Civic Mutations

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Architect’s Block

Last Monday we presented our aspiration to the Thesis Committee. Each person had a chance to speak with 3 people. The feedback I received from each person were different. They weren’t bad but they didn’t aspire me to move further on. I’m still busy with research and to find that one sentence or paragraph that will aspire me with a new approach. So far, nothing yet, but a hypotheses from MVRDV KM3 might have the answer and topic I’m interested in: “Architecture is a device”. This week assignments consists of an expressive drawing on my understanding of a thesis and case studies of our choice of subjects.

Concept Generation

Concept Generator

Concept Generator

Concept Generator

Concept Generator: Tiling

Concept Thesis?



Filed under: Random Thoughts

Revenge of The Fly?

In January 2008, Storefront Architecture held a international “competition” (Storefront considered it as a call for ideas) to redesign the White House. The mission: “What if the White House, the ultimate architectural symbol of political power, were to be designed today?” On Monday, the winners were announced and the list can be found here at: The video presented here as well as here is the first prize winner selected among 500 entries. My first impression: WTF is that?! Sure the language and idea are poetic (provided if you read the submission entry) but what about presenting this idea to the average person who does not have a background or interest in architecture, does the presentation and idea make sense to them? Is that architecture? As an architecture student, is that what I aspire to become? Looking at the popularity vote, it seems that I’m not the only one who shows discomfort in Mr. Maruszczak’s entry.

Filed under: Random Thoughts

Destroying the City

Came across this book on a 2007 conference on urban design and the discussion was on ‘What Makes A Healthy Downtown?’ The most striking part in the discussion was a comment made by Peter Rees, a City Planner Office in London. And quote:

London was built from testosterone, and I include the ladies in that because there are a lot of ballsy ladies working in the city as well. You laugh at these things, but they are the determinants of what brings people to downtown. People come to downtown to pair and to mate. That’s the power of downtown. The worst thing you can have in downtown is families. Families kill cities. Families are boring. What you must not do is create a downtown that is mixed-use residential. What you should do is make mixed-use business and nightlife, because that’s what makes the city hum.

Now some people may disagree with his theory but I have to agree with his comment that downtown should be a mixed-use business and nightlife. However what I don’t agree with is ‘families kill cities’. That doesn’t solve the problem of sprawling if everyone moves out of the city to start a family.

Filed under: Random Thoughts

Finding Inspiration

Boston Skyline

Boston Skyline

Apartment Complex on Storrow Drive

Apartment Complex on Storrow Drive

Mass Ave Bridge

Mass Ave Bridge

After so many years in Boston, I never really look back at it from a different point of view. I find it refreshing. These shots might seem random but I have been walking around Boston shopping for a site but found myself wandering around looking at the city at ways I’ve never seen before. So far, there are still plenty of interesting places to explore.

Filed under: Inspiration, Random Thoughts,

Situated Technologies

Title snapshot from presentation

A 3-day symposium was held a few years back in 2006 on the subject of Situated Technologies. What’s Situated Technologies? I don’t have a clue,and I’m still fuzzy in that idea but I believe it has something to do with the technological tools we use everyday, like mobile phones, Blackberrys, PDAs as well as social networking web services such as Twitter, Facebook, Dodgeball etc. Here’s a link to a video presentation on What is Situated Technologies? by Mark Shepard, who’s an artist and an architect.

The video is about 20 minutes long, but for those impatient users, here’s a quote from the video.

Snapshot taken from the presentation

Snapshot taken from the presentation

… considering the mobile phone use in Japan … most are equipped with digital camera, sms text messaging, wireless email and internet browsers. Mobile phones have replaced computers as the de facto email terminal of choice for many Japanese who are not in technology, finance, engineering or other computer intensive occupation. In this context, the mobile phone becomes a device in organizing space, time and boundaries around the body in public space. Once constant connections within a close circles of friends has been referred to a personal territory device which regardless of the context of the physical built environment or its public conveyances creates a social space which in some way complicates our traditional category of public or private space in the built environment. 

Situated Technologies

Filed under: Inspiration, Random Thoughts

Response and Comments

So far I have a few comment on this blog but I think it will lead into a good discussion that will help me further down the road. Here’s a comment I received by email.

Great idea with the blog, I like it. That book by Jacobs keeps getting referenced in all the other things I’m reading too. So far your topic seems good, becoming more clear to me now. Couple comments:

I understand you have to do a single architecture building, but given what you are talking about I think that you need to have some urban design and planning in there. You said, “interaction between individual buildings and how they (the buildings) are addressing the city as a whole” which i think is really interesting and very clear; especially since you are thinking about going the housing direction (always a solid architecture school typology). I think you can pick out an area not too big, but just enough for you to make your point, then select a site where you can design a building. Inevitably there will have to be some kind of planning, no matter where you put your project. However, if you plan it yourself you can have more control, make it fit your thesis like a glove.

At the end when you say, “what are the qualities in life we seek?” I think thats way to broad, like something from a psychology dissertation. You may have to look into some of the aspects of the question, but answering it seems challenging.

Lastly, some of you questions at the very end. I’m not typing my response because it will probably be too long and I will probably see you soon and talk to you about it.

What’s the definition of space in today’s society?
-space is space, can it change? Maybe you can argue it changes in a virtual world, but we still live the physical one.

Is there a boundary between public and private space?

Do we even need that boundary?
absolutely. I think only location of that boundary changes, as certain technologies evolve etc. like how the internet has privatized the public realm. I also think that this boundary is important, it’s what makes our living room different than office etc. Peter Rowe puts it this way, “Placement of a courtroom inside a supermarket, for instance, may severely impair the aura of authority necessary for judicial proceedings or, depending on degrees, make that process more approachable…how might a domicile not look like a public building, and vice versa”

I have a few response and some ideas on the last bit, but once I have a stronger case to argue, I’ll post it up.

Filed under: Comments

Adaptive Environment

Was walking around the South End district a few days ago and found this gorgeous abandoned building that has been converted into a parking lot at the moment.

Abandoned structure in the Boston South End District.

Abandoned structure in the Boston South End District.

Inside the structure currently houses a parking lot.

Inside the structure currently houses a parking lot.

Filed under: Random Thoughts,

My Aspiration

For our first assignment for thesis seminar, we were asked to write a short synopsis of our intentions for the thesis project. Here’s a portion of my aspiration I submitted.

Can architecture solve our current social/housing problems? Or rather, can a well-designed architecture solve our social well-being?

A recent article in Monocle magazine rated Copenhagen as the best livable city in the world. And within the top 10 spot, none of them are American cities. Jane Jacobs mentioned in her book on “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” that there is a lack of public life in great cities like Los Angeles, and suggested buildings be primarily mixed use. I had the opportunity to visit both Copenhagen and Los Angeles recently and agreed with the two views. Copenhagen, like Boston is small in scale, but the city provides its citizens with great public infrastructure, facilities and amenities. In contrast, Los Angeles lacks comfort and convenience getting from one destination to another without a car.  Because of that, there seems to be a lack of interaction between the different communities within the city of Los Angeles. In terms of architecture, the modern and old sits in balance within the city of Copenhagen. However, architecture in Los Angeles are so spread out that it’s difficult to judge how they stand with each other, but as an individual building, they are visually stunning and serves its purpose well. As I begin to dig deeper into the idea of city planning, the editor in Monocle magazine believed good city planning care for its citizens and their quality of life, and thus listed a few key elements of this so called “qualities”. And so, I beg to question what qualities do we/I possess in today’s modern world? How does that affect a city and its building? 

Clive Thompson of the New York Times published a rather interesting article on September 5, 2008. The title was “I’m So Totally, Digitally Close to You – Brave New World of Digital Intimacy”. His story was on the development of social networking sites like Facebook and how that has changed our interaction and connection with friends and communities and thus aided in the creation of this ambiguous intimacy within our social network. As architecture necessitates around human presence, there’s no doubt our social behavior more or less affect the design and process behind building design. Thompson’s article provided a stimulating point of view and direction towards my question on social qualities and its affect on building design. On a deeper level, it goes beyond questioning our social interaction within one building, but also the interaction between individual buildings and how they (the buildings) are addressing the city as a whole. As a thesis proposal, the question begins with the most basic element suggested by Jane Jacobs and the editor of Monocle magazine, what are the qualities in life we seek? From there, investigation and research on today’s society will project our vision of a modern building and its connection to our community on which will be tested within an urban context.

The current idea is still a bit vague, but as I was doing my readings and talking with some friends, I was questioning my direction. Part of the school requirements is to design a building at the end of the day, but I felt that I was dealing with a bigger problem here, a more urban planning direction which I didn’t want to go for. So, I’m starting to look into the core of architecture – space. What’s the definition of space in today’s society? Is there a boundary between public and private space? Do we even need that boundary? These are just a few questions I’m asking myself. I recently found a book about hybrid space and the existence of mobility in today’s society. Haven’t finish reading the articles yet, but I feel strongly in developing this new prototype.

Filed under: Thesis Seminar, , ,

Picture Post

Housing complex

Housing Complex on Mass. Ave.

Filed under: Random Thoughts

First Post

Yesterday marked the third week into Thesis Seminar, which is basically a preparation class into Architecture Thesis 1. I’m currently still working on the big idea/concept on what my thesis could be. There are a few ideas bouncing off my head at the moment, but I think I pretty much have a good sense of which idea I’m going to focus on. However, there are still a lot of research and reading materials that I have to study before that. It’s getting late right now, but I think I’ll read a few more essay before calling it a day.

Filed under: Random Thoughts

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