So there I stood, five meters above the ground, just about to jump, when suddenly…

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Tom always thought much. Nowadays, he thought, we spend most of our time inside not outside. We start our day waking up in our bedroom, then we go through a society of different rooms to refresh ourselves and prepare to the new day. Time went on and Tom soon went out his home to school, where his actions were strictly confined within 4 walls of the classroom, and moreover within the maze of premise’s spatial composition which controlled children movements, thoughts and desires, like a nun with wired eyes.

Tom remembers when once his colleague wanted to rebel this order and went to run through the window right to the school’s atrium, where the children were not allowed to go during the breaks. But Josh was always a stubborn 8-years-old, so his penalty was cruel. The art teacher saw him doing so, and he closed the window block Josh’s only way out.  Although seeing this Josh didn’t take it seriously anyway, but started to run along the atrium jumping and shouting just as he could grasp enough flow in his hands to fly out of the school.

But soon the bell went off and the children who were observing Josh for the whole time, with this typical dose of infantile jealousy indifferently took their backpacks and came back to their classrooms. As well did teachers and cleaners and the school’s conservator. All audience left their seats leaving poor Josh without neither societal interaction nor way to get out of his situation, what made him think for a second about Albert Camus. So as he stood there and he started looking for an exit.

The most clever of all tricks of our school was that it had many interesting spots that seemed to lead us somewhere while leading in fact to dead ends. So many dead ends Josh came across that day, climbing and digging and trying to get through everything that seemed in some way promising him a way out of this nonsense.Tom couldn’t stand the fact that although he felt sorry for Josh miserable situation he had to present his writing about his favourite movie character on this lesson. Of course, there were many things that he couldn’t stand like hungry children in Africa, or hungry children in Asia but these were far away his country, even his playground, and what was happening to Josh was happening right now and right next to him. In fact, this happening was affecting him so much that he could not only hear Josh, but even smell his sweat, like a dead rat suffocated in a cage by a cruel scientist.

He couldn’t stand it any longer so he stood up and bravely raising his two fingers like a gladiator raising the head of the killed opponent he murmured: “Can I go to the bathroom?”. “To the bathroom?” – the teacher asked with a tone of irritation. “So, you think you can just disturb my precisely, and laboriously prepared lesson, or even no, not even my lesson, but even the whole ideally designed and thought-through curriculum, oh, no wait, that’s not even enough to make you understand your arrogance, I will ask you, you young anarchist, do  you want to disturb the whole God’s divine plan and, no, no, no;  that’s not strong enough to make you understand, you …” and this speech proceeded, constructed just as the school’s space, so as to mislead a pupil to make him feel confused trying to look torugh the perplexed sentences’ , which were only entangling more and more. But Tom did not get confused. He said bravely still raising his two fingers to the air, just as the gladiator raises the head of the killed opponent “Yes, I do”.

And out of the classroom was he thrown out.

Some might ask, what made Tom not get disturbed by the teacher’s disturbing speech. Well, its hard to find universal answer for this question, while its source doesn’t lie in the universality, but rather subjectivity of Tom’s perception. You see, while some might argue that in this world our collective value is overwhelming individual awareness, Tom never accepted Marxists’s point of view. His strength lied in his deep faith in his awareness, that flew out of the battlefield of ego and id, and out of societal interference. His sincere relationship with his wife who was himself, and his husband who was himself made him understand that the only right that we always had was the right to dignity.

And Josh understood it too, and that’s why he jumped through the window on that faithful day and that’s why he tried like Icarus fly to Sun, and that’s why, that’s why, so why?

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Just what is it that makes today’s architecture so different, so appealing?

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The whole society can be divided on money and advertisement only. It’s basically nothing more, neither now nor before, despite romantic promises of Michael Moore.

Why advertisements bring so much disgust to me? Well, it isn’t a simple question. They are persuasive, catchy, I really liked adverbs when I was younger. Especially all these phrases, Gosh, I could repeat them endlessly, annoying my parents relentlessly.

The obvious purpose of advertising is making money. And it’s very easy to distinguish when you come across commercial architecture such as Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Frank O’Gehry, or Charles Moore’s buildings. These pieces are made mostly to shock and to keep term starcitect up-to-date. But we need this type of amusement to make cities look interesting, and to make the world look interesting, although I think real architecture might have got lost. After all, no “less is more” but “less is bore”!

Postmodernists’ ‘bible’ is titled “Lessons from Las Vegas” and it’s really no surprise. It’s a little like seeing Hunter S. Thompson who gave up writing for the sake of AutoCAD  – that might be funny!

If you don’t know what’s on here, it’s probably about money and it’s probably because the real world’s decision-makers are neither architects nor any other designers or engineers, but businessmen, bankers, accountants, politicians and lawyers. They are who possess power and money, and who virtually shape our world. We are only their minions. We don’t decide – we suggest. Architects may become legends for future generations like Frank Lloyd Wright or Le Corbusier, but simultaneously sustain as poor as a church mouse. After all, financial problems accompanied Frank for whole his life, and Le Corbusier was making fun of so many times, that the tribute he was given at his funeral was a joke. A joke in a really bad taste.

The great buildings were most commonly named by theirs marchands. Why? Because they are the reason why things are getting done. They own these buildings, a well they own their architects and engineers and you. And the most outraging of all shames is that it’s Boris Johnson who will have right to stand on the top of the hill looking at the newly done London airport with THE RIGHT to say “I have created this – it’s mine creation”. Architects and engineers were only a small particle in the process and we so rarely actually see our buildings. If I was to describe this job most simply I would say it’s a very interesting office job. But, wait a second… they described it differently in TASCHEN.

Chapter III “Contrasting Effects of Solids and Cavities”

With this post I’m going to continue the text I’ve written relatively long time ago – “Experiencing architecture” Chapter II.

As the previous post covered the topic of seeing both cavities and masses, today’s daanico is going to elaborate on the visual effect we can obtain by using these two qualities. Otherwise, how to make space look gorgeous.

Renaissance order

The example which is being described by Rasmussen at the very beginning is Porta di Santo Spirito by Antonio da Sangallo. Only a short glance is required to realize what this gate wants to tell us. Ancient beauty, harmony, rigid order are visible in every column and every cavity. What’s interesting about it, is that formally the gate was never finished; and it does no difference to the buildings’ beauty at all. Rasmussen indicates that the idea that stays behind the gate is as clear as the ancient ruins were comprehensible for Renaissance architects. This successful effect was able to obtain by substantial use of space. The stunning rhythm of convex and concave forms adds drama to the structure and the effect is even enhanced when warm, Mediterranean light falls on its stones. In that moment the gate displays its essence most clearly and only then the darkness inside its passage contrasts so distinguishably with the bright skin of the façade.

Effect fini is what academic artists used to call their pieces when they saturated and polished them to the extent that human eye couldn’t notice brush strokes. If we took one of such artists and show him our gates, he would definitely start to add details to the structure. However this method neither adds more beauty nor meaning to this piece. This popular technique of XIX-century artists stands in great contrast to nowadays sustainable thinking. Especially phrase coined by famous modern architect Adolf Loos, “Ornament is Crime” add a lot to today’s attitude towards old, academic thinking. His writings are full of comparisons of adding ornaments and gorgeous details to sexual activities, which in context of Freud psychology played pivotal role in art.

Manneristic experiments

Let’s consider now the second example from the book, Michelangelo’s Porto Pia. It displays how use of materials took advantage on the architecture. Congestion of copious details in all its possible forms and variations is so dense and so imposing that it creates nothing more than a meaningful noise. Although this artist is so well-known for his dramatic buildings, this time drama underwent creator’s ambition.

Although this disappointing attempt, Michelangelo’s experiment succeeded at the end in what we can today admire as St. Paul’s Cathedral. Experiments, are what distinguished this artist from the crowd and it’s just a matter of discussion whether Mannerists experiments can be called a sexual stimulation of adding more and more strange details, or perhaps a real architecture. Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne designed by Baldossare Peruzzi is one of these experiments outcome. Professor indicates that its today’s outlook is quite different because the street where the building curves its manneristic façade, has been widened after its erecting. Called by Rasmussen beautiful in its own fashion, the palace has many interesting elements. Located on crossing of two streets, its main entrance deeply hollowed out looks like continuation of the street. This displays how space can be used to receive interesting effects.

Baroque vibrancy

Dynamicity, surprising, exaggeration are all terms completely fine to connect them with Baroque period, and its imaginative experiments, resembling these of Michelangelo. Baroque originated many geniuses, like Borromini, sculptor, painter, and architect, whose oblong colonnade on the St. Paul’s Cathedral’s square adds drama to Michelangelo’s masterpiece. Also Borromini’s contributions can’t neglected while his magnificent San Carlo alle Quatro Fontane amaze us by its curved, responding to the narrowness of the street facade. These two, and many other less known artists and their copious imagination added life to this period.

The example studied in Rasmussen’s masterpiece, Santa Maria della Pace, particularly vividly displays Baroque values. Its extraordinary use of cavities and convexities is just poetical. Its dramatic façade resembles something alike explosion, crumbling, sweeping and can be only described as a theatre of architecture. However, the tragedy of this architecture lies in its quantitivness; while Renaissance architecture operated ideas which are timeless, Baroque’s beauty lasted only until a stronger opponents strode on stage. Compared to contemporary projects like these of Frank O’Gehry, Baroque buildings seem massive, stiff and firmly bound by gravitational forces.

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What can we end up with?

Successful arrangement of our three dimensions is also visible in the plaza where Fontanna di Trevi was built. Baroque was the time when many interesting urban experiments have been conducted, therefore it shouldn’t be surprising that places such as mentioned before church Santa Maria della Pace or Fontanna di Trevi, had their own prepared surroundings, In form of refined houses and streets nearby. The spatial composition around Fontanna di Trevi is amazing due to its oblong walls and vivid accentuation of the fountain as dominant of the place. Also the effect of contrast has been prepared there. The rugged rocks of the fountain strikingly oppose polished columns and walls of the church behind.

On the other hand, architecture may be as well used to obtain harmony, like in one of the greatest examples of XX-century architecture, Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright. As the attempts of using vast amounts of ornaments in Porto Pia disappointingly failed, Wright’s ornaments worked out. That’s because Wright’s ornament is nature. Bernini’s rugged rocks in Fontanna di Trevi work in the same way as Frank’s limestone, white concrete, smooth glass and cold steel.

I hope that after this reading you’ll understand more the possibilities of space, which we take so straightforwardly in everyday life. What joins all the examples are that its creators were not afraid to loose themselves in experimenting. These were the experiments, which took Mannerists away from Renaissance artists giving birth to Baroque, which further inspired monsters, which we call architecture today. In spite of that, we cannot forget about the importance of responding to the surrounding. Regardless we will be artificially sculpting it like Baroque urbanists, or just take it as it is like Frank Lloyd Wright, our building are not  just separated from reality ejaculations of our imagination (or ambition), but real edifices, which should be intended to serve real people.

Dwelling drawing and maquette projects – week 4 and 5

Name of the project: Dwelling Drawing and Dwelling Maquette
Date:21-25/10 and 17/10-01/11
Objectives: Familiarizing us with octogonal projections, model-making and BIM software.

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Eventually, Karate Kid finished the era of the projects slightly awkward to explain to your friends that they’re your architecture course. It’s not like I didn’t find them useful, of course they captured my imagination at some points, but I am simply happy we overcame that stage.

The commentary above doesn’t refer at all to the “Reading Room” Project, which I concerned, and I still do, as very architectural.

Simultaneously, I have to announce, that although my most sincere will of writing something about the boat project I just simply cannot force myself to do it. It somehow lies under my skin and burns my nerves every time I endeavored to sit over it.

Anyway, today’s project was really something I enjoyed, so please, sit back, relax and have a nice read.

Week 1

This project made us work for the first time individually. The long list of architects hanging on the wall provided us with opportunity to choose the theme, which was to determine our fate during the next two weeks. However, there was little time to choose wisely, while in a blink of an eye most of these were already taken.

Just like in real life.

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The main objective of the week one was to produce in right scale and fine composition a dwelling of our chosen architect.  It might seem that mere copying drawings cannot convey much value. Per contra it can. What has been emphasized at the very beginning of the project, was the importance of thinking in drawing. Therefore we didn’t only copied, but in fact studied them.

Week 2

Of course, such studying is a very individual thing and I don’t recommend this method in any school unsure of possessing a number of students eager as hell to draw these goddamn houses. Even if somebody put no effort in what he draws, anyway his sins were to show up on the second week, which was dealing with interpretation of the dwelling. Through the means of spatial composition, or simply speaking making a maquette, we were challenged to present our knowledge building in more accurate, in architectural way of thinking, method.

Moreover, this time we were allowed to work in small groups with the people who held the same edifice. Our final outcomes could be split into three categories:

  • Section studies
  • Project reconstruction
  • Interpretation of the idea

It’s pointless to evaluate which worked as the best exercise for us, while the main objective of the task was rather to familiarize us with modelling. After all, the workshop introduction and sessions which we attended previously, made us seriously looking forward getting to grips with these sexy saws and sanders, which might have made some of us feel like Mies van der Rohe craftsmanshipping in his youth.

Materials that we shaped by our architectural visions could be simplified into

  • Grayboard
  • Foamboard
  • Timber

what of course, doesn’t cover the whole variety of different clay and cardboard which one could have come across in our studio at that time, but I think it conveys the picture sufficiently, anyway.

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What makes us scream, what makes us happy

But the physical models tutors told us additionally to face computer software. As our experience with 3D modelling, in majority equaled zero, the only solution was to use SketchUp programme, with its whole magnificence of poorly-made camera operation and a number of small awkwardnesses, generated  a cloud of frustration that hung above our studio’s rooms.

This firm criticism of mine is derived not only from the fact that my first experience with the programme ended up with “Not responding” message. My sad statement is supported with our tutors opinion they showed at the very first day of touching this subject.

The Crit

Therefore, at the middle of the first November’s Friday, our models were (mostly) finished and the Critique was due to take off. The presentations of models, both digital and physical serves well for all of us, and will be definitely useful in our future careers.

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Sparks in the Park 2013, Cardiff Firework Show on 02/11/2013

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In the evening of the first Saturday of November a 30-minute long cascade of fireworks tore up the Cardiff sky. The annual celebration of the Guy Fawkes Night in Cardiff’s Bute Park took off and supported by the firework display, bonfire, food stalls and funfair was at that night the largest festival in Wales.

Guy Fawkes Night 2013

“Sparks in the Park”, as the event was called took place for the 33rd time and drew to the Bute Park crowds eager to experience the thrill of the show and spend some of their time with friends while  eating sausages and drinking. I hadn’t know anything about it before, but it happened that I was fortunately nearby when the first explosion, followed by the cloud of sharp smell of powder disturbed the park.

Sparks glimmering against the black canvas of the night brought to my mind the painting of James Whistler, whom work I covered in the previous post. The painting is called “Nocturne in Black and Gold”.

The display that could awaken the dead from their graves

The impression when going through the audience was one-off. I’ve seen how different people in different way experienced the display. The exhilaration of girls when the sky blew up, the joyful shouts of kids when the sky blew up, and the cogitation of the man when the sky blew up all occurring in one place, in one time.

20131102_190248For me the experience was miraculous and it was very easy to lose yourself in the show. All visual effects of the explosions melded with the smell of burnt powder, and the music of Avicii “Wake me up” made the festival seem deliriously, almost like daydreaming. It was the feeling, which must have shared the people of New York, when they were visiting Coney Island and Luna Park in XX century. It was the feeling of Fritzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and its glimmering lights of Manhattan. That was this kind of entertainment which makes you feel that your life is fine. That you are fine.

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Chapter IX, “Colour in architecture”

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XXI century equipped us with a load of quick and effective tools, that help us search for information quickly and effectively. With this in mind I come up with the idea how to improve Internet searching even more.

Imagine a search tool, which would do statistics on the amount of colours in architecture pictures. What inspired me to this was typing in Google simple phrase “architecture”. I scanned the graphics in terms of the colours of their buildings and the pattern became clear.

The first building was mostly white with some brown accents, the second totally brown with blue details, the third, completely white, the fourth white, the fifth white and the rest only white, white, and white.

There are many reasons for this penchant for white in architecture. It’s elegant, neutral and clean. White interior appears clear, while white exterior efficiently reflects sunlight providing thermal comfort, and also reflects the natural tints of the surrounding, giving a nice visual effects.

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Especially, during sunset.

The power of colours

It’s amazing to what extent colour can change the character of a place. If we took two photos of the same place, from which one is black and white and another is colourful, and asked somebody what is his impression over the first, and further the second one, we might receive two completely different answers.

After all, colour had, and still has a very strong meaning for us. Cultures around the world were associating colours with the elements of the world. Moreover, symbolism of colours has been often used in pop-culture, by associating hues with peoples’ traits, and especially successful example of this can be seen in the well-known TV series – Power Rangers.

Polychromy

Most commonly, it was the surrounding that determined the colour. For example, if in a region we can come across big amounts of red stone, we can be sure that houses nearby will be coloured in a similar hue.

On the other hand, there have been also cultures which opposed this manner, and started to employ hues and shades strikingly different than the local ones. This refers also to the issue, eagerly taken up by architecture professor, willing to astonish their students. The curiosity refers to the ancient Greek temples, which have etched in our minds as brightly white, which in fact were densely polychromed with Greek ornaments and motifs. What a surprise!

Colour follows function

Because, of the physical settings of light architects in the design process must inevitably come across the strength of colours, in implementing character of the place. Architectural qualities, described by Rasmussen in Chapter I “Basic Observations”, are also dependant on colours. Heaviness, softness, roughness and tautness can be all either emphasized or obscured, simply  by using colour.

 Zaha Hadid’s Library and Learning Center is a good example of employing black and white colours in architecture. Zaha is famous for her play with architectural form, and in this building the solids underneath contrast, due to their light, white colour, to the bulky, black wedge aloft. Such composition makes us anxious on the very deep level of our perceiving architecture.

Although, this project uses tints rather to disturb the viewer, more commonly architects employ colour in order to accentuate their architecture. The building of the well-known phenomenologist, Peter Zumthor, Therme Vals has materials of distinctive black hue, which makes the terms appear heavy and hard, firmly standing on the ground.

Old, Great masters of European culture, especially in the period of Baroque had penchant for deceiving our eyes, by painting fake architecture details on walls, or creating spatial illusions with perspective on ceilings. Trompe l’oil, how it was called, was praised at that time as the highest mastery in painting.

Deceiving the eye stuns at first glance, what works perfectly in temples, but defeats its purpose in houses and places we live daily. Employing colours on materials different than natural annoys on a long-term in the same way, if we painted our dinner blue. Regardless how interesting it would appear, we lose all our appetite at once.

How to put colours

That’s why the walls of old big temples are most commonly painted white. By this easy and cheap method the hall seems more spatial. On the other hand, in smaller, more intimate rooms we expect more lively colours, which will keep us in the premise that walls are close to us and are visibly confining our space.

At the end of the chapter, Professor Rasmussen recalls an interesting example, in which he juxtaposes two, XVII-century, Dutch painters, Johanees Vermeer, whom art I covered in my recent post, and Pieter de Hooch. The specific atmospheres of their art are tightly connected with the light studies the artists conducted in their houses, however these were uneven. Due to the difference in the building orientation, two painters’ used different daylights, and therefore also obtained different atmospheres. Vermeer, whose windows were facing North used more pale palette that Pieter de Hooch, who worked at afternoons, when the Sun cast saturated, red light, making his paintings more nostalgic and colourful.