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October 23, 2006

Design Oppositions and Resolutions

The designed environment that surrounds us is constantly faced with oppositions that it must resolve and overcome. And that is the thing; most everything in our designed environment has in some way dealt with one or several oppositions. Most of the buildings and built spaces have at least dealt with the opposition of man and land in the form of topography. Nearly every building around us (I say nearly because I have yet to check every building) must have dug away the earth in order to poor the foundation to the building. And if the building were to just be sitting on a plinth, then some sort of anchoring stakes certainly must have been pounded into the ground. As another form of default, every building or built environment is forced into the opposition of climate and enclosure. No area can exist in the Minneapolis area and not be subject to the climate of the region. So it is easy to see that the built environment around us is subject to oppositions. But there are several ways to deal with and resolve these oppositions, and that is what can be noted and studied in the area around us. It is much easier to analyze how a specific structure resolved an opposition than to study the opposition that is there. I have three oppositions in one site that were each dealt with in very unique ways, but have a variety of different ways to resolve each opposition.

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The site is the new Guthrie Theater, and it has three layering oppositions that it overcame. First, Jean Nouvel was faced with the opposition of permanence and entropy. How could one design a building that was to replace an existing building and not deal with this opposition? Then, once the idea was conceived for the theater, it was faced with the opposition of topography, and how to deal with the Mississippi River, which it wanted to bring focus to? And finally, once the idea for the cantilever walkway was thought of, it was subject to the opposition of Gravity and Movement. There are multitudes of ways to deal resolve each of these oppositions. For the tribute aspect of the theater, Jean chose to cross the opposition, and designed the new Guthrie Theater in a way that stood out from the old one to give the theater a new presence. But what if Jean chose to let the task of making the new design a tribute to the old one sculpt the form of the building completely. Then the building would look quite unlike the blue steel structure standing today, and would instead be in very close likeness to Ralph Rapson’s building from 1963. Next was the topography aspect, and how to deal with the new Guthrie’s site. Jean chose to let the river sculpt the design of the building and become a focus of the Guthrie. With the choice of building material and the lookout onto the river, it seems that the Mississippi and the Guthrie almost become one. But he very well could have just resolved it adequately, and focused on the technical aspect of what is only necessary for building near a river. He could have designed the building around a sturdy foundation that would resist the effects of flooding and had a good water run-off system. Or he could have crossed the opposition and took the river aspect of his building completely out of his design. He could have chose to ignore the river, or altered it in some way so as to make it seem that the river wasn’t even there in the first place. And finally, for the cantilevered walkway, it had to overcome the opposition of gravity and movement. Jean once again chose to cross the opposition, and designed his outlook point in a way that seems to defy gravity. But this could be designed like masonry bridges and envelop the opposition of gravity and movement. The lookout point could have been designed into some sort of arch or bridge, which takes the extremes of the potential response and shape that into the limits of the form itself. Paired with that, the lookout point could have used redundancies as responses, and also integrated a sort of suspension cable system as a fail safe in case the bridge’s supports were to collapse.

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800px-Guthrie-North.jpg


So a close look at any site or structure around us shows that one, if not many, oppositions had to be dealt with in order to arrive at the space that we have today. But if each opposition had been resolved in some other way, then our designed environment would have been shaped in a completely different manner, and nothing as we know it today would be the same.

October 9, 2006

Phenomena

A phenomena, as defined in class, means “to show, be seen, or appear.? But that fact alone isn’t what makes phenomena so interesting. Many things just appear in our lifetime, everyday in fact, and we are just accustomed to the how and why of that particular thing that we don’t even pay attention. But when something appears and we have no idea how the thing works, that is when a phenomenon becomes, well, phenomenal. We could have every understanding of what makes up something and how it all flows together, and yet we still can’t explain these phenomena that are just there and seem as though they shouldn’t be. The scientific community seems to have a couple of them, which defy everything that scientists have established to be happening or what should be happening. So I figured that is where I will draw my example from, I will use a phenomenon that is completely unsolved and defies all of our logic, and yet is still occurring. There are many good ones, such as The Placebo Effect, The Wow Signal, and Cold Fusion. The one that I find most interesting is the theory of Dark Matter and our universe, a concept that was established in the 1970’s. The concept of gravity is that anything with mass-produces a force on any thing around it, an attraction if you will. And the larger an object, the larger the gravitational forces are. Now apply these basic principles to the universe, and everything makes sense. Asteroids are drawn towards the gravity of moons, and moons are held in orbit by the gravity of planets, and all the planets in a solar system revolve around a much larger body, like a star.

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But when you apply these principles the entire universe, the whole thing should be theoretically be falling apart. Each galaxy revolves around its central point, and they should all be floating away from one another. And yet there is a central point that was found by Vera Rubin in the late 1970’s, a point that seems to keep all of the galaxy’s tied together some how. We just don’t know why this is happening. And that is where the theory of Dark Matter has been established. It is a phenomenon that makes up 90 percent of the universe, and it has no concrete explanation. But scientists have long since figured out the principles that govern most everything else in the universe. The universe is made up of things, all with quantified measurements. Lets look at our Solar system for starters, which is made up of planets, moons, the sun, asteroids, gases, and the occasional meteor and comets. The moon, for instance, has a diameter of 3,474 Kilometers and has a mass of 7.35 x 10^22 Kilograms, is 384, 467 Kilometers away from the Earth, and is likely around 4 billion years old. The Earth, in comparison, has a mass of 5.98 x 10^24 Kilograms and has a diameter of 12,715.43 Kilometers. And all of these things come together to make frameworks. Our solar system is a framework, with all of the eight of our planets making up the solar system (though when I was a kid there were nine planets). Each solar system is a framework of planets and moons that are centered around one or more stars. And the universe itself is a framework, being made up of the smaller frameworks that are galaxies. There are also clockworks involved. Our planet has a clockwork with the moon, and the moon has a set pattern of orbit around the Earth. And the solar system’s clockwork is made up of the forces of gravity, which keep all of the planets in a set rotation around the sun, which then creates our planet’s clockwork of the seasons in a year.

So it seems that we can explain how the universe works, according to the applied principles of gravity that govern each solar system. But that isn’t what governs the universe; it is governed by some unexplainable phenomenon, which we are just calling Dark Matter. So we can explain, measure and identify all of the things, frameworks, and clockworks that make up our universe, yet there is 90 percent that is unexplainable, which is one magnificent phenomenon.

information gathered on the internet from the following sites:
-http://www.newscientistspace.com/article.ns?id=mg18524911.600
-http://geography.about.com/library/faq/blqzdiameter.htm
-http://www.windows.ucar.edu/tour/link=/kids_space/moon_awaits.html

October 2, 2006

Genius Loci

Although I have only been there a few times, one place that I find special to me is the Loring Pasta Bar, specifically at night on a warm evening. I think part of my attraction to the restaurant is the fact that I have not been there often, which gives it a certain sense of romanticism. Although in essence the whole space seems to be its genius loci to me, it can be argued that the main dining area next to the street windows is its true genius loci. Just sitting at a table at night, with candles lit everywhere around you casting light on the exposed brick walls, and a warm summers breeze blowing in through the windows explains everything about the atmosphere and presence of the Loring Pasta Bar. Sitting at a table there shows the presence of the space, and you can immediately identify what it is trying to be. The space is trying to express itself in the form of love, romance, comfort, warmth, and enjoyment.

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But the space is more than just the independent items that make the space up. It is about the company you are with, the conversations, the connections you are making, the memories you will have, and the things that you will share, all within the space. And the dining space inside the Loring Pasta Bar very successfully does this, but in a way that isn't cliché and overdone. It doesn't try overly hard to be what it is, it somehow just accomplishes it. In comparison, the restaurant Chino Latino in Uptown tries to achieve the same thing as the Loring Pasta Bar. But in Chino Latino you don't feel comfortable, you don't feel intimate, you don't feel close. The noise, the atmosphere, even the candles, everything there seems to be overly done, and done wrongly. The Loring Pasta Bar has some how done everything that Chino Latino was trying to but couldn't. Loring seems close despite the wide-open floor space and high ceilings. It seems intimate despite the ongoing conversations of the people sitting next to you. Everything that is noticed as a flaw in other restaurants seems to melt away in the Loring Pasta Bar, and that is what its genius loci was aiming to do. But I am careful to make the distinction of the Loring Pasta Bar as a space and not just the building that it is in. If you were to look at just the building then it wouldn't have the same genius loci, and certainly the current genius loci would not be fulfilled. You would just have old glass partitions and brick walls and nothing more. Conversely, if you were to just take the interior aspects of the Loring Pasta Bar, such as the tables and candles, and put them into any other space the some effect would not occur, as I pointed out with Chino Latino. So it takes both the building's characteristics and the aspects of the interior to make the space whole, and to give it the genius loci it has.