4.13.2007


4.12.2007


4.08.2007

Rotterdam signs in...



This one's clearly for Jesse...I make no promises, but here are the Europeans, in action. From http://www.boijmans.rotterdam.nl/smartsite229.dws?goto=2133409&style=1621, which came from http://blogger.xs4all.nl/chmkoome/. Go figure.

Good luck and good progress to you all!

3.09.2007

Collage

The pieces of paper (those vehicles of colour) which Le Corbusier pasted to sheets of drawing paper have an essential function for this artist who chose building as his vocation: they structure space…The symbolic presence of these luminous blocks, solidly moored to the margins of the page or else distributed over the picture surface with a lively feeling for formal rhythms and chromatic reverberation, enables Le Corbusier to shift from one plane to another, to capture the mobility of the external world and bring it into the picture. From the tectonic tension animating the image, restraining extemporaneous impulses without altogether suppressing them, there arise certain of the fundamental architectural principles which Le Corbusier strove to concretize: the idea of contrasting solid and transparent walls, the notion of free circulation within a constructed space, unobstructed passage from up to down, front to back – as free as the way the eye slides from one point on the horizon to another”[1]

Collage is a way of making space. From the beginning, collage has played a critical role in the development of this thesis project. Early on in the process, the relationship between my collages and the projected design work was ambiguous and disjointed. I wanted to maintain the independence of these two modes of creation and did not want to force the design to develop out of my decidedly arbitrary and automatic art-making or to put my art into the service of a more straightforward architectural design. I still maintain that in terms of practice, architecture does not equal art, and that this thesis is a design project in the service of art and artists rather than a work of art in itself. However, while the collages are still meant to stand on their own as individual works of art, the notion of collage as a process of making space that I have derived from this work can now be applied to the design conception and process. The building’s relationship to collage is based on process rather than representation. It is not a collage in itself, it becomes a collage through its inhabitation.
The radical program of this thesis calls for a flexible environment for making, a participatory structure that liberates young artists from the constraints of the classroom by allowing them to continually reshape the individual and collective spaces of the facility.
The architecture remains latent until the participant artists of the program activate it through artistic production, social interaction and architectural reconfiguration. Moveable walls and operable environmental controls are a key component of this design, yet in themselves they do not comprise a truly flexible architecture. Sanford Kwinter describes Toyo Ito’s design process for the Sendai Mediatheque “not as a system of actions committed upon matter but rather of actions that take place within it.”
[2] While Ito’s projects deals with the ethereal world of digital media rather than the decidedly material world of art practice,the architecture of Artists for Humanity similarly exists to support the actions and interactions of its youth and mentor artists. Through production, aggregation and reconfiguration, a constantly transforming three dimensional collage will be generated, in which few of the pieces are ever glued down, where changing social dynamics, lighting conditions and stages of artistic incompleteness will compose the space.
Thus I am not suggesting that the architectural proposal will come to resemble one of the collages that I have displayed alongside my design drawings. The architecture of this thesis is more akin to the 12”x16” sheets of Arches Watercolor paper on which I have drawn a squared grid before painting and collaging found images onto its surfaces. Collage is a process of establishing relationships between diverse media. As I cut out complimentary images and add lines and zones of color, the composition is constantly registered against the rectangular constraints of the paper and the grid. “The grid is a skeleton waiting to be fleshed out. It is about hierarchy, the permanent frame is something upon which more mutable things are hung.”
[3]The 8’x 8’ grid of this project provides for a systematic approach to structure, daylighting, services and flexibility. It is a baseline against which the action of the space can be registered. Its accommodation of these systems within horizontal layers allows for complete freedom in between. Within this framework, my personal approach to collage can be reintroduced as a method of imagining the various permutations of inhabitation. By focusing on the process of space-making through collage, a truly free and flexible architecture can be developed that is both shaped by and in service of artistic practice.
[1] Rodari, Florian. Collage: Pasted, Cut and Torn Papers. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. 1988. p. 126-127
[2] Kwinter, Sanford. The Sendai Solid. CASE: Toyo Ito – Sendai Mediatheque. Munich: Prestel Verlag, 2002. p. 29
[3] Fontein, Lucie. Reading Structure through the Frame. Perspecta 31. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000. p. 52

2.18.2007

Painting in Process






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2.08.2007


2.04.2007

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1.29.2007

Malakoff Geology

1.26.2007

jack londinium


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1.25.2007

fun


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1.24.2007

Shuijing in Studio



To all: Nice to be back amongst and amidst you...

It was one of those moments, talking with Shuijing, here in graduate school from the capital of China . Always a sense of the distant place she comes from, even as she makes such an earnest effort to communicate. (To make things objective, share in common.) Late afternoon, ninth floor of Wurster Hall, wide bank of windows to the south, looking out over misty winter rooftops of Berkeley and Oakland, backlit by the sun. Beautiful light. Desks still unsettled--not yet inhabited--it's just the beginning of the term. A rucksack, computer gear, pile of books and notes. Shadow opening on concrete wall--the new seismic pour--a burnished gray expanse, maybe four-feet thick, heavily reinforced... and within, another shadow, someone you almost know...

We were sitting and talking about her project in Beijing--to bring old forms into a world made entirely new... Raking light on wall just beyond, and the one curious non-Bauhaus arch... Pulled out my cell-phone camera, another kind of eye--like the story by the assistant of Joseph Cornell--riding with him on a bus once, somewhere in Queens, he noticed Cornell looking out the window and up into the sky--broad daylight, but the moon, quite visible, high above...

Malakoff Diggins Section


Hundreds of millions of years ago, a massive chunk of earth, submerged under the sea, was thrust upward as another piece rammed under it. Water was unwittingly trapped in this process, heated to extremes under the intense pressure of the earth. During this process, all sorts of minerals were dissolved into the water: chlorine, fluorine, boron, sulphur, tellurium, silica, and gold. When there was a fissure between the two plates, the pressurized water would be released from the earth, leaving behind a crystallized vein of quartz, marbled with gold, as the minerals were released. Over time, the ancestors of our modern rivers eroded these veins, carrying with them the gold deposits along their riverbeds.
Eventually, immigrants discovered this eroded gold in the streambeds of these ancient river’s descendants—the modern Yuba and American Rivers. A few years later and hundreds of thousands of people more, all this placer gold (or gold deposited in streams by erosion) had been removed from the stream beds using a simple pan or Long Tom. When things stopped “panning out”, the new immigrants turned to more complex sources; they began to seek “pay dirt” in the quartz veins of the mother lode itself as well as the buried, ancient streambeds of the ancestral rivers. To efficiently mine these buried riverbeds, a new mining technique had to be invented: hydraulic mining. Channeling the water of the existing rivers, the immigrants used pressurized monitors to remove the silt of the ancestral rivers. As the silt and gravel was washed away, mercury was added to remove the tiny particles of gold, transforming the earth into toxic mine tailings. These tailings were washed back into the present river systems, chocking the natural flow of water. The short-term removal of millions of years of sedimentation left devastating ecological consequence; little could grow in the newly exposed gravel, and what could grow was forced to exist in toxic levels of mercury.
Between its inception in 1853 and it cessation in 1883, hydraulic mining removed 1.25 billion cubic yards of earth—more than eight times that of the Panama Canal. At Malakoff Diggins alone, around 50 million yards were washed downstream, chocking the Yuba River and creating devastating floods and mercury contamination downstream. This section shows the geological composition of the site. Before hydraulic mining, the ground was over 400’ higher; what you see here is an enormous pit.

Hydraulic Mining on the Ancestral Yuba River

1.22.2007

http://berkeley-2007-branner.blogspot.com/

Folks--I've got a blog up based on our glorious forum and it's linked up with Yuki and Ivan, if you want to keep tabs. Hope things are going well. I'm enjoying my time truly madly deeply.

Dispersion: Family, Identity, and the Delocalized Home

Where’s home? Usually an innocuous question, to some it is cause for consternation. To ease confusion, the question can be rephrased. Where do you live? Universally less ambiguous, this question can be answered with little hesitation. But why should there be a distinction between the two inquiries?
Home connotes a single geographical space. City, region, and country are often called upon to describe the condition of Home. Associations tied to place are privileged and often dominate meanings of Home. Furthermore, the idea of Home is coupled with the idea of family. Home is the territory where family is defined.
The geographic fragmentation of family is a common contemporary condition. The dispersed family often requires a reinterpretation of Home. Thus, my thesis proposes to investigate the meaning of Home as the territory in which the shared identity of the geographically dispersed family is constructed.
In this investigation, I will draw upon personal ideas of Home and family. Although personally relevant, conditions of fragmentation, asynchronicity, plurality, and dispersion are also representative of a general postmodern reality. In assessing an alternate nature of Home, I will consider globalizing trends including increased personal mobility and electronic communication, multiple sites of habitation, and wider social and infrastructural networks. As local spatial conditions dissolve or become blurred, temporal coordinates are elevated to emphasize and anchor the meaning of Home.
In trying to reformulate the idea of Home, I will be examining my own family and the ways we negotiate family identity despite geographic separation. I will characterize how we communicate, forms of interaction, and our routines. As an alternative to place-centered definitions of Home, I have begun to envision Home as a kind of geographically dispersed infrastructure facilitating familial interactions, traditions, and rituals usually carried out in a typical home. In doing so, I will be exploring Home not through the redesign of a house, but through multiple (probably small-scale) architectural interventions that will involve existing infrastructure, institutions, and networks.
In envisioning Home as an infrastructure for the negotiation of family identity, I will begin by considering the synthesis of the supermarket and the automobile. Providing, respectively, for the modern necessities of sustenance and commuting, they represent a link to domesticity. As a context for daily life, these institutions are ubiquitous locally, nationally, and internationally. By considering these institutions as a departure point, I emphasize the prosaic aspects of domesticity in the construction and negotiation of family identity.

Making Space (Dan)

The life and work of the artist is intricately tied to the space in which he or she practices. Understanding the space of the artist at multiple levels of experience is essential to the development of the program and the architecture of this thesis. The studio is a personal and private space, organized and continually reconfigured to suit the individual artist’s needs. Yet while the individual artist has the right and perhaps the duty to express themselves as such, the work of the artist is most meaningful when it is part of the shaping of a collective spirit or vision amongst these diverse individuals. Thus the studio is understood not as a site of isolation but of community. Communities of artists can in turn use their vision to participate in and possibly transform the culture of the city in which they practice. Many artists communities thrive in the Bay Area, but for high school students in urban schools who often feel disenfranchised and voiceless within the confines of classroom and who might have limited opportunities to make art, the provision of a space in which they can be themselves, learning and making in an environment where they feel comfortable, can be life-changing.
My thesis project will define educational, operational and spatial program for a distinctive arts program tentatively called the Bay Area Youth Artists for Humanity (BayAFH). Developed in collaboration with an existing program in Boston which began in 1991, it will bring together Bay Area high school students and practicing artists to produce artwork for practice, exhibition and sale. I will propose a visionary design to house BayAFH on a group open lots at 4th and Washington Streets in the Jack London District of Oakland. The design will reflect the philosophy and long-term goals of the program rather than a smaller, more realistic, approach to providing space for BayAFH in the immediate future. It will promote a positive, dynamic relationship between the individual participants, between the working artist and the youthful artist in the process of becoming; between BayAFH artists and the immediate community; and between all of these players and the larger cultural life of the city. My thesis tries to establish a model for a community art center whose programs and physical assets could establish it as a permanent feature of a reviving neighborhood, protecting it from being pushed aside in the gentrification process, and instead embracing and leading the coming change. A new model for community based art education is needed to insure relevance, accessibility and viability. In order to empower Oakland’s youth through art, they must be able to express themselves through both physical artifacts and a social involvement with each other, their mentors, and the community.
This is an architecture at the service of artists, and the design aims to establish a more dynamic and reciprocal relationship between architectural and art practice, education and exhibition. Rather than designing the building as a finished product, it will be a framework that the inhabitants can transform and augment as they see fit. The design process will unfold through the investigation of four principle criteria of flexibility, sustainability, light and fun.

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Piranesi


Piranesi's drawings of Roman ruins-somewhat exaggerated and filled with stories. The first is Communal Tomb and the second is the Tomb in Campagna both are from Antichita romane II

plan drawings


The first drawing is a memory of walking in downtown, near the railroad tracks on a spring afternoon a couple years ago / the second is of my family's homestead on the outskirts of the city - I have not scanned the larger drawings that accompany these yet, but I'll bring them to class.

Birmingham Stories

Title:
Birmingham: Fragments of a Magic City

Statement:
“I am reminded that what gives a city its special character is not just its topography or its buildings but rather the sum total of every chance encounter, every memory, letter, color, and image jostling in its inhabitants’ crowded memories after they have been living, like me, on the same streets for fifty years.” Orhan Pamuk from Istanbul

Perhaps place is the mixing of story and space. Since environment alone is not inherently significant, place arises when we endow significance upon a space, and we bestow significance to spaces filled with memory. Juhani Pallasmaa writes “architecture is always the home of spirits, the dwelling place of metaphysical beings.” I’d alter this statement to read – architecture is always the home of stories, the dwelling place of memory. Stories and memory are linked to place in a way that they become ridiculous when imagined in different settings. They are the foundation of place, and it’s necessary to understand them to begin to understand a city.

This project is a search for the essence of Birmingham, for what gives and allows the place to retain its character. Finding an appropriate way to characterize the city is difficult; it was born as an industrial center, but lives today as something very different. To document the physical environment today would misrepresent what the city is, what it was, and destroy the myth of the place. The modern city is duplicated, even ambiguous, but in stories, we preserve the particulars of a culture. A complete representation of the city today can be found in the memories and stories of its inhabitants.

The program of this thesis is somewhat simple: to construct spaces around the stories and memories set in Birmingham, to map them as a city of myth, and to collect these places in a book. Complexity arises when we consider issues such as: what stories should be included, how memory should be represented, or how stories are organized or mapped in a legible way.

Stories are recounted from memories, and our memories are faulty, fragmented, and specific. In “In a Room and a Half” Joseph Brodsky says that what “memory has in common with art is the knack for selection, the taste for detail….Memory contains precisely details, not the whole picture; highlights if you will, not the entire show.” On top of faulty memory, stories themselves are stretched and exaggerated, often only loosely based on the actual event. In the end, they are detached from the initial, physical site and placed in exaggerated spaces. I’d like to construct those exaggerated spaces and contain the stories within them. Finally, I’d like to compile the city and the stories in a book. In this way the stories can be what they are, fragments composing a city – chapters composing a book. The maps and drawings can be indexed to their stories, and the entire project will form a complete representation of Birmingham, the Magic City.

1.21.2007

Domain

Intelligent Building Skin:
Discussions on Interactive Membrane System and Acupunctural Theory

Since the 1990s, the architectural design context has undergone significant change, primarily due to global economic and environmental pressures. Within this increasingly complex framework evidenced in both pedagogy and practice, architecture is evolving into much more than simple problem solving; it necessitates research that is ongoing, collaborative and experimental. Unlike the mid-century design environment, contemporary design now engages computation, engineering and the sciences. Architects invent and innovate by designing their own software, implementing advanced computational methods, as well as creating prototype systems. Responsible designers must also address serious environmental issues —sustainability and global natural disaster response. At the present time, human life patterns are not operating in balance with the physical environment, and even well-designed architecture may no longer be responsive to changing human needs. Therefore, as a considered response to these demands, it is my intention to investigate development of an intelligent membrane system. This could be conceived either as a sensing building skin in an urban context or as modular intelligent cells. In this way, architecture can become more responsive to fluctuating environmental and human activities.
This research project proposes the development of an intelligent building skin through an integration of western and eastern medicine. From both perspectives, there are distinct concentration therapies and medical approaches to the skin. In response to energy conservation and global natural disasters, a study of acupunctural theory from the eastern perspective and its possible application to building technology holds promise and reveals a new system for the design of building skin via intelligent agency, instrumentations, and materials. Considering the building as a networked system, sensors would be employed to collect and distribute data; this intelligent skin would then be able to intercommunicate and interact with complex information at various levels of scale, including the urban scale. By applying a new system, either as an intelligent membrane to buildings within the urban context or by the development of modular intelligent cells at the façade of an individual building, architecture could be more responsive to multiple environments and variable, intermittent human activities.
Tamshui, located in the north Taiwan, is chosen as the site of this experiment. Since it has been ruled by Spain, Netherlands and Japan, the city is full of heterogeneous cultures and features. What we can see from today’s Tamshui is pieced up by these different cultures. As time and trends changed, when turning around again to explore this city, we cannot help asking: what is Tamshui? What is its gesture? What have the features, colors and smells of Tamshui offered to people today in terms of their feelings and memories? By applying a new intelligent membrane system along the river bank of the city, including several partial construction renewals and installations, a new skin could be provided as a hybrid filter for gathering multiple information and hetero-nostalgia.

Domain

Intelligent Building Skin:
Discussions on Interactive Membrane System and Acupunctural Theory

Since the 1990s, the architectural design context has undergone significant change, primarily due to global economic and environmental pressures. Within this increasingly complex framework evidenced in both pedagogy and practice, architecture is evolving into much more than simple problem solving; it necessitates research that is ongoing, collaborative and experimental. Unlike the mid-century design environment, contemporary design now engages computation, engineering and the sciences. Architects invent and innovate by designing their own software, implementing advanced computational methods, as well as creating prototype systems. Responsible designers must also address serious environmental issues —sustainability and global natural disaster response. At the present time, human life patterns are not operating in balance with the physical environment, and even well-designed architecture may no longer be responsive to changing human needs. Therefore, as a considered response to these demands, it is my intention to investigate development of an intelligent membrane system. This could be conceived either as a sensing building skin in an urban context or as modular intelligent cells. In this way, architecture can become more responsive to fluctuating environmental and human activities.
This research project proposes the development of an intelligent building skin through an integration of western and eastern medicine. From both perspectives, there are distinct concentration therapies and medical approaches to the skin. In response to energy conservation and global natural disasters, a study of acupunctural theory from the eastern perspective and its possible application to building technology holds promise and reveals a new system for the design of building skin via intelligent agency, instrumentations, and materials. Considering the building as a networked system, sensors would be employed to collect and distribute data; this intelligent skin would then be able to intercommunicate and interact with complex information at various levels of scale, including the urban scale. By applying a new system, either as an intelligent membrane to buildings within the urban context or by the development of modular intelligent cells at the façade of an individual building, architecture could be more responsive to multiple environments and variable, intermittent human activities.
Tamshui, located in the north Taiwan, is chosen as the site of this experiment. Since it has been ruled by Spain, Netherlands and Japan, the city is full of heterogeneous cultures and features. What we can see from today’s Tamshui is pieced up by these different cultures. As time and trends changed, when turning around again to explore this city, we cannot help asking: what is Tamshui? What is its gesture? What have the features, colors and smells of Tamshui offered to people today in terms of their feelings and memories? By applying a new intelligent membrane system along the river bank of the city, including several partial construction renewals and installations, a new skin could be provided as a hybrid filter for gathering multiple information and hetero-nostalgia.

1.11.2007

artists in action

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1.08.2007

imagined spaces...



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12.29.2006

space for makers in a post-material world


“I combat and despise the use of massive, voluminous, durable, antiquated and costly materials…and proclaim [an] architecture of calculation, of audacious temerity and of simplicity; the architecture of steel, glass, cardboard, textile fiber, and all those substitutes…that enable us to obtain maximum elasticity and lightness…We have lost our predilection for the monumental, the heavy, the static, and we have enriched our sensibility with a taste for the light, the practical…[the] agile, mobile, and dynamic in every detail.”

–Antonio Sant’elia, Manifesto of Futurist Architecture, 1914

“this primordial attention to the body forms the basis of an architecture closer to clothing, to wrapping, to a mise en scene…”

-Ignasi de Sola-Morales from Plumbing:sounding modern architecture


This thesis proposes the construction of temporary live/work units in existing West Oakland warehouses, preserving industrial use while providing living and production space for architects, builders, designers and tradespeople.

We are in crisis. The profit-frenzied real estate market now excludes even the middle class in its assumption to own property. This circumstance is no longer limited to a few elite urban centers, but is encroaching everywhere like a rising flood of inopportunity. Particularly acute in the San Francisco bay area, housing is unattainable for the vast majority of the population; recent statistics indicate less than 10% of residents can afford a median priced home. Businesses, particularly small-scale trades, also find themselves priced out of the market in search of affordable commercial property. Compounding the problem, there is pressure to convert existing industrial land to accommodate high-end residential developments. These projects are often disguised as “mixed-use live/work” units, but are in fact large upscale condominiums where no work-like activities actually take place.

Once located in the most undesirable areas of the Oakland waterfront, industrial land grew up out of the tidal flood plains, expanding as the mudflats were filled, initially with the immediate estuary dredge. Much of this land is located in West Oakland, its growth inextricable linked to its position as an international transportation hub of water, rail and truck. Today, West Oakland continues to be a nexus of commercial distribution as the skyline dominated by the 20-story shipping cranes of the port attest. The industrial zones’ proximity to the Bay Bridge and connecting highways also make it attractive to residential development as area road travel is painfully clogged with suburban commuters. This suburban sprawl de-volution and its attending problems of uneven growth, transportation woes and the death of urban centers, has brought forth a call for a rethinking of use towards mixed-zoned urban density. There is a growing recognition that living cities, cities wishing to remain economically viable and culturally vibrant, need to preserve local, diverse economies. Commercial industry, particularly non-polluting light industry is an integral part of the living city equation. Historically, residents of West Oakland co-existed with commerce, as workers were required to live within walking distance of the rail and shipyards. The emergence of raw live/work artist lofts mid-century in cities like San Francisco and New York provide a modern example of adaptive reuse of industrial structures for small scale production and living space. Like the aforementioned painter or sculptor, the small scale maker such as the tradesperson, carpenter, stonemason, industrial designer, builder, architect and metal worker requires an architecture that provides a place to reside and produce, a true fusion of live and work where commuting is unnecessary and housing and shop costs are merged, eliminating the necessity of maintaining two separate spaces.

Paradoxically, high demand and astronomical prices co-exist with industrial vacancies. Many warehouses sit empty while the owners play speculative politics, hoping to cash in on future large scale developments. Others wait for planning and zoning approval of existing projects; this process lasting sometimes years before construction or rehabilitation begins. In this seemingly sewn-up circumstance lies opportunity for the installation of temporary live/work units in existing warehouses. It is an opportunity for entry designers to carve out space for making while preserving light industrial zoning, and providing income for owners of otherwise fallow space.

Using these economic loopholes as site suggests an architecture of temporary and mobile installations, both of structure and material, an architecture “of simplicity…of cardboard, textile fiber, and all those substitutes…that enable us to obtain maximum elasticity and lightness.”[1] These notions of impermanency coincide with a modern condition in shift: while the world swirls, we hold on to notions of permanency in architecture: that structure is a enduring object made of solid, long lasting materials, a capital investment for residents who settle. In reality, buildings require constant maintenance, their occupants a population that moves an average of every 3-5 years. The illusion of locational and material permanence then is an ideological veil, one that doesn’t serve a system in crisis and the resultant global consciousness flux.

The developed world, we know, is at a tipping point. It has defined itself by an economy of material glut, cringing disparity and environmental apocalypse, while at the same time driving headlong into a new, virtual landscape heralding the death of the real and the movement of phenomenal boundaries. Economic paths and the cultural terrain are converging: the delusion of material permanence is being questioned. At the same time, we will always inhabit the physical realm. The body, organic, is central, the singular architecture of solidity, sole arbitrator of our “material and symbolic worlds,” the virtual and the real. The 5000-square foot suburban house-museum, designed to contain the accumulation of goods, separated from the urban worksite is obsolete. It is replaced by live/work spatial fusion, sustainable smallness, the itinerantly temporary and decomposing. Opportunity rises from the refuse of commercial venture: trash and leftovers as material, economic loopholes as site. Through logistical stratagem, space for life and labor, despite political and economic impediment, is possible, and in fact is the appropriate engagement of our current collective condition.



[1]Antonio Sant’elia, Manifesto of Futurist Architecture, 1914

12.26.2006

Panoramania





My lovely site in Oakland, CA...
4th & Washington Streets, Jack London District...

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12.20.2006

Death by Freeway

If the angel of history is propelled into the future by the storm of progress, then this storm is most certainly stirred by desire. This desire is a complicated subject, its objects being both the conservative nostalgia of reconstructing the past and the radical utopianism of constructing the future. The present is continuously deconstructed, perceivable only in fragments of vague images. In our attempts to piece them together the immediacy of want betrays the bipolar temporality of desire, that abrasive symbiosis of hope and regret, while the fertile yet one-dimensional collective mind produces of what it is only geometrically capable (chronology).

The aggressive and unyielding vectors of causality cut through the city unrelentingly. The anonymity of the grid is freedom. Comfortably coddled by his mobile psychological infrastructure, the iPod-toting hipster becomes a stoic simulacrum of his more vibrant silhouette. The arteries of the city, lifted as if to meet him, peel away from the valley’s floor and commence the aerial tangle. The automobile, like the progress that it so singularly symbolizes, is fluidly transferred while down below the cells, betrayed, coagulate in the shadows. Trapped as we are in these cells (willingly or not – it is unclear), where the ossifying joints of memory seize us upon our nostalgic trajectory toward utopia’s monolithic asymptote, should we push forward in directions unknown or do we risk desiring nothing more than to meekly tend the glass menagerie?

In the ancient Greek cities the dead were buried in the necropolis, just outside the city walls. This practice both allowed the citizens to use the space within the city walls more effectively and potentially observe prohibitions on burial within the city limits. In the American metropolis today, the city limit is no longer the boundary of inhabitation and hasn’t been for some time. The complete domination of suburban sprawl as the model for American city growth since the 1950s means that the dead buried outside the city limits in the 20th century are now the occupants of new suburban city limits. Colma, California, for instance, is a sprawling landscape of the dead located south of San Francisco and serving as its neighbors burial grounds since the early 1900s when the city passed an ordinance outlawing cemeteries within its limits. Colma now has its own BART station.




Colma, California. The city that waits for the city that waits to die to die.
The desire to remember the dead is dissociated from their physical remains. The bucolic cemetery landscape is a bloated leach in the urban fabric. The paradigm of grave stone architecture territorializes a space and a program that should be a communal space of collective memory. Likewise, we turn our collective mind away from the space beneath the urban infrastructure. The soaring concrete highway overpass is a beautiful, lonely behemoth. I propose to regard the space beneath the freeway as a collective space of memory and desire dislocated from the temporality of being and the linear domination of the automobile.

The act of making is inescapably a process of layering, but the art of making – to borrow Calvino’s words – is “the sudden agile leap of the poet-philosopher who raises himself above the weight of the world, showing that with all his gravity he has the secret of lightness, and that what many consider to be the vitality of the times – noisy, aggressive, revving and roaring – belongs to the realm of death, like a cemetery for rusty old cars.” As during the first industrial revolution when we carved a space in our hearts for the hand crafted, we must now make room for an even more perverse nostalgia – that of the mass-produced monolith. The subject here is the representation of that which is slipping away and only momentarily captured by words. My initial study is to understand what is revealed and what is occluded by the detritus of making.

12.15.2006

This is my thesis proposal (LJ)

New city for next generation( for my thesis proposal)
Name: won jea lee
Option: 2 ( M.arch)

In Korea, there is an unreasonable and one-century retrograding construction policy being processed. It is same with the situation of crumpling one hundred dollar bill to degrade into one dollar bill, and same with the situation of a son’s following his father’s misbehavior without any reflection. What I am talking about is the policy of ‘Saemangeum’. The government of South Korea is transforming the foreshore which has tremendous natural value into a rice field which has one tenth value to the foreshore. The scale of the construction is huge, thus thinking of the construction fee, I can say that it is one thousandth degrading policy. Basically, this policy started 20 years ago. For this reason, there is a criticism about following old policy without any reconsideration, and the government says an excuse that the field could be an industrial region. However, in the industrial field by the ‘Saemanguem’s side, the rate of occupation is low, so logically the excuse making an another industrial field in the ‘Saemangeum’ is meaningless from the start. Already, the construction of making a huge bank on the sea almost comes to the final, and with the death of the foreshore and the self-cleansing action of nature, the pollution of the sea as well as the earth is accelerated. It is because that with the rising and lowing of the water, the nature does a tremendous self-purification. Also, the government already spent huge money on the construction, and they do not have any future plan of the region. That is to say, although it is a totally failed policy in terms of the purpose as well as the process, it is really hard to stop the policy. It is so called a crazy train. The government will spend another 40 billion us dollar on the construction, and we can see the rice field even after 2017.
I can find the former example in Japan. It is the land reclamation project in Isayaman gulf. The site was similar with ‘Saemangeum’ and the scale was one tenth to the ‘Saemangeum’, thus I can anticipate the shape of the ‘Saemanguem’ after 10 years from the Isayaman gulf’s present shape. I can guess the future of the ‘Saemangeum’ from Sato Sinichi’s word (doctor at the Japan Tohoku University total science museum). ‘In several years, the foreshore in ‘Saemangeum’ will be a dead pond at where no living creature is’. There was a lawsuit with a luespotted mud hopper as a plaintiff in 2000 in Japan. The land reclamation project in Isayaman gulf which ignored the right of the nature finally is being concluded as a failed project with the death of the nature and destruction of the fishing people’s life.At such situation, there is another example which I should refer. It is the Mono lake near Los Angeles. At past, as Los Angeles develop, four of the five waterways from the lake were used only for the city, and finally the height of the lake went down more than 33 feet, and the lake transformed into a death salt field, and gulls do not visit the lake anymore. It was because that people thought the water of the lake belongs to only the city. However, in 1997, by the ‘Public request theory’, people began to think that the water of the lake belongs to the public and also to the next generation. And thus the usage of the water by the city was limited and the lake is being restored. Finally, from the two examples, I can say that the ‘Saemangeum’ policy is surely behind the times, and is totally an error being controlled only by the politic power.At such circumstance, in my thesis, I will propose an alternative which can admit the present construction situation, and can save the foreshore as well which is the best purification facility, the mother land of the migratory birds and the nature’s womb. It is the project which links the two existing cities – Gunsan to the north and Buan to the south – and preserves the nature. It is different from the huge ideal city plan which was proposed by the past architect without any practical reason, and different from the past city plan which was possible only after destroying the natural site. I propose the city on the already committed ‘crazy thing’. It is the last chance to retrieve human’s mistake on the nature, and to stop spending one century in vain.At present, the government of South Korea has a plan to make a cultural, leisure and tourism city which can be a landmark of the country on the west coast of the peninsular. It is 10 years’ project as a stronghold of the ‘Han-Ryu’ – the word said by Chinese to call the boom of the popular culture of South Korea over the whole Asia - , as a sustainable developing city which is a paradigm of 21 century tourist development, as a tourism hub of the Northeast Asia which is becoming the market of the 100 million tourists in 2010, and as a ideal rest area of the Korean preparing the era of GNP 30,000 us dollar.For meeting these two big policies happening around Korean west sea, for stopping the destruction of the nature, I propose a city on the ‘Saemangeum’ bank as a hub of the culture, tourism and sustainable development of the Asia. I do not need to kill the foreshore to have a one tenth value degrading rice field, and I do not need to kill the big natural field to construct a big city. This proposal can be the first realization of the linear city which was not ever realized before, simultaneously the only bridge city on the sea. As a symbol of the Asia which is becoming the center of the culture and economy of the world, as a symbol of the sustainable development, I propose a city on the ‘Saemangeum’ bank. I will transform several places of the bank into the bridges to restore the water’s flow. The water’s flow means the restoration of the dead foreshore. A city seems natural when the city functions to where the city is situated and to the environment and nature around, and the scenery from the natural function is the natural shape of the city. For these reasons, I think the fishing industry is the main function of the city. The marine products from the foreshore and near sea are naturally the means of living in the city, and the marine market as well as the restaurants’ region is the part of the city scrapes. Chonla-Do – Do is an administrative district and same with the state in United States - is famous for the delicious food in Korea. The fresh food material and the delicious food is the natural shape of the city and Chonla-Do as well. Finally, the foreshore and the sea characterize the city, and other functions in the city support the system of the city as a self sufficient entity. Educational facilities, environmental facilities, rice field for the citizen, tidal power plant and the multiple experiences of the foreshore and marine market by the change of the tide could be the examples. And the craftsman and traditional arts village also could be other examples because Chonlado is famous for the traditional art. And finally the reason why this city can be a hub of the tourism in Asia is because the city is on the linear bridge on the sea. The shape seen from the earth could be the one which Constant would dream of, the linear lights on the sea at night would be a natural reappearance of the life in the city. The restoration of the foreshore, the respect for the nature, the respect for the right of the next generation and the values which the city contains is the continuation of the common thoughts from the Lao-tzu’s era in the northeastern Asia, and this is why the city could be the representative of the Asia.

12.14.2006

thank you Mark anTony

And everyone. I appreciate the conversation.

12.12.2006

Wandering: Nomads, Vehicles, Inhabitation, + the American West

Abstract:

Current modes of inhabitation are no longer sustainable for many people. Pressures which are economic, societal, and cultural keep us searching for a way of living that is sustainable. Constantly moving, shifting from squalid rental to overpriced rental, to a location where we have no desire to be. I propose the return to a previous form of inhabitation, I propose becoming a nomad. In doing so questions of necessity arise, what does a person need, and what allows each of us to dwell? We occupy a particularly unstable time; the disassociation of people from their roots is ever-increasing. Yet some places always carry prime significance for each of us, to mobilize that significance is the challenge of a mobile dwelling. I propose to change the current ways of inhabitation, to find a way to carry the idea of groundedness across different sites. Mobile inhabitation is the goal. Living, dwelling, inhabiting is a way to find oneself, to be self sufficient enough to be On Walden Pond.

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Intent:

An investigation into the needs of a nomad, and a response in the form of portable habitats in 3 scales: personal, vehicular, and large vehicular: motor home/mobile trailer home. Re-invigorate mobile housing as a practical and economically feasible way to give ownership. Develop methods to facilitate modern mobile living across different time scales. These scales are: the immediate (2-3 days), the short term (up to a couple of years), and the long term. These time scales correspond to different physical sizes: a man-portable device, a small vehicle, and a large vehicle or trailer. Mobility and flexibility are key; reconfiguration and adaptability are at the core of the physical implementations.

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Prototypes + full realization are intended for the two smaller scales.

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De-location [Site]:

The first site is a reconfigured bag; utterly portable.
What needs can be met in this scale? Shelter. Perhaps a bit of water in a jug- or maybe trickling down the seams into pockets like the Dune stillsuits, where the kinesthetic energy of the body is used to drive a filtering processes. Armor/shield. Capacity.

The 2nd+3rd sites are the network of highways, byways, and roads that allow travel by vehicle. Localized to the American West. Some are less accessible than others, and would be more suitable to the smaller size. Drawn like tumbleweeds across the deserts and washed up on the shores of the mountains.... internal combustion provides motive power- biodiesel motors will be the 2nd stage realization- smells like french fries.

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12.04.2006

Green Car

The fertile ground of vehicle architecture.

http://www.cnn.com/2006/AUTOS/12/01/hummer_o2/index.html

i miss image


At last. Keehyun's domain But need more...infinitely...

Queer Constellation in architecture

In recent years, the increasing cultural representation of homosexual concerns and the recent queering of sex-gender identities undoubtedly have effect on urban lifestyle and context. If we look for examples of Queer space, that will be AIDS memorial Quilt, gay village, and certain kinds of public space -- parks, bars and baths. Within the range of subtle social and aesthetic amenities important to service economies, Queer space is one of several competing designing paradigms based on recognition of “difference.” But, so far, queer space is something that is not built, only implied, and usually invisible. Queer space does not confidently establish a clear, ordered space for itself.

Meanwhile, according to Queer Theory, “Queer” embraces a proliferation of sexualities (bisexual, transgender, pre and post-op transsexual) and the compounding of outcast positions along racial, ethnic, and class, as well as sexual lines. In other words, Queer not only troubles the gender asymmetry implied by the phrase “lesbian and gay,” but potentially includes “deviant” and “perverts” why may traverse or confuse hetero-homo division and exceed or complicate conventional delineations of sexual identity and normative sexual practice.

Considering all this respect, I will reconsider architecture’s fundamental regions for deprogramming space. In our society, we have conventionalized and stabilized ritual in acting, whether formally (onstage) or in the street. Likewise, architecture has been concerned with norms as well: with the design of forms and images that aspire to universal and conventional appeal. Architecture has often been employed to “stabilize” or “standardize” social context, rather than to spark creative forms of social change. But I think gay experience and queer-scape architecture, especially when based on modified forms of queer theory, can have the diverse effect.

Queer space will be proposed as different scene in urban area, that functions as a “counterarchitecture”, ‘appropriating, deprogramming, mirroring, and choreographing’ mundane everyday life. I do not mean to imply that only homosexuality can impose new, abstract nature, or that it is the only way to escape from the stricture of our building. But I believe that queer space, because of the certain role we have assigned homosexuality within our society, can afford a certain archetype for deprogrammized architecture. No matter what the sexual preferences of the persons make queer space or use it, I will believe queer space can set up the new way of architectural construction that can subvert existent one.

In terms of the purpose of building, I tried to make space for queers or queers sexuality. It will become community center because there is no specific building to serve visible and powerful queer culture. But, I will be cautious about generating contradiction: that is making architecture for queers is very easy to make segregation from the people, and that is very controversial from Queer theory. The issue is how to dissolve the interference between the sexual preference and complex and controversial philosophy or social network. Furthermore, It will contain diverse activity having mutable, fluid terrain (rather than plate). It could be architectural experiment with miscellaneous spatial species.

Repeatedly, what I am trying to construct by exploring the topic of queer space is not, primarily, an interest in gay culture but a fascination with the idea of the “counterarchitecture” mirroring, deprogramming, and choreographing’ mundane everyday life.

Queries and Plans

The individual talks with each of you were productive--and enjoyable. I think we left it that there WOULD be a class meeting tonight, same time, same place (170 at 7:00). Let's get together there, at least for an hour, to see where everyone's at, and how to proceed...

12.03.2006

Angels Camp





Mining country--along old Highway 49. The goldrush towns--Murphy, Volcano, Mokelumne Hill, brick buildings of imported stature, a Boston cornice, Concord arch--sluices and shutes, all still visible along the higher roads, hillsides giving way to slag, now overgrown, buried, waiting to be reclaimed. The color purple--royalty in ancient times, and beyond--maybe the most artificial of tones, never quite red, never quite blue, but fitting, somehow, as a repository of planted hope. Let it grow over, refurbish, return to earth...

12.02.2006

AFH Boston

Designing with Light

Youthful Exuberance

Art for Sale

Break Time

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11.29.2006

W.G. Clark

"There was a mill near my home town. It was a tall timber structure on a stone and concrete base which held the water wheel and extended to form the dam. One did not regret its beings there, because it made more than itself; it made a millpond and a waterfall, creating at once stillness and velocity; it made reflections and sound. There was an unforgettable alliance of land to pond to dam to abutment to building. It was not a building simply imposed on a place; it became the place, and thereby deserved its being—an elegant offering paid for the use of the stream." --from his essay "Replacement"

Site Proposal




This thesis proposes a site at the intersection of 4th and Washington St. in Oakland, California for the design a new facility to house the envisioned Bay Area Youth Artists for Humanity program. The site is composed of three parcels, currently occupied by a three individual parking lots, two privately and one public. The corner lot, at 409 Washington Street, occupies 7050 square feet and the middle lot, at 518 4th St, occupies 4583 square feet. Both are rectangular sites. The third lot does not have any information readily available about it. It is nearly equal in area, but is roughly triangular in shape, tapering down to just 15 feet wide at the western boundary. All three lots are asphalt paved and surrounded by chain link fence and contain no built structures. In addition, a narrow strip of land tapers off along 4th Street to the east of the second lot, providing a 10 foot buffer between the sidewalk and the BART fence. This parcel would not be built upon but would be included in the landscaping plan.
The site is a residue of open space leftover by the construction of the city’s transportation infrastructure. The tunnel exit/entrance for BART bounds the north side, a deep trench which holds eastbound and westbound subway lines, between concrete retaining walls. One block further north is the merge point for the 880 and 980 freeways. Two blocks south runs the Amtrak and freight rail lines. Beyond that is the Oakland Estuary a shipping channel between Oakland and Alameda that serves the port infrastructure to the west.
Hemmed in by infrastructure, the site sits at a crossroads within Oakland. This neighborhood is well-served by all modes of urban transportation, including bus, subway, train, car and ferry, and yet it is cut off from the center of the city by the linear arrangement of these lines. This condition allowed the conversion of the neighborhood from industrial to commercial and residential to occur, but remains a burden to the area in terms of its physical presence. This industrial/seaport/transportation nexus condition is held in common with many other recently redeveloped areas in the country, such as SOMA in San Francisco, Fort Point in Boston, the Meatpacking District in New York. In all these cases, the confluence of infrastructure facilitated industrial uses, but as this infrastructure was upgraded in the post-war years, the fabric of the neighborhood was torn apart. In these situations, the influx of arts and culture have been a prime means for revitalizing the area. The City of Oakland is cognizant of these factors and has put in much effort to use them to its advantage.
Currently, the area is defined by Jack London Square, a 1970’s mixed-use redevelopment that contains hotels, restaurants, retail and office space. The square was perhaps a good idea in terms of planning but was constructed in an architectural language that is tacky and dated. The square is a prime tourist destination for Oakland but has had much difficulty attracting city residents and has seen many of its retail tenants depart in recent years. The larger area around the square, now called the Jack London District, is a former industrial warehouse zone that now holds a variety of businesses, largely in renovated warehouse spaces. The push for the redevelopment of the area is underway, as outlined in the Oakland Estuary Policy Plan. Many of the typical identifiers of gentrification, such as residential-loft conversions, design firms, and artists studios, can be found here. The plan, however, makes it clear that in this particular portion of the plan arts and cultural uses should be supported.
In the case of the artist spaces, however, there is an interesting trend in the Jack London District that differentiates it from other artist zones, like the one along Telegraph Ave. While the Art Murmur galleries of Telegraph bank on a claim to a geographically defined territory within the city (which brings with it all sorts of ethical questions) the galleries, performance spaces and studios of the Jack London District, take on a more inclusive identity the revolves around outreach to the city as a whole. Pro Arts Gallery is exemplary of this condition, as the program not only operates a gallery in the area, but organizes the East Bay Open Studios and serves a network of hundreds of artists across the whole region. While this approach does not neglect its surroundings, it looks beyond the notion of trying to fix or help a deserving place, towards serving a larger community.
This approach reveals a potential for the neighborhood to become a cultural crossroads for Oakland rather than just an infrastructural one. Bay Area Youth Artists for Humanity aims strives to become part of and strengthen this cultural context. The architectural proposal will become a site for a much larger network of youth and mentor artists, members, patrons and visitors who arrive there to learn, create and experience. Rather than seeking a singular context to relate to and trying to adapt to the specificity of a particular neighborhood, the program intends to create a new community whose locality is all of Oakland, in which diverse individuals from all over the city can come together. The program will celebrate and be shaped by the various gravitational forces that affect the area, from Downtown, Chinatown, Uptown, West Oakland, the Port, the Lake, Jingletown, Fruitvale, San Antonio and even Alameda. As a newcomer to Oakland, this situation is ideal for one who cannot claim a specific neighborhood but is more interested in interactions with a cross-section of the city’s inhabitants. The hope is that working alongside the other non-profit arts organizations in the area, such as Pro Arts Gallery, Swarm Studios, Oakland Metro, MOCHA, Oaklandish and the Crucible, the BayAFH can be part of a cultural transformation for this part of the city.
That said the quirky mix of uses in the neighborhood opens up many opportunities for involvement and cooperation for a young arts program. Other non-profits, like Sports for Kids, Pro Arts, and Oakland Metro make their homes here. Tourists who find little of the culture of Oakland contained in the square itself are eager to soak it up in the nearby galleries. Restaurants and bars provide some semblance of a night-life. A loose compound of civic and social services, including the Oakland Police Department, Courthouse, Social Welfare, Probation and directly across the street from the site, the City Coroner’s office. For better or worse, more and more lofts are popping up to the north and west, and with them the inevitable signs of gentrification. Above all this tower the cranes of Oakland’s port, reminding everyone that this remains as a working port zone despite its gradual conversion. This is a context that is transitional, conflicted and hard to pin down. This thesis proposes that BayAFH can be a unifying for the area, using art to simultaneously strengthen the existing community and create a new one.
After a lot of careful consideration I have decided to design on an open site from the ground up. While doing an adaptive reuse project had great appeal, this open site offers more potential, to do an innovative design project and to deal with the realities and limitations of the proposed situation. This thesis will propose a visionary design for the site that considers the ideal situation for the BayAFH program rather than the initial conditions. Programs like the one I have in mind never start big. They work their way up from humble beginnings. The original Artists for Humanity in Boston began when a practicing artist invited a group of six students to come work with her in her tiny studio. They spent two or three years there, learning to paint and completing only a few commissions before they found a suitable space. And when they found that space, it was essentially donated to them because the real estate owner was inspired by their vision. It is my intention to use this project to research spatial, programmatic, educational and economic tactics that support this particular design proposal and can also be carried with me as I attempt to actually impliment this program in the coming years.

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11.28.2006

Purple Gold: Architecture as an Act of Remediation

Abstract:

The extent to which construction changes the landscape is seldom considered. Although the word construction implies a positive formation, its beginnings are marked by destruction: land is cleared and reconfigured. Many of our values emerge in this process; landscapes become real estate and architecture is reduced to style, with the relationship between the two wholly discreet. The all too familiar result is rarely satisfying. To remedy this, building should be a synergistic action—one that offers new potentials where landscape, architecture and place are interwoven. This relationship is magnified on the fringes between the undeveloped and the developed, the virgin and the spoiled. In America, these places are diametrically claimed as resources, simultaneously qualifying as existential national treasures and mining rights valued at five dollars an acre. It is in these distinctly American landscapes, economically defined by tourism and mining, that new typologies for building within a landscape can be explored. The result is a new way of experiencing our [un]natural landscape

Statement of Purpose:

To investigate a new relationship between landscape and architecture, the act of tourism and mining are synthetically intertwined with land remediation. A new form of ecotourism is proposed where the site is no longer a pristine wilderness, but the tailings of a gold mine. Instead of conceiving of sustainability simply as improved mechanical systems, architecture actively participates in the process of remediation. For example, phytomining is combined with phytoremediation, using plants to simultaneously rid the soil of both contaminates and gold, the latter being used to pay for the process. Pioneered in 1998 by the New Zealand Earth Scientist Christopher Anderson and confirmed in experiments, the soil of mining can be treated with naturally occurring chemicals to allow the plants, whose leaves turn purple from the process (gold is purple in its nano particulate form), to absorb the metals. The plants rid the soil of both contaminates, such as mercury, and gold, yielding up to 14 ounces (approximately $8,400) per acre. Participation is ushered into the process through tourism, where visitors can involve themselves in the history of the land—both in learning the past abuses and actively bettering its future.
The American West is ripe with land spoiled by the dream of gold. The theatrical waterfalls and geysers that define so many of America’s national parks are next to some of the largest mining operations. The infamous search for gold and other minerals has left a devastating ecological legacy in the American West, from mercury spills to the massacre of native people. What is mostly a distant memory in states such as California is still a nascent condition in pristine environments, such as the Amazon in Brazil. In my research, I will seek to understand the cyclic nature of these places, examining recent mining explorations, their latent legacy on the environment, and how these places can be remediated through a built intervention.

Intellectual Context:

Throughout history, architecture has primarily been about object, iconography and meaning. Palladio’s Villa Rotunda, as shown in his Four Books on Architecture, is a pattern to be superimposed on any landscape. Its system of organization is entirely internalized and its geometry is pure and self-determined. A pedestal-like base elevates the piano nobile, separating building from ground. Modern tradition follows suit. Le Corbusier, evidenced in his five points, sought to reduce architecture to a kit of parts. The paradigmatic Villa Savoye’s pilotis suspend the building above the ground, creating a relationship between object and landscape similar to camera and subject: landscape is reduced to view. As such, architecture does not engage the landscape, but rather represents mans rise above it.

This reflects a larger attitude towards the land that has come to define architecture in America. Architecture is reduced to style and landscape becomes real estate. The disconnect manifests itself in both manicured lawns and brownfields. There are several architectural practices that are seeking to more intimately tie building to landscape, such as Reiser + Umemoto. The Alishan Tourist Resort seeks to intimately tie what is built into the landscape.

Problem Statement:

How can architecture be structured systemically so that it works synergistically with the landscape to better the condition of place?

Project Definition:

The project exists on land that, although it was once pristine, has been exploited by man. The value of the landscape has not been its holistic sense of place, but rather the discreet minerals found deep beneath it. The process of extraction has resulted in spoiled land—land where the act of digging, an essential element in architecture, has toxic consequences. The site represents the unsustainable attitude of manifest destiny that has characterized the American West: it is the tailings of a gold mine.
The project seeks to define new attitudes towards the land through an architectural proposal. Beginning with land remediation, strategies to reintroduce people into the landscapes they ruined are the ultimate goal. The program is multifaceted: it will remind of past transgressions (museum?), actively engage remediation (exploratorium?), and present new potentials (tourism?).

this is long - but it'll get shorter

Title:

Birmingham: Fragments of a Magic City
Birmingham: Stories from a Magic City
Myth and the Magic City
Birmingham: The Magic City in Pieces
Birmingham: Building Myth

I have read that myth is the result of fear and the unknown. Really, it’s not surprising that people outside of the South know very little about Birmingham, Alabama. People in Birmingham are from Birmingham are from Birmingham. People in San Francisco are from Birmingham are from Chicago are from Albuquerque.
Living in California, I can see that for most people myth covers Birmingham (and the South), maybe arising from the unknown. But living there is a little like being in the middle of a fog where everything seems absolutely normal; and it’s not until you see the place from a distance when you understand that cloud completely covers it. And that cloud is myth.

Abstract:

Finding an appropriate way to characterize Birmingham is difficult. The city’s past looms much larger than itself. Birmingham is really no longer an industrial center; its steel mills and mining companies closed a long time ago. And the Civil Rights movement caused major changes in life downtown. The city has changed completely in the past century from the only true industrial city of the South to a leader in health care. To document the physical city today would misrepresent what the city is, what it was, and destroy the myth of the place. The essence of the city today lives in the memories and stories of its inhabitants.

To find Birmingham in its stories seems like an honest way to depict the place. In “The Geometry of Feeling” Juhani Pallasmaa wrote “architecture is always the home of spirits, the dwelling place of metaphysical beings.” (452) I’d like to alter this statement, to read – architecture is always the home of stories, the dwelling place of memory. Everyone constructs space around stories in their minds, and though the space is influenced by physical properties, they are exaggerated based on the events. We cannot think of any story without its connection to place.

I’m building spaces for these stories to live, and constructing a Birmingham of memory, exaggeration, and myth. I’m collecting stories (my own and others), and though the stories are fragments of memory, or pieces of events, together they build a place. And this place is more truthful in some ways, than the physical environment from which they grew. They are the city the way people would like it be told and remembered. In these stories are the complexities of Birmingham and the particulars making it distinguishable from Nashville or Houston or Jackson.

If myth is dispelled, you are left with an artifact. Maybe not a fossil or a carcass, but a smaller, drier place than it is in reality. If as architects we only archive the physical properties of the built environment and not the stories within them, then we are left with a dry, dusty, and somewhat depressing view of what we do. Stories fill empty space with life.



“Less than One”
-“Once upon a time there was a little boy. He lived in the most unjust country in the world. Which was ruled by creatures who by all accounts should be considered degenerates. Which never happened.
And there was a city. The most beautiful city on the face of the earth. With an immense gray river that hung over its distant bottom like the immense gray sky over that river. Along that river there stood magnificent palaces with such beautifully elaborated facades that if the little boy was standing on the right bank, the left bank looked like the imprint of a giant mollusk called civilization. Which ceased to exist.” (32)

Randy Newman from the album Good Old Boys
“Birmingham”
“Birmingham, Birmingham,
The greatest city in Alabam’,
You can travel ‘cross this entire land,
There ain’t no place like Birmingham.”

Fred Shuttlesworth recalling a statement made by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 while meeting with black leaders-
“But for Birmingham…we would not be here today” (Connerly 2)

Context:

-“In fact it is meaningless to imagine any happening without reference to a locality.” Christian Norberg-Schulz from “The Phenomenon of Place”

Stories and memory are linked to place in a way that they become ridiculous when imagined in different settings. In them is the essence of place, and it’s necessary to understand them to begin to understand a city.

For architects, stories should be an essential part of research. I’m not saying that only those with memories of a city should design there, but that you must be aware of stories before designing the particulars of a place into a project.

This project is a search for the essence of Birmingham in a mythical city, for what gives and allows a place to retain its character. The physical properties of the modern city can only tell us so much about the place. If the place has changed drastically, or has not been well preserved, then the city can misrepresent its past. And often the new city tells us nothing about people’s feelings towards their place. For instance, I can’t see Birmingham in the slick, glass façade of the Amsouth building downtown, maybe I see Chicago. The modern city is placeless, even ambiguous, but in stories we preserve the particulars.

So, there is hope that through the construction of a mythical city based on exaggerated memories and stories that architects (and everyone else) will find the particulars of Birmingham. And through these stories, we can orient ourselves within the magic city.

Program or Design Proposition and Design Strategy:

The program is to construct spaces around stories about Birmingham, to map them as a mythical city, and to collect these places in a book.

In Creation in Space Vol.1 Jonathan Friedman says, “Children build drawings….The image is not copied directly from life. Rather it is drawn from the mind’s understanding and memory of significant elements and relationships between them.” So, the spaces constructed around memories of Birmingham are an attempt to draw like a child, to remember and draw the relationship between the place and the event.

Stories are recounted from memories, and our memories are faulty, fragmented, and particular. In “In a Room and a Half” Joseph Brodsky says that “memory has in common with art is the knack for selection, the taste for detail….Memory contains precisely details, not the whole picture; highlights if you will, not the entire show.” On top of faulty memory, stories themselves are stretched and exaggerated, often only loosely based on the actual event. In the end, they are detached from the initial, physical site and placed in exaggerated spaces.

I’d like to construct those exaggerated spaces and the stories within them. The stories and drawings should be blurred, exaggerated, prejudice fragments that when viewed together create a complex, dense, and fascinating view of Birmingham. And though individually the stories are fragments of Birmingham, together they compose an entire city, a mythical city which spans generations and scales of events. The Civil Rights movement, the steel industry, and the lightning bugs that suffocated in the jar on my nightstand should be drawings in the city. Through these stories we can see the complexities that compose a place. And we can see the spaces of the city filled with stories and life.

These drawings and stories could then be mapped as a mythical Birmingham. It can be drawn based on the relationship of memories to each other and on their importance to the character of the city.

Lastly, I’d like to compile the city and the stories in a book, referencing the storytelling traditions of the South. In this way the stories can be what they are, fragments composing a city – chapters composing a book. The maps and the drawings can be indexed to their stories, and the entire project can be a collection of the essence of Birmingham.

11.24.2006

Dispersion : Family, Identity, and the Delocalization of Home

Home connotes a single geographical space. City, region, and country are often called upon to describe the condition of Home. Associations tied to place are privileged and often dominate meanings of Home. Additionally, the idea of Home is coupled with the idea of family. Home is the territory where family is defined.
The geographic fragmentation of family is a common contemporary condition. The dispersed family often requires a reinterpretation of Home. My thesis proposes to investigate the meaning of Home as the territory in which the group identity of the geographically dispersed family is constructed.
In this investigation, I will draw upon personal ideas of Home and family. Although personally relevant, conditions of fragmentation, asynchronicity, plurality, and dispersion are also representative of a general post-modern reality. In assessing an alternate nature of Home, I will consider globalizing trends including increased personal mobility and electronic communication, multiple sites of habitation, and wider social and infrastructural networks. As local spatial conditions dissolve or become blurred, temporal coordinates are elevated to emphasize and anchor the meaning of Home.

11.22.2006

Billboardia


Billboards are visual and material phenomena. How about an architectural one?
The idea of a network of billboards sound promising. Billboards themselves are already working within the relationship with each other. This is not always the case of same product marketed at different locations, but a visual interlationship and in the end a material relationship that they create among different products. ex. The malboro +Calvin Clein.


Theatrical quality of billboards has already been explored. The Georgia Power co. had a model kitchen in display behind a glass window (1936). This got me thinking that the progrma for these inhabitable spaces could become reheasal studios for artists, or even better, the main stage.

Now Im thinking that instead of san francisco, my site should be in LA. The inherent nature of mobility and billboards, very much as a result of automobile culture, it makes me think that the build-boards should be born in the capital of freeways!
What if LA had 100 build-boards and they become a subculture of artistic expression and experiementation? The relationship that LA has between the glamour hollywood (film industry) and billboards are pretty much on the same line of interest.