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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Woah-oh, we’re more-than-half way there!

Bon Jovi doesn’t know what it means to be living on a prayer…but two dozen or so people hustling about on the 6th floor of 180 York can clue him in.

Week 3 at Architecture Boot Camp: Midterm Crit.

We architects are not very good at math, it turns out. The end of week three (of five – not six)  was marked by a day-long critique session, with guest critics who teach  (or have taught) or studied (or are studying) at Yale. Everybody pinned up everything they’d completed up to that point, from the self-portrait assignment up to our last major project, The Stair.

And since this is a visual program, I thought I’d walk you through my stuff with images rather than blathering on (which I might wind up doing anyway – isn’t that what captions are for?).

Thanks to our anthropic measurement assignment, I now know the exact length of not only my foot (9") but my face (7"). Not sure how the latter will come in handy, but the former helped me set up this sketch.

One of the major challenges of the program was time. Specifically, the lack thereof. We had to do three perceptual drawings, floorplans, reflected ceiling plans, and two sections of this site: and we had less than three hours before the museum closed.

The same project as above, just another view. My actual hand drawings aren't scanned in correctly, so you guys'll just have to imagine my beautiful section (where I *didn't* cut through a column).

Each project was more challenging than the last, and I, of course, chose the more challenging portions of each project. We were asked to chose a building from a list and reconstruct a bay (repetitive portion of it's facade) in elevation, section and plan. My building was over 100' tall...and so my paper, with the drawing at the required scale, was taller than me.

The last project before mid-terms was The Stair. My subject, the square stairs in a cylindrical drum at the Yale Center for British Art. Which in plan, not too complicated. In an isometric drawing....

...a little bit more complicated. Especially when your professor suggests you attempt to draw three flights of stairs. I decided to focus on the handrail. I suggest you click on the image - the small size conceals all the detail I poured over into the wee hours of the morn'. Did I mention this drawing was almost twice my height?

As for the actual critique, it spawned some unforgettable comments:

  • “This triangle, to me, is the most juicy part of the drawing.”
  • “This line disturbs me.”
  • “Cut as section through my finger, through my foot, the cut line is a continuous line. If you cut a section through anything in this room, through anyone in this room, the cut line would be a continuous line.”
  • “I haven’t done a two-dimensional drawing since second grade.”

When it came to my turn, I stood shaking in my boots as one of the critics approached my 90″-tall stair drawing, peering at my seemingly unfinished drawing – only the handrail was fully drawn in, after all! He stepped back, paused, and said, “I’m going to take the pro view. I think you’re done.” The sigh I released was the largest puff of air ever to be expelled by someone under 5′-0″. The criticism got more constructive, suggestions to eliminate the scale figure, pay more attention to receding lines and their weights, etc. But boy was I glad to have a thumbs up from someone on my stairs. I’d had to re-start that drawing the night before it was due because my original construction depicted one-too-many a step on the second and third levels…and a shrinking overall plan. The lost hours of sleep? Worth it.

No rest for the weary, though. Finals were in less than two weeks, and they put us back to work that very weekend. More on Weeks 4 and 5 coming soon!

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