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Posts tagged ‘architecture’

Why we need to bring back the Draft

Architectural drafting, that is.

In recent headlines, there has been mention of adding women to the Draft. It reminded me of a blog post I’ve long been planning to write. Why I want to bring back the draft—that is, the architectural kind.

There is something riveting about Revit, the way in which the structure comes alive. We can view and manipulate it at any angle. And how SketchUp gives us a sense of space. But now a days, I frequently encounter younger architects who can’t even remember the last time they drew something by hand (other than a doodle!).

Buildings, at the end of the day, are still built by our hands and once they are finished, they will be filled with people. Without a relationship between your hands, eyes and your idea, you remove an element of humanity. You forget the shoes that scruff, fingers that leave smudge marks. The space will never remain stark and its users will all be imperfect. This is an important element to understanding your structure and how it must exist.

Also, there’s a lingering memory with drawing by hand that cannot be replicated on a computer. I can visualize the first steps of all of my buildings, the thick black lines that would eventually lay out a new home or headquarters. Like on a computer, drafting by hand occurs through layers. Translucent sheets of paper laid across each other as they begin to weave a structure. In these early stages, we innately pick an angle, a focal point for our building. We are not yet connected to its three-dimensionality but rather its personality. What draws the eye? How does it fit into its site?

A computer can always solve the problems of a site, of a building. But it is rarely–if ever–an elegant solution. It is a cold and calculated one and usually ends up being inconvenient for the people who will share the space. Whenever I encounter the starkness of a building, inconvenient banisters, I can see an architect who has distanced themselves from the humanity of the building.

 

 

What makes an architect or building good? Even great?

What is great architecture? What makes a building “good?”

As a woman, my buildings are immediately a political statement, a statement on my gender. I am often described as a “female architect” rather than just “architect.” But rather than let the politics of the system control my work: politics and aesthetics inspire and innovate me.

I don’t think great architecture comes from architects who dedicate themselves to one kind of project. After awhile, those two dozen office headquarters you’ve designed start to look alike. But good architecture isn’t just about vision either, it’s about a personal mission and a philosophy. Deciding what architecture meant to me and what creating a building meant—what it represented—was a seminal decision in my career and in my style.

In all of my projects, I try to imbue what I describe as humane modernism: buildings that are well built, that foster connections, and inspire their inhabitants, are an ethical responsibility. And this is a challenge.

Often times, the projects I take on have a moral and environmental dilemma to face; tight sites, tight budgets, modern but environmentally conscious design that can echo the voice of the clients. How can a Planned Parenthood clinic be both warm, opening but secure? How can a residence on a cliff (with a 200 foot drop) look romantic, modern but still fit on its rural site? And all while working with clients with their very own opinions.

I have designed health centers and multi-family residences. I have designed headquarters and homes, some from scratch and others were given to me with bones. In each project, I consider and apply my philosophy.

But your vision or mission doesn’t need to be morally or politically oriented like mine. Gehry’s façades play with perspective and his interiors with space. He challenges what a building can be. Hadid looked towards angularity that is still fluid. She compromised nothing

Discovering what philosophy motivates your creation—that is good architecture.

 

 

Architecture With A Social Agenda

Designing the Kapor Center for Social Impact is about working towards the future. The Center will work to improve access to opportunity, participation and influence in the United States for historically underrepresented communities through investments in information technology.

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When More is Really Less

The tendency in architecture these days is to go bombastic: think big hair beehives in the 60’s, not to be missed, in your face, flashy and maybe a little tacky….and all under the guise of modernity.

Frank Gehry’s Louis Vitton Foundation

Just like mentioned in the Devil Wears Prada, economics doesn’t trickle down but style does. So when there’s this tendency for grandiose object making architecture by brilliant architects, the aesthetic trickles down to the more common, but the buildings become more desperate. Without the knowledge and context of a season architect, it becomes a hodge-podge of copy and paste. If you can have wood sliding, wood panels, metal and copper, why not add metal screens, glass, tile and stucco?

The facades become only skin-deep, full of materials and not much else. But the good news is, no matter how horrifically a building is, someone will deem it worthy of publication, 15 seconds of fame on the Internet.

Humor aside, it isn’t just the lack of weight and meaning behind the facades. It really is what this represents. The thing here is that these buildings are supposedly modern in form but really there are post-modern in their exterior expression—an attempt to resolve the architecture of the new with the appreciation of the old. The ornamentalism and contradictions of post-modernism cannot co-exist without much education, thought and deliberation. Post-modernism is a beast of rule breaking and remaking. This is the ultimate revenge of post modernism (ugly post modernism, at that), which got shunted by modernism in the 90’s. It has insinuated itself back–behind the scenes– reemerging in the hands of the modernist who are desperately trying to differentiate themselves.

All the glass facades have begun look alike. How many variations on mullions, glass colors and module layout can you do? Is the issue education? How young architects sometimes seem oblivious to any “modern” architecture before 2000? History is a subject no longer taught or in fashion in architectural education. So the newbies to the industry design with panache, unaware that it has all been done before. Worse yet, they design without much reference to the successful buildings of the past. But it’s a hard to slay a beast if you don’t know why you’re fighting it in the first place.

The Amazon by Acronyms

I just came back from a phenomenal trip to Brazil, visiting some of the world’s most unbelievable architecture. But nothing truly compared to the Amazon: fantastic sites, unbelievable nature and no cell-phone reception! But we don’t all have the luxury of wistfully dreaming of the Amazon (or reading someone’s 1,000 word blog post), so I bring you the abridged version.

ICYMI: It’s amazing. It’s awesome.

The Amazon covers 40% of South America (including 8 different countries), it’s 20km across at its widest and it’s been around for over 10 million years.

FYI: There aren’t many animals and there are a lot of hiding places.

Don’t go to the Amazon for exotic wildlife. Movie depictions tend to romanticize this area, which is more overgrown with monkeys and bird populations than jaguars and anacondas.

OMG: It hasn’t always been the green heart of the world.

Scientists have now found evidence that humans occupied this area for thousands of years till the 15th century (the Amazon was previously considered “unlivable” by scientists). Estimates show that there were over 15 million people living in the Amazon at one time. And human cultivationthat’s what made the land so fertile. The astounding conclusion is that it is a man-made product.

IMG_4102BTW: It’s not one climate.

It’s easy to imagine the Amazon as humid, unbearably hot and wet. In truth, there’s a dry and wet season for the Amazon and the amount of rainfall varies from location. There’s a lot more rainfall in areas closer to Peru while Manaus in Brazil is known for its dry season.

P.S. Ever heard of El Tunchi?

He’s known as an evil spirit that haunts the jungle, terrorizing (and eventually hypnotizing) humans who disrespect the environment. He lures people with an eerie whistling sound. Legend is, if you hear the whistling, do everything in your power to not respond to his whistle—or it will be the last thing you do.

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TFB

Due to the sensitive nature of this piece, we’ve redacted certain language. This blog post is not suitable for children and probably chauvinists while we’re at it. To read the uncensored piece, click the read more link.

This past Sunday was International Women’s Day, for over 80 years, March 8th has been a day to █████ women, to celebrate how far we’ve come and acknowledge how much farther we ████████. My daughter, who is now 25, had a ██████ with me about the word “███████████,” how when she was younger she felt it was harsh and stigmatized, how she didn’t like to ██████████ herself a feminist until her 20s.

It made me think of college, where we slung the term “feminist” around like people do “dude.” We were all feminists and loudly, proudly so. My daughter’s previous ███████ at “feminist” also reminded me of my college moniker, “█████ ████████ ████████” (TFB). A lot of people may find the name rude or inappropriate, but I find it as apt and accurate in 2015 as it was in 1975. I am French and yes, I am a ███████, well a ███████in the patriarchal interpretation of the word. Understand that the name was given to me at ████████████ and that my friends were well aware of the ironies. They called me TFB because I was an honest friend, open about my opinions (even if they were unpopular) and perhaps a bit ███████████.

As ███████, we fear that which is “harsh” (I think we often conflate strength and resolve for grittiness), the identities or adjectives that separate us from our ██████████. I don’t mind TFB because I am one and proudly so. I am not only unwilling to accept sub par work and I will tell you it is sub par. I will not let my ███████ colleagues talk over me in a meeting. I have little patience for ████████ or laziness. And, as any woman can tell you, these traits in a man would have him lauded for excellent leadership: a clear and honest communicator, a confident ██████████████ and a hard worker with exceptionally high standards.

But I am a █████, and therefore in order to be everything a male counterpart is, I must be a “███████.”

I will not allow the boring (patriarchal) laws of “female decency” to █████ my personality. I am proud of the work I have accomplished, I am proud of the firm I have built and I am proud of the ██████ that I am. And if that makes me a ███████, then so be it.

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Architects and Optimism: Harmony or Horror?

The other night, I was up late, watching yet another British crime-mystery show. I would call myself a fan of good wine and cheese but only an addict to one thing: this sub-genre of television. I have now resorted to online subscriptions to English web sites so I can stream the most obscure shows. Anyway, in the climax of another whodunit plot, the corrupt business-type “perp” (I like to use context-appropriate jargon) is finally coming clean. In a long, pessimistic, diatribe he describes the world as a cesspool and that only greed is a value worth considering.

Pessimist is a word I am used to and if you sat it at a dinner party with most architects, you can get a sense of negativity. I think a lot of people would describe architects as pessimists; we’re certainly tempestuous enough. But while we architects are often a bitchy, mournful lot, forever complaining about the complexities of our jobs, our poor financial compensation and the trouble of trying to make good architecture in a profit driven world, we are really a bunch of optimists.

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Ray and Charles Eames

My daughter and I had a debate this morning on the telephone. The previous night, I had sent her an interview of Charles and Ray Eames done by Arlene Francis for the Arlene Francis Home Show in 1956.

See video below Ray Eames shows up 1:38 minutes into a 4.25 minute video.

I went off how the video was the epitome of sexism in American society of the 1950’s. That there was something patronizing and pejorative by calling her the “interesting and able woman behind the man.” Eames looks to the floor, seemingly embarrassed. And Arlene Francis doesn’t seem to know how to balance the interview; at times completely ignoring Ray and then diverting attention back to her.

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Fougeron Architecture in Vogue!

Fougeron Architecture’s Fall House was recently featured in a photoshoot for Vogue.

 

The photoshoot was titled Beauty and the Beast and surrounded the trend of “earth tones, suede and high-laced boots are more than just Bohemian throwbacks–they’re essential pieces for a night on the prowl.”

 

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OUTRAGE: On Moma

Does anyone remember the Outrage/Delight sections of The Architectural Review? We should bring that back.

In case you missed it, the New York MOMA is planning on tearing down a 12 year old building. The building in question, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, housed the American Folk Art Museum. After going bankrupt, MOMA bought the Williams/Tsien property which was adjacent.

I have a lot of feelings on this decision and none of them are positive.

From a strictly reason perspective, this seems like a waste. This building isn’t even a teenager, and now, in a time in which we lament the economy, we’ve decided that it should be torn down. It is expensive to design and build something. There are hundreds of jobs, thousands of hours and millions of dollars that go into a project of this magnitude.

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