Design Exercise - Montana State University

SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE                             MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY Spring  2007

Architecture 551,2,3 Jim Blake – Instructor

Project:  Bozeman Art Center – “A Tale of Two Modernisms”


Exploring Cubism – simultaneity, multiple station points, shallow pictorial space, democratized picture plane – the fractured lens.

Sculpting human figure from live model – work at ½ life size with 1/16” corrugated cardboard, box cutter, heavy duty stapler and glue gun. – Two hours Charcoal drawing from resulting sculpture – fifteen minute toned drawings (2) Contour drawing from sculpture – 1” wide  “Postermat” marker –5 @ ten minutes Drawing from memory – Tone drawing:  facture, passage – the technics of Cubist space – two hours Painting the cardboard sculpture – controlled palette (sepia, ochre, gray, black) Diagramming the positive and negative space of the sculpted figure Diagramming the drawings: Digitizing the sculpture : Rotations, deconstructions,  , peel, slice, poke: topological excursions.

Exploring the Grid  - stasis, deep pictorial space, imperial picture plane – the pristine lens

Imagine driving up and down four Bozeman streets, turn a corner and drive up and down four more that are perpendicular to the first group and think of the dominance of the rational grid in the fabric of all of our lives.  Recall walking / driving through the streets of Athens or Rome and imagine the Medieval cow path  as a generator of street geometry.  Notice Thomas Jefferson’s township / section divisions of the American landscape the next time you fly, notice where Jefferson’s grid is violated. Note ten things that can be described well in plan, section and elevation and ten things that cannot.  Select one of the things that cannot and try it anyway. When does the grid enable?  When does the grid disable? Write a ½ page essay on each notion as it applies to architecture. Would it be a violation of an implied or stated rule of esthetics to create an architecture that mixes UltraModern with CitraModern forms? Write a one page essay using examples of the success or failure of such conflation. (Gehry @ the Weismann Gallery @ Uof MN if stumped for an example) Daniel Liebskind said that he was inspired by the Rocky Mountains while developing the geometry of his Denver Art Museum.  Is there an implied grid at work in these forms (however distorted) or is this a CitraModern building with its roots in Cubism? Write a paragraph.

Find or create an 8-1/2” x 11” image that illustrates the following:

Cardo and Decamanus: an early urban grid Wide bay / narrow bay: Corbu @ Garches, Villa Savoye, Venice Hospital The horizontal datum: Kalman and  McKinnell’s “Zone of Human Occupation” Tartan plans: LeMessurier’s valorization of structure and hvac Transformations: Rotate, peel, extrude, Literal / phenomenal transparency: layering the façade (Rowe, Slutzky  essay) The gridded landscape: Tschumi’s LaVillette Park Transformations/ oppositions: Eisenman / Terragni Structural and commercial imperatives – office space (hide your stapler) The poetics of the logarithmic grid Grid warp: Hawking space – imaginary topologies Popcorn, Fried eggs and Salami: Seligman’s rational hierarchies

In conjunction with the design and documentation of the Museum of Steel each student will be required to develop the following:

Left Bank Folly sketches –One sketch per 3” x 5” card.  Create 10 follies  per day through schematic design after you have analyzed the building program via color-coded area swatches.

Left Bank Follies

An architect is an artist.  An artist spends a lifetime developing a language of expression.  This studio is an opportunity for you to explore your relationship with your medium (light / inhabited built form) your esthetic politics, your culture, your city, your colleagues and primarily, your understanding of the poetry of light.  The work you do this term will inspire you until the end of your life.  The architectural design process is rooted in the notion of a concept, a direction, an attitude, a belief as manifest in an organizing principle, a parti which in turn will suggest form.  The search for the source of your concept will be like peeling a vegetable – an onion one would hope with many layers perhaps some tears, no potatoes in this class.  Think and feel as deeply and as broadly as you can and then stop, stand and deliver your answers.

Some architects, upon being given the opportunity to design this building would, before reading the program,  create a sketch on a linen tablecloth and with this evidence of a eureka moment, would proceed to massage the program into the linen vision and thence to bricks, mortar, steel and glass.  The Sydney Opera House, the Denver Art Museum and the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art are examples of this process.  Some architects would spend a month or two studying the program and the site, circulation patterns, precedents and projected patterns of use and then create the eureka sketch.  Some would avoid the whole notion of a burst of inspiration and methodically arrange the served and servant spaces, refining the space and the structure until a resonant pitch is attained that may transcend inspiration. Explore (and record) your own process.  American culture claims to treasure the magic of inspiration but  it is the hard-won resonance of imaginative, integrated and consistent quality that endures.  This quality is manifest during all phases of the architecture delivery process from programming (Wright reinvents the American home, Saarinen reinvents the airport, Kahn reinvents the bio-research center) to design development (Kahn at Exeter Library, Kimball Art Museum, Saarinen at the Ford Foundation) to the most tediously reviewed realities of an enclosure system (Blake checks shop drawings for roadway expansion joint plates at San Francisco International Airport Terminal).

A large part of the work performed in school is schematic design, always a very small percentage of the total time spent on building delivery by the architect. When all of the players in a building project are included, it is a microscopic amount of time. Schematic design is emphasized in school because you will never have the luxury again in your career of  thinking for such extended periods about light and space.  Although design happens throughout a project and at all levels and phases of a project, it is during the schematic phase that form congeals from mists of language and intent i.e. when rubber hits the road.  When you are designing a building you are in the ring with Mohamed Ali.  Recalling Ali’s musical analogy: “You better C-sharp or you’re gonna B-flat”.  You will  train every day to be a designer.  You will make design decisions every day at every opportunity.  It is only by becoming a thinker who is comfortable with the responsibility of design decisions that you will hear the bell for round two let alone round fifteen and or victory.  So how does an architect, the artist, the form-giver, the team leader train for the ring?  If one waits until the commission is firmly under contract it will be too late.  We are surrounded by missed opportunity, by designers who were distracted before the second round.  We’re training fighters here, survivors, ring magicians.

Training exercises:

Left Bank Follies:  Carry blank 3” x 5” index cards with you at all times and a pen with water soluble ink (Pilot razor point, Papermate Flair).  Doodle in class, before dinner, at the bar, before the game, as a break during reading.  This is not ordinary doodling but a series of mini-exercises in exploring your inner linen eureka sketch. Get these images out of your system and into the light of day.     Don’t spend more than a few minutes on a single card.  Fold up a second card into an airplane/paintbrush and dip it into your glass of water, coffee, or iced tea and add a bit of tone, scale figures, shade and shadow. Select your favorite follies for development. Enlarge them to 11” x 17” and  develop them further into forms and spaces that might generously be interpreted as buildings.   Bask in your own private Idaho in these exercises –a place that you would not necessarily wish to share with the competition judges, a design review board, the planning commission or your clients.  This is play with an agenda, brainstorming, making connections with your subconscious.  You may recover a single form worth exploring  in one of a hundred of these follies but the strength, agility and reflexes you develop in their creation will serve you well.  The usefulness of these follies will depend upon the extent to which you have internalized the programmatic and thematic issues prior to your explorations.