Archive for January, 2012

New Term, New Brief

We finished exam’s yesterday so I was out last night but we are stright back in it with today’s lecture giving us a chance to talk about our newest brief. The site we’ve been given is the Memorial Hall on Albert Square, alongside the internationally renowned Manchester town hall, so no pressure. Although this project will obviously not be actualised, what has been stressed is appropriateness over all things as conversions of existing and, more importantly, protected buildings is a very touchy subject with many projects being rejected on grounds of taste. In the lecture, our head of year even mentioned the informal criteria that “improvements to a listed building can only be  ‘better’ than what is already there.”

So, the brief is to transform the upper floor of the Memorial Hall, leaving the lower floors for retail rejuvination. This space will be a gallery of either artwork or a history of Manchester’s architecture (that part was unclear) so conservation of specimens and keeping humidity and light levels under control is essential. Additionally we are to create a low lying building in the Peace Garden (the other side of the town hall) to form a hub for digital records of Manchester’s architecture, past and future. The theory behind this is that public records can be found in the Town Hall and all planning applications are visible there but some feel the site too imposing so to bring all records to a public space will bring transparency to the system.

Over the last year we’ve gradually progressed to different building types without any conscious effort: In first year we did small free standing buildings, then larger hypothetical projects. This year we’ve done micro pavilions, medium new builds and now additions. This has worked well to a point, when I look back on last year’s work it’s kind of a joke, the plans are basic and the spaces pretty poorly designed. The transitions haven’t been hard and in the last term alone we’ve had to think about the appropriateness of our designs even if it was just in a throwaway gesture. Now, with this new project, this is now the focus and the task of creating something that can sit next to some really quite famous architecture is very daunting.

Oh and we’re not allowed to touch the actual structure of the hall, this is all facades and the like so there’s another tweak.

As a bit of history here’s the background to the site: The building is Venetian Gothic, built in 1865 by Thomas Worthington at the height of Victorian Gothic revival. It accompanies the Memorial in the centre of St Albert’s square and the tall arched design must have looked pretty impressive right up until that stonking great Town Hall was built right alongside it.

This project really is quite exciting but the pressure of grafting a modern attachment to a mid 19th Century building is quite daunting. It did however remiind me of this clip I saw a few weeks back, proving that grafting is just a case of hard graft. or something like that.

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Music

Everyone remembers the fire effects on windows media player, watching as the lines and shapes flowed with the beats and gave a great feeling of tangibility to your music. I was listening to Nirvana and some crappy white rap back then (kept the first, dumped the second thankfully) and seeing the waves the program produced from some very simple data gave a very memorable visual stimulus which I still remember today.

Now, as an architectural student, it’s very easy to see the relationship that music and architecture have carved for themselves over the centuries. David Byrne, founding member of the Talking Heads, gives a great presentation at TED where he talks about examples of music written for specific rooms, Organ’s reverberations and slow melody designed for echoey churchs and jazz bands for the cramped quarter of barge boats. And now that building technology has leapt forward we have examples of architecture providing a musical spectical. Buildings like the Kunsthaus plastered with programmable leds to, if the occasion arose, display that self-same fire-pot from WMP that I remember so well.

What I find most captivating, however, is when music is captured by more than a light show, a passing moment on a busy evening. When a building captures that sweeping chorus or that delicate something to create a dynamic and perminently exciting structure. Because a piece of music won’t just be and go in a matter of three or so minutes, it stays with you without the aid of a pretty program. Buildings like the MUMUTH with its stunning staircase or this piece below by Paul Cocksedge which actually by a strange coincidence resembles the video above by Seiichi Hishikawa, bringing this post full circle. Nice.

New Angles

This picture, taken on set at the filming of Ishiro Honda’s Godzilla, draws back the curtain on the special effects of the film. By providing a shot outside of the finished film we see so much of how the film is put together, we can observe the scale of the set, the level of workmanship on the costumes, the background to the shot (a black sheet) and the mechanisms being used to operate the costume. This photograph also tells us that when we see shots from the ground the full suit will be worn but other times the more detailed legs will be worn and so the rhythm and tact behind the directing can be guessed at.

With modern techniches of course, these kind of photographs are all the same, people standing infront of green screens or of Andy Serkis covered in little white balls. These are interesting to a point but their purpose is to give the most advantage to the editor or animator, to either give them as blank a canvas or provide the most movement information. Either way the techniques are common-place with even motion capture considered average unless done remarkably (eg. RotPotA).

Now with new inventions such as the Ball Camera and this new iPhone lens the backdrop to photographs and films can be viewed and is often more interesting than that perfect shot. You can see the photographer and what’s behind him, the picture itself and everything inbetween. This is all made possible with great new software, made to stitch these incredibly complex images together and provide a great interactive feel to this processed object. I really recommend going to the Kogeto site in paticular as the video players in there are not supported by wordpress and really provide a unique video experience, there’s something about going down a ski-slope and being able to turn the camera yourself to watch skiiers go past that just seems so brilliant and, of course, the skiier himself.

Crowd-Sourcing

Crowdsourcing and the booming trend-word “Cloud” can be seen by scinics as mock science fiction jargon for the masses with tech companies making a ginormous deal and trying to pander to the public with their newest brain child. One shouldn’t be put off exploring the subject just because it’s hideously overused however as it really can be put to some useful and interesting situations.

My housemate recently installed Waze, a GPS powered smartphone application that maps traffic through social interaction. It simply monitors your speed when you have the app open and from that it can show others the traffic in your area. Sharing real-time movement information like this is just another step forward in our fridt towards a smarter city. All this information is out there to be obtained its just waiting until the right social application arrives.

Users are given incentivising points for logging information like broken traffic signals and fender benders and in this way the maps created are constantly in flux, and will only become more detailed as the app is adopted by a wider audience. The maps provided are not provided by the company itself but rather are built by people going through them. Their GPS signals are tracks and create roads and connections. User participation is again required to help adjust or fix a certain junction but the level of information being created and utilised is astounding.

This is a fascinating area and I’m sure this is merely a stepping stone to a more connected system, a sign of things to come when all information will be available AND useful. But in the meantime here’s an example of crowdsourcing on a spectacular scale: A movie made by the internet community. Unbelievable props to Aaron Valdez and Brian Pugh for editing what must have been the pile of all piles of footage. But this is what we can do if we’re connected: create starwars spoofs, enjoy!

Seamless technology

microsoft-sustainability

Quite a long time ago now I came across a couple of videos from Microsoft (above) and more recently a company called Rimino (below) that are working on concept phones and similar technology that paint an image of seamless and literally edgeless technology. Even the simple idea of what is being branded as an “e-paper” phone seems futuristic, when all they’re doing is making a phone with no plastic rim round the side. When Rimino release their finished project it may not be bendable or have half the features this video demonstrates what it won’t be is another iPhone imitation. It demonstrates a new and fresh direction of integration.

As conceptual products go this video really packs in the features which, when designing a product, is incredibly important. When designing a building it’s easy to overdesign, in “101 things i learnt at architecture school” Frederick talks about how you should always make your spaces 10% larger than required just because you WILL have forgotten that vital storage room or space for your generator. I can testify to this, in my latest project I made a building that was just big enough and I had to end up axing some elements just to avoid a total overhaul. When you’re sacrificing practicality for design you’re no better than catwalk designer, though I guess they’re doing the same thing!

Metropolis II

This is a video of Metropolis II, Chris Burden’s cityscape that’s been 4 years in the making. It reminds me of views of the future made in the early 20th Century with its the layering of different transport types and intertwining of the cityscape. It’s just fantastic watching it in motion!

The model has been bought recently by an investor but has been loaned to a museum in Amercica to stand, not as a scale model of the future, but as a boyhood fantasy taken to new heights. If anyone hasn’t seen Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis should put it on their list, a brilliant statement on societies of the future but mostly their architecture, further cementing the link between Architecture and the people it represents. Anyway, enjoy the video and this little beauty:

Portfolio Hand In

Almost too close to call with the deadline there but I managed to achieve the minimum requirement and hand something in. I wanted to post what I submitted and also, the films I’ve made over the last few months. This was in the form of a portfolio of group and personal work, a design report summarising the almost day by day analysis of what I was doing and why, and a drawing pack of technical details from this White Water project.

Portfolio

Design Report

White Water Drawing Pack

 

 



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