Sunday, May 22, 2005

Lightroom does Vegas!

Well I liked Vegas. I had never been there and totally expected to be dissappointed. It was O the Cirqu de Soleil show that did it for me. Diving through fire and I am convinced now it is the best show I've ever seen. I stayed in the tacky LUXOR glass pyramid with the monorail tram stop, which was broken, that takes you about 100 feet and back. Kind of like Marta only cooler looking cars. I met Thom Mayne at Tsunami saw Calatrava get the Gold and rock the house with his live drawing performance and spoke to a packed house about Lightroom and the dissertation at the National AIA convention. (see
Jim Fausett travelled with me and I was able to make it to Vbar(owned by Diannes Bush's amazing aunt) THE hotel and Mix which were both super cool. The three billion dollar WYNN was a big downer of schlocky watered down awkward classicism. You just cannot throw money at something and expect it to get better. Vegas was tacky and fake and shallow and all the great things the Americans seem to like just like Venturi described 40 years ago and we are still Learning.....

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Friday, May 13, 2005

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

What is a PhD? A Survivors Guide.............

What is a PhD? • A PhD thesis represents a substantial body of work. It should be marked by high quality and substantive results. It should push the frontier of knowledge and mark you as an expert in your area of study.

• Thesis research is partly intended to ensure that the student can later take on independent, long-term research commitments.
• Faculty are judged by the theses of their PhD students
• High quality PhD theses is one of the most important factors contributing to the success of leading universities
• PhD thesis research is a challenge with no simple formula for success.

Typical stages of graduate student life (in chronological order):
• Knowing everything (A little knowledge is a dangerous thing)
• Knowing nothing (I am not worthy)
• Gaining confidence (I can do this!)
• Knowledgeable and confident (Based on real experience)

Here are some things a PhD thesis might do:
• Open up a new area and methodology
• Provide a unifying framework
• Resolve a long-standing question
• Thoroughly explore an area
• Contradict existing knowledge
• Experimentally validate a theory
• Produce an ambitious system
• Provide empirical data—In architectural theory these might be seen as commonalities and anomologies.

In my case I studied a subject where I had wanted to dive deeper into how to push the design build movement forward. I could not approach the study with a bias. There were times when i wanted to give up. When I waited in hallways for professors to show up. When i travelled all the way to England. Then Thomas Muir, my supervisor stepped in with amazing clarity and vision.

• Your advisor does not know everything. Your advisor may not always be right. My first advisor retired and I had to start over!
• If at all possible, keep a good and open relationship with your advisor. Your advisor usually has lots of influence even after you graduate. He or she should be genuinely interested in your well-being, and may even be a mentor for your entire career. Mostly likely, your advisor will be writing letters of recommendation for you
• Consider your fellow graduate students as a very valuable resource ask them questions, see how they do things, tell them your ideas, brainstorm with them, learn from them!

Stages of PhD thesis research
• Selection of the area
• Selection of the advisor
• Becoming a researcher in the area

_ Building up general knowledge and experience
_ Learning the important issues and questions in the field
_ Learning the cutting edge work in some areas
_ Some useful things to do:
_ Read recent proceedings of the best conferences, and ask more senior people what were the best papers. Try to figure out what makes a great paper (and thus what makes great research).

_ Keep a notebook that contains your research notes. Put all of your empirical data and initial ideas in the notebook. Make notes on a paper as you read it and think about the assumptions of the author and the importance of the results.

_ Follow references from one paper to another until you know an area extremely well. Don't count on your advisor to hand you all of the relevant papers out of his file drawer. He/she doesn't have them all!

_ Build a mental model of what has been done in your area. Look for holes interesting areas that have not received much attention.
• Thesis proposal
_ Most crucial stage, since everything flow from here. Later problems can often be traced back to a weak thesis proposal.
_ This is where you need your advisor the most
_ Main challenge: come up with an approach and/or an experiment.
_ Dont just go with your advisors opinions or recommendations (unless you truly believe them). This is the best time to argue with your advisor!
_ Research plan Overview of the expected course of research. Must be flexible, but not vague.
_ Need to elaborate on the focus, the approach, experiments or systems to build, potential impact
_ Forming a committee Choose people who can help with needed expertise if possible, especially if you have an interdisciplinary topic.
_ Thesis proposal questions:
_ What is your approach and what is new?
_ How do you measure your own progress?
_ What are the success or completion criteria?
_ How will the expected results change the-state-of-the-art?
_ Hints:
_ Be honest dont exaggerate your claims, be open with the weaknesses (better for you to raise them than for someone else)
_ Pick a problem/project of manageable size. It is much better to do an excellent job on a moderately sized project than a moderate job on a large project.
_ Prepare a tentative month by month schedule, with milestones, for your work. Be realistic. And flexible, but not vague.
• Producing results
_ Keep your advisor and committee informed. Dont wait until you have a breakthrough result, keep them informed regularly.
_ Talk about major choices with your advisor before youre completely committed to them.
• Knowing when to stop
_ How much is enough? Your thesis does not have to solve every possible related problem. Talk with your advisor about what a reasonable stopping point might be. Re-visit the issue occasionally.
_ If the principles and boundaries of your thesis work were clearly defined from the beginning, this should not be a problem.
• Writing
_ Writing is very time consuming. Really.
_ Remember, few (if any) readers will have your background. Dont assume they know everything you do.
_ Write the introduction last (or at least re-write it last).
• Comments from the committee
_ Committee members are very busy people. _ You want to give them an optimal version for them to comment on some time before the final version not too preliminary, not too finished.
• Defense
_ This should mostly be a formality, at least from the advisors point of view. That is, he or she shouldnt let you get to this point if youre not really ready. There should be no surprises for the committee.
_ However, its still important:
_ The defense gives you a chance to get feedback for final improvements to the thesis.
_ Many people (the committee and the audience) may form their opinions of you and your work from this one event
_ Presentation material can be used for future presentations (job talks, etc.)
_ You should know firmly what the main ideas are, and present them clearly.
_ Set the defense date well in advance it can be difficult to get the committee together.
• Afterwards
_ Usually there is some work to be done (often minor) requested by the committee
_ Publications: conferences, journals, book
_ Are you the sole author of these publications, or is your advisor a co-author (even though you wrote it)?
_ No single answer, but typically the advisor has been very involved and deserves credit of authorship. Ideally, he or she will also help with writing (and re-writing, and proofreading) the subsequent papers.
_ Follow-on work

Are there more ideas or paths to take on this problem? You are now the expert, so why not keep working on it? Starting over on something completely different is not so easy, especially if you are going to be looking for research funding.

Thanks to Professor Mark Turk for his help preparing these notes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Only an idea has the power to spread so far

Learning by Doing at the Bauhaus

“Only an Idea has the power to spread so far” – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (Naylor, 1968)

The work of the Bauhaus has offered influential design and pedagogical influences to architects and to architectural education. This chapter discusses the “learning-by-doing” workshops at the Bauhaus taught by Johannes Itten and Josef Albers. These workshops offered students the chance to experiment with materials in an open-ended format, which emphasized rigorous process and intuitive design methods. Students were challenged to work directly with materials in the design process. Itten and Albers differed slightly in their approaches as they developed their own ideas about architectural education.

Political forces at the time of the Bauhaus make it a unique educational model for study. Because the school was reacting to political and social forces in Nazi Germany, learning objectives and student output were affected. More specifically, an emphasis on the economy of materials is evident.

“This diagram, which Gropius published in the Bauhaus statutes of 1922, illustrated the structure of the school curriculum. Training started with the six-month preliminary course (‘Vorlehre’). The two middle rings represent the three-year period of workshop training together with form theory. In reality, form theory was taught less systematically than this diagram suggests. Building (‘Bau’) – the final, highest stage of education – was not yet offered. Compared to the programme of 1919, the handicraft basis of workshop training is here supplemented by the Illinois Institute of Technology” – Mies van der Rohe, IIT Archives

The Bauhaus
In considering architectural education and construction, it is helpful to discuss the inherent theoretical differences between schools of thought. At the Parisian Ecole Polytechnique, C.N. Durand, the first tutor in architecture, sought to establish a universal building methodology. This was an architectural counterpoint to the Napoleonic code by which economic and appropriate structures could be created through the modular permutation of fixed plan types and alternate elevations (a sort of stock plan theory). After winning the Prix de Rome, Henri Labrouste spent five years at the French Academy devoting much time in Italy and studying temples at Paestum. The education of the Beaux Arts architect put an emphasis on the picturesque, an attitude toward the monumental and archival use of history for emotional affect, and a sort of “hands off“ approach. This approach appeared to lead to an elitist attitude, as architects were concerned with drawing elaborate elevations of unbuilt palaces for the wealthy and opulent. In the Deutsche Werkbund movement, which lasted from 1898 to 1927, Gottfried Semper stated that the depreciation of materials results from its treatment by machine lead. Frampton and Semper, at the same time, were asking how industrialization might affect the quality of architecture. Semper wondered if the hand craft would be lost.

Gropius, bringing the craftsman and artist together, states: “Let us create a new guild of craftsmen, without the class distinctions, which raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist. Together, let us conceive and create the new building of the future, which will embrace architecture, sculpture and painting in one unity and which will rise one day toward heaven from the hands of a million workers like the crystal symbol of a new faith” (Proclamation Weimar Bauhaus, 1919).

Bauhaus educator Bruno Taut stated that within a new art of building, each separate discipline would contribute to the final form and there would be no boundaries between the crafts, sculpture and painting. This revolution of Gesamtkunstwerk was amplified even in the word Bauhaus. Walter Gropius was intentionally recalling the medieval Bauhatte, or masons lodge. He was realigning the architect with the craftsman. He elaborated on this in a 1922 letter to his colleague Oskar Schlemmer: “Originally the Bauhaus was formed with visions of erecting the cathedral of socialism and workshops were established in the manner of the cathedral building lodges” (Donbauhutten).

Swiss painter Johannes Itten was influenced by a system of learning design that is based on sparking individual creativity by constructing collages of varying materials, textures, and assemblies. Influenced by Froebel and Maria Montessori, he believed in “learning by doing”--a phrase first coined by American John Dewey--in the Voukurs, or preliminary class. In 1922, Gropius modified the craft orientation of Bauhaus. He stated, “The teaching of craft is meant to prepare the student to design for mass production. Starting with the simplest tools and least complicated jobs he gradually acquires the ability to master more intricate problems and to work with machines, while at the same time, he keeps in touch with the entire process from start to finish” (Wick, 2001).

This caused the immediate resignation of Johannes Itten and ushered in the new Bauhaus. Moholy Nagy replaced Itten, which put him in charge of both the preliminary course and the metal workshop. He introduced students to “constructivist elementarism,” a concept that describes the economy of the designed object. He introduced students to wood, metal, wire and glass. He was not interested in collages and contrast of materials. Rather, he was interested in light and space.

The first design-build projects were two houses built on the campuses and furnished by the students. The Sommerfield House, designed by Gropius and Adolph Meyer, and the “Veruchshaus,” or experimental house, were designed as traditional “Heimatstil,” or log houses, with interiors of carved wood and intricate stained glass. The second house was a production object or living machine. The house was organized around an atrium space. All of the fittings, windows, door frames, furniture and light fixtures were built by the students in the workshops of new materials. Josef Albers designed the stained glass and built the installation with student help in 1922.

“The building contractor, Adolf Sommerfield, asked Walter Gropius to build a villa which, for reasons of economy, was to be made of teak salvaged from the wreck of a battleship. The villa was sited near Asternplatz, in the Dahlem district of Berlin“ (Droste, 1990).

The design was not generated and supplied by students, but by their professors, Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer. The foreman on the project, Fred Forbat, was a recent graduate. The interiors were completed in collaboration with the mural-painting, textile and woodworking workshops. “The laying of the foundation stone was celebrated in a precisely planned ceremony, underlining the importance of this first cooperative effort. For the topping out ceremony, the men had to wear guild clothing and the women wore specially designed head scarves to ensure a homogeneous, uniform picture” (Droste, 1990).

Do not overwork the roof

Do not overwork the roof
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Architects please....

Pink house

Pink house
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Originally uploaded by lightroomstudio.

Destin Fence

Destin Fence
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The colors were just right here.

Friday, May 06, 2005

edgewood cross

edgewood cross
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With the Brights on

Intra 05, Photograph by Alan Messer

Intra 05
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Kevin Aaron and Bill effortlessly field difficult questions at Intra 05!


Originally uploaded by lightroomstudio.

Intra Rocks the House

Rialto Center May 5, 2005!