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    Nader Tehrani workshop

    Nick Sowers
    Oct 14, '08 3:06 AM EST

    Nader Tehrani of Office dA came to give a "workshop" at Wurster Hall this afternoon. While I would hardly call what transpired a workshop, I won't complain--it was great, just more of an informal lecture and a discussion which followed. Tonight at CCA he gave a formal lecture which I did not attend.

    He's a super smart guy, spoke very eloquently, if almost too well rehearsed. At the beginning he said that he wanted students to interject with questions and comments, but his delivery was so seamless that no one said anything until he was through.

    He went through some early work, laying out his office's counter-position to Frank Gehry's wallpaper-like treatment of material and form among some really well crafted drawings and simple but effective animations. Then he transitioned to more current work which I would characterize as intellectually consistent (always a specific system or formal geometry that they are exploring) but damnit, I wanted to see the mistakes, the rough edges, the humor! He even said in a small discussion among students after the session ended, that what we find so wonderful in Venturi and Scott Brown's (and Frank's) work--the appeal to popular culture--should not be ignored or precluded by architects seeking to push the limits of form and material.

    I mentioned to him afterward that his plans reminded me of Alvaro Siza's work, where stairs pop out of the mass, allowing for flaws and idiosyncrasies to take a figural role in the form. He is extremely respectful of Siza's work, it turns out. It's interesting to look at the two side by side. In Siza's case, all corners, edges, splits, junctions--all potential construction flaws are neutralized and the form is made seamless by the plaster. For Tehrani it seems more interesting to find the moment where in the logic of construction and of structure you are allowed to make such contortions of form, and to let that process guide the form rather than the other way around (more a critique of Gehry, if Siza might be considered neutral in this light)

    image Tongxian Gatehouse, office dA

    Borges & Irmao Bank, Alvaro Siza. photo by Tereza Siza

    The best thing to take away I thought was his insistence that drawing is building, that you must embed the means and methods of building in the drawings themselves, and that they have always sought to accomplish this in their practice.

    I had the back-of-head view:

    ps, coming soon, a guide to applying to UC Berkeley


    • blah

      The gatehouse doesn't make any sense as a masonry building. It has thousands of bricks that have been trimmed. Why not build it in stucco? The idea, in terms of material, behind a masonry building is to stick to the module. That's the challenge of it.

      The Architect of the gatehouse takes the east way out and just cuts the brick.

      Oct 14, 08 8:59 am  · 

      i have not seen any picture of tongxian art center although i have seen a few published pictures of tongxian gatehouse. it seems to me that the model is for the art center. anyway, the project, even if the bricks have been trimmed to create the smooth curve, it sounds rather consistent with the tectonic and narrative investigations the office have been integrating. there are a couple of articles which you might refer to: 'a murder in the court' in a book 'strange details' and an interview featured in perspecta 39. from these articles, it is obvious that prof. tehrani is interested in invention by combining a number of architectonic techniques to provoke multiple interpretations. he is progressive, and his creative process, in spite of the label 'ambitious', is transparent in a sense that everything is brought up to the conscious level.

      Oct 14, 08 7:39 pm  · 

      @ make:

      I think it's pretty clear -- and eloquently shown -- that the number of 'custom' bricks isn't at all the issue, in fact they stick to a very regular module and material. The spacing of the bricks is the variable, the top of the wall expanding to create a screen, while the compression at the bottom frames an opening (and 'expresses' compression accordingly).

      That's exactly part of the critique -- configuration of the bricks in relationship to each other is more important here than figuration a la Gehry -- to put it in Tehrani's terms.

      Oct 14, 08 9:58 pm  · 

      I am not buying it.

      Show me the tiny pieces they are making. It's a cop out.

      Oct 15, 08 12:39 am  · 

      They have to cut up bricks into tiny pieces. It's silly.

      Why not just do it in concrete?

      Oct 15, 08 12:42 am  · 

      Or put wallpaper on a concrete background?

      Oct 15, 08 12:42 am  · 

      the beauty of brick in this case is that it is a small enough module to accept larger formal gestures incrementally... look at the elevation, 95% of it is regular running bond, and of the parts that aren't, the variation is due to the SPACING of each brick, not a modification of the unit itself.

      would you suggest that aalto or saarinen used 'custom' bricks in some of their more figural works? a brick is a pixel, you can make nearly any image out of it as long as you respect its stacked assembly.

      Oct 15, 08 11:20 pm  · 

      I like that, brick=pixel

      Oct 16, 08 2:49 am  · 

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