Oct '05 - Jan '07
A lot to catch up on, I promise to keep subsequent entries at a more readable scale)
About my life at the moment . . .
I am 25. I was born in Puerto Rico. When I was 8, my family moved to Minnesota, where my father was working for 3M (scoth tape, sandpaper, etc . . . 3M=Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing). So yes, you can imagine a bit what it was like to be a beach loving Puerto Rican 8 yr old, and then having to move to Minnesota in January. Fast-Forward . . . Eventually I became old enough for university, and I moved to Boulder, CO for 7 years. For four of those years I attended the University of Colorado - Boulder College of Architecture & Planning. Just last month, I moved to London to do a Masters course in the AADRL.
I live with another AADRLer and longtime friend, as well as two other lovely ladies who are amazing designers in their own right. We live in an old converted school house on the north end of Victoria Park in East London, between Bethnal Green and Hackney.
My name is Luis Fraguada. I've been in London now for nearly a month. Thankfully our dear friend secured us a flat prior to our arrival.
That does not mean our trip from Gatwick was an easy one. Two giant duffle bags and two boxes, one weighing close to the limit . . . around 66lbs. What were we thinking coming over with so much stuff and no plan on how to get from Gatwick to Victoria park? Well, we did devise a plan. Take an over-ground from Gatwick to King's Cross. We usually take the Gatwick Express to Victoria, but this time we thought Kings Cross would be better. For the most part, it was . . . that is until we remembered the stairs. This is where it got stupid. Basically we both went up the stairs with our duffles, leaving the suspicious boxes down on the platform. It it a miracle no one confiscated them with all of the security stuff going on. M stayed at the top of the stairs and I ironmaned it to the boxes, one at a time. From there we just decided to take a black cabbie home . . .
Stage two of my life in London includes Tonsillitis and my first experience with the NHS. As soon as I arrived in London, I became a germaphobe for some reason. I mean, it is a metropolis, many people passing, touching, etc. I love it, but I do not love the germs. And now I love them even less. Somehow I think I failed to wash my hands after a tube ride. Somehow the tonsillitis got into my mouth. I am 25 and I have never had any issues with my tonsils. So I wake up one morning and I can't swallow so well. Ended up going to Homerton Hospital A&E walk in as I had not registered with a doctor yet. Nurse Practitioner (NP) prescribed penicillin, that I took for a week. After the dosage had run out, the tonsillitis reared its ugly head again . . . back to Homerton Hospital, more, larger, stronger penicillin pills. Happy to report that I am done with the prescription and I feel great . . .
Stage three, SCHOOL! Alright, this is what I have been waiting for. The first day of introduction week can be categorized by one thing . . . queueing. A queue everywhere. After getting registered, it was off to test the AA Dining Hall. Not that shabby actually. Ã¯Â¿Â½3.50 got me a whole lotta mash, brocolli, two pieces of chicken, and some tomato sauce. It was actually quite palatable. Next, it was off to the next queue to wait to sign up for the various trips that the AA provides for new students. There were trips to Zaha Hadid's. Canary Wharf, Plasma, Arup, SOM, Chipperfield's, and Laban Center, just to name a few. I chose a guided walk of Chelsea and Battersea with Benny O'Looney and a visit to the Laban Center (Herzog & de Muron). But it was amazing that I even got to go anywhere. There was a mad rush to sign up as soon as the doors were open. It was a free for all orgy of pushing, shoving, just to get your trip. Pretty fun actually, all in good fun. At 3pm Brett Steele gave an introduction to the school and oriented people on the AA. At 4pm, Jorge Fiori introduced the graduate school to us graduate students. And then at 5pm, the one and only time I think I will ever be able to drink for free in London, as the AA provided a nice wine reception for all new students. Brett, Jorge, Paloma, and others were seen intermingling with the new students. Here is where I met a fellow archinecter (you know who you are). Me and some of my new friends closed down the dining hall, and eventually the AA Member Bar.
On Tuesday there was not much to do as far as school was concerned for the grad students, but I did check out the Photo Library open house. Great collection of images and now there is an online collection, an undertaking that many universities are taking on and finding it difficult. But the AA Photo Library has completed the first rendition of the website. I was pretty impressed. I see a lot of potential with this photo library, and I hope to contribute in the near future.
Wednesday we had a Library introduction, and then our walk with Benny. Benny rushed up to Chelsea to check out some of the regent style homes as well as some Aesthetic movement delights by Godwhyn (spelling could be Goodwhyn, Goodwhin . . . although I am not too sure, need to look him up). Then it was off across the Thames to Battersea to check out some new housing developments by Fosters and Rogers respectively. First we went to the Albion Wharf project by Fosters. We actually got to go inside the taurus shaped housing complex that looks like something straight from Archigram with its concrete legs. The luxury penthouse we got to tour was an interesting site. Interesting in that people will pay millions to live there. The kitchen is not for a cook. It is all white acrylic like 2001. All expensive entertainment center equiped, and furnished horribly (IMO). I just can't imagine life being nice in this place. It feels cold. With some work, it could be home. But what am I complaining for? One side has a sexy voluptuous taurus frame, while the other looks onto the Thames. I really could not see the relationship between the two sides of this building. I understand the desire to shield the high paying customers from Battersea proper. But I don't understand why the other side looks like some Mies. Sure everyone gets a view of the Thames . . . oh well. Onto Rogers' attempt at housing, and damn me if I could actually remember the name of the project. It is a short walk along the river from the Albion Wharf. It screams of Rogers. Accented structural and systematic elements, and ver, very office building like. Unfortunately, we were not able to gain entry. This project also emphasized programatic elements in the exterior facade. One side faces the Thames and is mainly glass. The battersea side has what I think one of the best elements to this building which was the terra cotta tile throughout the facade as well as some windows. The natural color of the terra cotta is very pleasing. I wish Rogers would use more natural colors instead of using what seem to be arbitrary colors to accent design elements. But I must say that while Rogers' was VERY office building-like, I enjoyed his project more than Foster's. Both buildings really could be office buildings, and while I live the Taurus facade on the Albion Wharf, Roger's use of terra cotta to accentuate interior programatic elements won me over. After all of this, it was back to the AA Bar for the student forum party . . . I met some Phase II folks and had a generally great time . . . oh yeah, and the beers were Ã¯Â¿Â½1.
Thursday. We meet Stella (Phase II DRL) at Bedford square and walk to Russell Square to catch a bus to the Greenwhich area in order to tour the Laban Center. This project by Herzog & de Muron was recently completed and is a purpose built project to house the Laban contemporary dance center. At first approach the building is impressive. Polycarbonate exterior with very aquatic color hints. I guess what impressed me more was the approach landscaping. From what our tourguide told us, the landscaping was done by using all of the displaced earth from building the center. Hard to describe in words, but essentially very faceted, irregular pyramids, extremely unnatural landscapes which turn into greek theaters and lounging spaces. I actually really enjoyed this feature of the center. Seems the forms are supported by a wood/mesh structure that the grass can grow through. The mesh and the grass roots reinforce the blades of grass so that they are lush throughout the slopes. Definitely some sign of wear along the creases, but pretty nice all throughout. I generally liked this project. In true Herzog & de Muron style, this building plays with translucency in order to affect the interior spaces. The result is dance studios with no mirrors, but instead one can watch silhouetted dancers (think Apple iPod commercials). I feel as though there was some real research done in order to provide the Laban institute with an extremely purposeful space. My one main issue is the color choice for the interior scheme. Looks like someone painted everything with default AutoCAD colors. and then the black bathrooms! yech! Black spiral staircase, yech! Again, that is just my opinion. Very interesting to visit this center, I recommend taking a look if you are in the area!
Friday: Hooke Park in Dorset. (From the Intro Week Programme) Hooke Park , a 350-acre woodland site in Dorset, southwest England, provides the AA with an education and research resource. The Workshop, Refectory, and Westminster Lodge were designed by Frei Otto, ABK, Buro Happold and Edward Cullian (in various collaborations) as prototypes pushing the boundaries of building with wood. It was a 3.5 hour bus ride down to Dorset . . . not too cool, but well f'in worth it. What an amazing place. Only the pictures might do it justice. Here is a place for AA students to really spread their wings. Being that my last place of residence was Boulder, CO, I really enjoyed the fresh air and took many deep breaths along my hike through the woods. The amazing staff cooked for us soup and bread, a vegetarian meal consisting of salad, bean salad, potato and onion quiche, spinach/ricotta pocket, and humus. Tasty meal! Lets not forget the pudding. We only had about 4 hours to check out the place, far too short really. But in that time I think many appreciated and dreamed of what could be built here. I was sad to hear that DRL students did not use it last year. I think it would be a shame not to experiment out in this place. At 4pm we promptly made back to the buses and headed back to London . . . with Friday night traffic, it took us about 4 hours to get back to London, and then another 45 minutes to get back to our flat.