Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

For an old college assignment way back in my very first year I had to refer to Francis D.K. Ching’s seminal work Form, Space and Order. At least, that was the idea, but I took one look at it, didn’t understand anything (which is ironic seeing that 75% of it is drawings and illustrations) and did something else. At that particular point in time, “doing something else” was likely to be looking for Kelvin, a Sabahan of indeterminate ethnicity (I never asked) I knew from work and picking up big bottles of beer at 7-11 and proceeded to get drunk whereever we happened to be, which too often included erm… public places.

uhh..Moving along…

I picked it up in the uni library a couple days ago, and going through it in my penultimate year of architectural education and with 20/20 hindsight it’s suprising how many of the things in the book are now intimately familar to me and how some of them are practically second nature thought processes when plowing through design studio work. Of course, I suppose the idea is for a “successful” architect, so to speak, to be intimately familar with EVERY single idea the book expounds.

Anyhow. I don’t know about others, but Frank Ching left deep impressions on me (not thaatt first time, of course). It’s remarkable how well the guy can draw, and all in pencil to boot. Excellent book, very good. Wished I looked it in sometime between my first year and my second last year. Better late than never, I suppose. Even more, I wished the lecturer who introduced me to it in the first place did a better job at the introducing. But. Architecture has always been a very self-motivated and individualistic area of study; there is only one direction responsibility should eventually fall on, really.  :)

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Today is (or was, seeing that it’s 5am Saturday now) Friday Evening.

Man, have I got plans for friday evening!!!!

Site (and Floor) Plans to draw, that is.

I ended up doing a model most of the night, which I absolutely hate cause I’m so bad at it – (I actually love models, just am absolute crap at making it. I wish my school had cheap laser cutting model services. Well actually it’ll be great if they first have a proper plotter that works 100% of the time instead of 20% and is easily accessible to all students and not hidden in some locked room somewhere in the basement, and to access it and actually print something on it requires an effort similar to searching for the holy grail. Which is why hardly anyone bothers.) By the way this post is all about digression.

Anyway, to alleviate the overwhelming desire of my mind to resist any form of work, I ended up listening to Yoshiharu Tsukamoto’s (Atelier Bow-Wow) open lectures in Barcelona on Architectural Behaviorology on Vimeo [while cutting stuff]. Being in an European environment exposes me to constant European (and Scandinavian) aesthetic and design sensibility, and it was refreshing to hear something from the other side of the world, from the near-mythical Japan, a place where a large percentage of Malaysian architecture students aspire to visit one day. I am a fan of Atelier Bow-Wow’s work, and it is nice to see them taking on bigger and bigger projects as their reputation grows. I’d say they’re more gritty and edgy than Sanaa, and I like taht :)

Becoming quite the archi-geek! shit

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Hunted around in my trove of images, prepared these few for my dissertation and thought, might as well I put them up here…

Electrical substation, Eichstatt, Germany. Dec 2009. Clad in clean and precise timber strips, it practically blinds your vision with horizontal lines when you get too close.

Ohel Jakob Synagogue, Munich, Germany. Dec 2009. Come on… YOU JUST WANNA TOUCH THIS DON’T YOU. The textures on this are incredible. Conceived as one part in a complex of three buildings, all three are clad with the same type of stone (travertine), but with different finishes. One smooth, one semi rough and one SUPER ROUGH. No prizes for guessing which this is.

Selfridges Store, Birmingham, UK. May 2009. This building needs no introduction, does it? However I just recently found out that the construction was pretty low tech. The blue stuff beneath is… guess what, plain ol’ painted concrete, and then the aluminium discs stuck on to it. So much for “future systems!” I am one of those who likes the building though.

Pyramide du Louvre, The Louvre, Paris, France. May 2009. Designed by I.M. Pei and built in 1989, this glass pyramid was so high tech that that they had to develop and design completely new systems and details just to hold it up. Bet you didn’t know that. And no, I don’t care what you read in the Da Vinci Code, but it doesn’t have 666 glass panes.

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It’s been a month since the last update. I think it’s been quite an interesting month.

Mostly it’s interesting because after a year out, I returned to uni to find things aren’t the same as they have been in 2007/2008. In a touchy and volatile subject like architecture can be, no two schools does things exactly the same way, and the differences between schools can sometimes get rather extreme. The fact that I didn’t do the entire program here, instead coming in halfway through, was interesting because this puts me in a sort of outlier perspective. Also, my penchant for reading just whatever happened to be in front of my eyes, especially during my year out, has lead me to absorb all sorts of recent subjects on architectural discourse.

The first semester went at rather breakneck pace, but in the short break in between the first and second semester I had time to sift through these very blurry recollections and mental images to sort of organise my position, in architectural debate, in relation to the one my school held. It can get rather hard to reconcile opinions sometimes and to do things you are not used to / don’t like.

Also, as mentioned in the first paragraph, most of my working methods were still very 2007. Of course have to update to 2010 la, such as upgrading to Windows 7! ( I like it). Also, I’m now starting to enjoy working on my laptop more than on my desktop; probably because my laptop has Windows 7 AND is faster!

Lastly, in 2007 several schools rejected my application to enter at 3rd year, citing their reason as being that they have their own specific curriculum designed over 5 years and having someone enter in the last undergrad year was just too confusing on the student (who might have been educated in a vastly different way) and on their curriculum. Most of them offered me a place in second year,. I have to say they might be right. Looking back, I have to ask myself if the year I saved was worth it. In any event, it does say a few things about my current school.

P.S. – another reason for a forced hiatus was because I stopped reading anything on the blogosphere for some time (about a month) and subsequently lost the desire to update. Starting to catch up with RSS feeds also sort of motivated me to write a quick post. Not to mention the therapeautic effect of expressing some thoughts and clearing the mind a little to have space for uni work.

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So, I’m back from Germany, and amidst a slow weekend and monday sleeping off the always late and occasionally booze-filled nights in Deutchland, I’ve been catching up on the news and events of our dear world.

Aside from Tiger Woods and his many mistresses (I bet some of them are fake), the UN COP15 (15th Conference of the Parties, or whatever) starts today in Copenhagen, Denmark, and is garnering a lot of interest. There are the advocates, who strongly claim that the Climate Change Conference is going to be the last chance to make things right. There are also the skeptics that say that all this treaty talk is stuff and nonsense and that we are looking at the wrong direction. When both of the links I supplied point towards the same newspaper – TIME, you can be assured that divergent opinions are many and each are reasonable in their own right.

I wonder what does that mean for future architects/town planners/developers. Strict targets on reduced carbon emissions will probably manifest in the form of ever stricter building regulations and building codes on all new build and refurbishment projects. Perhaps to tighten the net there might be stricter controls and actual restrictions based on LCA (Life-Cycle Assessment)and all that less-quantifiable stuff, such as restricted variety of materials based on their sources, restricted construction mehods or whatever.

For most practical purposes I assume that the construction industry of most countries have a of a dark side to them, if not entirely corrupt. I know nothing about economics, but I do  know that for the big players of such industries to adopt greener practices are nearly always far more expensive and less profitable then maintaining the status quo.

The firm where I worked at last year did a lot of work with a huge, well known conglomerate with the usual thick goo of bureaucracy to wade through to get anywhere important, and the usual slick and grandiose statements of sustainability, social responsibility and whatnot. Based on my limited time and observations there, I can safely say that most of the executives dealing with the day-to-day work of the actual construction work, those executives who are not related to the PR department, have probably never even heard about “those statements”, let alone integrate them into their work.

Perhaps it will be a race to see who topples them from their perch first – tightly-controlled and stringent building regulations and codes that cover as many quantifiable elements as possible, or entrepreneurial start-ups with small money and big ideas.

While we’re on the subject of the last link, I wonder how switching the fundamental way we transport ourselves change the way towns and cities are designed.  Is it just a case of replacing every petrol station with a charging station/equivalent, or is it necessary to resdeign entire swathes of infrastructure and the city? It would be interesting to find out.

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Studio MSN?

You know how design tutors always go on and on about working together in a studio, where interaction will then happen between classmates…. an exchange of ideas, a “fruitful discussion”, et cetera et cetera and then they moan that “students nowadays” just don’t seem to have that sense of camaraderie anymore, or seem to work together, help each other out, blah blah blah.

But do we not?  Especially in our case – where there is a bunch of Malaysians away from home.  I certainly feel its presence (especially when throwing parties). I think that design discussion have merely moved into virtual space, like everything else these days . Almost everyone I know goes back to do their design work at home, making models or sketching or drafting, but everyone is connected via MSN or whatever, and discussion and idea exchange continues to happen.


In fact, with the unique set of options that comes with virtual chatting, the discussions and exchange is even more varied. I mean, nothing’s stopping you now from holding a video design crit with someone on the other side of the world, except perhaps normal bedtimes, which has no place in an architecture student’s vocabulary anyway.

The major downside is that you can’t draw or to point at things out to explain what you mean or to test ideas, and MSN Handwriting is not exactly the perfect replacement. Will that change when tablets or other electronic pen thingies become affordable for everyone? The laptop and CAD once wasn’t. The internet is our new studio…..

How does that work then? Hmm.

*picture is of the studio me, flora, puisan, peifun attended during our exchange in Ghent….my point is – all I can see is laptops, and the studio can be anywhere. Makes you wonder if one day everyone will be holding tablets instead of laptops and sketchbooks.

Pictures are left intentionally really dark… because the windows and the pitch of the roof just lends itself to really crazy natural lighting in that former monastery and I wanted to show it like it was.

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I don’t have internet at home, so that’s a convenient excuse for not blogging.

But this post is not about saying I haven’t updated for ages. It’s to say that studying for years and years in university lends you a certain depth and growth in your thought that is different from the sort of lessons you are bound to get in real life. Most university courses are 3-4 years long and it seems that before you know what is happening or start to appreciate the amount of physical (temporal) and mental (intellectual growth) freedom accorded to you by uni life, you are already gearing up for graduation. Those of us who are bound to uni for twice as long, I think, starts to appreciate it and I think that is the start of certain changes to the way you think. Especially after a year out in practice or doing other stuff. I remember I wondered last year how I would feel when I returned to uni. Well I can say I am very happy to be doing so.

4th Year started with a bang with a near instantaneously-given huge amount of work, but so far, as have been discussed between me and several classmates, we somehow face it differently- a more confident, less stressed-out, and more relaxed attitudes. Also helpful (or unhelpful) is the aura of expectation and level of trust given by members of faculty to “Fourth Year Students”, as if the gap year in between have suddenly increased our credibility by huge amounts. Perhaps it’s that sort of action that is shown by members of the faculty that makes us react with real or feigned confidence.

I think that will last only until tutorials starts, anyway. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case.

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