Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Short Break from My Thesis Topic

ByNicholas S. Ouellette

So, I know that last blog post I wrote about giving you all an update on my current status for my thesis project and how it had advanced. Unfortunately, those plans did not pan out as I had expected them to. I have spent most of break working on my graduate assistantship position because I worked less over the fall semester and had to make up time over the winter break. With that in mind, I figured that this blog I would explain what I do for my graduate assistantship since it is a subject I have not touched on yet. Hopefully next blog which will arrive on the 3rd of February, I will be back in the swing of things and be able to discuss my thesis in more detail for you all to read. I am quite looking forward to it.
Now, let’s move on to my graduate position.  I work under one of the professors in the architecture department as a research assistant. For this position I am working, along with two undergraduate students, on creating diagrams and images for various buildings that will be complied into a book the professor is currently writing. The book focuses on the tectonic and stereotomic relationships that different buildings have as well as other major components such as details and construction.
The first project we worked on was the Swiss Sound Box designed by Peter Zumthor for the Hanover World Exposition in 2000. The entire structure is built out of wood and was designed to be assembled, used by the exposition, and then disassembled at the end. The structure is composed of compression joints so that the wood would remain untouched by fasteners and able to be used in other applications once the exposition was complete. It was also designed to appeal to the senses and allow for the environment to interact with both the structure and the people interacting with it. As you can see in the image below, the wood was placed in stacks that would allow for passages and open relaxation spaces in-between them for people to experience. There were metal gutters placed on top of a roof assembly that would direct water away from the passages but at the same time allow for the sounds to reverberate through the entire pavilion.
Image Credit:

For each building in the book, there are a set of diagrams [and photographs] that help illustrate to the reader various information. There are basic floor plans and sections as you would see with any building but there are also a lot of smaller details that help to show the construction. Some of the diagrams I worked on for this specific building included how the stacks were assembled in relation to foundation, wood, and roof connection; while others focused on the anatomy of the building and how the building can be broken down into different elements. The image below is the anatomy for a specific ‘stack area’ of the Swiss Sound Box that was created for the book.

Along with the Swiss Sound Box, there are four other buildings that have been worked on for the book between myself and the two undergraduates. These buildings are the Bruder Klaus Field Chapel in Germany, the Chapel of Retreat at the base of the Swiss Alps, and the Peninsula House located in Australia. Over the break I have been working on the diagrams and images for the Peninsula House and will hopefully have it completed soon and will be able to move onto the next building in the book.
I hope you enjoyed this insight into what I have been working on over the past semester and winter break for my graduate assistantship, it has been a great opportunity for me and I am enjoying it every step of the way. One of my favorite things about architecture is trying to figure out how a building is assembled or constructed which I mentioned before as a main reason for why I chose my specific thesis topic and this assistantship has allowed me to gain a better understanding of this for multiple building as well as take what I have learned and put it towards what I will be working on for it in the future. Perhaps down the road I can take another blog post and make it about the other buildings I have worked on, but for right now most of my attention will be on my thesis topic for these blog posts in the near future. 

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