Oil, oil, everywhere, and not a drop to drink

The BP oil disaster continues, with heartbreaking results. I lived in southern Mississippi for about a year, so this is more personal to me than to most northern boys. I just found a widget from PBS that tells you more or less how much oil has gone into the Gulf of Mexico – but it doesn’t show you the brown pelicans, sea turtles and dolphins that it has killed, not to mention the people whose livelihoods it has ruined.

I don’t even have the heart to make snide remarks about BP here – they’re a bunch of callous murderers and money-grubbing destroyers of life. Period.

Categorized as Personal

Semester wrap-up pt. 3

This is the third part of a post that starts here, and continues here.

In my “standard” tech class, we continued to develop the design of our studio projects from the fall semester. I have to say this was one of the more eye-opening experiences I’ve had at the SoA, which is lucky to still have people like Dan Wheeler around. It really changed my outlook not only on my project, which until now I saw as an exercise in complete fantasy, but also on the possibility of reaching beyond what is “buildable”. It definitely helped to have someone as experienced and incredibly motivated as Dan guiding us with these, but it also showed me that things aren’t necessarily as impossible as they seem at first.

Here’s the final project from the class:

Finally, but not by any means last, was my theory class with Annie Pedret. In her research Annie focuses on early Postmodernism, and so in general did our class. However, our own research subjects were only very loosely related to the class subject. I wrote a paper on the influence of the Modern Movement on post-WWII Polish architecture. This was a kind of a personal exploration, since my earliest personal reactions to architecture involved Polish buildings, most of which are not and probably will never be noted in an international context. I still remember rows of rhomboid-roofed pavilions on then-Marchlewskiego in Warsaw as one of the first buildings I really noticed, when I was probably no older than six or seven. I’m not sure if anybody else remembers them, but I clearly recall being fascinated by that roofline.

Another is the “new” church in Bukowina Tatrzańska by Wojciech Pietrzyk, built to resemble a shepherd’s shelter, but in a completely Modern idiom, its spacious light-filled interior still resonating with me more than thirty years after I first saw it. Seeing a picture of the interior in a 360-degree panorama today, I’m only surprised at the amount of folky detail, which completely escaped my attention back then – or maybe I should say that it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of it at the time. Still it’s a gem.

The research is one of the first I’ve done that I’d love to continue. Maybe because of the personal aspect, but at least partly because the lack of source material in the US made it difficult to do an even halfway-decent job. I was incredibly surprised by the help I got from the Polish Academy of Sciences, but even the journal they sent me of their own volition (apparently the ladies who work there chipped in to buy a copy) only offered glimpses of what I was really interested in. So now I’m thinking that if I can’t find a decent job after graduation – and things aren’t looking too happy in the construction industry anywhere really – I just might go for a doctorate in Polish or Central European architecture. How would that be for a twist of fate?

Semester wrap-up pt. 2

This post starts here.

One of the more unusual classes was a tech elective with Doug Garafolo, in which we were supposed to design and build a prototype of a freely selected object that somehow related to architecture. I came up with a modular shelving unit that can in theory be expanded indefinitely – using only one panel and one connector type. Here’s the basic idea, though I admit originally I was going to go with some type of white plastic for the panels:

And a couple of views of the prototype:

I see something like this used both as a standard shelf and a room divider-slash-storage space:

Comments, good or bad, definitely welcome.

This post continues here.

Belated semester wrap-up

This post comes to you in three more-or-less easily digestible bits, or as one of my professors would put it, easy pieces (choke, sputter). Part two is here, and three here.

I had a lot to say at the end of the semester, but unfortunately I had too much to do to sit down and write it all down. Now it’s a bit late to work up the same level of sanctimonious fury over some of the less major bits. But for those who are interested, here’s a more-or-less factual run-down of my semester’s doings:

My housing studio this semester was an apartment (or more accurately a co-op) building on Division and Paulina (i.e. here). The main idea was to create a space for a community of creative types could live and work. To do this I put a series of studio spaces connected by a common terrace area at the top of the building, with each studio connected by a private staircase to one of the apartments below:

In keeping with the egalitarian concept of the building, all of the apartments have access to street frontage, each with a loggia protected from street noise and the southerly sun by wooden louvers. To get light into the long and narrow apartments, I put in light wells that also serve as individual (though not entirely “private”) terraces for the apartments. Access is from the front of the building through five staircases, each serving four apartments.

Here’s a rendering of the Division facade:

This is the layout of a single third-story apartment, with the studio space on top:

And here’s how the whole thing comes together:

All in all, this was a fantastic semester and a very interesting studio, even if I’m not entirely satisfied with the work I did.

This scandalously self-indulgent post continues here. Part 3, if you are so resilient, is here.