With tests around the corner, I feel an invisible presence guiding me toward the books. My conscience? HAH! Also, I haven't felt creative lately. Wound up and waiting to go home. It's a tough environment to even doodle in.
This Bull Terrier (recreated with the Bamboo tablet above) is on a card my mom gave me from a devoured care package. She writes:
Dave, I hope you enjoy these snacks, I made some of them (you can probably tell)! But I'm sure the fine fellow on this card would enjoy them too! Love, Mom
No doubt! Now the winner of this contest (decided by fate) wins something neat and perfect for them. And since we don't know the winner yet, the prize is TBD! So no shame, shout um out, I know you get plenty names.
This Thursday at 7pm two things will be happening at the same time. My economics test and a lecture by architect Wolf D. Prix at the Cooper Union. Having never heard of this guy (which isn't a surprise), I checked out his site (which has awesome slide shows) and became very interested.
His work merits further research but sadly, I probably won't be in attendance. I assure you though, click that link and check out his sexy buildings. They have a certain, European (German) sleekness; it's his James Bond to my (our) John McClane.
This documentary by director Sydney Pollack of non-documentary fame follows Frank Gehry. From sketches, physical models, computer models, and finally to the actual building, we see how Gehry creates some of the most whimsical, fantastic structures around.
Where to start? Let's pick the lowest fruit and eat what's easiest. Frank Gehry's process begins with a simple sketch and model. Then, he will continuously tweak his models from every angle until he likes how it all looks. Watching this tweaking is like watching doves (or pigeons) mate. At the end you're a little disappointed, thinking, that's it?
I'm disappointed because that's my process too. I take one thing, like a living room, or a patio area and expand, adjusting as I go. And there's something about that method I don't like. Where's the inspiration? Where's the crazy, artistic madness? Where do you get those shapes Gehry?
Ah, the redemption! Gehry's answer to this question of inspiration turned a lackluster film into a real joy. His response, "everywhere. I find inspiration everywhere." Frank Gehry gives an example which I'll expand on: trash cans. In NYC trash cans are pretty well looked after but sometimes, after a street fair or something, they'll be overflowing. Inside there may be drink trays, banana peels, apple cores, cardboard boxes, ruined clothes, used florescent light bulbs (the long type), fast food paraphernalia, and so on. To me, that's rubbish. But to Gehry, that's structure.
Imagine viewing the world through those, architecture spectacles. Now every shape, it's relationship to other shapes, become the building blocks. They become the vision. Leonardo Da Vinci acquired the first 3d depiction of the brain's ventricles by filling them with a hardening goo. He later cut the brain away and had a perfect cast of its juicy insides. That's partly what Gehry does.
He explained this using another example. A Renaissance painting of Jesus and some other people inspired him. He said the way the silhouettes and outlines of different people and objects flowed together, just worked. That ability to see those relationships and imagine a beautiful, physical structure from that is...wonderful.
Well thanks Frank. A new perspective and a new way to view the world is a great thing.
The other day, I learned that architects put great thought into the spirit, or essence of their buildings. They wrestle with ways to capture a quality in that time and place. At this point in my education I usually need that quality slowly explained several times to understand. And even then, I'm glazing over wondering, "What's all this?"
Whether the general public knows about the philosophy behind a beautiful building or not, it's still beautiful. In that long, PBS documentary about Frank Lloyd Wright this quality/essence/spirit aspect didn't appear. The man simply "gave his clients beautiful spaces to be in." More research needed on what the guy thought about.
I'm in a silly position of having a time, but no place. My place is on a yellow legal pad where I sketch. Imagination will have to do for now.
Anyway, after weeks of having done nothing on SketchUp, I finally did. It's weird how it works. I can sit with SketchUp open and want to model something and very often produce absolutely nothing over an hour or two. But when I feel inspired, the entire structure is banged out in twenty or thirty minutes. So this is a Dark House:
My computer is a lot like me. It overheats easily and becomes loud and annoying. I cannot, literally, hear a DVD on this thing because the fan wails continuously. So I've had the Coen brother's Barton Fink for over a month now and I'm giving up, sending it back. But now, a new dilemma: Sketches of Frank Gehry or Hoop Dreams?
"Sketches" follows Frank Gehry's process from sketching his concept, to physically modeling, to computer modeling, to actual building. That's the whole deal purddy muucchh.
Hoop Dreams follows two high school students from a Chicago ghetto who have consciously chosen to focus on basketball to better themselves. "Strife and setbacks befall them at every turn. Will they succeed?" Cliff hanger!
Whaddya think? Hoop Dreams is epic, over three hours. I like that. But "Sketches" could have greater relevance. It probably does actually. No it definitely does. And yet, inspiration isn't a science, Hoop Dreams could do wonders...
Note: You may be thinking, "So he's exchanging one DVD that he cannot hear for another DVD that he will not be able to hear." And you're right. I am doing that.
Last night Kengo Kuma spoke at Cooper Union about his current works, dating back twenty years. His goal has been to "recover the tradition of Japanese buildings" for the 21st century. My limited conception of Japanese, Chinese, or Asian architecture flying kicks from kung fu montages and typical scenic photos. But, Kuma has proved me wrong. I unknowingly know more than I thought..
For example, Frank Lloyd Wright spent some time in Japan. And I watched a long documentary about Wright so I'm comfortable bragging about him like a close relative. Many of his houses, with long, horizontal edges, and a thin, light feeling arouse the same sentiments that older Japanese, modern architects do. Even Kuma, this generation's Japanese architect, while creating fundamentally different structures, still shoves that Japanese aura in your face. And like your milk shake, I drink it up!
One thing stuck out for me about Kuma's presentation. Many of his project pictures (other than the blueprints) were purely artistic. We're given plenty of night shots with beautiful lighting. Many photos are taken at amusing angles capturing neat perspectives: in-house lily pads, Shire-worthy green grass through floor to ceiling windows, perfectly aligned bamboo walls, or glass reflecting the surrounding nature. All very awesome and coffee-book table material. He admits criticism for these pretty pictures which don't show the entire building in a practical way.
But that aesthetic emphasis was the most important point he made (indirectly) for me. I imagined him saying, "So what if I took all these beautiful photographs? I understand they aren't exactly of my building, but more importantly, this is what you see from my building." His structures complement the surrounding environment. They exalt nearby fields/mountains/ponds by arranging the building to observe nature. But it's more than that. He gives you a way, a "how" to observe. And in doing so, he says something about the purpose of these buildings.
An anecdote to explain. Nature excursions. Camping with your family, a long hike, mountain climbing, diving, exploring a remote coastal beach, fishing, sight-seeing natural phenomenon, you get the idea. These activities are all basic. Like cheap soap, we get a...dare I say, "grassroots" feeling from them. And how many times have you felt odd when in those elemental moments, immersed under a night sky of Milky Way stars illuminating a rising Haleakala Crater around you, someone's cell phone goes off and it's Alicia Keys screaming "NO ONE! NO ONE! NO ONNEEEEEEEUHHHHHAAAHH!"? Serenity broken. Everyone starts talking about how great that song is, how they're craving McDonald's, how it's colder now then only seconds before, and soon enough the stars fade, LCD screens light the land, and we're in the cabin doing mad libs.
Kengo Kuma's houses and buildings don't one-up nature. There is no competition or hierarchy, only a respectful relationship. Kuma keeps his spaces simple because sometimes, it isn't the space that needs attention, but rather its surroundings. There's more to say, but that anecdote about Haleakala Crater drained me.
Note: I'm just having fun when I write hypercritical anecdotes. But I do hate that song, LCD screens at night, and talk about craving fast food like it's something magical or worth getting sweaty over. Mad libs can stay.
During the summer I looked forward to the new issues of Dwell, Atomic Ranch, Case Da Abitare, and a few others. But in this school-basketball frenzy I've completely forgotten about those magazines. They were my exclusive sources of learning and I've dropped them.
Today, I'll be attending a lecture/interview by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. I don't know who this guy is but he's done many projects (large and small) that have a serenly oriental feel. Think forbidden kingdom courtyards, simple, light, uncluttered, strict, and perfectly clean. From the few pictures I've seen, that's the feeling I get from his houses and buildings.
With magazines and a lecture in my future, today is going to be full of learning.
Green building is today's topic. What is this? I don't know. Solar panels and wind sticks? Wood bad and white, sleek materials good? I don't have any answers to these deep and important questions right now (sorry), but I found a flickr group with plenty of neat (and not so) pictures of green buildings/areas. Carouse, I mean caruise, the images for a bit. I mean look at.
Or, put on my glasses and check out the following, a few I like plenty:
The Empire State Building is lit green tonight! Hulk green. Secret of the Ooze green.
Anyway, the creative rumblings I wrote about over the weekend haven't amounted to anything. Inspiration troubles me. And I want to think this one out a bit...
Should I beat myself up at being unable to produce great-looking buildings (at least on paper or SketchUp) right now? Is that creative quality just not there? I should specify the "creative quality" here as pure and producing completely new designs/ideas. We're talking about the first guy to say, "I'm going to squeeze these things hanging off this big cow animal and drink whatever comes out."
But even that example clouds the issue. My concern isn't being the first for the sake of novelty. Anyone can do something wildly original. What I really want is to produce a good design. And thinking back, I feel best about the sketches or models which have focused on making one particular quality the best it can be.
This quality, for me, has usually been a view. I've been lucky enough to see very beautiful places. So imagining a scenic ocean, a beautifully intricate city, giant redwoods, serene lakes and mountains is often my inspiration. I'm most happy with my designs when they allow for a great way to see these places.
And yet, I can't use the same formula every time. I'd be telling the same joke over and over and that's silly. I'd get bored. So a new perspective is needed here. A new way to think about starting. A new way to conceive of creating pleasuring, enhancing spaces. More thought on this to come...
Well I tried modeling an earlier sketch and it looked terrible. The entire thing lacked inspiration and plus, "Hook" was on TBS, followed by "A Knight's Tale." Show me anything that competes with that lineup and I'll show you a liar. Yep.
So maybe all the basketball playing numbs the creative mind. I did randomly feel inspired to plan to make rock garden art though. Hey this is a topic!
China and Japan have rock gardeners. The Chinese variety create "gongshi," or "scholar stones." They'll find some great, large stone or coral and carve holes, curves, or edges into it. At this point, I imagine the stone looks beat up and silly, hardly polished or worth showing off. Then the gardener will take this carved stone to a river or beach and submerge it. Sleepin' with the fishes!
The rock will get a nice rub down from the passing water. The gardener will wait ten, fifteen, twenty, or however many years until this rock has been rubbed just right. Then he'll (or she'll) put it into a garden and I bet it'll look great. Very zen no?
I go back to Hawaii this winter break and da' family owns a Kaneohe beach house with a pier that'd be perfect for rock gardening. Looking forward to it! Amazing to think of undertaking a project that will comprise a significant fraction of my life. I've never really cultivated something for that long... have you?
I haven't sketched or modeled any buildings for awhile, but something is coming soon. I'm getting those rumblings deep in my psychological bowels and whatever happens, it'll be an explosive mess. Psychologically.
I wrote a post called "modern house deja vu" earlier this month and timidly asserted that modern houses look the same. And this was further affirmed just minutes ago as one of the "blogs I like" posted their "Best Moco Architecture this Week." Here are a few of their favorites:
I'm not sure what to make of it. A lot of people comment about these pictures (on other blogs) saying, "I want to live there! Cool!" Do you agree with their feelings? I'm not quite sold yet. When will this delight wear off?
The "Naked House" highlighted below this post featured no structural rooms. That concept, of an open house with little privacy, appealed to me greatly. After all, I've got nothing to hide... So here's my take:
I'm waiting for the subway. It's 4am and all I want is my bed and an open window. Will I pull the trigger onto the train tracks or try to make it back with some honor? Those are my only concerns. So, in this preoccupation, I felt surprised when the conductor announced 125th street. That is not where I want to be. I want to be at Fulton street, on the opposite side of Manhattan. I had caught the wrong train heading the wrong direction.
No biggie, I'll just catch one back. But I'm on the wrong side of the track now. I need to be on the other side. Which means I need to walk to the stairs, go up them, walk over, and go down the stairs. At 415am, feeling slow and ready to lose weight, this is near impossible. I'd really like to just jump down to the tracks, walk five yards across, and be there!
Can you relate? Sure you can! Everyone has been at some park where a bunch of kids are playing soccer and you've got to walk all the way around their game to get someplace. It's terrible. Now, the same can be said for houses right? I hate having to go around walls to get some place. I want to walk straight to what I need (usually the fridge), and not in any weird or curvy path.
The answer? I give you the "Naked House" by Shigeru Ban Architects. And this completely blew my mind when I saw it. It's just wild. They have given their client a house which is an aesthetically appealing, rather beautiful-looking, rectangular warehouse. And like a jet hanger, there's not much structure inside. No walls, no hallways, and no stairs to tell you where you can and can't walk.
Instead, through the glory of creativity, you have these giant boxes on wheels that turn into bedrooms, studies, or whatever that can be arranged however you like. It's a different take on creating a worthwhile, pleasing space. The area can evolve. It can turn into a rollerblading rink. Do what you will! Learn more from the architect himself here.