Archive for the 'thesis' Category

Presentation Boards

April 28, 2008

So … its been a while since I did anything online. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with things to do in the analogue world. But just so its clear I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs here are the jpg images of my final presentation boards. My presentation was Thursday the 24th at 9:00 AM and it went really well with interested questions and some genuine discussion with my critics. And … I’ve been nominated for a thesis award. So that’s a lovely pat on the back. In any case … here it all is.
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Elevated Housing

February 25, 2008

Continuing quest to figure out how to do it right in Biloxi … Last week I gathered these images of elevated housing in other parts of the world. A picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words but hopefully these will also be as rich in ideas.
Traditional Thai Elevated Housing
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Vernacular Elevated Housing (mostly south east asia)

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Typical Elevated Beach / Resort Housing

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Biloxi Elevated Single Family Housing (since the storm)

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Did you get your FEMA Check?

February 7, 2008

Last week I tossed together a visual run down of the FEMA flood insurance program requirements for elevated housing on the gulf coast. Its a fun read – nothing like government documents for a little lighthearted entertainment. Just thought I’d share with the class.
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Eileen Gray – still cool.

February 5, 2008

Knocking together some little elevation studies for my site I was interested and a bit appalled to note how Corbusian the elevated floor plate looks next to the existing vernacular of Biloxi. Deep breath. I need to remind myself that I don’t hate modernism. So … here’s a little visual tribute to Eileen Gray again. I love her stuff. I can deal with this design condition without doing sterile white boxes or cutsie cottages on stilts.
Gray was a furniture designer before she was an architect and she kept designing all types of household items her whole life. Not only did she draw these pieces up but many of them she manufactured herself in her Paris workshop.
Mindfull of the lessons of de Stijl, she often drew folded out elevations of each room to really get a sense of the interior space rather than just focusing on facades and floor plans to create form. Like Loos, she was interested in the experience of being inside a space and really focused on materiality to produce her desired effects.

A Site!!!!

January 6, 2008

Finally I have a real site. Its in East Biloxi as I always intended it to be. The image above shows its southern end – a block and a half of real estate empty of houses that can be realistically developed together. The back story on the land is that it was purchased by a high end developer shortly after the storm on the assumption that Biloxi would be developed entirely into New Urbanist condos in support of the casino strip after the storm (they didn’t make that idea up – it was pretty clearly laid out in the Living Cities plan published for the city about a year after the storm). Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for East Biloxi that isn’t going to happen. So now they are stuck with this land, for which they grossly overpaid, and are trying to get rid of it. The EBCRC is trying to buy it from them and in default of that the GCCDS is coming up with alternative development plans for the the property to prevent them from trying to implement their own (which was to divide it up into the smallest lots imaginable and sell really high). The studio suggested rezoning it and plating out duplexes and singles with accessory dwelling units. I will simply suggest a multi family alternative. It probably won’t be chosen but … at least I can throw it in the hat. And I’m doing what I wanted to do since settling on Biloxi – a realistic project on a real site that might be useful for the future. Whether or not they build anything on this site, Biloxi will need a new model for elevated multi unit development. And I’ll be able to turn this over to the GCCDS for their records. SO GREAT! Oh, and here, the GCCDS plan just for the record. Download file

Miss’sippi Fun Facts

December 20, 2007

What is with me hoarding great books on my desk and only discovering the content when I have to return them? Ah well. With this book, My Mississippi, by Willie Morris, my excuse is that I had it mixed up with another book that I had already read and didn’t think much of. But actually, its fantastic. Packed with fun facts. And a poetically good read for its own sake. However, this is the result of me ruthlessly mining it for pertinent facts. I’m going to have to get again for pleasure reading, and to learn more about parts of Mississippi that I haven’t been to. Here are some nuggets:
Medgar Evers once said “I love Mississippi. I choose not to live anywhere else. I don’t know if I’m going to heaven or hell, but I’m going from Jackson.?
Mississippi a state in 1817, the 20th in the union.
of 82 counties, 22 are more than 50% black. In 1940 the whole state was more than 50% black but the “decline in black population since then is testimony to the out-migration that lasted until the 1970’s.?
“To comprehend Mississippi, the outlander and native alike must recognize that it is still an emphatically white/black society, and that its white people and black people are deeply bound together – and, together, to the land.?
So Much More. Including the cold hard facts on why Biloxi is such a gambling centre, and why my disapproval is going to do absolutely nothing in the world to change that. Its good for me to read, anyway.

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Fun with the Victorians

December 20, 2007

Here’s some cool snippets from Candace M. Volz, in her article, “the Modern Look of the Early Twentieth-Century House” (in American Home Life: 1880-1930 which I am returning to the library today). This should find its way into the housing history section.
Due to the prevalence of communication by train, mail, telephone and telegraph during the _________, not to mention the pervasive influence of plan books, house styles began to be universal across the country and less subject to regional variations. Even the Georgian influence had been most notable on the East Coast and common in other parts of the country only in homes of the upper class. Victorian styles, on the other hand, were relatively uniform throughout the US.
The second half of the nineteenth century had seen upper and middle class households engaging in, “a complex lifestyle that involved rooms for special uses, large flatware and china services with many specialized pieces, and numerous furnishings designed for special needs.? Although this had been de rigueur among the wealthy, in the early Victorian period a combination of affordable goods, produced with Industrial Revolution technology, and immigrant labor as domestic help made the formal lifestyle available to most of society from the lower middle class up.
It was not uncommon for a middle class home to boast any or all of the following specialty rooms: “music rooms, reception rooms, conservatories, sitting rooms and butler’s pantries?, as well as one or two small bedrooms for live in servants.

Oh, don’t worry … it continues. On, to find out more about the death of porch living and “earth closets” keep on keepin’ on!

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Committee Review

December 14, 2007

Panic! I’ve got to present my current work to my thesis committee today. Why did I volunteer to do this? Well, the answer to that is easy – I thought it was required and only found out after inviting them to a meeting that it was only a recommendation. AUGH! However, a lovely 24 work session, only 36 hours after my final review, has produced this – a nice little summary of where I am / would like to be. Now all I have to do is muster enough coherence to present it to them using complete sentences and listen actively to their feedback. Then … I get a nap!
Here’s the fun: Download file

By the way …

November 7, 2007

… this is the part of the semester where more time gets spent on studio than on thesis. Sad but true. And after all the people I’ve counciled otherwise in the last two years, too. Ah well. Here’s a nice winter thought to tide you over:
Not slowly wrought, nor treasured for their form,
In heaven, but by the blind self of the storm —
Spun off, each driven individual,
Perfected in the moment of its fall…
— Howard Nemerov

Week 9

November 1, 2007

Download file
Here’s what I’ve been working on lately. I’ve added lot of material (and organization) to the development of housing section, pretended to add a lot to program and put in a fair amount of site material (to which I intend to add more soon). Also I organized the whole thing into a new format which meets both university guidelines and my approval. Its cosmetic but it makes me feel more like I’ve got something real to work with here. So … read it, love it, ttyl.

Fairbanks House

October 25, 2007

Fairbanks House in Dedham, Massachusetts is one of the oldest extant houses in America. Built only 17 years after the landing at Plymouth, it is also typical, “the modern average middle class home of its time.? The building has been added onto at several times in the past but the original structure was a common double height two room English cottage. It had a hall and parlor on the ground floor, on either side of an axis which contained main entrance, large double fireplace chimney, and access to the upper floor. The hall would be kitchen, work room and family gathering place, while the adjacent parlor served the more outwardly societal functions of receiving room, as well as principal bedroom at night. Upstairs, the two other chambers might both have been bedrooms or possibly bedroom and storage chamber as there was a fireplace in only one of them. As a home for a family of eight, its comforts seem limited from a contemporary point of view, in its own time, however it was equipped with all of the modern necessities. The house used the standard half timbering construction method common in England at the time and was further protected from the more harsh New England elements by a second skin of unpainted clapboard. It was arranged around a central fireplace, which had only become common in vernacular housing during the second half of the 16th century. It would have had at, or shortly after, construction glass windows rather than the oiled paper or the empty openings with wooden shutters which had sufficed in England. Additionally it boasted a cellar/workroom and a nearby privy (sited away from the house for sanitary reasons).

My Manifesto Collection

October 22, 2007

I’ve been gathering the writing of previous architects on housing and how it can/should be changing the world. Here’s my little collection so far:
N. John Habraken
Supports: An Alternative to Mass Housing

“If in housing we wish to restore human relationships, but mean to exclude today’s technical possibilities, we are following a road to the past, a road we cannot follow. If we wish only to develop the technological potential without touching human relationships, we end up with something like mass housing. … The impoverishment of human society in mass housing towns is becoming generally recognized. Like a caterpillar in a cocoon, we have surrounded ourselves with a technical potential which, as yet, has not found its proper purpose. The time has come to free ourselves and regain the initiative. …
“If new forms of human housing offer new opportunities, we must be able to say why they are preferable to old ones. To do that a clear insight is needed into what dwelling really means. Once we agree that it is necessary to introduce the inhabitant or active force into the housing process, we can face the future with confidence. Building has always been a matter of confidence and to make this a reality we must be clear and unequivocal about the nature of man’s housing needs.?a
Sim Van der Ryn and Sterling Bunnell
Integral Design

“The task, then, of integral design at the household level is to begin to recreate the opportunities for people to derive meaning and satisfaction from their experience of natural cycles as these occur in the household. This assumes that the occupant becomes and active and intelligent participant in managing, maintaining and adapting the dwelling. The ‘hot rod’ is one example of an aesthetic that grows out of the young American male’s attempt to find meaning in every day industrial culture. Maybe the day is not too far off when millions of Americans will be ‘hot rodding’ their new denatured houses into finely tuned, multi-channeled, closed-looped, organic instruments for processing natures flow.?b
Christopher Day
Places of the Soul

“Architecture has such profound effects on the human being, on place, on human consciousnesses, and ultimately on the world, that it is far too important to bother with stylistic means of appealing to fashion. … Anything with such powerful effects has responsibilities – power, if not checked by responsibility, is dangerous thing! Architecture has responsibilities to minimize adverse biological effects on occupants, responsibilities to be sensitive to and act harmoniously in the surroundings, responsibilities to the human individualities who will come into contact with the building, responsibilities not only in the visual aesthetic sphere and through the outer senses but also to the intangible but perceptible ‘spirit of place.’?c
Peter Calthorpe
The Next American Metropolis

“Its time to redefine the American Dream. We must make it more accessible to our diverse population: singles, the working poor, the elderly, and the pressed middle class families who can no longer afford the ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ version of the good life. Certain traditional values – diversity, community, frugality, and human scale – should be the foundation of a new direction for both the American Dream and the American Metropolis. These values are not a retreat to nostalgia or imitation, but a recognition that certain qualities of culture and community are timeless. And that these timeless imperatives must be married to the modern condition in new ways.?d
Sim van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan
Ecological Design

“First Principle: Solutions Grow from Place
Ecological design begins with the intimate knowledge of a particular place. Therefore, it is small-scale and direct, responsive to both local conditions and local people. If we are sensitive to the nuances of place, we can inhabit without destroying …?e
Frank Lloyd Wright
Organic Architecture

“To thus make of a human dwelling-place a complete work of art, in itself expressive and beautiful, intimately related to modern life and fit to live in, lending itself more freely and suitably to the individual needs of the dwellers as itself an harmonious entity, fitting in colour, pattern and nature the utilities and be really an expression of them in character, – this is the tall modern American opportunity in Architecture. True basis of a true Culture. An exalted view to take of the ‘property instinct’ of our times??f

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The Latest

October 14, 2007

Here’s the latest draft. Its got all kinds of shiny new features: an updated hypothesis and thesis statement, a research statement, a thesis map, a new case study of usonian houses, a beginning typological ancestry of early American house forms, a snappy bio of Eileen Gray and (hopefully by tonight) a program. Bask in the glory, folks.
Download file
All that… and sat next to somebody in class on Tuesday too. I’m a busy girl!

Usonia – It’s Great!

October 9, 2007

The Usonian House for Wright was a “building system, adaptable to each client with whatever modifications he might need regarding space and site conditions.? They were built on a standardized 2×4 foot or 4×4 foot grid to allow for simpler dimensions (and also to aid the illusive sense of unity). Wright created a “standard detail sheet? to deal with common elements such as the window details, the board-and-batten walls and masonry elements.
Those original Usonian houses seem lavish in their details to contemporary eyes but they were rendered affordable by the low cost of skilled labor during the depression and war years. The critical cost was in the materials which Wright limited in both scale and initial value. With the onset of WWII, and its attendant economic boom, the rising wages of construction workers make the labor intensive Usonian scheme impractical. Wright tried to offset this problem with his so-called “Usonian Automatic.? This iteration was structured out of custom made concrete blocks in single or double layers which was mean to significantly simplify construction. The owner would then theoretically be able to participate in the construction of their own home.
Typical Usonian features were in-floor heat, built in furniture. Garages were replaced with car ports because, unlike the horses which preceded them, automobiles did not really need protection from the elements. The exterior form was simplified with flat roves and pre-manufactured window elements. Wright limited his palette to wood, brick, cement, paper and glass. He wanted to do away with most traditional interior finishes. He specified no plastering – it was not in the palette – and wanted his wooden walls left unpainted. “Wood best preserves itself.? Trim was therefore extraneous. He also deplored most conventional decorative elements, believing that the house itself could be its own ornament. “Furniture, pictures and bric-a-brac [are] unnecessary because walls can be made to include them or be them.?
The plans were simple L-shapes with one arm for public spaces and the other for bedrooms. The bathroom and “workspace?, in other words the plumbing core, would be at the junction between the two and provide visual separation in his otherwise open plans. Wright designed from the inside, arranging rooms to suit themselves and then working out the facades to coordinate with them afterwards. This allowed him to use a much more fluid arrangement of space than was dictated by previous design strategies.
In Wright’s earlier Prairie School designs the kitchen was largely disregarded (by both architect and client). It would be used primarily by the domestic help and not the family so that a distinct separation was desirable. When he turned his hand to affordable houses for middle class families the kitchen was occupied by one of his primary clients. He re-conceived the kitchen as the “workspace? of the home, a sort of modern domestic laboratory for the housewife, and brought it into the arena of the public space. It was connected to living spaces and rendered in the same materials so that it felt a part of familial activities. He did still take care in most plans to position it out of view of the dining area so that formal pretensions could be preserved during a dinner party if that was desirable.

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Modernist Enthusiasms

October 6, 2007

“Advancing technology provided the builder with new materials and more efficient methods which were often in glaring contrast to our traditional conception of architecture. … I felt that it must be possible to harmonized the old and the new in our civilization.?
Mies van der Rohe, A Personal Statement by the Architect, 1964
The middle of the twentieth century was notable for its architectural idealism. Modernists of all vocations sought to embrace the new technology which was so rapidly emerging and use it to formulate a new and better way of living. This is nowhere more clear than in modernist housing designs.
In contrast to their predecessors, modern homes were open and flowing spaces which allowed even the most minimal of post-war cottages to seem spacious when compared with the old hallway linked plans. These new open plans were made possible by advances in structural engineering which allowed for increased spans and the removal of interior bearing walls.(26) Living and dining rooms merged. Kitchens could be screened by partial walls or built in furniture but still allow the cook to feel like a part of the family group. Exterior walls opened up into large expanses of glass, interrupted by sliding glass doors, which broke down barriers between inside and out. Modernist furniture became lighter, more mobile and more adaptable, assuming “a new role as space dividers that could be taken apart, added to, and moved from room to room.?(24)
Many architects of the time used housing developments as vehicles for their agendas of social change. Frank Lloyd Wright – Broadacre City and Usonian Homes
Wijsenhof and Mies etc etc
John Entenza of Arts + Architecture Magazine organized the Case Study House Program [find source] to use off the shelf components and synthetic materials to create an affordable version of the new Modern style that hey hoped to market to greater masses.

Excessive Force

October 5, 2007

Robert made the point yesterday at the end of our thesis meeting that architecture students often latch onto the idea of using their buildings to force people into doing thing they otherwise would not. The idea of “and this will make them stop here and look to the window and see the light? This a good warning to me – already a bit inclined to try to solve the worlds problems with my architecture. I have to be wary of using my design to force anyone into living greenly. So then the question is if I want to make a green building which helps people live more greenly I need to be certain that it is allowing or suggesting alternatives to people rather than trying to bludgeon them into some new idea.

Week the Fifth

October 4, 2007

Holy Crap! Here it is week five and I have yet again done not a whole lot other than what I produced this very morning. It was a pretty functional work day. I overhauled my table of contents and then expanded it into notes. Rewrote the case study section into a more organized little history. Wrote a new preface pertaining to my experience on IHP. The idea “if you don’t have time to bake bread you don’t have time to change the world” rolling into the importance of the domestic in architectural design. So … where am I? I feel actually pretty decent about where the straight up research component is going. The next step is program / site or site / program. Ozayr is pushing it and I know its important. So it lacks only a decision. I know I was talking about Northeast Minneapolis. But sitting in class today and hearing Sam talk about how much information we have about Biloxi (and acknowledging how rich my own knowledge of the place is. I just don’t know. So … I need to talk to James about this. And bounce it off the home front. Ozayr says full steam ahead but I’m worried. I don’t want to be a “Biloxi thesis” but on the other hand this might be my chance to do that multifamily housing project that we started to do and got cut off at the knees when we rolled into mixed use and single family. So … I guess it needs some mulling. Anyway, here’s what I gave Ozayr today … Download file

Update for Class: week 4

September 26, 2007

Download file

The above link is a PDF of what I just submitted for “thesis class” tomorrow night. Its basically a thumbnail of each of the sections that will be in the final thesis – an introduction and my two known case studies, Usonia and the Weissenhof housing development. Also it touches on my planning to include some inspirational personalities in my studies – at the moment they are Soleri, E.F. Schumacher and my new hero, Eileen Gray. In essence its just the product of me sitting down and summarizing what I already knew. So … now I need to add some things that I didn’t know already.

Northeast Neighborhood

September 22, 2007

So … it’s certainly not too early at this point to start thinking about site in this process. I had discussions about choosing a site with two different faculty members this week. Julia Robinson told me that I ought to be beginning and ending with the idea of site selection; that is, she thought that I should find a community in Minneapolis, study it, and then work from there to determine what kind of housing or community project would be appropriate for that place. Then Ozayr also mentioned the subject. He was much more open to a multiplicity of options at this point and to finding something outside of the Cities if that’s what suits me best. But with one thing and another I spent a lot of time thinking about it towards the end of this week. Then passing by a GDII review in the courtyard I noticed a pinup of group projects displaying neighborhood research as the beginning of some studio project. My attention was caught by the visually compelling display about Northeast Neighborhood. It triggered me thinking about the research I did on the area for BTR this summer and about what a diverse and interesting place it is. So this morning I did my grocery shopping on foot along Central Avenue. I went to the coop and to the Holy Land Deli and also an Indian grocery to pick up frozen paneer and I took my camera along. I was struck again by what a culturally rich place that area is. There are local food markets beyond what you imagine the market could support. There are community centers, a health clinic, a vet, a YMCA, high and elementary schools and a public library branch all within block of each other and accessed by 6 bus routes and a major city transit artery. It has a mixed income level and an a rapidly increasing level of racial diversity. A lot of potential really. Its also somewhere I like to go and have easy access to, which is not insignificant. This is more than a little a shot in the dark but I noticed an empty lot at Central and Lowry. Here’s a picture. So … I’ll see where that takes me.

Dealing with Issues of Inertia

September 20, 2007

Well its clear that I spent the week swimming in a sea of uncertainty. I’ve been unhappy about it without really effecting any material changes. Part of the problem relates to schedule. I have to accept that from Sunday to Wednesday I will work on thesis related items very little or not at all. The pull of studio and the prep work for my other two classes is too demanding. So the impetus has to come in the Wednesday night to Saturday part of the week. Right now, actually. And this week I feel equal to the task.
I’ve been trying to get back to the basics of my interest – housing … almost full stop. Going back to ideas of housing that appeal to me. I read Gropius’ The New Architecture and the Bauhaus last night. It was interesting as a manifesto and as a portrait of what sounds like quite a cult culture in his school. Not too much about housing per se, but there was this. “… in the last resort mechanization can only have on object, to abolish the individual’s physical toil for providing himself with the necessities of existence in order that hand and brain may be set free for some higher order of activity? on page 25. That’s a pretty direct contradiction of Schumacher’s claim that the problem of production. Gropius’ main contention is a call for mass production and standardization. I don’t know if I can agree with that but it has to be somewhere to study. Ozayr recommended that I also check out Mies’ Weissenhof housing project. Along those lines I was reading about Usonia this morning. Now that can be tackled from the aspect of how cool Frank Lloyd Wright is … but that’s not my opinion. Its more interesting as a social collective – with architecture.
And this afternoon I picked up Paolo Soleri again. Now that is sheer madness but it has a wonderful overarching genius to it and I think will be a good inspiration to think outside the box. And to think on a grand scale. To be bold. So perhaps what I need to do next is to dramatically overshoot my proposed scale and see what delightful flights of fancy I can come up with to get started.