You may say, "boy, I haven't seen many updates on Matt's blog lately." If not, humor me. I have lacked in the writing department in an effort to cram information into my head and later dispelling it to pass the Architecture Registration Exams. Studying for the test reminds me of the college days where I would sit in the library reading every possible thing a day before a test, only for this test it's every night for weeks and the material is comparable to the old encyclopedia book sets we had back in the day. I recently passed the exam entitled Programming, Planning, and Practice (PPP) and thought I would share with fellow ARE takers some items I found helpful for the test.
Jenny's Notes - Jenny's Notes summarize every possible item for the test with useful and relevant information. We also learn some fun facts about Portland.
Schiff Hardin Lectures - I found the lectures on the A201 and B101 to be very helpful in understanding the basic legal framework of the AIA contracts. The concepts of the A201 and B101 can be applied to many of the other contracts. No Sandbagging!
Ben Rudgers' Vignette Guide - Widely recommended on the forums, this guide established good vignette techniques that I adapted slightly to ace the PPP. The guide also includes hilarious asides.
I read both Kaplan and Ballast for this test. I took the advice of youngarchitect.org to read the following chapters in Ballast, that turned out to be helpful:
5 Site Analysis
15 Soil and Foundations
29 Energy Efficiency
30 Sustainable Design
35 Site work.
A music-buff friend of mine visited Seattle this past week and we attended a lot of live concerts. I quickly realized I have no idea of how much good stuff is within a quick local bus ride. My favorite from this past week was Wimps, who feature an upbeat tempo with some great / funny vocals. This is definitely worth a listen while you avoid talking to your coworkers this morning. Enjoy.
About two months ago, maybe three at this point, I was debating the architectural excellence of a building my coworker picked out while we drove to a job site in Ballard. Per the usual, I argued that I didn't find anything particularly good about the building while my coworker (who loves everything) praised the buildings supposed architectural excellence. As I mustered up the reasons the building wasn't good, I finally realized the leading cause of mediocrity plaguing much of Seattle's bad architecture- an unnecessary use of many material and color variations. Since this realization, I have been slowly documenting mediocre buildings that demonstrate a non-committed facade. Through the documentation, it's apparent there are a variety of strategies, which I've started to decipher below.
Before heading into the tour, here are some basics to look out for. The material choices come in composite woods (hardie), metal, vinyl, and the oh-so-hot real wood. The configurations of the materials come in vertical, horizontal, squares, and shingle. The colors lean towards multiple dominant colors, with a slightly dull or dated tint.
Disclaimer- some of these can be difficult to look at. Please open another tab in your browser of good architecture in case you find yourself feeling weak.
An Initial Assessment of Seattle's Non-committed Facades:
Horizontally - Perhaps this building is a new theoretical argument for top, middle, and base. The "rusticated" green base, a wide vertical middle, and a thin horizontal top. In case the materials were not making the argument clear, 3 dominant paint colors are used to emphasize the facade strategy.
Vertically - We can see a similar strategy as mentioned above, except vertically. The material and color treatment suggests at one point the three different colored parts were separate massing elements. As the photo now demonstrates, the massing has been flattened, leaving the remnants of three different colors and two different material treatments (at least the colors aren't too terrible).
1/3, 2/3 - Outside the horrendous gluing of mass for what looks to be a wall vented fireplace, this building uses the 1/3 - 2/3 color strategy with white trim separating the vertical and shingle materials. Note how the adjacent property is the same configuration but the design uses a different color palette (so clever! I never suspected they were the same floor plans...).
Color 4 - The massing of this building indicates a love for saw blades as indicated with the roof line. Each additional massing strategy glued onto this building is further emphasized with a different color/material. The designer wanted to celebrate the saw blade idea by painting this a separate color (green) with a thin piece of trim (We wouldn't want to confuse it with the blue plane).
Color 5 - As massing grows, designers feel compelled to select more colors. The building on the left contains a more conservative massing strategy (not so much gluing to maximize profits) so the largely flat facade pops with 5 colors and 4 or 5 materials. Who needs a better massing strategy with a non-committed facade? (note the green and wood building on the right is still part of the same complex- color 7?).
Colors + Wood - What seems like a crappy developer copy of Silodam, the hot trend is to incorporate wood into the facade for a real pop. This building uses two colors of wood and inserts more wood randomly between windows on the left side. The randomness is topped off with the irrational play of blue on the wood side. It's like the designers can't figure out whats going wrong, so they impulsively add more materials and make the organization less rational.
Historically - While the lack of commitment is a more current occurrence, this house couldn't miss the opportunity to partake through the only power an older committed house can- paint. A separation of beige and brown is articulated horizontally on a board that meets the lower eave. No trim separation needed!
I could keep going, but I'll save you the torture. There are more in my ever growing album of Seattle's Non-committed Facades. The strategies are evolving and it would be interesting to follow up with this post in the future. The newest trend appears to be the random wood panel or color panel inserted into a monolithic portion as demonstrated with the color + wood project.
The non-committed facade is a poor design strategy that has dated these buildings, in addition to our city. I could see a good designer falling victim to this trend, but it's important to stray from complexity and use committed facade strategies. I would also like to encourage better massing, but this is a more difficult task with money being development's only concern.
On a closing note, either Gehry has fallen victim for Seattle's non-commitment or he studied up on his Seattle vernacular. I'll let you decide.
Man Man released a new music video for a good song entitled "Loot My Body" that is worthy of a Song for the Day.
For all the people in the Cincinnati area- they are having a show tonight that is worth checking out.
Happy Wednesday- only two more days to go. I think this calls for some Beck grooviness.
If you liked that check out a unofficial music video for a great old song I just became familiar with, "Go It Alone."
Everyone raves about Virgin America, which I had flown once in the past and had the bad luck of boarding the plane that was having technology issues. The entire computer system for the seats were down, so it was pretty much any other airline. Last month, I wanted to stop by San Francisco on my way to Seattle from Las Vegas, and Virgin America was the best option. This time the computers were working and the experience was great.
What makes this airline superior is their desire to make flying a more pleasant experience. A better way of flying is demonstrated in every detail from the interior finishes to the interactive computer system for each seat. Some airlines feature the touch screen computers with entertainment, but Virgin America took this to the next level allowing one to order food/drinks (alcohol is called "the good stuff" on the menu), play games (multiplayer support with other people on the plane), play music, watch music videos, live tv, and other on demand content.
The most memorable part of the experience is the safety video. While other airlines make this a boring video about buckling a safety belt, Virgin America features an interesting music video with dancing and singing on a set modeled on an airplane interior. Take a look for yourself.
Virgin America Safety Video
What a breath of fresh air. I actually wanted to see the video on my second flight from San Francisco to Seattle. This is the opposite feeling I had boarding my sixth United flight this year (I have a similar distaste for United's newish logo). United's captive customers have to watch a safety video with the bare minimum of creativity, in addition to a corporate greenwashing video BEFORE. Be warned, this is a painful experience.
United Airlines Greenwashing Video (1/2)
United Airlines Safety Video (2/2)
It's funny how some simple and creative ideas improving experience can carry the reputation of an airline over destinations and price . I would really like to see this airline grow as it's clearly a different company in the mediocre/bad world of American domestic airlines.
Henderson is where I grew up. I think it's fair to say, compared to the current city boundaries, I knew the town in it's infancy. I spent a lot of time, as a kid, in the original neighborhood (housing for the original Magnesium factory workers). It wasn't the highfalutin areas of Green Valley, Anthem, and whatever the next developer wants to call their fortified complex of stucco homes.
Growing up in the southwest in the 1990s-2000s exposed me to tremendous growth including Henderson becoming the second largest city in the state (Sorry Reno... well not really). It's safe to say the development leading to the size was not good. The entire valley fell, and still falls, victim to the fast and loose development that leads to sprawl. In Henderson, it's clear the city wants to improve some of the deserted areas largely focusing on downtown, but unfortunately it's not based on any urban design logic or even a skimming of The Death and Life of Great American Cities Wikipedia article. The latest version suggest is the same old idea ten fold.
The strategy calls for the leveling all the current fabric (buildings) and persuading developers to make a new great place (because new has to be better, right?). A stroll down Water street makes one wonder if the city was bombed out. Most of the buildings I knew as a kid are non existent and largely empty lots with and chain link fences.
Anyone who has escaped the development standard of sprawl can tell you a great downtown street will have a lot of commercial buildings. Slightly more research suggests buildings have to be continuous along the street front, a gap for a parking lot or bad proportioned building can throw everything off for pedestrians. Unfortunately the city is implementing the opposite and, well, the results show little progress on the hopes for a nice downtown.
Downtown Henderson could be a great place and I hope one day it can turn around, but using the same formula won't work.
The specifics on the city's plan can be found here.
A photo album featuring empty lots of downtown can be found here.
Greetings 2014! The holidays delayed new posts for a bit, but don't fret, I am brewing a few good posts that should satisfy your need for grumpy design banter.
To get us warmed up, I'm sharing some general photos of the Las Vegas Valley taken over a span of three visits. Note these photos don't reflect the entire collection, I had to seperate some into different albums for the brewing blog posts. Enjoy.
Album: Las Vegas [General]
As promised, I will add photos now and then to my Seattle Photo Album. The most recent addition includes some shots from Downtown and one of my new favorite skyline photos (see below) from the water tower of volunteer park from a few weeks ago.
So to wrap up the Lexington Modern series for now, I wanted to mention a few remaining gems of the Lexington area that deserved a honorable mention.
The Parkette drive in is a good example of a 50s drive in diner, when signs were a fantastic piece of art built for automobile viewing. If Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown wrote Learning from Lexington, this sign would surely be indexed. The food also features some interesting items, one is the hot brown burger, a cheese burger with a slice of turkey and alfredo sauce, that I enjoyed on my visit.
Location: 1230 E New Circle Rd, Lexington, KY
My friend, Jonathan, dubbed this the spaceship house. It's not something that I immediately warm to, but it's nice to see someone was thinking outside the box through some simple formal gestures. I feel this could have been the top of and small air traffic tower. I'd be interesting to see this adapted into a new structure, which could be a cool theory heavy building. The neighborhood also features some great mid century tract housing worth checking out.
This Lexington mega church is mega modern. The Richmond Road campus for the Southland Christian Church is in a re-purposed mall building that features some super contemporary design worth noting. The use of contemporary architecture for the church reminds me of the Catholic church reformation back in 16th and 17th century. The Catholic church would use extreme Baroque architecture to lure in more followers and separate itself from it's counter reformation foes who practiced a simple architectural style. It's odd how the counter reformation is still living on in church architecture. At any rate, the church was locked when we stopped by so I didn't get past a peering into the main hall foyer.
Location: 2349 Richmond Road, Lexington, KY
Living Arts and Science Center Addition
Jonathan (the friend mentioned above) sent me an article in the Chevy Chase stating the Living Arts and Science Center is planning the ground breaking for a new contemporary addition. It's exciting to see a Lexington institution wanting to use modern architecture.
You can view more photos of these and other buildings from my recent trip to Lexington in this photo album.