Jumping over the lazy dog

or, taking the bull by the horns.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.


This is the story of the little Amrita that could. Right after risking my life (ok, losing a lot of sleep and subsequently almost eating toothpaste in the morning), I was handed an assignment that would change my life: thus far, I had managed to survive two undergraduate degrees and three weeks of Architecture Boot Camp with less than 2 days per week of under 5 hours of sleep. That, alas, was not to be the case during Weeks 4 and 4.5.

Our final pin up was to be the result of a week and a half analysis of an enclosure on campus. We were allowed to chose our site from a shortlist. A classmate and I chose an exciting passage  designed by Eero Saarinen (we all know I’m a huge fan), and thought we’d be proactive by taking our measurements Saturday afternoon, rather than waiting till Sunday morning. We arrived at our site to find our ambitious attempt thwarted:

This is our site. It is under construction. I was not prepared to ward off bulldozers in order to measure things with my feet.

So we scurried around campus looking for another site that would do. At 3PM we arrived at Sterling Memorial  Library, enthused to find the intriguing cloisters as an acceptable alternative to our previous selection. And so began our 10-day race against time.

Sterling Memorial Library closes at 4:45PM on Saturdays. And is not open on Sundays. We needed to complete two sections, a plan, and three sets of perceptual drawings and a photo essay by Monday morning. This became a group project. We couldn’t quite shout measurements to each other across the courtyard (this is, after all, a library), but we came close. Frantically pacing between buttresses muttering to myself (10 steps, 90″, 18 steps…wait, where’s my calculator?), my eyes searching out anything of interest to photograph, my pencil swiftly documenting a corner here, a door frame there…we made it out alive, but only barely. Upon returning to my desk I discovered, as we always do, that one elevation didn’t quite match another, and my plan was highly suspect.

This experience became symptomatic of the next week and a half. The library is only open between 8:30AM and 4:45PM on Monday – Saturday during the summer – we have classes from 9-12 and 2-5 pretty much every weekday,  giving us two hours at lunch and an hour or two every other day to squeeze in any additional drawings, measurements and photographs we needed to substantiate the lines we were drawing in AutoCAD.

I, in true Amrita-style, submitted one set of plans and elevations only to completely redo them the following day. This move became known as “the Amrita” at Fontainebleau. Especially if it was combined with an entire overhaul of your design concept. Which this one was. I hadn’t begun with a concept in mind, but after staring at my photo essay and experimenting with a real and digital model, I decided to pursue shadows on the site as a thematic boundary for my study. Not a moment too soon, as by this time it was already Thursday.

But here you have it, folks, sleepless nights and carpal tunneled wrists, all in the pursuit of something akin to a meager understanding of this complex subject we call architecture.

Here are a few photographic shadow studies to get us started.

Many of the doors to and from the cloisters are either hidden or inaccessible. Though I did manage to climb up the stacks and get a birds-eye view of all the entrances and exits to the site...

I was particularly drawn to the shadows the landscape cast upon the architecture, and how these shadows served to both obstruct and accent the architecture upon which they were cast.

These sketches were actually conducted the day before the project was due. I revisited the site several times, each time getting more and more adept at drawing what I needed in a limited amount of time.

The shadow across this recessed door was particularly charming. Studies at multiple scales allowed me to stretch my drawing skills - quick documentation to more focused analysis.

My photographs and sketches led to a SketchUp model and subsequent shadow study of the buildings that enclose the site. A compiliation of data, shadows drawn every hour from 9AM to 5PM, composes this drawing.

There was one more major component to this project (in addition to the plans, elevations and site analysis), but that I shall save for the next post. I’ll say only this: remember my 90″ stair drawing? It was dwarfed by the final part of our Enclosure project.

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