Wednesday, December 8, 2010

CounterPoint: Clock

For this square I chose to use place as my scale, and 3D as my form. We were studying Washington D.C. during this particular unit in class and I thought it appropriate to use it as the subject of my clock. My particular clock records time by using the dates on which the capitol building and the others that surround it were built. In order to emphasize the particular buildings I chose to record, I raised each of them by layering them on top of chipboard.

Point: Explorations

I would like to begin first, by recalling a conversation I had with one of my classmates. Daniel Salgado and I were discussing the McIver and the Julius Foust buildings, and their appropriateness within the bounds of the lessons we learned in the explorations unit. As a matter of personal taste, Daniel favored the McIver building, while I favored the Julius Foust building. Which is more appropriate in today’s world? A view that reflects upon the past (mine), or a view that looks forward to the future (Daniel)? The answer is both. When designing a space, place, building, or object, you must do it in a way that suites its modern purpose while giving it deep meaning, and value by reflecting the stories of the past.

It was from our two different points of view that we began having a discussion on how it is not always appropriate to view these historic buildings through modern eyes, because more often than not it’s original purpose was different from the one we assign to it today. Daniel didn’t enjoy the Foust building for this exact reason. He felt that its current purpose didn’t match up to the exterior form the past had assigned to it. I then reminded him of its original purpose as a library, and explored the idea of its castle-like appearance as a means of illustrating a fortress, a place of protection and safety. Daniel responds by saying, “Why the heck do we need a fortress though?” Both the Foust and the McIver building have their challenges in this present day when it comes to being good design for all, at all times. It was from this that we also discussed the appropriateness of renovations in general, and how some are more successful than others in reassigning a modern purpose to a historic site. Therefore it can be argued that certain historic buildings are simply to unique to be used in any other way and be functional. So it is best to simply preserve them in their original state.

In regards to the McIver building, all I could do is ask “why?” Although it is clearly an example of modern architecture at mid century, the McIver building is just one of those you look at and wonder what the architect was thinking when he drew it. The front entry doesn’t appear to match the rest of the façade. Even though the blocked pattern is visually interesting, you have to wonder why it is there. It is in this building that the challenges to modernism are made clear. The front entry is a perfect example of form without function, and its relationship to human scale is unclear. The McIver building is one of the first buildings on campus to gravitate toward what I call “puddle architecture.” There is a lot of stuff on the surface, but there is really no story to give it any sort of depth, and personal meaning to the building.

It is all of these lessons that I have learned through my semester in History and Theory of Design II. It is because of this class that I have learned to better observe and understand history as it relates to both the context of its particular time period, and how it is reiterated and reused in today’s modern world. As it relates to substance v. surface, I have also learned there is a lot more to design than a pretty face, I mean façade. It is important to have a surface, but it is much more important to have a deeper story to tell in order to give meaning, and great value to your project. It is because of this lesson in particular, that I have become a much better designer today and will continue to be into tomorrow.

Thank you Patrick! You have been a wonderful inspiration, and you are a wonderful professor. :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Counterpoint: Machine

For the last of my 4 8.5" x 8.5" squares for my history and Theory of design class I chose to use the smallest scale: artifact, and to represent this artifact in the the form of a paragraph. I chose to right a bout the stair case in Villa Savoye in France. my paragraph on the subject is as follows:
Le Corbusier, as an architect of the International Modernist style, saw the home as "a machine for living." It was within this frame of thought that he utilized the airplane, steamship, and automobile as a way of expressing the form discovered in response to modern function. It was for this reason, I think, that the Villa Savoye resembles a strange cross between a private residence and a parking garage. Deriving his inspiration from the automobile, Le Corbusier wanted the inhabitants to "drive" through the space, winding back and forth always looking to discover what is around the bend. Because of the open plan, this winding experience and sense of discovery is mainly provided by the helical curved staircase and the ramp that doubles back through the center of the house. This smooth, spiraling transition and the idea of switchbacks between floors is what reminds me the most of driving through a parking deck, on the hunt for that elusive, perfect space.

Roth, pages 528-535

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reading comprehension 7

The work I chose from the work and commerce section of the “Greensboro Collects” exhibit was “Les Constructeurs” (the builders) by Fernard Leger, 1955. When I read 1955 as the year I immediately thought of music, especially jazz, blues, and swing alike. As both an artist and a musician I am often able to recall a song that a piece of art brings to mind, kind of like a theme song in a movie. For this particular work I could almost match a rhythm to the repeating lines, or a jazz riff to the free form lines in the background. This brought me to the renewals and riffs portion of the explorations unit. Perhaps this work is looking back at Egyptian wall carvings, while also looking forward in its resemblance to the work of Picasso. Thus creating a riff portraying ideas anew at mid century. Both the Egyptians and Picasso had a way of flattening their subjects. The Egyptians did it by orienting each part in the view from which it could be best understood. Picasso on the other hand, along with other cubist artists, flattened simply as a form of abstraction; portraying their subject as if a heavy object had squished it. This painting does a good job of combining these two ideas while keeping the subject clear. The work looks backward for its method of portrayal, but is of a modern subject. This idea of a modern painting being a riff on the past is interesting because Harwood clearly states that Modernism strove to eliminate such influences. “For the most part Modernism strives to design for the present and eliminate most traditions, forms and elements of the past, rejecting historicism, the academic tradition, and the idea of style (Harwood p.613).” Harwood also speaks of the methods these artists/designers used to accomplish this goal. “Striving to avoid style, designers emphasize asymmetry, straight lines and rectangles, and flat plains. Parts are arranged in a series of geometric shapes and forms usually with linear elements (Harwood p.592).” All of which can be seen in both my diagram and the original work by Leger.

“Les Constructeurs” portrays two construction workers building a skyscraper. The subject reflects Modernism at mid century because the improvement upon iron, glass, and steel, during this time allowed allowed buildings to move upward in addition to horizontally. This theme of construction can also be seen in Abraham Walkowitz’s “Man with a Shovel/Worker”, 1904.

Similarities can also be drawn between these two works in the way their figures are portrayed. There is a clear emphasis on the hands, arms, and legs. The heads of the figures are also small proportionally to the rest of the body. The type of rendering also has a relative roundness to it. Perhaps this emphasis is the artist’s way of protesting or praising the work of the builders. Art, I have found, is never purely for arts sake. Matthew Nowicki also called for a similar change in his essays “Composition in Modern Architecture,”” In the overwhelming majority of modern design form follows form, and not function.” Art is a portrayal of an individual’s understanding of the world around them. Ergo, opinion, emotion, and feeling are also part of the mix. There for, these pieces were done in reaction to the change in times. Reverberations of both a similar style of rendering, and opinions upon the subject are present as well.