Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Sherpa People

By Brittany Ricker

             The values and ethics of different cultures have always caught my attention when studying architecture. An assignment was given in our history class to study a non-western building, place, or structure. Sherpa architecture, religion, and basically just having interest in the indigenous culture and traditions were something worth studying and learning more about. Knowing that the Himalayan heights, also known as death zones, are stressful and difficult environments as is, but understanding how people go on with their daily lives and live in these certain areas shocks me. Not only do they live at forbidding altitudes, they have managed to make the areas relatively safe and enjoyable place to live. It must be their deeply embedded ethics and strong sense of environmental responsibility that has drove the Sherpa people to flourish the area they have been living on for many years.
              Sherpa, a Tibetan word translating into “eastern people” coming from shar “east” and pa “people”, are an ethnic group in the Himalayas in Nepal. The Sherpa people first settled in the Solukhumbu District, Nepal. They gradually moved westward along salt trade routes and according to Sherpa oral history, four groups migrated out of Solukhumbu giving rise to the four main Sherpa groups (Kerry, 1998). Sherpa’s would move from place to place in the Himalayan region as Alpine pastoralists and traders since ancient times, like some other indigenous Kirat Nepalese tribes. During the nineteenth century, Sherpa people maintained independence within Nepali state, which was newly formed (Steven, 1996). For many years Nepal was prohibited by visitors except for a select few wanting to climb the mountains or scientists carrying on research. In the 1950s this shutdown was lifted with the restoration of the monarchy to power. Tension grew between China in the 1960s lending the Nepali government to have influence on the Sherpa people and it continued to grow (Somigli, 1978). In 1976, Khumbu, Nepal became a national park which attracted tourists from all over causing a major economic move.
            These major events have shaped the way Sherpa’s live today and make a living but overall their cultural, religious beliefs and typical building layouts have not altered much. Khumbu, Nepal offers unique geography, old river terraces, former lake beds or mountain slopes, which ultimately determines the style of the house (Norbu, 2008). The building materials have altered slightly, but overall the characteristics and style of a typical Sherpa home remain the same. Despite some difficulties the Sherpa have faced over the years, the Sherpa’s have managed to build a strong reputation as reliable, honest and loyal workers.

            Throughout the semester I will be researching the Sherpa culture, architecture, and religion and gain even more cultural appreciation for these indigenous cultures. There might be differences in the way these people live their day to day lives, but I am curious to see if they really see it as a hardship like we think of it as. I do not believe they do but that is my own personal opinion. It’s a different way of living that most are not accustomed with and many automatically assume they struggle but from the research I have come across so far, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Workout Time!

By Lauren Hale

On rare occasions, architecture students can be seen out and about at the university recreation centers, like normal students.  This semester, amidst all the thesis stress and way-too-long research papers to write, myself and my good friend Brittany Ricker (who also contributes posts to this blog, check out her stuff, it’s really well-done), actually make it to the gym four days a week.  We are definitely preparing for our upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic, but also because it feels amazing and it’s that one thing in your life that is ANTI-stress, very important.  I always feel great when we leave the gym.  Recently we started playing racquetball with some of the guys in our studio; it’s always a blast but Brittany and I aren’t very good yet.  Oh well, still burning calories whether our racquet makes contact with the ball or not. 

If we don’t play racquetball with the guys, we start with 45 minutes of cardio on the elliptical.  Varying speeds and resistance levels is key.  And try actually switching your stride from forward to backward.  It works the exact opposite muscles and feels really good.  Then we move to the rowing machines.  You basically sit on a seat that glides forward and backward while pushing on a handle that simulates rowing a canoe.  This is a great way to get your upper body moving and cardio targets are being hit as well as resistance and muscle building.  We started around level 3 and I’m up to level 8 and Brittany is on 10.  After rowing we do a whole abdominal routine.  We found this 30 day ab routine online and have been working our way through it.  We started on day 1 with 15 sit-ups, 6 crunches, 6 leg-raises, and a 20-sec plank.  We are now on day 15 and up to 70 sit-ups, 90 crunches, 45 leg-raises, and a 60-sec plank.  Once we push ourselves through that we add various weight machines, usually ones that target the lower back (to balance all the ab workout), biceps, and whatever else we feel like doing.  For the next two weeks, which is all the time we have left before spring break, we are adding running on the track, increasing the elliptical challenge and everything else while we are at it.  We both already feel a lot stronger and the gym helps keep us sane through all this insane architecture stuff.    

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My abstract and Where we stand.....

By Randy Thoms

Since I have not explained my thesis, here is my latest abstract followed by a series of random thoughts....for you to figure out....

            The Baby Boomers are coming!  The Baby Boomers are coming!  Well, coming of age.  It has been almost 70 years since World War II.  At its conclusion, after the high of victory combined with new found economic prosperity, the victorious soldiers returned (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and a boom in births erupted in the United States.  This period of increased birth rates is defined by Encyclopedia Britannica between 1946 to 1964, and decades later it is now poised to create significant challenges for the design of the contemporary built environment.  As the healthcare industry develops a better understanding of how to handle and care for the mounting” population of aging citizens, architecture needs to be equally as progressive in its strategies for design.  Not only is there a need for more health care facilities in the United States, but also facilities and communities to house and support a doubling in population of people over 65 by 2030 to 70 million as stated by Nancy Lisbon in 2006.  The following paper will examine research and precedents that inform a new approach for the design of senior housing with affordability and amenities leading the research.  
            The discussion of designing this new benchmark for senior living begins with affordability and progresses into New Urbanism  with ideas rooted in compact, walkable communities.  Senior citizens can intentionally  live in these urban environments due to the proximity of a wide variety of activities and services and short travel distances to the surrounding people; interlaced with this strategy is the chance for revitalization of the larger community through a much needed boast to the local city economy and government. With a mixture of mid-rise apartments, landscaped streets and activity centers, a new “cityscape” environment will enhance not only the resident’s lifestyles, but the local fabric of an urban infill. 
            As we work through our classes and studios, most of us will be thinking of ARC 532 Global History and the structure model and wondering, "If You Built It" will it look like something a third grader did or a master's student?  So we all need to work with some vigor to make a presentable project.  Mine is dealing with Inca stonework while others are "Planning Designs for Daylight" within buildings of  the Non-western architecture along with the "Wind Towers" of the middle east.  Such is the "Life of a Saluki Architecture Grad Student" and some may ask "Why Did I Decide to Continue My Education at SIU?"  For me, something a stay-at-home dad can to fill time and to get a job, but "Ethically Speaking" "My Experiences in Graduate School Thus Far" have been fun, exciting, hard and frustrating all at the same time.  With "Lessons Learned So Far", I have better presentation and computer skills as well as "Stretching the Definition of the House" and learning about different eras of architecture such as "Brutalism" and what it means to have varied "Thesis Case Studies" to support your body of work.

Lisbon, N. (2006). The Sad State of Affordable Housing for Older People. Generations, 29(4), 9-15.


By Ryan Kinports

One of the significant issues with our program is the inability of undergraduate students to study abroad due to the course structure. I consider my semester abroad in undergraduate one of the most informative times of my life both academically and culturally.

I chose Prague in the Czech Republic based on the architecture, food, and that most students choose Western Europe. There was not a great deal of information about the program, mostly general details about Charles University and the classwork we would be doing. I have struggled with foreign language so one of the more daunting components for me was a two week immersive Czech language class prior to the regular semester of classes. While somewhat unpleasant the ability to make basic statements, ask questions, and order food in Czech made a noticeable difference in how locals responded to me. They seemed to appreciate my efforts.
Prague from Petřín Hill
The city was a vibrant labyrinth of old and new design. There are buildings that date to 1000 A.D. adjacent to those less than 100 years old. Remarkably most of the city is in excellent condition. There were maintenance workers out every day it seemed replacing cobble stones, or repainting. There was an unusual amount of activity while I was there as it was the seat of the European Union. This meant that visiting heads of state from all over Europe were a constant sight; even the U.S. president was there for several days. I spent my free time walking the city and surrounding area. I saw almost every district and of course ate all kinds of Czech cuisine. In my opinion far too few of my classmates had a similar desire to spend their time exploring, and instead chose to sleep during the day and go out at night. The wealth of knowledge that Prague contains in the masonry of her buildings is nearly inexhaustible.
An immense asset to my stay in Prague was the ability to travel to other cities for the weekend, or for a day trip. Europe is compact allowing for short travel times just about anywhere. I have been to Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Austria, Germany, Poland, and England. In all of these countries there are significant historic landmarks, and unique architecture to the region. As distinct as the design styles are the cultural differences are something to learn from through interaction. If you want it’s a simple matter to fade into the background and almost never speak to locals. This is a mistake. Despite what many media sources say Americans are not disliked, in fact in Central and Eastern Europe we are welcome due much in part to our contributions towards the downfall of the U.S.S.R. I had few negative experiences. One of the more interesting occasions occurred when I had to bribe the Russian consulate in Prague to get my visa to visit Moscow - something I’ve been thinking about lately in light of the Sochi corruption charges.

Images from upper left: Vienna, Austria; Palace of the Parliament, Romania; Over Sofia, Bulgaria; Inside the Parliament in Budapest, Hungary; Rasnov Fortress, Romania; Peleș Castle, Romania; St. Basils, Moscow
All images credit to Ryan Kinports

If there is any possibility for you to travel abroad in your life you should. The statement that you will travel next year, or after you work a few years, or when you retire leads to it never happening. Make the time now to see some of what the world has to offer. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Life of a Saluki Architecture Grad Student

By John Svast

Hello again Readers!

Did you have a childhood? Of course you did!... and depending on who you ask, you may have
to thank an architect for that.

When I explain my thesis to people (Space created from Social Media), I get a lot of odd looks
from people. They think I am the type of person that wears a tinfoil hat and make wildaccusations of the government stealing half my brain and shoving a bag of sand up there in its
place. To those folks I say “hear me out!”, it is not the first time that an idea spurred a whole
different type of space thus creating a new way of living… like your childhood.
According to Edward T. Hall in his book Hidden Dimensions, Many Many moons ago (before the
17th century) in Western Europe, children were thought of as little adults. When you you woke
up in the morning you went to work just like your Mom and Dad, you worked in other peoples
homes, worked a trade with one of your parents, possibly worked on a ship. You had all the
responsibilities as any other adult as soon as you were able bodied.

(Image of Author, w hen he w as much more adorable and able to w atch cartoons) Photo by Authors Mother… love ya Ma

What Happened?
According to Hall, the child's playroom happened.
Once a space was provided for children to play in the home the idea that a child SHOULD be
playing was brought forth. Of course it didn’t happen overnight, But over time, people became
more comfortable with the idea that children should just go ahead and be children.
How we perceive space and the sense of place is very powerful. The actions that take place in
that space start to define the identity of that space.
Do you have an empty room?
Put a bed in it! Universally, people will perceive it as a bedroom!
Same room…
put a desk in it! Universally, people will perceive it as an office!
Same room...
put a playset in it! Universally, people will perceive it as a playroom!
Same room…
Participate in the interaction with others locally and globally… What do you get?

Samuel Mockbee: Leadership and Rural Studio

By Alan T. Kirkwood

            Samuel Mockbee was a Mississippi native and an American architect who has been credited as the founder of what is known as Rural Studio, which is a program at Auburn University designed to teach students about how to build aesthetically nice looking homes through the use of recycled materials such as cardboard. He studied at Auburn University in Alabama, and interned in Columbus, Georgia, and instead of venturing out to find work for wealthy clients, he chose to stay where he was in the impoverished area and give back to the local community. In order for his program to be as successful as it is, there had to have been a development of a sense of trust between architect and client, between he and the community. He was able to develop this through commitment to the people of his community and not deciding to let go of them for wealthy clients.
The leadership characteristics exhibited by him and the students of Rural Studio were the practice of stewardship and having a sense of commitment to serve the needs of others, having commitment to the growth of people and helping build a community among those who work together. He did all of this by Building a Bridge of Trust which works around the idea of established Credibility Equaling Public Trust. He knew that his responsibility started at home, that there was a need in his local community with his neighbors which he needed to tend to instead of going out looking for money in larger projects elsewhere.  He understood his leadership role in his community and stepped up to the responsibility and commitment it required. Through this, he was able to gain the community (his client’s) trust.

Samuel Mockbee later was diagnosed with leukemia and later passed due to complications with it. During his career, Mockbee was nominated fo the American Institute of Architects (AIA) gold medal which he received the following year of 2004. His work was also selected to be displayed in Whitney Museum of Art’s 2002 Biennial. He has his own exhibit at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Birmingham, Alabama. It was named, Samuel Mockbee and the Rural Studio: Community Architecture.  Rural Studio’s initiative was successful through their strong bond with the community. This studio is in its second decade still a strong program. The studio is still growing and evolving even after Mockbee’s death but still holding on to his original principles.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Process Time!

By Brittany Ricker

Last Tuesday, February 4, 2014 was the first official pin-up/review for thesis. I’ve mentioned in previous articles that I am proposing a psychiatric treatment center that will focus on treating adolescents struggling with depression. Unless you can see in to the future and know exactly what needs to be done and have a brain full of knowledge about every single topic known to mankind, documenting your process as you study a topic is KEY. There are so many different areas that play an important role in designing a psychiatric treatment center that I have been struggling with narrowing it down and if I don’t document my process either through diagrams or creating a summary of the topic researching it honestly gets lost along the way and never makes it to the final presentation. With this design there are a few key ideas I want to strongly emphasize with the design of this new facility:
(Not in any particular order…)
-          Integration of all five+ senses
-          Sensorial spaces for exhibition and therapy
-          Artistic and therapeutic workshops
-          Acoustics and intimacy levels experienced in certain theaters/art galleries
-          Meditation
-          Considering how parts of the brain react to certain situations during depression and finding a way to incorporate elements of design that will better serve the patients. Trying to understand what it means to being “centered”.

Putting a strong emphasis on these key ideas has kept me on a pretty decent track and not going off on too much of a tangent in my research… Okay that’s a lie BUT since I have set goals/ideas of what I want to portray in the final design, it has given me the opportunity to present these ideas to my thesis committee. This was extremely helpful, they were able to point out areas that needs more research, areas of my research that I was able to convey clearly and areas that I need to revisit, ideas that I haven’t thought of and would benefit/ backup my reasoning for the psychiatric treatment center.
Image by Author
Illustrating the “Out of Site, Out of Mind” concept typically seen traditional psychiatric treatment centers. Also the diagram below shows how the population of the hospital increased drastically and during the presentation there was a discussion of the level of security was impacted, safety, their privileges were revoked. Basically you weren’t going to a place to receive treatment you were admitting yourself into a jail in 1959 at Creedmoor State Hospital along with numerous other hospitals across the United States.

Diagrams by Author | Underlay of SimSensei screenshots from YouTube video analysis
Diagram by Author | Representing the body language presented and overlaying it directly on the site to analyze areas of interest that could help guide the process of the way patients/public could possibly interact/circulate through this design. 
Drawing by Author | Abstract approach to explaining what may happen to a person with depression or how someone might be feeling… overwhelmed, sad, guilt, stress … It’s hard to put down in one sentence how one might feel or what caused one to become depressed because usually one thing isn’t the cause…. It’s a complicated journey of H*** (coming from personal experience). BUT with the right tools/coping skills you could come out a much stronger person then you ever imagined.
 Diagram by Author | Mapping out the areas that lend itself to becoming program elements in the design. Using this distorted/shattered human head and actually understanding that all those pieces have significance and learning to tackle those areas can help begin the reconstruction process. Most people that have viewed this diagram thought it was strange that I used a broken/deteriorating head as a symbol for reconstruction… I guess I viewed this as taking the opportunity to take those pieces and reconstruct/piece back together into something stronger… After all, all those pieces define who you are, it’s up to you to decide how you want to view those pieces.. good or bad. Take control of your life.

Diagram by Author
Diagram by Author
Diagram by Author | Process of forming programmatic areas within the site and circulation.

Don't Forget the Other Stuff

Joshua Fowler here,
                There seems to be a pattern in the whole graduate architecture study that revolves around:
Thesis thesis thesis… wait don’t forget about history… wait is there homework for pro practice due tomorrow?… thesis thesis thesis thesis… when was that meeting…

                I am finding out that I prefer to work the same way I like to eat, one thing at a time and then tackle the next task. This however becomes complicated when I become so focused on one thing I forget to start the others. While I uphold my thesis as the most important work right now, I have to keep reminding myself that there is other work that must be done. This being said, I don’t undervalue the work in the other classes and find it interesting, maybe just not as much as my thesis. My architecture history class is a good example of this, I just learned about passive cooling techniques used in the middle east via wind scoops integrated into the buildings and urban environments.
Figure 1
 These techniques are very intriguing and can potentially be a precedence for architectures around the rest of the world. In my professional practice class we are discussing the ethics that surround the profession of architecture and the responsibilities that architects have to communities and clients that go far beyond traditional architectural practice.
Figure 2
Plan New Hampshire is a precedence for such thinking. Here is an excerpt from the writing I did for our most recent assignment involving analyzing leadership qualities of certain firms or groups:
                 The understanding of the four philosophical cornerstones and the process of the architecture of trust through the example of Plan New Hampshire, establishes the relationship between these two and creates a stronger comprehension of the architecture of trust demonstrated in Leadership by Design by Richard Swett. Plan New Hampshire is an exemplary case of architects leading an issue through the process of an architecture of trust and functions to serve an allegorical purpose in the assessment of the nature of leadership. Plan New Hampshire goes beyond the traditionally iconic purpose of architects, engineers, city planners, historians, etc. through a sense of pro bono design leadership. Each role exhibiting leadership through the acknowledgment of the responsibility they have with the services they offer in order to give direction to a community. These architects, engineers, city planners, historians, etc. embrace and promote the diversity of skills that each other has in order to create a better sense of integration and create a team of highly professional polymaths. This team, Plan NH (New Hampshire), had to define their goals, and then coherently articulate them to the communities they served. This was primarily done though three to four annual design charrettes, in which communities would compete for a charrette by submitting proposals to Plan NH requesting assistance in their communities. By listening to the requests of each community, Plan NH can responsibly chose which communities need the most direction and/or the quickest intervention. Through this process Plan NH can then form order out of chaos by stepping up to the plate and building a bridge of trust with the communities thereby creating new value in them.
                Plan NH acts upon receptive listening for each community they assist. They additionally exhibited empathy to accept and recognize fellow professionals for their special and unique abilities. They transforms the communities as well as themselves and conceptualize to dream great dreams. They feel they have a commitment to serve the needs of others and a commitment to the growth of people. The very essence of Plan NH practice lies in their belief of building community among those who work together and doing so pro bono. It is for these reasons and more that Plan New Hampshire is an exemplary case of a servant-leader group who has their sights set on what is best for the community.
This example of leadership demonstrated by the group Plan New Hampshire should restore and enhance the confidence in the effectiveness of the process of building an inclusionary and constructive architecture.
 It is these other classes that I have to remember sometimes while working on my thesis. So much work, so little time. Until next time…  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Working in the Library

By Lauren Hale

Part of my responsibilities for my graduate assistantship is to be the contributor of this blog.  Our academic advisor is the creator of the blog so I can’t directly edit the website you see here but I am the one who posts all the things that the other graduate assistants send me.  Every two weeks my inbox is very full with Microsoft Word documents from my studio-mates with new things to post.  I am in charge of this because I am also in charge of the School of Architecture Library.  There’s no real reason as to why that is, but the head of the library is also the contributor to the blog.  I actually do pretty much all of the blogging while I am in the library which is where I’m sitting right now.  Basically the biggest responsibility is doing our best to have the library open when it is supposed to.  I have three girls in the undergraduate architecture program here who also work in the library.  I gather all their class schedules and plan out the library schedule around their classes.  They each get 8 hours a week and I work 10.  Sometimes they have exams scheduled in the evenings or have to leave to visit their studio sites and we just work around it.  While you are working in here, you basically have to make sure no one takes anything (that’s never been a problem), help people check things out and use the computer and large format scanner we have in here.  We actually have the only scanner in the architecture department, including the computer lab, so we have that going for us.  It is a pretty small library but there is plenty of architectural reference in here.  We have some extra chairs and tables and mostly the other grad students just hang out in here whenever I am working in the afternoons.  Overall, it is a pretty nice set-up. 

Every once in a while there is something interesting you have to deal with.  We do have late fees but I think the rate per day is a little outrageous so I usually cut people a good amount of slack.  Some people just completely forget though and have books for an entire semester and don’t even realize it.  The other challenge about being in charge is making sure all the undergrads show up for their shifts.  The three girls I have right now are wonderful, they do a great job and are very reliable.  Last semester; however, we weren’t so lucky.  The first person that was hired clearly didn’t want to be here and just stopped showing up, blew off every single shift.  Never emailed me, never communicated with me, then I had to deal with the complaints about how people needed to get in to the library and I would get pulled out of studio and miss class and not get my own stuff done.  That was incredibly frustrating and lasted for a few weeks because no one could get a hold of this person, not even any of their professors.  But we fired them as soon as they actually responded to my supervisor and hired the three girls we have now, which has been great.  Other than that kind of stuff, this has been a great job and I’m very grateful to have it, not to mention the tuition all paid for.    

Leadership and Trust

By Phil Mevert

            Reading “Leadership By Design: Creating an Architect of Trust” by Richard N. Swett, FAIA, and assessing the building community through community engagement and connection to leadership and trust the following article results.
            The merging of place making and architecture by the design firm of Freedman Tung & Bottomley (FTB) is an excellent example of leadership and trust building in the design profession. FTB working primarily with city planning and design has more city regulations to deal with on during the design process than what is common in building design.  Some of the requirements are to have city representatives involved more involved in the design process. Luckily for FTB, involving the city is a standard practice on jobs, as is getting the general public involved for design suggestion and to inform them of what is being proposed. FTB showed to be good servant leaders by showing and giving citizens expert advice in planning and assist and represents them before official bodies at communal and state level.  By doing this it showed characteristics of Awareness, Persuasion, Receptive listening, Commitment to the growth of people and Building of community among those who work together. 
            FTB worked hard at building a bridge of trust with their clients through their unique approach to the design process. One of the biggest motivators for FTB is their love for creating great cities and beautiful places.  A main goal was to create new memorable synthesis. Part of the design process was working with local character (architecture, urbanism and landscape).  As part of involving the community and to educate both the general public and public officials, FTB would how a series of workshops with several weeks between them.  This gave the public an opportunity to have input on the design and planning, as well as, voice their opinions.  Public officials who attend become more informed of the project, allowing for better decision making.

            With the process that FTB takes on their projects, with the community involvement in the early stages, it allows for the technical drawing potion of the design process to be relatively freed of distraction and most likely reduces the chance of having major changes to the design late in the process.  Some of the ideas of FTB’s design process are becoming a standard in the design process for many designers and if they are not then they should be.  The best way to gain a client’s trust is to make them feel as if they are making a difference and the right decision with the changes that are being made.  One approach to achieve this is to get the client involved in the design early in the process.  For FTB this was accomplished by having the public workshop series, this allowed officials and general public to be informed of the changes and voice their opinions how the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of the proposed design.  Given the work that FTB was doing, a larger portion of the public would be effected by their design, so having the large public design workshops was the best approach to achieve their desired results of client input.  In the case for having a somewhat more direct client, such as a school, the approach might change slightly.  For a school client the workshops could be with a select group of students or faculty, so that they would be able to voice what they would like to have in their new building.  The United Kingdom has used this approach with school design on a few occasions and has had great success with it.  With this approach the client develops great trust, by feeling that their needs and desires were being listened to. The most rewarding achievement an Architect can achieve is the trust of their clients.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Being Less Perfect

By Timothy Shotts

There are many methods to render for your presentation.  You can hand sketch everything, add watercolors, colored pencils, or markers to sketches to catch the viewer’s eye, you can even use the latest computer graphics and Cloud services to produce high quality, photorealistic renders.  Bjarke Ingels uses a variety of these techniques in his presentations.  According to Adam Finkelstein, “an appropriate form of imagery depends on nature of the communication” (  Finkelstein goes on to list appropriate uses of photo realistic renderings – documentation and simulation - and when non-photorealistic renderings are more appropriate – explanation, illustration, and storytelling (Finkelstein).  Non-photorealistic renderings allow the client to focus on the story we are telling about how people will use the space we create instead of being distracted by the kids playing soccer in the photorealistic rendering.

Now that “perfect” design is possible with the click of a mouse, the industrialized world has become nostalgic for “imperfect” design. As computer-aided everything takes over our lives we begin to realize, little by little, what is missing from the high-tech world. We realize that a crooked line sometimes has more soul than a perfectly straight one....

-- David Byrne
When Bad Art is Good
Utne, March-April 2003

Vanessa Lafoy, a recent graduate from the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College of London, recently had her work featured in the Design section of  She followed more of a Bjarke Ingels comic book approach with her final project.  Below is a selection of her work, summited for your pleasure.

Aga Khan Award for Architecture

By Kristopher Teubel

            With all the work put into any given architectural work, it is nice to receive accolades for the inherent effort in the practice.  There are various agencies that bring light to lesser known efforts and projects in architecture.  One such agency is the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).  For over fifty years, the AKDN has striven to actively engage in, and bring positive attention to projects in various practices.  Specifically, they hold awards for notable altruistic architecture projects.  The program supports architectural projects that aid the less fortunate all around the world.
            Though the namesake of the program has strong ties to Islam, the agency conducts its humanitarian business in a nondenominational fashion.  Approximately 80,000 workers in thirty different countries work together to uplift various communities that lack adequate resources and services.  The projects are conducted based upon need.  Many can be found in sub-Saharan Africa, central and southern Asia, and the Middle East.  From its meager beginnings as a nonprofit organization helping the Ismaili community, the organization has grown greatly in a relatively short amount of time ("Press centre: Frequently," 2007) .

            A recent recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture is a project conducted in Khartoum, Sudan.  The Salam Cardiac Surgery Centre was completed in 2010.  The 14,000 sq. meter (150,695 sq. ft.) complex was designed by Studio Tamassociati from Venice, Italy.  It consists of a hospital with sixty-three beds and three hundred local staff and a separate Medical Staff Accommodation Compound where the medical staff resides.  The buildings flank multiple expansive courtyards.  The amenities within the hospital block are of a high caliber.  They include three separate operating rooms, diagnostics laboratories, and various other elements.
            An interesting aspect of the project is the inclusion of the shipping containers for the construction material as the medical center's staff lodging and amenities.  Ninety 20-foot containers were used to create the staff complex.  Each separate unit consists of 1.5 containers with a bathroom and veranda that faces a courtyard.  Seven 40-foot containers comprise the cafeteria and other services.  Each building built from containers is insulated from the interior and has a ventilated metal roof.  Water heating for the whole complex is taken care of by a solar farm ("Salam cardiac surgery," 2007).
            To be eligible for the AKDN Award for Architecture, a project must have been in use for at least one full year to ensure the feasibility of the concepts pursued.  All building types can be considered for nomination.  No discrimination is made upon scale, purpose, designers, or other affiliations.
            The Aga Khan Development Network and its associated Award for Architecture is a great example of humanitarian work implemented throughout the world.  Under the guidance of the organization, architects and designers can find the means and motivation to act as true stewards of the built environment as it can help those who need it most.  Altruistic design can be seen as the highest calling for the talent that is already inherent in the architecture community.

For more information on the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and other progressive programs like it, please visit:
            And many more...

Press centre: Frequently asked questions. (2007). Retrieved from

Salam cardiac surgery centre. (2007). Retrieved from            id=4438

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Leadership through Design and How Influential Architecture Is

By Kayla Fuller

An analysis of a project in California by the firm Freedman Tung & Bottomley by Kayla Fuller
                As a profession, architecture requires their client’s trust through the process of design to construction. Trust is not easily achieve, you must first develop an understanding of your client and the project they are providing you and then you must develop a relationship in which you earn their trust. San Francisco urban design firm Freedman Tung & Bottomley, provide examples of how different approaches are incorporated into their practice. FTB’s main objective was to “create a sense of community in a California landscape divided by strip developments and freeways.” This paper will address the different approaches they practice and how they influence the overall design.
                Understanding what leadership characteristics and examples is important to analyze the success of FTB. Richard Swett describes a number of examples of Leadership by Design that are recognizable traits of Freedman Tung & Bottomley, the most recognizable characteristic of the firm is their commitment to the growth of the people. The object of this case study was to create a sense of community in a California landscape that has been overtaken by freeways and strip developments, an issue that is not only present in this case but is a growing problem in most historic towns.
                Building trust takes time, first impressions are also influential for developing a trusting relationship but you really need to get take the time to develop the relationship for a successful project. FTB significantly involved the participation from the community and elected officials, it is a requirement in California communities to involve the community in any major changes. They employ a market oriented practice where they use capital improvements and knowledge of history and practice to sharpen policy tools. They take time to truly understand a city and their needs, employing empathy and receptive listening providing the community the opportunity to work together.
                Building awareness of the project to the community is important to educate the public. Workshops and design charrettes were held to allow community members to develop a vision coordinated with the project and allow members to voice their opinions. These workshops allowed ordinary citizens advice on planning matters and assisting them with decisions before development proceeds. The combined involvement of the community, officials and designers can be chaotic but the firm created order through the chaotic opinions of all those involved with their sessions.
                Freedman Tung & Bottomley were extremely successful with their tactics incorporating numerous fundamental leadership skills while also incorporating the four building blocks for building trust. They motivated the community to become involved and through joint study sessions, they solved lingering questions before public hearings. Involving the community and stakeholders are extremely beneficial for positive design. We strive to create spaces that affect those who utilized them but how can we develop those spaces when vital choices are not considered. FTB took the time to consider all the options and opinions of the communities with whom they work and will continue to improve communities through their objectives that they withhold.

Samuel Mockbee

By Nicholas Mosher

Architect and teacher Samuel Mockbee’s career path and overall attitude showed how he became a great leader in architecture through his compassion goodness.  Growing up with an impression that architects are “house pets for the rich” and all they want to do is build the biggest and most extravagant designs, he did wanted to do something different and more helpful with his work.  Mockbee bestowed many characteristics that showed through his leadership in architecture.  He was aware of situations around him mainly regarding the poverty in the south and primarily in Alabama where he grew up.  He grew up knowing the experience and it gained his attention when he became an architect and teacher.  He would take his students out to the neighborhoods just so that way they could get a realistic experience of it.  Mockbee showed and taught the trait to heal others and oneself through the architecture and that the goodness and compassion should be a part of the job.  By tackling the housing buildings and other community structures such as churches for the poor areas, and by incorporating his students into it, he was building a community among those who work together1.  His life’s work was a commitment to the growth of people not in population and size, but in compassion and especially the willingness for architects to not just become a “house pet for the rich.”
            The main building block that Mockbee used for building the architecture of trust was that he stepped up to the plate.  Talk of building affordable homes and religious buildings to smaller income communities was hardly backed up in reality.  It was only theorized mainly in schools until Mockbee decided to take action when he became an architect.  This created a new value for other architect and especially his students.  His decision to not pursue a career to design for the rich allowed him to show and help spread an appreciation for what more important focuses should be such as the poor communities.  That decision has been recognized by many and in so has earned him awards for doing so.  Although he hasn’t earned a large amount of awards, the ones he did receive were very important and well known1.  Both taking the initiative and setting a different value of focus have made Samuel Mockbee a trustworthy architect which has made him continue to get work and praise from his peers.
            Samuel Mockbee’s efforts were very effective and noteworthy.  I feel that his compassion and all around good attitude made him a trustworthy architect and that really helped him accomplish his goals of tackling projects that many other architects didn’t want to pursue.  He had good intentions and was knowledgeable of how things were and how he planned to work around or improve those conditions. 


1.      Richard Swett. Leadership By Design: Creating and Architecture of Trust. (Greenway Communications. 2005) pgs 267-270.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Polder Method

By Michelle Harris

I stumbled across the term ‘polder method’ while reading, ‘ False Flat: Why Dutch Design is so Good,’ by Aaron Betsky. The word ‘polder’ caught my attention. The author used ‘polder’ in a manner that implied, ‘of course of you know,’ but I did not! This curious word led to a discovery of how the Dutch reclaimed land from the sea. They drained the marshy soil to cultivate land known as a polder. This term has become more broadly used as a means of economic repurposing by the Dutch Government. Overall, the polder method has a mixed legacy. The polder method can lead to endless debate and make government planning even slower. On the other hand, it ensures that the process is wholly democratic.

The polder method drained the economic and social stagnation of the 1970’s and 1980’s. The polder method mitigated subsidies generated off of trade. Now there is a complex network of subsidies for the sick, the unemployed or artists, for example. This intricate system of targeted subsidies is the mechanism that reversed the sinking Dutch economy. As Betsky states, ‘The public face of cultural subsidies is design.’  Dutch design unites communities both small and larger via the polder method.

One buildings that stands as a polder for international architecture is ARCAM by Rene van Zuuk. ARCAM stands for Architecture Center Amsterdam. This organization is funded in part by government subsidies. The building is located on the edge of the River IJ. The building successful reflects the context of the river in its ultra-modern design. The contrast is in the context. There are many traditional historic structures that surround ARCAM.

In some ways this facility works to create land for future creative architectural influences to integrate into the urban fabric.
ARCAM was designed with several limiting factors. The street facade was required to ensure privacy to the occupants. The canal facing façade was required to be unimposing to the surrounding traditional buildings. A few other limiting factors were the former structure’s foundation. The history and the context informed the curvy wrapping rooflines. The facility itself is a melting pot of architectural information for tourists and professionals alike. The website offers English and Dutch versions of resources and events. Check out the website’s publications to get an appreciation for the diverse clientele that use ARCAM. In many ways this design’s diversity is a mass of information and culture that form a base for the progress of architecture.
By representing the international design scene, ARCAM, represents idealistically the whole as a small. This is a function of the polder method. Another part of the polder method is that nobody can leave the table negotiations until a consensus is reached. Even as the creative growth becomes painful, the pain is managed by the flow of subsidies. The Dutch use the polder method to democratically enforce, ‘The most important task of a society, which is the arrangement that most invisible of physical attributes, space’. Architecture manifested through the idea of ARCAM is a polder for the international community to grow creatively.

An Architecture of Trust

By Isaac Grayson

Exploring an architecture of trust was something we recently had to do for an assignment in our professional practice class. Reading about this and applying other ethical values that I find the most important I also seem to come back to some kind of architecture built on the platform of a non-profit business plan with a goal to serve the community.  Plan New Hampshire[1] is a great example of an architecture of trust. The organization was a collaborative effort on the part of the several architects from New Hampshire’s AIA Chapter seeing the need to preserve the quality of life in their area. Through collaboration these individuals developed a service that gave back to communities, expanding on the preferred servant leadership style and further supported by the Four Building Blocks of an Architecture of Trust.[2] This kind of service involves giving the community a voice, as well as disposing of the perceived architectural attitude of an all knowing omniscient designer that only manifests itself through education or some innate ability. Utilizing their knowledge these architects are equipped to act as orchestrators of a situation building trust and often mending the fragile fabric of funding communities.

I was inspired by the efforts of these individuals offering up their leadership abilities to help where people have lost their way. This seems to closely resemble to ideal architecture firm that has been painted in my head through the collaboration of many different sources. In my mind an architect or group of architects should be a pillar in their community. As a business plan, in my head, I think a firm should be a not for profit venture who invests in the projects they build. It has been brought to my attention that there are firms who waive their architectural fee in exchange for a half percent return on the project over the course of ten years. This kind of investment would be motivation to design in such a way as to insure a return on investment. This would essentially be like stock in the community, showing your interest and desire to be a part of the community, rather than acting as a sort of middle man out to fight for a piece of the pie. Competition in this sort of environment would be encouraged, and only help to strengthen the community. Functioning as leader’s different firms and architects would strengthen the community by each being able to utilize their strengths contributing to a community rather than simply trying to profit off it. While also allowing and encouraging the community to grow without a self-centered focus of turning the community into a designers pet project.

Orchestrating their knowledge as generalist’s architects have the power to bring order to chaos if they would just step up to the plate and take the initiative. The fear with this kind of action is that we put ourselves out there for public execution. Maybe this is what we are meant for. As students studying architecture we are often asked why did we choose architecture? The answers given will run the full gamut, but the underlying theme of them all is that we believe we can make a difference. To make a difference we must often make changes and work to bring people of polar opposites together on common ground. When have these sort of action ever been perceived as favorable? The title of architect is one that often come with great respect and mysticism, with a knack for leadership and ability to absorb criticism. Modeling our principals of business practices and ultimately life after the Four Building Blocks of Trust architects will be able to make the changes they wanted to see in a more prolific manor.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Great Teachers

By Lani Walker

A family member of mine taught a class at SIUC many years ago.  I grew up listening to him speak poorly about his students.  He relished in tricking and failing his students, a strange enjoyment that he would admit to even today.  It was often that my mother, a high school teacher herself, and him would end up arguing during family functions about teaching philosophies.  My mother loved teaching, and it is most definitely a gift she possesses.  She could inspire both the best and worst students I had ever seen.  She often felt as if their successes (and failures) were her own.  Anytime I go out in my hometown, I cannot even begin to tell you how many adults want to take the time to tell me how my mother positively affected their life in high school.  Without any doubt, they would say (and I would say as well) that she is an exceptional teacher. 
                When I go home, it is often that I speak with my parents about my current college professors at SIU.  Overall, the teaching I have witnessed at SIU has been excellent.  Although I have met a few terrible teachers, I know that a few bad raindrops cannot contaminate an entire ocean.  I have met great teachers throughout many departments at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, but the ones I am most familiar with are the teachers in the Architecture department.  They are a diverse group of very interesting and very intelligent professors.  I cannot even choose a favorite professor because I like so many of them and have been inspired by almost all of them. 
The first professor I met at SIU was Professor Dobbins.  From being in his classroom for a few semesters, one thing is apparent to me; he is a great teacher.  It is so obvious that he joys his job, and he always tries to make the subject of structures enjoyable for his students (a VERY difficult task).  He is always fair and respectful to his students.  And no matter how many students complain that his class is ‘too hard,’ he doesn’t make his class any less challenging because he knows that we will rise to the occasion.  Honestly, when you put a lot of time and effort into his class, the final Structures project I produced was something I learned a lot from and could be proud of.  Another teacher who comes to mind immediately when I think of great professors at SIU is Dr. Anz.  Like Professor Dobbins, Professor Anz definitely has a passion for architecture.  Dr. Anz has so much knowledge and insight, yet he somehow manages to be relatable to the students at SIU.  If you ever get stuck in your studio project and need something new and exciting from the world of architecture, Dr. Anz is the person to lead you down that path.  I am so lucky to have taken his class my senior year because it renewed my love of architecture.                   

This semester, in Graduate School, is the first time I have gotten to work with Dr. Wendler in a studio setting.  He is very straightforward and doesn’t attempt to sugar-coat anything, qualities that I definitely value in a teacher.  He is also very creative and has offered so many suggestions that have helped my studio work.  When he speaks, he always reminds me of Walt Disney; charismatic and inspiring, yet definitely wants the job done right.  Dr. Wendler is the leader of our architecture program, and he still takes the time to be our Graduate Studio professor this semester.  Between him and all the other great teachers I have met (and am still meeting new ones everyday), I would recommend SIUC to any architecture student looking for an exceptional architecture program that teaches, challenges, and learns from its students.          

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

If You Built It

By Michelle Harris

‘If You Build It,’ is a documentary about two designers who introduce a rural group of North Carolinian students to fundamental design through projects where they make their own laser cut skateboards to a final project for the community. The film is playing in the Music Box Theater in Chicago beginning February 7th. I have not watched the film. However, I have read several reviews. The critique of the film by the New York Times was that ‘If You Built It,’ showed too much of people’s commentary rather than showing the actual happenings of the projects. The Architectural Record features the director, Patrick Creadon, as the genius behind an otherwise cliché film. Overall the reviews paint ‘If You Build It’ as heartwarming film with a dose of perspective of what deign can and cannot do.
 I was interested in the film because of the two designers, Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller. Their growth and struggle as teachers is something even as a student I identify with. They have admirable perseverance in accomplishing their goals despite financial setbacks. Their funding was cut by the school district and forced them to live off credit cards and grant money. Pilloton gave a TED talk on their project. Her heartfelt connection to the community reminds me of a class I had earlier discussing inclusive leadership. The role that Pilloton and Miller initially play as outsiders is transformed by their sincere desire to be design diplomats in the community. As Pilloton mentions in the TED talks she and her partner (professional and romantic) have moved to the small community of Bertie, North Carolina. There were no licensed architects in the district. Their idealism though cliché has truly made a difference and the lives of the youth of this community.
My personal takeaway from what I’ve read and listened to of ‘If You Build It’, beyond the issues of education reform and living in a rural area, is that as students and designers can make positive change happen through design. There are many more communities across the U.S. The challenge posed in my reflections is what I am doing to help humanity through design?

Every Tuesday afternoon at three, there is a meeting for Freedom by Design in the Architecture Library in Quigley Hall. The students there are designing a ramp for a homebound local resident. In addition to serving on the committee for Freedom by Design, there is also opportunity to raise money for the group. February, Friday, the Fourteenth, they’ll be selling baked goods outside senior studio. Share the love! For cookies and community and stop by! There are many ways to help and it never hurts to start small.
‘If You Build it’ official trailer:
Emily Pilloton: Teaching Design for Change
Classroom Projects:
 ‘Film Review: If You Build It’. Ciampaglia, Dante. Architectural Record Online. April 5. 2013. Accessed January 29. 2014.
‘Today, a Chicken Coop; Tomorrow, the World,‘If You Build It,’ by Patrick Creadon, on Student Projects’ Rapold, Nicolas. New York Times Online. January 9. 2014. Accessed January 29. 2014.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Planning Designs for Daylight

By Nicholas Mosher

              Daylighting has been a crucial part of design and it will continue to be a long time from now.  Among other things, it can reduce costs for electricity and heating as well as improve health.  Buildings and houses should capitalize on gathering the most amount of daylight inside.  It is a common thing for buildings to allow in direct sunlight as well because of the cold weather that comes in either parts of the year or for majority of the time.  In a location such as Phoenix, Arizona, the arid climate would not call for direct sunlight to heat the interior space of a building all of the time.  So letting in daylight but not direct sunlight can become a problem when designing around the sun. 

                Capitalizing on letting in daylight can be achieved through very large decisions and smaller ones as well.  On the large scale, strategies should be considered around site selection.  In most cases the architect will not have a say on where the plot of land is located but in those few cases, it is important to analyze the other buildings around it. An example would be where the shadows are being casted throughout the day and year.  After that the orientation of the building is important to study.  By facing the walls and windows the right way, they can let in more light and cast better views as well.  The shaping of the building will help with facing windows the right way and shadows is just as important especially in Phoenix1.  In the hot sun a shaded place provides the comfort and that is the ideal place where people want to be. 

                On the smaller aspect of designs, obtaining interior daylight can be achieved through a collection of apertures, glazing, shading devices, interior partitions, surface finishes, electric lighting, HVAC systems, and controls1.  Each one of these can play an important role on letting in and capitalizing on the daylight to make the interiors a more comfortable, warmer and brightened space for people to be in.  Together these can add up to creating the space even more sustainable than just one or two of them alone.  Getting the most of them to work together and fit inside the same building can be challenging.  It is also challenging to still design a building to look aesthetically pleasing with everything mentioned above being a part of it.  That is why the architects, engineers, lighting designers, interior designers and even the curtain wall consultants have to be able to work with and around each other to ultimately provide the client with a beautiful and functional building that can successfully work with and adapt to the sun.  The overall process of finalizing a complex building is a giant circle involving designing, analyzing, integrating, and evaluating1. 



1.       Matthew Tanteri. (March 8, 2007). Planning for Daylight. Architecture Lighting Online.