Ball State University (Gregory)

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    Counting Bricks

    Gregory Dowell
    Feb 2, '09 8:52 PM EST

    I spent a portion of my weekend counting bricks. That's one of the many joys of working with old buildings. After a lot of correspondence with various people, I determined that even if any drawings of the abandoned Richmond Gas Company building do exist, it was going to be quite difficult for me to get them. So it was with that determination that the counting commenced.

    I was lucky enough to get pretty much unobstructed access to the building. That allowed me to get over 200 pictures of the building. Based on that extensive catalog, I had either an interior or exterior shot that allowed me to estimate the dimensions of the spaces based on standard brick and CMU dimensions. I'm pretty convinced my SketchUp model is off at most by a foot or so in any direction.
    And even if there are some dimension inconsistencies, the model is at least proportional. So now I have a pretty accurate representation of my space and can get cracking on my design intervention.

    I'm pretty sure I'm adapting the space to a cultural center/museum, so its time to program the space. If there is anything in particular you think I should know about programming such a space, please let me know. As the building currently stands its mainly a shell of exterior walls, providing the opportunity for interesting interior architecture and how the new architecture does/does not touch the ruins. Furthermore if any more program space is needed I'm ready to design an addition.


    • vado retro

      now all richmond needs is some culture and you'll be all set.

      Feb 3, 09 9:58 am  · 
      Courtney Healey

      because my thesis deals with some similar issues, like the tension btwn preservation and development, old and new, etc. and because i really like vado's response, i'll just throw a few things at you... like what's the relationship btwn bricks and culture or gas and museums... beyond the fact that it seems to happen alot... so do strip malls and starbucks, does that mean they're inherently good?

      what culture, for who and why? what do you think about terms like "culture" and "heritage" being so often repeated that they seem to take on the air of inevitable or eternal truth... are they really so benign as your post seems? i'm curious where you're going...

      Feb 3, 09 4:05 pm  · 

      Oh there's culture in Richmond, Vado.

      Love the questions Courtney. I love having Archinect to toss around some thoughts and ideas and have a larger community respond. Sure there's my studio professors and advisor who are sometimes too deep in the forest to see the trees so its nice to get the whole breadth of feedback here.

      There will be a more in-depth post in a day or so that will give more insight to your questions Courtney but here's a quick teaser.

      The founding and growth of Richmond relied wholeheartedly on the river (Whitewater) and the industry that grew up along it. Then a short time later the railroad came to Richmond and it only enhanced the river and industry. Furthermore the National Road (one of the country's first major highways) came through Richmond to again make Richmond an important stop along the way.

      Well it so happens that the abandoned Richmond Gas Company building lies 150 yards from the river, the now abandoned railroad is just 10 feet from the building's east elevation, and the National Road bounds the site's southern edge.

      There is no denying the role this company and building played in Richmond. So the goal is to once again make the building a prominent place in Richmond. And for me I think that it has to be about the experience and focusing on how to "connect" (both literally and metaphorically) the old with the new. I want to make a physical connection to the railroad. I want to connect back to the river. This will probably be a less literal connection. And then there's the connection of the new interior architecture to the existing "skeleton" of the ruins. Right now I'm considering steel tensile cables and glass (transparent, translucent, etc) as the main materials to juxtapose against the rugged and beautiful brick structure. And ultimately I'm going to have to make purposeful interactions in the space to create a "moment" so it really is about the experience and its not lost because I failed to create an adequate hierarchy.

      Okay so that turned out longer than I intended and I didn't necessarily directly answer your questions, but like I said I'll address this further in a post in the next few days.

      I'd love to hear about your project, I'm sure you have some insight that could help me out. You can find me here or feel free to drop me an email.

      Feb 3, 09 5:05 pm  · 
      Courtney Healey

      it's an interesting assembly of facts relating to the site and its history. i guess my question is how much you intend your project to be a didactic or "educational" experience of the site, like a "national historic site" or something. the gasworks connected to the railroad, river and road for very particular reasons based on economy and efficiency, etc. why would a cultural center connect to them. i've been struggling with why art loves industrial space. is it because culture is all that's left of production in the contemporary city? industrial space is big and cheap? or maybe society at large needs a way to preserve it's heritage while still creating new cultural products and artifacts, so some marriage between culture and heritage makes a neat consumer package? obviously it's a bit of everything, but i think in the end, in any project, you need to establish what you are being critical of and why and how it relates to what you make.

      like, is there an inherent problem with employing a juxtaposition of materials while trying to create literal or metaphoric connections? can connection be reinforced by material? last semester i was thinking alot about changing theories and perceptions of preservation work... do material juxtapositions seem to come during times when we perceive or want to represent a break with the past. one small recent comparison i looked at was H&deM's TM2 changing from glass to brick and Chipperfield's Museum Island Pavilion changing from glass to stone... both original design intentions assumed the glass structures would have a certain ephemerality, that they would somehow disappear, deferring to the existing structures... but i think after half a century of glass buildings maybe we're realizing that it's a much more volatile material that we thought. why does the more solid material seem to fit better, connect better, even though the form is radically different?

      enough procrastinating, i'll post about my project in the next couple of days, have you looked at the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam, Mass MoCA, DIA Beacon, Toronto's Distillery District... there's so many examples i know... good luck!

      Feb 3, 09 6:04 pm  · 
      vado retro

      well they have a lot of antique stores!

      Feb 3, 09 8:35 pm  · 

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