Station Point - Definition

Station Point – 1              March 1, 2007 The station point is the location in a linear perspective construction of the observer of the scene being depicted.  Brunelleschi’s conceptual breakthrough in 1412 was to pin the station point in a perspective construction to one specific place allowing the accurate identification of points of intersection of rays of reflected light with his picture plane, light traveling on its path to the single eyeball of the viewer of the scene represented by the station point.  It was Brunelleschi’s awareness of the picture plane as a device, a window, a flat, transparent plane for the recording of visual information received by a viewer from the temporal world that provided him with an abstract, self-referential, internally consistent planar context for the development of such notions as the horizon line, the vanishing point, the measuring line, the picture plane in plan and elevation, which enables the cross-coordination of the paths of light rays and so, the uncannily accurate representation of three- dimensional space on a two- dimensional plane such as a canvas, wood panel or the wall of a church.  Painting had represented three-dimensional space and forms revealed by light since the prehistoric cave paintings and three-dimensional imagery was elaborated in ancient Greece and Rome but it was the elucidation of the rules of perspective during the early Renaissance in Italy that provided the means to an artist to develop a rational, accurate and convincing pictorial space and then to populate its public plazas, private rooms and deep vistas with the personalities and the architecture of the age as well as with the creatures of mythology and the dramas of history.

The pinning of the station point was a momentous event in human history, it symbolized man’s renewed analytical encounter with matters of the surface of the earth.  The pinning of the station point symbolizes the Humanist project, the acknowledgement that the affairs of men on earth are of primacy that the temporal world is comprehensible on its own terms without the intervention of faith.  Guided by a passion for the works of the ancients, Renaissance man set out to explore the world, to redirect his vision from the heavens to a line of sight parallel with the surface of the earth toward his own distant horizon, his own vanishing point.  During the previous medieval epoch, human vision was upward toward God in heaven or down to the plowed soil.  Life on earth was brutal and short.  It was matters of a heaven, of grace and forgiveness or visions of everlasting damnation in the fires of hell that captured the imagination.  With the pinning of the station point the vision and dreams of mankind were fixed upon a distant but achievable horizon.  Men now demanded to see that horizon in their images where it remained for five hundred years until it was assaulted by Cezanne and swept away by Picasso and Braque in Cubism.  The pinned station point had a five hundred year run from 1412 to 1912 the epoch of reason and rational exploration.

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.

CitraModern - UltraModern : Two Modernisms

Arch 323 – BlakeArchitecture History II April 12, 2007

CitraModern                     UltraModern

Sta. pt. Unpinned                Sta. pt pinned

Indigenous                            Cosmopolitan

Personal dialect                   Universal language

Expressionist                        Rationalist

Romanticized                        Mechanized

Non-Industrial                      Industrial

Non-grid                                  Grid

Architecture School - Lecture Topics and coursework

Jim Blake, NCARB807 Bain Place Redwood City, CA  94062 Jim . (650) 366-4974

Topics upon which I could lecture effectively:

Architectural design process Techniques and strategies for design development Contract documents: Plans, specs, contracts Marketing for a small office – cultivating social networks Coordinating the consultant team: landscape, structural, civil, HVAC / plumbing, electrical, lighting, acoustics, food service, graphics, curtain wall, life safety, etc. Construction administration: delivering quality Architecture theory: Renaissance through contemporary – focus on 20th,21st C. Cezanne, Cubism and the Roots of “CitraModern” Architecture The history of the picture plane: Lascaux to Pollock The history of Painting: 19th through 20th Century: Turner to Jasper Johns The origins of style: tipping point A lexicon of contemporary architecture: nature and neologism Architecture History: Ancient through Contemporary (semester): featuring: Russian constructivist architecture Frank Lloyd Wright: The Wasmuth Portfolio LeCorbusier, Mies, Gropius: manifestos spoken and constructed Architectural enclosure systems: design, detailing, shop drawing review Laboratory design: Biology and chemistry research  laboratories Airport design: large markets, Industrial buildings, suburban office buildings, ferry terminals Wayfinding: Graphics in public buildings: concept, design, detailing Corporate office-design and space planning: the hip and the square High-end corporate interior design: limestone, bronze, terrazzo, stainless steel, wood veneer, millwork:    design, detailing, shop drawing review Structural design in detail for wood frame buildings Structural concepts for types I – V, including long-span steel systems Architectural graphics (two- year program ) orthographic projection, linear perspective, descriptive geometry axonometric and plan oblique projection systems and techniques freehand drawing, painting, human anatomy for architects, masterclass: drawing toward sublimity, the numinous image Residential project delivery: programming, design, documentation, construction phase services. Residential civil works: retaining walls, site drainage, roadway substrate, coord w/ geotech The community urban design charrette: organizing and delivering concepts to civilians, civic leaders and the press Teaching future architecture academics: strategies for the left and right brain. Writing clear, effective English: writing as the residue of thought Brainstorming and flow states: The creative process in the arts: architecture, sculpture, music, painting and  writing

Class Assignment - Montana State - Snow Typology

SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE                               MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY Spring 2007

Architecture 551,552,553 Jim Blake – Instructor                                                                               January, 18, 2007

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

A Typology / Topology of Snow

During the initial design phase of the Denver Art Museum Daniel Liebskind said that this explosive form was inspired by the Rocky Mountains.  Direct analogs to nature (raindrops, snowflakes, rolling hills, breaking waves, rocky mountains)  while rare, are a source of formal invention for buildings.  It has been more conventional in great architecture to use nature as an inspiration for abstract ordering systems and expressions at least once removed from natural form rather than using nature as a direct superficial reference.  The rigors of crystalline form in the work of Mies, The “organic” asymmetries of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the poetry of clay as brick in the work of Louis Kahn.

We are now surrounded by snow and ice, a wonderland of form, a treasury of nature’s invention. Although our snow is no longer new it still reveals a wealth of topological conditions.  I have sketched a few of the obvious.  Your assignment is to identify via photo, sketch, and diagram ten conditions:  five for ice and five for snow that are distinct from each other and when diagrammed might inform the geometry of a building plan, structure, enclosure system or the base page design / layout of your required notebook.

To do:

Create a base page that will be used to paste up salient images illustrating your research, design process and design product in an 8-1/2” x 11” format with a 1” free left edge for binding.  Your snow and ice explorations will form the initial pages of this notebook.  Remember, your notebooks will be turned in long after the snow has melted.  The level of abstraction of your motif might reflect this.

Reading List  (MSU Bookstore):

Kuhn, Thomas – The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Bloom, Harold – The Anxiety of Influence

Thomas Jefferson and LeCorbusier

Two great architects: Thomas Jefferson and LeCorbusier had extended affairs with nubile young black women: Sally Hemmings and Josephine Baker respectively.  How might Jefferson’s affection / attraction to the vital earthiness, immediacy and power of the black soul have related to his unshakable belief in state’s rights, in a restricted federal government?  LeCorbusier’s towering precursor and immediate influence Pablo Picasso had invented the art of the century: Cubism, by exploring the power of African tribal art.  Picasso opened the door to the dark continent and Corbu walked in via Ms Baker.  The Declaration of Independence and Constitution were the “Demoiselles d’Avignon” of global political innovation.  Jefferson and Picasso: great inventors, synthesizers, enablers of lateral, right brain thought and innovation.  One can sense Jefferson’s towering frustration as John Marshall, over thirty four years as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, hammered away in his Madeira-soaked wisdom,  the spirit of Jefferson’s Declaration with his left-brain, Enlightenment logic that was more Sherlock Holmes than Picasso.  Marshall has made us a nation of  corporate slaves (see: Dartmouth College v Woodward, 1819) who, as we serve the protestant ethic of salvation through hard work, are gutted by our foreign owned financial institutions and sold down the river to China via Wal-Mart and Home Depot.