06 May 2014

Experimental Architecture

"Program can easily become reified, unexamined square-footage designation that is shoved into form--an act euphemistically called 'programming the building.'"  How often do we find ourselves becoming subjected to doing this in projects?  Why do we do it?  Our forms are becoming vessels for these abstract ideas (food, bathe, sleep, entertain) and concepts, but why don't we let our abstract ideas and concepts rule instead of become subjugated to "classical" functions?  A room to bathe should mirror that action, something to entertain should...but they don't.  All are boxes, why? "Function fucks with form." - SNAFU - 05


Is the very practice of architecture actually making the world of architecture anything but?  On SNAFU's commentary on convention, 06 + 07, it states that the very standards and practices we are employing to create are almost defining the work for us and our concepts of creativity are being driven by social norms and codes, and standards.  Is this bad, noticeable, or just an exaggeration?


On SNAFU's explanation of bomb shelters (07), the over abundance and proliferation of the idea of bomb shelters made them normal to domestic life, thereby making nuclear threats domesticated as well.  Are we taking absurd ideas such as this and almost domesticating them through architecture and over exposure?  Ex: radical architecture of Zaha Hadid, structural expression, poor housing construction?  How detrimental is this to real life, or not at all?


"A critical architecture challenges the familiar." - SNAFU - 07  How come not very many projects are doing this anymore?  The radicality of Sagrada Familia appears to have worn off, but 100 years ago, it was completely outrageous.  Are projects pushing the notions of familiarity and what is acceptable, or are projects nowadays becoming standardized strip malls along yet another stretch of highway?

23 April 2014

Presenting your work

1. During the Renaissance, the understanding of the world was based on things, images, and words. In what ways is this still true today, and in what ways have we let go of understanding by analogy?
2. In reference to buildings and designs that convey an abstract, "non-representational" formal system, have ties to the classical language been lost? How to we hold firm learning from what has been done, but still continue to further the art?
3. Students are taught powerpoint in school at a very young age. Should there be a different standard for presentation of work? Should there be a standard at all? What might this look like?
4. How can you see the presentation of architectural design changing in the future? What must we hold onto, and what can we let go of?

22 April 2014

Week 14

On page 159, Tufte claims that PowerPoint data slides can "create the impression that data graphics are for propaganda and advertising and not for reasoning about information". What ways can we can we eliminate this propaganda and advertising?

Does it seem like PowerPoint should be used as one of the first and last steps in the teaching process, assuming its very condensed and simplified? By using it first, you get vital and important information quickly, perhaps in Week 1 of a 14 week course. Next you actually learn the material in weeks 2-13 (through other learning methods). Last you review, using PP in week 14. Or would this turn into The Gettysburg example?

Agrest discusses how corporations can now create their own virtual cities, ones where workers don't have to commute or travel to a set office destination. With the ever-changing environment, are you ok with this? Will this open up the door for future 'architects of the virtual world'.

A paragraph later, Agrest puts forth the statement that the city has finally produced another city, which is its own representation. Could urban sprawl have anything to do with the city's core being a facade, molded by its visitors?

Presenting Your Work

1. What does Agrest say is “one of the most important operations that articulates theory and practice?”

2. Agrest says architecture is produced by drawing, writing, and building. Are there other options or does everything fit into one of these categories?

3. Agrest talks about how architecture has related to other practices such as painting and photography (pg 167). What other practices influence your designs and how you represent them?

4. Does Agrest's argument that the cultural reading of the city is a “complex and constantly changing phenomenon of shifting relationships, always incomplete and imperfect, and subject to one major force: chance” apply to Milwaukee?

5. Agrest says that two situations have resulted from computers: a resurgence of perspective and the reunification of representation and the process of construction. Do you agree?

6. Tufte says the PowerPoint reflects the company that built it. (Conway’s Law, pg 161) Does this idea apply to other companies, specifically architecture firms and the designs they create?

7. The slide about the Challenger damage (pg 164) is a good example of presenting information to receive a particular response. How can this be done when presenting a final studio project?

8. Tufte says that “the quantity of detail is an issue completely separate from the difficulty of reading.” What examples of this have you experienced in studio projects?

9. Tufte claims there are no coherent software for serious presentations (pg 183). Is this true? What software do you use for studio presentations?

10. Tufte says that a single piece of paper can say a lot more than many PowerPoint slides. What says the most for a studio project? (rendering, diagram, written description, etc.)

16 April 2014

A. D. P. F.

Avoiding Digital Pitfalls –Jesse Duchon

Antoine Picon

1)      When are some appropriate situations or program types that might better aid in the architecture and  design of a project when merging science and architecture? Is it ever beneficial to restrain one’s self from the combination of science and architecture?

2)      “To live in culture is synonymous with a specific education of the senses.”- Michael Baxandal

Is the use of science and digital media a temporary architectural fad or the future norm of the industry?  

3)      “Design makes the actualization of intention possible.” What are technologies limits in the architectural world? What will the limits be on architects in the future? If any. 
4) How will we make worlds/ Architecture in the future? Ten, Twenty, fifty years ahead? Do we     risk   losing design solutions in the virtual realm? Are we still creating the best choice possible?
What will we envision in the future using science and technology?

Stan Allen

1) Is there a benefit to creating abstract architecture, away from the computer screen? Can we lose   constraints to create pure, ideological architecture free of rules?

2) What else do we lose besides integrity of process by limiting ourselves to only the digital realm?

3) Can you think of ways we might be able to better utilize computer aided design without sacrificing process of creativity in the future?

4) What is digital fabrications role in today’s architecture? What will it be in the future? What are the core differences between digital fabrication and more rudimentary notions of material?

15 April 2014

Avoiding Digital Pitfalls

Allen (page72)  “we will be infinitely unhappy because we will have lost the very place of freedom, which is expanse.” (Going on to say) “The field of freedom shrinks with speed.  And freedom needs a field.  When there is no more field, our lives will be like a terminal, a machine with doors that open and close.”

How have computers shut down your creative process?
Has the introduction of a computer stalled your momentum?
Are there experiences when the computer has invigorated a project?

Allen (page72) Allen talks about the hidden speed of computers and how that speed is not as measurable as other modernist machines such as the aircraft, the telegraph or the automobile.  The work is expressed through the affect of its motion. 

When working by hand, the ability to see and hold your progress allows for direct understanding and allowable measurement.  Does slaving away in AutoCAD seem monotonous because there is a lack of immediate accomplishment?

“What is living, present, conscious, here, is only so because there’s an infinity of little deaths, little accidents, little breaks, little cuts…” It is through these interruptions that the field is reconstituted.

This quote reminds me of the happy accidents that can happen when working away.  The sterile environment of the computer does not allow for as my slips or cuts that allow the blood of the accident to provide insight.

Allen (page80) Digital fabrication pushes the boundary of materiality and material possibility

How often have you used to the tools available in the RP lab for gathering a greater understanding of a project?
Do you use the tools in the RP lab primarily for representing work?

Allen (page85) Preston Scott Cohen or Greg Lynn, who later became identified with innovative computer based design work, were engaged in explorations of formal complexity and descriptive geometry before they had access to the computer.  This prior research gave them strong conceptual bases on which to theorize new digital design techniques from with architecture’s definition of itself as a discipline.

How important is it to use computers for specific purposes and than detach when the job is done?

I find that getting on the computer for a specific purpose is the most productive use of my time.  It’s when I start slipping into doing other things on the computer without a clear intent, that I get lost.


Avoiding Digital Pitfalls - Allen /// Picon + Ponte


-Question 01

pg. 72 – Allen Quotes Paul Virilio’s Pure War:

“There again it’s the same illusory ideology that when the world is reduced to nothing and we have everything at hand, we’ll be infinitely happy.  I believe it’s just the opposite—and this has already been proven—that we’ll be infinitely unhappy because we will have lost the very place of freedom, which is expanse.”

I very much believe that we are loosing our place of freedom in architecture.  The profession is largely digitized and the world is at our fingertips with the click of a mouse. We can zoom to street views, obtain photographs, and place our creations within our contexts without even leaving our offices.  We should be, within our own rights, infinitely happy…we have it all!

Yet, if 15 students are asked to design a building in a studio, how many of them immediately turn on the computer and start messing around in digital space?  How many of them will return to the site more than the required preliminary site visit?  Will they turn to their sketchbooks and jot down notes and ideas whenever they pop into their heads, or will their wait until they are back at their computer to make the changes instead of consider them in the heat of the moment?

I think there is an intrinsic loss of thought when a computer is the primary means to design.  The ability to formulate and construct ideas on a piece of paper creates some of the most elaborate and well thought out designs, I believe.  Frank Lloyd Wright always designed by hand, granted the technology wasn’t there yet, but even so.  How would his designs have changed as a result?

I want to ask that if students were to design similar buildings through two studios, one working solely in 3d space, and the other exclusively through hand drafting and model building, which would create the more architecturally superior creations?  Why would this be so, and how could one out-design the other as far as schematic design and design development?  Which group of students would be infinitely happier?


-Question 02

pg. 75 – Allen Quotes Brian Eno:

“I ask myself, What is pissing me off about this thing?  What’s pissing me off is that it uses so little of the body.  You’re just sitting there, and it’s quite boring.  You’ve got this stupid little mouse that requires one hand, and your eyes.  That’s it.”

Is it safe to say that one is more involved with a design if it is hand drafted?  To go off of Eno’s quote, we tend to move around more and do more elaborate actions and things when we hand-draft as opposed to sitting in once place for an extended amount of time.  Could we go so far as to say that this active engagement with the drawing(s) and the tools can produce better designs, or does it merely seem coincidental?  Why or why not?


-Question 03

pg. 81 – Allen speaks on Giambattista Nolli:

The power of the Nolli map and the figure/ground diagram comes from its stark contrasting abilities.  Allen mentions how the maps and diagrams are absent of actual urbanism and life-like qualities such as “block structure, height, typology, land ownership, infrastructure, program, etc.”  How detrimental is this absence of life in the diagram and how does it hinder our understanding of the formation of true urbanism compared to a total simplicity of the Nolli map?


-Question 04

pg. 86 – Allen speaks on computers as a cult in the 80’s and 90’s:

Allen explains the fascination of architects and computers in the 80’s and 90’s as a cult.  It had rituals, members, leaders, and everything that a cult could have.  It was something to be skeptical of, but also very exciting.  As architecture has grown to accept and love computers, the cult-ship treatment of it has gone down and the “old way” of doing things has become more cultish.  But within the field of computers, are programs becoming the new cults as they start to define how structures are designed and built?  SketchUp buildings differ greatly from Revit buildings, structures based in 3dMax versus those in AutoCAD, and even down to Rhino versus programs like VectorWorks, MicroStation, and ArchiCAD.  Do the limitations of programs actually shape and define how architecture looks so much as to limit and persuade a designer into a digital pitfall?  If so, is it a fatal blow to the profession or a means of clarity?  Does this provide clients with a notion of “you get what you pay for,” or false expectations of so-called “industry standards” of design?


Picon + Ponte///

-Question 01

On borrowing:

Just as 19th century architecture was bettered by the borrowing of ideas from science and technology--ergo shaping how we think about architecture in our current age through structure and open expressions.  Instead of borrowing from sciences like the medical field, how could architecture be redefined through other areas of study?  ie: dentistry, space travel / colonization, classic opera, digitized media, acid rain, over-population, vinyl record re-popularity, etc...

Picon + Ponte///

-Question 02

On virtual reality:

As the reading states, virtual reality is a reality--a potential one.  Going off of this notion, if VR is technically a reality, could we see a shift in design that completely envelopes designers within a 3D world to be free to roam around and design whatever?  Similar to VR glasses and immersive sensory worlds, will the profession stay with the, now conservative, style of a keyboard and mouse?  Or will the profession shift to a more "futuristic" approach to design through something completely intangible?  Could neurological design, where impulses and instincts control a computer in a "Matrix-like" world, enter into the profession or even be possible?

Picon + Ponte///

-Question 03

On structure and architecture:

Knowing that structure comes from the realm of biology and the skeletal system within our bodies, does the idea that we are creating structurally expressive buildings upset us?  If we were to have children that were "structurally expressive" and not have any skin on their bodies would that upset us?  Then why are we designing buildings that follow this same notion and what is our fascination with wanting to rip our own skin off...of buildings?  Compared to the architecture of old where ornamentation was crucial to the design, why are we now compelled to forfeit this "aesthetic" in favor of an architecture that is so rebellious of skin and in favor of savage nakedness?

09 April 2014

Spring 2014 - Exercise 4

Your final exercise of the semester is a personal research topic. This topic may be related to your current/past studios, Master's project topic or other topic that you would like to graphically research for this course. Your topic may be directly related, tangentially related or reciprocal to architecture(al) thought. You may critique conventions, processes or projects. You may also decide to explore phenomena that are not directly related to architecture, in that, it is not a building, drawing or other.

By Class-time on April 16, you must submit a 500-word abstract of your research topic. Within your abstract you must clearly state the topic as a thesis of inquiry, your methodology for research and your expected out comes. Keep in mind, this topic must be formatted to fit the final document per the syllabus.

You will be presenting your research topic, methodology and progress in class April 30. Your progress must be documented and summarized in a .pdf file that you will upload to the d2L Dropbox.

Please post any questions as comments to this post so that the entire class may benefit.

08 April 2014

Stan Allen: Practice Vs Project

1. Allen identifies the dichotomy between theory and practice as a possible pitfall in design. Have you ever encountered this in your own work? Are there any built projects in which you think that this is an issue? (Pg. XII)
2. What are some examples of where outside ideological forces create and enforce rules? Are they justified? If not, what are some good reasons for challenging them? (Pg. XII)

Material Practices:
1. Instead of Practice vs. Theory, Allen identifies the interconnected categories of discursive practice and material practice. What do you think his point is in doing this? In other words, how does discursive practice differ from theory? (Pg. XIII)
2. Why does Allen say that 'doubt' is necessary to the distinction between discursive and material practice? (Pg. XV)

1. Allen says that "Consistency and Rationality are guaranteed by the hard logic of structure and the indifferent behavior of the materials themselves." How does Allen later contradict this statement? Is it possible to have a non-logical structure? (Top Pg. XVII)
2. What are some ways in which methods of representation can come into conflict with the literal physical construction process? (Pg. XVII)

1. Allen writes that "… control exercised by any disciplinary regime can never be total. Resistance will find other pathways around, or under, or through, the constraints imposed from the outside, pathways that lead away from transgression, catastrophic overthrow, withdrawal or retreat." What is the point at which architectural control ceases? (Pg. XIX)
2. What does Allen mean when he asserts, "To conceive this work as a practice is to work from examples, and not principles." Aren't examples representations of principals? (Pg. XX)

Research Methodologies

Allen: Practice vs. Project

Allen states: “There is no theory, there is no practice.  There are only practices which consist in action and agency.  They unfold in time and their repetitions are never identical.  It is for this reason that the know-how of practice (writing and design) is a continual source of innovation and change.”  What does this mean? What if a person or group do not continue to innovate?

What are material practices?  How does it fit into the larger category of theory and practice?

Do you agree that in practice the desired continuity of a project should in no way be compromised by the apparent structural expedient, such as in Frank Lloyd Wrights Guggenheim Museum?

Practice vs. Project is marked by the pragmatic idea of “differences that make a difference.”  What are some examples other than the Guggenheim that rely on this concept?

“De Certeau understood that there can never be a perfect correspondence between the regulated geometric structure of the planned city and the unruly practices it supports.  The cities inhabitants are always ready to take advantage of this mismatch between structure and performance.  This in turn suggests that the control exercised by any disciplinary regime can never be total.  Resistance will find other pathways around, or under, or through, the constraints imposed from outside, pathways that lead away from transgression, catastrophic overthrow, withdrawal or retreat.” This quote can give argument to one of our past discussions on how a digital walkthrough may be too direct for the natural flow of someones experience in and around a building. Thoughts?

26 March 2014



Here's the boathouse, the photos used and the study models that were made are only available in the book that the firm published.

Studio Gang Architects Building / Inside Studio - available in the resource lab


  • How did you perceive movement throughout the reading? 
  • Can there be examples of movement found in our studies and work of architecture?
  • In the section Some Problems of Film Editing do these problems come from our assumptions of previous experiences? Can these problems be solved? 

25 March 2014


1: "A diagram is often thought of as an after-the-fact thing, an explanatory device to communicate or clarify form, structure, or program. But this overlooks the diagram's generative capacity."

A: Should diagrams be stressed more in architectural education (especially in the beginning and middle of design)?
B: Should 'napkin sketches' be taken more seriously or be used in the final stages of critiques?
C: If diagrams are generative, should we be focusing more on iterative diagraming rather than jumping into traditional design so fast?

2: Invisible : "Notations go beyond the visual to engage the invisible spaces of architecture. This includes the phenomenological effects of light, shadow, and transparency; sound, smell, or temperature but also -- and perhaps more significantly -- program, event, and social space."

A: How can we begin to notate these phenomena? Mapping?
B: In what traditional media could these notations be evident in ( plans, sections, renderings, all, none, etc)?
C: Could a new form of media evolve to project these phenomenological effects?


1: Pg 374 : "the thing really gets to be almost completed in my head, even if it is long so that thereafter I survey it in my head at one glance ... And I hear it in my imagination not in sequence, as it will have to unfold afterword, but, at it were, right away all together"

A: Do some of your architectural ideas and theories come about similar to Mozart on music?

2: Pg 393-4: "If a sports match is covered by two television cameras located on opposite sides of the arena, a cut from one camera to the other will naturally invert the picture. The boxer on the left will suddenly be on the right, and vice versa. The obstacle is best overcome by having the cut occur during a pronounced action, which defines the roles of the antagonists so clearly that correct identification is preserved despite the paradoxical location of movement"

A: With regards to action film, contact sports, and entertainment like wrestling, is this a good technique to emphasize action?
B: Is this similar to transitioning in architectural storyboards similar to Machado and Silvetti's Gateway for Venice discussed in the Narrative Armature presentation?
STAN ALLEN - Notations + Diagrams: Mapping the Intangible
Matt Lathrum
1. Allen says (middle of page 48) that, ". . . technique is never neutral, and the means of representation, the working methods of the architect, will always condition the results." How do you think the 'methods' could 'condition the results?' Can you think of any examples?
2. 'Process-based' design work (e.g.: utilizing trace and projection) is contrasted with the use of notation and diagram (top of page 49.) Allen states that, in the former, "the meaningfulness of the object is understood to reside in information that has been inscribed through the process of design;" whereas, in the latter, ". . . giving up ideas of depth, authorship and intent" are traded for "immediacy and presence." Do you agreed with these claims?
3. The merits of 'diagram architecture' are articulated on page 54. "Meaning is located on the surface of things . . . What is lost in depth is gained in immediacy. Diagram architecture looks for effects on the surface, but by layering surface on surface, a new kind of depth effect is created. A diagram architecture does not justify itself on the basis of embedded content, but by its ability to multiply effects and scenarios." Do you think embedded content/meaning is important? Do you see more value in the results of diagram architecture?
4. Five working definitions of notations are given on pages 64-66. Can you think of any examples of these principles at work in an urban project?

Matt Lathrum
1. After learning what Arnheim has to say about the perception of movement, how might one apply these dynamics to architecture?
2. Would it make sense to apply these principles of the perception of movement to architecture in two-dimensional images (on paper or screen,) to actual built architecture,  or in video form?
3. Do you see as more applicable to the practice of architecture the perception of movement of objects, or the perception of movement of people?

04 March 2014

The form of Data

TUFTE – “Sparklines: Intense, Simple, Word-Sized Graphics”
Ben Otten
  1. What is so successful about the Baseball sparkline example?
  2. Sparklines are datawords: Data ______ , Design ______  and ______ - sized graphics.
  3. Tufte describes sparklines as small, high-resolution graphics usually embedded in a full context of words, numbers and images. What are some examples of what sparklines can be used for both in the book and from your own experience?
  4. What is the rule of thumb for sizing a statistical graphic sparkline?
  5. What are the three programs required to produce a successful sparkline?
  6. What should always be the focus of a sparkline?
TUFTE – “Parallelism”
Jesse Duchon
  1. Tufte provides examples of parallelism in space and in time. We see an architectural example using before and after photos of a Humphry Repton remodel. Is parallelism still used today? How is it used in today’s architectural realm?
  2. Can parallelism be used in any other aspect besides photography or imagery? Such as real life or first person interactions.
  3. Here’s one possible example of a Computer companion graphic. Can you think of any others? Cell phones?  Signage in your daily life?

  1. In “Rock and Roll is here to Pay: The History and Politics of  the Music Industry,” What else besides overlaying multiple flows of music and artist make the image so successful? Think about “Divergent Perspective”as mentioned in the text.

  1. What is successful about the Salyut 6 Space Flight diagram? What is unsuccessful? How did the use of the diagram change from its original purpose?

18 February 2014

The Narrative Armature

Clayton Massey


What is the value of "sequential art" ?

How do different styles of comics translate to different genres? Does more sophisticated art directly translate to a more mature audience?

Is there room for photorealism in comics? Sin City blended the mediums (film and graphic novel) on screen.  Can this be introduced to print?


What techniques can we use to better connect a storyboard of sequential architectural spaces like seen in Le Corbusier's jardin suspendu of the Warner project in Geneva? What graphic additions could be made, visual cues implemented?

What kind of effects (positive or negative) could be derived from using different perspectives, ratios, colors or graphic styles in images arranged in the same storyboard?

What kind of advantages and disadvantages does a virtual walk through of a building have compared to a storyboard of key moments in the same building?