Posts Tagged ‘workshop’

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.

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!

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

CWR Workshop – day 01

Today was the first day of a critical reflection workshop at Aarhus School of Architecture, introducing the written aspects of our Masters Programme.

Each studio had selected relevant texts for us to read and perform a variety of excercises with over the coming three days. My studio – Studio Building Design – was to read parts of american sociologist Richard Sennett’s book “The Craftsman” from 2008.

The first task was to create a short summary – or précis – of the text.

 


Richard Sennett, American Sociologist famous for his work with urbanism.

Writes in his book from 2008 “The Craftsman”

Sennett writes about how the role and esteem of the craftsman has been diminished and how this has become a problem for the development of society. Starting from ancient times where the craftsman was highly regarded and there was a strong community around the idea of craft and “making things better”. Craftmanship slowly became degraded in the collective consiousness of the cultural elite, and therefore society. The making of society became seperated from the thinking behind society. This separation of thinking and doing, Sennett claims, is harmful to human development.

 

Another degredation also took place, between mens crafts and womens crafts. Only traditional men’s crafts done outside the home are even today considered “crafts”. He compares parenting and plumbing as an example. Sennett, in connection with this, mentions Plato, who said that seperating people into different boxes made them unavare that they were working for the same greater good.

He then goes on to talk about open-source against closed corporate stuctures – how the sense of community and the openness between the workers improves a product much faster than internal competition in a corporate structure.

In a political sense he concludes that, neither ‘doing it for the greater good’ (marxism) or individual competition (capitalism) provide as much incentive to make something better than the concept of corporation simply for the sake of the work itself. Not for the recognition or mother Russia.


 

The second task was to extract Sennett’s architectural positions from the text and make a list of them

 


 

Architecture gets better when there is close colloboration between architects, craftsmen and other relevant groups – together on the site preferably. (p.33.)

  • Flat structure (no or little hierarchy)
  • Idea and craft have to work together in experimentation to develop.
    • In that sense craftsmanship and architecture are the same thing.
  • Shared commitment to the task and to the company (p.31.)

Quality of craftsmanship is higher, when craftsmen are empowered by their work and allowed to make descisions about it – as well as question their leadership. (p.31.)

  • Allowed to use skills and knowledge to affect the architecture.
  • Passion and pride motivates good work better than working for money.
    • Loyalty to company -> accumulation of knowledge -> quality
      • If a building has not been crafted with respect, the inhabitants will feel it – and treat with disrespect, creating socially troubled areas (grafitti, trash in the streets, etc.) (p.29.)

Experience in every craft is passed down through generations and built upon. This development happens faster if people are encouraged to collaborate rather than compete against each other.

Good architecture demands good craftsmanship, which depends on willingness to invest time in quality rather than economy. (p.45)

  • Knowing a craft allows you to work freely with it and develop ideas better. Unskilled people can only work towards a fixed goal.
  • This quality also comes from knowing the relationship between different crafts and knowing how to make them benefit from each other.
  • Regulations (what’s “correct” in a general sense) vs. craftsman knowledge (what the craftsman, from experience, instinctively knows to be right in the given situation)

Industrial production can now with modern technology be used to improve architecture, but only if it’s used based on knowledge of the craft and the materials it is replacing/aiding.

More to follow tomorrow!