Friday, September 30, 2011

Maison de Verre by Pierre Chareau

As I said in my last post, there was a cancellation on the Maison de Verre tour so I got to tag along and see this beautiful building. They limit tours to architects and students of the profession (from what they say) and they only offer the tour once a week, so it was a great pleasure to get inside while I was in Paris. Photographs were limited to the exterior, as it is still a private residence. An American collector, Robert Rubin, recently bought the property and is currently restoring and updating it before he moves in with his family (click here for new york times article).

Touring the inside was really enjoyable. The attention to detail and the relationship between architecture and human behavior was really interesting. The house served three major functions, so the overlap between all three received a lot of specific attention. The other thing that really stood out was the handcrafted labor associated with such industrial materials. Much of the technology and materials used by Chareau and his team were produced for factories, trains and air planes, so to use them in a residential application took an enormous amount of coordination as well as understanding in how to put them all together delicately. From curved windows and metal doors to the 'floating' stairs leading to the grand salon, there was a palpable relationship between material, human being and their respective functions in the house on a given day.

The other thing I found interesting was the term "ensemblier" used by our tour guide. She said it was a new profession in France at the time of the Maison de Verre's construction, and the head architect, Pierre Chareau, used it to describe his role (hence the other four names below his on the plaque in the front of the house). It means to assemble a team of experts in order to create a harmonious ensemble, usually used in interior architecture and decorating. I feel that is not far from what good architects do today, in that often times they are the liaison between several parties interested in the same final goal; a beautiful, well functioning space.

I wish I could do justice to the house without photos, but I'll just have to say if you are in Paris, do the tour! Email this person to arrange it:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Musee du Quai Branly by Jean Nouvel

More on this building later. I am headed back for the third time on this trip....

There was also a cancellation on the 3:30 tour of the Maison de Verre by Pierre Cheareau, so I'll be posting about that.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

La Bibliotheque Nationale Francois Mitterrand by Dominique Perrault

boundless claustrophobia

The grey, barely wrinkled wood boards sit next to each other for miles. The space between each plank lines up with its identical neighbor resulting in dozens of black tracks extending all the way to the horizon. Any second now I expect to join their motion, thrust across the desert in an objection-less glide marked for the base of the building. Just before impact, shot like a catapult smack into the fifth story of her floor to ceiling windows. Momentary pause gives way to a soft, slow slide towards the sand. The sound of skin's friction rubbing against the cool envelope of an unmoved barrier. Finally to rest on the horizon that seemed so far away.

Monday, September 26, 2011

six days left in Paris

Sorry for the delay in posts, the internet in my closet has not worked since Wednesday.

Buildings and Museums thus far:

Musee d'Orsay
Musee Rodin
The Cartier Foundation by Jean Nouvel
Le Biblioteque National Francois Mitterand
Musee Quai Branly by Jean Nouvel
Le Cinematique Francaise by Frank Gehry
Centre Pompidou by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers
Eiffel Tower
Arc de Triomphe
Fondation Suisse by leCorbusier (my first Corbu building!)
a few more....

For now, while my internet is down, I will just post a few pictures from these buildings. More to come when I have more access.

The Thinker, in front of the entrance
building at Musee Rodin. 

A photograph of a photograph inside the museum.
The subject is Rodin's Balzac, by Edward Steichen, 1908.

Universite de Paris - Fondation Suisse
LeCorbusier and Pierre Jeannerret, 1932

My first Corbu piloti!

Interview with Michael Arad on the Design Observer Group

On the heels of much writing I've done about why writing is an important exercise for an architect, I came across this interview with Michael Arad, the designer of the 9/11 memorial. It nicely sums up some thoughts I've had about the design process, and why it is crucial to communicate the idea over the physical manifestation of that idea:

"Be flexible without losing site of what is important about the project. Learn to separate the essence and the ideas of a project from one of a thousand variations of how it could be. Because every project can be pushed and pulled in different ways without becoming something altogether different. There are certainly lines that if we had crossed them would have taken this project into altogether different territory. And you have to know where those lines are but you also need to not fall in love with one version of your project. Fall in love with the idea. Don't fall in love with that material or that particular form. Fall in love with the intent of your project."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

on writing and the architectural education

"Writing is a part of the architectural process for many people, but most of it does not show up in the final presentation. This is usually attributed to the profession being one for visual learners. As one of these learners I understand that it is easier for some people to process and remember graphic information. I consciously choose to look at pictures and graphics more than text. No matter how much my learning is defined by this, words can still trigger emotions in me that pictures cannot. The problem with text as it is treated in most architectural presentations is not that the viewer is not willing to read it; it is that she is not forced to.
I believe this to be one of the biggest missed opportunities in architectural education. The power of writing when expressed to a visual audience is that it acts as a catalyst to our graphic imaginations. As a rendering must choose a particular medium to evoke emotion, writing triggers a palette of endless media options inside the viewer’s mind. Words, when chosen correctly, can express ideas and inspire interpretations impossible with our pencils, pens, paints and computers. Most of the critics, reviewers, jurors, and professors who look at our work have the unique ability to graphically interpret ideas better than anyone else in the world. The misunderstanding on our part is that these people are opposed to reading text. For this reason we usually group it together, make it easy to skip over and easy to ignore. Most writing included on a final board does not actually add to the presentation of a building."

This excerpt is taken from a proposal I wrote for the Richard A. Campbell Traveling Scholarship awarded by The University of Oregon. Today I find myself in Paris for the start of my research. For the next five weeks I will be traveling from Paris to the Netherlands, Berlin (maybe), Cologne, and Chur, Switzerland to explore the relationship of writing in the communication of our built environment. This blog will serve as a method of clarity and accountability so I can transcribe my writing in a timely manner before returning to Eugene for a presentation of the work. I will also be showing pictures and paintings produced along the way. Please feel free to comment or email me while I am abroad or anytime after.