prior to being accepted I came for a campus tour and to meet with my counselor. The campus was enormous in acreage compared to my undergraduate university and somewhat put me off, although now I would not choose another school. I was shown the campus and had a conversation about the program, what would be expected, how the process would work, and that my track was new and would require some effort to maintain, and reviewed my portfolio. What sold me was when I was told: “You have something to offer this university.” Up until that point I had not received any feedback from a university other than to point out inadequacies in various areas or to attempt to scare me away with vast exaggerations of workload. I decided that if SIU thought I had potential then they would certainly do their best to educate me. My counselor was also concerned that I might attend SIU for a short time only to transfer out to a more prominent school. I told him that I wouldn't be abandoning ship. What SIU does not know is that I received an offer to complete my masters at Harvard last year. When I read their offer I immediately weighed my experience thus far at SIU, my interaction with faculty, staff, and peers mainly. It was not a difficult decision to turn the offer down. My decision seemed to be reinforced the following semester when our accreditation report was issued and we ranked above Harvard – fate and all that.

I enjoy going to class, which is not a sentiment that I could have espoused for the bulk of my undergraduate program. I particularly enjoy our technical focus, and the general puzzle solving nature of architecture. I am motivated to go beyond what school requires. I've been working to create a new design/build program that is finally taking shape and will produce results this semester. I also spent time in Cairo working with a youth group on a Shotgun house. I am sure I will find more to do by the time I graduate, but I am also sure that due to faculty involvement I won’t run out of drive. For someone in my situation SIU was and is a seamless solution. I have no doubts based on my interactions with industry professionals that there will be any problem finding employment where I want to be. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Greener View on Landscaping

By Kristopher Teubel

            As students progress through the undergraduate program at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, the curriculum challenges us in myriad different ways.  We learn about various topics on building composition, site design, and aesthetics.  Unfortunately, during our stay, we may miss some information in class due to funny cat photos or challenging internet games.  If we fall victim to these ever-important pitfalls, we may later find ourselves lacking knowledge on various topics.
            For myself, I recently came to grips with my lack in landscaping design prowess.  In the effort to become a more well-rounded architecture student, I took the opportunity to enroll in an environmental landscaping practices class this spring.  Though the semester is hardly out of the gate, my classmates and I are already learning about some interesting landscaping elements including rain gardens and permeable pavements.
            Rain gardens, the first element we learned of, are depressions or holes within a small drainage basin or swale that is home to various shrubs and trees.  Its purpose is to reduce rainwater runoff from impervious ground cover or roof drains.  Along with other aspects, it also helps to roughly filter the water of certain pollutants before it reaches the localized water system.  According to a paper by Sandy Coyman and Keota Silaphone, a well designed rain garden can reduce localized pollution in creeks and streams by 30% (Coyman, Silaphone).

            As shown in the illustration, rain gardens may be used for the purpose of rainwater mitigation from a rain spout in some residential applications.  The soil substrate for the growth of the plants in the garden are often placed above a drainage layer of various thicknesses.  Also, a perforated drainage pipe can be used in gardens with an excess water intake.
            Along with rain gardens, we also learned about the correct installation of certain types of permeable pavements.  As with rain gardens, permeable pavement greatly reduces excessive runoff and flooding in the built environment.  The concept of the system is to allow some rainwater a route to the local water system through the surface of the pavement itself instead of through a large municipal drainage system.  It does not commonly have the filtering capabilities of a rain garden with the omission of a large body of plants.
            The adjacent illustration shows the relation of the surface paving system in relation to the drainage system below it.  Just as with the rain garden, there is a sequential increase in the size of aggregate toward the bottom of the drainage system to allow for greater flow of water.  A perforated drainage pipe helps to control excessive levels of water behind the curb to keep it from shifting.  With the inherent qualities in the permeable paving system, it is often used for driveways or other applications where a curb would not be uncommon to find.

 Sandy Coyman; Keota Silaphone. "Rain Gardens in Maryland's Coastal Plain". p. 2. Retrieved 11             October 2011.
 (2013, July 18). Residential Rain Garden [Web Drawing]. Retrieved from http://vienna-  
 (2011, May 23). Permeable Paving Units-Typical Installation [Web Graphic]. Retrieved from   

Analysis of the Current Forms of Public Transportation in Quincy, Illinois

By Kayla Fuller

This post is a continuation of research from one of my earlier posts in regards to my thesis. I am analyzing the livability of downtown Quincy, Illinois and the current forms of transportation available to its residents and how transportation has affected the city . In July, 2010, the town was awarded a six million dollar grant for the design and construction of an intermodal transportation center that would bring together inner city passenger rail and local and regional bus services. The main objective is to find a more central location for the new station that provides for all.
The development of highways has greatly affected the shape and density of the American city. Quincy is the center of a four-lane highway in all directions, and has direct access to Missouri through the Quincy Memorial Bridge for east bound Traffic and the Bayview Bridge serving west bound traffic.  Rail service has existed almost as long as the town’s dependence on river commerce.  The first station in Quincy was opened in 1899, located at Second and Oak streets, was a freight terminal and engine house that was used until a new station was opened across the Mississippi River in West Quincy. The station in West Quincy serviced the Amtrak and opened in 1953, the station in Quincy was utilized by freight trains until it closed in 1962. West Quincy is just west of Quincy across the Mississippi and is mainly comprised of flood plains used for farming, because of the flooding, the West Quincy station would be inaccessible and eventually closed in 1993 after the “Great Flood of 1993”. The historic Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad; established a commercial connection from Quincy to Chicago and eventually expanded its reach west to Colorado, developing an even greater network of commerce for the town. The Amtrak has two trains that run from Union Station in Chicago to Quincy and these have become more popular with travelers, so much that the current station no longer fulfills the needs of the customers. The station is also located along the outskirts of the city and should be recentralized to provide improved accessibility for those who rely on public transportation.
The image to above breaks down the distance from the station to areas throughout town. The first four smaller rings around the station are ¼ mile and the others are ½ mile.
Image from Google Earth

Public transportation in Quincy is not utilized to the best of its potential. As the automobile has become a more standard form of personal transportation the use of public transportation has become less common. For many it’s the control of being able to go wherever they want without having to rely on others. In today’s world wasted time is wasted money, people do not have the time to leisurely travel from place to place. If you take a look at the map of the current transit lines of Quincy you can see that the Amtrak station is not directly serviced by any route.  The Blue Line has a drop off about one-tenth of a mile to the east of the site, and for those who must rely on it are forced to cross the intersection which can be dangerous at certain times. Another issue is that the Blue Line starts running at 6:12a.m.almost two miles from the station and the first train leaves the station at the same time, this does not provide customers with a form a public transportation to rely on forcing them to find other means. 

The image above shows the distance from the Amtrak station to the veterinary clinic, storage company, neighborhood and other spaces around the site.

Image from Google Earth
First picture is looking west to 24th Street from the Amtrak Station. Second picture is looking east to 30th Street. Both pictures taken by author.
The  images in the figure above are across the street to the north of the current station; there is a small neighborhood to the west, a veterinary clinic just to the east of the neighborhood, a storage facility and a small car dealership across the street. The area is definitely not inviting to guests and shows no identity of Quincy. By moving the station to 2nd and Oak, pictured below , it will return to its original location near the Mississippi on which the town was founded and invites guest to explore the historic downtown and surrounding districts. Unfortunately the area around 2nd and Oak has been neglected, this space has much potential for improvement. By relocating the station it will provide guests with a unique experience.

Top image is a panoramic view of the northern part of the 2nd and oak intersection. The bottom three are images of where the original station once stood but now occupied by a trucking company.)

There will be more to come soon…..

Sunday, January 26, 2014

...And Reality Sets In

By Tyler Dunahee

Well Christmas Break was much needed, and definitely went too fast for me, as I’m sure it did for most students.  Over break I spent most of my time working at my part-time job at Kohl’s, trying to make what I could over break, however, working so much left me little time to really get as much of a jump on thesis work as I would have liked. I borrowed 4 books from Morris Library related to my thesis immediately after finishing up the semester, only to pick up and skim through two of the books that I had planned on reading thoroughly. 
As classes started up on Monday, January 13th, reality set in, this is my last true semester of college, and after 18 years of going to school this is it, the final stretch.  As I’m working on and finishing up my thesis, I’ll be looking for my first job in a firm, the first step in what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life, no pressure.  I’ll likely be leaving the comforts of southern Illinois, where I’ve spent my entire life (twenty years in Centralia, and the better part of the last four in Carbondale) for who knows where, this is the first time in my life that my future has been so up in the air and I felt as if I haven’t had much control with how things end up, which bothers me more than you can probably imagine.  I have my fingers crossed that I get something lined out before graduating in August (fingers crossed). 
Anyway, as I settle back into the realities of class, I don’t feel too overwhelmed with my classes, I hope to stay ahead in my online class, leaving just the Arch. History, Pro Practice, and Thesis classes to be concerned with, which is still quite a workload, especially considering my third job (landscaping) starts back up in March.  Thesis work will by and large be the most demanding work, however, I’m very passionate about my thesis work, as it deals with ways to help save my town from dying, formulated through a few “big ideas” and research. 
Social media has helped me in a big way already, there are two Facebook groups that deal with Centralia, ‘Save Centralia’ has over twenty-six hundred members and ‘You Know You’re From Centralia When..’ has nearly four thousand. I have shared my thoughts and gathered opinions and ideas from those who are in those groups, the majority of which still live in Centralia and care greatly that it gets turned around, back into the healthy, beautiful community it once was.  A number of people reached out to me offering their assistance in any way possible, one of which ended up on my thesis committee, his expertise in city planning and knowledge from a former position with the City of Centralia will be of the greatest value to my project.

I’m looking forward to seeing my project progress, as well as see the progress of my classmates.  And for the students out there, good luck to you this semester as well.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Thesis Projects are Always Evolving

By Alan Kirkwood

So, my thesis has changed now…. It has narrowed down to one site location but has broadened as far as scope of what work will be done… I am now focusing strictly on the area of shopping mall design which is a large issue nationwide at the moment. I am looking at this as a potential catalyst for my getting a job in the retail architecture area. So the site is the same in that it is located near my home, but it has narrowed down to only the site the existing mall is located on and the site directly across the major street from it. It has broadened because now I am doing a lot more research and focusing on 4 different solutions and how they will in turn affect the surrounding suburbs economically and socially.
                My first option is to keep the existing mall as is. This constitutes me taking a business approach to my project and focusing on what the community wants and needs as well as what stores need to be moved in, what repairs and renovations need to be done to the building to get it back to being fully functional as a shopping mall once again.
                The second plan is to tear down the existing mall or possibly keep a part of it as a portion of the future development, and then design around the existing site. I want to design somewhat of a shopping village center that will blend in with the surrounding urban fabric. I want it to incorporate a movie theater, retail, residential, hotel, public space and more… This may encourage more of a community aspect to the area.
                The third and possibly forth ideas are to repurpose the existing building… I would not do much to the overall form and basic structure of the building, but there would be a heavy change on the interior of the building based on whatever functions I choose to replace the retail that exists in the building. In looking at case studies across the country and considering the needs of the area, I have toyed with the ideas of putting a large charter school with library and eatery inside the existing building or a medical research, clinics, pharmaceuticals and retail… other ideas have come to mind as well.

The mall has a great history in the Chicagoland area as well as retail in general from the start of some of the greatest retail chains downtown such as Carson Pierre Scott and Marshall Field, to the open air Park Forest Shopping Center designed by Lobel, Schlossman and Bennett who later designed the famous Water Tower Place, or Randhurst Mall, one of the first malls and largest designed by Architect Victor Gruen. Retail centers have much importance in Chicago, why not redesign them….

Friday, January 24, 2014

Life of a Saluki Architecture Grad Student

By John Svast

Happy New Year’s Readers!
It is great to be back at SIU and working on my thesis!  Want to hear a little bit about my thesis?  Of Course you do!
Currently I’m doing research on a theory of space and communication that was developed by Edward T. Hall called proxemics.  In Mr. Hall’s theory, he goes on to explain how there are multiple bubbles of space that each individual human exists in that is invisible to the eye but is extraordinarily important when it comes to how we humans communicate with each other.  In Mr. Hall’s book The Hidden Dimension, he describes the various bubbles of space and their approximate distances of space and the various activities that regularly occur in those spaces. 
The 4 main bubbles of space that he writes about are:
Intimate space:  1.5’
Personal space:  4’
Social space:  12’
Public space: 25’
Inside of all these bubbles there are specific activities that we consider safe or comfortable.  If an activity occurs or a person that is not accepted within that bubble then the stress level of the person starts to rise.  For example, if you are making a presentation to your coworkers which is an activity that is normally held at around the 12’ to 25’ space you would probably be at a moderate stress level.  Now move that level closer to the 4’ to 12’ range and you would probably feel your stress levels increase.  Now pretend these aren’t coworkers but strangers in your 4’to 12’ range and your stress level would increase.  Move it in further to the 1.5’ to 4’ range and your stress would really start to go off the charts.  Now move it within your intimate space of 1.5’ and I assume at this point is when you would probably start to physically push people away to remove them out of your intimate space.
Something to consider when talking about proxemics is that it is slightly different for each individual within a certain cultural but is very different when comparing different cultures.  For example, the distances I gave you about spaces above where just pertaining to Americans, if you compare those acceptable distances and activities to the Arab world you will see that they are quite different and could easily lead to altercations stemming from spatial misunderstandings. 
In my thesis I will be tackling this theory of Proxemics on a different level, I will be trying to analyze how proxemics works in social media and what types of spaces and activities are acceptable and then transverse that back into an urban environment.

If you want more information on Edward T. Halls work here is a link:

FYI:    January 25th is Robbie Burns Day!

If you want to try Haggis and you are not in Scotland then Robbie Burns Days is usually your only chance.

here is an event to be held on the 23 in St Louis at the Tap Room:


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Initial Plans for My Thesis

By Mazen Aziz

The goal of my thesis is to fix a large-scale slum area. Research will be conducted by first researching the history of the City of Cairo and all it has to offer. This will be done by looking at the historic city plans and how did it changed by the years and comparing it to the plans of the modern days. Historic plans show that designs were made with the intention of providing space that caters to pedestrians more than to vehicles. Over the years and especially in Manshiet Nasser, it became the opposite since people who live there now work as trash collectors or garbage collector from all over the city, So residents uses big trash trucks. Another important aspect to look at is different places in which public transportation is located throughout the City of Cairo in order to see how the city has expanded and how public transit has evolved to accommodate it. When looking at transportation, this thesis will have to address the methods available to connect this site directly to the public transit system, as the residents are very poor and has a really low income and public transportation is the main option for them to go around. Along with the historical and transit research, a general study of the surrounding area and the resident’s income will be necessary. Finding out why this area became a large slum will help further its design. By doing these different types of research will help figuring out what materials can be used and what the residents can afford. Also the general traffic patterns through and around the site will help find out where to locate and design the commercial use areas and which areas will be better for residential use.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Making the Move to Jail...

By Brittany Ricker

Moving forward with my thesis research on psychiatric hospitals I came across an interesting (pretty intense) article giving the blunt, honest and rather eye opening truth about the Cook County Jail. In February 2012, The New York Times published “Psychiatric Patients with No Place to Go but Jail” ( which went into detail about the 11,000 prisoners housed within the jail at any given time. Cook County Sheriff, Thomas J Dart, “estimated that about 2,000 of them suffer from some form of serious mental illness”. Mr. Dart went on to explain “the system is so screwed up that I’ve become the largest mental health provider in the state of Illinois”. The most absurd part of this whole situation is that the city plans to shut down 6 of its 12 mental health centers by end of April 2012. According to Huffington Post, “those closures stand to save the state nearly $20 million, according to CBS. But some community members and activists say the move could generate more costs in the future”. Julie Gale from McHenry, Illinois wrote:
 As I’m trying to connect the dots as to why these hospitals would be forced to close, statistics, Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s reasoning behind these closures despite having a back-up plan…. I decided to actually visit the Cook County website and see if there was any details there…. I will say that I was quite shocked to see anything about mental health but I was even more surprised to see the front page of the website pointing out the crisis.… (Shown below is a picture of the statistics and front page of the Cook County Sheriff website)
With all of this said, from what I have seen most of the older hospitals are run down and do need improvements BUT to close psychiatric facilities with no back-up in place is ridiculous. No good will come from this even if the Governor and Mayor believe this will save over $20 million dollars…and then what? Put it back into the prisons to get more security from all these new “visitors”? INSTEAD of pushing money back into the health care or even children schools….
In relation to the design thesis I will be using these statistics to back up my decision for my site location to be in the heart of Chicago, Illinois. A main reason I was hesitant to pick a Chicago site was the fact that I recently just had a site near the United Center…BUT no matter what this site will be 100% different and offer new areas to explore. Also, Chicago offers a great opportunity to introduce a new idea for a psychiatric facility due to the fact there is this huge dilemma happening as we speak. Proposals have been introduced for new hospitals/clinics/improvements BUT will these actually happen and if funding was such an issue before…where will this funding come from for all these new developments? I am excited to jump back into this after a short but sweet winter break and I’m sure I will be posting more about my progress along the way!!! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Case Studies for Education-Based Thesis

By Phil Mevert

Fuji Kindergarten in Tachikawa, Tokyo, Japan is an excellent example of an interactive and free learning environment designed by Tezuka Architects. With the site for the school being in a highly populated and crowded area, building mass space was limited especially for playing area. The solution to solve the limited playing area was to create an oval shaped building and provide roof access to use as extra playing surface.
The building has slides that go from the second level to the ground level for the children to use and play on. There is also an elevator to access the roof playing surface. There are a limited number of non-glazing walls in the building which allow daylight into the building as well as to provide views for the children to see outside when they are unable to be outside. There are now walls that separate individual classrooms which allow the children to move around freely inside the building. The lack of interior walls could become an issue with sound transfer from room to room, especially if one room is trying to have a quiet session. Three trees penetrate the building through the roof to allow for shading on the roof play area. The classrooms all have sliding glass that opens to the courtyard and they remain open as often as the weather will allow.

With all of the openness to the building it could be difficult to control the children from wandering when they shouldn’t be. The use of natural and soft material can be less intimidating for the children while attending school and relax them, making learning easier.  This school is a prime example of learning from experimenting and taking a hands on approach.
When Students from Samuel Brighouse Elementary School in Richmond, British Columbia were asked what they would like to see their new elementary school to look like and to have surprisingly some were savvy enough to think to requesting things such as natural ventilation, courtyard gardens, photo-sensitive lighting, solar panels, recycling stations and more natural daylight.[1] The Architecture firm of Perkins+Will was selected as the designers of the new 500 student Elementary school with the goal of creating a Healthy Learning Environment.  The design of the school is mostly a one story building with a 2nd story over half of the main corridor. Even though the first floor has class rooms on both sides of the corridor, it still function somewhat like a single loaded corridor with the Kindergarten classrooms having their own entrance and exits from directly outside each classroom.

With the second story being only on one side along with being open above the lower corridor it allows for natural daylight to light up both the first and second story corridors. This also allows for every classroom to be facing an exterior space to allow natural daylight into the rooms.

The use of warm and cool colors mixed throughout the building and classrooms mixed with the natural and soft building materials provide a more relaxed comfortable feeling and an environment more fit for learning. The attention to acoustics to minimize noise throughout the classrooms and building is an excellent way to help with concentration in the classrooms. All of these factors can help to improve the overall building health as well as those who occupy it.  The location of the Gymnasium in relation to the rest of the building does not really seem right since it is entirely disconnected from academia, it feels as though it would be a hassle to go to the gym for recess with having to go outside in a cooler climate.  The lack of non-hard surface outdoor play area for direct access for the kindergarten rooms seems a bit concerning for allow the children to run around. The overall thought that went into the design of this school has shed new light on the way schools should be considering in all new construction projects to provide the best possible learning environment.

[1] Drew, Robert. “Creating Healthy Indoor Learning Environments.” Journal of Commerce. June 2010.