Archive for architecture

Old Saint Peter’s Basilica

Posted in Historic Architecture, Pub Library, Religions, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2020 by Drogo

The greatest case of Christian architectural evolution is the Constantinian Christian basilica of St. Peter in Rome, Italy. Roman Emperor Constantine had the original St. Peter’s Basilica built (320-360 AD) on the site of Nero’s Circus, to honor the tomb of St. Peter, respect other Christian martyrs, and honor Christianity as the new Roman religion. The adjective ‘old’ was only added after it was demolished in the Renaissance, to distinguish the current from the former building. Pagan Romans used basilicas as public meeting halls, and the architectural form began to change as Christians used it. Although St. Peter’s is still called a basilica (Pagan), it is a large church or cathedral (Christian). The Catholic Church reserves the word ‘cathedral’ for large churches held by bishops, but architecturally for the masses there is no distinction between a cathedral and a basilica. Papal (pope) coronations were held at the basilica, and in 800 AD Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ there. Soon after in 846 Saracens sacked and damaged the tombs and treasures.

Old St. Peter’s set an example for related cathedrals and thousands of smaller churches, which followed for hundreds of years and still continues today world-wide. It was a synthesis of assembly hall, temple, and villa. Old St. Peter’s held 4,000 worshipers inside, and thousands more outside in the atrium (akin to St. Peter’s Plaza today). The atrium was added later and had 5 doors (portas) in the gable wall leading into the nave. The atrium was called the “Garden of Paradise” during the Dark Ages. As a large colonnade courtyard plaza, the atrium served to filter  and shelter entry into the interior nave arcade. Atriums or plaza squares are similar to typical Roman villa interior courtyards with fountains or sculpture in the center; in this case a bronze pine-cone fountain and Vatican obelisk. The transition from narthex to nave matches the Roman traditional private upper-class family household altar or chapel and open atrium relationship. Early Christian domestic architecture linked worship with privacy not only because Christianity was illegal, but also because it was conventional to have religious (Pagan ancestor) shrines in homes. Pilgrims approached the atrium portico typically by the eastern stairs.

Old St. Peter’s exterior was fairly plain, and resembled what we would consider a large stucco-masonry barn, rather than a classical temple. This lack of architectural adornment reflected the decline of the Roman Empire and the simplicity of early Christianity, which would continue into the Dark Age that followed. Ironically the new St. Peter’s basilica was the first time the facade had classical pilasters, as the Renaissance revived the Pagan styles. Old St. Peter’s long nave main aisle was flanked symmetrically by four side aisles, and lit by clerestory windows. A great arch framed the entry view of the altar and vaulted apse beyond at the western end. The apse and altar combination with nave procession comes from a long line of imperial Pagan temples (Egyptian Hatshepsut Temple 1480 BC to Roman Leptis Magna Basilica 210 AD). The 100 marble columns were spolia taken from earlier pagan buildings. Old St. Peter’s was over 350 feet long, with a colored marbled transept making a T-shaped Latin cross. The gabled roof with wooden beams was 100 feet high along the ridge peak, and despite fires and thin walls lacking buttresses it lasted for over a thousand years. Old St. Peter’s design was like St. John Lateran’s Arch-basilica Cathedral, built around the same time in Rome. The Renaissance reconstructed basilica was designed by architects: Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Sangallo, and Maderno. The new St. Peter’s is larger, and contains some relics of the old structure.

The nave arch had a mosaic of ‘Constantine and St. Peter’, presenting a model of the church to Christ. On the walls between windows were frescoes of Bible themes. Ghiberti and Vasari wrote that Giotto painted five frescoes which were “either destroyed or carried away from the old structure of St. Peter’s during the building of the new walls.” Some medieval relics survived reconstruction. From some descriptions and fragments, the Navicella atrium mosaic (1310) was recreated. It occupied the whole wall above the entrance arcade facing the courtyard. Matthew’s scripture (14:24) was the basis for the large medieval mosaic by Giotto. “After Peter came down out of the ship and walked on the water, he became afraid of the storm and began to sink. He called out to Jesus for help. Jesus caught him and reproved him for his lack of faith, and led him back to the ship, whereupon the storm stopped.” A standing Madonna and fragment of an Epiphany mosaic (circa 700) also survived; but many gold items, like Constantine’s Cross on the Tomb of St. Peter, were lost long ago.

Old St. Peter’s architecture is confirmed by archeology, historical written accounts, and archival drawings. The oldest depictions we have are from 4th century frescoes and 16th century architects before demolition and reconstruction. Excavations confirmed some of the writings and renderings. One of the written sources ‘Liber Pontificalis’ mentions the rumor that Constantine was urged by Bishop Silvester to build the basilica on the site of St. Peter’s grave, and make his coffin with layers of solid bronze with spiral ‘Solomonic’ columns. Its’ construction involved removing or relocating tombs and constructing an enormous foundation on an expanded hillside level-cut.

The turmoil in Rome from conversion to fall (300-500 AD) begins with the 2 main christian basilicas being built to try to appease the oppressed masses of protesters all over the empire who sympathized with the infamous Christian martyrs. It is easier to study the architectural language changes, because the politics was very culturally complex and hard to translate, other than to say it is always about power. Despite the old Roman Pagan authority being replaced from within by Christian Imperial authority, the city was sacked by Christian barbarian mercenaries and migrants (Visigoths and Vandals) for centuries (600-100). Finally even the basilicas were not safe against the last of the barbarians (Saxons, Vikings, and Saracens), until the Roman Church authority was supreme enough across European kingdoms to focus violence against the Eastern Empire and Jerusalem (again) with the Crusades (1100-1300). [dates circa nearest hundred]

 

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Architecture in ‘The Name of the Rose’

Posted in Film Reviews, Historic Architecture, Recommendations & Tributes with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2020 by Drogo

RWU History of Architecture II – Irene Fatsea 1995

Architecture in ‘The Name of the Rose’ Film

In the movie adaptation of Umberto Eco’s novel ‘The Name of the Rose’, architecture plays an important role for the medieval tone and setting. The film director, Annaud, made every scene intense with “visual overkill”. Five scenes show the importance of architecture in relation to the plot and characters.

In the opening scene two monks are riding towards the monastery. The monastery is positioned atop a steep hill, amid deep valleys and snow capped mountains. The impressive medieval stone fortress architecture is foreboding, as the dark mass over-looks the two small travelers on the narrow path leading into the complex. The hulking gate portcullis is drawn up, and the two Franciscan monks are greeted by disturbed and grotesque Benedictine monastic residents. The resident host monks exaggerate physical and mental characteristics which are considered social defects. The two visitors are now held within the cold imposing ‘sanctuary’ enclosure of massive walls and imposing battlements. Although they should feel secure, the unsettling harsh structure creates an angst-filled atmosphere of fear.

Unity is present in the choir scene. There is an orderly placement of seats in long rows, and the acoustics allow for blissful escape from more mundane routines and problems. When the monks are not gathered in this space for spiritual singing, the harshness of real life returns. The choir seats are narrow wooden benches with ornate carvings, and the back rows are raised along both walls of the holy hall. Ribbed vaulting creates echoing acoustics. 

The scriptorium of the library is ordered like a modern office, with a system of desks like pews, all facing one direction. The desk orientation prevents conversation and directs attention to a leader. The scriptorium is filled with a multitude of books and manuscripts, and they work on them on the desks. The arrangement of desks is dictated also by rows of short, round pillars with gothic capitals. 

The catacombs are a dark reminder of the Christianity’s past. Human skulls are stacked in rows. The halls are dark and damp, with dreary decor. The heroes must make their way with torches, for no natural light enters these halls of the dead. The architecture is simple, crude, and random; with small coves in the walls to house remains of bodies.

The locked library is a labyrinth in the tower, and it is where the climax occurs. Piranesi and Escher designed scenes of similar mysterious and chaotic stairs, with seemingly impossible connections. Hexagonal rooms filled with books lead off in four directions, while the action bombards our senses. Staircases drape from the shafts of the tower, and each of them branches off into countless rooms; all of which are almost identical. There are puzzles to be solved with logic and education. The labyrinth represents the workings of the confused, twisted, and guarded medieval mind. When the library is burned, it shows how fragile and fleeting history can be, despite our attempts to preserve the past and learn from it in the present.

SCOD Urban Architecture Notes

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Book Reports, Critical Commentary of Civilization, Historic Architecture, Languages, Politics, Pub Library, Recommendations & Tributes, SCOD Online School, Sustainability, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2020 by Drogo

American architecture has ‘plurality and duality’. We have a variety of expression with scales of space and attitude, for the rich and poor. We have a modern design duality of rectilinear and organic architecture. Rectilinear modernists have been influenced by: Gropius, Loos, Corbu, Mies, Meier, Kahn, and Johnson. Organic modernist heroes are fewer, and there are fewer of us: Wright, Moss, Gehry, Solari, and Predock.

New Urbanist sprawl still faces the problems of commercialism vs community. Their planning principles have helped us to have more mixed-use zoning, but we still have the problems of Capitalism in decline, with an expanding lower class, destroyed middle class, and imperial upper class. New developments in Maryland and West Virginia seem to ignore the problems of population debt infrastructure, ecological devastation, agricultural decline, and transportation congestion all for the sake of profit.

Moynihan said our cities were ‘soulless’, like Diogenes he was holding a lamp for architectural self-examination. Cities are not as safe as we would like, and we should always remember their epitaphs are too often ‘military target’. Violence and migration are the main problems of our ‘urbane’ urban design. We have so often been wrong in our problem solving, it is clear we need to learn more from our past patterns of tradition. The corruption in politics that creates bad planning, can only be countered by an aware and active population willing to conspire and protest more than the elites can bribe, to bring attention to values which cannot be bought. 

‘A Pattern Language’ by Chris Alexander explains how architecture is about relationships. There are many cultural associations and historical traditions that can be better than soulless sterile machines for living. Architecture is sculpture for living, and we should not ignore sociology and heritage for the sake of industrial convenience to serve a consumer society that is destroying our global environment for profit. Yes we should have standards for structures that are able to shelter us without collapsing, but sustainability must also include the arts and nature.

 

References:

American House Now‘ by Doubilet & Boles

Better Places‘ Chapter in ‘Geography of NoWhere’

‘Pattern Language’ Relationships by Chris Alexander

New Urbanism, Second Generation‘ by Beth Dunlap

The Soulless City‘ by Moynihan

 

 

 

 

Delft TU Library, Holland

Posted in Education / Schools, Futurist, Sculpture, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2018 by Drogo

Central Library of Delft University of Technology (TU) in Holland by Mecanoo Architects

This angular and environmentally dynamic library was opened in 1998. It was designed by Mecanoo Architects, which was a 61 person firm located in Holland near Delft TU. The library design was based on four themes: The adjacent pre-existing Auditorium (by Van den Broek & Bakema), the site absence of campus atmosphere in the university quarter, the need for advanced technology, and of course plenty of room for shelves of books.

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It is a “Triangle of Glass and Grass”, with a large tee-pee like ‘Cone’ in the middle. The glass around a few sides allows a large amount of day-light inside. The grass sod roof brilliantly allows people to use the entire area of building as they would a yard, in addition to the library. The center cone allows natural light also, and a communal study space.

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The grassy roof lawn of the Delft TU Library forms a harmonious whole with the campus walkways that emerge from underneath the adjoining assembly hall. The Library roof can be walked upon, but also offers a place of dreaming, reading, and picnicking under open luminous sky. Teachers, students, and visitors call all meet informally in this public space.

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The concrete / stucco Cone structure is open topped and 150 ft. high. The Cone and the cavernous entry are the only main features that are seen from campus, so it appears as though most of the building is not there. On the other sides, the wildly-canted glass wall rises from the parking lot to a max height of about 14 meters (40 ft.). At night the glass wall glows exposing activity within the 4 levels of library stacks, study areas, offices, and storage. The grassy roof shoots across the site creating a gently sloping area in contrast to the nearby ‘Brutalist’ style Auditorium.

delft center circle

Changing illumination (luminous flux) upon the Cone accentuates the sculptural shape as an abstract Platonic solid form, partially deconstructed. The channeling aspect of the Cone shape is intentional, as it is conducive to gathering with focus. The glass walls are towards the North, so they get non-direct ambient light. Horizontal bands around the glass facade facilitate ventilation between the window panes, and give distorted impressionist reflections from the outside on sunny days.

 

The perforated roof overhand is supported by stilted tubular steel struts, and rises from a foundation perimeter plinth-bed of fine stones. Under most of the structure is a spacious hall. A ring of glass circumscribes the Cone at roof level, allowing natural light (solar lumens) to wash in along the curved white stucco funnel side.

Delft University of Technology Library (DUTL) stocks one of the largest technical book collections in the World. Most of the books are stored in stock-rooms in the basement, but those that are accessible to the public are arranged in a single enormous book-case and are within hand reach. The combination of books, computers (with internet and catalogs), and people allows for knowledge, interaction, and better citizens. 300 out of 1000 study spots are equipped with computers (this may have increased).

This ‘Library as landscape’ evokes the feeling of how our ancestors believed technology to be magical, and magic arts were held by their spirits under hills to keep it safe. Not only priests and royal family members are allowed to visit this sacred place of tomes, it is open to all that seek it.

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  • (images for education only, not owned by blog)

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Architect Antoni Gaudí

Posted in Crafts, Historic Architecture, Sculpture, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2018 by Drogo

Antoni Gaudí cathedral

Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) was a Spanish Catalan artistic architect of the Modernista movement. Most of Gaudi’s work is located in Barcelona Spain. Gaudi studied skeletal anatomy, color theory, Art Nouveau, and sculptural arts to inform his architectural designs. His architecture integrated trade-crafts like ceramics, stained glass, wrought iron, masonry, and carpentry. Gaudi’s ‘trencadís’ technique used scrap ceramic pieces in organic mosaic forms. Gaudí preferred building scale models, rather than drafting drawings. Gaudí’s masterpiece, the still-incomplete Sagrada Família Cathedral, is said by Wikipedia to be the most-visited monument in Spain. Seven of his works are World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

*photos belong to whoever they belong to, thanks for taking them whoever did!

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Romanesque and Gothic Architecture

Posted in Historic Architecture, Religions, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 15, 2017 by Drogo

Cathedral Architecture of the Middle Ages

Romanesque cathedrals were based on Roman basilica designs, with thick walls and high ceilings. Engineering innovations like Gothic arches, flying buttresses, and keystone vaulting allowed for higher and larger expanses. Stain-glass windows and sculptures were integral parts of Gothic style; Cathedrals had exterior demons and interior angels. Water spout sculptures were called gargoyles and grotesques were ornaments to ‘ward off evil’ in much the same way comedic caricatures and scary decoration do at traditional festivals like Halloween. By embracing cultural demons in some form, the stress of Sin has less power for some; while scaring others into obedience, lest they get captured by demons outside. The inner sanctum of the church was where God protects his followers.

Arboritecture – Tree Architecture

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Crafts, Futurist, inventions, Nature Studies, Organic Agriculture & Horticulture, Sculpture, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 28, 2017 by Drogo

SCOD Tree Architecture – Arboritecture, a subset of Hortitecture

Trees could revolutionize our way of living, if we returned to living in and around them more. Conventional architecture is terrible at doing so, and is designed in opposition to trees, because vegetation touching dead building materials tend to make them rot. It is possible to live with an awareness of various levels of growth and decay, but it would require a culture more integrated with the natural environment.

Imagine devices that used living energy from photosynthesis. Design Science should explore the relationship of natural-artificial hybrids, methodologies of integrating plant matter into building fabric, issues of maintenance and sustainability, and ecological biological and organic architectural materials for environmental design.

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Quest for Consciousness

Posted in Economics, Politics, Science & Math, Spiritual, Sustainability, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2017 by Drogo

Over the years I have toured many college campuses and made appointments to meet with staff members in their architecture departments. As friendly as some of the professors may have been, they told me candidly there were no job opportunities for me as part of their faculty, and of course none of them were paid to help me, and therefore they did not. I did lecture them on SCOD thesis, and they verified that college politics was not in my favor; despite ‘sustainability’ being a popular theory.

While exploring the Maryland University campus again in 2017 for open-house Maryland Day, among my various conversations, I did have a fortunate discussion with quantum physics graduate students and a business school professor, outside of the Science Department. We were talking about particle-wave theory, the split-test experiment, and the question of what observer consciousness, or whether they turned the lights on or off had to do with it.

I congratulated the business professor for being concerned about whether science could account for consciousness; as we have a cross-disciplinary problem of not being able to quantitatively value life-forms and the Eco-system in direct ways that protect our existence from predatory capitalism. He recognized that this problem did indeed exist, and that he “only went into business to make money”, but he was very concerned about getting the scientific establishment to acknowledge that consciousness exists. I defended the students who had volunteered to answer public questions, by telling the business professor that he was “pushing the limits of their knowledge, because science is about conducting quantitative verifiable experiments; and I wish that spirit had a residue that we could measure, but there does not appear to be much evidence that conscious exists apart from biology.”

Our two quests are linked, because monetary currency is mutually agreed upon around the globe, but life and environmental science are often ignored for profits that do not take their worth into account as variables that have economic value. If consciousness cannot be verified, given quantitative worth, and supported in monetary terms, then how can we ever develop Economic Consciousness for Life-forms? Perhaps we can begin with Bio-diversity preservation theories that do not depend on ‘consciousness’. Climate Science is getting ignored currently also, so perhaps corrupt politics or predatory instincts are to blame. On a positive note, I went to the Art Department and explained this problem during another conversation about the value of art and artist income.

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Faery Architecture

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Fictional Stories, Sculpture, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 10, 2016 by Drogo

Faery Architecture – from Harpers Faery Chronicles

Homes are often an important part of our life sagas. Also homes can tell stories through the architecture and art on the walls. Dwellings are places where stories are told and rigamaroles take place, which we interpret. Faery architecture uses organic shapes and natural materials, altered by magic.

Faery home shapes are traditionally round in various ways. Popular inspirations for circle plans with curved walls and domes include the Sun, the Moon, and tree trunks (cylinders). Ovals and ellipses are found also, like giant eggs.

Faery earth building materials are usually wood, stone, and mud. The mud is best applied as a mortar or stucco clay plaster. Wooden branches, sticks, rope, and décor are gathered from bushes, trees, vines, river reeds, meadow thatch, and wild flowers. Rock is often quarried or mined by dwarves or gnomes, and used to with or without wood or mud. Rock can hold wood, or be held by wood. These materials were used independently, or in any combination.

Faery style: ‘Round Rock, Round Mound, & Bound Bough’

Round – sun, moon, tree trunks, eggs

Wood – bushes, trees, reeds, vines, flowers

Stone – shale, lime-stone, and calcium-quartz

Soil – mud, clay, mound, berm, silt-gravel, sand

Faeries can build and live in more human types of buildings, and will still make their mark on them. Rectangular masonry, timber-frame, and half-timber structures may be modified to distinguish them physically as ‘fae’. One way is to add ‘eyes’.

Faery gypsies, pioneers, and scouts often craft make-shift structures that look like fallen branches or vine covered bushes. Moss is a very earthy plant, and lichen is an algae fungus; both of which are used along with ferns commonly on faerie mounds or berms.

Smaller faerie homes were often just hidden from sight; in trees, mounds, or under cliff rocks called mini-bluffs.

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NIKE: Nuclear Incidents Kindle Enlightenment

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Fictional Characters, Memorials / Obituaries / Epitaphs, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2016 by Drogo

[Essay for NIKE T-shirt design]

N uclear

I ncidents

K indle

E nlightenment

Davros lives! The Cold War was over, and the archetypal design war was on! The underground silos for NIKE nuclear missiles were flooded and silently waiting on the outskirts of campus. The technicians of NIKE became genetically cultivated to be a new breed of outcast architects. They marched forth from the icy North Lot, bent on extermination and rule of the Earth. Davros sent seekers to comb the Jetty, searching for model supplies. The white-caps had multiplied, spawning sports fans like a vast sea of soapy dish water. The white-caps became a grey race of skippies. NIKE is removed from time, held in suspension in a parallel dimension; perched on the edge of oblivion. We watch for survivors and plan our thought crimes. The day will come when we will storm forth again from the snowy North Lot like a cloud of ice locust, and commence the dawn of a brave new world of double-think.

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Architectural Psychology

Posted in Alternative Architecture with tags , , , , on May 28, 2015 by Drogo
There are many psychological factors in architecture; because buildings are often made by humans for humans to use for many reasons. I say often, because I believe that art and architecture are also practiced by other animals like beavers and birds; which I may address later in further digressions. Architecture is sculpture for shelter and living in; so it is functional art.
When I taught Environmental Architecture and Historic Preservation classes at Shepherd College, psychology and philosophy played a part in my lessons. As Professor Daniel Puchala indicated when he approached me about guest lecturing on this subject “the effects that architecture has on a person’s well-being and work productivity level” are worthy of study and certainly very important.
Most people are consciously or sub-consciously aware of architectural psychology in their daily lives. We feel various emotions as we react and interact within our homes, offices, workshops, and class-rooms. Even as we approach structures, they evoke feelings within us.
Assuming that self-awareness and existential philosophy is important, I would like to provoke our brains to think about architectural psychology. What are the emotions we feel around or in various physical constructs? How should we process these feelings regarding built structures and space? Does the architecture in our lives hinder our functions or does it enhance our well-being?? Certainly the feng-shui of our lives is mixed and complex, as the Yin/Yang Tao symbol indicates in abstract simplicity.
I want to ASK you, how you feel about different buildings, structures, and spaces. Then we can compare the design intention, with the actual function, and our personal power to utilize it. So let us first address how feelings relate to architecture. Psychological associations play a HUGE role in design. The mental aspects relate to, and go beyond the physical function of structures. How do you feel about your home, inside and out? How do you feel about your surroundings, urban or rural?? How do you feel about the places you take daily trips to consume, work, and play???
Where are you when you feel your daily best? Where are you when you feel your daily worst? Are there architectural design factors you would change about your life, if you could change them? There seems to be a give and take in life, in that we can shift from setting to another; some designs may be better, but other features may be worse; yet the challenge of life is to accept the mixed bag we are dealing with or have been dealt, as best we can; until our situations change. Some lives and spaces are constantly changing.
Spaces are defined by materials around them, and also by the air itself. Air quality is important for any creature with lungs, both the flow rate, and the chemicals and particles in it. Scale is also important; some people are larger or smaller than others. ‘Occupancy’ is how many people can safely fit into a space, at maximum capacity; considering both space scale, and load bearing on the structural engineering.
Structures can be temporary or permanent, and those labels are used to indicate the time period of their existence ‘in situ’ or on site. Some ‘temporary’ structures were built supposedly for only a limited fleeting use, but remain for years; and other more ‘permanent’ structures fall apart or get demolished much sooner than expected. The Law of Entropy states that nothing lasts forever, all things decay in time; but some architecture will last longer with less maintenance, than other less stable designs. Sustainability deals with the desirability of temporal or permanent designs.

Generic Design Process: by Stowell Architects

  1. Accept – the situation & recognize the problem; Clients
  2. Analyze – what it is; Site Survey; existing conditions study
  3. Define – plan how it will look, how it goes together
  4. Select – the correct plan; sign contracts; settle payments
  5. Implement – build; get legal approval; schedule contractors
  6. Evaluate & Maintain – follow up studies
AP Project: Design your ideal bed-room. Draw on paper 4 walls, floor, and ceiling; or however the room is defined (spherical, octagonal, or outdoors). Uses include sleeping, dreaming, waking, dressing, socializing, etc…

Tornado Architecture

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Organic Architecture, Sustainability with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2013 by Drogo

BUILD UNDERGROUND!!!

As an architect, this has been my consistent advice for all people living within tornado areas. Sure underground construction costs a few thousand more than most crappy track houses, but it is worth it when you know that having a normal house makes you an easy target for the common natural disasters that occur in that area. Government (State or Federal) should get with it, and supply financial incentives to get most homes underground now! There is no reason to wait. If you want to keep your house and most things in your house safe, you need an underground house; not just a separate storm shelter or basement.

I would never live in an area that has tornadoes without living in an underground house, if I had any money or respect for life at all.

– Drogo Empedocles

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Siphnian Treasury at Delphi

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2013 by Drogo

erected 530 BC

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The road to the Oracle at Delphi and Temple of Apollo, was lined with different Greek treasuries. One of these was erected in 530 BC by the inhabitants of the Ionian island city-state of Siphnos. It has been reconstructed using fragments from the neighboring Cnidian Treasury. The pediment is supported by two caryatids instead of pilasters. Below the pediment runs a continuous frieze. Lavish sculptural décor fills the frieze, and the sections depict the Greek Gods vs. the Giants; Heracles vs. Apollo; and the Trojan War.

Starting to the extreme left, there are two lions pulling the chariot of Cybele, and mauling an anguished giant. In front of them, Apollo and Artemis advance together, shooting their arrows. A dead giant lies broken at their feet, while one flees. Three bear shields, to the right. Artful overlapping takes advantage of spacial possibilities, creating a masterful relief of dramatic atypical relationships. Siphnians were rich from gold and silver mines, and it was one of the first entirely marble structures.

Savannah, Georgia

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Historic Architecture, Organic Architecture, Recommendations & Tributes, Sustainability with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2013 by Drogo

Historic Architecture, Environmental Landscape, and Urban Social Art

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Savannah has the historic integrity of an ivy-league campus, yet for the poor as well as rich. Yes, it is very much the old pirate ‘Port Royal’ still, but in some ways it also surpasses the nobility of elite university campuses. Even the SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) campus is spread throughout the city, and SCAD classes are held in renovated industrial buildings, often with Richardsonian strength; so that liberal education is fully-integrated with the city. As far as competing with modern industrial metropolitan cities, Savannah has plenty of modern and post-modern architecture, and SCAD teaches cutting-edge technology; but it has no desire to be as massively impersonal as New York, or any other major city.

Savannah urban design is overwhelmingly utopian, despite there being dystopian flavors as well. The main streets force cars to either park or drive around the eleven park squares (circuses), while pedestrians can go straight through on sidewalks and bike lanes. It is easy to find any place in the formal city because there are no diagonal streets, one tall building in the middle (DeSoto Hotel), and a few tall buildings downtown parallel with the Savannah River. The downtown main-streets (River Street) on Saint Patrick’s Day are celebrated on par with Mardi-Gras. There are so many unique aspects to Savannah, from its very origins. The basic ‘Roman encampment’ grid urban layout is flavored by multiple circuses with vegetation. Live-oaks, palms, and crepe-myrtle trees are naturally hung with Spanish moss. From sandy soil hedges, herbs, flowers and grasses are also publicly grown for the enjoyment of all.

I will find out more about the city founders, besides Oglethorpe; specifically the Native American chief of the local Creek Indians, because he seems to deserve the same level of respect as the English founder, Oglethorpe. The British and Indians were friends, and one of the largest monuments in a prominent park is dedicated to the Indian Chief’s grave. Southern hospitality is less surface courtesy in Savannah, and more a part of its essence; in regards to integration of whites and blacks, international representation, multi-culturalism, and willingness to welcome even enemies (like General Sherman during the Civil War).

There are several ways to consider the social types that comprise the ‘daily population’ of Savannah. There are five basic social types; the rich residents (white blue-blood aristocracy and new-money millionaires), the poor working-class (merchant and service residents and workers), the street beggars (homeless, hustlers, artists), SCAD students (artists, professors, staff), and tourists (pedestrian, trolley, horse-buggy).

According to Dr. Hsu-Jen Huang (SCAD Architecture Professor), Savannah has been growing, even during the recession. In ten years, the city population and SCAD enrollment have doubled. Some buildings still fall between the cracks, but for every loss two more renovations or new constructs emerge. After the 1994 book Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil, Savannah has continued to blossom as one of the best cities in the World. Many of its qualities were always inherent in the original urban design, and it continues to grow because of accepted differences.

From the American Revolution, to the Civil War, and beyond; Savannah embraces its strange stories. It has an other-worldly, old world, old town feel. Ghost tours are quite at home with the lamp-lights, cobblestone streets, brick walkways, and French ironwork balconies. It is in fact a small city; one which favors pedestrian traffic more than automobiles. The whole downtown is walkable, and locals often easily commute with bicycles as well (as I did for 3 years).

There are so many fun things to do there, it might be hard to know were to begin; if Savannah were not an immediately immersible, hospitable environment. The whole city is a memory garden, which literally blooms because of all the flowers. There are less flowers and leaves in the Winter, but Fall, Winter, and Spring are best weather-wise; as there is rarely snow, and Summers are often walls of heat and humidity (which it is known for even during Fall and Spring).

Architecturally Savannah is truly unique, with historic world and southern romantic blends. Town-houses often have the side-porch design, as with nearby Charleston, SC. The cast-iron railings and french dormers have that New Orleans feel. Parks and trees really do make a huge difference for traffic. Even while continuing to grow, Savannah is still one of the most colorful and pedestrian friendly cities in America. I can say after living there, the magic is real; including the variety of character personalities that the famous book alludes to.

Midnight In the Garden of Good & Evil describes much of the architectural and social feel of the town. ‘Midnight’ the book has much more analysis of detail, while the film has literally has more visual images. I lived in three parts of town, and often passed by famous landmarks on daily commutes to classes. The main character’s house (Mercer Mansion) is on Bull Street along a square, towards the largest city park, Forsyth Park. Forsyth Park was my favorite park that I loved living on, because of the large open grass lawns, largest and most beautiful fountain, organic paths, and shady flora. There I was free to publicly practice Tai-Chi, hippy folk music, or jogging without much bother.

Most of this essay describes the utopian aspects of Savannah, but this paragraph should put some of the dystopian perspectives in context. The poor and the dead, out-number the rich and the living. Southern swamp-lands naturally have a salty entropic power that corrodes metals, moisture that promotes the decay of organic matter, and massive humidity that stifles productive activity, while encouraging roaches and gnats. The humane social ‘decadence’ of the town, allows for an ease of poverty. Kindness tolerates and sometimes falls prey to hustlers. Vandalism and theft are common crimes in Savannah, with the occasional mugging (typical of cities in general). Although crimes are committed by lower classes, the majority (which are poor) are respectful, lawful, and often generous. So you see despite the ‘scariness’, actual dangers are minimal for a city.

Savannah’s name appropriately indicates the climate heat, and the flat field look of the surrounding wetland marsh grasses. Old pirate maps referred to the lands inland along the River as ‘Savannah Land’. Google Street view is very impressive, with realism. It really helps get the feel for the freedom of moving through the town by photographic vista. In the 1990’s we were taking panoramic photos for architecture projects so it really feels appropriate. Day trips easily include the famous Bonaventure Cemetery, Oatland Island Wildlife Center, and Tybee Island Beach.

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SCOD Proposal to ATC

Posted in Cooperatives / Communities / Networks / Travels, SCOD Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2011 by Drogo

SCOD Letter to Appalachian Trail Conference Members

This proposal letter to be accompanied by AT SCOD Book.

Harpers Ferry Appalachian Trail (AT) Headquarters

My Dear ATC Neighbors,

Please study and consider my book, AT SCOD: Appalachian Trail Sustainable Community for Organic Dwelling. SCOD was my Architecture Thesis for my Masters Degree in 2000 from the Savannah College of Art and Design, GA. In it you will find that I designed a “Sustainable Community for Organic Dwelling” which I feel is similar to the 1921 vision for the AT by Benton MacKaye. To me it represents one of the community farm camps that MacKaye desired to have along the Appalachian Trail. My summary of his ideas and conclusions in support of the agenda are included in the book.

I do not know your financial and legal situation as part of the National Park Service. However I would appreciate your opinion regarding how viable my proposal would be as an official AT Project. For years I have searched for funding and sponsors for this project to be built in the physical world but have not found enough to even begin with permission on a site. The site I chose in the book was only for the purpose of having a hypothetical setting, so naturally the designs would continue to evolve for another site.

Thank you for your consideration,

Walton D. Stowell II

Appalachian Trail SCOD Designer

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Benton MacKaye – Appalachian Trail Founder 1879-1975

Emile Benton MacKaye (Pronounced “McEye”)

Harvard University, US Forestry Service, Tennessee Valley Authority, US Dept. of Labor, Critic of Urban Sprawl, Author, Wilderness Society, Social Activist Hell Raiser, Originator of the AT in 1921, Patron of the B.M. Trail,

Geotechnics – balancing humans and wilderness

Original 1921 Vision of the Appalachian Trail

by Founder Benton MacKaye

(Summarized by Drogo for SCOD in 2011)

“An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning”

 

Purpose:  Conservation, Recreation, Sanctuary, Health, Living, and Work

Functional Divisions:  Trail, Shelter, Community, and Work

Conclusions from Trail Experiences

AT Purposes Explained:

Conservation, Recreation and Sanctuary

“Throughout the Southern Appalachians, throughout the Northwoods, and even through the Alleghenies that wind their way among the smoky industrial towns of Pennsylvania, he recollects vast areas of secluded forests, pastoral lands, and water courses, which, with proper facilities and protection, could be made to serve as the breath of a real life for the toilers in the bee-hive cities along the Atlantic seaboard and elsewhere.”

Health (Physical and Psychological or Spiritual)

“The oxygen in the mountain air along the Appalachian skyline is a natural resource (and a national resource) that radiates to the heavens its enormous health-giving powers with only a fraction of a percent utilized for human rehabilitation. Here is a resource that could save thousands of lives. The sufferers of tuberculosis, anemia and insanity go through the whole strata of human society. Most of them are helpless, even those economically well off. They occur in the cities and right in the skyline belt. For the farmers, and especially the wives of farmers, are by no means escaping the grinding-down process of our modern life.

Most sanitariums now established are perfectly useless to those afflicted with mental disease – the most terrible, usually, of any disease. Many of these sufferers could be cured. But not merely by “treatment.” They need acres not medicine. Thousands of acres of this mountain land should be devoted to them with whole communities planned and equipped for their cure.

Living and Work

Next after the opportunities for recreation and recuperation our giant counts off, as a third big resource, the opportunities in the Appalachian belt for employment on the land. This brings up a need that is becoming urgent – the redistribution of our population, which grows more and more top heavy.”

AT Functional Divisions Explained:

Trail

The beginnings of an Appalachian trail already exist. They have been established for several years — in various localities along the line. Specially good work in trail building has been accomplished by the Appalachian Mountain Club in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and by the Green Mountain Club in Vermont. The latter association has already built the “Long Trail” for 210 miles thorough the Green Mountains — four fifths of the distance from the Massachusetts line to the Canadian. Here is a project that will logically be extended. What the Green Mountains are to Vermont the Appalachians are to eastern United States. What is suggested, therefore, is a “long trail” over the full length of the Appalachian skyline, from the highest peak in the north to the highest peak in the south — from Mt. Washington to Mt. Mitchell.

The trail should be divided into sections, each consisting preferably of the portion lying in a given State, or subdivision thereof. Each section should be in the immediate charge of a local group of people. Difficulties might arise over the use of private property — especially that amid agricultural lands on the crossovers between ranges. It might be sometimes necessary to obtain a State franchise for the use of rights of way. These matters could readily be adjusted, provided there is sufficient local public interest in the project as a whole. The various sections should be under some sort of general federated control, but no suggestions regarding this form are made in this article.

Not all of the trail within a section could, of course, be built all at once. It would be a matter of several years. As far as possible the work undertaken for any one season should complete some definite usable link — as up or across one peak. Once completed it should be immediately opened for local use and not wait on the completion of other portions. Each portion built should, of course, be rigorously maintained and not allowed to revert to disuse. A trail is as serviceable as its poorest link.

The trail could be made, at each stage of its construction, of immediate strategic value in preventing and fighting forest fires. Lookout stations could be located at intervals along the way. A forest fire service could be organized in each section which should tie in with the services with the services of the Federal and State Governments. The trail would immediately become a battle line against fire. (accompanying map proposed trail location)

Shelter Camps

These are the usual accompaniments of the trails which have been built in the White and Green Mountains. They are the trail’s equipment for use. They should be located at convenient distances so as to allow a comfortable day’s walk between each. They should be equipped always for sleeping and certain of them for serving meals; after the function of the Swiss chalets. Strict regulation is required to assure that equipment is used and not abused. As far as possible the blazing and constructing of the trail and building of camps should be done by volunteer workers. For volunteer “work” is really “play.” The spirit of cooperation, as usual in such enterprises, should be stimulated throughout. The enterprise should, of course, be conducted without profit. The trail must be well guarded against the yegg-man and against the profiteer.

Community Groups

These would grow naturally out of the shelter camps and inns. Each would consist of a little community on or near the trail (perhaps on a neighboring lake) where people could live in private domiciles. Such a community might occupy a substantial area; perhaps a hundred acres or more. This should be bought and owned as a part of the project. No separate lots should be sold therefrom. Each camp should be a self-owning community and not a real-estate venture. The use of the separate domiciles, like all other features of the project, should be available without profit.

These community camps should be carefully planned in advance. They should not be allowed to become too populous and thereby defat the very purpose for which they are created. Greater numbers should be accommodated by more communities, not larger ones. There is room, without crowding, in the Appalachian region for a very large camping population. The location of these community camps would form a main part of the regional planning and architecture.

These communities would be used for various kinds of non- industrial activity. They might eventually be organized for special purposes for recreation, for recuperation and for study. Summer schools or seasonal field courses could be established and scientific travel courses organized and accommodated in the different communities along the trail. The community camp should become something more than a mere “playground”: it should stimulate every line of outdoor non-industrial endeavor.

Work at Farm Camps

These might not be organized at first. They would come as a later development. The farm camp is the natural supplement of the community camp. Here is the same spirit of cooperation and well ordered action the food and crops consumed in the outdoor living would as far as practically be sown and harvested.

Food and farm camps could be established as special communities in adjoining valleys. Or they might be combined with the community camps with the inclusion of surrounding farm lands. Their development could provide tangible opportunity for working out by actual experiment a fundamental matter in the problem of living. It would provide one definite avenue of experiment in getting “back to the land.” It would provide an opportunity for those anxious to settle down in the country: it would open up a possible source for new, and needed, employment. Communities of this type are illustrated by the Hudson Guild Farm in New Jersey.

Fuelwood, logs, and lumber are other basic needs of the camps and communities along the trail. These also might be grown and forested as part of the camp activity, rather than bought in the lumber market. The nucleus of such an enterprise has already been started at Camp Tamiment, Pennsylvania, on a lake not far from the route of the proposed Appalachian trail. The camp has been established by a labor group in New York City. They have erected a sawmill on their tract of 2000 acres and have built the bungalows of their community from their own timber.

Farm camps might ultimately be supplemented by permanent forest camps through the acquisition (or lease) of wood and timber tracts. These of course should be handled under a system of forestry so as to have a continuously growing crop of material. The object sought might be accomplished through long term timber sale contracts with the Federal Government on some of the Appalachian National Forests. Here would be another opportunity for permanent, steady, healthy employment in the open.

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“Let’s put up now to the wise and trained observer the particular question before us. What are the possibilities in the new approach to the problem of living? Would the development of the outdoor community life, as an offset and relief from the various shackles of commercial civilization, be practicable and worth while?”

Conclusions from Trail Experiences:

Clean Air (Trees and plants make Oxygen and filter out pollution)

Deep Thoughts from an Environmental and Agricultural Perspective

Naturalist Observations for the sake of Science and Resource Conservation

MacKaye’s proposal was an American Post-WWI social, political, planning, and development agenda of the first order. As all good utopian plans it is both philosophical and pragmatic. With the help of Avery and Whitaker the Appalachian Trail was completed in 1937.

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