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06.19.12 Live and Let Die

Apparently people want me to still run this blog even though I’m not technically an architecture student anymore. Kinda crazy. I didn’t realize I had an actual following on this little virtual venture. Its flattering. :)

I’m missing architecture quite a bit. When I go into the city, I miss it. I just want to climb around in the high rises and explore the alleys. I still see things in section and plan, analyze joints and connections, notice textures and materials…architecture kinda broke me. I learned so much; so much that I can use later on in my probable landscape career. Every now and then I go into Atlanta and revisit the places I had become comfortable with, places that are visually and culturally stimulating.

Little Fives

A photo from Little Fives last spring.

I went into Atlanta yesterday with a friend of mine from out of state who hadn’t really been around in Atlanta on foot. We went to Little Five Points. I figured if we were going to go anywhere, it might as well be there. I love it there. Its beautiful, full of a culture that most of Atlanta shuns or is intimidated by. Plenty of local shops, alternative living and people. People go there to shop, loiter, eat, drink, play. Its a generally safe area to spend a few hours shopping for your second-hand tweed jacket, grab a bite to eat and a PBR before going to see a hipster rock show so you can buy a band tee shirt (because you know, got to show that you heard of them first). Avoid the heroin addicts, listen to a man recite his poetry. Little Fives smells like incense. Jane Jacobs has a concept about “eyes of the street”, that applies directly to anyone’s observation of Little Fives. There are plenty of shops at street level, with people in and out of them constantly, on both sides of Euclid and Moreland Avenues. The way Little Fives was designed nurtured a safety net into it’s culture. Plenty of people in an area makes people more comfortable, and more comfortable with spending their money there. This community is the only one of its kinda in Atlanta–and its dying.

I was so disappointed…and sad that my friend didn’t get to see the Little Fives I loved. The shops were only half-stocked and prices had gone up. No one was playing in the sidewalks like usual. Shops were closed up with ‘for rent’ signs. The Junkman’s Daughter will be leaving us. Even the homeless and addicts were bored. It was easily the most depressing thing I’d seen in sometime. It seemed like the only places pulling any revenue was The Vortex (which didn’t have a line outside, now that I think about it…) and the Variety Playhouse. Why is Little Fives falling apart? It has everything it needs to thrive. It has the specialty shops that Atlanta doesn’t cater to; it is its own niche for commerce. There are spaces for the informal and weird that isn’t found anywhere else in the city. Is the culture itself dying? Are people choosing to no longer live alternatively? Do people prefer going to Peachtree or Piedmont? The Undergound? Where are the people?! …perhaps its just the economy. Maybe society can no longer afford to buy local or maybe this next generation doesn’t appreciate the beauty of Little Fives. Oh no…let’s pray Little Fives doesn’t become the next Undergound–just a sad, sad touristy shell of a community.

In Media Theory, we were asked to design an icon that was easily read and understood. I used what I knew.

My response to creating a semiotic image was developed through simply using what I know and am comfortable with after three years of architecture: dimensionality in graphics and the use of Photoshop/Illustrator to create a believable representation. I had an outcome in mind, but no clue how to “get” there, but I knew I wanted a 3D representation of some sort of icon.
I made a list of possible signifiers and signified icons, and tried to create corresponding relationships between them. Having an interest in “green” technology and architecture, I wrote out words such as “environment”, “green”, ”eco” “housing” and etc. I began to think green. Whatever developed graphically was probably going to be the color green, because in our culture today, we associate the color or even the word “green” with being eco-friendly. So taking that signifier, I then needed to decide on a symbol that can be quickly identified.
The parallels that resulted conveyed a sense of environmental or eco-friendly housing. I made a house in Illustrator that easily is read as “house.” Shading my creation in green to give it some dimension, I felt that this iconic American house, in green, is easily read as meaning eco-friendly housing.

That was my little summary about it. But it goes much more in depth than that…why on earth do we associate “green” with the environment? Yeah, grass is green. Leaves are green. I get that part–that’s the easy part. But what is going on in our heads that makes us do that? God knows how many theorists have written about this topic…and I think I’m going to take it upon myself to share what I learn from them, but less “big” words.

We are, much to probably most’s agreement, manipulated by media. Unless you live in the tundra living off of lichen, you’re probably just as submersed in media as the rest of the world. We are on Facebook several times a day. We tweet about unusual bowel movements and post weird stuff we find on Reddit. Even when we’re not on the internet, we are consuming advertising and digital entertainment like tv or music. It would be insane to say that these things that we are so invested in don’t reflect our habits and thoughts. When we take a photo, we almost immediately begin to think about where we are going to share it and with whom and on what interface. Its terrifying and exciting. We’ve become something like robots conforming and responding to code and language developed by our own means. Oh weird, we’re machines now? Yes. What does that have to do with “green”? Everything, my little robot friend, everything. Over the years, the color green has become associated with being eco-friendly. Its an input, a radical and kinda weird little indicator to us. In our brains, we take that bit of language, and we no longer visualize “green”, but maybe a Prius or a roof filled with solar panels. I wish I knew why we chose green over perhaps yellow or blue, seeing as how some flowers are yellow, and our sky is blue–all things that really do fall into the same category as green grass or trees. Its arbitrary, I suppose. Somewhere in time, we all made an unconscious agreement that green will have a new meaning.

This now makes room for abuse.
Often companies, designers and marketers will associate their products as “green” as a way to appeal to what is frankly, a concerned public. Despite inflated costs, lack of evidence and an obvious appeal to negative rhetoric, consumers are more apt to purchase a green product over perhaps a cheaper alternative. I’m not saying all companies have this mean little streak in them to manipulate consumer habits (but they do), but they’re able to use what we constructed ourselves in order to do so.

This is semiotics, and its something we understand innately through language. We can process this without even really thinking about it. We don’t have to look at a green leaf on a package and think “this is a leaf…and its green…green means eco-friendly. Leaf indicates this also. Super. This is an environmentally friendly product! Fabulous!

Same with the house icon I constructed. The signified object is immediately recognized, and the color that is associated with it changes its meaning without us having to even give it consideration, which is why it is a simple and easy example.

Man, this stuff is so cool.

What’re your thoughts?

I sleep more now.

I’m back.

Quick update on what’s been going on:
I dropped architecture.
Yep. I did it.
Why? Because I felt like the program wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, despite my enthusiasm for architecture and design. I’ve decided to focus more on my technical communications degree in new media and arts. I am more interested in the interface and theory of design than the subject, I suppose. No, that’s wrong; I don’t know what to say. I want to be a designer. Not an architect. That said…I will probably be working towards landscape architecture above all else. I love the environment–the enjoyment I derived from site plans and turning conditioned space into parks usurped my floor plans and required programs for projects. I felt like I became a frustration for professors, being more focused on the natural above the built and synthetic. I miss architecture. I really do…and have mixed feelings about having dropped. I did receive a minor, but I feel like that really won’t be enough of an accreditation to my efforts over the past 6 semesters. That said, I learned more in those 6 semesters than I probably have in my entire life. Going into technical communications as a full time student of media design, I have more experience and knowledge of layout and design than most. My research methods and products have been considerably more extensive and thorough than those of my peers in tech comm, but not to sound arrogant is hard here. I love design. Simple as that. I feel like my new degree is an excellent accumulation of what I’ve learned from two years in science and three in architecture. My general knowledge of what some would call useless information has proven to be my asset, that which sets me apart from most students. I have become well read and despite how I sound, humbled by what I’ve realized I don’t know. I’m a fifth year senior now, with a year or so to go. I don’t feel that I’ve wasted my time. Maybe you do after reading this ridiculously long statement to any of my readers and justification to myself.

I feel like I want to continue this blog, however. I put a lot of work into it and just leaving it to sit dormant on the internet is kinda sad to me. So I’ll continue to write and make my observations, post my work, but I suppose the intent and content will be in a different direction. Architect, nearly.

Even sitting here, writing this rather silly post, I’m excited again.

If you have any suggestions for recommendations, let me know. I want to hear from the people who read this, whether you’re a good friend, coworker, family member, fellow designer, Stumbler, or whatever. Leave your suggestions so I can learn how to make this blog something that is actually worth people’s time.

I look forward to hearing from you guys. :)

Thanks, and feels good man…
Amanda

First Year Studio in Review

Everything that I have learned in my first year can be broken into two parts: the (1) technical and representational and (2) the perception and manipulation of space. I’ve refined my freehand drawing abilities, learned the basics of technical drawing, began to learn modeling, and took a small step towards understanding building design and program—these are the technical and representational skills that are needed before ideas about perception and design can be demonstrated effectively. In studio, we learned both concepts simultaneously moving from one level of technical demonstration to the next, tackling the issue of learning to see things differently and choosing the best possible mediums to show others how we see a particular moment. These lessons begin small with light studies about the phenomena of glass and its reaction to light and its manipulation, then determining the best possible way to exemplify a moment by medium choice. Fondly remembered, is the lesson of cardboard modeling—‘listening to the cardboard,’ manipulating it in ways to create joints and connections, textures and shape. Simple exercises of materials, before diving into modeling that mimics, catches, manipulates, isolates or expresses a particular moment in a space on multiple scales. This leads into constructing or altering an existing space and developing a model and technical drawings, based upon an extracted moment. From the phenomenal studies and initial understanding of technical skills, derives analysis. Being able to graphically represent a study (site analysis) is paramount and helps to determine the characteristics of a structure and program of a building which is the end result of the first two studios.

First semester, I felt like an explorer (slash stalker?) walking around with a camera and sketch book in tow. We sat in the middle of crowds, quickly sketching and documenting pedestrian movement through a space or my fellow studio mates making unusual poses for brief periods of time. Other times we put our faces to brick walls to document weathering and climbed to tops of buildings to investigate a collapsing gutter. We are now hyper aware of textures. We rubbed flowers and seeds against paper, and tried to mimic nature’s hues, or photo-documented light traveling across a floor for a day. We wrestled with massive paper installations—sometimes just to watch them blow away or get soaked. These exercises sometimes felt silly, but their application all seemed to become more apparent at the end. This semester was an entire lesson in viewing. How do we view a space? How do others view the same space? How can I change the way that they see the same space? It’s all about the experience a designer can create manipulating materials, scale, lighting, etc. Though I still don’t completely understand why I stained my fingers with a walnut for a pastel exercise.

Second semester was less random-feeling. We studied the concepts of event, precedence, scale, and site. Attending the Martin Luther King Jr. rally in Atlanta, GA we cataloged the entire route, then focused on one aspect of the event in great detail. Taking everything we learned in first semester, we applied our new graphic skills to demonstrate the importance of things such as boundaries, public v. private space, crowd movement, change in environment, etc during an event like the rally. The next exercise was to study an existing structure (a building by Frank Lloyd Wright, for example) and then apply their method to a chosen existing space that has been documented and studied on campus, then suggest how the precedent would change the space. Into scale, we were finally able to create our own structure, with our own dimensions and design—a wall. Here, I learned something that I now consider very important: question definitions. Consider what a wall is, then imagine a wall that isn’t a wall, and the potential that lies in that wall to create a delineated boundary or an internal space. It’s awesome. After the brief rendezvous with the walls, our first building was upon us. Taking everything we had learned since August, we designed a building that reacted to its site and manipulated into a suitable program. Thoroughly documented, modeled and studied, we each had created works for this exercise that was a broad scope of everything we had learned through our first year, and it was almost overwhelming when I realized this.

This is, of course, only a brief description of the first year design studio program and a broad personal understanding. Everyone who completed the studios took something different away, and we began to develop our own philosophies and methods. The variety in work created by the studios is fascinating and curious. As a group we were able to watch one another grow as designers from all different starting points, ranging from professional CAD users, artists, certified interior designers, to the drafting fledglings and artistically challenged. We see things differently than we did a year ago and are quickly becoming “über geeks.”

Time Management + First Years!

Hello! This post is made with some irony, as I wrote this a couple of weeks ago. However, I feel like now that the first year workshop has started, this might be the best time to post it.

Physics is nearly over, and cultures is also coming to an end. So I finally have time to write again! In cultures we are studying the beautiful and dark Gothic architecture, leading into the Renaissance that we pick up again in Cultures II in a year or so.

Also, the first years are here! The workshops began this week, and they can be seen walking around the N building with their sketchbooks and clipboards in tow. I will be posting a visual review soon (I promise!) of the entire first year so that any curious first year people can have a good idea of what to expect. I also hope that this post will help any that come across it in the next few weeks as they go through the workshop. Time management is an issue for a lot of architecture students; we have demanding schedules while juggling work, free time and studying/designing. I’ve learned a lot about how to better manage my time during first year and will share this little bit with you. Please add any other suggestions you might have. :)

Schedule the little things. I schedule in the big things like final reviews, work hours, due dates, big events and my fish’s birthday. If I get to noticing that a particular day is loaded with a critique scheduled, an exam, a paper draft due and a night out on the town, I figure in my downtime plus commute (and yes, I have gone as far to schedule in a shower) and the other smaller things that need to be done during the day so that they do not fall behind. Those tiny chores or assignments can often later add up to time-consuming tasks if not managed properly. Its all about knowing your priorities and what you can handle in a given time.

Countdowns. My agenda is full of “T minus X days!” to be a reminder for the big events that might sneak up on me like reviews or a paper, and more notably my birthday.

Breakdown workloads. Don’t attempt to do everything at once. Tackle big projects slowly, by making little checkpoints for breaks–after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Taking a break doesn’t mean a 6-hour nap (schedule that separately), but getting up for lunch or just a walk around studio will do. I tend to stroll about, looking at what others might be doing. It’s good to take a breather and maybe get some fresh ideas when you set back to work. If you have multiple projects, don’t work on one at a time. Help to keep concepts interesting by reengaging ideas at different points. Several people have different ways of handling multiple projects, and my method might not work for people with slight to severe ADD.

Be wise with your free time. This is not to say you have to be constantly thinking about architecture as you rest. In fact, it’s best not to. Keep a sketchbook close by to store any spontaneous ideas you have while away from the studio. That way the idea will still be there when you have the time.

How do you manage your time between studio hours, other arch classes, working and social life?

Sink Design

I sketched out a sink design not too long ago in my cultures class while listening about the Great Pyramids. Not so certain they influenced the design or not…

Someone asked me about the “concept” behind the sink and I didn’t know what to say. I made a sink. Does a sink need some grand explanation about why it looks the way it does? I suppose so, if its not a typical oval porcelain sink. I simply felt that the slope of the basin was sleek, and that perhaps a textured bottom for the water to slide down would be neat looking.

Of course, this brings up a lot of questions about why would someone make a sink that doesn’t necessarily retain water, and then if that’s the case, what is the definition of a sink? Is it just a pretty drain at this point?

I looked up the definition of “sink.”
1 a : to go to the bottom : submerge b : to become partly buried (as in mud) c : to become engulfed
2 a (1) : to fall or drop to a lower place or level (2) : to flow at a lower depth or level (3) : to burn with lower intensity (4) : to fall to a lower pitch or volume b : to subside gradually : settle c : to disappear from view d : to slope gradually

I like that the last one applies quite nicely. So yes, I designed a sink.

Sketches

Preliminary Sketches

I made a small model (1/2″: 1′) from black tag board for the cabinetry, and inked plexi for the marble material I chose to play with.

Model

Model

I’m not won over by marble as my material; it was simply an explored curiosity. Doesn’t seem to suit it, if you ask me. Considering something less than traditional, as far as material is concerned. Perhaps treated and sealed hard wood? Concrete? Plastic? Another thing I want to consider is the slope direction of the basin, and where I want to install the faucet and drain, how does someone wash their hands? What combination of materials, texture, shapes, and faucet/drain location would be most suitable for a bathroom? Not sure. Must do more research and playing with ideas. I would like to actually build this one day. Sooner rather than later, of course, so cost is a consideration.

Your thoughts, please!

-Amanda

Hello all.

There are a lot of myths about studio and architecture students’ long hours, poor hygiene and the energy drink and coffee diet. There is a group on Facebook, that enumerates the many one-liners about all nighters and caffeine addictions called “You know you’re an architecture student when….”

There is a faulty notion about studio because of these myths–some of which might not exist if it weren’t for the reputation. There is this question about students and whether they can be divided into two groups: students who love architecture and students who love studio. I say this, because those who love studio more than design, are those that tend to stress the mythical part of studio. I am between my first and second year, and as the workload picks up, perhaps more of these habits fall into necessity.

I’ve picked out my personal favorites from the You Know You’re an Architecture Student When…:

…you carry a toothbrush in your backpack. This one is true for me, but only because I have an hour commute home and if we go out for Taco Bell, I want to be able to wash that greasy processed taste out of my mouth before settling back into studio. There are several people in studio who probably should keep a toothbrush with them…

…all of the Christmas gifts you give are wrapped in trace. Instead of trace, I reused scrap newsprint that I had sketched on. A free alternative to pricey paper that’s just thrown away anyhow. When money is tight, you learn to live by waste-not want-not. Besides, those who got gifts from me actually thought it was kinda neat to see my random sketches and the little touches I added to make each gift special to the recipient. Plus, they get to throw my trash away for me.

…you spend more time in studio than in your own bed Isn’t this a given? I really hope everyone spends more time doing what they love than they do in their own beds. Sleep isn’t a waste of time, but in excess it really is unproductive (even just a little). There a lot of iterations about lack of sleep on this list, and yes, sleep is rare and special–but we do sleep. As students, we have to sleep. This is where burn-out happened among some of the first year students. Those that didn’t sleep were more interested in living up to the fake expectations that they created that are spurred by rumors and the reputation of studio life. Even on the easiest of projects, they find themselves stretching out certain parts of the assignments while not being particularly productive. At a certain point, the time spent on a project starts to negatively affect the design and just as much is true if not enough time is spent on the project. When projects are poorly produced, this can end in a lot of animosity in the studio, which slows down progress considerably.

…your parents are complaining that you’re not having enough fun. Not true. I love studio and I love designing, and I’m pretty sure that most of those in architecture would agree. Besides, we do have fun. We just have to moderate ourselves and learn to enjoy the little trips to Sam Flax or Taco Bell.

…you haven’t taken a shower in a week. Nasty. Yes…there are those people, but I think there are those people in every major. You know who I’m talking about….

…you only leave studio to buy supplies. False. Site visits and food!

…you’ve ever dreamt about your models. Several times. Mostly nightmares about them catching fire, falling apart during review or being run over by a semi.

…you consider using broccoli for your models. Not really. But I do look at the scraps on my plate and start building mash potato forts with broccoli groves and a corn creek near by.

…your friends get more sleep in one night than you do in one week. This is true. But she’s an art major.

…you strangle your roommate because she said she stayed up late studying. Logging onto Facebook at 4am after working very long hours over a model and drawings and about to go back to studio only to see friends’ status updates that consist of “omg i had sooooo much homework! woe is me! only 5 hours of sleep!” and yes…you do want to strangle a few people. Something about the predawn hours incites violent tendencies.

…you tell time by when other people leave studio. Also true. I almost always leave studio before midnight to go home and shower and catch a quick snooze. I learned when some people’s classes were, so I knew whenever such and such left with their backpack on, I knew it was 3 pm. Unless it was a test day for them, when they returned it would be around 4:30 pm. I personally made those my benchmarks for parts of my projects. “Must finish this drawing by the time so and so comes back….”

…you start using words your instructor uses. “This guy.” “…and beyond.”

…X-acto knives can be dangerous… as we all know or will find out. Funny story. Possibly one of the most ridiculous injuries thus far for the entire studio. I broke my tooth on an X-acto blade. I kid you not.

…And if you have been drunk while in the studio working on a project, join the club. This is one I have no intention of following through with. I go to studio to either sleep between classes if my car is too far away, or to work. Not drink. There are those that do, and I suppose what they do with their time is their business…however they create a loud and sometimes hostile environment which really doesn’t help with productivity. I don’t tell them what to do, but I’d rather they didn’t bother me. (Coincidentally, those that drink are often the ones who don’t shower or sleep…just something I’ve noted.)

…when people tell you that they like walking around with you because you see things know one else does. This is my favorite one. My art major friend tells me this regularly, but now even little things that aren’t necessarily shiny distract me–like shadows and creative expansion joints!

_______________________________

Tomorrow is a busy day. Hopefully going to catch a talk by BIG’s (Bjarke Ingels’s Group) Kai-Uwe Bergmann on Yes Is More at The High, followed by the film Visual Acoustics, about Julius Shulman, an architectural photographer.

Other news: cultures and physics are moving along swimmingly. That is all.

Remember to shower,
Amanda

05.20.10

Hello all.

I am currently working on a really neat visual summary of my first year in its entirety, from Fall 2009 through Summer 2010. I hope to use a lot of my graphic skills I picked up in dCom, studio and just playing around in different programs for the past few years. I could potentially use this as something to include in my design portfolio (separate from my studio portfolio).

The break between the Spring and Summer was too brief, but it was interesting to see just how the insanity of studio had altered my behavior. I wake up promptly around 7 every morning, regardless of my alarm or getting to sleep in. I can now stay up late and wake up early in the same day, and not feel affected by either–Circadian rhythm is out of sync. I haven’t wanted to even look at fast food. (Though I still crave cheap pizza and energy drinks…)

I took the opportunity of the break to really enjoy myself and see friends I hadn’t seen through much of the semester, but I found myself still observing different types of designs and looking at buildings and spaces analytically. I realized I’d learned a skill that I can’t turn off now. Its exciting to feel so aware.

Last Monday, the Summer semester began. I am currently enrolled in trig-based physics and Cultures I. Cultures I, I think I am really going to enjoy. Probably learn more about history in this course than in my American and World history courses. We have two texts; a very massive book that will carry us through four seminars (Cultures 1,2,3 and 4), and The Ten Books on Architecture by Vitruvius. So far we have gone on a whirlwind tour of ancient architecture from Stonehenge up to Mesopotamian and into Egyptian architecture. My new favorite piece of ancient art/architecture has to be the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, which was constructed around 575 BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II. Its absolutely beautiful.

I am less excited about physics.

I also have a model to rebuild this semester. Seeing as this is how my final project looked two days after the competition:

Final Competition Model. Sorta.


There is some repair work to be done before I can finally document it for portfolio purposes. There was a near-accident in a parking lot, which resulted in my T-Square sliding and smashing the poor model in half–I never felt so sick. As far as my portfolio is concerned, the rest of my work from both first year studios and dCom I is actually well documented and organized nicely. I’m pretty happy that I thought to do so after every final review; its helped me to not be rushed for the end of the semester CD’s that are due, and if I lose materials and drawings, I’ve got my back up. I think this will make my portfolio easier to develop.

Any rate, I’m pretty excited about getting through this summer semester, and beginning Second Year. Moving to a different building! Everyone has told me that this is one of the most difficult years, but I think I’m going to be ok. Its mainly the drop rate, that is intimidating.

Till next week,
Amanda

I drew this while sitting in on an interview for a potential second year professor on some illustration board I just so happened have with me. Don’t worry, I did pay attention. :)

Freehand Perspective

Graphite on Illustration Board

This, I’ve heard, is a lot of people’s favorite one. Lots of silly drawings, tons of inside jokes, and mostly my inane comments to myself about my sketched ideas. Along with interesting notes, of course.

Preliminary Ideas
What Would Zumthor Do?
Sketch Thinking
Final Wall
Shopping List?
dCom Notes
Mooney and Crane *

*This is an inside joke about Professor Mooney. We were studying the work of Lebbeus Woods, and Mooney had commented about how awesome it would be to move along so freely in the air (the drawing we were looking at, depicted a person riding unconstrained on what looked to be a hovering surfboard). There is also a lot of construction going on, around campus. We figured we could probably manage to get him onto a crane, and arrange a similar experience for him…

Also, the comment I wrote underneath was during a US History class the next morning.

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