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MC-ARCH2Y Master of Architecture | University of Melbourne Melbourne School of Design | Semester 1 2011 Dean McCredden | Student Number: 384966 | Tutor: Beatriz Maturana
Introduction 1. Structural 2. Numbers 3. Diagrams 4. People 5. Drama 6. Context 7. Narrative 8. Environment 9. Ideas 10. Comparison: Current design project Conclusion Appendix: Drawings
This analysis focuses on three past design studio projects I have completed whilst studying at RMIT and the University of Melbourne (UoM). I have based the content of the analysis on reflections of what has been presented during the semester through the weekly lecture topics A, B and C. The analysis of my past projects will focus on these areas of reflection to give insight into my designing, and also to reflect upon the approach I’ve taken in reflecting on my experience of the design studios. The design studio projects are presented as follows: Project 1: Stockholm city library competition: Discovery Hub Semester 2, 2006 (RMIT); Tutor: Tania Davidge Project description: Library extension to the Stockholm City Library by Asplund. Project 2: Repetition with Difference: From Fabric to Object and Back: Earth Science Museum Semester 1, 2010 (UoM); Tutor: Marjan Cehovin. Project description: Science museum with addition to an existing warehouse in South Melbourne. Project 3: Victorian Regional Produce Market Semester 2, 2010 (UoM); Tutor: Kevin Hui. Project description: Produce market over the rail yard at the entrance to Southern Cross station. I intend to refer to these projects as Projects 1, 2 and 3 throughout this analysis. To conclude this reflection on my design work, I will compare the approaches of these past projects with my current design studio project.
Structure is important. That may seem like an obvious statement but it is something that I have learnt, especially in the design studio, as a design element that is seldom discussed or thought of. Why is this? It is the belief that anything can be built, so it is often considered an afterthought. I on the other hand think of structure in the first instance – maybe because that’s how I’ve been taught. In saying this, I have pared back on showing or describing structure in my designing because it somehow takes away from the drawings, i.e. makes them look too technical, like working drawings. I see this as a major problem: too many times the design tutor is pushing the ideas of the studio without looking at the fundamentals of how the building might come together. Common threads: Throughout my designing a commonality would be an emphasis on the structural grid. It is a device that I would use constantly to manipulate and test the elements of my design. This is true of, for example, designing a floor plan in that I would want that plan to relate to the structural grid (Figure 1.1).
Figure 1.1. Structural floor plan, Project 3.
Strength/Weakness: Designing structure for me is what I’m most comfortable with. The structure takes precedent in my designing, but I don’t see it as the main focus of a design concept. Motifs: Structure as an idea was definitely not the main concept of the projects, although structure in some cases was paramount. In Project 3, there was a distinct relationship between the structure and the concept, in the individual elements being part of a whole structural framework. Omissions: I can’t say that I have omitted structure as I’ve thought about it constantly through the designing process. I will say that it may not always be clear looking at the drawings because, as I alluded to before, the drawings can come across too technical-looking for presentation.
Figure 1.2. Section, Project 2.
Improvements: I would like to be able to push myself more, and to be more dynamic in my use of structure. The closest I’ve come so far in achieving this would be with Project 2 (Figure 1.2). In this project, I designed a curving truss system for the roof over an existing building, resulting in a faceted system of interlocking roofs which I believe to have been successful. What goes hand-in-hand with structure is materials. A definite materiality of my designing needs to improve. It is quite easy to say ‘this wall is brick’, but the nature of that material, its strengths/weaknesses, its inherent capabilities etcetera are not necessarily elements my designing reveals. In other words, the structural system is apparent but the tectonics don’t disclose themselves.
2. Numbers When dealing with numbers or mathematics, I would refer to this in architectural terms as geometry. The geometry of my designing is based in a form-making related to a surface. This surface-making in regards to my projects has been in reference to a topology or ground plane. Common threads: In my designing I can see that the geometry of surface is what I’m most interested in. The three projects I have presented reveal common themes in geometry playing a part in the formmaking of the architecture. (See Figures 2.1, 2.2 & 2.3.) Strength/Weakness: I don’t feel that geometry is my strong point, especially in relation to a parametric type, for example computer-based form-making. I do understand the complexities that are inherent in this type of designing, but I am more interested in a contextual response than a purely form-based outcome. Motifs: I see in all three projects I’ve used the idea of topology and typology as form in differing ways. This has again been a contextual response to the project and concept of each. Project 1: earth; Project 2: sky (clouds); Project 3: typology (warehouses). (Figures 2.1, 2.2 & 2.3.) Omissions: From the figures below it is quite apparent that the geometry in terms of form-making is mainly as a roof. Therefore, I have omitted the rest of the building as geometry! It is true that these three projects are quite similar in that the walls (walls, columns etc.) support the roof, and the roof is the main geometric or architectural form of the building. Improvement: As I have outlined above, further investigation would be to include all elements as a geometric architecture that would reinforce my interest in the roof form.
Figure 2.1. Detail, Project 1.
Figure 2.2. Detail, Project 2.
Figure 2.3. Detail, Project 3.
3. Diagrams Diagrams are a way of expressing an idea in its simplest form. In the designing process, I find that this approach is helpful in working out problems and explaining ideas. Common threads: I have only in the last few years started to use diagrams as a means of an expression of an idea. So to this end there is no connection in the use of this device between my projects. Strength/Weakness: I would say my diagraming needs to improve. Although I can sketch a concept and relay that to a second party, I can’t be confident that to date my diagrams have expressed the intent behind my work. Below was my last attempt at a diagram that could be seen as successful, as it clearly explains the intent behind my concept with this project (Figure 3.1.). This diagram sets out the site in a progression from an empty space to one that is filled, inputting various elements along this progression to the building concept. Motifs: Because I would say diagrams are a weakness of mine, a motif is not clearly identifiable. Omissions: Clearly from Project 1 there are no diagrams at all. But I can see that there is a slow progression from these projects, and that the diagram is being used more to explain the design concept. Improvement: There are many strong, recent examples that express architecture in terms of a diagram. My challenge will be to investigate and find other ways to represent my ideas in this way.
Figure 3.1. Diagram, Project 3.
4. People Architecture should be about people – again, perhaps, an obvious statement but one that can’t be ignored. Although we all sometimes get wrapped up in our own designing, I sometimes feel designing spaces for people can be ignored. I too have been guilty of this. Fundamentally, I hope that my designing has been about people in that the three projects I have presented are all public buildings and therefore, by their very nature, about people. Common threads: The nature of the programs in the each of these projects has helped me to think more about how people use a space both socially and culturally. I especially refer to Project 3 in this regard (Figure 4.1). This project is a market and for this reason the interaction with people (seller and buyers) is important. The other projects are also about interaction but on differing level: Project 1 and 2 are about space for learning and therefore face-to-face interaction is not as important. Strength/Weakness: I feel I recognise people as fundamental to interaction and within an occupied space. I believe I have developed this awareness and have been able to incorporate this into my designing. Motifs: There is a distinct correlation between these projects in the observance of an interaction between people and their environment. The occupation of spaces in a way dictated the outcome in the relationship to the program and the activity that the space is used for. Omissions: I can’t say that I have not thought about or forgotten that the projects presented are for people. Improvement: The understanding of the concept of architecture for people I found most interesting during the semester. The idea that a space could either be proxemic or distemic will definitely figure in my future designing, as it sets up the perception of what spaces could and would be.
Figure 4.1. Interior physical model, Project 3.
5. Drama Drama in my designing doesn’t figure prominently in terms of the projects I am presenting. The dramatic sequence or the platform on which dramatic occurrences could be played out is not immediately obvious. The dramatic occurrence is more in the interior space than an in an exterior architecture. Common threads: The link between the projects is in the use of internal spaces being used as a sense of occasion or to reinforce the architectural concept. Strength/Weakness: By the spaces being ones that add to the experience, I think this increases their importance. Projects 2 and 3 (Figure 5.2 & 5.3) I feel are heighten by a sense of drama in their interior spaces which are directly influenced by the architectural form.
Figure 5.2. Dramatic interior, Project 2.
Figure 5.3. Dramatic interior, Project 3.
Motifs: A common idea in these projects is a sense of the theatrical in being a witness to drama of the roof architecture, or in the case of Project 2 the theatrical presence upon entry with a grand stair to the upper level (Figure 5.1). Omissions: What I am describing is just one example of what I see as a dramatic element in the projects. Of course, these sorts of ideas of the theatrical could be further explored. Improvement: In looking at a sense of the dramatic in my designing, I have taken on board this tactic and used this in my current design studio. The exploration of moments in performance is part of the overall design concept for that project (see section 10 for a comparison of current design projects).
Figure 5.1. Dramatic stairs, Project 1.
6. Context What was presented during the semester was minimalism, but what I see in my designing in more a work of context – a context to what I believe to be cultural in the projects relating to their site and urban condition. The context of the projects presented is an urban one and therefore needed to relate in some way to the social aspects of interaction in that particular context. Common threads: I feel these project are contextual but in differing ways. The most compelling situation in relation to a context I feel would be Project 3. This is by working with the context (next to Southern Cross station) and in a way reinterpreting the roof form of the station and referencing the city with its differing heights and undulations (see Figure 6.1). Strength/Weakness: I definitely see the contextual response in these projects as valid and therefore one that is reinforced by the architecture. Motifs: The ideas in these projects can’t be read as being similar in response. The nature of the context precludes any trajectory of these themes being interconnected. Omissions: Upon reflection, no omissions are immediately apparent. Improvement: A continued attentiveness to a contextual response is where I feel my design is heading. I see my future designing as not only ideas-based, but also as having a relationship to their immediate environment.
Figure 6.1. Context, Project 3.
7. Narrative Narratives in my designing are present in the verbal telling, but I can’t acknowledge that these narratives would be easily interpreted by the drawings alone. To this end, I believe a certain amount of guidance would be needed to unravel the storey behind them. The closest I feel I came to representing a narrative was in Project 2 (Figure 7.1). Although at the time I was told this diagram was redundant, I believe it reveals something of the nature of a narrative from beginning, middle to end. The journey for the Earth Science Museum starts at ground (Earth), goes up into a terrace/landscaping (canopy) and ends in the upper level (clouds/sky). Common threads: Upon reflection, no common threads are immediately apparent. Strength/Weakness: My use of narrative is a weakness. Motifs: Upon reflection, no motifs are immediately apparent. Omissions: There are several omissions that could be highlighted. Improvement: I would definitely say without question that I need to work on this this.
Figure 7.1. A narrative of ideas, Project 2.
8. Environment I believe in a landscape response as an accompaniment to architecture, where both work in harmony with each other. The projects presented are more urban responses and are not necessarily dealing with landscaping or situating themselves within an environment of topography. In Project 2 (Figure 8.1), this proposal called for a landscaping situation that provided a break between the intervention of the surrounding buildings. This was proposed as promenade similar to a circumstance like Southbank in Melbourne, with trees and shrubs to provide shade and a softening of the hardscape.
Figure 8.1. Environment, Project 2.
9. Ideas The idea or many ideas that inform the design is what I believe to be the real skill of the architect. How to control the ideas and express them in the form of architecture is, in itself, mastery. This mastery is a skill in which tactics play a leading role in unravelling the intent of the design. Common threads: I couldn’t say that there are commonalities between these projects, as the ideas are separate and informed by their particular arrangement. Strength/Weakness: I wouldn’t say my ideas are inherently weak, but I admit there are associated weaknesses. Project 1 (Figure 9.1) demonstrates this lack of a cohesive idea, as concepts jump from one to the next without pausing to establish a tangible link between them. Motifs: Again there is a lack of theme but I can’t imagine that the majority of student of architecture would have developed a continuous thematic discourse with their projects. I think this time at university is great opportunity to try and test different methods. Omissions: With regard to what I have explained above, I don’t necessarily believe that ideas are excluded in some way, as each project has its own proposal. Improvement: Developing ideas and then being able to attach them to the design concept would be where I would like to see my work progress. The cueing of the idea and in turn developing a tactic for a conceptual framework would help to stimulate my design process.
Figure 9.1. Sequence of ideas, Project 1.
10. Comparison: Current design project Current design project: Synecdoche Melbourne: A City within a City, Urban Park, Semester 1, 2011 (UoM), Tutor: Billy Kavellaris (refer to appendix). In comparing my current design project to my previous projects I can definitely see a development in my work. Reflecting on these projects and teasing out some of the approaches I had made has been a beneficial experience. A common idea with all the projects to date, and one I had not realised, has been my use of the roof form as a principle architectural idea. The roof for me is about a contextual relationship with Australia, in reference to a trajectory of architecture from this country and around the Asia Pacific region. Reflecting on this perspective, I am enthusiastic about this discovery, as it supports an argument for a contextual and regional response to my designing and the architecture I hope to produce. Common threads: I see common themes in my work and understand they are centred around two distinct areas, Practical and Theoretical: Practical as it relates to structure, materials and people (environments), and Theoretical as it relates to context and based in ideas. In my current design project, I feel that these elements are present but also take on other characteristics in an overriding concept, in contrast to a sense of drama. This in part has been the objective of the studio (the concept of synecdoche: being part of a whole with simultaneous understanding) and what has come about programmatically in which moments of drama can ensue. Strength/Weakness: Taking into consideration the topics of this analysis in relation to my designing I feel comfortable with my approach to date but at the same time recognise some weaknesses. As a strength, I’m content with my approach to structure, materials and a contextual response which aligns with my interests in architecture. As a weakness, I recognise that my ideas and concepts in design need finessing, especially in controlling the expression of these and in turn how these might be read in the resulting design. In my current design project, I feel I have developed enough layering of ideas as not to be without theoretical position, but at the same time may have fallen back onto comfortable and familiar notions of structure, materials and context. I believe any reflection on this will be some time away as I’m still in the process of finalising and presenting the project. Therefore, any significant breakthrough or polemic at this point is implausible. Motifs: As I have alluded to, an idea that seems to be present in my previous designing and again with my current project is the roof as a dominant architectural element. Like my previous schemes, this current project is almost read from above, looking down. I feel this is my response to an urban context throughout the schemes as a response to the proliferation of stagnant architectural boxes that dominate the urban landscape. Upon reflection, I wonder: is this Melbourne? Omissions: In terms of the topics discussed in this analysis, I recognise the element of narrative as not necessarily omitted but instead obscured by the other approaches. Of all the topics, I have had the most difficulty with narrative. Improvement: It is quite apt to be concluding on this point, as I’d like to be able to improve my genesis of ideas and to be able to support the concept with successful and meaningful diagrams.
Conclusion Upon reflection of my three selected projects, I have come to realise the importance of pausing at various points during study to reflect on previous work, as a way to inform future designing. Is it only upon a conscious reflection of my previous work that I have been able to perceive clear connections, and to question my use of reoccurring motifs and design concepts. It is also only through this reflective process that I have been able to identify weaknesses and omissions in my projects. Through acquiring this awareness, I can ensure my future designing incorporates an awareness of these gaps to assist me towards becoming a more accomplished designer.
Appendix: Drawings Project 1: Stockholm City Library competition: Discovery Hub (2 pages) Semester 2, 2006 (RMIT); Tutor: Tania Davidge Project 2: Repetition with Difference: From Fabric to Object and Back: Earth Science Museum (2 pages) Semester 1, 2010 (UoM); Tutor: Marjan Cehovin Project 3: Victorian Regional Produce Market (2 pages) Semester 2, 2010 (UoM); Tutor: Kevin Hui Project 4: Synecdoche Melbourne: A City Within a City, Urban Park (2 pages) Semester 1, 2011 (UoM); Tutor: Billy Kavellaris
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