Monday, April 28, 2008

Recto Verso

Recto Verso is an architectural concept that depends on the three-dimensional two-sidedness of paper. While this seems obvious, in contemporary architectural drawing, this idea is quickly forgotten because of a dominant computer-based drawing medium that mainly facilitates a two-dimensional experience on-screen. In the traditional sense, recto verso drawings emerged firsthand out of necessity — the conservation of valuable drawing material by using both sides of the paper. However, over time the ancients developed a refined technique of representation that could incorporate elevation on the recto aligned with section on the verso, for example. The effect of this technique alters and heightens one’s consciousness of the space that is observed, creating a total front-to-back understanding of the space in the observer. This three-dimensional spatial sense — looking forward and backward simultaneously — is the essence of recto verso thinking and can be analogized with the mythological characteristics of Janus, Roman god of gates and doors, beginnings and endings whose two faces look into the past and future simultaneously.

Janusian thinking (same as recto verso thinking) is a more widely known concept that can be attributed to many creative fields, particularly architecture. It is especially important for the architect who uses this mode of thinking to visualize complex spaces. However, the drawing technique is mainly forgotten, a result of paper in plenty. To quote Marco Frascari, from his blog Zibaldone:

In architectural drawing the verso/recto approach usher us into different realms from which we are to take back mysteries to our particular realm. The magic of a recto verso conceiving is to alter someone's consciousness. The alterity of the recto verso architectural conjuring up is essential for the making of a proper architecture responding to the unknown other.

Contemporary examples of recto verso drawings are hard to come by, as this technique has long since evolved from its simple origin. Current practices naturally require more sophisticated methods of representing a building and its components than simply imitating its sectional form on the verso. Applications of the idea however are expressed in many surprising ways. The best example is not under architecture at all, but of photography and the work of Robert Heinecken.

From Heinecken's website: "The Recto/Verso photograms were made without the use of camera or film. A single page from a mass-circulation magazine was placed in direct contact with color photographic paper and exposed to light. The resulting image superimposes the visual and verbal information from the front and back of the magazine page. No collage, manipulation, or other handwork was employed."

[image: Robert Heinecken]

[image: Robert Heinecken]

[image: Robert Heinecken]

[image: Robert Heinecken]

[image: Robert Heinecken]

Robert Heinecken's portfolio of twelve photograms.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Architectural Jargon of the Day!

Ruskin, as the initially quintessential
transcendental man of extensive space,
involved in pseudoscopic inversions, a
form of metalepsis, as a failing distance
invades the foreground, necessitating the
attempted displacement and projection
into the now vacant distance, which is be-
coming a wasteland without a future, is a
transcendental man of considerable modi-
fication, who can now conceive of an
extensive prisonbody that contained it.

Get real.

Janusian Thresholds
Author(s): Jay Fellows
Source: Perspecta, Vol. 19, (1982), pp. 43-57
Published by: The MIT Press on behalf of Perspecta.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tower Slideshow

Here's a brief slideshow of the "Bang!" Tower integrated with the neighbouring River Tower, by Peter F. Chiang.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Final Tower Presentation

-Gasp!- At last, after days of painstaking diligence, the Bang Tower is complete, along with drawings and video! Hoooray for everything! It was an epic display of determination, madskillz and moxy on all of the group's part in the final few days of what I like to call the hardest studio ever. In the end, the group pinned up excellent projects and none of us will suffer a triple F- as threatened. Finally we can all return to so called reality and sleep for more than 3 hours a night. Can I get a woot!?

All the models were snapped into place on the site but this turned out to be completely pointless, unfortunately because our prof demanded the models be placed next to our pinned up drawings which meant it was impossible to see the buildings in context. This was a bit heartbreaking because some of us attempted to integrate others' towers into our own which was lost in this move. Nonetheless, we presented our towers one by one after a flashy introduction of the concept and program on a video we created in the dying hours of the night with panic sweats keeping us awake.

All of the towers were criticized for their weaknesses -- none for their strengths. My tower was criticized for having too rational a structure for so unpredictable of a conceptual phenomenon (i.e. atom smashing). Granted, there was a huge opportunity for a truly ridiculous structural solution but I felt that my floor plates were already overly aggressive and an irrational structure would just make things too incoherent. At the same time, I thought it wasn't really a fair criticism because had I chosen an unpredictable structure they would have equal reason to say I could have chosen a more rational structure. This kind of debate can go both ways. There was nothing to say about the actual final structure I ended up designing, unfortunately.

Aside from this, the question "why the mini tower?".
My tower sits on one of the main crossroads of the Hudson Yards, where pedestrians intersect at all levels. Because of this, I thought it would demand a greater footprint for commercial and pedestrian use, and also a higher density to encourage all the surrounding towers' programs. Secondly, based on the explosion concept which implies that energy is created and destroyed at the same time, one tower is for expending energy, the other for renewing it. It also had to do with setting up a "gateway" that looks down the entire site, while harnessing wind energy in the gap of both towers. It's also sitting on the "throne" of the site and so hierarchically I felt it demanded more presence, imposing a organization of the rest of the scheme.
They didn't quite bite down on these justifications, but it was probably because I was seconds away from falling asleep and could barely articulate these things.

The remaining criticisms were all over the map and weren't entirely useful to be honest. In fact to be totally honest, the critique was probably the biggest anticlimax we could have asked for. For such a brutal studio for its demanding level of production and quality, we didn't really get anything in return except euphoric relief to be finished. That in itself is priceless. (So is waking up in the same position 13 hours after the crit).

So, I won't bore you anymore. Here's the final video as I presented it at the crit (photos of the group project to follow).

This video is for educational purposes.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Artist Sean Odell

Last year on my second night in Ireland I went to see Emm Gryner in concert who I learned was one of my classmates' brothers' wife. A year later, after sharing studio with my friend Ryan, I've learned that his brother who I chilled with over some Guinness in Dubby is a highly accomplished artist who shared exhibitions with the famous H.R. Geiger, and has even sold paintings to Rob Zombie. Have a browse at Sean Odell's website for some of his amazing artwork.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dress Rehearsal

The "found object" model as I've been mentioning has been sailing through its golden age the past week or so. After a preliminary hunt for scrap materials, we've collectively made a second wave for more metal and plastics, this time with a jackpot find -- a photocopier machine from one of the engineering buildings. It felt a little primal bizarro when this machine was wheeled in to studio, because like a pack of hyenas, we pounced on it and tore the thing to pieces. I've never seen a more crazed group of students in my life. Like a wounded wildebeest, we gutted the thing in a matter of minutes -- blood was spraying all over in the form of black ink powder. Just look at the carcass as we left it:

This tower is proudly brought to you by Sony, Xerox, Kenmore, and HP. At the base is soccer dad's Sony camcorder framing the tower's convention centre, with busted out lens indicating a water purification tank, trim from the Xerox machine rising up the central vertical axis providing sky gardens, and another part of the Xerox providing sun shade for a Polish Bistro at ground level.

The group has achieved a lot over the past couple of weeks and we're all at roughly the same level of completion with the exception of one of two who bypassed the flu bug and are a week ahead of the rest of us. I decided that a dress rehearsal was in order to test how well the group's models snap in to place, since we hadn't initially tested the fit of our bases. When all the models were rolled in to place, we were pleasantly mesmerized by its surreality. Each of us has had some kind of image in our minds as to how the models would look when they were in context with the other towers but we were blown away by how much larger it was in reality than in thought. Bearing in mind that each of the towers is approximately 6' tall, the level of detail and saturation of space with objects and structure was so uplifting. In this glorious state of euphoria, we then discovered that the elevator had broken down in the process and our models were stranded out of reach from our studios...####!

Aerial view of the site looking South.

Explosion Tower, looking towards the Hudson River.I was lucky to snag the site that I did because it's smack dab in the middle of the overall scheme. It sets up a pedestrian gateway to the main public space + having twin towers is great in this situation to lighten the visual density from ground level + frames views looking both ways.

With seven days left from today, it's crunch time to get the drawings done and touch up any of the model that is incomplete. Ohh, the relief to be done...