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.

Filed under: All Hail Yale, , , , , , , , , , , ,

The sun will come out…

…tomorrow! And today happens to be tomorrow! At least when compared to this weekend. Ok, that might make little sense, but that’s probably the remnants of my fever talking.

Actually, today I feel fantastic.  And the weather concurs – it’s a beautiful day in Paris, with a smattering of white fluffy clouds, and a not-too-chilly 60 degrees in the sunshine.  So I took a small walk before meeting up with The Accomplice, The Tall One and the latter’s sister for lunch at a deliciously cute resto called Café du Marché on Rue Cler in the VIIe.  I had some more confit de canard (duck) and a gâteau au chocolat (chocolate cake) with some ice cream – I don’t think I’m going to need dinner.  The Accomplice and I followed that up with a shopping stint at a MUJI near my flat and wandered through the Luxembourg gardens to digest our yummy lunches.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some images du jour!

So far, I've been treated to accordian music on the metro twice. It makes me feel like I'm really in Paris. I even paid this guy, since he let me take a picture.

So far, I've been treated to accordian music on the metro twice. It makes me feel like I'm really in Paris. I even paid this guy, since he let me take a picture.

This is Rue Cler.  Rick Steves likes it (click the pic to find out why). It's quite nice, though not my favorite part of Paris.

This is Rue Cler. Rick Steves likes it (click the pic to find out why). It's quite nice, though not my favorite part of Paris.

It's not a myth: the French DO actually park this close to each other. In fact, they play bumper cars quite regularly when squeezing into a parking spot.

It's not a myth: the French DO actually park this close to each other. In fact, they play bumper cars quite regularly when squeezing into a parking spot.

A 'vitrine' on Rue Cler - the shop sells all kinds of interesting goodies, from chocolates to specialty soups...

A 'vitrine' on Rue Cler - the shop sells all kinds of interesting goodies, from chocolates to specialty soups...

Entrance to Luxembourg Gardens from Odeon.  They've got all these beautiful potted flowers in the park now, working quite harmoniously with the changing leaves...

Entrance to Luxembourg Gardens from Odeon. They've got all these beautiful potted flowers in the park now, working quite harmoniously with the changing leaves...

Potted plants, again. I should look up the name of this flower - it's like a big fluffy pillow I could just sink into...

Potted plants, again. I should look up the name of this flower - it's like a big fluffy pillow I could just sink into...

A small water fountain and canal.  There were ducks, and it made me a bit nostalgic for the Duck Pond in Blacksburg.

A small water fountain and canal. There were ducks, and it made me a bit nostalgic for the Duck Pond in Blacksburg.

I love how parks in Paris are inhabited by a range of age groups, it's refreshing to see toddlers and teenagers co-exist with the elderly, and it certainly makes for some interesting people-watching.

I love how parks in Paris are inhabited by a range of age groups, it's refreshing to see toddlers and teenagers co-exist with the elderly, and it certainly makes for some interesting people-watching.

Filed under: All things French, Around the world, , , , , , , , , ,

Oh whatta night…

This post might be better titled “All in a day’s work,” but because it’s 3 in the morning and I just got in, I thought Billy Joel was quite appropriate.  Just got in, you say? Why yes, and the party’s still going on in the streets of Paris…I’m just so old that my knees started to complain about all the walking.

But before we get to all that, a recap of my first Saturday in Paris: quite a busy one, if only in the French sense, in that I got a grand total of 3 things done today.

  1. Thing number 1: I went to set up my bank account.  It was quite simple. I had most of the necessary paperwork, and need one last paper signed before it’s all completely done.  My debit card should come in the mail in the next week or so, along with my RIB, which is a slip of paper with my bank info I need to get my paycheck deposited in the account (important stuff!).
  2. Thing number 2: I wrote a rough draft, an incredibly sloppy one that will be scratched, once again, for a scholarship application.  For some reason, I can no longer write personal statements, the ability has completely left me. So much for getting money to grad school. So maybe it should be 2.5 things, not 3…
  3. Thing number 3: I got my camera’s sensor cleaned. No more dust! This was a bit of a challenge, as I had no idea where to look for a camera store that would clean my sensor in Paris. This website came in handy, but the store the author mentions did not exist – in its place was another camera store, with a very nice gentleman who told me to come back in an hour.  So, for €30, I had my sensor, lens and body cleaned, and got to sit at the Place des Vosges while reading George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London and watching little children kick up dust while playing soccer with their papas.

Now, for the night.  Dun dun dun.  The Tall One, another ETA, and I met up for dinner/dessert (dinner for her, dessert for me) where we solved America’s problems.  Turns out Mies was right, less is more, people.  Then we wandered around the city for four hours, trying to find the events described on the Nuit Blanche website, but because we had no map…it turned out to be more entertaining than planned. We stumbled upon the following images during our ambling parcour through the city.

Yes, that is a GIANT disco ball hanging from a crane in the Luxembourg Gardens. We wanted to go in to get a closer look, but there was a 3 hour wait.

Yes, that is a GIANT disco ball hanging from a crane in the Luxembourg Gardens. We wanted to go in to get a closer look, but there was a 3 hour wait.

I can never remember which bridge this is. But isn't it pretty?

I can never remember which bridge this is. But isn't it pretty?

You guys remember the Impressionists? This is why the movement started in France.

You guys remember the Impressionists? This is why the movement started in France.

Spiderman, spiderman...crossing the ocean onto French land...

Spiderman, spiderman...crossing the ocean onto French land...

Place des Vosges at night, where it's kind of creepy, but kind of beautiful.  Oh, and that's the Tall One in the red coat.

Place des Vosges at night, where it's kind of creepy, but kind of beautiful. Oh, and that's the Tall One in the red coat.

Ok, you explain this one to me. I have no words.

Ok, you explain this one to me. I have no words.

Notre Dame at night, from the Pont Marie (I believe). Now tell me you aren't jealous I'm spending 7 more months in this beautiful city.

Notre Dame at night, from the Pont Marie (I believe). Now tell me you aren't jealous I'm spending 7 more months in this beautiful city.

Finally, around 2:15, we decided to split ways and head back home…which took me about 45 minutes to walk. This is one thing I’m quickly getting used to: walking everywhere, 10-30 minutes at a time.  Oh, and eating tiny, tiny portions.  I’m going to come back to the US as a stick.  Twiggy’s back in style, didn’t you hear?

Well, I really ought to be getting to bed, because tomorrow, I’m off to the races! More on that after this break.

Filed under: All things French, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Roallywood?

No tour of Roanoke is complete without a visit to the Star...

No tour of Roanoke is complete without a visit to the Star...

In an effort to slowly whittle away at the enormous Travel Bug nibbling on my back à la Land of the Lost, I took a mini-trip to a local landmark: The Roanoke Star.

When my family first moved to Roanoke (well, technically to Salem), I was seven years old.  For the next five years, I remember enduring endless trips to the Star with every new wave of visiting relatives.  So many trips, in fact, that I refused to visit the Star any more.  This pilgrimage marks my first trip to Mill Mountain in nine years.  I thought I’d make a day of it, so I invited a friend along for a short tour of Mill Mountain Zoo followed by an even shorter hike to the Star.

If I’m honest, this trip was as much a desire to visit these local spots one last time as it was a desire to find subjects to photograph.  And there was no shortage of interesting subjects even in this small zoo! This shoot reminded me how much I love photographing animals and children, because the challenges of capturing a moment are well worth the rewards: glimpses into the psyche of beings that communicate with their eyes rather than their tongues.

A couple of facts about the Star, for those not natives of this valley:

  • It is the largest free-standing illuminated man-made star in the world, soaring above the valley, 100 feet tall and 10,000 lbs heavy!
  • Built in 1949 to kick off the Christmas season, the Star was intended as a permanent structure, though engineers weren’t sure if they could keep it lit after the season ended – turns out, they could!
  • Normally illuminated in red, white and blue, the Star had been used to signal a traffic fatality or drunk driving accident in the Roanoke Valley when it glowed red.  In April 2007, the Star glowed white to mark the April 16th Virginia Tech Massacre.
  • For those interested in the views from the Star look-out point, you can follow the Star Cam: it’s mounted directly on the Star and refreshes every 15-seconds for your viewing pleasure.

So here are a couple of photographs from our expedition, from a hornbill that liked to ham it up, to the ever-elusive Amrita, caught…surfboarding on a bench?

Filed under: Around the world, Close to home, , , , , , ,