Sunday, March 31, 2013

Featured: Lee III, Clemson University

In lieu of a normal "This Week in Architecture" there is a bit of something special this week. On Clemson University's campus, where I currently attend finishing up my B.A. in Architecture, sits the latest extension of Lee Hall, which houses the Art and Architecture departments. Dubbed Lee III, the Thomas Phifer designed building is LEED Silver rated and houses all the years of landscape architecture students, in addition to the grad students in the architecture program.

Lee III was recently featured on ArchDaily, and I'd like to just give a little bit of insight to what the building is really like, having spent a good amount of time there. Before you read my comments, I think it might help to take a moment and read the article here first.

While Lee III is presented as a cutting edge building, it seems to fail in many of the most basic of functions. There's no doubt that the building looks cool. Mezzanines above the ground floor level overlook many of the student work spaces and the columns look like trees spreading their branches to hold up the green roof.

On the outside, the vast amount of windows let in lots of natural light, and as an admirer of glass design myself, is pleasing to the eye. The tensioned cables that aid in structure are pretty cool too.

But here's where things start getting a little messy in my opinion. Because the majority of buildings on campus are brick, a giant hanging curtain wall was slapped onto the west side of the building. I think that despite past precedents, the building could be a standalone symbol of innovation and progression on campus, while in fact tradition overruled that notion.

There were many things that were intended to happen with the building to help keep it as close to net-energy zero as possible. One such thing involved automatic windows that opened and closed, adjusting to temperature to make the building self-climated-controlled. Unfortunately, these windows don't actually work, and may not even exist. Lee III is known for being downright frigid, despite the floor supposedly being heated via a radiant heat system.

In terms of workspaces, the desks that they chose to use, while offering extra storage spaces through cubbies and cabinets, fail to allow the most necessary thing onto the desk itself, that being light. The skylights simply don't let in enough light, and since the auxiliary lights are left for the most part off during the day, there is always a shadow line right down the middle of your desk, in addition to it already being relatively dark inside the general building. A short walk around the studio spaces will prove this point, as almost every student has one or even two adjustable arm lights clipped to the desk, because it's very hard to work when you can't see things properly.

But all of these issues are dwarfed by the most major issue in my eyes, and that is sound. In a building built entirely of steel and concrete, there is nothing that dampens the sound. I've had reviews in a space they call "the Wedge", an angled space with walls you can pin up on, and if you're not in the front row, you can't hear a single thing the presenter is saying. Basically, when speaking softly all you hear is echoed mumbles and muddy tones, and when speaking loudly, you are heard from across the entire building. This means that even small side conversations and studio discussions bound all around the room, making the entire building, overall, loud. For a major where many students prefer quiet to concentrate and focus, this is a huge issue.

But of course, those things are just my take on it. I still think it's a cool building, and appreciate Clemson's interest in designing sustainably. That being said, it would behoove Clemson and other universities to really survey students and ask what things they value most in their studio experience, and help tailor design to those needs.


Got an opinion or question? Leave it below.

Friday, March 22, 2013

This Week In Architecture: Episode VIII

Welcome to another episode of This Week in Architecture!

Cardboard Cathedral

Coming to us from New Zealand, we first have Shigeru Ban's Cardboard Cathedral. For those who don't know, Shigeru Ban is a Japanese architect known for his "design of structures that can be quickly and inexpensively erected in disaster zones." The city of Christchurch, New Zealand recently undertook the weight of a disastrous earthquake last February, which killed over 200 people. The cathedral that used to stand was one of the most famous landmarks of the city, and so it was imperative that the cathedral be reconstructed as soon as possible.

Ban's construction technique is rather simple: an A-frame made up of paper tubes and 20-foot containers. Tubes will be coated with both waterproof and flame retardants that Ban has been developing since the mid 1980's.

Recycled shipping containers help to uphold the sides of the structure, and it's been great to be able to reconstruct the church so quickly. The Cardboard Cathedral will be the largest paper tube structure of Ban's career thus far, with a capacity of 700 people. It is to be used not only as a place of worship, but also as a space for events or concerts.

Check out the full story here.

MAD Building

We then move to Oslo, Norway, where we see the MAD Building designed by MAD arkitekter. Breaking the mold of the modern tower, the allowable footprint for this building was only 11 meters wide (about 35 feet) for a 15 story building. With two 16 story buildings flanking either side of the lot, naturally something amazing needed to happen to make it all work.

Interestingly enough, the Opera Quarter (the site of the building) has many buildings that are very long and narrow, providing lots of great visual sight lines. Despite the slim nature of the building, each level has six apartments of varying shapes and sizes.

This whole building just goes to show that even great design can flourish in less-than-ideal places and situations.

Check out the full story here.

World Water Day

This last story is not from any one particular location, but instead shows a group of ten projects that are very environmentally conscious designs that really focus their energies toward water conservation. Whether it's the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, the Great Barrier House, or the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre, there are a ton of options in completely different forms offered here. If sustainability is your thing, this is definitely worth checking out. It really goes to show that making something sustainable doesn't have to drastically affect your design!

Check out the full story and list here.

Thanks for sticking around; tune in next Friday for another episode!


Got an opinion or question? Leave it below.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Drive of Architecture Students .

Aside from perhaps chemical engineering and physics majors, the architecture major contains some of the most dedicated students around. In fact, people are often so dedicated to their work that you really do lose contact with many people in what we like to call "the outside world." The school even recommends that you actually live with people that aren't in your major so that you still have some semblance of a social life.

As the years progress in your undergraduate career, you'll find that your roommates often text you just to see if you're still alive, because they haven't seen you at home in three days. You'll be on campus from 8 in the morning until 8 at night, scraping together for meals (and sometimes forgetting about them entirely) and naturally, completely blowing off that diet that you were planning on doing because fast food just sounds way better right now. However, you'll also find that you are really desiring some free time. People do actually improve at getting their work done in a relatively timely manner by the time you become a senior (either that or we all just have become really good at putting it off and then throwing it all together last minute).

Come the few days before review, the entire attitude changes. Lax procrastination turns into imminent panic, and it's almost expected that there will be a good number of people that will be up all night the night before a review. I actually pulled my first all-nighter in quite some time a few weeks ago (I haven't stayed up all night since sophomore year). The sun goes down and you lose track of time, and eventually the pink rays of sunrise are before you and you realize that you've been there all night, and all of a sudden you're shivering and your muscles ache and your head is spinning. Sounds exciting, right?!

Of course, there are those of us that are really solid in the area of time management, and are able to finish all their work with time left over to spend as they please. A good friend of mine actually has a 4.0 GPA, is involved in AIAS, Freedom by Design, RUF and others,  lifts with me three days a week, has time to go on group road rides, has time to spend with his girlfriend and still gets plenty of sleep every night.

See? It is possible to actually finish everything you need to do; all it takes is a little focus and drive. Once you learn that, you'll be unstoppable.


Got an opinion or question? Leave it below.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

This Week in Architecture: Episode VII

Welcome back to another episode of "This Week in Architecture"! Let's jump right in to what we have this week:

A House in Kamigamo

From Kyoto, Japan, we first visit a House in Kamigamo, designed by Méga. Hidden from the street by the combination of a large privacy fence and a protective façade, this home is deformed to fit on a very strange acute triangular plot of land. Initially, the site was zoned to be a sort of scenic overlook, and so the house that now stands on the plot captures a beautiful view of Kyoto city.

From the inside, the house is about as bare bones as you can get. In some ways, it shares some similarities to the Native American longhouses primarily used by the Iroquois tribe, in that its ceiling is actually the bare rafters that hold up the roof.

Due to the steep fall of the land as you move away from the street, the home is terraced down to help ease the potential forces created from one giant cantilever (the basic principle being that the higher something is, the greater the gravitational potential energy there is, thus making it harder to hold up -- physics!). There is also something really minimalist about the home; the rooms feel large and open, and the walls are simple stained wood and paint.

Check out the full story here.


Next we travel to Montreal, Canada to view a project by ATOMIC3. Montreal is the deemed the culture capital of Canada, and this project is no exception. In my opinion it hearkens back to the childhood curiosity. The project is an architectural form, but doubles as an interactive light and sound display. As you move through the various zones, certain things happen, whether it lights flash or sounds are made.

The reason for the name is that the idea of the project is intended to show the life cycle of an iceberg, from birth in the Arctic circle all the way down to the warmer waters where it eventually melts. As people move through the iceberg skeletons, they are transformed by motion-sensor-controlled lights and sounds that are inspired by the true sounds icebergs make as they melt. There is a really cool video that goes along with the article that I encourage you to check out, because it really helps to illustrate what I'm talking about.

Check out the full story here.

Daqing Highway Passenger Transportation Hub

Coming to us from Daqing, China, the Daqing Highway Passenger Transportation Hub is the epitome of state of the art. It almost seems as if there isn't a single straight edge on the entire building. Huge long sweeping lines along the exterior façades provide a wonderful contrast between the uniform square windows.

Located in the northern alpine zone of China, the building attempts to show a cultural staple of the region, the snow and ice (quite successfully, I might add). Its exterior lines almost look like snow drifts and ice sweeping along the façade. While the main building is three stories, the tower is fourteen, and helps to break through the mold of a traditional traffic pavilion.

Check out the full story here.

ANIMA Cultural Center Proposal

Our final project comes to us from Bernard Tschumi Architects. His first project in Italy, the ANIMA Cultural Center Proposal is a "cultural, social and architectural generator of events". The large open permeable space is both flexible for many uses and welcoming, while the façade helps to encourage creativity and an open mind.

ANIMA, a name given by Tschumi, is actually an acronym which stands for Art, Nature, Ideas, Music, Action. The full article has sketches, renderings, and some serious detail that is definitely work giving a look.

Check out the full story here.

Thanks for tuning into another episode, and hope to see you this Friday!


Got an opinion or question? Leave it below.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"This Week in Architecture" Update

Just so you all know, there will not be a "This Week in Architecture" episode this week. I have a big review next Wednesday and have been focusing on getting everything done for it. See you next Friday!


Got an opinion or question? Leave it below.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

This Week in Architecture: Episode VI

Welcome to another episode of This Week in Architecture!

Centra Metropark

Starting off, we head to Iselin, NJ to visit the Centra Metropark office building designed by KPF. One of the cool things that appealed to me here was that I have been to the Metropark area a good number of times. Whether it's picking up a family member after a trip or heading into NYC myself, it's sometimes the best place to come to. To see such a cool building inhabit an area that is in desperate need of revitalization is very cool.

The natural daylighting strategies should be noted, as in some places portions of the building are cut out to allow light in. This is especially relevant for me right now; in studio we are designing a museum and one of the key elements is figuring out how natural daylighting will work.

Check out the full story here.

 CityLife Milano

Moving on to Milan Italy, a project entitled CityLife Milano designed by Zaha Hadid Architects is underway. While the complex contains some more or less normal skyscrapers, the one that strands out the most is the middle one, bending at the waist and almost appears to be bowing down to onlookers. It blows my mind that structural systems even work for stuff like that.

Zaha Hadid certainly stays true to her usual style of design, with bright white surfaces and chaotic (and seeming engineering nightmares) structural forms. Despite the strange appearance, I actually quite like the complex, and the interior renderings are absolutely pristine.

Check out the full story here.

Piraeus Underwater Antiquities Musem

There is no real designer here (as there are tons) but a good many people participated in a competition to build an underwater antiquities museum. The museum was to be both functional and visually stimulating, becoming a landmark for the city and a source of "quality tourism and sustainability.

This article is great because it shows tons of other competitors. I think there are a lot of people (most especially students) that don't take the time or the effort to work on competitions, and it's really a great way to keep in practice with design!

Check out the full story here.

Third Wave Kiosk

Lastly we head to Torquay, Australia to see the Third Wave Kiosk designed by Tony Hobba Architects. Generally these types of little beach shacks don't interest me too much, but this one caught my eye for a very specific reason: the lighting. On the night photos/renderings, the light shoots up along the walls from a portal in the ground. Pretty cool stuff.

I have to say, the design fits in well with the beach. It is unobtrusive, and really goes along well; it looks like it belongs there. The architects made sure that it went along with its environmental setting, but also was able to engage in the beach culture. It's pretty challenging to pull off a tiny kiosk center made to serve many people, but it is certainly well-executed here.

Check out the full story here.

Well, that's going to do it for this episode. Thanks for tuning in, and hope you stop by next week! If you liked this, don't forget to tweet, share, or email it to your friends!


Got an opinion or question? Leave it below.

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