CIRCLE

March 28, 2011
lynn magic
Alessi Tea and Coffee Towers, Greg Lynn (source)
Nostradamus in a Magic Circle, Engraving (source)

 

While CNC milling is prized for its capacity to rapidly produce large-scale prototypes of complex geometries, the physical properties of the mill’s construction—it relies on circular drill bits to carve away material—results in residual noise, or grooves, otherwise known as ‘tooling paths’. Although these tooling paths can be smoothed out with coats of Bando or sanded out of existence, over time they have become accepted into the contemporary design language and even celebrated for their ability to map the fabrication process—a marriage between fabrication and ornament, not dissimilar to the work of Process artists from the 1960s.

 

If Process art was prized for documenting natural organic phenomena, such as movement and gravity, contemporary rapid-prototyping offers a parallel view into the world of digital machines. The width and head-type of a tool-bit or the resolution of a plastic printer reveal the limitations of the technologies that produced them. But while the artists of the 60s were producing sculpture at a one to one scale, architects typically utilize rapid prototyping to produce scale models of objects that are much larger. And while the grooves on Greg Lynn’s Tea & Coffee Towers… more

 

To ward off bad luck, the more traditional residents of Lancaster County—the heartland of those apocryphally known as the ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’—mount circles and shapes, colorful geometric compasses and mandalas, on their barn walls. The symbols have been termed ‘hex’ signs for reasons that are now opaque. Whether this name derives from sinister spell-casting—’hexing’, a gerund rooted in the German word for witch, Hexe—or from the more benign formal term, hexagon, is unclear. This ambiguity, however, reveals—despite its inherent confusion—a structural relation and hidden affinity. The distance between these two notions, between geometry and mysticism is, in some cases, not a great one.

 

The magic circle, imagined in both archaic and popular visions of sorcery, enacts precisely this conjunction of form and witchcraft. Drawn as a ring around its maker and enlivened by an accompanying incantation, it generates a protective realm, a field-like safe haven originating in simple, two-dimensional form. The magic circle forms a semi-architectural plan, the designs for a realm not built but mystically tangible.

 

E. Sean Bailey

 

 

Rachel Engler

 

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TIRED

March 21, 2011
buckminster bed
Portrait of Buckminster Fuller (source)
Bedtime Story, Viktor and Rolf, Paris, 2005 (source)

 

One of my very first lessons at architecture school: learn to enjoy tiredness. To aid in this task, studios left open around the clock, impressive amounts of work doled out, impossible deadlines and bottomless vending machines stocked with every sort of caffeinated beverage. While perpetual tiredness is a quality seemingly at odds with the production and communication of complicated projects, it is not merely tolerated within the practice, but encouraged.

 

Buckminster Fuller was perhaps the most vocal architect in the movement against free sleep. In the 1940’s he developed the Dymaxion sleep cycle, which consisted of 30 minute naps every 6 hours, resulting in a total of 2 hours of sleep every 24 hours. After two years on the cycle, he exclaimed being in ‘the most vigorous and alert condition he had ever enjoyed’. Unsurprisingly, despite thoroughly mastering the enjoyment of tiredness, a lesson that still evades me, he was unable to convince any of his colleagues to join him in his polyphasic lifestyle, ultimately prompting him to abandon the schedule.

 

While often positioned as an important… more

 

Viktor and Rolf’s Bedtime Story collection featured models walking down the runway dressed to appear as though they were laying in bed. The Dutch designers subverted the viewer’s spatial perception by placing pillows behind the models’ heads, fanning their hair out in all directions as though they were in a horizontal position and draping them in dresses suggestive of duvets, layered beneath with luxurious sheets. The duo was able to successfully corrupt the image of a person, barely awake and still in bed, by merely shifting their position from horizontal to vertical. By carefully altering the relationship between any associated elements so that they are dependent on the body to carry them, rather than on a now absent bed, the designers provide a ‘Front View’ which stands in place of a ‘Top View’.

 

While thoroughly steeped in fashion, Victor and Rolf may have inadvertently invented the perfect wardrobe to compliment the lifestyle of those who perpetually blur the boundary between being asleep and awake: the legions of architects who never have a chance to get a good night’s rest.

 

E. Sean Bailey

 

 

Erandi de Silva

 

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MICE

March 11, 2011
convention sketch
MICE Space, Las Vegas Convention, (source)
Ivan Sutherland Demonstrating the Sketchpad System on the Console of the TX-2, MIT, 1963 (source)

 

‘I want to do a mini Las Vegas… I want to build 20,000+ rooms and millions of square feet of shopping and MICE space’.

—Sheldon Adelson, Chairman and CEO, LV Sands

 

 

MICE space (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) hosts planned activities for professionals. Offering a cocktail of spatial products, MICE balances polar travel motivations: business and pleasure. Successfully combining these two markets has transformed resort development, particularly in Las Vegas.

 

Mr. Adelson’s Sands Corporation pioneered a mixture of gaming, hospitality, shopping and convention space with Las Vegas’ Venetian and Palazzzo resorts. Arranged around a fancifully themed spectacle, Venice’s Grand Canal, shoppers stroll simulated banks or employ a singing gondolier to transverse the mall. Monday through Thursday, MICE is filled with conventioneering professionals. While they’re not meeting, they are eating, drinking shopping and seeking entertainment—including gambling—financed with above average incomes and corporate expensing.

 

Convention activity dovetails nicely with Las Vegas’ traditional user group. Passing in the airport on Friday afternoon, MICE users vacate rooms, tables and bars as the weekend shift arrives.

 

By creating through-week demand, MICE… more

 

It is astonishing that so many architects continue to draw with mice. While the habit can certainly be learned, mousing divorces the desktop-bound motions of the hand from the on-screen production of a line such that the experience can feel less like drawing and more like the effort required to snatch that overvalued stuffed rabbit using the remotely-controlled robotic claw at the arcade. In other words, it’s a thoroughly unnatural act.

 

Computer-aided drafting was not always this way. Indeed, some of the earliest computer graphics systems featured interfaces more akin to traditional drawing methods. For example, Ivan Sutherland’s groundbreaking 1963 Sketchpad program utilized a ‘light pen’ which enabled users to draft directly on the surface of a CRT screen. However, 1963 also saw the invention of the first mouse prototype at the Stanford Research Institute. In 1984 when Apple’s influential Macintosh computer was released with a mouse, manufacturers and software developers quickly followed suit. Like everyone else, architects (who were just beginning to integrate computers into their workflow) were left with few other options.

 

Today however, more natural interfaces for computer-aided drawing do exist, and other creative professions such as graphic design and photography have already adopted them. With the spread of more affordable graphics tablets and touchscreen interfaces (not to mention the rise of repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome) one must ask: why do architects continue to hold onto their mice?

 

Brook Denison

 

 

Jacob Reidel

 

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BLONDE

March 2, 2011
dreamhouse chanel
Barbie 3-Story Dream Townhouse, Mattel, 2011 (source)
Barbie Styled by Karl Lagerfeld, Colette Exhibition, Paris, 2009 (source)

 

When Le Corbusier developed the Modulor, he certainly didn’t have an organism of Barbie’s proportions in mind. Perhaps the most anti-spatial of childhood toys, Barbie complicates the simplest of architectural assumptions. Feet sharpened into points, along with weighty breasts and hair, mean that Barbie cannot stand on her own two feet. Refusing the remedy of a wheelchair for its lack of style (nevermind that she cannot sit in anything but a lounging position due to her stiff knees), Barbie’s idea of a “dream home” is a regular person’s nightmare. While Mattel’s Barbie 3-Story Dream Townhouse yells for attention with its hot pink paint job, it is its slender proportions that are most remarkable. While square footage is typically prized in real estate, Barbie is more interested in linear footage. The narrow building envelope, a mere three feet wide, means that Barbie is always within reach of a stable wall to prop herself against—an architectural cane. And while her resulting angled pose requires her to keep her blonde head constantly pressed to adjacent walls in order to maintain balance, at least she looks great doing it.

 

Barbie has long-inspired my irrationality. As a child she was central in shaping my ideas of glamour, reinforcing, in my imagination, the sorts of ideas about femininity that Muccia Prada might frown upon.

 

Fast-forward to 2011: Mattel has announced the release of Architect Barbie. Rather than being blown away by this combination of two lifelong obsessions, I was disappointed by the outcome of a design brief, which in my mind, was poised to deliver something amazing. Projecting my own misguided stereotypes, I was envisioning a vampy hot-tempered glamazon; a serious but mischievous individual, who is dramatic, opinionated and exudes plenty of attitude. The architectural ideal of my fantasies personified! Instead, Architect Barbie projects an image of some kind of complacent (‘hot’) girl-next-door, and a white one at that.

 

Her wardrobe reinforces her implausibility as an archetypal architect… more

 

E. Sean Bailey

 

 

Erandi de Silva

 

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