Thursday, 18 November 2010

Reaching Out To The Invisible

The Bible reading on Tuesday (Saint Luke 19:1-10) tells us a very familiar story, a story that makes us feel like we are looking into a mirror or a page from our own life. Zaccheaus a wealthy man and a sinner avoids the large crowds and climbs a sycamore tree to get a view of the worlds savior. Jesus notices this and reaches out back to him with the words; "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house." This is a story of hope and a symbol of our personal spiritual yearning.

Now the collage above is a connection of two images that I thought reflect our personal yearning for something bigger then life: left, Jack English's photo of a surfer tackling a wave and touching the waters flesh and right, Michelangelo's painting of the creation of man located in the Sistine Chapel. Michealangelo's photo brings the creation of man to life with Adam reaching out to his Father and the almighty Creator. Jack English's photo shows a man touching the water----as if reaching out in search for something greater than life. Like the two images representing going beyond the extreme Zacchaeus climbed his tree in order to be notices despite the shame of his crooked return he was saved. Let us reach out to the invisible and climb heights in order for him to be welcomed into the house of our heavy hearts.

The singer/songwriter Jon Foreman writes: "Let us acknowledge our neediness, our beautiful desperation . Yes, our unanswerable, aching, longing poverty i a prerequisite for the balm of salvation." We, the people---the failures, the losers, the outsiders---we must climb our tree of life and find our King. And let us love! Let us celebrate the reckless love of the one who risked all that we might be loved. Let us follow the path of God who loves us and reach out to the Invisible.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Studio and design essentials

Here are a few of the things I never design without…

The Hoodie

Not only is it a simple and effective way to maintain a nice working temperature, it's always a nice thing to put the hoodie up and zone out in front of the computer, meeting table or sketchbook. It's like a little bedroom you can wear.

The Sketchbook

Great for logging my sketches and design ideas... I can go for a walk or hide out in a vacant room and work out the tough stuff without the self consciousness of doing it in front of other people.

The iPod

I just leave home, ride the subway, have a coffee, do some CAD or just chill out with all my favourite tracks buzzing. I just choose the band that gets me in the mood and get ready to design and creative action.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Brutalism. Modernisms ugly brother

So as I eat lunch at London's Barbican once in a while I wonder what makes this Brutalist piece such a success within the context of London. Its vast harsh skinned space is a desired location for so many Londoners searching for some of there "own breathing space" and silence while the rest of the London streets are packed and loud during week days. The Barbican is like Oscar Niemeyers Brazilia only maybe more...human?

Brazilia when built was a monument of modernists obsession to reach order and purity. Its what I like to think a perfect example of an architect combining modernism+architecture rather then humanity+architecture. This Utopian dream of white washed order and pure forms became brutal, dirty and it became a ghost land of vast wasted space. Nature and humanity therefore acted against it.

Barbican on the other hand was brutal from the very beginning. The ugly one within the context of the city. Rough skin, imposing sharp angled towers which stand tall...Quasimodo on the Notre Dame bell towers. But then what happened?

People reacted against it in a different manner. Londoners with there capability of keeping things in order...clean and a tea party, taking care of modernism's ugly brother. Every balcony now contains lush colored flowers and plants. The area is swept twice a day and therefore the clean concrete ramps lead your eyes to the towers in the a funny way it all works. As I eat my sandwich I love hands touch the stoned surface of its skin. Within this structure totally resembling imperfect humanity there is light and color. The Barbican is a dramatic backdrop to life in the city. It amplifies very little thing, the flowers and palms on the balconies, the child's smile, the sunshine...but also the stormy sky. I enjoy the way the Barbican makes you notice the rest of the world around you. In the eyes of modernisms ugly brother there is hope to something more beautiful in its relationship to the rest of the city. This is to say that the Barbican was an experiment which reacted with the context of London at the right time and place in a healthy and successful way.

London being a city of monuments should not be afraid to embrace experimentation. Of course there have been many examples of bad architectural experimentation...many would say more bad then good...but we must introduce the optimism and action for the better stuff. In fact because of this lack of a fresh eye and confidence London has put all its effort in undoing modernism and concentrating on preservation...this is dumb and expensive. So lets not make mediocre architecture that provokes a negative response. Lets make new architecture that invites humanity to live and take action rather then sleep walk through out daily lives totaly not inspired by the growing city.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Modernism Architecture is a monument to the radical obsession to achieve order without the element of struggling for hope, resulting in a mere artificial perception of purity that is only skin deep.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Gaudi a Holotect?

First of all I would like to invite everyone (not just architects, engineers, artists, builders) but everyone, to enjoy the greatness of Gaudi once again, take another look.

A good way to do this would be to watch the BBC documentary on Gaudi called “Gods Architect.” Watch the whole thing, start to finish, and all seven parts, here’s a link.

The architect Antoni Gaudi is for sure underrated around the world for all his excellence. There were a few crazy ideas that came to the mind of some individuals that we should give up on Sagrada Familia and change it to a rail station or something….! It has been also known that Gaudi has been mocked for his “kitsch” aspects, and his “spiritual obsession,” however; these are all insults that are weak and they will die easily while Gaudi’s architecture will still be considered paradise for many and should forever stand strong in the face of history.

The question I wish to focus on is: Is Gaudi an example of a Holotect?
I believe miracles are seen in the designs of Gaudi. He certainly went beyond what people were ready for. Owners of buildings designed by Gaudi consider them to be the most special place on earth.

I often repeat to myself that if Gaudi was alive today he would easily collect the Pritzker prize (the highest award for architectural achievement in a life time). But Gaudi goes beyond the Pritzker...every building of his seems like a life time achievement and when was the last time a present day Pritzker nominee left behind something like Sagrada Familia? A piece of architecture way beyond our cultural ambition to finish, in fact even with all the technological experts today it’s super hard to finish it without him.

I believe holotects take action towards building something which gives out a message. This message can be of many; love, joy, hope…but the message has to be built and delivered creatively from many different perspectives. This must be done without having to fill it up with post-rationalized French philosophy or Jewish mysticism which purely concentrates on selling something “for the moment” (It is very tempting to give out examples of architects who do this, but I’ll hold my self).

I think the true infinity in a holotects work of architecture is seen in the many beautiful interpretations of the designs message.

Holotects reach out towards a message beyond their own skin by sharing beautiful biographical experiences in the built form. This is to say that it is important to balance the two equally important molecules…one of personal artistic experience and creativity…two the more functional needs of other human beings. What clients will continuously need to understand is that the collaborated vision of beauty is important for the successful growth of a project as is the buildings rational function.

Now lets break this down (we’ll get back to Gaudi in a second)…

Modernism or minimalism: Mies van de Rohe’s “Less is More” seems like functionalism…a very rational placement of architectural elements. But this soon became too boring for us to live in; to an extent that I would even say it would permanently damage our society with an ultimate lack of vision and ambition.

Post-modernsim: Robert Venturi’s “Less is a bore”…so now we started to attach things on to the box…giving shallow meaning to architecture but truly just camouflaging the modernist, minimalist and RATIONALISTIC mistake.

But Gaudi designed architecture that made decoration and organic form a function, he made architecture an extension of nature...the building is one, one with Gaudi, one with its inhabitants, one with nature, one with Spirit…and Gaudi within his architecture expresses ”Life is More”…and he won.

For this I believe Gaudi was a Holotect

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Calatrava - the Romantic and the Rationalist

I was going through my notes and came across some scribbles dated from 18/10/2007. It was the day we three brothers gathered together at the concrete institute in London to listen to Calatrava speak.

The crowds gathered to hear this man  for a very good reason – he has sculpted some of the most fascinating structures of the last couple of decades.  At this presentation, Calatrava himself presented his design philosophy and several case studies of his own work.

Firstly, Calatrava praised the properties of Concrete for the freedom they bring in developing his forms.  The word itself in Spanish “hormigon” means “with form”. It can take any shape, it is very humble, it has texture and natural pigmentation ranging from grey to brilliant white. It is also is extremely economical.  It is not surprising that such praises should be sung at a presentation given at the concrete institute. However, his works do back up such claims.

One of his works is the La Rioja, Bodegas Ysios in Laguardia, Álava, Spain (below).  This winery fits seamlessly into its surroundings.  Indeed Calatrava is quoted to have said during the talk that he sees no difference between Engineerign and Landscape.  Concrete allowed for such a dynamic form to be adopted, and no doubt offered the necessary thermal mass for the strict climatic conditions required for the wine making process.

Another building mentioned was his “twisting torso”, or the HSB Turning Torso building in Malmo Sweden (below).  The building was to provide a symbol for the city, replacing the crane used for shipbuilding that used to sit near the current site.  Calatrava makes no secret of the analogy between his building and anatomical form.  Being both a Sculptor and an Engineer, his forms are grounded on solid structural logic - in this case deriving inspiration from the human spine. With all this structural integrity, elegance in form is still retained.  This is extremely well summed up in this quote from the New Yorker: “Louis Kahn once referred to the Seagram Building as a beautiful lady with hidden corsets, because its bracing was tucked behind Mies van der Rohe’s exquisite façade; Calatrava’s lady has confidently removed her dress.”

The twisting torso concept started as a sculpture, and was then adapted to a high-rise building under the encouragement of the developer – even though Calatrava never built one before in his life!  Indeed Calatrava enjoys much popularity amongst developers, often being the one holding the cards rather than the other way around. 

However, this similarty between his sculptures and his buildings is not with out contention.  He is often criticized for this over emphasis of what the building looks like from afar rather than from within.  The twisting torso is no exception - no wall is straight and no window vertical.  This is also extremely unconventional for a highrise building, where assurance of its static stability has traditionally been the focus.  Another breach of convention is in his architectural emphasis.  Most architects focus on how the high-rise building meets the floor, or meets the sky.  To Calatrava it’s what’s in the middle that counts, with an emphasis on the design along the whole of its length. Can a human sized sculpture truly be scaled to  hundreds of meters of tower? Is the spine, designed for flexibilty and motion truly a sound structural model for a static highrise? Perhaps such non-conformities can be forgiven in the light of such sculptural genius?

The last building of considerable note from the talk is that of the Chicago Spire.  Only a proposal to date, the spire will be the tallest residential building in America, featuring a slender twisting design.  The slenderness of the tower provides grounds for a more romantic interpretation of the skyline than the bulkier buildings that have dominated to date. Indeed, the New Yorker claims “Calatrava is both a romantic and a rationalist, and his gift lies in his ability to find equilibrium between these two poles.”


What if Leonardo da Vinci got to take an international flight?

I travel a lot. As I am about to depart on another flight from Poland to London I take my seat, fasten my belts and I’m ready to go. Raindrops start hitting my glass window and the pilot prepares for takeoff. Its grey and the dark colored clouds make the earth’s surface gloomy. We are taking off. The seconds of take off fascinate me. The smooth levitation of a heavy steel 150 passenger Wizzair aircraft…it looks so simple, so easy. The houses, cars, trees all get small and we come closer to the dark purple clouds. The moment of climbing through the clouds is beautiful. The clouds get lighter, purer and blue sky exposes itself more and more until finally we are there, the open fields of clouds and sky.
And I’m here writing comfortably in a little seat looking through my own little window.
What an experience!
I have seen this so many times, yet today this is special. It is special because of how far we human beings progressed. Its special because I discover the realization of dreams. Leonardo da Vinci in his studio draws and dreams, struggling to invent a wooden flying machine and talks about the inspiration one can get from even the clouds. But what if he got to see this?
What if he got to see the heavens beyond the clouds...what would his next step be?
Would he go beyond the heavens?
There is absolutely no doubt that my view outside my little window is a miracle.
But we take it for granted. We fail to notice these things. We grow numb through the constant ignorance. The women to my left reads about a celebrity couple canceling their wedding once again…the man next to her is playing a PSP video game. Even I normally just drift off to sleep forgetting about how lucky I am to live the life I’m living and live surrounded by the miraculous earthly creations. But today is different.
Today I want to live because this view made me feel more alive. Today I want to move, react and take action, continuing to build our cultural ambition. Today I am thankful.
Thankful of my little view outside my window, thankful to dreamers like Leonardo da Vinci (Who kind of made ideas like flying happen). Last but not least I am thankful to the almighty creator who was there since the very beginning shaping with his hands each and every cloud making my personal view outside my window possible.