Lessons in form and function...
This project is representative of my work as a student but it also hints at the
perception that was beginning to develop and of the transition from one
level of thought to the next. The core ideas of this project transitioned from
the glossed over ideas and imagery of the mainstream culture that I saw in
the popular magazines into a personal perception - one where the
appropriateness of construction and structure, the simplicity of form and
reasoning of function, and the rhythm of vision (pattern) dictated the design.
Sketching the forms out on paper was not getting me anywhere so I started
building a model based on the mental picture that formed in my head. I
began creating the forms in a way where I was actually working in forms
physically. I was already using models early in the design with most projects
and now I found the significance of working in model form. I had worked a
lot with my hands because I have worked on craftsmanship in my father’s
garage restoring cars and so I worked this way in my studio. Now I began to
use the process of building models as a way of developing a form in real
I was also mixing in my new bag of tricks - theory. You cannot escape theory
in a Jesuit school. I was really into a new record by Richie Hawtin titled
Dimension Intrusion that just blew my mind away. The music was not afraid
to cover a lot of different territory and it moved the sound away from the club
or rave scene creating something classic and inspirational. In Detroit techno
producers couldn’t get a record deal because the record companies wanted
lyrics and guitars in the music. They just wanted to do it their way and so
Juan Atkins started Metroplex Records in 1985 and we now have techno.
That idea of breaking down the barriers that contain us, the music scene
that was running on a separate trajectory from the mainstream music
industry, and the real concept of the design which was of creating a
dimension intrusion... could music really translate into shapes and forms?
This was really the kind of theory and practice that professors and upper
level students were trying to promote in our school. It wasn’t just about the
project outline for this design of a pavilion for Starr park in Royal Oak or the
one basic requirement to design a truss and array it to create a structure.
Our class discussed the poetics and functions of a truss and the concept of
shelter. For a concept I wanted the structure to have a rhythm to it and to
exploit the simplicity of form. The forms & spaces would have a sense of
procession, hierarchy and order while simultaneously these cones and
layers were peeling away or folding into one another. I wanted people to
have the sense that the space was warping their sense of reality.
The interior space held many possibilities that began folding inward toward a center and outward toward the earth. The spaces within the shell, the structure, and the exterior form all held an equal importance and it all had to work in concert with each other. I did not want any one feature to stand out or become all too definable. At the same time I had to work out how the spaces presented themselves (the procession) so that people were drawn into this thing without thinking about it too much.
I now was building a truss, the truss was placed on paper to be drafted out into a template, and when I started to array the trusses I could see that all of these theories and ideas appeared to all work out in the physical. The section explains the collection of water during a rainstorm and it's deposit into an interior moat and through the center into a planter. This concept of water falling represents the structure as an intrusion of different dimensions where the water during a rainstorm becomes a shell in a sense (a transparent shell) that changes the dimensional and spatial qualities. The moat and bridge separate/join two different spaces, depending on the weather. There would be a thin wall of water that would also have to be bridged during a rainstorm, which is the point of an actual intrusion. This point would be the defining moment for the users of this structure... do I go for it?
We certainly accommodate the principles of structure, construction, and materials but we
do not have to be contained by them. Ancient architecture is mythic in that it suggests that
there is more to it's existence than will ever be known. That is real freedom, unlike our
modern perception of freedom where the almost unlimited materials and technologies
available to the Architect are seen as the means to creative freedom. With the ever
expanding palate of materials and construction possibilities made available to the Architect
science and technology also destroy the diversity that makes the human race so
fascinating, leaving nothing but homogenized, least-common-denominator forms of
This asserts that Architecture runs much deeper than mere buildings, that it is the
expression of thought in building. It is construction in the simple understanding of the
stacking of bricks or spanning of wooden beams and it is the complex mix of forms and
details that are an expression of the technology in use by the culture indicating a true level
of sophistication. , and so construction becomes intelligent. If it is the simplest and most
advanced type of structure, solving the task set for it, and conceivable in its age,
construction will attain the quality of perfect appropriateness. It will also be an expression
of the technology in use by the culture indicating a true level of sophistication.
20th century urban form utilizes ideas that began during a time when civilization was in a
transition from mythology and religion as a means of explaining the world to new rational
ways through philosophy and its sciences - art, biology, Architecture, etc - where buildings
became intelligent. Expression of structure is one of the logical outcomes of the industrial
revolution. It is a cold, calculated fact that most modern building has more to do with the
buildings that with the people who must come to use them. There are also those buildings
that are not like most buildings and even the beggar on the street can make the distinction
between them. It is not so much the buildings that speak for themselves, as in the glossy
Architecture of magazines and books would suggest, but of the person who dwells in the
ideas of the building and of those who leave their image on every brick and bolt. What is
missing from modern Architecture and building is the real physical presence of the people
who labored over its design and construction; that the building has a story, a past, the
presence of refinement.
Look at where we've gone with brick in the last 40 years. People like the old brick
storefronts that line our downtown streets because it reminds us that there is a little bit of
history left in our manufactured world. The size, texture, color, and method of assembling
these small blocks into beautifully ornamentated structures has captured our imagination
for thousands of years. The passerby does not have to be a rocket scientist to understand
the reasoning behind the construction or art behind the brick. The genius and skill of the
tradesmen are evident as is the simple understanding that it is in the character of the brick
to generate form and hold structure.
Location: Royal Oak, MI / Woodward + Coolidge