Archive for the ‘blog post’ Category

The larger picture

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While my last post was about restraining myself and going from the extreme to the subtle – I must admit that I was not even close to that point yet. There comes a point in any design process when it becomes nessecary to step back and get an overview. Often times it’s good to have someone else pushing you – that’s the job of tutors at school of course, but its something I’ve been trying to work on for the past three years.

My ideas had become too complex and too many, not really working from the perspective of one clear idea, but rather different structural ideas born out of tests made at the workshop in Randers. This I feel is mostly my fault, because I have been burried too deeply in my own project, but also it’s partly down to the project brief asking for structure above all else. When I came to the last pin-up I had many, many ideas of how to make insissions in the walls and carry it – I had even solicited the help of a construction architect I know.

However the advice I was given was to step back and focus on the bigger picture – then zoom back in… To work on the excavation instead of the cutting in the walls, since the excavation talks about treating the building as a delicate object and cutting into the walls isn’t really treating them with care.

Since then I have been working with building up the walls around the tower itself, digging down, making stairs where there is already a lower level and continuing it, looking at the transition from old to new and how to make the cut down around the tower. The tower will act as the interior wall of a new building, this is underlined by the roof slanting towards the centre, where you will effectively be in a courtyard, exposed to the elements and looking up to the sky.

The next step will be how to connect walkways around the excavation and outside walls with the inside of the tower. I’m not sure whether to cut into the tower at all – to get in from the bottom once again – or if it’s enough to go through on a walkway. I’m almost done with a landscape and tower model that will help me on the way.

More after tomorrow’s pin-up!

From extreme to subtle

A strategy I have often worked with is starting out with superlatives. I find that starting out with everything being done to its extreme limit makes it easier to turn the volume down later – rather than to start at a low volume, to find that no one can hear what you are saying. There is a real danger of creating something that’s too complex and too radical, to be coherent architecture – but none the less I find it to be a good technique.

This has also been the story of my semester project so far. First I wanted to cut through the ruin of Kalø to get a great view. Then I changed it to an excavation and cut of one corner of the building. At my third pin-up I was at the point where what remained of this, was stairs running inside the original tower walls, with everything above the level of the stairs being cut out. Now I’m thinking that I will just cut out the stairs as a corridor in the walls and retain the bricks above with a concrete or steel element and narrow columns.

The ruin itself will be excavacted compeltely down to the bottom, in the middle of a new ‘moat’ lined on the outside with the Ultima bricks from Randers Tegl, offset to create a strong shadow effect. and horizontal lines. A new mode, in stark contrast to the old ruin in the centre. A small bridge will go across to the old entrance, and a floor will somehow continue from there, as well as the stairs in the wall – but I haven’t figured that out yet.

After my latest pin-up another thing started to interest me too however. I came to the realization, that the wall probably doesn’t continue all the way down on the outside of the tower – there is more likely a foundation of rocks put up against the sides in some uneven way – to make the base for the tower. The dirt taking most of the forces from the building.

If this is the case – it could be an amazing thing to excavate carefully and retain with some columns and either a net of some kind (like the ones they use in norway to retain cliff-sides) or by spraying it with concrete in the gaps.

You would suddenly be able to see a part of the original construction that you never could before – exhibiting an otherwise always hidden part of a building. The foundation.

I’m off! Be back sooner next time!

FORM MATTERS (…) !

CWR II – Excercise 1

We had to look through a list of architectural positions, adopt one and construct arguments to support it. This is the result.

Form matters, but more for what it can do than for what it looks like.

I put it to you, that the form of something should be derived from its purpose and function, it should be scaled to allow human understanding and interaction and it should be in accordance with the materials, structure and technology to which it.

For instance, a building in brick, has to adhere to the properties of the material. It can take pressure, but not tension. Once you allow bricks to span a large opening without an arch, this tells us that there is some other material at work behind the scenes. The brickwork becomes a tapestry and the form has no relation to it other than being clad in bricks.

“Form and construction, appearance and function are no longer separate. They belong together and form a whole. (Zumthor 1998, p.25)”

But no one wants to look at a concrete wall on a dark, rainy, windy day in Gellerup, why wouldn’t we use bricks to get more life in the surfaces of our surroundings, why should we care if the wall is as it seems or not if it makes us happier?

Conversely, the blocks of Gellerup may have similar proportions. There is still a block, with a garden around it – but it has become too immense for any one individual to take in. Ron Muecks sculpture “Boy” at Aros art museum squats inside the otherwise spacious atrium. In his scale the massive space is tiny and he is pushed into a corner. Aros is in other words made for people – not for ‘boy’.In Gellerup and other mass social housing schemes there is a definite over-use of cheap concrete elements, and boring flat lawns between the blocks. But the desolate and isolated feeling you get from these places relates more perhaps to the scale, repetition and quality of the structures. Take a normal one family house with a garden. Everyone can relate to it, it responds to the need of one family and the windows are placed in relation to the eye-height of a human being. The garden surrounds it and makes a nice setting.

In contemporary architecture we see many examples of how form is made for the sake of form. The “walkie-talkie” in London recently got infamous for burning cars in the streets because it’s concave façade concentrated the light from the sun into a death ray of sorts. And even if London isn’t famous for being a sunny place that is hardly a logical form for a building to take. Now they are replacing the panels on its front to make it less reflective. Something that would not have been necessary at all if only the form had been considered more carefully.

“I have elected to adress the issue of tectonic form for a number of reasons, not least of which is the current tendency to reduce architecture to scenography. This reaction arises in response to the universal triumph of Robert Venturi’s decorated shed […]. Kenneth Frampton, Rappel a l’ordre, The case for tectonic, 1990”

In another scale – as an example – look at Phillip Starcks lemon squeezer. It looks like a space ship. Very sleek and shiny in chrome finish. Untill you see someone actually squeezing a citrus fruit on it – it’s just a sculpture. But it’s scale and its form makes it perfect for squeezing lemons. Form and function come together.

Door handles made to fit the hand, smartphones made to fit in your pocket. These considerations are just as relevant in the scale of objects as in the scale of architecture.

“Near is a place to which i can get quickly on my feet” (…) Man is the measure. (…) A mans feet are the measure for distance, his hands are the measure for ownership, his body is the measure for all that is lovable and desirable and strong.” Raskin 1954, citing E.M. Forsters “collected tales”

Large scale building projects have a tendency to be out of scale with humans, and can in some cases be Form, scale and repetition can when considered well create spaces, squeeze you and let you breathe, make you look at your surroundings in a new way. As soon as a building relates to humans and to the materials it is built of, it will be much easier to achieve these things.

Different forms do different things. For instance, a circular room with nothing on the walls will have horrible acoustics. Put something in the room and then it obviously does, but the shape of the room itself could have made this unnecessary. The metro-station Nasjonalteatret in Oslo which has horrible acoustics because of its low dome space. They fixed that by calling it an art piece – but it was unintentional.

There are also several examples of large structures looking like they do because of consideration to structure and construction. In Sagrada Familia and the Eiffel Tower, the form comes directly from the structure needed to carry the building with the least possible material.

If we want to move towards a more inclusive architecture that adds to the quality of life of the citizens our, then structures need to reflect to us how they are made, what they are made of and how they work. They need to relate to us as humans and include us in their workings. New technologies require an expression that explains them to us. Things hidden won’t be understood or talked about.

”form is not the goal (in itself), it’s the result” Mies van der Rohe: Kleine Reihe – Architektur, page 10.

Time to reflect?

These first weeks of the Master’s degree have simply flown by. Two weeks ago we started on our written reflection, last week was all about bricks and experiments at Randers Tegl, now we’ve had two days to develop our project and thursday we start another batch of writing workshops – and then it’s the fall break.

And that makes me wonder – does that leave any time to reflect on what we have been doing, and make meaningful desi on our process? Everyone has an oppinion about what we should learn and how, and in the midst of it all I think there’s a real chance of missing the golden nuggets.

That might be the real justification for this blog. To force myself to reflect even at the busiest of times. To have it as a mantra. At least once a week from now on!

Brick workshop – initial thoughts

the structure next to old bricks like those at Kalø #3

After returning from a fantastic workshop at Hammershøj Teglværk, seeing how the bricks were made, and experimenting with different bonds and combining different formats, colors and most notably – using them together with bricks like the ones at Kalø.

It was great to be able to test out the ideas we had from home, and see what worked and what didn’t. Figuring these things out just simply works better when done in the real world – 1:1. The problem with this however was – that we weren’t using mortar, which both visually and especially structurally changes everything.

We were still able to get a pretty good idea however – and the bricks that my workshop partner and I picked – narrow and very long ones – turned out to fit almost exactly with two new bricks per one old.

We will have to make more tests using mortar and possibly glue to see if our results at the workshop can actually be used in the real world – as of course imperfections and iregularities in bricks is to be expected – especially with very narrow and long ones.

These coming few days we’ll be applying what we learned to detailed laser scanned models from the site. I still feel quite confident that my ideas would work, though a lot of tough choices will have to be made… more to follow!

Brick workshop

Tomorrow we’re heading off to a Brick Factory near randers to expirment in 1:1 with bricks, patterns, colors, bonds, openings, etc. all of it in relationship to our project this semester – converting Kalø Slotsruin with BRICKS as the central element.

I’m planning to work with very long, narrow bricks, and I’m interested in seeing how to make a relief in the bond, causing shadow and depth to appear – as well as how to make openings.

I will post some of my work as I go along – and some more when we get back!

(Un)changed by time (CWR 5 part II)

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I’ve been here more times than I care to remember, but it’s a fantastic place nonetheless. Walking across the narrow path to the peninsula, a rotten brick tooth juts up in the landscape – signifying with its mere presence human activity. The ruin of Kalø Castle, on the edge of Mols has been standing, wind swept with the world passing by for several hundred years. It has changed, certainly, bricks beeing removed by thieves as well as the weather it now stands much less imposing, yet still impressive in its massiveness.

Now on the penisula, I continue on a path taking me around the side of the ruin – and suddenly stop dead. The corner of the old ruin has been cut off, as cleanly as only modern machinery can do it and as I slowly continue forwards, almost stepping in a decaying cow patty, I notice inside the rift so the corner of a wall that also bears those tell-tale marks of modernity. Long narrow bricks in stricks rows, stacked with a relief between every other row. A sharp contrast to the existing wall. I yell to my companion through the wind. He has also noticed it. How could he not? Though from land all seemed as it used to be.

We move closer, crossing the bridge that once traversed a moat, to the tower itself. We now notice that dirt has been excavated around the corner of the tower towards us, and the slit in the wall continues all the way to the base of the tower – the basement that used to be hidden. We stand in awe for a second, admiring the sheer thickness of the wall exposed by this clean diagonal cut. In the very base is a small opening, topped by a flat segmental arch of of those same narrow, clearly machine made bricks in the middle of all the medieval, hand-made ones – the bottom part of the wall is marked by having been submerged in dirt for the past 800 years. Slightly green and clearly damp.

 

We walk down the grass steps, held back by wooden boards, and make it to the opening at the bottom. Passing through the massive wall, into a tall, cool, dimly lit space we see spots of light on the wall across from us, and a staircase in front of us leading into the wall itself. Upon walking in, we closer inspect the stair, and notice, that it turns it continues inside the wall, and that that a new wall has been built on top of it on the inside. We turn around, to see where the light came from, and notice that between the new bricks, light enters through a very presice pattern, right above the entrance – through the slit in the outter wall. Upon closer expection, other more incoherent spots of light also appear. Moving up the staircase, between the new wall and the outter wall we pass old windows and come to a landing – right in the slit where the light came from and get a fantastic view of the landscape from whence we came.

Moving further up now, excited about the prospect of the view we will get from the top, we look up and see that large wooden beams extrude from the old wall, lying on top of the new inner wall. The floor is not at the very top of the tower – rather at a position where the original floor clearly used to be. Getting to the top, the first thing we notice is the recently made cut in the corner of the building – where we have a great, framed view of Skødshoved and Kalø bay. We move closer to see more, but get to the edge of the deck and look down at the stairs excavated in the old wall itself.

After sitting on the edge for a few minutes, we start exploring the top floor. The old windows, in different levels of decay also offer their own framed views and in one of them, a bench is carved out. Sitting there. Touching the brick and listening to the wind outside. We start getting hungry and decide to head back to the mainland.

At the bottom of the stairs we are met by an elderly couple, looking as puzzled and amazed as we were when we first got there. We stand for a moment in the large interior space and notice that the light flickers as the couple pass by outside. The space is very sparcely furnished. The clear focus being the light moving across the old bricks. My companion has started reading a poster hanging from the wooden beams in the ceiling. I start to move towards the door but suddenly stop dead, as a cow is blocking our way out. Laughing at this strange situation we wait for the cow to go back up the stairs and read more about the castles history. Standing here we take note of the diffuse light also coming in from narrow northern and western windows up the wall, creating a very solemn, almost church like atmosphere. It’s the kind of place where you lower your voice unintentionally. When we finally make it out we look back up at the cut in the wall and see now clearly the landing of the cut-out stair where the couple are now making their way down, the man supporting the woman, and the corner of the upper deck where we sat and admired the view.

After a quick trip around the old tower – nothing else changed – we head back to the mainland. Today was a good day.

Croissants have many layers (CWR – excercise 5)

Drudenfuss

A delivery truck from the city’s once venerable brewery growls and is suddenly silent. As I cross the street, stoop over the leaves and branches cut off from the espalier growing on the corner-facade, and over the threshold, I stand facing the bar. I’m greeted by a welcoming nod, the hum of the espresso-machine and Erann DD on the stereo.

As the waiter wipes off the head from the espresso machine, he waves at someone on the street. I take a seat in the narrow space between the table and the outer wall.  My back to the truck outside, i face the café from my corner. Upon having moved the candle and the flower from my wobbly oak table, I take out my laptop and start to write. Before I know it – my cortado arrives, with a crunchy croissant on the side. The music changes to a salsa-jazz-lounge-mix that could hardly offend the ears of anyone. “Smooth operator”.

I have never felt comfortable working or writing in cafés. It’s an exhibitionist urge that I have never had much sympathy for. As things are however – I am charged with embodying the space. That’s right people.

As my eyes sweep across the room, passing 60’s upcycled furniture, French movie posters, black and white photos and the wine bottles framing the arched windows. I see more leaves falling past, as the gardener takes care of business. Strong sunlight gleaming in the windshield of the Mitsubishi behind him.

A father and daughter are the only other visitors at this early hour. Laughing and conversing over brunch, the father coughs. Happy 80’s pop now on the stereo, I feel a buzzing in my pocket. Katrine is done at the doctor. She’ll be here to join me soon… I wonder whether I’ll be able to work while she’s here, but decide that it’s part of my experience of being here.

It occurs to me, that I’m actually happy hiding behind my laptop. I have been here before, but never alone, and always to drink the discounted beer that architecture students get. At these times we have always been sitting outside or in the other end of the oblong room. Today the atmosphere is different. I am here to work. The morning light floods the room, yet the lights are still on and the candles burn.

My crossaint breaks between my teeth and a buttery sensation grows across my pallet. A swip of cortado later I look up as the waiter asks if everything is to my liking. The chairs are all recycled and all look like classics. Eames and Arne are both well represented. If they are real or not don’t really affect the atmosphere – except for me wondering about it.

90’s smooth hip-hop. I can’t help wondering whether everything is scratched on purpose. Nothing is new except for the humming coffee-monster behind the bar. Making itself noticed with blue LED’s running down the side. To get that in my line of sight however, I have to move my head slightly, to look past one of the classic round steel lamps that hang in a line, precisely following a kink in the facade, reflecting only vague shapes through their wear-and-tear.

I swap at a fly. Missing it, I look at the window sill behind me and notice the many magazines. Suddenly I’m blinded, as the truck drives off. A skinny, feminine looking asian man is opening his boutique designer store across the street.

Katrine arrives. She orders a pain au chocolat and a cortado. Smiles. Walks across the creaking floor and sits down across from me. The space changes completely. Now my focus is no longer on the terracotta tiles in the window frames or the old fashioned heater hidden in the panel behind me, but on her eyes, her Band-Aid from getting a hepatitis vaccination, and on my jealousy of her still having some of her croissant left. My mouth waters involuntarily. A Harley Davidson drives by and interrupts our conversation.

Katrine remarks that it’s a nice place, but that it doesn’t have the same beautiful glass ceiling as another café we frequent. The end wall of the room is painted brown and has more relaxed lounge furniture in front of it. A focal point in the room. She also points out that the black and white photos on the wall are actually a series by Helmut Newton, showing naked women in different positions. One of them with one woman spanking another. She saw an exhibition of his work in Berlin a few years ago.

Katrine is going on a weekend trip with her friends, she suggests that she might go and look for shoes for her brother’s wedding in two weeks. I still need a suit. The father and daughter are leaving. I have a vague sensation, that the music has changed in the background. Katrine plays with her hair.

There’s a certain undefinable time span, from when I empty my coffee, until I start feeling as if I have overstayed my welcome. The staff of course have more important things to do, than to care about such notions, but I still feel as if they are thinking, ‘buy something or leave’… With one last look at the large ‘train station’ clock protruding from the wall. I grab my leather jacket and my bag and walk up to pay.

Café Drudenfuss, Aarhus

On Bachelard, Kant and Imagination

Like Gaston Bachelard, Kant talks of conecpts deeply written in the mind being the basis of reading the world. That is to say – you know that a house is a house no matter what it looks like – in principle.

Our idea of a house is based on imperical evidence. On houses experienced before. So something that is not exactly like, but similar enough, will still be recognized as a house. Bachelard speaks about our own childhood home being the basis for judging future homes. Thusly too radical changes can be problematic – it will not feel as a house.

Kant defines imagination as the abillity to connect intuition with these schemas in the mind. The better imagination, the better you will be able to ‘connect the dots’.

Hannah Arrendt, Immanuel Kant, Gaston Bachelard.