Saturday, January 26, 2013

My presence on the web has been disappearing as I threw myself back into a rather enjoyable semester of school, but I'm back briefly to happily say that I finally have a web page, and the outdated project posts on these blogs will no longer represent all my design work online.

I have a dream web page in mind that I still hope to create when I have a bit more time to learn some JavaScript or html5, but for now, this will do. Feedback is welcome before I make version two.


New (and final) semester starting Monday. Goodbye again and wish me luck for thesis.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Not Quite the End

I was talking with one of the other interns the other day, talking about how things feel like they are winding down here and it's already the time where we're starting to think about leaving. I'm not looking forward to it, but there are a few things that will definitely make me very happy when I get back.

Yes, it's nice to not be economical sometimes.

My piano and guitar.
I had been working on a song before coming here, but I've already lost the inspiration for it.

An actually good burger.
The Jose burger at Marronniers is really not good at all unless you just like toppings.

A Taiwanese stocked supermarket/Russo's
Having trouble reproducing some of my favorite tastes.

Not needing to watch out for crap on the streets.
Not needing to smell the aforementioned.

My usual breakfast.
Over easy egg with sweet chili, tots, toast, and homemade jam.

All the people I left in February.
Although there will be many to miss after going back too.

Less creepy men.
At least harassment will be illegal.

I would also love me some fresh made passion fruit juice right now, but i will not be getting that in Boston either.
Sigh. Goodnight world.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


(Last post before being updated with all the photos on my computer. I may take a pause on blogging in favor of having more time for other things)

Vitra got started as a furniture manufacturer by gaining the rights to produce furniture which they fell in love with on a tour of the shopfronts in the US. Now they hold the rights to most of the best known designer furniture brands and also produce pieces of their own. The campus is a little bit of an architecture zoo, which began after the campus burnt down and needed to be rebuilt. Gehry suggested having a campus as diverse and well-designed as the furniture produced. Since then, the number of buildings designed by Pritzker Prize architects on the grounds has increased to six.

I'm not sure if this is always true, but many of the buildings felt underused, like sculptures in an exhibition rather than a holder of a manufacturing facility.

Vitra Elephants [photo by Paulis Austrins]
HdM - VitraHaus

Fuller - Geodesic Dome
[photo by Paulis Austrins]

Siza - Atelier and Bridge
The story of the fire station is interesting, as originally the campus was too far away from the city to have proper fire protection, after the big fire, a set of employees became trained as firemen specifically for the campus.  Zaha was directly comissioned for the project as a young architect who had won many competitions but never had a client willing to build her unconventional designs. This was her first project. I admire that she stuck to her ideas of movement and energy in architecture even when those ideas were new and unaccepted by construction and clientele, and am glad Vitra allowed those ambitions to come into being.

Zaha - Vitra Fire Station

Ando's story is also notable, as he came from a poor background, but very interested in architecture and being able to travel to see architectural works. In order to have the money to make this wish come true, he went into boxing and was successful enough to have the money both to travel and to open his own practice upon returning to Japan.

This is one of his early projects. A very Japanese, meditative take to the experience of going to a conference.

Ando - Conference Center [photo by Paulis Austrins]

After a lot of potatoes, chocolate, and spending the night at the classiest hostel ever (similar in quality to some of the nicer hotels I've been to), we toured around Basel, looking at older Herzog and de Meuron buildings around town.

Below is the Railway Signal Box by Herzog and de Meuron. It was one of the projects noted by the Pritzer Prize jury when HdM received that prize. It is simple, industrial, and sculptural. The strips of copper are twisted to allow daylight into spaces inside.

HdM - Signal Box


It's big, ostentatious, and the gardens really do look like they extend to infinity. One must really love themselves to be king.

Photo by Paulis Austrins

The city of Versailles was like a quieter, smaller version of Paris. We met up with one of my coworkers who lives in Versailles for some cake and tea before heading home. 

Corbusier - Villa Savoye

This is the last of my Corbusier pilgrimage, at least for now. It's the first house by Corbusier that I've been to. There are many Corb houses in Paris, but all of those seem difficult to visit, requiring reservation or only open on weekdays. We made the trip out to Poissy on the Friday of my Birthday

This house is a perfect example of Corbusier's 5 principles of modern architecture. It is also a good example of the house as a 'machine for living'. 

There was natural light which filtered through all the spaces of the house, aided by the overlapping of spaces and levels, characteristic of Corbusier. Talking about the manipulation of light sometimes seems cliche and overused, but the experience of it when well done is always still powerful.

It's also impressive to think about these sort of places being designed mainly in plan, section, and elevation. The ability to think about complex 3d space through 2D drawing is somewhat lost today; it is instead being replaced by ever more complex 3D thinking in 3D.

Ronchamp [Notre Dame du Haut] - Corbusier + Renzo Piano

We got off at a train station that consisted of a small shelter that looked like it could have been for just a bus and a stairway to cross the tracks. Upon looking for lunch, we realized that all the restaurants are closed for lunch in Ronchamp (1-3p... who would have thought?), so we 'fasted' and made the pilgrimage up to the chapel on empty stomachs. 

The chapel did not disappoint. The approach to the building starts at a small stair which gives the 'magazine view'of the building. My first thought that it looked just like the photos, but being at the site helps bring out a lot of the smaller details and how all the parts relate. There is a play between interior and exterior through the thick wall and a lot of texture that is not understood in photos.

Large mural covered doors pivot on a central pin to open into the building.

We were lucky enough to see these gutters in operation, as it rained during our visit; but my camera went into hiding from fear of rain.

The roof is held above the walls with a small reveal. Although massive, from the inside of the building, the roof floats above the walls.

From a nearby pyramid, memorializing the french who died for their country in 1944, one can get a view of the tops of the chapels protruding above the heavy roof mass. 

Each of the tunnel-like window openings are expressive on the exterior and interior. This one in particular, holds a statue which is seen as a backdrop for the altar inside as well as for the exterior altar space.


Sitting fairly neglected next to the chapel is another Corbusier designed building, which is made to disappear in the landscape when viewed from the chapel.

A new addition to the mix is the welcome center and monastery by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. While I wasn't too impressed by the approach to this building from the exterior, as Renzo interns we had the privilege of getting a tour by one of the sisters through the monastery, and by the end we were all pleasantly surprised by the addition. As with all of Renzo's work, the craft, material, and detail of the building are superb. 

The project is buried into the hill facing away from the chapel so that it disappears from view while also giving the monastery amazing views over the countryside. Light-wells for the small offices buried in the hill, provided light and natural ventilation, and actually made for quite cozy rooms. There was not the sense of being underground, and most of us preferred this to the super lit rooms on the exterior face of the building. 

We were all amazed by the small prayer room at the end of our visit. After the simple straight forms of the rest of the building, it was the first (only?) curve we saw in the building, reflecting light into the space from a hidden skylight just beyond. The enclosure of the space is made up of a series of broken up walls rather than one closed surface, and the chairs in the room are custom designed by Vitra/Piano just for this project, as the sisters were looking for simple chairs which could be sat in for long periods of time.

In the building overall there was a lot of care put into what one sees as one travels through building. None of the circulation leads to flat blank walls, and the length of the long bar buildings shifts and is broken up by light, as the building follows the curve of the hill. This stair is one example of circulation providing a smooth transition between spaces.

 Very importantly, the sisters seem very pleased with their new space and with their experience with Renzo.