At some point during the past year the doorways along the open corridors in the College of Design were painted – second and third floors with a light blue, and fourth and fifth floors with an off-green. While I welcome the addition of color (even dull ones) to the otherwise monochrome COD, I see a missed opportunity to enhance the building’s [lacking] way-finding system through a logical use of different colors. Instead of only two hues, seemingly chosen randomly, each floor should have its own color to define it and engage our visual sensory.
Occasionally when I need to stop by a professor’s office in the College, I always have trouble remembering which floor they are on. The only directory on display in the building is located on the first floor by the main entrance, which is typically not convenient if I am already up in my studio. If each floor had a color coded system it would be easier to remember an office on “the orange floor” for example. Some might argue this is a cliche type of building signage, but if we’re painting anyway it might as well be with reason. There’s even a possible color scheme already devised by the Design Council’s recycling posters hanging up around the college.
KCCK’s Clean Up Your Act interviews landscape architect Ruth Fox about Cedar Rapids’ first green roof recently installed atop the Water Tower Place condominiums in downtown. The green roof is estimated to mitigate 80 percent of storm water runoff from the building and is hoped to spur other green roofs in the city. Several new and renewed civic buildings due to the flood are either planning or considering to incorporate green roofs, including the new public library, and potentially the new federal courthouse and Veterans Memorial Building (City Hall). Ruth points out that its important to cover a substantial area of a building’s roof to produce significant environmental benefit.
Today I discovered an excerpt of an “11×17″ precedent study I made back in second year studio (Arch 201, Fall 2007) about the Rural Studio’s Lucy House used on Judit Bellostes’ blog. A few sketch diagrams of mine are used to describe the Lucy House in a post about Marjetica Potrč’s 2007 installation at Gallerie Nordenhake in Berlin, which was a recreation of the home’s tornado shelter (“tower of power”).
Ever wonder what an architecture school studio review is like? The video is of my studio group’s critique at today’s mid-review for 5th year comprehensive studio. As I’ve described in previous posts, we are designing a [hypothetical] velodrome in Boston. In the video one of my partners Jamin introduces our design at this point and then I elaborate on site design and our method to contextualize with the adjacent neighborhood and the city as a whole.
Our critics were three faculty members in the College of Design: Nadia Anderson, Ann Sobiech-Munson, and Dean Emeritus Mark Engelbrecht. I believe our review went quite well and provided valuable feedback for moving forward from this point. It is clear our next step will be to integrate a thoughtful structural system into our aesthetic gesture, which will better clarify building and technical specifications of the design.
Select comments from the critics:
“I think there’s something that’s really working about what you’ve presented here. It’s maybe not necessarily this as an aesthetic so much as some of your sensitivities to the human scale and the way that this form kind of responds to the things around it.”
– Assistant Professor Ann Sobiech-Munson
“I think there’s a language that’s developed out of this that I really appreciate, the relationship between the building itself and the site around it…”
– Assistant Professor Nadia Anderson
“I think it, for me, expresses this idea of speed and discipline very beautifully..so I’d be very interested to moving on, you can imagine the idea…”
– Dean Emeritus Mark Engelbrecht
Visit our studio project blog to follow our design process.
Today I went to see several Frank Lloyd Wright and Wright-inspired buildings in northern Iowa on a field trip for Dan Naegele’s FLW seminar course I am taking this semester. Our day trip took us to Mason City and Quasqueton.
We visited the Stockman House (photo above) in Mason City, which was an example of Wright’s $5000 “fire proof homes” concept, though this one was actually built of wood frame, not concrete, so it was not actually fireproof. It was moved from its original location back in the early 1990s to a site along Willow Creek, across the street from Rock Glen, an early 20th century housing development of Wrightian Prairie and Usonian style homes (though not designed by Wright himself). We walked along the creek, which was beautiful with the trees in the fall. Bob McCoy, a local FLW enthusiast showed us around and allowed us inside his own home, the Blythe Residence designed by Walter Burley Griffin, overlooking Willow Creek.
While in Mason City we also stopped by to see restoration work at the Park Inn Hotel, one of Wright’s only hotels, located in downtown across from the town square. Built around 1910, this building incorporated a hotel and a bank, and is thought to be a prototype for Wright’s much larger Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, which was demolished in 1962. I must say I was pretty impressed with Mason City, contrary to my previous judgement of the town based solely on the outskirts view from I-35.
In the afternoon we drove to Quasqueton, which I did not realize was so close to Cedar Rapids, located in Buchanan County not far from US 20. Near Quasqueton we visited the Lowell Walter House, also known as Cedar Rock, perhaps one of the more well-known Wright houses in Iowa. This is a Usonian house, designed with the most basic domestic needs in mind, at least in Wright’s view. Estimated to cost $5000, the total cost ended up being $150,000 – in 1950 dollars. Extraordinary cost overruns were evidently quite common for Wright, but his clients seemed to put up with him anyway. The Walter House also includes a boat house next to the Wapsipinicon River.
It was interesting to see a few of the several homes and buildings Frank Lloyd Wright designed in Iowa. The state actually has a considerable collection, and most in good condition as well. View my photos at the link below.
Now online is a photo collection of my visit to Boston last month for a studio field trip. Boston was an incredible place to explore – in addition to seeing our project site in Cambridge (read my response to our site visit on our studio blog), highlights included the ICA, walking tours of MIT and Harvard, and a day trip to see Louis Kahn’s Exeter Library in New Hampshire. Most of all I enjoyed seeing the different neighborhoods and the diversity of historic and contemporary architecture Boston has to offer. My first time to the city, I found the modern financial district built within the confines of the historic winding street system particularly interesting.
Boston appeared to be a very clean and pleasant city, not quite like the other big cities I’ve been to on the East Coast. It felt rather low-key for such a large city, perhaps in part due a lack of congruency because of the harbor and the Charles River separating distinct areas. Also there is an overall scale to much of the city that provides for the human and pedestrian experience, rather than the automobile so familiar city noises of “hustle and bustle” seem to be mostly absent.
LANE4 Property Group is a development company hired by the City of Ames to devise an implement a plan to redevelop Campustown into a more vibrant and attractive commercial district serving the Iowa State University community. Campustown has great potential as illustrated during a public meeting in the MU on Sept. 29, where LANE4 presented a preliminary concept of what the neighborhood could become.
Major components proposed include bringing back a small grocery or drugstore, a small hotel – which would take the place of the existing MU Hotel, office space (much of which will be leased by ISU) to increase daytime activity, a greater variety of dinning options, and a unique movie theater that could double as lecture hall space for the university. While specifics are yet to be determined, the redevelopment project would likely replace a majority of the existing buildings, which I have some reservations about. However, if certain historic and architecturally significant buildings can be restored and integrated, it is certainly worth some demolition of less critical buildings. Campustown redevelopment will occur in phases over time, but some construction could begin within a year according to LANE4.
A letter in the October 7th Iowa State Daily expressed concern over university offices and lecture facilities locating in Campustown, so I wrote a response explaining why it is critical for the university to be involved. Certain new uses and business likely could not be sustained without the partnerships that are being proposed. You can read my letter in the Iowa State Daily here.