Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Writer's Retreat

Our final project for the semester was to create a space in the existing St. Mary's house located on Walker Ave for a visiting writer.  It was to be a space in which a writer could live, eat, write, work, meet with students and colleagues, and have public readings.  On important aspect of the project was creating a space that had both public and private areas.  After visiting the site which is currently a small chapel, it was important to me in my design to keep the character of the historic structure.  The building had beautiful woodwork surrounding the windows and doors as well as hardwood floors.  I wanted to focus my design on adaptive reuse, changing the existing chapel into the writer's retreat while keeping the historic character of the building.  In order to do so, I tried to keep many of the existing walls and woodwork.  As I wanted to keep the existing nave a relatively open space, I added a loft above the front to create a separate space for the writer to work in a more private area.  The front of the building is the public entrance with the public office and work/meeting place for students and colleagues.  Further into the nave is a semi-public space that is more of a living/dining area for the writer, but could also be used for working with students and colleagues.  It does also double as the public reading area as it can be transformed to have rows of chairs and the former apse forms a perfect stage for writer's to give readings.  The back of the house is the private area with the writer's personal bathroom and bedroom as well as the kitchen and laundry facilities. This has a private entrance and can be closed off with a door to the more public sections of the house.  When I visited the space initially, I saw the potential for transformation without many additions and changes and given my previous degree in historic preservation that was important to me and my design. 

Dining Space

Drawings for my dining space including my plan, axonometric drawing, section elevation, and details drawings of my dining table and sideboard.

Color Renderings

Another focus in our semester was the use of color in our perspectives.  With the use of prismacolor markers we were to color a perspective that we drew and also color a perspective of another students.  My perspective was of the hallway in the bottom of the gateway building and I chose to color Kelsey's drawing of the outside walkway looking at the gateway building.  After much trial and error in order to understand how the markers blend as well as finding the right color for each thing, the final product turned out pretty well.

Value Studies

Earlier this semester we did two different compositions studying value.  Our first one was using various marks such as stippling, hatching, and shading and comparing the values studies of each with each other as well as with various other mediums such as pencil, pen, and gray markers. Our second value study was based on observing and drawing various materials. We had to chose a textile, a wood or bamboo, a carpet, and a tile or stone to draw using both pen and pencil and both full scale and at quarter scale. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Trip to Fallingwater and Monticello

Floor Plan of Fallingwater from memory

Over the weekend we took a class trip to Monticello in Virginia and Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.  Both architectural sites are truly amazing in their own right, but for me visiting Fallingwater was an fantastic experience.  I have studied Frank Lloyd Wright and his work for years and being able to actually see this amazing structure in person was somewhat surreal.  Going to Fallingwater felt like an architectural pilgrimage.  Wright is known for his use of contextualism and his ability to incorporate nature into his design.  Fallingwater is cantilevered over a waterfall with the design of the building incorporating the rocks the house was built on.  The beauty of the house comes from the nature around it and how the house is designed to mimic it's natural surroundings.  Wright's meticulous details from the cornerless corners to the staircase leading from the living room to the river are all meant to make the house more of an experience of nature, and I was ready to move right in. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Theory Reading #4

After reading the exert from A Pattern Language, I have a whole new understanding of the intimacy gradient of a building.  Understanding not only the way people use rooms, but also how to make people more comfortable within each room is incredibly important.  The article goes through important details from the placement of windows within rooms to the proper circulation of rooms within a building.  These concepts are going to be very important to our next design project.  In designing the Writer's Retreat, we have to consider the different spaces within the building and how to define the public vs. the private.  As the Writer's Retreat is meant to be a space in which one sleeps, eats, works, and entertains, the organization of rooms and the definition of space will be very important.  In terms of defining a specific pattern to the building, it makes sense for the more public spaces to be toward the front of the building, while the sleeping quarters and more personal spaces should be more private and perhaps in the rear of the building.  The Retreat is supposed to be inviting to not only the people who live there, but also the people who visit, and finding the happy median between both the public and private sections of the house is going to be a challenge, but using the suggestions in this article will help create a successful design.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


 Perspective of the hallway on the ground floor of the Gateway Building

Parti for my Dining Space

My parti shows some examples of the cuisine, furniture, and lighting in my dining space.  I am imagining an evening with international fare as each course would be from a different country.  I want the furniture and materials in my space to be a combination of old and new with a focus on sustainability.  The lighting in my space with be a combination of both natural with floor to ceiling window, candle light, and an overhead modern light fixture.


These precedents are part of my inspiration for my dining space.   I want to design an intimate dining space usually naturally light in an historic space.

Color Week

For color week, we were to focus on understanding color and the mixing of colors using colored paper. We had to pick two colors and then find the color that formed with the mixing of the two colors. Then we picked three colors and had to find the middle color of those three.  We eventually created a whole color pallet with numerous colors and their combination. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Theory Reading #3

This reading looks at the concept of personal space, and how a a certain environment can effect the way people not only use a space, but also interact in it.  The reading goes over many different studies looking at the ways people interact with each other depending on the situation or conversation.  The distance and location of where people sit to each other varies on what their relationship is to the other person.  People who are competitors are much more likely to sit across from each other compared to people engaged in a conversation who are more likely to sit closer together.  These concepts are important in designing a dining space as understanding the relationships of how people interact creates a more comfortable environment.  Some of these studies focused more on the interaction of strangers to each other, and this idea isn't as important to the design of our particular dining space as most of our designs are in a residence in which the people with whom they will be dining will most likely not be strangers.  But being aware of these concepts is always important  in order to consider all  potential situations.  Understanding how small groups naturally arrange themselves is incredibly important to designing a space.  Considering this in the size and shape of the table and the flow of the room and space allow the occupants to engage more easily with each other as well as feel more comfortable in general.  Understanding how a space is used is more important to good design than just having something that is aesthetically pleasing.  Great design  is being able to accomplish both.   

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Dining Space Story

          In 2015 the United Nations will mandate an international “getting to know each other” Memorial day which will be adopted by all nations in hopes of creating awareness and eradicating hunger. The biannual celebration with food will coincide with the winter and summer solstice, and through the use of social networking we will be able to communicate with other people from around the globe through the art of dining.  My hope is to create a space to dine that will be warm and inviting for the people in it, as well as, allow our outside guests to have a glimpse into the culture surrounding a traditional American dining experience.  I want to focus my project on designing a space for a typical American couple in an urban style environment, in hopes of connecting with other typical people from other parts of the world.  I want to create an experience that would essentially allow people to envision what their lives would be like if they lived in various other parts of the world. For this particular event, I imagine my dining space to be host to eight people, which is enough to create a social atmosphere, yet intimate without being overwhelming for the people attending or the international guests viewing. 
 As this is an international dining experience, it is important to have cuisines from all over the globe, which would allow a more sensory experience rather than just visual through social networking.  I plan on the event to be in the evening and each course of the dinner being from a different country.  I envision the wine being from France, the appetizer being ceviche from Peru, the salad being a papaya salad from Thailand, the soup would be Pho from Vietnam, the main course being Lamb Tangine with couscous, and the dessert would be Tiramisu from Italy.  This multi-country, multi-continental experience would hopefully create awareness and appreciation for food important to other parts of the world. 
The other aspect of this project that I would like to take into consideration into my design is the focus on eradicating hunger.  Hunger is an issue all over the world and in every country from the first world to the third, although this event is about an experience with food.  So many wealthier countries, particularly the United States can be incredibly wasteful with food as well as with many other materials, so in response, my design is going to be more environmentally friendly using sustainable materials to create a more eco-living experience.  Rather than adding to the waste, I want my furniture, including the table and sideboard that I design, to be made from recycled, reclaimed materials, possibly wood.  I want the elements in the room to be designed around not being wasteful and instead being repurposed to create new life and meaning in the room.
The art of dining is about having an experience with other people around a unifying element—food. The environment around you can play a significant role in the experience you have.  A more intimate atmosphere with warm dim lighting using fixtures, candles, as well as, natural light is important, as the lighting is what can set the mood.  I hope to create a space that not only functions as a place to eat, but also creates an experience for the people that use it. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Design and Culture

In class we viewed Babette's Feast, which is an excellent demonstration of different cultures coming together.  Babette creates a French feast for her Scandinavian hosts, which causes initial skepticism by the two women, but in the end there is an appreciation for their differences.  The interrelationship between culture and design is incredibly important and essentially inevitable.  The cultural differences are what makes design different all over the word, and it's important to appreciate all design for what it is.  Design is an incredibly powerful thing, in that it has the ability to bring people together from different cultures and different walks of life.  Design in many ways is universal, but the variety comes from the differences in the way people use rooms and spaces, and how a dining space in Japan would be completely different than that of a dining room in the US.  Understanding how various cultures live influences design and a particular design for one culture may not work for another, even if you're essentially designing the same type of space such as a dining room.  An appreciation for the different types of design is what brings us together and is what will make design stronger in the future. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Design Manifesto

  Becoming a designer is a challenge, but it is definitely worth it. Design is all about the process, and it is filled with ups and downs, successes and failures, but the journey is what makes us better designers.  In the beginning of this program, I was very unfamiliar with the concept of failing, but it did not take long for me to realize that failure in design is inevitable, and you just have to learn to not only accept it, but more so embrace it.  Understanding why one particular design doesn’t work helps to find the solution that does, and more often your failures open your eyes to totally new concepts that you hadn’t thought of before.  Beginning a new design can definitely come with its share of frustrations, but having a specific process can help, which typically starts by looking for inspiration. As designers, we view the world differently enabling us to find inspiration in everything around us.  Once I find something that inspires me, I turn to brainstorming to try and relate it to what I’m currently designing, which essentially for me means my mind is absolutely consumed with thoughts and ideas that plague me until I come up with something that I consider reasonable. Once I begin to narrow down all of my design concepts, I turn to sketching and doing, but I have learned that I am much more of a doer than a sketcher, so typically I try and create little prototypes to see if my concept is even plausible.  After numerous trial and error experiments with various materials and other things, the actual design begins to take shape and the creativity continues to flow to create the final product.  Designing for me is incredibly exhilarating as what I create impacts the world around me.  To be able to make the world a more enjoyable place to live is liberating and it is why I want to design. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Light Box

For our first project of the semester, we were to take a 12x18x18 white box that we put together and make cuts into it so that when a light is shone through it, the box is divided into four separate spaces.  The spaces could be created by the shadow or the light and were to be enhanced by strategically placed bristol board and/or bamboo skewers.  I took a more simplistic approach to dividing my box by cutting an X in the top from edge to edge which thus divided the entire box into four distinct spaces.  When placing the additional materials, I decided to emphasize the various properties of light--it's ability to create shadows, as well as, be reflective.   The 1x1 bristol board squares are sized to fit within the light ray and create shadows.  They are also placed down pointing toward the center to draw your attention to the middle of the box.  This project was meant to be a transition from designing objects to designing spaces, and I think it did an excellent job achieving that.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Zimbabwe and the Social Network

We are in the beginning stages of our third design project of the semester, which was initially going to be to design a space for a social networking, but after further discussing the topic with our professors, it was determined that one does not need a specific space to social network and that the whole point of a social network is to be able to have access to it anytime, anyplace, without the need of a specific environment.  In my opinion the concept of social networking is to be able to communicate with people without actually having to communicate with them.  Networks like facebook and twitter have been created to allow people outside of your immediate world to have full access into your personal life and thoughts.  It is a way to stay connected with people and get information out to the general public.  Social networks and media are incredibly powerful tools in that there are no boundaries—one tweet or status update has the potential to reach thousands and these sites or comparable ones are, for the most part, accessible and very popular across the planet.  So going back to our now refined social networking space project, we have each been given a country in which we are supposed to research how various social networks or media are used—and my country is Zimbabwe. 
 In order to start this research, I thought it was first important to understand the current social and economic status of the country. To summarize the past decade for Zimbabwe has been one of definite decline.  Hyperinflation, government price and land control, disease, and drought have deeply impacted the country, and it is still in a state of recovery.   The media has also gone through a state of restriction in the past decade.  The Zimbabwean government had suppressed freedom of the press and freedom of speech.  There had been repeated accusations of the government using the public broadcaster as a propaganda tool. There were reporting bans on CNN and BBC, which have now been lifted as of 2009.  The radio; however, is actually Zimbabweans main source of information, despite the fact that it too was controlled by the government.  In the past year, efforts have been made to alleviate the restrictions and diversify the media once again.
With the current socio-economic state of the country, it was of no surprise to me that researching the use of social network in Zimbabwe was limited.  I did; however, find a few sources that discussed the importance of social networking sites to keep in touch with the many friends and family members who have left Zimbabwe in the past decade due to it’s unstable government.  Pending access to a computer, sites such as Twitter and Facebook are prevalently used, as well as, the social networking site and, which are sites specifically used to connect Zimbabweans.  Social networking in Zimbabwe is definitely important, but more to connect with people outside of Zimbabwe rather than to stay connected with the people in it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Design Visualization 112

For our first assignment of the Spring semester, we were to re-design the header to our blog with a new image that included a computerized font as well as a drawing of our own creation.  Both the drawing and the font were supposed to compliment our design aesthetic and point of view.  I choose to create a header that was very clean and simple, which is reflective of my design work.  The font that I chose was in the typewriter style, which is a very basic, non-flowery typeface.  It is very clear and precise and has a historic aspect to it that is timeless.  This element is very important to me and my work as my first degree is in historic preservation, and I am hoping base my designs with adaptive reuse in mind.  The other aspect of design that is significant to me is sustainable design/building, which is reflective in my decision to draw a leaf as my graphic.  Overall my header is a good representation of my point of view as a designer:  green, historic, timeless.