Jumping over the lazy dog

or, taking the bull by the horns.

4000 cubic feet and other architectural recipes

Short stories, and illustrated, at that. Bon appetit!

4000 c.f.

Our first project of the semester asked us to create a pavilion on an imaginary site, incorporating a tectonic language that was integral to the form-making of our intervention. If nothing else, my vocabulary is improving.

I created a module composed of a perforated sheet that expands to create internal volume. The module is then repeated and varied to create a wall and roof condition. I was really trying to capture diffused light and create a moire effect as you pass through the site.

One of the biggest challenges of this program so far has been transitioning from digital to traditional drawing techniques. I seem to have a fear of failing in a hand-drawing, and so try it out first on CAD. This might be counter-productive to my desire to get more than 5 hours of sleep a night...

Our final review was last Monday and Tuesday (gosh, I can’t believe it was a week ago – time flies incredibly fast around here…) and I got a pretty good review! The guest critics got a bit distracted by the drawing below, and wound up spending most of their time talking about that drawings potential.

This drawing was a preliminary study of the surface of a ball of yarn...I extrapolated the way a thread of yarn, as a line, pulls itself apart to create an internal volume. We never really got around to talking about that bit in the critique...

But overall, I think it went well. A classmate took notes for  me, and a good thing too, because I barely remember what happened (not because of sleep deprivation, but because it’s a bit like performing on stage – the highlights you remember aren’t those the audience remembers).

Formal Analysis with Peter Eisenman

Where we learned that Louis Khan died $4 million in debt and we should assume a similar fate awaits us. We also try to analyze buildings.

Our first drawing asked us to find the critical difference between Brunelleschi's San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito. I looked at the axial relationships in San Lorenzo that are inhibited by the rigid adherence to the grid in Santo Spirito.

These two drawings were my first attempts at ink on mylar. It's both challenging and very zen - you draw all your verticals, then wait, draw all your horizontals, then wait, draw all your diagonals in one direction, etc...wax on, wax off. (These are the preliminary CAD/Illustrator files, by the way...my line weights for the final drawing were much better).

Other waking hour preoccupations include…

  • Visualisation II: A continuation of my summer studies, with a lot of sketching leading to a drawing each week. I’ll post the sketches and drawings after our first review next week.
  • Modern Architecture: I get to sit and listen to Kurt Forster talk about architecture. That’s pretty awesome. Like most of our faculty, he has a good sense of humor and doesn’t hesitate to bring it into the classroom. Last week he managed to reference both Harry Potter and Star Wars.
  • Structures: I’m really glad we have one no-nonsense class. I’m learning a lot, math and engineering wise, but am glad I did a design degree as an undergrad, because the professor likes to skim past construction terminology that some of my classmates aren’t familiar with (CMUs, flange, shear connection, etc.).

A non-architectural side-note: Brownie Sundae Sunday

My roommates and I hosted a get-together / impromptu house-warming party. There were delicious brownie sundaes and refreshments. Everyone mingled nicely. We cleaned up within an hour of kicking the last person out the door. I’d consider it a success.

The roommates and I in front of our darling black board. Unfortunately, only W got the suit memo.

Next time on Jumping over the lazy dog: Amrita gets to be a prisoner and have a round-table discussion with Peter Eisenman.

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How does an architect sigh?

Oh, void. *badum-schhh*

By the end of the summer session, our appreciation for puns had improved significantly, or our sense of humor had depreciated drastically, depending on your point of view. This was probably due to the lack of sleep provoked by the final part of the Enclosure project: the two-point perspective. A harmless drawing, at first sight, until you add the following caveats: a two-point perspective with a final width of 6′ in its smallest dimension, constructed as a participant in a 2-3 person group. Oh yes, this was a group project.

My teammates and I began with a few sketches but moved quickly to the larger drawing, since we had a lot of ground to cover...literally. Those blue lines were constructed with a chalk-line. Our thumbtack place-holders for the vanishing points were spaced more than 20' apart. That's four times my height, in case you were wondering.

The finished oversized perspective, made with, as the critics noted, a lot of love.

My favorite part was probably the trees - I'd never done trees in charcoal before, so I was winging it. I filled in the shadows and "bulk" while my teammate cleaned up my act by kneading away the highlights. Yes, those are her fingerprints.

I made it to studio the morning of our final review, feeling not terribly tired, since our group managed to stay on track with our scheduling on the massive drawing, allowing me to stay on track with my own work. Unfortunately, I arrived two hours early because pin-up was at 10AM, not 9, and nobody sent me the memo, resulting in an energy slump somewhere between what should have been lunch and my own review (next-to-last in line). So while I’d love to regale you with more curious quotes, they seem to have escaped me this time around. Overall, I’d say it was another series of positive critiques, in the sense that while all critics acknowledge various faults in the drawings presented, they did so with a smile and nod of encouragement. Which softens the blow of someone “hmm”-ing at every line in your drawing.

After the critique, for which many of us were asleep, we went home and slept some more. Then we came back to speak to our professors in an exit interview, where I gathered that while ambition is a good thing, I need to learn time management. While my professors might not be reading this blog, and therefore might not be aware of “the Amrita,” they are right in pointing out that it’s not exactly an efficient method of working. Perhaps I should give more thought to the reasons “the Amrita” comes about…and then figure out a preventive treatment for this ailment.

On the plus side, I also learned I can write! Well, I can write well enough to have my essay for the history portion of the summer session published in our course documentation booklet. If you’re so curious as to want to read my essay, you can purchase a copy of the entire book for $33.50, a comfortably-sized coffee table volume of beautiful drawings, or you can do what us poor grad students do and download a PDF version for free.

Perhaps the best part of the last week of summer courses was the After Party. At an undisclosed location, at a rather high altitude, we danced the night away. Nothing helps you forget the minute details of a facade like getting down to Kanye.

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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, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Word of the day: corpulent.

Greetings from the cusp of Week 2-3 of Architecture Boot Camp. Technically, this is not the name of our course. Yale decided it should be called ‘Visualization I.’ But we all know better. While we’re not running through mud and vaulting over fences, we’re certainly burning the not-so-proverbial midnight oil and feeling the strain of necks craning to see that one…last…line…on AutoCAD. So we, too, are suffering for our art, if not for our country.

Week 2 was sketch-tastic. And by that, I mean that we spent hours on end sketching. Every single one of which was a needed break from the life of the AutoCAD droid that consumed our waking hours on Thursday and Friday. Instead of regaling you with more anecdotes of pain-filled minutes offsetting and trimming, I’m going to show you some sketches, so you know I actually had some fun this week!

One of our field trips this week was to the American Decorative Arts Furniture Study, where I chose this adorable mid-19th century chair made of papier-mache. After our hour and a half together, I really wanted to take it home...but that's forbidden.

Our professor thought we should end our rather stressful week with a relaxing exercise: life drawing. It was my first time, and I thoroughly enjoyed it - two dozen gestural sketches later, I was as limber as a yoga instructor.

On our walk back to studio, one of my classmates asked our professor, "So, are all life drawing models so...corpulent?"

The answer is, not always, but often. One of my friends from VT modeled for classes, and she was certainly not corpulent. But it is a lot of fun to draw the bulbous body’s rolling curves.

And if rotund figures weren’t a capital end to the week, I topped it off with a field trip to IKEA to shop for kitchen supplies. My current roommates are leaving on Saturday, but my new roommates (some of whom are bringing things like pots and pans and plates…) aren’t arriving till mid-August, so for a while I would be stuck in a kitchen but unable to cook…IKEA to the rescue! A few dozen dollars later, I’m now the proud owner of a colander, a pot, a pan and a sharp chef’s knife, among other things.

My shiny new colander! It has already been used to prepare bowtie pasta, and looks forward to many more uses in the future!

Well, I should probably be off to finish the first day of Week 3. After tonight’s Rhino tutorial, I’m sure next week’s blog post won’t mention AutoCAD!

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Buy the gal a drink, she’s made it through the week.

Week one of Architecture Boot Camp has been a success. A true representation of studio-culture, it included deceptively simple projects, late nights at the drawing board, readings from Towards A New Architecture, and jokes about ducks. I’ll explain.

Deceptively simple projects and late nights at the drawing board.

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in studio at 9AM on Monday, but it wasn’t as scary as I would’ve thought. After a round of paperwork and a tour of the building, we got to know our studio-mates and faculty with a quick round of introductions. We then promptly got our first homework assignment: a self-portrait using a mirror.

So the mirror I had handy was my iPhone...which became a commentary on our dual lives, having to create a digital persona and the bleed between the two realities. Not too shabby.

The rest of our studio assignments were familiar tasks, to me, that is: draw a room in your apartment, select and object and describe it using freehand orthographic projection…and would have been relatively easy, but I thought I’d challenge myself by choosing a spray bottle as my subject for the latter assignment, which proved more complex than the drawings I remember doing in drafting class when I was sixteen.  By the time I left studio at 2AM on Friday, I’d managed to wrap my head around a double rotation of picture planes in my auxiliary view (yeah, it’s as complicated as it sounds). Two hours later, as I tossed and turned in bed, I decided I wanted to re-do one of my earlier drawings, so wound up back in studio at 7AM, taking another crack at a section of my spray bottle. It all turned out for the best, I learned a lot more from tackling this project with the complex object I chose than I would have had I selected a simpler form.

The spray bottle: space towards the bottom left to be filled with another drawing, whenever I get a chance...

Towards A New Architecture and ducks.

I was very impressed by my peers: our group has representatives from across the United States, from Hawaii to upstate New York, from schools both in and out of the Ivy, those who’ve traveled around the world, worked on fishing boats in Alaska or flown in from Asia only two days before classes began. Though no one has a formal background in architecture, many have pursued the field through hobbies or internships or summer programs, and all are very intelligent, accomplished individuals. All of which made me (and my accomplishments) feel very minuscule in comparison! But it’s a good place to be – when you feel dumb, you can only become smarter, so bring on the lessons!

Speaking of lessons, we’ve got 200 pages of readings to do each week, and papers to write, on top of all this studio business. So far, I’ve sunk my teeth into bits of Le Corbusier, Venturi (thus, ducks), Rossi, Kruft and Scully. I think my perspective on architecture falls somewhere between Corb. and Rossi. I believe that architecture should first serve its utilitarian purpose before attempting to make any other statement, and that often another statement need not be made. But I don’t think that buildings are machines, and certainly don’t believe there is a ‘perfect form’ that represents the Essential home or Essential office, etc. On the other hand, Rossi’s argument for urban artifacts, connected to time, focused on individuality and memory…it’s starting to sound like my senior thesis all over again…though that itself might not be a bad thing. There’s got to be a reason why I keep coming back to it, right?

Anyway, before you start thinking we’re a bunch of stuffy snobs, smoking a pipe as we draw our hands across sheets of vellum, twirling compasses and articulating the ends of our line segments while cracking jokes about quacking buildings, I will point out that after our exhausting week, we went out for a rowdy night on Friday, and said almost nothing of architecture itself…for a whole three and a half hours.

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A New Haven.

At this point, if you guys aren’t saying anything about my terrible sense of humor, I’m just going to keep bothering you with my shameless punning. What’s that, you say? You haven’t heard from me in ages, and in fact, you’ve been missing my puns terribly? Why, that’s kind of you! I’ll try and be more PUNctual with my posting in the future.

For now, let’s do a quick wrap up of the last six weeks: I got back from France (after a short trip to Britain – and Brighton – with the Brit).

A rocky beach that tore up my shoes, that also provides something akin to an acupuncture massage with blunt needles when you lie down instead of paying however many quid for a quaint deck chair...

Then, I hung out with my grandmother for a few weeks before she left for India, where she’s staying with my aunt and uncle. After that, I put on some disposable apparel and proceeded to cover it with blobs of yellow, red, green and cream paint. See below.

This bright yellow was carried around the living room and in the eat-in kitchen, and makes the space feel so bright and welcoming, it convinced me of the power of color much more than any design course I took as an undergraduate.

A short trip to Kentucky for a friend’s wedding…

That's Dino and Roomie's wedding, by the by. Twas a beautiful affair with plenty of dancing. So much dancing, as it were, that it resulted in a strained left calf muscle...

…and then a longer drive up to New Haven, where I’ve finally settled down in this new haven:

Ok, so that mess got cleaned up right after I took the picture, promise!

This is technically my temporary-not-temporary home. The bedroom itself won’t be mine in the long run, but I’m staying in the same apartment, just moving upstairs. Once I’m moved into the new room, and have managed to furnish and organize it, I’ll be sure to post an updated picture. But for now, you’ll have to believe me when I say my blue-green bedding and red IKEA dresser complement each other in that thrown-together-chic kind of way. I’m going for the “I liked it so I bought it” look. We’ll see how that goes – it’s a complete turn-about from the way I designed that residential interior junior year…but hopefully there’s no one grading this space!

I actually got to New Haven on Monday night in my dad’s truck, with my mom and dad in the front seat, the seat beside me piled high and the ‘trunk’ packed two-boxes high with stuff. But it all fit in the truck, and I was very impressed with that.

On Tuesday several trips to IKEA, Target and Walmart managed to cure me of this cheery attitude, when I realized that between the truck and new furniture (bed, dresser, bedside table) and whatever else I’d wind up purchasing in the next year (desk…rug…clothes) I’d never fit everything into one truck again. Oh well. Maybe there’s more culling to be done next year.

Wednesday was organizing day, and I managed to put away all of my clothes, though my books and desk supplies are still in boxes, since I don’t have shelves or a desk on which I can put these things. We snuck my studio supplies into the architecture building, where an administrator informed me that I was the only person in the history of the program to bring my own parallel board. Well, there’s one foot forward, though whether it’s the best one is TBD.

Today was my last visit with the parents, spent buying architectural supplies ($200+ worth, and that’s with a 20% discount AND without spending the $120 on a parallel straightedge), eating too much pizza at Pepe’s, a New Haven establishment, and happening upon a potential job opportunity as a French language assistant at a language institute down the street from my apartment. After bidding my parents farewell, I vegged out on my bed, exhausted after a long week.

There’s still plenty that needs figuring out before classes start on Monday: where do I get groceries (the last major grocery store in town closed down, and the Walmart is driving distance when I don’t have a car)? how does the bus system work (again, no car, and studio is a thirty minute walk away)? how broke will I be in three years (utility bills on this place jump to $300 in the winter…that’s over and above the $2250 rent)?

I’d like to document this first year at school as best as possible, for future Yalies who’re worried about what to expect both in the classroom and out. I know when I was trying to figure out what schools to apply to / which one to accept, reading student blogs made a huge difference. So what I’m trying to say is I know I won’t have much time, but I’m going to try my darndest to keep you guys posted every week!

Until next time, your faithful-yet-often-absent blogger, Amrita.

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Go Bulldogs!

As you can probably guess (and some of my dear readers found out in person), I’m going to Yale this fall! Things have been a bit crazy in Brownie-land, as I’ve had to find roommates and housing, once again from a few hundred miles away, all while trying to sort through my massive amounts of stuff.

I never realized how many things I’ve accumulated over the past five years. After getting back to the US two weeks ago, I’ve spent a lot of my free time going through boxes I’d packed and left in my room after coming back from Tech, trying to combine my ‘old life’ with my more recent life (i.e. stuff from Paris), all while trying to figure out what parts of this past will be accompanying me into my near future (i.e. packing for Yale).

In some ways, I’ve been culling more than packing the last few days. While in Paris I started to read about the minimalist movement, things like the 100 Things Challenge, and while I don’t think I can live with only 100 things (depending on what you qualify as a ‘thing’), I’ve been trying to weed through my excessive wardrobe and book collection. Things I don’t need are going to Goodwill or the library, and I’ve managed to fill a giant bag 4′ tall of clothes…and still, I have three boxes, packed to the brim with architecture books, that will make their way to Yale in July.

How much is too much? How much is enough? Having lived out of two suitcases for seven months, I know that I don’t need more than one pair of jeans, two pairs of leggings, a handful of sweaters, shirts and dresses, one pair of boots and one pair of sandals to last me a while. That said, I didn’t go out that often, didn’t have special occasions for which I needed to dress up that often, didn’t have work, didn’t have jury presentations, no weddings…so my 12 pairs of shoes are justified in my American wardrobe, right? And as far as books go…they’re the most difficult thing for me to let go: I could give away my fiction titles, because I usually don’t reread them, but there’s a sentimental attachment to The Little Princess that has me hesitating to put it in the ‘Library’ bin.

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