Friday, April 26, 2013

The Building Approach

Building approaches are like the beginning of a good novel.  There are a few ways to design an effective approach.  One of my favorite design references is Architecture: Form Space & Order by Francis D.K. Ching.  Approach starts with a pathway to a building.  The pathway is the first phase of how we take in the building and prepare for how to use the building's spaces.  There are three approaches to a building: Frontal, Oblique and Spiral.
1. Frontal Building Approach
The Building Approach, Architecture: Form Space & Order, Francis D.K. Ching, pg. 249.
 The New York Public Library, photo credits, Jan Shepherd.
A frontal approach leads directly to a building's entrance along a straight, axial path. - Architecture: Form Space and Order, Francis D.K. Ching.
   This approach is formal I know.  I like this double loaded entry within an entry.  The entry is designed to make you feel small and overpowered.    The 3 arched openings in the wall plane *or 3 doors* surrounded on all sides by the surface of the stone.  You see how the doors themselves are made to be supersized with the pediments and glass above to stretch the eye always upward.  
   I have never been in this building but it seems like when it was built books were cared for and put on a pedestal.  The symmetry of the approach leaves one at a loss to want to turn the corner to explore around the perimeter. The visual goal that terminates the approach is clear; you know what you are getting into here. You will see what I mean when you see the part on spiral approach.  
2. Oblique Building Approach
The Building Approach, Architecture: Form Space & Order, Francis D.K. Ching, pg. 249.
Palazzo Mocenigo, at San Stae, Venice, Italy, Venetian Palaces, Rizzoli, pg.425.
Map of Venice, Italy, Venetian Palaces, Rizzoli, pg.524.
An oblique approach enhances the effect of perspective on a building's front façade and form. - Architecture: Form Space and Order, Francis D.K. Ching.

   I looked for a Palazzo that was on the extreme approach of course, why wouldn't I.  Palazzo Mocenigo would be a ridiculously cool building approach.  I would have to float down the Canal Grande on a gondola and then take a hard left to a more narrow canal to reach the oblique entry.  Naturally, I would stop to shop on the way.  The path is re-directed one or more times to delay and prolong the sequence of the approach.  This heightens the sense of approach and curiosity of how the façade will stack against the majestic architectural gems seen on the way.

   If a building is approached at an extreme angle like this one, its entrance can project beyond its façade to be more clearly visible.  The façade that overlooks the rio is made more interesting and lively by its irregularities.  Like anyone would go out on those marble balconies! This building could fit into spiral approach too.
 3. Spiral Building Approach
The Building Approach, Architecture: Form Space & Order, Francis D.K. Ching, pg. 249.
Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, Le Corbusier Ideas and Forms, William J R Curtis, Rizzoli New York, pg. 147.  
 A spiral path prolongs the sequence of the approach, and emphasizes the three-dimensional form of a building as it moves around the building's perimeter. - Architecture: Form Space and Order, Francis D.K. Ching.

   Last time I was at Ronchamp there was no such thing as internet or cell phones.  I am so excited there are videos I can watch from my Aeron chair.  This building cannot be understood by looking at a digital photo with the spiral building approach in mind.  This building is soft on the eye and easy to walk around.  There are so many symbols in the forms that it is good to have one thing in mind each time you study it.  This time I focused on entries.  I like how the entries are a subtractive slice of grey concrete through the white sculpted chapel volumes.  Even though the doors don't want to be too high, the dark grey color is carried all the way up above the door to keep the eye upward.

  With a building like Corbusier's Ronchamp, the entrance might be viewed intermittently during the approach to clarify its position.  You know where it is but you might want to wander around a bit to take some photos of those massive concrete scuppers that look like ox nostrols.   Also with a spiral approach the entry may be hidden until the point of arrival.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Exploring Harquahala Ghost Mining Town

It was a bright and windy morning.  This was the day of my second Arizona off road excursion with the Buckeye Rock and Mineral Club.  We were headed west of Buckeye about an hour and a half to a turn off the I-10 freeway called Hovatter Road.   After driving along the dirt road about 15 minutes, I spotted the building perched up on a hill.  This was the gateway to Harquahala Ghost Mining Town.  The Native American name is pronounced "Aha qua hala", which meant "water there is high up."  The intent was to look for turquoise rocks but I naturally headed to the top of the peak to get to know the commanding metal building.   
Walking up the gravel slope I checked for turquoise and found to my delight rusted treasures of a bygone era. This place was settled for the sole purpose of mining gold in what was called The Bonanza and Gold Eagle veins discovered in 1888.  This location is so remote that there are lots of reminders still intact like vintage desert glass. I picked up beach glass in Washington when visiting my Mom and thought how cool it was to find a piece of glass that is from the turn of the century that nature has had its way with. The edges are soft and the glass is opaque with an opalescent dirty cast.  I found tons of it. 
I also liked these thin old tin containers with a hinged top that were mostly smashed flat and dark rusted brown.  I asked Chuck one of the most knowledgeable members of our group what he thought the containers were for and he said, "They didn't have cigarettes back then so they probably kept their tobacco in those containers to keep it fresh."  If you ever have a question about a rock you ask Chuck. He will pick up a rock and look it over with his weathered hands. I like watching his super sized knuckles the size and look of walnut shells. He will slowly move a rock around to inspecting it and know what it is called.  He always finds sparkly craggy rocks . He really knows where to look.  He once got bitten by a scorpion and secretly enjoyed it due to not having arthritis for 3 months. 

But I didn't want to look for rocks.  This rusted beautiful building was my Bonanza.  The views from each direction were spectacular.  The dirt from under the darting out foundation had eroded away so I had a worm's eye view for a couple shots.  There was a faint turquoise hue on a burnt window frame that looked onto a solid concrete box room.  I crept inside the doorway and found tons of deteriorated canvas bags semi buried in white sand with pale yellow tags that read Shell Mining Company. 

It must have been a really rough place to live. The surrounding desert was littered with shot gun shells from every vintage.  That door opening above is where I found all the empty Mineral Sample bags.  I love that most of the major structure was still intact.  For a small building, it has a lot going for it.  The concrete box with the water tank on top gives the building an anchor.  There is a center ridge vent that continues the whole length of the building probably used to cool the space. The ridge roof even cantilevers out over the entry which I thought was pretty cutting edge for back then.

This was a close up of the roof that had fallen.  Simple construction leaves behind poetic images for decades after the people who built them are gone.

An abobe structure sat in the distance with some walls missing.  It was quiet there today; the only thing I could hear was the wind blowing nonstop through this doorway.  The wood lintel was chard from a fire but still holding up the adobe made with small twigs, soft peach mud, hay and rocks.  Outside the entry lay a sun ravaged pile of wood mixed with rusted pieces of metal full of pocks and lacy edges.
I did end up looking for turquoise and more vintage glass.  I feel like I don't have to leave my home state to find beach glass. I have desert glass that is just as beautiful. Arizona erosion is the constant sun, intense baking heat and subtle movement of shifting sand.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ideal Working and Living Space

I have been thinking of an ideal work studio space for millions of years.  I will never be done with defining the idea, it will constantly be changing and expanding.  For now, I found the best images to transfer and overlay on my light table.   When I trace something it becomes real for me. I get to know it well.  That's why I have been quiet.   I have been sketching what I really want. 

My work space desires have not strayed much from when I was about 12 years old.  The first work space I can remember was a storage closet under the basement stairs.  It had a single bulb with a pull chain to light dusty wood planks on the left.  All I can remember is heavy books of my Dads with flowers inside that had been in there for months being pressed.   My signature is still visible on the right side of the door.
This first work space is a studio situated on the tippy top of some jungle with bright green trees. I would like the adventure of climbing up to the top.  It would be a bummer if my pen dropped over the edge and it would be tough to haul the light table up there.  The views and sounds would be delicious.

This is a tracing of Philippe Starck, a French product designer. His designs range from interior designs to mass-produced consumer goods such as toothbrushes, chairs, and even houses.  I like this idea, number 1: he is a super successful guy and number 2: he works outside naked. I am pretty sure this space is at his Formentera House built in 1995, found in my book titled, Starck, published by Taschen. 

   The example of Ted DeGrazia's studio and museum in Tucson, Arizona has subtle creative hints of the artist everywhere.  I wouldn't want to live in the adobe buildings on site but on a macro level I like the artistic details like ocotillo branches and saguaro ribs used as fence pickets and wind chimes.   DeGrazia cut up and painted aluminum cans to make flowers. The flowers really get to me.  Most everything is pretty raw and tough, the permanent perennials soften heavy post and beam entry ways.   Studio space could be an expression of an artist constantly experimenting with ideas.  I know most artist's spaces are always filled with mismatched accumulation.

Sara Werthan Buttenwieser of Crafted Lives said it best in American Craft Magazine that , " (studio) resemble artists' houses, which also display respect and admiration for each other's work via similarly stocked shelves.

   Then there is the image of a modern farm house that appeals to me.  A rural setting with wide open plains but at thick wall of trees to protect the house.  It would be respectful of the historic simple farm house but have a modern forward stance with an amplified porch.  The symmetry would be proud and provide shade all year long.  Inside the work space could be filled with light to bounce off wood floors.  The walls would be simple white to showcase minimal art pieces.  It could be about waking up to inspiration on a daily basis.
While putting the finishing touches on the sketches you see here, I discovered how to define the profile around the building in a different way.  After I had finished hand rendering the blue in the sky with Non-Photo-Blue Prisma pencil, I scanned it.  Once I brought the image into Photoshop I matched the blue with Eye Dropper Tool and then used pencil in a number 5 to profile the roofline. I love how it came out.  I added bright white with a transparency to the columns and pediment to make it POP.