Sunday, April 5, 2009

between silence + light

definition - an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, esp. manual skill (

In any art form, craft is essential. Craft reflects skill, craftsmanship and knowledge in any way that it is created. During the Arts and Crafts Movement of the later half of the 20th century, social reformer William Morris believed that good design was linked with a good society. Anne Massey points out that this movement believed in "turn[ing] our artists into craftsmen and our craftsmen into artists" (Massey, 12). This meant that the designs were to be of the people for the people and a source of pleasure to the maker and the user. People thought it would be better for all if individual craftsmanship was revived and the worker would produce beautiful objects as opposed to products of mass production. Handcrafted work aimed to direct availability for the middle class particularly, however, due to new materials of iron and glass, expenses and time made it usually only possible for the more wealthy to purchase these new creations.

Recently, our class traveled to Virginia and Pennsylvania to experience the architecture created by Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. Both of the pieces we visited had some problems with craft that resources are dealing with now, however, when considering the time periods they were constructed, both forms represent great craft. Monticello, which is located in Charlotteville, VA, began construction in 1769 and was complete 1809. It is a great example of craft as a whole and of its individual parts. Most of the materials used to build the building were made right there at Monticello: the bricks, the nails, the hinges and the structural timber and the limestone for making mortar, were quarried on Jefferson's land. As mentioned in the guided tour, all of the hinges left in the house now are the original hinges that Jefferson brought to the design in the 18th century. A great learning source was provided on the lower grounds of Monticello that express Jefferson's need to fine craft and self-sufficiency:

As this sign illustrates, Jefferson would have his own slaves at the young age of ten to sixteen to do his personal blacksmith and woodworking for Monticello. Taken from a letter that Jefferson wrote to Benjamin Austin Monticello, he believed that "to be independent for the comforts of life we must fabricate them ourselves". From this belief came the manufacturing of 5,000 to 10,000 constructed handwrought nails a day by the children slaves. Although it seems cruel, Jefferson's eye for craft reflected in the over construction and look of his design. Below is a sketch I drew while examining the building from the outside in the back of the building.

Similar to Monticello, Wright wanted to create Fallingwater as a spectacular building. First of all, Wright designed and built the structure into a hillside over a thirty-foot waterfall. This could only happen in the years of construction between 1936 and 1939 by the use of new technologies. Although it was only possible to understand the structure, geometry and physics to build the house, over time, craft has decreased through material sense as the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has been forced to replace pieces of the building, such as the windows. This flaw, however, does not overpower the decision that Fallingwater is a high craft structure. The photograph below is one that I captured during the trip at Fallingwater.

Craft is also thought of something being clean, perfect, timeless, and incorporating a datum. When walking through Fallingwater, I was immediately drawn to the low square, bright-colored seats that Wright had designed himself. They are very clean cut, still in "mint" condition today and incorporate a physical datum right through the center of the seat horizontally, but also a datum of idea and purpose. I feel the design is very unique and appreciate its sense of craft.

-picture i drew of monticello
-frank lloyd wrights chair

public - open to all persons (
private - belonging to some particular person or confined to or intended only for the persons immediately concerned (

In architecture, it is not always obvious that certain rooms and spaces are designed for public use and private use. Many times, people know that bedrooms are places where people have their own space and kitchen, the "heart of the house", is the main source for entertainment and everyone to be. However, designs and details of the space to make them these desires are not always clear. Robbie G. Blakemore highlights these points that began to become pronounced int he 19th century architecture and lifestyles: “the stratification of the interior was highly complex; spaces were designed for women, men, children, and servants. Rooms were designed for specialized activities within each area" (Blakemore 393). During the Art Nouveau period, attention was drawn to these spaces of privacy, but also the importance of public spaces such as dining rooms, living rooms and entrance halls. Distinctions can be made between private and public spaces simply by details. Using light to distinguish between a public and private space is one example. At Fallingwater, Wright seemed to use this light idea by creating dark hallways that lead to the family member's bedrooms. This was to deter any visitors from entering into private areas and instead, they were brought to a naturally bright area from many windows that leads them to their guest house. The guest would also be allowed in the dining room and great room, which were beautifully lit up by natural sunlight. Finding light specifically in the house that represented a private space was a nautical-type fixture that I spotted in the bathroom. This light did not cast very much light, clearly making the bathroom and shower area an unpopular and private space. Fallingwater itself is clearly designed to be a private home as it is tucked away in the woods, away from any major crossings. At Monticello, Jefferson used lighting in a way to reflect public and private spaces as well. First off, Jefferson claimed 1.3 of the house for himself only. This was accomplished with a bedroom of curtains and walls completely surrounding his space. For the remains of the house that were considered public were the dining areas, entrance way and the living room. One instance being the dining room that occupied skylights, which allowed large amounts of light to flood through. Monticello itself was constructed atop a huge hill, making it clear that he wished for everyone to be able to view his creation as a public space.

definition - method of performance ; the manner and ability with which an artist, writer, dancer, athlete, or the like employs the technical skills of a particular art or field of endeavor (

Everyone has their one ways of doing things, including designers, who have their own techniques in their designs. Personal techniques are built upon experience and skill, which set a certain preference, whether it be in rendering, designing, drawing, lettering, or building. IARC has encouraged that we develop our own techniques and styles in our creations. I feel I have started to find my personal style, which can be reflected through my trading spaces project where I feel I have taken Nicole Robert's space and completely transformed it into my own. I admire a various amount of detail in my art forms and to render my interior space, I found using prismacolor markers best highlighted my realistic images. With the markers, I am able to create textures, three-dimension and bold forms, for example in the wood floors. For other sketches that I create in my sketchbook, I mostly use my drawing pen and sometimes highlight areas with watercolor.

A building that is a great example of personal technique is the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain from the 20th century. Designed by Canadian-American architect, Frank Gehry, the Guggenheim was built with much thought and care. His museum is considered one of the most spectacular buildings of the 20th century and of the Deconstructive era. To choose the materials, Gehry experimented under different conditions, settling for nothing less then perfect for his design. He first looked at stainless steel but found that it always appeared to have a "velvety" sheen, whether in sun or shade and it was too bright in full sun and too dull under clouds. Instead he wanted a material that would catch light in the randomness of the curves, which is what titanium could accomplish. In addition to titanium slabs, Gehry also incorporated glass walls, which adds transparency and light, limestone, and a steel frame. Gehry's choice of materials reflected his technique of architecture. All of Gehry's works were special, as if they were meant to be a gift. The photograph below shows the titanium panels, a section of glass wall with a steel frame and a limestone floor.

definition - any system of formalized symbols, signs, sounds, gestures, or the like used or conceived as a means of communicating thought, emotion, etc. ; communication of meaning in any way (

Language acts as any form of communication whether it be spoken, written or visual (etc.). Language should be used as a tool to help improve ideas or to connect different cultures and time periods. Leland M. Roth describes the 19th century architecture as speaking from the past. During this time eclecticism, “the informed and selective borrowing of historical building forms and details, rooted in associationalism”, controlled design, but it was mostly of design from the past, which made it hard to create new designs for the future (Roth, 469). Through the time, many forms of eclecticism developed, however, I feel the overall nature of its designed were somewhat a barrier to developing new ideas. Architects focused too much on mimicking the past that it was hard for them to create something successful that accommodated both form and function. The language in this sense, was constricted. Stepping away from eclecticism and relating language and architecture in another way is to consider that a building should not only communicate with its own elements, but also with its overall surroundings. If an architect creates a magnificent building, it must fit where it is located. An example that does not work would be putting a skyscraper from New York City in a desert. An architect that was successful in communicating his building with its landscape was Wright's Fallingwater. The ways that he constructed layers going up a hillside reflects the nature and forms of the location: aka. it looks like it is meant to be there. At Monticello, Jefferson also designed his house to resemble pieces of the land as he used his land's clay for brick, stone for masonry and trees for wood. To bring design another step further, buildings can have a certain language with other places for example the glass, iron, walnut, and concrete that was brought to Monticello and Fallingwater.

In the design world, we communicate by the form of spoken, written and visualization. Through sketches, rendering and models, we are able to convey our ideas and thought processes in a visual way. For one of Suzanne's project, we were to design a room with the requirements of a dining area, kitchen and entertainment area. With this step alone, I was able to communicate my ideas and styles. We were then told to test different mediums and types of paper by "cutting" our creation into four parts. I chose to practice prismacolor markers on marker paper, watercolor on watercolor paper, single-color colored pencil on sketchbook paper, and colored pencil on marker paper. After experimenting with the different visual languages, I felt my marker on marker was bolder and more realistic, rather than my single-color colored pencil that is more abstract and serves a different purpose (more light). The colored pencil on marker was the least successful in my case, I feel, because I did not enjoy the texture that the pencils gave off. I like the more clean look of the marker. Overall, I liked this exercise because it make me learn more about drawing materials and how each language that the mediums created were unique in their own way. You just have to pick your favorite.

definition - existing or resulting in essence or effect though not in actual fact, form, or name (

Something that is virtual, to me is something that is tangible, but in a way not really there. What I mean when I say this is, for example, in Fallingwater, Wright designed his space with walls of windows that gave the effect that you were not really inside, but in fact, outside, among the trees and sound of the water rushing down the waterfall. Even though in reality the windows were actually there and you were in a building, in your mind, the virtual essence made you feel otherwise. Also, spaces that use mirrors, which was used in various places of Fallingwater as well, create the illusion that the spaces are larger than they really are, creating this virtual effect of size. As Stoel described in studio class, making something virtual in our minds is by "doing something fake to make something feel real".

[IN SUMMARY]...I feel that craft, technique, language, and virtual factors are all forms of design that encompass and distinguish spaces that are private and public. Craft is important in the overall image of a design. Certain techniques and a designers language are portrayed in a space in observation and silence, not always formally speaking. Spaces can sometimes create a virtual feeling, if the space incorporates light, windows and certain effects that are not real. Public and private spaces that encompass silence and light in these forms are generally considered well-designed and are pleasing to its inhabitants.

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