UC Berkeley (Nick)



Aug '08 - Jun '10

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    Serpentine and Ingenhoven and thesisisms oh my!

    Nick Sowers
    Oct 2, '08 2:44 AM EST

    Busy day today. Up at 7am, shot some hoops at the gym in my Cal-Berkeley jersey (I actually got asked if I played for the team one day by a guy on my local court--that was before he saw me stumble around, bounce the basketball off my shoe and throw airballs). At 6'4 1/2", people just assume you play.

    At 9am was my offsite fabrication seminar. We were joined by two guys from Gehry's office, Anand (the project architect?) and Sam (Frank's son), to talk about the Serpentine Pavilion.

    I thought it was a great discussion vis-a-vis the issues we are looking at in the class-- how you coordinate with so many trades, in such a short time frame, across oceans, and on a tricky site. Though I'm not quite convinced by the design strategy, or that sitting on pile of lumber (which is mostly hollow) is a great thing, it was kind of joyful to hear, I think Sam said it, that "we were just trying to make a casual pile of things"--that design doesn't have to be this intellectually overwrought, scrutinized object. I think you can argue that there are other ways that a project becomes overwrought, perhaps due to a lack of adequate thought, and that there is good reason to scrutinize and hold a piece of architecture as significant as the Serpentine liable for its position in the discourse--what is it saying that Gehry is piling up sticks, big and small? Another thing that was said today--architects are not designing space for other architects. Gehry's a populist and proud of it.

    After the seminar I happily popped out of Wurster Hall (you don't get out very often, sadly) and walked across campus to the poetry class I'm sitting in on. We're reading Wallace Stevens now; he famously wrote in the poem "Sunday Morning":

    Death is the mother of beauty.

    I love that because it is actually one of the most optimistic lines of poetry I've ever read. Think about it, who really wants to read Wordsworth sing about himself or any of those Romantics go on about how sickeningly sweet nature is. No, there's death, rottenness, and change. There are machines in the garden. And there's something beautiful about how new things grow out of dead things. There's an architectural thesis for you...

    ...speaking of thesis, a quick word. I should actually be working on the assignment for tomorrow's thesis prep meeting instead of writing this. Anyway, it's been a little while since I updated the whole thesis thing. Here's a quick summary of where we've come this semester:

    week 1: hello, welcome to thesis prep, everyone knows what they should be studying, right? the goal of thesis prep is to develop a tool-set. sounds neat. read some Mark Wigley.

    week 2: a new definition: thesis is about you and your interests and where you will be established in the field. but don't worry, this is your "protective bubble" from the outside world. here, go read some Bruce Nauman.

    week 3: pin-up design a cube of space. new definition of thesis: it is a conflict between your interests and the history of architecture. oh shit, so thesis is important after all.

    weeeeek 4: pin-up: pick a hated site, a neutral site, and a loved site, not having to do with your intended thesis topic. we are encouraged to repress what we think we want to do and actually just look anywhere, absolutely anywhere on the globe for these sites. new definition: thesis is a structure for thinking and seeing.

    week 5: pin-up: what are the parameters of your universe? wow, this was a great class. we just went around and everyone had two minutes to describe how they see the world. people had all kinds of drawings and cut out eyeballs and hovering magnets and endlessly proliferating rhinoscripts and younameit.

    phew, okay after all that good fun stuff. the assignment for this week iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis: research a topic related to your thesis. haha! you've plumbed the depths of your universe, now show us what's inside the box. step 3 right?

    me, I've been looking at a little piece of technology which is a little bit scary. The article I linked is headlined: "Death Ray Replaced By Voice of God". I'll try to explain in a later entry, as I need to update the blog with some 'slogs' and talk more about how sound might play into my thesis.

    it's been a long day and this has been a long entry, and all of this and the Cubs losing makes it really long. I'll finish with:


    a solid lecture; he went through a LOT of projects, I think I've seen enough gently curving roofs and egg-shaped plans for a while. but really well-presented, quite sharp work. and somebody in his office is pretty good with illustrator. you've never seen wind movement presented so sexy.

    back to work...


    • MArch n' unemployed

      that looks like frei otto's design for the stuttgart train station are they in cahoots?

      Oct 2, 08 12:14 pm  · 
      yes--he talked a little bit about the structural master and his respect for the Olympic Stadium. And also referenced Gaudi's catenary hanging models. I have to say the process or at least what he presented of his process was a little disappointing. in a number of projects it seemed like these huge formal moves appear all of a sudden, and then there's a diagram explaining how it works and a lot of the design is resolved in the small details--which was very interesting in itself--but leaves the larger geometric investigations arid, in my opinion (with the exception of the collaboration w/ Otto)
      Oct 2, 08 12:42 pm  · 

      i attended the same lecture (probably) here at university of tokyo last year. ingenhoven i had not heard of before that sadly, but i do love the station. the rest of his work is just nice, very much of the brit hi-tech tradition.

      i had not thought about the lack of process in his discussion, but now you mention it, yeah that was the case. i did wonder whether or not the buildings really do/will perform as well as the illustrations describe. it seems more likely they are all more like the london city hall when it comes to efficiency (ie, the building is NOT efficient, just looks like it should be)...though the detailing on his projects is indeed supremely refined. on that end, the work was quite impressive.

      gehry serpentine discussion suonds a blast. very lucky you.

      Oct 3, 08 1:10 am  · 
      Courtney Healey

      honestly, how you describe ingenhoven's process... "in a number of projects it seemed like these huge formal moves appear all of a sudden, and then there's a diagram explaining how it works and a lot of the design is resolved in the small details" is sort of the consensus that a bunch of foreign interns at different offices here in Berlin came to this summer, I think this IS process in Germany... schematics get resolved very very quickly without much discussion and then it all becomes working out details... they do, however, produce really well detailed buildings... guess it all depends on conventions and priorities...

      Oct 3, 08 10:40 pm  · 

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