Monday, December 15, 2008


Throughout this nuisant transit strike I've been stuck at home to work without my drawings. I was however able to work out some details (e.g. wall sections, corner conditions, foundations, glazing etc.).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Boat Construction Time-Lapse

A sense of the process and space required to build a wooden boat.

Somerset Chinatown Article

For my elective, Urban Heritage Conservation, I have been researching and working on new options for street furniture and public art as well as many other cosmetic improvements to Somerset Chinatown like colour, signage, lighting, and a theoretical western gateway to the community. Other students are proposing new marketing strategies, public spaces, parking and circulation changes etc. Our class's efforts have just been published in the Centretown News. You can read it online or grab the most recent issue.

Carleton students help Chinatown spruce up its look
Centretown News Online - Saturday, 13 December 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Thesis Design Progress

Writing and theoretical research has been sidelined temporarily to allow for some intensive designing. I have come up with a second draft for my boat building workshop.

This is an older version of the existing site plan of the fort, above. There is string pasted on the board and now covered with vellum to pick up the topography lines as I draw. Choosing the point of entry was in question for a while because of the fort's geometrical regularity, but I soon realized that it was only a matter of convenience.

On my second panel, I have my proposal. It's still schematic; red represents walls that I'm adding, and yellow indicates existing work. The red + yellow square in the lower left marks the main entrance through the powder magazine whose enormous walls still stand. You then circulate east towards the existing defensive wall (the red saw-tooth form). The path then splits in two, with large boats for repairs to the north and small boat construction to the south. The yellow kite-like space at the top is where sails are sewn or repaired, and on the other side of the sawtooth wall, the eastern-most part of the building, are storage and lofting floors for drafting the boats.

In the earthworks of the fort can be found row upon row of gabions which are ancestral sandbags. They are made of small sticks weaved into a basket to contain rocks. The gabions are then stacked upon one another and backfilled to form a rampart. For my proposal I want to use the gabion as the building block for my proposal. My material palette for the whole building will be stone, wood and rope.

I found some interesting images from a boat workshop in the States somewhere, about how they transport the boats within their facility. I'm hoping I can do something along these lines where the boats are brought in by a short rail and distributed with this kind of mechanism.

Dr. Frascari and I discussed water-proofing; a building doesn't have to be water-proof but instead water-resistant. In the past century, buildings have become utterly dependent on vapour barriers rather than finding inventive ways of dealing with moisture. If the building is properly designed it can be ventilated without causing damage to the interior structure. The Querini Stampalia is a gallery by Carlo Scarpa in Venice which allows water to flood in and drain without causing any damage to the structure or material at all. Put in the context of a boat building workshop, it could truly animate the building's use.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tumblr Blog

Cook Until Browned withered away quietly. In its short life, I created a new page through Tumblr, with the same name and link through this site. I want to keep C+S focused on thesis. As you've noticed, there's very little thesis-related posting prior to this (which is going to change soon). Check out the new Cook Until Browned.

David Field Photography

Beautiful photography + painting + model technique by David Field.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Citrus Clock

New clock design by Florian Dussopt, Julie Gerard, and Jérémie Renaud. From their website:

"This clock runs on the energy of a lemon, which powers it for a week or longer. This pedagogic project is a kind of shortcut intended to remind ourselves that nature, in spite of the various transformations to which we subject her, is still our direct energy source.
The somewhat magical dimension of the operation is in fact simple electrolysis, like a conventional electric battery."

See their website.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

New Keith Loutit Video

I love this guy's work. Enjoy his new entertaining video.

Metal Heart from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

Santa Coloma de Gramenet Cemetery

European cities have been contending with a growing problem of space to bury their loved ones. Many new ideas are challenging ways to densify burials but also to use the burial grounds as multi-functional spaces -- spaces not just for the dead, but also the living. Traditionally, cemeteries were designed as "gardens of paradise", beautiful public places in their own right, but today that relationship is tenuous in many cases, and many cemeteries have turned to neglect. The Santa Coloma de Gramenet cemetery outside of Barcelona has introduced a contentious green solution towards a multi-functional use of a cemetery as a solar energy collection field.

This is a very unpoetic design of a traditionally thoughtful public space. It's becoming emblematic of our time where we are rushing to install solar panels onto every possible place at the expense of proper integration. In principle, I appreciate the partially conscious attitude of finding new areas of untapped energy, but at the same time see how our times are so dominated by practicality and insensitivity. In the future, when clean energy has achieved a certain milestone, there will probably be a cleanup wave to make solar panels better integrated. For now, it's a quick and dirty solution to harvesting clean energy.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rolling Huts

This just in, our project has apparently been done before. This is Olsen Sundberg Kundig's "Rolling Huts". Okay...not bad...but I don't see any secret society-carts, or seal-cutting-carts. Still, they look pretty cool and probably don't function very well, like ours. Nice.

Thanks Nico for the link.

CCA Charrette Website

The CCA has just recently updated their website by posting all of the submitted work by students, including a brief write-up of the finalist teams. Here's what they had to say about ours:

"The jury greatly appreciated the humorous, narrative approach that nonetheless upheld the proposal's practical and critical objective by revealing the fundamental needs of the village residents. The small buildings proposed act as characters who recount the diversity of the activities and needs of the people of Nunavik. They weave a dialogue between the sedentary nature of the existing houses and the more mobile and progressive needs associated with the actual life style. The proposal's “fun” dimension, the appeal to the imagination and the potential for self-construction in this both didactic and anti-establishment approach are very stimulating and contribute to making the particular nature of daily life in the North better known."

To see the updated page, go here and click on 'projects'.

The Disappearing Male

The chemical synthetic world we have surrounded ourselves with is starting to show more profoundly dangerous effects on the human race. According to a recent CBC documentary, synthetic materials are causing genetic alterations in the natural growth and well-being of males, signalling extreme concerns in human evolution. "Found in everything from shampoo, sunglasses, meat and dairy products, carpet, cosmetics and baby bottles, they are called "hormone mimicking" or "endocrine disrupting" chemicals and they may be starting to damage the most basic building blocks of human development." Watch this excellent documentary the CBC has posted on their website and consider making "drastic change".

Watch the full 45min version here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Peripetics by ZEITGUISED

Peripetics by ZEITGUISED from NotForPaper on Vimeo.

Thanks to Max for sharing this video.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Keith Loutit

I found these videos through Boing Boing a few weeks back, and can't help but share them. Keith Loutit's Time-Lapse videos:

Beached from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

Bathtub III from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

After watching these scale-model-esque videos, I tried experimenting with a couple of my own images in photoshop. Here's a doctored up version of one of my pictures from Genova's roofline.

And Lisboa:

They could use a bit of polishing, but it's a fun start.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

CCA Design Charrette

[Google Earth Image of Inukjuak, from a link on CCA website]

[Image from Index of CCA/InukjuakImages]

Nunavik, the vast Inuit territory of Northern Quebec, is gripped by an ongoing and systemic housing crisis. A history of inadequate and insufficient housing coupled with an exploding demographic has created an urgent public health situation manifested by severe overcrowding, deficient sanitation and ventilation, the spread of infectious diseases, psycho-social stresses, and violence. This crisis exists across Inuit communities of the North, but it is worse and worsening in Nunavik.

The housing crisis is a political and a historical issue, but it is also very much an issue of culture and of architecture. The extremely accelerated and forced transition of the nomadic Inuit into sedentary communities between 1930 and 1950 was an enormous cultural upheaval with widespread repercussions for the Inuit and their way of life. A sophisticated array of Inuit artefacts and nomadic architectures had evolved over thousands of years and is proof of a thriving material culture which was completely adapted to its northern environment. In contrast, the contemporary architecture the Inuit now inhabit is to a large extent derived from the architecture, the climate and the culture of the South. Is it any wonder then that the Inuit do not feel “at home” in their new homes?

This year’s Charrette challenges students to propose an architecture adapted to the northern environment; an architecture of the North : an architecture properly oriented for the wind which blow strong and cold from the northwest all winter whether we live in Montreal or Inukjuak ; an architecture which corresponds to the extreme variations in sunlight experienced from season to season at high latitudes ; an architecture which reflects the traditional but also the modern ways of life of today’s Inuit societies ; an architecture which addresses the present housing crisis in Nunavik."

[Image from Index of CCA/InukjuakImages]

[Image from Index of CCA/InukjuakImages]

[Image from Index of CCA/InukjuakImages]

In our group of five grad students, we dedicated the first of three long nights to understanding the major issues concerning the town of Inukjuak (pronounced Inoo-joo-ack). We bounced many different ideas off of each other but were very much hindered by our own limited understanding of the culture and how forcible of an intervention can be appropriated to such a fragile culture. One of the root problems in itself is that a violent intervention has already taken place by a government housing band-aid plan that has de-centered the Inuit culture altogether. To put things into perspective, the Inuit here are living in a suburban community model, cutting seals on their kitchen floors, because kitchen counters make no sense for this task. They eat on the floor and so the 'southern' kitchen and dining layout is completely inefficient for their intents and purposes. There is no correspondence between culture and home.

[Image from Index of CCA/InukjuakImages]

We struggled as a team to reach a balance between the extremes of a violent and timid solution. Where one of the project requirements was to design a temporary housing solution for eighty young men, we proposed to design eighty tools for these eighty men. The idea was that these eighty people would all have customized tools where they would have to work together as a community to build the houses (which we didn't design). As an idea, it was nice to chew on for a while, but we had a hard time representing and actually understanding the idea and practicalities as a team. Our group collapsed the day before we had to submit our project to Montreal. One member quit.

We took the opportunity to start from scratch. Our new idea was to design a pre-fabricated cart, much like a boat trailer, but fitted with an inhabitation on it (think of it as a pop-up camping trailer). This time, we approached the project from a completely different angle. We decided to emphasize our design on responding to the social crisis that is a by-product of the housing crunch. So, we designed 35 unique carts that cater to specific events that are important to their culture, to their health, their education etc, and each cart having a backup function as a sleeping cart. We designed seal-cutting carts, star-gazing carts, kitchen-carts, science-carts, music-carts, dance-carts etc. The carts are all based on the nomadic lifestyle of the Inuit. Each cart can be hitched onto a vehicle, or pulled by several people, ideally to spaces between the hugely separated houses, or even to different towns. The carts can then be linked with a link-cart to make a whole cluster of events. So imagine a tool-making-cart linked to a story-telling cart linked to a kitchen-cart. The combination of these events create dynamic and flexible situations, all responding to the afflictions: privacy, stress, amnesia, and boredom.

As soon as the idea was formed, we started production and called in reinforcements. Because many of our original team members had other personal commitments, our team roster went as low as just one person manning the project at a time. Nevertheless, our great friends came to the rescue and helped draw 35 carts through the night. We managed to print the panel in just the right amount of time and rush to the bus station to drop off the panel in Montreal. The project was only 20 hours old by the time it was printed and en route to Montreal. The result:

[Our dream-team panel. Isn't she a beauty? Thanks Ed, Nico, Jess, Morgan, Max, Marc, Matt]

On the Monday evening, while attending the reception in one of the UQAM buildings, it was announced that our team won Honourable Mention! The judging was split into two categories, ACTION and IDEA (or agitation in French), with a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Honourable Mention in the action category, and two awards, 1st prize and honourable mention in the idea category. We won honourable mention under the IDEA category! Apparently the categories were formed spontaneously, based on the split in design strategies submitted by teams. The team that beat us was from McGill and submitted an all-text panel. It included test-site application forms for people to develop houses in the town, or so I believe. Another Carleton team placed second under the Action category. Congratulations and huge thanks to our whole team! Way to go Carleton!


Tugaliak (Ice Blocks)
Watch Qulliq
Watch Issaituq
CCA website

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Graduate Architecture Colloquium 2008

Last week I presented my thesis project for Colloquium. Steve Fai, H. Masud Taj, and Marco Frascari were present. The discussion was really interesting and helped me consolidate some topics of interest. The biggest one is developing the idea of the game which I'll elaborate below. For now, here are my slides and summaries of my discussion for each.

My thesis is this: I believe that designing and analogically playing with fragments is crucial to our sustenance, or well-being.

Central to this thesis is how to use fragments in a cosmopoetic way. From Barbara Stafford's Visual Analogy, "Our civilization is staggering under an explosion of discontinuous happenings exhibited as if they had no historical precedents. We are overloaded with personal statements, irreducibly distinctive subjects, and contradictory opinions." This thesis is a reaction to the naturally fragmented world we live in. I want to operate within this framework by using physical fragments in an analogical way, meaning drawing connections and similarities with these fragments, rather than emphasizing differences. To do this, I've come up with five points to structure a game that attempts to connect our attitudes of similarity.

The game is made up of five "points" [I was hesitant to use the word rules, fearing its restrictive quality]. The first point is translation where pieces of a building are reused for new applications to generate a new thing. In this case, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei constructed a pavilion of 1001 windows and doors from the Ming dynasty. This project was assembled in Germany. Memory evades disposal, thanks to the artist for saving the pieces, and reconstructed to share in a new context. A relationship of similarity is set up to consider Chinese art in a German context. "How are our windows similar?"

The second point is reuse of a fragment as the same function, which is pretty much the simplest system of using fragments. It's much like recycling garbage or plainly replacing something with something better. A column capital or shaft is reused as the same function, but spatially organized to set up hierarchies based on the likeness of the objects themselves, but also how each piece came into being, or from where.

Lofting is a method of both construction and drawing in boat construction that makes use of a floor (stone or wood) to draw 1:1 scale draughts of boats. The process cuts out the trial and error events that usually occur when a boat drawing is scaled up from an AutoCAD file. The floor is reused as a wall, or repainted for more drawing. This ability to have a secondary function embedded in the functionality of a design is extremely useful and can conserve the memory of the previous functionality.

The fourth point is what I'm currently calling continual re-assembly or customization of "building blocks". The Merzbau is an example that changes constantly to suit Kurt Schwitters, while accumulating actual fragments like paintings, pencils, small memorabilia that are of value to him. As more pieces are adopted into the space, Schwitters adjusts the space accordingly. Likewise, a gabion or sandbag wall system is similar where these construction units can be adjusted to suit the inhabitant. I think its significance is largely energy-related, but I'm also thinking generally in terms of how the building is able to transform and conserve the traces of its previous states.

Recontextualization is relocating an object somewhere else. While all of the above points in some way involve a relocation (inherent to the definition of fragmentation), this is striving towards moving something like an entire building to somewhere else, where it takes on a whole new meaning and function. The House of Loreto is one such example. Also, just think of rebuilding a lighthouse in downtown Toronto. It creates a place of spectacle or discussion.

The site is Fort Beauséjour, New Brunswick. Historically, this is where events lead up to the Great Upheaval of Acadians, a precedent in fragmentation to start with.

The fort is situated on a ridge surrounded by marshland and overlooking the Bay of Fundy. My geometric sketch attempts to reveal the positioning of the fort. The 'size' of the fort is much larger when we consider what landmarks were used in drawing the pentagon and what method was used to draw the pentagon (there are about 10 different ways to draw one).

Aerial view of the site.
Panoramas to give a sense of the earthworks. You can see the beginnings of the Bay of Fundy off in the distance.
The Chignecto Ship Rail was a failed project, because of the collapse of the British economy. It was originally meant to transport full sized ships across the Chignecto Isthmus, but was only partially completed. Pieces of the brick arched bridges were reassembled in the visitor's centre (rule #1).

Which brings me to my program, a boat building and repair shop. Boat building and fort construction separately are two of the major social endeavours where communities would come together and exchange ideas and technology over the drawing. Through this process of learning, both trades eventually brought about the engineering as a discipline. Relating fragmentation to boat building is still to be refined. I really just picked the program from a hat as a challenge. Not an issue.

After describing the five rules, it was brought up that I've made five different games and that I should reduce the five points to one game. Also, there is an issue of scale that I need to address. I addressed the minute pieces of the building but also the entire building as a fragment (House of Loreto). I have to intensify which part I want to deal with. Another great criticism was "does this game have rules?" For some reason I was quite reluctant to use the word rule because of its restrictive connotation, in favour of points. But, without rules, there's no game. I should look at games which imply a real life metaphor, like in Monopoly which is a game of capitalism, and Risk which is a game of aggressive world domination. So, what is it that my game talks about? After a lengthy discussion of the game, another point that I should consider the game as having unspoken rules. I'm quite interested in this aspect, where the rules have to be discovered. In Peter Zumthor's baths in Switzerland, five rooms contain experiences for the five senses, but at no point does it say on a sign or manual that this is the case. The way the space is designed, you figure out the game -- talking at a certain level makes your voice carry, or the design of a railing encourages you to reach out to a fountain of hot/cold water. Recommended I imply my rules through drawing or model.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

CCA Design Charette

I will be participating in a Design Charrette from Thursday October 30th to Monday, Nov 3rd with fellow grad classmates in Montréal. Last year, our class was well represented and got honourable mention for their design. A description of the project as copied from the CCA website:

The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), in collaboration with the École de Design de l'Université du Québec à Montréal, Université de Montréal, McGill University, Université Laval, Carleton University and Ryerson University is organizing a design charrette related to the ongoing housing crisis in Nunavik. Participants will be invited to propose design solutions at a variety of scales encompassing urbanism, architecture and industrial design.

The university charrette will run from Thursday October 30th to Monday, Nov 3rd 2008. All projects submitted will be exhibited at UQAM’s Coeur des Science (175, avenue du Président-Kennedy) from November 3-5th 2008. This is the 14th edition of the university charrette. It is now an annual forum for young creators in the fields of design and planning, bringing together the full range of design-related disciplines: architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, industrial design, interior design, and graphic design. In addition to university students, the charrette welcomes young designers (recent graduates) participating in internships with professional associations in Quebec.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Flying House of Loreto

From tradition, the house of the Virgin Mary is thought to have been transported by angels from Nazareth to Croatia, then again to Recanti, Italy; and finally a third time to its present location in Loreto. This practice of dis-assembly is a fundamental aspect in a game of fragments, where a building is never static, but able to move and be modified.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Governor General "Art Matters Forum"

[Image from the Governor General's website]

Yesterday, the Pit was transformed to host the Governor General Michelle Jean and panelists David Hughes, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Canada, Jean-Claude Marsan, architect and urban planner (U of Montréal), and Sheryl Boyle, assistant professor from Azrieli School of Architecture (Carleton), for a discussion of sustainability: "How do we sustain buildings? How do buildings sustain us?". I encourage you to read the framework for last night's discussion on the Rideau Hall blog. You can also watch the entire podcast of the event from the website.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Thesis Frontispiece and Abstract - First Draft

A first draft of my frontispiece and abstract for my Thesis:

Amnesia and Fragmentation: Five Points Towards an Appropriation of Fragments

“Man, in a word, has no nature; what he has is…history. Expressed differently: what nature is to things, history, res gestae, is to man [1].” Amnesia is a condition that is currently affecting the architectural profession. In large part, this can be attributed to a relatively recent trend in the demolition of buildings. Paradoxically, historical preservation – the uncompromising retention of buildings in their former state is the polemic condition to a discussion of memory in architecture. Our attitudes and architecture, in a state of amnesia or memory stagnation.

This thesis seeks to explore through five points a game of using fragments as a solution to the problem of memory in architecture – a game which has rules, but is not serious so as to encourage an attitude of play with pieces, rather than a disregard or fear of altering meaningful parts of a building. This game of fragments includes translating the parts and materials of a historic building into new and unexpected applications. It also designs the parts of the building for dis-assembly, to encourage future reuse that accumulate greater meaning over time.

The play of fragments will respond to the more serious condition of amnesia and emerging issues of sustainability and energy shortages. The context of this thesis is the preserved ruin and national historic site, Fort Beauséjour in New Brunswick. A boat building workshop will be the proof of a theory of appropriating fragments. The architectural intervention will ground the aforementioned issues through the theoretical writings on fragmentation in Colin Rowe's "Collage City", Maria Fabricus Hanson’s “The Eloquence of Appropriation”, and Barbara Maria Stafford's "Visual Analogy".

1. Colin Rowe. Collage City, p. 118, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1984)