Archive for design

Kresge Chapel at M.I.T. by Eero Saarinen

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Recommendations & Tributes, Sculpture, Spiritual, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2019 by Drogo

The Kresge Chapel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) by Architect Eero Saarinen in Cambridge, Massachusetts [report written by Walton Stowell II for Modern History of Architecture II in 4/22/96]

 

“No less than religion at its best, architecture is best as a witness and custodian to the spirit of modern man.” – Pietro Belluschi, B’rith Kodesh Synagogue

 

“A brick wall didnt realize how beautiful it was until it was touched by sunlight.” – Louis Kahn

 

Eero Saarinen’s Inter-Denominational Kresge Chapel at M.I.T.

 

While  taking a leisurely stroll through the seemingly haphazard campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), I came upon a sweet and blissfully rotund form that was clearly composed of masonry brick set in a common Bond. It’s cylindrical form appeared pure and abstractly severe from afar. Closer inspection revealed a more intricate reality.  The surface was roughly textured by randomly protruded bricks, and a series of low arches of random size. The arches formed the base of the cylinder, backed by a smooth light-colored secondary interior wall. The base was set into a shallow pit, filled with water and ring with a rim of concrete. the Chapels massing was as conservative as your basic cylinder,  but the sharp alien Bell Tower steeple was an elegant antenna, A giant holy lance piercing the sky as though ready to shoot a beacon.

 

(sketch of perspective looking at Chapel from the front court-yard)

 

In relation to the other neighboring structures on campus, the brick construct was petite. The Kresge Chapel marked itself as part of the MIT campus, distinguished by having a remote location many yards from its neighbors; thus respectfully differentiating its functionality while remaining part of the whole, despite its blatant differences denoted by its particular scale and multi-dimensional form expression. The chapel makes its own transcendental statement  without being an eyesore. It does not fight the more conventional styles of buildings that surround it; in fact the traditional brick that was used matches the surrounding dorms.

 

Across the lawn from the Kresge Chapel, was another of Eero Saarinen buildings, the Kresge Auditorium. Both buildings were designed and built from 1950 to 1955, and dedicated to donor Sebastian Kresge, founder of Kresge (Kmart) Stores. The auditorium was much larger than the chapel, and completely different in style and materials.

 

(sketch of 2 buildings showing distance adjacency)

 

The narthex was a rectangular hallway encased in black glass, attached to the chapel from behind; like an extended arm connecting auxiliary rooms to the primary cylinder. I say that the hall was located in the back of the cylinder, because of my site orientation. My interpretation  being the front of the chapel was the side facing the auditorium, and their shared lawn space; where as the back was directed towards the alley. The structure of the black back hall was comprised of dark thin Gray repetitive vertical steel members. Each section of black glass was then further subdivided by smaller horizontal muntins spaced unevenly, from inches apart to feet apart. On either side of the black rectangle on the farthest end from the main cylinder, there were doors of Entry. They were double doors on each side of the hall, opposite each other and made of solid Pine with metal knockers as handles that open outward together. It made for a fine contrast between the bright Pine doors, and the sleek black enigma of the hallway repetition.  Above the doors were four conic lights with their tops cut off.

 

I reached for the door handles with no sense of what to expect within. I entered. The interior of the hallway was transparent to the outside, with only a faintly darkened tint. My natural, but false assumption that a dark structure with no direct openings for light makes for an even darker interior, was shattered. The narthex was very generously lighted on the inside, and I felt very safe. Flower baskets were placed on either side along the hall, for lovely interior decor. I turned to look down the glass hallway of adequate human proportions, and saw a beautiful white marble altar, with shimmering gold strands behind it. The richly tiled floor led me to the double height space. All in one breath I was taken into the space, and in one breath I took it all in.

 

Beautiful organ music began playing. It was coming from within that sacred vault, and yet I could see no one, nor even an organ. The tones undeniably complemented the space, and light poured in from an Oculus directly above the altar, which was refracted by a suspended Golden sculptural Screen. It was as if I were in a subterranean Realm, with no direct view to the outside world; but only washes of light on heavy Earthen walls. It was small for most churches and intimate, but I was not scared of being trapped in the confined space. I felt safe. It was as though I had been worming my way through the claustrophobic Labyrinth of Moria, and at last come to the inner Sanctum. I had risen from the catacombs, and been rewarded with the gift of space;  generous and conducive for personal prayer.

 

(sketch of altar with oculus)

 

I felt like an archaeologist after breaking the seals on a tomb, rolling away the barrier stone, and breathing in air undisturbed for eons. Spiritual fervor of ancient mysterious gods for every individual were welcome there. I had made the journey to the dreamy meditational sanctuary,  and now felt cleansed and purified; looking at the vulnerable and innocent white altar. The secret stairs behind the altar made me swoon like a willing sacrifice.

 

There were three walls of the Kresge Chapel itself. The outer wall had low arches which allowed light to reflect off the water in the moat, and up into the inner chamber. The inner wall undulated like a frozen wave, and the lower wall followed its example. In the daylight the textured brick work was highlighted by the exterior light Wells. The floor could fit a Congregation of 130 people,  and as I turned in circles to experience the space, I saw the pipe organ located above the entry-way. A student head their back to me, intent on playing the instrument with its elaborate pipes on display. Mass was about to begin.

 

(sketch of oculus)

 

Criticism of Eero Saarinen was common place because consistency of style was expected,  and his level of architectural innovation was way ahead of his time. Saarinen’s unpredictability and bold diversity irritated and even enraged his critics. Each new project was so vastly different, how could they judge his progress? As Philip Johnson put it “Eero  was all together unpredictable. Had he lived longer, he would have influenced everybody, and all of us.” Saarinen developed his own architectural style which was always a unique combination of Art and engineering. I chose Saarinen’s chapel because i knew about him from when i was a child. When Dad took me to Dulles and JFK (TWA Terminal) Airports, it was clear how special the buildings were, and told me who the architect was. Every building that Saarinen designed has blown my mind with its expressiveness and unearthly beauty. During my first year of architecture studio at RWU, professor Rico introduced me to this chapel based on my sketches of circles for a temple to the elements, and so i was inspired to have light filter in around the edges of the temple floor from water and air outside, on all levels.

 

Eero Saarinen once said that he began his projects with basic considerations of the particular job. Eero also respected the spirit, the client, the expression of the program, and site surroundings. To him the site area should include nature and technology; and a good balance should reduce egotism. He felt that MIT landscape should be more unified with the auditorium and chapel for integral flow. However I enjoyed the seclusion of the chapel, like a humble grove of trees for peaceful worship. Saarinen also felt his connection of the narthex and chapel was clumsily executed, but I feel it was perfectly successful for a small structure. Saarinen’s Chapel has axial intersection with its dominant cylindrical container of spiritual light.

 

By abstracting the Chapel’s form, Saarinen also simplified specific needs for spiritual practice. The shape and form of the chapel was derived from basic instincts like our desire to feel loved, protected, and respected. A circle symbolizes oneness like the power of the earth, the sun, the moon, and even a mother’s womb. Saarinen was deeply inspired by one of his travels as a student to the mountain village of Sparta, Greece. Eero recalled sitting with bright moon-light over-head, and a secondary light band around the horizon, soft and hushed.

 

“Kresge Chapel is all about light, drama, and interior serenity.” – Architectural Record Lighting (Nov. 1994)

 

End Report.

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SCOD Hybrid Design

Posted in Adaptive Reuse, Crafts, Politics, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2016 by Drogo

‘All or nothing’ is the same mentality that causes gridlock in Congress, and starts wars. In historic and environmental circles, there are many hypocritical idealists and intolerant purists. Puritanical authoritarian attitude leads to inhumane imbalances in politics, as found in Nazis, and my ancestors ‘the Puritans’ who not only killed witches, but also stray Quakers. As radical as Bernie Sanders seems compared to main-stream Hillary, or far-right Trump; he still would barely scratch the surface of our socio-economic problems or ecological design work that needs to significantly change the paradigm. But Sanders would be a good start to help shift pop-culture a bit further to the left socially, as Obama allowed somewhat, to tolerate pluralism.

The SCOD way of reasoning, is that it is better to preserve larger portions of nature when planning architecture. If over 50% of a farm can be kept for growing food, and wilderness conservation for-ever (as long as can be predicted reasonably and indefinitely), then regardless of the details of any historic, artistic, or ecological architectural combinations; the master plan is a success overall. There are 7 basic SCOD architecture types: Yurt, A-frame, Sod, Cob, Tree, Dome, and Glass; all of which can be mixed or overlap (sod underground homes can be dome-shaped).

Hybrid cultural appropriation and poly-synthetic blending is a natural part of history. Race is an artificial term, to distinguish superficial differences between homo-sapiens. New-Age multiculturalism celebrates social and religious diversity, and encourages exchange and adaptation. Enlightened New-Age spirituality runs parallel with advances in science; such as the importance of bio-diversity, relativity, quantum theory, and mathematical fractals.

Cultural pride is not hatred of others; what ‘cultural pride’ means to me, is I can love Celtic music and mythology, and not hate other cultures. I can even love cultures that are not my own, and adopt what interests me into my own celebrations and studies in life; regardless of snobs that say I am not worthy because it disrespects cultural purity. Obviously I can be sensitive to cultures that have been abused, but I am fine with Africans wearing torcs and crowns like those in the museums of Europe. I would love that. We should share and celebrate each-others historic cultures, while helping to create new World cultural traditional blends. None of it was ever pure, and we will continue mixing and remixing all things.

People should be comfortable in communities, and methods of negotiation are useful to arrive at levels of comfort architecturally. Pillow people need to communicate with Straw people, and find out if some pillows can be made with straw, or if straw or hay can be used without using finished processed materials sometimes. Sharing personal stories, tools, games, and allegories can be helpful as well, in the art of design.

7 dwellings

 fourways temple

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…

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 Thesis References

Posted in Cooperatives / Communities / Networks / Travels, SCOD Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2011 by Drogo


 

Primary Case Studies

 

1. Landscape Design by Thomas Jefferson

2. Garden Cities by Ebenezer Howard

3. Organic Design by Frank Lloyd Wright

4. Arcosanti & Cosanti by Paolo Solari

5. Claymont Community by Bennett

6. Stowell Galleries in Harpers Ferry, WV

7. Odd Fellows Lodge in Harpers Ferry, WV

8. Pendragon Bed & Breakfast in Virginia

9. Forest Hostel near Savannah, Georgia

10.  Alternative Architecture

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SCOD Case Study Image Galleries

 

SCOD Thesis 2000 Spiritual Phases

Posted in Cooperatives / Communities / Networks / Travels, Organic Agriculture & Horticulture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2011 by Drogo

music by Shepherdstown Band:  BRUHA

AUGUSTA PUBLIC LIBRARY 2010

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Arts (Design & Performance), Sustainability with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2010 by Drogo

Augusta Architectural Commentary

Written by Walton Stowell II in 1999

SCAD Design Charrette in Augusta, GA

AUGUSTA PUBLIC LIBRARY 2010

Augusta, Georgia was once a harsh city of industrial decay. Augusta society struggled to defend itself from urban anti-establishment street honor codes. Now it maintains a verdant stability under the reign of ‘Holistic Education’.

“The only thing that should be strange and foreign to the people of today, is ignorance.” – Architect Walton Stowell II

When the Augusta Library was first built, times were changing. Technology was evolving faster than biological life on this planet. The masses were given a new way to explore the microcosm and macrocosm, virtually via computers and communication systems. This revolution continues to take place.

“In a world of net empathy, what was once silly, foreign, and bizarre is now honestly and truly accepted as part of humanity; whether deemed a desirable or less desirable. The masses may have been multiplied by ignorant consumer addicts of the last century, but the new opiate is education. The only silliness is the plastic decadence of our past century.” – Architect Walton Stowell II

The architects of the Augusta Library saw that the people of the late 20th Century had a ‘lumpy composite of antiquated skepticism and neglected neocortex’. They felt the shockwaves of a brave, newly connected digital world. The melting pot of the United States was still a polychromatic blur of capitalism and commercialism in the 1990’s. The individual ingredients of this stew were following popular social trend clusters that were changing too fast for anything to be standard for very long. The blur was becoming standard, as all defined standards became stagnant and often rapidly fell out of favor.

Rather than reject urban reactionary arts like spray paint graffiti, the architects realized it as part of the urban language that could be embraced, and manifested as a positive expression of the creativity of youth. While certain aspects were not encouraged, like tagging private property with negativity that belonged to someone else; other aspects were controlled and focused on, like pride in community art in public places.

“We are in a Catch 22 Brave New World Revolution that started in 1984.” – WSII

We were a people so full of substances, yet void of real Substance. Born to a commercial culture of cherished materialism and limited understanding of existence, egos were protected by accepted artificial conventions. The new Augusta Library was meant to help fill that void, and be a beacon of light, knowledge, and understanding.

Here is a famous poem inscribed on one of the Library entry walls:

“How cute we were indeed,

still clinging to our selfish conventions like babies.

For a human to only take, is immature.

Taking without giving is not harmonious;

it is not beautiful or honorable.

Human neocortical behavior can transcend

our basic subconscious appetites of Id.

With the cutting of a tree, we should plant three.

The owner of a new wooden house

would have many scars indeed

if they were to be cut for each tree,

each wound they did to the forest.

We bred animals in cages to be slaughtered

to feed ourselves by the masses,

while we kept so many animals as pets,

who were often treated better than humans

because they were deemed ‘cute’.

We lived in denial of reality, in mass.

We will no longer be ignorant.” – SCOD

Now men and women of integrated nationalities and cultures, rather than races, move through an orchestrated modern city. Augusta is now once again organically saturated by the chirping of birds, and alternatively powered music. Industry and businesses hire musicians and other artists to suit the required atmosphere: drummers for physical labor, jazz for entertainment, courthouses play opera, fast food plays fast Mozart, historic places play historic music, and elevator music changes based on our moods. The more complicated the function, the more complex the music.

Augusta is now a beacon of hope, thanks in part to the Public Library. Holistic Education has allowed us to see things in new ways, and not be blind bigots. The Peace we enjoy with a smart Self Defense Department, was only possible through the inner peace we managed to achieve as individuals.

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(note: this is an architectural manifesto for a theoretical project, which was part of an inter-collegiate event to project into the future, and therefore was not built and remains fictional)