Thursday, November 20, 2008

Contest #1: Best name for this "fine fellow"

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.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wolf D. Prix and Himmelb(l)au

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.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sketches of Frank Gehry

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.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Dark House

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:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sketches of Frank Gehry v.s. Hoop Dreams

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.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Kengo Kuma

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.

For a lot of pictures and information on Kengo Kuma click this entire sentence.

Monday, November 3, 2008

magazines and a lecture today

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.