Wednesday, February 25, 2009




The Metric system is the most widely used system of measurement known to human kind. It provides a universal tool to gauge and assess the size and proportions of any physical quantity in a single unit. As designers, a metric unit is very important in defining distance or space as well as the functionality or commodity, of that particular space. As Christianity spread across Europe, the medieval architecture began to reflect the different uses of scale and proportion in the designs of the buildings such as the cathedrals and churches. Roth demonstrates how this scale and system of measurements was imperative to the designs when he discusses the development of the church of Saint Pierre. “The external buttresses were too small to resist the forces created by wind loads, the buttresses gradually bent and cracked.” (Roth 336) The mistakes made in the construction and design of these buttresses shows the importance of exact measurements and metrics. To help with the flaws of the scales and proportions, the systems changed. “As functional and social needs shifted over the course of the Middle Ages, So did the placement and measurements of the structures.” (Blakemore 71) The metric system allows for a universal measuring arrangement that helps reduce the amount of design mistakes when regarding scale and proportion. As in Stoel’s drafting assignment of the critique room, the impact of a metric mistake can make quite a difference. The position in which I placed the columns is incorrect due to a flaw in my measuring. Because of this, the structure itself may be less structurally sound and the integrity of it is weakened.


Many times, designers create their own stylistic work by drawing influence by what is known as a precedent. A precedent is essentially an inspiration to aid in the thought process of creating something new. Often, too, designers will pull certain stylistic details from another designer or artist to create their own distinct style or techniques. Suzanne’s group “building” project has enabled us to really consider the option of drawing inspiration from other’s ideas, concepts, and techniques to create our own style. The 8 ½ X 11 drawings we did of our buildings were to be drawn utilizing a certain style from an artist we found interesting. These drawings serve as a prime example of how we can turn to a precedent to enhance and develop our own work. We gain a level of understanding about our own work by looking at the different techniques, medias, and materials from other artists and applying them to our own work to make a composition that is truly unique. “Although there is a paucity of actual pieces of furniture available for study, documentary evidence from literary sources, reliefs, wall paintings, sarcophagi, and marble and bronze parts extend our knowledge about characteristics of Roman furniture. From sources it is clear that the Romans relied on Greek prototypes of the Hellenistic period for their inspiration.” (Blakemore 61) Blakemore suggests here that the Romans drew their inspirations from the influence that the prototypes of Greece had on their architecture and furniture. A prototype is another excellent word to describe a “precedent.” By drawing inspiration from the influences of the prototypes, we as designers can make more headway to the hybrids of our designs.


The presence a building emanates can be a very important aspect of its purpose and stature. The effect of the structure can be a very strong one by simply examining the grandeur of the composition. The overwhelming complexity of a building can make quite an impact by its presence by simply existing against a less celebrated structure. It establishes a sense of Hierarchy by celebrating the “moment” or the overall feeling it projects.  Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture began to change the thought that complex architecture was the only kind that established a certain presence on earth and through history. “Those external qualities of architecture that had appealed to a cultivated visual sensibility gradually were replaced by an architecture of simpler elements, fostering a sense of mysticism.” (Roth 275)


A moment to me is to capture a particular segment of time and space that seems to be a powerful and important occurrence. It celebrates a certain part and aspect of a design or a composition in a way that makes it an important “moment” of that space. This leads into Hierarchy in a way, by showing the importance of a certain aspect of the design. Roman architecture stands as a prime example of compositions that have important moments. The churches and cathedrals were very important buildings in the society of the Romans, but the appearance aided that importance. The façade, being the most important, visual and decorated side of the building, contained a “rose window” that casts light upon the altar, highlighting that certain aspect of the design. “Between the towers and admitting light to the extension of the old church nave was a great, round window, the first of the rose windows that so distinguished later gothic churches.” (Roth 330) It captures a special instant of a composition and celebrates its uniqueness. 


Duality is interpreted as something that is multifunctional or contains more than one central meaning. Many times a structure may have one side that defines it in a certain way, but when reevaluated, can be interpreted with a different feeling. A duality can be created by utilizing opposite or contrasting colors, angles, or even décor and textures. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Massaro House - Frank Lloyd Wright (PRECEDENT ANALYSIS)

The Massaro house is an aesthetically pleasing home built on a spectacular site on Petre Island on Lake Mahopac in upstate New York. The brilliant designer, Frank Lloyd Wright, began this building as a few simple pencil sketches in the 1950’s before resolving that his ideas would be expensive and difficult on this waterside location. Many years later (2007), Joe Massaro employed architect Thomas A. Heinz to construct the home from the five original sketches by Wright.

I have always been interested in Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs and his unique way of expressing different appearances and defining the space as well as its exploit. The Massaro house is one of his designs that particularly jumps out at me because of its location. Just as in Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous home, Falling water, the Massaro house is built around the natural environment. Being built over a lake and out from a rock, this building contains special construction and design techniques. Much like the Greek’s idea of design and construction, the home was built around nature, and with much consideration of it. For example, it is built from and around a large grouping of rocks. One of these rocks is actually incorporated in the house itself and used both as a visual aid as well as a physical aid. It is utilized as part of the kitchen counter and extends to another room of the home.

I feel that taking consideration of these details and using the natural environment in the design itself is an admirable quality in a designer. I also feel as though researching this building will aid, improve, and develop my own skills as a designer. The world of design has been developed over time to include precedents from earlier designs and structures such as this. Many things can be learned from Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings, and can be considered as new designs are being created. I welcome the opportunity to delve deeper into the mystery of Frank Lloyd Wright’s design of the Massaro house and am excited to discover more of the details of its design. Hopefully my analysis of this building will allow me to further my own developments and designs and inspire me to use some of the same principles of Frank Lloyd Wright, such as his knack for designing around beautiful locations and environments rather than vise versa. 

(A sketch of the Massaro House that I drew)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Parts:Whole (Opus #4)



Archetype/Prototype/Hybrid represents certain pieces in the history of architecture that influence the changes in the design cycle. An archetype stands as an ideal, or the perfection wished to be achieved. The prototype is “what gets you there”, or helps you achieve the archetype, and the Hybrid is what comes next. A prime example of this phrase would be the coliseum in Rome, Italy. It consists of four levels built in a semi circle on a foundation ring of concrete. Each level displays a different column order, representing the archetype, prototype, and hybrid. The column order, starting with Doric, and then ranging through Ionic, and Corinthian, is demonstrated throughout the entire composition of the coliseum on each level. “As in the Theater of Marcellus, the stone arcades incorporated engaged columns – unfluted Doric on the ground floor, then Ionic, Corinthian, and finally Corinthian pilasters on the uppermost, fourth story” (Roth 267) Roth further explains this organization and use of all the column orders in one building. It effectively shows how one archetype, or ideal, is sought, and how each iteration stands as a prototype for the next, which soon becomes the Hybrid. 


There are many different versions of sources - light sources, influential/historical sources, water sources, etc. Water sources played a large role in the lives of the people of Egypt, as well as the Greeks and the Romans. The Egyptians relied on the Nile River as a source for trade and clean water, just as the Greeks relied on the seas and waterways that surrounded their general location and as the Romans relied on their invention of the aqueducts. “As in Egypt, where the river and desert encouraged a particularly static culture, so too in Greece a specific geography and climate influenced culture…” (Roth 215) Not only does the geography of a place act as a source for water and trade, but light can act as a very important source in drawings, sketches, and other visual elements. As in Suzanne’s class over the last week or so, we’ve been working to improve our watercolor skills. To aid our attempts, she suggested trying to locate a light source and work off the shadows and illumination of an object or space. “The light illuminating that environment is critical for the information we receive.” (Roth 85) It is a powerful element that helps an image become more active and vibrant, whilst enhancing our perception of the space.


Order represents civility and organization within a composition or society. Order also demonstrates some sort of progression, advancement, or evolution. The order of the Greek columns is a perfect example of such a progression and evolution. “The role of orders was significant in defining spaces of the Greek interior; not only did they divide spaces horizontally, but they were also instrumental in creating visual interest by the attention drawn to them vertically through decorative detail in the capitals and in the entablature. The classical orders consist of the column with its base, shaft, capital, and entablature, and are classified by the capital as Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, or Composite.” (Blakemore 28) Blakemore shows how this order was an important part of Greek Architecture and how it organizes the progression over time.


Hierarchy is a series in which each element is graded or ranked. Hierarchy usually exalts one element over the rest of the composition, making it superior to another part of the whole. For example, in Athens, Greece, the Acropolis is designed in a way that effectively displays the differences in superiority throughout the city. Some buildings are made more prominent, creating the Hierarchy of that space. For example, the Parthenon was constructed as a temple for the Goddess Athena, and placed in a manner that it is clearly viewable as the most important structure on the Acropolis. Next in the order of hierarchy comes the Erechtheion. It is positioned to direct the eye to the Parthenon yet still bring glory to its uniqueness as well. This continues on with each building on the Acropolis, establishing an explicit hierarchy through the entire space. 

Another example of Hierarchy that I’ve encountered this week is in my studio class. We were given three words and certain restrictions on materials but had to construct a 3D model conveying those words. One of the words I was assigned was hierarchy and I was able to effectively portray this by celebrating the smaller square in a manner that elevated it and yet still unified the composition together.


As I talked to a fourth year student about my three models, she suggested that another one of my models could also effectively portray this theme. The image below shows the progression of light to darkness well, whilst still drawing the eye upward to an important moment where my forms meet my linear object. 


An entourage as we’ve seen over the last week is the background or environment of a person or thing. They are often found in vignettes, helping to frame or enhance a focal point of a scene. Places and things are often defined by their location or surroundings, or in this case, entourage. Rome is an example of such a place shaped by its entourage. “Foremost among these influences were geographic position, conquests, technology, priorities in social life, and religion.” (Blakemore 45) The Romans basically ignored nature, and were it in their way, they acted as though they controlled it and that it wasn’t a hindrance. By shaping their environment to fit them, they are defining their own entourage and designing around the natural elements. Entourages also occurred in the thumbnails of our assigned buildings for Suzanne. We were to sketch the building, paying close attention to the surroundings as well as details in the focal point.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Opus Week #3


A section is a representation of an object as it would appear if cut by a plane, showing its internal structure. This week, we’ve been drawing plan and elevation views for our Pat’s Chair. By displaying the ¾” MDF in a note and as a double line on our drawings, we are able to draw and poche the section drawing where it is cut. The internal structure is shown, and further explains different parts or “sections” of a drafted drawing. 


Another example of scale discussed over the last week is Patrick’s all famous “PORCH+COURT+HEARTH” lecture. The theme of every building or space having a porch, court, and hearth can be traced in all building forms from the Early Greeks onward. It stands as a prototype for future endeavors as well as defining historical spaces as well. The structure or sections of a home is a “tripartite arrangement [that] begins with the reception spaces and is followed by the great hall and a private section. (Blakemore 6). Each of these components of a space unify it and pull it all together to be a well designed space to fit the needs and exploits of its inhabitants. Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, centers all of his designs around this three part theory. The hearth tended to be the fireplace or some other sort of living area. Its all unified together by displaying these three components and demonstrates the different sections of the space.


Unity is the state or fact of being united or combined into one. It deals with parts of a whole that come together to form a well-designed space. An example of such a space unifies different uses would be the temple of Amon at Karnak. The Egyptian temple was the most important building of the time. It served as more than just a place to worship in a religious sense. It also “was the residence and training ground of the immense bureaucracy that ran the country… The large temples included schools, universities, libraries, and archives;… The temples were also the site of elaborate, prolonged theatrical religious festivals celebrated…” (Roth 203)  Roth shows how though this temple is used for several different reasons; they are all unified in their operations. 


A vignette is an engraving, drawi

ng, or photograph that is shaded off gradually at the edges so as to leave no definite line at the border. Lately, we’ve been doing a sort of “drawing boot camp” with Suzanne, where she is getting us to draw what we see rather than what we think we see. These vignettes have really helped me be able to see how shapes, forms, people, and silhouettes are interrelated and interactive with each other. I find it a rather relaxing experience to sit down and concentrate on the forms themselves instead of just sketching a quick thing. Allowing the images to be faded out at the corners rather than bordered with restricting lines places emphasis on a particular subject in a scene. It captures that moment and focuses on it’s composition.


A boundary is something that indicates bounds or limits. It defines a space, area, or composition, making it a distinct place. The Greeks, for example, thought that they were the center of the world. They were bounded by water on all their sides, and then by other landmasses beyond the seas. This defined their exact location, but also made them susceptible to threats through their water sources. The water was used as trade routes and could also pose as an aid for attacks. 

Another example of Boundaries that we’ve covered this week is the planning of the Greek City. The Akropolis was designed in a way that has paths leading out to farms and more flat landed areas with homes and other public buildings. “At the base of Akropolis, paths leading out to the surrounding farms eventually became streets, and along one of these, northwest of the mass of the Akropolis a roughly triangular, open space was set aside as the agora, whose boundaries were defined by surrounding houses and public buildings. The agora was the communal heart of the Greek city, the open living room where trade was carried on, students were taught, and the business of the polis (politics).” (Roth 222) This small paragraph from Roth shows the boundaries of the city and how smaller spaces can have boundaries as well as larger landmasses. 


Scale is a very important factor and aspect of design. It defines the size of a structure, building, or other part of architecture as well as aiding a designer when drawing out plans and elevations for these designs. Many times, if the scale of a building is rather large, it determines the functionality and purpose of the space as well as its proportion and balance. The Greeks sought perfection, the ideal, the “archetype” to their structures. Their idea of proportion or scale was very important to their architecture and designs. “Perhaps the proportional system most associated with Greek architecture and design, and with classical architecture as a whole, is what is called the Golden Section, or Golden Mean.” (Roth 72) Roth continues on to explain the Golden Mean, and how the materials they chose are proportional and believed to be perfect. Roth also talks about scale as its own entity. “How big a building is, relative to the size of the average human is said to be its scale.” (Roth 75) This relates to the scale figures we’ve been drawing for Suzanne as well as for Stoel. Suzanne has been having us draw people, and one of our assignments was to draw 50 people as scaled figures. This exercise was to strengthen our idea of the form and shape of the person, and enabled us to sketch them as a silhouette in a sense. This continued on to Stoel’s drafting assignments where he asked us to include a scaled figure in our drafting designs of Pat’s chair. It helped us indicate the size of the building to the relative size of a human being, as Roth stated. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Opus Entry #2 2.4.09


Throughout the course of the week, several of these terms were mentioned and expounded upon in a way that helped me dive deeper into their meanings and understand more about them than I what I previously knew. I was able to associate illuminate most through Suzanne’s lessons with watercolor. Watercolor allows for some items to be highlighted more than others by adding a simple dash of color. It really makes them pop and seem more on display than its environment and/or neighboring objects. Another example discussed this week pertaining to illumination would be the Egyptians’ pyramids.  Firstly, the Egyptians built their structures from light colored sandstone but placed a gold tip at the top of the pyramid, playing with color to illuminate that one aspect. Secondly, The Egyptians had a thorough and deep believe in the Sun God Ra, making their afterlife belief even more pronounced. The way in which they built their tombs and temples (pyramids), was designed around the thought that the soul of the deceased kings would be closer to Ra. “Each of the great masses is perfectly aligned toward the North Star and the perpendicular axis of the sun.” (Roth 196) Roth also shows how Spell 523 relates that “’Heaven hath strengthened for thee the rays of the sun in order that thou mayest lift thyself to heaven as the eye of Ra.’ In other words, the pyramid was the kind’s launching place, the mountain whose gilded summit would catch the first rays of the sun from which the soul of the pharaoh would rise to greet Ra in his eternal endeavor…” (Roth 201) This shows how the Egyptians buried their deceased pharaohs to be exalted even in their death and after life by illuminating their resting places. 


This week brought quite a bit of confusion and debate on the accurate definition or example of an idiom. One definition reads “an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, or from the general grammatical rules of language.” Some examples of simple phrases or clichés were tossed up for interpretation this week; phrases that involved things that could be in different ways or contain different meanings or uses. Instead of a literary idiom, I have chosen to illuminate and describe this term with a structure that has sparked much controversy over the last few hundred years. Stonehenge stands as a perfect example of such a thing that can be categorized as an idiom. There has been much debate over the essential use and intentions of Stonehenge. It has been suggested that it served as a way to monitor the sun that rose directly ahead during summer solstice.  Another astronomical suggestion was that it “might have been used to mark phases and eclipses of the moon and other astronomical phenomena.” (173) Another suggestion of its intended use was for religion or some other ritual. “…the manifestation of a social covenant, a symbol of communal purpose.” It has been thought that the Stonehenge was used for a religious ritual pertaining to the dead – despite the fact that no bodies have been found anywhere near the area. These many different interpretations of the intended use of Stonehenge stands as an example of an idiom and how different things can be perceived in different ways for different people.


The material utilized to create buildings and structures has a great impact on the overall composition of the entity. It affects the visual appeal, texture, “commodity, firmness, and Delight.” One example I’ve discovered from this week would be the early Mesopotamian civilization. Their architecture seems quite simple, but its actually one of the first versions of building techniques and materials that are repeated and used even in structures today. “An architecture of mud bricks reinforced with straw emerged. Coated with a hard plaster, this material was sufficiently durable in a climate with little rain and some of these structures have been in use for four thousand years.” (Roth 193) The Mesopotamian people were forced to advance in their architecture and use of the materials around them because they were limited in what they could use. They found ways to manipulate what may seem simple and trivial materials to construct a structure that actually satisfied the power of three (commodity, firmness, and delight) but that also has been able to be expounded upon and perfected to be used even today. Below is an image of the Ziggurat of Ur, providing an excellent example of their materials used.


As one of the three main components of design, commodity plays a large part in the process of creating a well-designed space or structure. It can be defined as something of use, advantage, or value. My personal thoughts on Commodity is a space that effectively utilizes the space in a way that maximizes its area and space, as well as utilizing as many parts of it as possible. One example from this week I found helpful when defining commodity was the Village at El Kahun in Egypt. Each residential home was connected to its neighbor, compacting the living area and utilizing less material, making it a sustainable design. In most cases, a residential structure shared a right, left, and back wall with it’s neighbors. “As a study of the Egyptian temple reveals, it is a linear, axial architecture, turned at right angles to the axis of the river. And those two axes of river and sun form the basis of the orthogonal grid of Egyptian fields and cities, exemplified by the city built by the Twelfth Dynasty pharaoh, Sesostris II…at what is now El Kahun…” (Roth 190) This quote describes the design and overall construction of the village of El Kahun. The image below also shows how each individual space is connected to its neighbors, making use of every bit of space whilst still maximizing its space.


Firmness simply means, long lasting and securely fixed in place. A well designed structure considers what its future is to be like; whether it will be weathered a century later, what its condition will be, its future usage and changes, and simply whether it will be in existence in future years. The Egyptians considered firmness quite a bit in the pyramids at Giza. These three main structures have withstood the test of time and are still in good condition. The Egyptians also considered its intended use years later. Their strong belief in the afterlife contributed to this. They needed a structure to bury their dead that would allow all their possessions to be safe and secure for them until they returned in their after life. 


Delight in terms of architecture satisfies the beauty needs and expectations of the eye. Not only does a well-designed structure satisfy both the needs of commodity and firmness, but it must also be visually appealing. It must be delightful to the eye and to its intended use. An example would be my version of “Pats Chair” in Stoel’s drafting class. I have attempted to design it to satisfy the three main points of a well-designed piece of architecture: commodity, firmness, and delight. It is firm, withstanding for its use (commodity), and is also visually appealing and delightful. We as designers must strive for such creations. To effectively create a place and enhance its function, sustainability, and aesthetics, we must consider commodity, firmness, and delight.