Saturday, November 20, 2010

Land of Laser

This blew my mind. The GSD just purchased two new laser cutters, for a total of 8. Good for them. Waiting in line from 7 pm till 7 am to sign up for a laser last year was inhumane.

It's definitely an interesting part of the culture though. There's a dependence on the laser cutter and also a push from some of the professors to be using it as a means of expedient model building. The problem is that every means of production produces a certain set of outcomes. I've found that I've gradually stopped thinking about other possible ways of modeling, other ways of taking ideas and making them three-dimensional. In a way it actually limits what kind of ideas I can really tackle. If life ever slows down, I hope to recover that. Of course, to some degree I'm the one who has to decide to slow down not just the environment around me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I've been looking at images of a lot of buildings trying to decide what exactly I would like to write about as my semester long paper in 'Buildings, Texts, and Contexts' (the history and theory course at the Graduate School of Design). I'm realizing more and more that I tend to be bored and click past the typical architecture of folded planes of contemporary architects. Very rarely does it say something that is immediately novel until given a deeper look. It begins to frighten me that this is precisely the language of the buildings I have been designing in school. Are my designs anything more than typical? What are they doing? What do they say?

The goal is to have this figured out by graduation, and perhaps I will do something different for a change.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What is Taiwanese Architecture?

It's been three months and Taiwan has transformed from an awkward foreign land to somewhere I can look upon with familiarity. It was a strange sort of adjustment. The culture and language are all familiar as part of my identity but they are not my identity at the same time. I have to thank all the people who have pointed me around along the way: family, coworkers, and friends from way back in the US. A few days before I leave, I can give the final tally of having spent time with eleven friends from the States in just this summer overseas. Seems Asia is a more promising place for reunions than Boston.

One of the natural questions that comes up in the end is what I have learned in this time. Was there anything that struck me about the culture or lifestyle here? An excellent question, but also one I struggle to answer. There are so many obvious differences and contrasts I have noted along the way, many of which have made their way into my past posts. At the same time, I always feel like the important take aways are things that are not obvious or easy to describe. Probably the most striking for me is the feeling that Taiwan is both modern and yet incredibly tied to tradition. Mostly the two personalities occur individually side by side, but sometimes they attempt to merge.

Maybe as an architecture student it is not surprising that I saw this mostly in the buildings. The hybrid buildings reminded me of when classical principles met the modern high rise and made an awkward child. There were plenty of buildings that seemed like what I was used to seeing in the states except with chinese features tacked onto its facades.

Before all the hybrids, it's hard to describe a Taiwanese style with all of the different styles present through the past and the globalization of the present, but these are some of the things I note about buildings from before the shiny modern skyscraper seen the whole world over. After only 3 months, I am sure these comments are only superficial, so even I find myself unable to take them with complete certainty. But it is at least what I have observed:

:Column/slab. Sitting on a fault line, Taiwan architecture endures some degree of rocking pretty much every week. Rather than structural walls, which can crack, structures are typically concrete columns supporting concrete slab. In older structures, Brick infills between the columns on the outside before being layered with plaster and other finishes.

:Humidity. Wood construction is not taught except to say not to use it.

:The use of tiling is common for walls. Often I would see a brick pattern, but then realize it was just ceramic tiles enveloping the surface of a building. This doesn't seem like a big deal except for the fact that it completely changes the texture of the building.

:'Gong zuo yang tai'. Each home in the city has functional exterior space that adds depth to the facade. It functions as an extension to the kitchen, storage, a place to hang clothes to dry, etc... American buildings in areas I have lived are more likely to resemble shells because of the winter. Sure there are balconies in American living, but balconies in the US are nothing like the interior/exterior space of the working balcony, instead they often seem like more of an attachment to the main mass of the building.

:Less precision, technology, and money for construction. Almost everything is manual constructin including any curvature or complex form. Needless to say, when designers go crazy, workers get confused. In Yilan, there was a building whose floors each had a zig zag profile weaving back and forth. A lot of stuff was angled. To my eyes, it wasn't all that complex, but the construction workers were unable to read the drawings for such a strange building and carried out construction based on a detailed 3D model.

:Heavier building regulations lead to a certain amount of rule based design. In the city there is a rule saying there must be a 4 meter setback on the ground floor of the building to create a place for people to walk with shelter from sun and rain. This is already automatically one obstacle to designing a super clean form (if that is an ambition).

:Taiwanese clients value tradition. From chinese notions of balance and feng shui, clients might look for symmetry, proportion, and a clear arrangment of rectangular space. In an office building, for a corner to be 'cut off' of a building might symbolize the cutting off of money and profit.

:In the office and in schools the chinese sense of hierarchy and of saving face is present. Teachers, supervisors, and bosses are held in much higher respect. There is also a higher impetus to agree or compromise due to a chinese "bu hao yi si" mindset rather than the American "be true to yourself".

:Concept in the US has to do with meaning. Concept in Taiwan often has more to do with a solution or aesthetic.

(I realize I did not touch upon traditional styles of chinese architecture. To be honest, although I love its elegance and wonder where that sensibility has gone in contemporary chinese architecture, I do not understand it. To see other travel photos and descriptions of my trip which include these sorts of buildings, visit Don't forget to check out the Yilan post as well!)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

architectural mapping

This is even cooler than some of the projections I saw at the expo! Love it. Rethinking and livening up a surface in the city in the happy guerrilla sort of way.

Integrated Visions Projection Mapping (Stationary View), 08-09-10 from Integrated Visions Productions on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

GSD Semester 2 Update (2)

The second project of the semester was the design of a 'thickened wall'. I mentioned this project when I put up photos from Exeter Library a few posts back. The program was a partial section of a library with carrels from one to five people and book stacks. We worked again with modules, this time thinking about field conditions, creating systems that could continue past the portion of the library we developed. I began by thinking about a column of light being cut at different angles to create different sized apertures which corresponded to the amount of light required for different occupancy in the carrels. This eventually developed into a spatial module that includes both the carrels and surrounding stacks. The furniture was further developed to create an integration of interior and exterior.

This was one of the tougher two weeks of the semester. I had five different friends visiting from the University of Michigan over their spring break. Needless to say work progressed slowly. If I had the time to really work on this project I would have liked to put more flexibility into the module to respond to different design intentions. I felt like I had pretty limited control over the big picture with the tightness of module I had created.

Much of the conversation at the final review for this project had to do with clarity. Although I can appreciate it, sometimes I wonder how necessary extreme clarity of ideas is within architecture. It seems it might be more enjoyable for a space to perform as intentionally designed without needing to announce its intention; or is all building, at some level, diagram? Is there value in the subtle?

GSD Semester 2 Update (1)

This past semester was a series of three projects meant to build up on each other. The overarching theme of the semester focused on materiality with attention towards modularity.

The first project was the design of a 'brick' module. The brick was to have an embedded intelligence informing the eventual creation of a space. We were encouraged to work with a bottom up approach, not deciding on the space before deciding on a module but seeing what the module itself would create. We were also asked to consider ideas about weight rather than the usual floating objects in Rhino3D. My particular module went through four or five iterations before reaching the one shown here. It was quite a hurtle figuring out all of the parameter needed to create a unit that could be combined in multiple directions and do more than just create a screen.

The breakthrough 'discovery' was that the unit could both stack solid (can make a solid cube), as well as create screens gradating through multiple densities. The eventual pavilion aimed to exploit these characteristics by forming a dense space of greater enclosure which then dispersed into exterior space.

The bricks shown are cast out of rockite. The largest one weighs about 25 pounds; I carried the material needed for that one back by hand from the store before discovering an hour later that they do free deliveries. The process of making the bricks was time consuming, but enjoyable as a new experience. The small ones were made like ice cubes out of a flexible tray. The mold is made from a brushable silicone rubber formed around blue styrofoam which I cut with jigs on a foam cutter. I cast about 1000 small bricks to make the eventual partial model of the pavilion which represents only a tenth of the full design.

The continuation of this project will be to make edibles in the silicone trays. Fudge? Jello? Hard candy?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I made it!

It's kind of crazy how insignificant the presentation, paper, and exam standing between me and summer feel after the work of preparing for a final review. It's pretty much summer already.

Final boards and models:

View from my desk at 4 am (still early in the night) a few days before:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Train Runs Through Bangkok Market

Taking a class on informal cities with Christian Werthmann right now. This is a video that was sent out today. It's amazing how people deal with density and the juxtapositions created due to limited space. (Watch to the end.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Exeter Library

Always a wonderful experience to visit buildings that had previously only been places I'd seen in books and slides... Of course, I'm posting these photos as if somehow they're somehow more personal and real life than the photos seen in lectures.

Not sure what to say. Material! Details! Joints! High School?

Also, a perfect example of a library conceived of as a thickened wall (Our current studio project). Specific connections to be made later.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Figured I'd post a link of interest while I am absent from this design blog. It seems like this semester I have more time but also a harder time managing my time and therefore less time...

Hopefully an update soon.

Friday, January 15, 2010



Selected documentation of my work from 2009. Includes my final project from my first semester here.

In other news, I've been taking J-term classes over the past week. Today was the last day. There were more assignments than I expected, but it was great being able to dip my toes into parametric design, and LEED accreditation before classes get up and running again.

Every day I was switching between learning Digital Project and going to the office of Kling+Stubbins Architects and learning about LEED. I enjoyed learning how to do 3D modelling parametrically, since the lack of that ability often makes rhino3D frustrating to use. But then, being in an office setting made me wonder what the use of all of these softwares had once one goes to find a job in places that aren't Gehry Technologies. Aren't firms looking for skills in programs like Revitt which are not even taught in the schools? The really advanced students in the school atmosphere seem to be the ones who have all the computer magic down, but does it stay the same as we head into the working world? I wonder how the priorities of schooling matches up with the regular professional environment.