on behalf of Olaf Design Ninja

interviews with random thoughts and assemblies of experiences

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    Interview: June 16, 2013, 9:30am

    By Olaf Design Ninja_
    Mar 17, '14 5:38 PM EST

    Interview: June 16, 2013, 9:30am

    Monmouth County, New Jersey, USA

    “Hey Olaf its Chris again. I stopped by last week, you kicked me out. Hope you don’t mind figured I’d follow-up on a few things…the nurse said you’d be in this room staring out the window.” – Chris

    “It’s not a window.  It’s a full height glass wall of aluminum frame, neoprene gaskets, glazing, sealant, ach – that is construction.  I see the birds, cannot hear the chirps:  I prefer people through glass.” – Olaf

    “That’s probably some modern architecture reference I’m not familiar with…as you said last time I haven’t lived long enough to be properly educated.” – Chris

    "It’s about planes surrounding volumes of geometry, no more mass.” – Olaf

    International Style or like the Farnsworth House and Philip Johnson’s glass house?” – Chris

    “Same thing. What do you want!?” – Olaf

    “First job, tell me about your first job?” – Chris

    “New York City. 1960’s.  They handed me a sealed white envelope.  I suspected the contents were cash. They said go downtown to the building department across from city hall, take the elevator to the fifth floor, go right, wait outside the men’s bathroom until a short old man wearing a yellow bow tie enters the bathroom, follow him into the bathroom, put the envelope on the counter, tap twice, say hello and leave.  Plumbing inspectors wear yellow bow ties on Mondays.” – Olaf

    “Right.  I meant first architecture job.” – Chris

    “Ja.” – Olaf

    “Who was the architect?” – Chris

    “I see the birds, cannot hear the chirps.”– Olaf

    “What? Ok.  Any architecture school stories?“  – Chris

    “I drove a Chevy or Ford convertible… can’t remember, same thing… dragging a Geodesic dome on a chain round and round in a parking lot.  Buckminister Fuller was the passenger.” – Olaf


    “Nice…Why would you drag a Geodesic dome around in a parking lot? I don’t get it, it’s not like you could hook it up to roll, right?”  – Chris

    “It’s what Buckminister Fuller wanted.” – Olaf

    “This was at Yale, when?” - Chris

     “No, Princeton.” – Olaf

    “A reliable source of no relation to you…[cough] your son [cough]…told me you went to Yale.” – Chris

    “Same thing.  Maybe an acquaintance of mine told me that story.” – Olaf

    “You can’t just borrow other people’s experiences and assemble them as your own.” – Chris

    Olaf begins to shake his index finger at me furiously and shouts – “This is who I am!”

    “Come on man, do you have any thoughts your own? Is that your thing, you hear or read some obscure story and pawn it off as your own to impress people?” – Chris

    “Ach, architecture studio jury reviews.” – Olaf

    “Tell me more about the Geodesic dome, what is it exactly?” – Chris

    I pull out my smart phone and access Google search and begin to type as Olaf speaks.

    “Ja, a good index to the performance of any building frame is the structural weight required to shelter a square foot of floor from the weather. In conventional wall and roof designs the figure is often 50 lbs. to the square foot we discovered how to do the job at around 0.78 lb. per square foot by constructing a frame of generally spherical form in which the main structural elements are interconnected in a geodesic pattern …What are you doing with your phone?” - Olaf

    “Nothing…hold on…let me finish what you were saying… constructing a frame…spherical form…in a geodesic pattern of approximate great circle arcs intersecting to form a three-way grid, and covering or lining this frame with a skin of plastic material.  That’s straight from Buckminister’s US patent 2682235.” - Chris

    “Could be.  Are you certain it is not patent 3197927?” – Olaf

    “One second…looking it up…” – Chris

    “Congratulations! The honorary librarian award goes to Chris!” – Olaf

    On that note I decide it’s a good time to leave.  I put a copy of Rem Koolhaas’ S, M, X, XL on the table next to Olaf’s chair with the Panoptican essay marked and start to leave.  He grabs the book, bends down and slides the book across the floor.

    “This book makes a good door stop, thanks.” – Olaf



    (based on true stories)


    Key Bibliography/Links

    "Modern Architecture: A Critical History", Kenneth Frampton, p. 248

    "The International Style Twenty Years After", Henry-Russell Hitchcock, p137 of "Architecture Culture 1943-1968", Joan Ockman

    "Explorations in the Geometry of Thiking: Synergetics", R. Buckminister Fuller


    • Quondam

      Scanned the interview quickly yesterday, and came back today for a careful read (but haven't) clicked on any links yet). Parts made me laugh, and I enjoyed the atmosphere overall. The images of the Farnsworth House and the Glass House struck me, and somehow made me think of that issue of Oppositions where Eisenman and Stern talk about Johnson and the Glass House--it turns out to be Oppositions 10 (Fall 1977). What a great issue--it's kind of like the above "interview" enlarged to 111 pages and raised to the third or fourth dimension. There's even a facsimile of William S. Huff's Symmetry 5. (On several occasions I've mentioned an indebtedness to all of Huff's 'Symmetry' essays reproduced in Oppositions).

      Chris, although it may not be easy to do, try anyway to get your hands on a copy of Oppositions 10 because I know it will be rewarding.

      Believe it of not, this is the first image in Oppositions 10:

      “I see the birds, cannot hear the chirps.”

      Mar 18, 14 1:52 pm

      And here's what the first two pages of Huff's Symmetry 5 look like:

      Huff worked for Kahn in in the early 1960s, working on two substantial early works that were actually built. It wouldn't surprise if he was well familiar with Fuller, and also, for sure, very familiar with the 'geometric' work conducted by Tyng and Kahn.

      Mar 18, 14 2:07 pm
      Olaf Design Ninja_

      Wow! Great stuff, especially the first pic you posted. I will by all means chase this edition of Opposition down. This archifiction process is by all means a synthesis of imagination and true stories and additional material as you posted will only increase the depth of this excursion into architecture and theory. The links are part poetic and part reference. I can only imagine how much fun TS Eliot would of had with links. Thank you for reading and providing some major contributions. A rare thing on the Internet. By the way Olaf did a few years in philly in the Kahn days, those interviews to come.

      Mar 18, 14 7:41 pm

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About this Blog

The following blogs are Interviews performed in the years of 13/14 with a man full of random thoughts and legendary type of architectural experiences. Olaf is his real first name. I knew his son Tom from my studies at University of Kansas and randomly ran into Tom in 2012 in NYC. We reminisced about all the great stories Tom had told me about his immigrant architect father. Given my boredom with the profession I requested an interview with this now insane man. Archifiction.

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