Text 6 Jul 5 more links for you: aalto wood program edition



In May I had the chance to visit Helsinki, Finland and a couple of its surrounding towns. I had been very interested in traveling to Finland for some time. Besides the general, exotic appeal of a country so far away (and so far north), I was particularly intrigued by two facts and their influences on each other.

1)  Finland is a country that, despite its relatively small population, boasts a very strong international reputation for architecture and design. Consider the names Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Alvar Aalto, Mikko Heikkinen, Markku Komonen, and Juhani Pallasmaa, among others.

2)  Finland is a country defined by its forests. An astounding three quarters of its land area is forested, and forest products play a uniquely critical role in its economy. (For more information check out Metla, the Finnish Forest Research Institute).  

I wanted to spend some time on the ground to learn about and see for myself the ways in which wood is utilized and celebrated in Finnish architecture, both in history and in today’s cutting-edge applications (including prefabricated Massive Timber panels). I also wanted to see how tomorrow’s architects are being trained to work and design with wood. 

I have a variety of experiences to share in future posts, but I wanted to start by simply sharing a few links relating to the remarkable Wood Program at Aalto University. This interdisciplinary graduate research program comprises faculty and students from Architecture, Civil Engineering, and Forestry. It takes a hands-on, learn-by-making approach that has led to a strong and growing set of built projects, and innumerable young designers poised to work with this natural, renewable, and timeless material. I was fortunate to visit with Pekka Heikkinen, the program’s director, and Auli Puhakka-Autio, one the other faculty, who were both gracious to spend the afternoon with me.

Enjoy these links:

Liina Transitional Shelter
World Design Capital 2012 Pavilion
Kierre Pavilion
Vaijy Watch Tower
Wood Works Lecture Series

Text 12 Feb 5+ more links for you: schools of architecture edition

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Lee Hall III at Clemson University
Thomas Phifer and Partners Architects


Working as I do in architectural education, I am always interested in seeing facilities designed to house and support schools of architecture.  What do these facilities say about the types of programs offered, the interests and pedagogies of the faculties, and the character of the students?  Is the school oriented toward making and building, and at what scale?  Is it oriented toward collaboration between disciplines?  Is it especially proud of a distinguished alumnus?

There has been a recent wave of new buildings in this category - one of which I call home.  Here is a small sampling - some new, some a little older, and some on the horizon.

Clemson School of Architecture (South Carolina)
Milstein Hall at Cornell University (New York)
University of Virginia School of Architecture (Virginia)
Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture (Ohio)
Yale Art + Architecture (Connecticut)
Kent State College of Architecture (Ohio)
Abedian School of Architecture (Australia)
Nantes School of Architecture (France)
Umea School of Architecture (Sweden)
Chinese University of Honk Kong (Hong Kong)

Text 4 Jan 5 more links for you
Text 26 Dec Picture This #13

Seattle Central Library
Location:  Seattle, Washington
Date:  2004
Architect:  Rem Koolhaas and OMA (with LMN Architects)

And now… (at long last)… the photo recap of my February visit to Seattle’s Central Library.

In an earlier post, I described the impossibility of capturing or describing the library in any sort of comprehensive way.  Instead I’ve decided to highlight colors and graphics, which together guide visitors through the facility and make it useful (and memorable).  

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5th Street facade

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5th Street loggia

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program breakdown by floor level

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the “living room” (level 3)

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open presentation space (level 3) - 5th St. entrance beyond

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circulation desk (level 3)

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escalator wall (diagrid curtainwall structure beyond)

All vertical circulation intended for public use is bright yellow. It is easy to locate from anywhere in the building, and the consistent color helps visitors subconsciously group and identify elevators, escalators, and ramps.


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level 4, containing public meeting rooms

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view to level 5 

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escalator at 5th level “mixing chamber”

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general collection in the innovative, ramping “book spiral” (levels 6-9)

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view to elevator interior

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reading desks at public “reading room” (level 10)

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foreign language collection (Evelyn W. Foster Learning Center, level 1)

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raised lettering on hardwood floor (Foster Learning Center, level 1)

This flooring was created by conceptual artist Ann Hamilton and features words from eleven different languages.


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circulation desk (level 1)

Text 14 Aug Lectured, part 2
Back in November I reported on the first of two particularly interesting presentations I attended from the Clemson School of Architecture CAF Lecture Series.  For my recap of that first presentation from Belinda Tato scroll down to Lectured, part 1.

Next I want to share a few fragments from the second lecture:   “Forms vs. Formatted Content” delivered by Eva Franch on 11.09.12.

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photo from Eva Franch lecture (photo by Armando Montilla)

Ms. Franch is the current director of the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City, which is one of the most provocative voices in contemporary architecture and design, and one of the hardest to categorize.  Established in 1982 by Kyong Park, it is a place for public ideas outside of the normal channels - part forum and part salon.  It is, according to Franch, “a space of the edge and in the edge.”  And, judging from her lecture, which was equally invigorating and exhausting (like drinking from the proverbial fire hose), Storefront has a worthy and kindred spirit in Ms. Franch.

Rather than try and summarize (again… think fire hose), I will simply provide links to a set of Storefront projects she mentioned, and close with an observation.

Links to projects mentioned:

Aesthetics / Anesthetics (30 Storefronts)
Past Futures, Present, Futures

DOUBLE
(from the Manifesto series)
In The Dark

The last of these projects, In The Dark, came in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent blackouts throughout the New York / New Jersey metro area.  Storefront asked participants to come with flashlights and deliver readings or commentary related to the intersections of architecture and darkness.  This is a compelling topic, to be sure, but the immediacy of the event is what really stuck with me.  Storefront is hyper-relevant - in part because it aims to define what is relevant, but also because it is aware, active and nimble.  As Franch herself put it:  “We don’t need three years to do things.  We can do them now.”  It is valuable to have entities like Storefront modeling this ethos and operating in the gaps, so to speak.  Now, what would it look like to inject this sort of thinking into our own cities… and even our own practices?
Text 5 Aug one more from Dad’s house

Text 22 Jul my Dad’s house

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I grew up in Roanoke, Virginia - a small city that developed as a hub for the Norfolk Southern railroad before plateauing in size with the deceleration of that industry.  Throughout my childhood my Dad kept his eye on a particular house in our quiet neighborhood.  It was an anachronism - a log cabin with a deep, wrap-around porch and stone chimney situated in the middle of otherwise conventional homes. Located just down the hill from where we lived at the time, we’d sled past it together whenever it snowed.  I remember peering inside when he took me door to door to sell popcorn for the cub scouts.  He always wanted to live in that house, refurbish it, and make it his own.  

His chance finally came nearly 8 years ago (too late for me to claim the penthouse bedroom, which went to my younger sister).  For two months prior to moving in, he refinished the floors and repainted the walls.  The walls were painstaking work, and he virtually lived on a ladder with Mom serving him pizza and other items that could be consumed from his perch.  Paint rollers were not an option because, you see, the interior walls are made of logs as well.  And, like the exterior walls, all of the logs run vertically rather than horizontally, which is customary in log construction. 

This is a peculiar house, indeed, and over the last couple of months I’ve really gotten to know it, appreciate it, and marvel at my Dad’s (and Mom’s) labor of love.  Here is what I know of its story.

The house was built in 1921 by the railroad company as a hunting lodge for employees and guests.  At that time it sat alone in its corner of town.  At some later date it was converted into a private home.  There were two outbuildings (a shed and a garage, which was later demolished) - but despite their similar construction, I couldn’t tell you whether they were original.  My guess is that they were added at the later conversion. 

The vertical logs had baffled me until I learned of other similar structures from that era (including the nearby Coffee Pot roadhouse), and learned that the logs invariably came from American chestnut trees.  Prior to the blight which wiped out the species, American chestnuts covered the area.  That being said, their trunks were generally too small to stack horizontally.  Hence the vertical orientation of the logs.  

They were used much like studs would be in common framing.  But because chestnuts were so plentiful, there was no need to mill them into lumber.  Just chop them down, cut them to size, and line them up - making sure that the spacing was close enough to infill with plaster.

This skeleton, though, is only part of the charm.  The interior contains the refinished hardwood floors along with wood paneled ceilings and the original electrical fixtures.  And the exterior setting, including the white oak trees (some 200 to 300 years old), my Dad’s stone terraces, and his many flowers, is truly remarkable. 

I hope you enjoy these photos, through which I aim to share this special house and pay honor to my Dad, his vision, and his hard work.

 

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east facade (with Dad’s “Hokie” day lillies at bottom left)


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closeup view of chimney and path


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back yard (shed on right)


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view of rear addition (this later addition, which is clad in shingle siding, is the only portion of the house with standard lumber framing)


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the shed (with Bob and Sherri the flamingos)


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side steps to front porch (at southwest corner)


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side porch (Dad made this table with boards salvaged from a white oak tree that once stood on the property)


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living room ceiling


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detail of sconce in dining room


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mantle at living room fireplace (Dad’s Christmas spirit was not confined to Decembers)


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interior hallway with original oak floors (the log walls are especially interesting in the near dark)


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east facade at night


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water lily (from Dad’s goldfish pond)



In Loving Memory of D.G. Albright
5/20/1953 - 7/19/2013

Text 14 Jul 5 more links for you

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Seattle City Hall
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects


digital deception

sketching in the digital age

ikea disaster relief housing

corporate image (what renderings say about new Samsung HQ)

AFAM disected
(note:  see the previous edition of 5 links for more AFAM background)

Text 12 Jul answers

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(image from Wild At Heart by David Lynch, 1990, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment - image source: http://film-grab.com/category/david-lynch/)


So I cheated a little in my last post.  ALL THREE were images taken inside the Seattle Library.

Text 8 Jul Koolhaas vs. Lynch

It has taken me awhile to get around to it, but I’ve started preparing for a post with images from my recent visit to the Seattle Public Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas and OMA.

For those who are unfamiliar with the library, I’ll just say that it is impossible to fully capture or explain (it has to be experienced).  The two best words that I can think of to describe it are episodic and overwhelming.

In my forthcoming post I will try to focus on color, graphics and way-finding, while trying to also convey a sense of the building’s scale.  In the meantime I thought I’d offer up a little game.

To my surprise and intrigue, parts of the library were so surreal that I felt like I was walking through a dream sequence in some bizarro arthouse film.  And that got me thinking… could the average reader distinguish between images from the library and cropped screen captures from David Lynch’s films?  Take a look at the images below and see if you can tell.  Is it Koolhaas or is it Lynch?

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Image 3
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