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PORTFOLIO BEN BLAKE Architecture University of Cincinnati

2018 +01.513.846.3425



In returning to the site and program from the previous semester, my partner and I, Caleb Lang explored the possibilities of utilizing light, both artificial and natural, to secure and reinforce the spatial relationships we were interested in obtaining for a given programmatic piece. Developing design of construction through half scale, 6� = 1’0�. ensures that all details are resolved. The process becomes a rigorous intentful exercise grounded in real materials and

joinery rather than an architectural diagram for a building. The museum drawing above is the culmination of our construction linework in combination with overlayed rendered intent from which to develop physical models and perspective renderings. Material swatches are placed below both half-scale drawing and construction model imagery to allow comparison between predicted intent through rendering and the physical reality resulting from model craft.


The 1 1/2” = 1’-0” model above was the immediate research response to the halfscale drawing on the previous page. Building at this scale is more feasible than half-scale yet still allows for accurate lighting and material interpretations to be tested. The model’s mass is made primarily from homasote with specific treatments. The orange-washed homasote on the left has been sanded to allow maximum light reflection. Homasote on the right has had ‘stucco’ applied

interpretted by white spray paint clumped on the revealed faces. The threshold between spaces has been left as raw homasote to allow for transition between treatments. 1/8” orange marbled glass is applied at the exterior facade representing the qualities of a thin onyx layer between glazing elements in architectural reality. The flooring within the gallery space is made of acid etched acrylic representing translucent glass to allow the indirect lighting within the coffers to illuminate upward.

MUSEUM The museum’s finality came directly from the half-scale drawing and construction model, modeled digitally to bring together the concepts identified in both exercises. The above rendering displays the interior gallery space with the orange-washed circulation space in the distance. The rendering on the left displays the space with all artificial lighting activated, including indirect coffer light and track lighting implemented on the underside of the coffer along its centerline. The right displays the space’s natural light conditions, ensuring that the space is still usable without artificial light.

SITE CIRCULATION Upon completion of the museum, it was decided that separating programs into individual buildings seemed most applicable to the detail driven studio methodology. The circulation space above displays the taproom to the left and circulation tower for the brewery tower to the right. The taproom sits at the top of the site and holds the street edge while the circulation tower, connected via bridge, acts as both a public viewpoint destination as well as service circulation for the brewery. Further descriptions of taproom and brewery are written on the following spread.

TAPROOM The intent for the taproom portion of the program was to create a street presence as well as hold its own interior language. The resultant was a typical curtain wall construction on the north south facades with barrel vaulted concrete arches as vertical structure on the interior. This articulates zoning for customers and allows lighting strips to line the arches and not the ceiling, grounding the space to the human scale. Wood finishes are applied to signify tactility. One point perspective was chosen as the most fruitful representation of the space and its lighting qualities

BREWERY Cincinnati is rich in brewing history. Given that part of the program for the site was to implement a museum to showcase the brewing process and history, it seemed most applicable to modernize the historical tower brewing typology. The interior flooring is perforated, both to allow systems and service to occur between floors as well as encourage visitors to view the connections within the brewing process at any level of the tower. The glass block facade to the back of the image faces south, providing diffuse light and encouraging users to direct attention to the brewing process within.


OVERVIEW AND SYSTEM Brewery’s are a staple to the German heritage of Cincinnati and with the return of urban interest in the downtown and Over-the-Rhine areas, empty lots create opportunities for new developments to reflect that history. This site is heavily sloped with an existing retaining wall to the northwest side of the site. In response, the building is condensed under a single roof within which terraced platforms supply the

floor space for programming. Most of the site is left for urban interaction and a year round beer garden connected to the building via bridge. The sloped site is situated on a hill overlooking the city which gives opportunity for view from the beer garden and building. Administration slices transversely through the site splitting public from private. The roof structure is made from eight radial steel trusses connected at the

center. Skylights line the trusses accentuating structure and providing a controlled amount of natural light. Steel cables span between skylights from which fabric is woven. Spray applied concrete is added to the fabric to seal the structure from the elements. The system meets the ground through custom formed concrete columns.

THE HAND This semester was used as a preliminary design development period from which comprehensive systems are expanded upon the following academic semester. The hand drafted drawings on this page were used in the iterative process as well as final design intent pieces to reflect material, assembly, programming and detail. The 20x30 sheets are left relatively unedited for this reason. The following page utilizes the existing building section to imply space and atmosphere.



2D DIGITAL Rhino linework overlaid on rendered background.

COLLAGE Combination of CAD files, photography, Rhino linework and photoshop textures.



Created from a found tire on site, wooden dowels, metal pipe, rubber bands, brass pipe and concrete.

Combination of Illustrator image trace, photography and photoshop textures.


SITE AND DESIGN Designed for a writer, the existing prairie house on site was designed and built by University of Cincinnati Architecture students in the spring of 2016. The water for the house comes from a well which was predicted to have potential freezing problems during the winter. Our goals were to insulate the well and provide storage for her tools and unused furniture before the first freeze.

We chose to make the shed reserved yet have a presence in the landscape. During the day, the shed resembles a tobacco barn with charred wood spaced incrementally. At night, the shed shines and gives light to an otherwise starlit space between parking lot and house. The existing house on site has reclaimed vertical slats to shield it from weather and the well house reflects and complements this aesthetic. With regards to budget constraints, we chose to

use as much reclaimed material we could find on site. Special attention was paid to the joining and detailing as the material itself could not be expensive. Our final design solution is detailed in the assembly diagram to the right.

SITE AND DESIGN The well was lined with insulation first then was covered with hardwood flooring on top of wood framing with a hatch door to allow for well access. Timber members create six individual frames within which polycarbonate panels and cross support threaded rod

is placed. Aluminum channels capture the polycarbonate. Timberlocks secure the frames to floor and roof. The roof is made from salvaged sheet metal found on site. The cladding is made from wood salvaged from an old barn structure on site and charred back at our workshop

then nailed to the frames on site. LED lighting strands were fished through holes in the top of the timber members to light polycarbonate cells. Design work and fabrication completed at our workshop in Cincinnati and assembled on site in two days.

In collaboration with Luis Musa, Caleb Lang, Sanjay Sridhar, Dilip Muralidharan, Chi Zhang and Qisheng Zhu. Special thanks to Whitney Hamaker and Vincent Sansalone for providing resources.


PROCESSING AND PARAMETRICISM Parametricsism’s advantage is in its everchanging form influenced by controlled variables. Predictable randomness in multiple runs of the same script allows for variations of the same idea. Parametricism’s disadvantage is in its inability to have a predefined finality. Thus the challenge becomes when and why the human stops the scripting process to output a final form which is able to be manifested in an architectural reality.


Constraints were valuable in our exploration of script making. We found that with enough desirable constraints; the script would slow down or even stop producing new geometries at a certain frame. The final script used in the form produced above was selected from a series of

sixteen. It was chosen for its representational qualities of the forces written in the script. The script itself is based on two species of points which interact with each other. They are drawn together but stay at a consistent distance from each other.

Two resisting agents are also present; producing a sphere of vacant space as seen in plan and axonometric. New points are divided from existing points at predetermined times with a higher potential of growing in the Z-Axis. A gravity force is used to ensure that the ground plane is defined and translatable to a physical construction. For manifestation purposes: two nearbly points are joined by line, three closed lines form plane. The seperate species are differentiated by color with higher opacities as the system moves upward in the Z-Axis.

CONSTRUCTION AND ASSEMBLY The translation of the parametric form from digital to construction requires intensive planning and methodology. The frame is made of welded steel rods with steel ball bearings as nodes to allow for a single point connection. The geometries consist of triangles with measurements coming from a digital model. The assembly of these triangles in relation to one other is made easy in the fact that triangles will create their own accurate angles provided the measurements

are correct. This means that the only assembly math done outside of the computer is in the angle of the triangle in relation to the ground. This is done on the welding table with the assistance of magnets and protractors. Once the frame is complete, plastic panels are spray painted to correspond with their respective species and attached with plastic clothing loops. Six loops are needed per panel to hold it in place offset from the frame.

For structural reasons; the portion of the frame laying on the ground has steel panels on its underside to provide a foundation in which the installation will stay in place from wind and human factors. Although not built for longevity, the installation has been aging underneath Crosley Tower on the University of Cincinnati’s campus and may incentivize a followup analysis of nature’s effect on the installation.

FABRICATED CATHEDRAL A proposal for the re-purposing of the system developed in Comatose into an interior order for a cathedral. The script used to create the column wrapping technique started as an alteration from the script developed in Comatose. Each column on one side of the cathedral is created from a separate run of the script and mirrored to create symmetry down the main aisle of the cathedral.

The script starts on the ground plane and develops along the Z-axis until it nears its vertical limit and branches out. This was done to call back to the traditional vault typology of the cathedral. This rendering became an individually made research element in the capstone presentation of Comatose as well as being on display in DAAPWorks 2016 alongside my teammates’ research.


INSIDE THE DESIGN PROCESS Choosing the program of a sculpture museum for the Michigan Avenue site came from an idea of preserving the public accessibility and needs of the location. Placing a cultural center, the sculpture museum, on the site allows for enjoyable circulation around the building as well as gathering spaces on the grounds. In addition to the circulation routes around the building, the entire ground footprint of the building is open to the public

on the interior. This came as a result of the size of the site and the need for many entries into the building. From a context standpoint, the use of subdued materiality and a maximum floor level of five stories allows for the building to hold a cultural presence while not distracting the eye from the Tribune Tower. Through use of minimal variety of material, the art inside and out of the museum is given a greater place in the hierarchy. Another point of inspiration to

drive the concept consists of looking at the possibilities and potential of space to impact an individual’s perception and experience. Depending on the mood or emotional state of the person, they may be drawn to different aspects of the architecture and art. Rather than attempting to provide a uniform experience for all, designing moments which cater to the existing mood of the person enable the architecture to speak louder than if it were uniform. Example

states of mind and experience are shown above and can be perceived differently depending on the viewer’s interpretation. Taken from the same rendering and scene, the human can be identified and highlighted, displacing focus from the large scale of the site and condensing onto the individual.



With the sculpture museum program in mind; a 10’ x 10’ grid system was developed with the idea that the majority of sculptures are able to move through a void of that size, whether as a whole or in pieces.

The grid system is implemented into general massing units which correspond with program. After the system is in place, the individual spaces are articulated with choice periods of glazing in order to accentuate lighting characteristics.

A thin concrete panel is attached to a 6” x 6” steel tube with a custom connection joint at intersections. The panels are hung via brackets embedded in the panel while the steel tubes are mechanically attached to the connector with a slight reveal to emphasize connection. Using mechanical connections allows for panels to be changed or replaced depending on exhibit requirements and limitations.


The system is further translated into the urban fabric surrounding the building. The plaza space between museum and river is activated through a sculpture garden sunk down to the river walk level to reduce sound transfer from the street. Circles within the grid create way-finding nodes on the exterior of the building to add focal points and destinations within the urban fabric.



PREDICTING VISITOR EXPERIENCE Once the assembled system is in place, renderings are used to highlight the lighting conditions and materiality of the architecture as well as the success or failure of human activation. Due to the sheer size of the site, predicting how visitors may use the space is important for ensuring the museum is relevent and comfortable at a human scale. Although the site is too large to accurately depict all human facets of the project, specific moments of experience are explored and depicted in the smaller renderings to the right. The art shown is a mix of existing art from renowned artists as well as envisioned site specific art showing the facility’s usage.

ALONG THE VISTITOR’S PATH Standing at the last viewpoint of the atrium from the second floor, the perspective shows both entry from where the visitor came and also the floors above in which they will experience further in their museum exploration.



The temporary gallery allows the invited artist in residence to design for a specific space. The multi-level spaces available to the artist allow for a variety of opportunities to showcase their work and personal statement through art.

Season is an aspect which cannot be ignored when designing in Chicago. Cherry blossoms transform the rear plaza into a specific destination for the public during the Spring, utilizing the aspect of revisiting the site.


BAY MODEL Using the bay model as a medium to explore design allows for details to be fleshed out and applied to other areas of the project. Coretn steel is applied to highlight entry. Circular windows correspond with the precedent of photography and reflect the lighting applied at the intersection of the space frame members.

PERSPECTIVE Photography is used as precedent in both a physical and metaphorical sense. The viewfinder within a camera bends light from the lens into the eye. This same concept is used to provide a public terrace area on the second floor in which view is obtained through use of mirrors placed at specific angles. The idea of restricting view through use of architectural elements allows for a controlled one point persective.





CONTEXT + HISTORY With Over-the-Rhine being a neighborhood with rich history, providing public activity space weaved into the urban fabric is as important as the living space above. Experimental architectural elements are placed carefully within a fairly reserved massing in order to not distract from existing historical buildings. Retail and dining is implemented to help revitalize an area of Over-theRhine which has not yet been restored. A bicycle shop is planned as a transporation hub to encourage energy efficent travel between uptown and downtown areas.

2018 +01.513.846.3425

Portfolio 2018  

Ben Blake . University of Cincinnati . DAAP . Architecture . Portfolio . (Updated February 13, 2018)

Portfolio 2018  

Ben Blake . University of Cincinnati . DAAP . Architecture . Portfolio . (Updated February 13, 2018)