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Let's talk about Cecil Balmond

Great engineer or THE greatest engineer?

Just kidding.

He seems to have a lot of exposure recently, which reveals his healthy sense of self importance. Certainly a lot of contemporary architecture would not be possible without his collaboration. I was struck, though, from a passage in the New Yorker article about him a few months ago. He was discussing his collaboration with Ito in 2002, and he says (I'm paraphrasing from memory), "Ito came to me with a bad, symmetrical and inappropriate design, I had to generate the openings, convince him it could work, engineer the whole thing, and now he uses my design in all his buildings." I don't believe I'm exaggerating too much with what he said.

At any rate, the pavilion was great, everyone loved it, and poor old Cecil gets no credit from dragging Ito's ass through the mud. Now he's the "architect" for a bridge that looks like scenery for the newest Polyphonic Spree concert (ie. I don't like it...its great that you have to take a pause in the middle of the river or whatever, but that railing?).

So have at it, GREAT engineer or THE GREATEST engineer? I hope I've been provocative enough.

 
Aug 9, 07 8:10 am
conormac

i love his stuff, however I was taken aback (gasp!) when I saw him lecture and say a number of times that he didn't care about engineering!

I thought he used all his beautiful, elegant math to figure out complicated structures... it seems like he's just overlaying it on a structure he intuitively knows will stand?

Aug 9, 07 8:22 am  · 
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outed

not even close to being the greatest. maybe the hippest.

i think robert maillart, for one, was a better engineer by the classical definition. and anyone who could figure out how to make chartres stand up for 500+ years is ok in my book...

Aug 9, 07 8:50 am  · 
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WtfWtfWtf™

Felix Candela.

Aug 9, 07 8:58 am  · 
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rfuller


I know someone who may be a big fan.



Anyone wanna guess which one is Balmond and which one is Per?

Aug 9, 07 9:09 am  · 
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Liebchen

^ I was thinking that too...wild isn't it? The bottom image isn't viewing, but the top one is the Serpentine. If it were 3d-H, the structural form would be rotated 45 degrees,

Aug 9, 07 9:22 am  · 
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rfuller
http://archnet.org/img-collections/image/91742.jpg

that's the link to the bottom image.

Aug 9, 07 9:23 am  · 
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Liebchen


3d-honeycomb, I mean Serpentine, I mean 3d-h....!

Aug 9, 07 9:26 am  · 
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PerCorell

What I didn't like , beside the obvious amature aproach ,the fiddeling to make it hold together, the small pieces added to make it keep the form, the lack in realising how elegant these structure will display when mastering the technike -- don't allow me to continue....

Aug 9, 07 9:41 am  · 
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rfuller

Per, I will grant you this, your approach is a lot more efficient. I am still waiting to see some built work from you, though. How old are you, if you don't mind me asking?

Aug 9, 07 9:44 am  · 
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PerCorell

Thank's.
Yes you are quite right, --- don't be surprised when I say my age is 57 years.
Take this as a warning --- being a person like I, there are no way to leave the train, I get obsessed with things and only when they are finished, lived thru, I can go on with another obsession.
That way I newer fitted into the academics , I had my chances but I find life to exiting to spend behind a desk , for the past two years I dived into another obsession ,and one day I know I will realise why, --- projected light, not the new digital, but the old vintage lenses and fine optics that today can be bought for nothing at Ebay, Maybe this new obsession act as a relive while the fight with 3dh is difficult ; I been there know what will happen, when structures become more than just a shell (like both of the above ) --- when designers realise what happen when walls and floors just grow ,as the structure are assembled. But I can't explain this vision , and offcaurse it will come it is so simple ,beside I think it would be just a natural thing, that we allow the computer, to figure out the structure ; then we could spend the time making things much nicer.

Aug 9, 07 10:23 am  · 
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Better is completely subjective. So there isn't a need to bring that word out of the closet. I have to say that however much of an arrogant bag of douche he might be, I still appreciate his openess to work with architects on new posibilities. One of my favorite projects is a villa he did with OMA, where the house is partially being being supported by a rod or cable in tension.

Anyway, the point is that most engineers are not very open to unproven methods that could cost them a lawsuit. That's one of many reasons why we have a lot of anytown USAs. I realize that there are a handful of guys willing to design, but most don't and just like to calculate the depth / shape / reinforcement of support systems.

Aug 9, 07 11:19 am  · 
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Apurimac

Cecil Balmond = The Shit

Aug 9, 07 11:26 am  · 
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chupacabra

Per = not the shit

Aug 9, 07 11:52 am  · 
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6nuew

whenever i read something Per says, he sounds like borat in my head.

Aug 9, 07 12:40 pm  · 
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xtbl

ha ha ha, i always imagine he sounds like stephen hawking.

Aug 9, 07 12:46 pm  · 
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PerCorell

"I still appreciate his openess to work with architects on new posibilities."

Personaly I belive, that the analog aproach, the hands on experience and emagination, is more than enough to realise a structur's strength ,it's harmony ; no reson to jettison non productive parts of a structure decor is nice, why be without it.
Best is ofcaurse where the finish, is the first you complete. but use of genuine materials ,a reliable scale drawing, and something on your heart, ofcaurse deliver better, even it is just the tradisional methods and materials, --- it is different with new technikes, there the choice sadly are, that you can make whatever , also the worse house ever even you also could decide, for the best house ever.
I don't like bad design !

Aug 9, 07 12:48 pm  · 
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xtbl

but anyway, i like balmond. like Huanmic, i appreciate his open-mindedness.

anybody read informal?

Aug 9, 07 12:50 pm  · 
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6nuew

informal is a fun read. its cinematic, the way the bordeaux house chapter unfolds. i agree with conormac, though.

Aug 9, 07 12:56 pm  · 
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PerCorell

Listen you don't need to read a lot of books to be the best, remember that.
Now with some book shops, there are a taste read, so you can read a resume, an actural number of pages, of the book you for some reson, need to digest , why isn't there something like that there , --- so I proberly would newer buy the book that's progress ???

Aug 9, 07 12:58 pm  · 
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PerCorell

Popeye That.

Aug 9, 07 1:00 pm  · 
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Isn't Balmond obsessed with the number 9? There's a book out there or something where he talks about how everything leads back to 9. Or is it 8? I forget.

Aug 9, 07 1:18 pm  · 
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PerCorell

That depend if an obsession are personal or what figure realy are best to be obsessed about --- Don't think I am ironic , ironicy already are very difficult to make in groups it rarely work, so please know that I very much respect obsessive resoning already. Nine could be a relevant number to obsess, but on the other hand , future is in the more harmless looking numbers realy ; not the edgy but the ordanary round numbers ; Nine isn't even as interesting as Pi , Now that would be a challance if any , but as you all know I am not obsessive so as I havn't even read the book, how would I know, why shuld I realy care ?

Aug 9, 07 2:48 pm  · 
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MADianito

Cris i had read informal
and i have to say i love it, i think Cecil Balmons is a really clever guy, and i enjoyed that book as much as any of my favourite theory books, and way better than Ali Rahim's latest book (i never thought INFORMAL would be better for me than Cathalityc Formations), never had seen him lecture, but i definetly preffer to have him as an strcuytural engineer (or anyone from Ove Arup) than the engineers that do my structural work... im glad they dont read archinect by the way, dont want their rates to go higher by my comments...

as someone recently said, some critic or something, dont really remember who (maybe even rem, yeah his buddy).
cecil balmond is one of the 3 more influential ARCHITECTS of the XX century

Aug 9, 07 4:23 pm  · 
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holz.box

hmm. i think maybe peter rice was probably more important to the XX than balmond.
And i'd take nervi, maillart and conzett before cecil(ia)

Aug 9, 07 4:46 pm  · 
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MADianito

HOLZ Balmond is not even an architect...thats what they meant... that they're structural solutions have gave birth to some of the best buildins of the last 20 years, yeah maybe they didnt said of the XX century...but something like that...

i have told myself like a trillion times not to exagerate, million of apologies!

Aug 9, 07 9:26 pm  · 
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holz.box

i know balmond isn't an architect. he's worked on some interesting projects. and yes, he is a phenomenal engineer. i'd love to work on projects even remotely near that level.

i've just got much love for rice and conzett (zumthor's engineer)

rice's resume:
the louvre
kansai airport
pompidou centre
lloyds of london (i heard, 1 million shop drawings?)
the de menil
the sydney opera house

to top it off, he was frei's mentor/advisor. sobek succeeded otto at the the institute for lightweight structures and i spent a few weeks milling about trying to decide if that was a route i wanted to try - but opted against. i'm an idiot.

maybe i just have to read informal, just the synoposis had me pegged.

balmond's obsession is w/ 9.

Aug 10, 07 12:05 am  · 
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grid

i have informal and enjoyed it. i like balmond but love maillart.

Aug 10, 07 2:59 am  · 
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a-f

I second holz.box love for Rice and Conzett - would only like to add the brilliant modular IBM pavillion (together with Renzo Piano) to the list:



Balmond surprised me as being so interested in patterns and numerology, and more of a engineering theoretician - or maybe it is just that he has a different approach to structural engineering, where Rice and Conzett would reveal structural elements, Balmond's solutions are more seamlessly integrated in the design as a whole?

Aug 10, 07 4:20 am  · 
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PerCorell

Sorry --- but from the pavilion examples I don't see much genious engineering ; one remind me that Aarup was a danish firm once, the other remind me of what would be curious in the 50' ; and these guy's don't know there are something called the web , that in such a huge firm not a single cleark or computer geek would not copy and paste to please his boss ?
Now I once knew the founders of a very famous danish architect studio, this guy often came to visit me in my workshop , this happened when there was some practic problem like how do you make a pair of glasses work without a frame , ------ see some of these guy's simply have very little feel and touch about what is possible and unique idears is not their strong side, --- they trust the tradision , like you can see in that pavilion they havn't got the guts even to experiment, proberly becaurse they are not used to the innovative angle , ; realy how much innovation do you see above, how much innovation and creativity do you reconise in the Clumpsy Serpentine pavilion -- as if someone seen something on the web and tried to copy it from how things are made, from 3 planes and the result ; an exiting breaking method are spoiled by old men wanting to be modern, ------- take my advise and look at those two pavilions above, that way you know what is to know about those fine gentlemen.
And then look at the boring example above, how could such a limited concept ever develob into a visionary gift.

Aug 10, 07 8:46 am  · 
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per vs balmond! : i don't see much genious engineering

Aug 10, 07 9:06 am  · 
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chupacabra

oh, so now Balmond stole from Per...wow, it never ends.

Aug 10, 07 9:45 am  · 
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PerCorell

I don't see much genious engineering in most of today's architecture ; safe methods , building ontop methods already mastered 80 years ago , the computer used as an account , in a 2D way just like before the computer and why --- I guess becaurse the engineers say "what we do is allready good enough, we don't need newthinking , what we do is allready BETTER"
And newthinking what is that used for when the computer is not allowed to be used for anything but rewriting allready known methods into fast code --- again look at the pictures, Gee they don't even understand 3dh, still these old men want to grasp the new and make themself more famous by misusing an exiting new angle, instead of acturly investing in the new they rather rob it and spit it out after proving they newer will master it.

Aug 10, 07 9:50 am  · 
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PerCorell

"Perhaps we could have some kind of machine that can assemble Type V houses using the panels pattern produced by the detailed model software program, and it can automatically specify the rafters, sheathing to use etc and even automatically contact a crew to assemble it. "

Trust me when I tell that your answer make me so sad --- you asume that I talk about automating house building as it is, with rafts and plyboxes, exactly as how manual methods develobed into today's way of building a house, and that make me both sad and surprised --- why shuld we automate today's way to build ,if that is what you think I am saying , for what reson and where are the limits as, these limits is soon reached, at some not so distant point in time, you simply can not make today's methods more efficient, you can't destroy more old craftsmanship, splinter more endwood with new gadged universal steel fittings NO ; I am talking about New thinking, about Innovation about jettison the old methods and way's to build most structures, replace that with a new way to put things together.
You still don't understand, -- well it is difficult at first , that I agrea. But think about it , not the way you just suggested by just automating today's plywood box wall, not by automating building of a roof structure but replacing it all, with a brand new way to put things together , -- and scrap all the old way's -- as they are not fit for the computer, they don't force the computer to deliver an innovative result, if you just ask a house build as today, just faster ; no please look at 3dh and do it with an open mind, as if you have a world described in 3D entities , then you shuld not try build it with today's methods ,they are allready to slow and irasionell , something new ,something that will build a house or a bridge, a ship or a plane by same method; that is what cold bring these objects from the virtual worlds into reality --- not just fast oldfasion drafting by computer, but whole new way's to put things together.

Aug 10, 07 10:56 am  · 
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PerCorell

Sorry --- as you can see this was ment as an answer in an other fora ; the only way I can save things now I guess, is to ask if that kind of talk live up to your expertations of what architecture or engineering shuld be about --- it is not talk about fame or who is more enginous than who, in fact I don't care I just know there are no progress in talking fame, that there are no fame in borrowing and nothing gentle about gentlemen Sir.

Aug 10, 07 11:21 am  · 
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PerCorell

Also I been waiting for a long time to admit, that I known some architects , that wouldn't be saints, some acturly vorse than any rathount real blisters outstanding evil , All looking very oen minded and ,but don't trust people even architects from their belly, --- Yes belive me, among those architects I known , there realy are almost clock round charecters ; allow me to warn about particular.

Aug 10, 07 12:35 pm  · 
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Liebchen

Per, I think you've managed to kill this thread for now. Thanks.

Aug 10, 07 8:13 pm  · 
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chupacabra

That is really all 3dh is about...killing threads with incoherent rants for over 5 years.

Aug 10, 07 8:16 pm  · 
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PerCorell

Now first of all I would not ballance the pidestate Fame magazin trust their icons to ballance ---- the psykolgi in defending a hero's picture and how that allow groups to act and percive, is a most complicated issue. But fact is that I am here and I think there are a long way down the pidestate some of you placed your hero's ontop.
But please do not misunderstand -- I think a lot of the treads would have lasted much shorter without , beside stating treads with dusins of thousands visitors , ,top score at the moment rais to 73000 visitors , others about 30 thousands so realy --- as I am not to arogant to stay away from the web, I realy would have liked to know the answers to some of my claims and my documentation ; followers blindly forget to answer these, but I guess that deal with how we maneage Fame, as you maybe recall it took only 40 top Nazi to hold the city of Hamburg,
But shuld this tread be compleatly without it, --- I don't know , but in fact I find the object quite boring, the things most contribuate is like what you can read in the Fame magazin, nothing realy dig into the visions explain them or suggest where it all could end .

Now either we all kneel down and praise our hero's , or we ask ourself why the old men stay away from the web, either we make architecture into a religion as how it already work with fractions willing to sacrifise honesty to defend their emagination of how things shuld be, or we allow those who contribuate the drive to ,shake the beast , so all that old dust can be clensed out so visions can replace fat words .

In afganistan in germany, the hero's newer needed to do the dirty fight, ---- answer me if dirt is allowed here and in what way.

Aug 11, 07 7:16 am  · 
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cecil is the architects' engineer

Aug 11, 07 10:26 am  · 
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Medusa

Informal is a great book. I love Balmond's intuitive approach to structure.

Aug 11, 07 10:52 am  · 
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PerCorell

It help with help tools, if you can't emagine it fully, then there are computers that can do the job. Sorry but again, what about the rest of up, those who can build a boat create a beautifull house without a computer, as we can emagine, what about us ?
And me, the only books I read, was the manuals for the CAD programs ,beside looking pictures and building boats, I needed newer no book to do that ....

Aug 11, 07 1:20 pm  · 
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Liebchen

Per, you should stop reading CAD manuals, building boats, and looking at pictures, because someone's stealing your idea!!!


I read it in a magazine.

Aug 11, 07 7:48 pm  · 
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PerCorell

I don't think these guy's will ever run out of inspiration , that's a great project ---- and far from the cramped attemts you often see dtararchitects use as an exchouse to hit the front pages. If just a fraction of the guts and hands on aproach would ever reach the small circle of critics pets, then we would see that revolution in architecture. I love projects like that, I hate when stararchitects must destrou great new idears, just to make a spetacular meaningless structure look wow.
-------- These guy's duo in depths what the stararchitects can only emagine as a surface plaster , the acting emporors clotches the critics are blind to.

Aug 12, 07 4:41 am  · 
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PerCorell

There are one place on the web Cecil and all the other stararchitects shuld go to find inspiration, this place ;

http://blog.modernmechanix.com/covers

Aug 12, 07 5:47 am  · 
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Liebchen

Per, you are constantly mentioning a "revolution in architecture." What does this revolution look like? Has there even been a revolution in architecture before? I think that architecture and engineering are to NECESSARILY conservative to be "revolutionary." Rather change takes time and constant pressure.

Aug 12, 07 2:50 pm  · 
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PerCorell

I think we already are a long way from realising that new cheap houses, esp. when they are nice , is better than Icons, museums , spetacular halls, whatever monstorous ,edgy sculpture or what the critics want to call it. I find it important that the computers is not just used to support the old technikes , sadly much of what we been presented for is just that, the computer doing the logistics ,not the genuine core cut directly from the computer 3D drawing , and ofcaurse the idea that from any P.C. , you can generate all assembly parts for your favourite style bulding are more the times, esp. when exelent new sheet materials can be develobed , for this or that particular framework.

I newer understood the discussions about urban sprawl , in fact the sprawl I think of when mentioning that word, is the useless emty city centers the cold edgy modern architecture , that act newthinking and forget humans or make them into decor for the Icons , now if anything is killing architecture it is that, that's not where to expect a revolution.

Aug 12, 07 4:17 pm  · 
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holz.box

so i picked up informal and the first thing i noticed is the line formed by tweaking kerning in the text of the acknowledgements page (near the end)

Aug 17, 07 5:50 pm  · 
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