Tag: Architecture (page 1 of 2)

Alternative Design for St. Paul’s Church

Completed in 1914, the nearly century-old St. Paul’s Methodist Church in southeast Cedar Rapids is perhaps best known for being designed by famous architect Louis Sullivan, a fact that is only partially true. The actual built design was carried out by Chicago architect W.C. Jones, after Sullivan resigned in 1912, refusing to sacrifice ornamentation to keep within budget. Jones then altered Sullivan’s plans, mostly removing ornamentation, maintaining much of the original design. (St. Paul’s UMC)

Sullivan’s design, however, was not the only one considered for St. Paul’s new building. In 1909, the church purchased land at 3rd Ave. and 14th Street SE, and soon sent requests to several architects for competitive bids and plan proposals. One of these architects, evidently, was the Minneapolis firm of William Gray Purcell and George Grant Elmslie.

Active between 1907 and 1921, Purcell and Elmslie, was the second most commissioned firm of the Prairie School after Frank Lloyd Wright. (Wikipedia) Their design proposal to St. Paul’s Church included a perspective rendering, floor plan, and elevation drawing, seen below. The extent of detail is impressive for just a proposal and makes me curiosity about other proposals the church may have received.


Given Sullivan’s influence on the Prairie School, it’s not surprising that Purcell and Elmslie’s design for St. Paul’s was stylistically similar to Sullivan’s, both progressive and decidedly nontraditional. The new church site would have been at the edge of town at the time, arguably making the Prairie style even more fitting.

This make me wonder if St. Paul’s desired a modern new church, intentionally seeking out innovative architects for something different than the traditional archetype. Additionally it is just interesting to consider the entire process of the new building, something not often dwelled upon in architectural history. Perhaps more telling is, not what was actually built, but what could have been.

Images found at prairiestyles.com/lsullivan_comm.htm and organica.org/pejn86_2.htm

ARCH 403 Mid-Review

Arch 403 Mid Review 1 from Brady Dorman on Vimeo.

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.

Mapping Conversations

This semester our 5th Year Architecture comprehensive studio project is for a 12,000-seat velodrome (an indoor competitive cycling track) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on an open site along the Charles River that is currently used for athletic fields. During the first week we were challenged to choose a past theme from Cabinet Magazine, from which to construct a conceptual frame and thesis relating to the discipline of architecture, the City of Boston, and competitive cycling. I was quickly drawn to the Spring 2001 issue theme, “Mapping Conversations” and became even more intrigued upon reading its features.

In Frances Richard’s article Utterance is Place Enough she explores what maps are and how we create and use them to define our places and communication spatial comprehension (directions perhaps). Mapping is a method for articulating the existing of things in our physical environment – by showing them on a map, it establishes their importance or permanence. In regard to conversation, it is abstracted as an unscripted verbal exchange between two or more participants. Since it is unpredictable and not pre-established, conversation is not permanent in the way things and places are in space, rather it is a temporary discourse. Continuing, how is mapping conversation different from writing? Richard argues maps and writing are artifacts experienced once removed, whereas conversation is experienced up front and necessarily interactive.

Mark Lombardi created “narrative structure” drawings using lines and notations to index or “map” discourse between political and financial leaders to expose fraud and abuse of powers. Warren Sack looks at mapping very large-scale conversations through the contemporary medium of the internet. Historically mass conversation took place in large-scale public spaces, but the internet can reach a much greater audience with anonymity, but also allows for more direct feedback or discourse. Sack looks at social media networks, “mass media,” and other digital dialogue, using several different kinds of graphs and charts to establish themes and comprehension of these large-scale conversations.

From these articles, which I admittedly summarized pretty poorly, I took the mapping aspect and began to consider the different kinds of actual, spatial, and conceptual conversations active in Boston that would or could in some manner contribute to or have an effect on the proposed velodrome. Utilizing the colors of Boston’s subway lines, I devised five different categories or layers of “conversation” to be represented. Particular institutions and places are mapped geographically, which are significant participants in their given color-coded conversation. Then I was able to create a framework for the design of the velodrome and how it will engage and contribute to these conversations currently taking place in the city. I often use word diagrams, arrows, and notations to organize and plan out objective and key components of a design or piece of writing, so this was actually a very constructive exercise for me.

1. Influence of significant educational institutions nearby (Red)
2. Consideration for public space (Blue),
3. Impact of other athletic facilities and traditions in Boston (Green)
4. Transport and physical connectivity to different parts of Boston (Orange)
5. Contextual relationship with existing urban pattern and significant architecture (Silver)

Mapping Conversations by Brady Dorman

Language of Architecture

As an initial exercise in this first week of comprehensive studio we were charged with writing a critical response to a 2008 Charlie Rose interview with four of today’s leading architects, regarding the way they talk about architecture and the kind of vocabulary they use. The ways architecture is discussed amongst the general public, within the profession, and between the two groups is an interesting study. My response follows:

In Charlie Rose’s hour-long interview with four Pritzker Prize laureates – Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, and Renzo Piano – they all speak about architecture as an exploratory process, an adventure of making space in reality and enhancing a contextual dialogue with place. They use expressive words to describe not-only the physical qualities of architecture, but the process, tectonics, and especially relational qualities as well.

As a means of creating architecture, all four agreed on the need for parameters and, similarly, a partner in design – a client. The notion of complete design freedom was not comprehended as a virtuous, or a plausible condition. Through practical criterion and vision of the client [typically], the program is applied and the architectural idea must be maneuvered in, according to Zaha, which challenges creativity. There also needs to be a strategy or vision with civic projects.

This challenge of sustaining an idea through layers of restraint provides direction for realizing and expresses meaning behind an architectural conclusion. For this reason, “clone architecture” is not valued because they often don’t respond to their contextual surroundings.

Interestingly, much of the discussion examines cities and designing new architecture in the urban context. These individuals are often criticized for their buildings because they look different and are unlike most buildings we are used to. How to build relationship with existing buildings without simply reproducing it, is critical to them, which Jean Nouvel expressed almost immediately in the conversation.

Perhaps the most profound difference between architects and non-architects – or, rather, good architects versus bad ones – is their comprehension of building and site relationships without direct interpretation of what is already made.

Renzo Piano speaks romantically of the cities in Italy, made up of layers as if naturally. He sees architecture as fragments of cities, which can provide a diverse context to build upon. Context is beneficial to build from, forcing the design to focus on a smaller angle, assembling a more intense architectural expression. An alliance of time and space stimulates imagination of a building’s enfilade of space, mediating the user experience through architecture. Cinematic influence was especially powerful for Nouvel. The implication of light and space is the tangible language of architecture.

Sustainability was talked about not only in terms of environmental and energy conservation, but livability, social implications and spatial quality as well. Frank believes the mantra of sustainability can be greatly misused to promote a false architectural regard. Zaha continues, that sustainability is ultimately to do with the way space is made and advancements in environmental systems cannot be the sole merit of a building’s essence. Renzo argues that buildings need to breathe and work with the earth.

Good architecture is the exception, despite much contemporary building activity says Frank. “There are very few people like us,” contending their work is not making an impact since the vast majority of new architecture lacks greatness or validity by some standards. The consistency for great buildings is limited because we allow [“bad”] architecture to happen and put up with it.

How to be bold and create a meaningful architecture that is also engaging to the public and societal context, so it may be accepted and celebrated, is the challenge I take away from this discussion. Their focus on civic conditions inspires my thought for designing architecture, regardless of its program, that will be dynamic, respectful, and uplifting to the identity of the city.

ISU Bridge Studio ideas for Oakhill Jackson / New Bo

Neighborhood Network News has posted video of last Saturday’s (Jan 23) “Imagine a Vital Neighborhood” urban design conference in Cedar Rapids. Architecture students from Iowa State University’s Bridge Arch 601 Graduate Studio presented design proposals and strategies for sustainable redevelopment in Oakhill Jackson and New Bohemia. I haven’t watched the videos entirely yet, but there were a range of ideas from more abstract and statistical to more specific design proposals. One intriguing idea was very ambitious, proposing a residential high rise and retail complex including a Target store – on par with mixed-use urban big box developments found in several larger US cities. A common theme was to reuse building materials (like from Farmstead) for new construction in the neighborhood.

The videos are definitely worth a watch. Special thanks to Robin Kash for posting these and other community meeting videos on Neighborhood Network News.

Neighborhood Network News: Urban Design Conference Videos
> 1 – Intro, Overview and Opening Discussion
> 2 – Student Presentations
> 3 – Discussion of Student Presentations

Rain in Rome

Trajan's Market story board sketch

The past couple of days have been pretty rainy in Rome, making plans to sketch outside for class difficult. Monday we walked in the rain to the Pantheon, about a 5-10 minute walk from studio to sketch for about half hour before the profs decided to return. Today my studio went to Trajan’s Market to draw (inside) quick “story board sketches” with a series of vignettes showing movement through the space. I rather enjoyed this exercise, but would be more valuable outside to illustrate movement through a particular urban space. Tomorrow we meet at Termini Station in the afternoon to draw people in motion.

This afternoon we had the last of three lectures from historian Jan Gadeyne about the development and redevelopment of Rome. It is interesting to realize that Rome today is not what it has always been – most places have been built over older structures or modified from them. Only recently (past century or so) has preservation become so strict, arguably turning the city in to a museum. My friend Jamin is working on a guest post that will go into more detail. In the meantime, check out Jan’s appearance on the History Channel documentary ROME Engineering an Empire.

Frugal Architecture

This past week I, along with ten or so other classmates, participated in the For a Frugal Approach in Architecture International Symposium and Design Workshop, sponsored by the Bruno Zevi Foundation. The focus was frugality in architecture, specifically for post-disaster emergency housing. The symposium started on Thursday (Jan 21) with a day of lectures from a number of international leaders in the field, including Nina Maritz (Namibia), Jorge Mario Jauregui (Brazil), Giorgio Goffi (taly), Sarah Wigglesworth (UK), Eko Prawoto (Indonesia), and Danny Wick from Auburn’s Rural Studio in Alabama.

It was held at the Citta’ dell’Altra Economia (“City of the Other Economy”), a part of an old slaughterhouse complex converted into exhibition and meeting space “for the promotion of the economy” related to agriculture, trade, and renewable energy, etc. It was a neat conversion but for this event the space was a bit too small (not enough seats) and did not seem to be heated. Logistics of the event was interesting since every speaker had to be followed by a translation between Italian and English. It also started at least half an hour late and presenters tended to go over their allotted time amounts – but punctuality certainly doesn’t seem to be common in Italy. Admittedly the whole day seemed to drag on, but I particularly enjoyed Giorgio Goffi’s work, and Danny Wick’s presentation on the Rural Studio was especially interesting.

On Friday we met at the Faculty of Architecture (department of architecture) at Sapienza University in Rome for the design workshop. American students from Northeastern University and Roger Williams University also participated. We were each paired with an Italian student to design a proposal for an emergency housing unit for the Abruzzo region near L’Aquila in response to the April 2009 earthquake there. We began at 9am and had until 7pm to finish, which ended up being extended to 8. The night before I had familiarized myself with the Abruzzo area and the extent of the disaster. My partner Marcella came with a basic design layout and some thoughts on materials, so we just built off of that. The language barrier was at times challenging (we referred to Google Translate on occasion) but she spoke English pretty well so it wasn’t really a problem.

We decided on a fairly simple L-shape with a half courtyard space in the SW corner. Each adjacent dwelling was set back halfway from the previous to permit ample direct sunlight to the courtyard windows for solar heat gain in the winter. For the east and west walls we decided to use thick stone walls (available from building rubble) to create thermal masses that could absorb solar heat during the day to be redistributed during the cooler night. There were some issues we didn’t get clarified and were not optimal for environmental conditions. My partner told me most of their curriculum is design-based and didn’t really have classes on building tectonics or passive design for environmental controls. It was a nice realization of how much I have actually learned at Iowa State about not only design, but also how buildings go together and how to harmonize them with environmental conditions.

Some of the architects who spoke the day before came for a while and walked around to check on the progress. Nina Maritz talked to us earlier on when we were still clarifying specifics of materials and orientation. Later one Giorgio Goffi stopped by, but only spoke in Italian. He had suggested considering our L-shape as a starting point and how they could be used to create a variety of different sizes and forms. This was not a bad idea, but it made it more difficult to clarify specific decisions regarding solar orientation, tectonics, and of course organization. We attempted to show both ideas – the variation that Goffi suggested, and the more specific possibility of one L. However the new abstract L variety got rid of the original relationship between adjacent units, making several material and orientation decisions less significant. In the end we sort of ran out of time and had a less than stellar presentation – we both agreed it was not good graphically and did not represent our ideas well. But we discussed a lot of interesting strategies during the day, so it was a really good learning experience.

The program wrapped up Saturday morning with visual presentation of the proposals and discussion from the panel of speakers. Unfortunately it was extremely unorganized with slides out of order and starting half hour to an hour later than scheduled. The discussion was interesting and informative, but like many professors and experts, almost everyone had to get the last word in, even if it was simply to agree with and over reiterate someone else’s point. Following the discussion orderves and champagne was served in a small courtyard next to the auditorium, so all was good.

Overall “Frugal Architecture” was exhausting, but a great experience. Getting insight into architectural education in Italy and the different perspectives and approaches the students bring was extremely valuable. It was also a terrific opportunity to challenge my own communication skills and knowledge of architectural and environmental systems.

Imagine a Vital Neighborhood Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids-based, non-profit organization S.E.E.D. (Sustainable Ecological Economic Development) will be hosting a Sustainability Symposium “Imagine a Vital Neighborhood” this Saturday with architecture grad students from Iowa State University. Students will present design proposals to stimulate ideas for building a pedestrian friendly, sustainable neighborhood in the Oakhill Jackson and New Bo areas near downtown Cedar Rapids.

S.E.E.D. founder and Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood Association President Michael Richards has been collaborating with the College of Design’s “Bridge Studio” for two years. The first year students developed prototype designs for post-flood affordable housing that received the grand prize for the 2009 NCARB Prize for Creative Integration of Practice and Education in the Academy. Professors Clare Cardinal-Pett, Peter Goche, and Nadia Anderson, who was my studio instructor this past fall, will be leading the event.

Anyone interested in the revitalization of these neighborhoods and making a more livable, sustainable Cedar Rapids is encouraged to attend. The forum will be held from 10am – 5pm, this Saturday, Jan. 23, at the Community Conference Hall in the Horizons Building, 819 5th St. SE. More information about the event can be found on BJ Smith’s Puncture Proof blog.

> Bridge Studio
> S.E.E.D.
> Puncture Proof: Forum promotes pedstrian-friendly neighborhoods

Spring in Rome

I arrived in Rome earlier today (Thursday) for a semester study abroad with about 55 other students from my class. We are staying in apartments in the middle of the city and the College of Design has studio space just across the river at Piazza delle Cinque Scole. The semester goes till the end of April, after which I plan to travel about 10 days and return home from London on May 11.

My flight schedule began in Cedar Rapids and went through Detroit and Amsterdam on the way to Rome. All my layovers were quite short, but Detroit and Amsterdam both have very nice airport facilities. I landed at Rome’s Fiumicinio Airport a little past noon today. The view coming in for the landing was like a painting, seeing rolling meadows spotted with old cottages along the sea line. The airport, at least the part I experienced, was quite unimpressive. My plane did not pull up to a gate, rather we exited far way on the tarmac and took a bus to baggage claim.

I met a couple of my classmates and we took a taxi into the city to our apartment to check in. The ride was a great first look around the city. Most of our apartments, including mine, are in a former convent, now housing study abroad student apartments as well as those for the general public. In the middle is a great courtyard. Every corner there seems to be another nook or passageway to discover. We found a stairwell up a roof top terrace, complete with kitchen and a terrific view of the surrounding city.

I look forward to spending the next four months in Rome, learning and exploring through studio and classes, as well as getting to understand the city. It is an incredible change from the normal urban arrangement in America and the term “old” takes on a whole new meaning. Almost everywhere is remnants of past centuries. The interaction between these ancient structures and and new infrastructures for a modern polis is fascinating.

I hope to post much more as I get to know the city better and report on my work in studio and other explorations. I started a new “Rome” category that will contain all these relevant posts to come. Ciao.

New Arch program at SDSU

Starting in fall 2010, South Dakota State University will begin offering a professional architectural degree program. Currently South Dakota is one of only a few states with no architecture degree program. The new program comes after two years of study by the university’s Architectural Feasibility Task Force, which was made up in part by architectural professionals from around the state. South Dakota firms have had trouble attracting younger architects without an in-state academic program. Additionally since South Dakota residents must go out of state for architecture, they face higher out-of-state tuition costs as well.

The new program, which will be apart of the College of Arts and Sciences, will include a four year Bachelor’s degree in architectural studies, and a six year Master’s of Architecture degree. Around 60 students are expected to enroll in prerequisite courses for fall 2010 semester, with about 30 to be admitted into the program the following year. Iowa State University typically admits 68 students each year, and North Dakota State has admitted 72 in recent years, so SDSU’s program will start out quite a bit smaller.

SDSU’s program structure follows a growing trend of providing a four year non-accredited B.S. or B.A. degrees in architectural studies, followed by a one or two year accredited Master of Architecture professional degree program. Iowa State currently offers a five year Bachelor of Architecture professional degree and a variety of Masters options. NDSU transitioned in 2005, from a five year Bachelors, to a five year Master of Architecture program that includes a pre-professional B.S. in Environmental Design degree after the fourth year.

It will be interesting to watch SDSU’s program develop over the next few years and see it’s affect on surrounding university’s programs.

> South Dakota State University: Regents approve first accredited architecture program

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