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Owen Nichols Monograph Studio Two Eggs: Omelet Style


Owen Nichols Columbia Univeristy GSAPP Monograph Studio LOT-EK & Thomas Demonchaux, Critics Spring 2013


TEXTS

The Scales of Low-Res Architecture Illusion The Production and Exploitation of Tools A Tool for Relentless Experimentation Theatre Hotel Health Club Storage Retail Isometric Sequence Theatre Panorama Retail Panorama Storage Panorama Theatre Plan Objects and Entrances


PLATES

Theatre Hotel Health Club Storage Retail Iterations Architectural Devices Drawing an Inventory Villa Snellman Guest House Addition Design for my Ideal Working Environment 5 Seconds in the Life of Cristiano Ronaldo Freegan Optical Device


The Scales of Low-Res Architecture

Beyond a certain scale, architecture becomes depressing. A group of architects can only pay close attention to so many things. Beyond a manageable scale the roles of the architects are typically marginalized to the designing of a skin and a form. I'm not sure if architects are forced into this position or if it’s a desired role. If it’s a choice, I choose to stay a little smaller, at a scale where architectural decisions are made from the body of the user out. Where the interior is explored for its potential in providing a platform for a variety of experiences. Where the exterior is articulated, not according to outside rules, but by the rules that the building makes for itself on the inside. I don't want to think big because I don't want to lose grasp of one of architecture's greatest powers, the ability to affect a person’s perception and experience through its negotiation of program, boundaries, and thresholds, entrance sequences, and precious objects.

Architecture is in service of both its program and its people. The bigger a building is, the less it has to do with its people and more to do with an image, a rendering broadcasting to a different audience. Architecture has become so influenced by its own tools to the extent that the low-res output of tools like blue foam or Photoshop becomes the architecture. Low-res architecture has grown to be wildly successful, it has become a movement. Its bought and praised and tragically taught in school. My problem with the movement is its neglect of interiority and the amount of thoughtless, default repetition of elements to achieve a desired scale and resolution.


I suppose the intent behind low-res architecture was to make architecture available for a wider audience, to make it more public in a way. Anyone can understand low-res architecture and it looks better from farther away anyway. In the five buildings of the monograph studio I'm asking questions to see if the same intention can translate through a different approach. Hopefully the buildings will enable a conversation about low-res architecture and the possibility for inward looking. Having analyzed what I believe to be the original intention behind the tragedy of low-res architecture, I don’t think that the intention is achieved with the reductive approach and the problem mainly falls under a problem of scale. Massive buildings with clean, chamfered corners offer nothing to the body and the perception of the potential user of the building. Unclimbable mountains of slippery, cold glass are impressive in the landscape perhaps, but what about the people? Macchu Picchu is a seemingly unclimbable mountain, yet it is articulated at a scale that is both accommodating of the gods and of man. One could imagine themselves occupying such articulation if it manifests and is presented at a scale that is relatable to human experience.

Can a building still grasp the attention and be legible to a wider public through an articulation of its parts rather than defaulting to a singular derivable form? If the scale of the articulation was presented both at the scale of furniture (body) and at the scale of a grand public gesture (city), would a person be able to understand the building better? Can someone learn the different languages of a building weaving through its range of scales?


Architectural Trickery

When looking deeply into the things that catch, grab and hold my attention, I begin to notice some common themes. Ultimately my interests can be drawn back to the pursuit of illusion. I spent my life playing soccer and drawing almost exclusively. How do those subjects hold my attention and why? I chose to draw using a particular process that involves the hybridization of multiple techniques. I draw in and out of the available tools and have the logics and processes of the tools infect the function or operation of others. Why do I feel that adding a layer of graphite or ink is absolutely necessary in ‘completing’ a drawing? (I live by the definition that a drawing is never finished). I think of the audience when I draw, and would like to trick them, evoke an emotional response, and bewilder them through the illusion of space on a flat surface.

I’m interested in the threshold between a nonsensical set of lines and tones and a representational image. When do people begin to see things in your drawings, which marks on the paper provide the visual cues necessary in establishing a coherent statement? “Those who look at works of painting and drawing must have the ‘imitative faculty’. No one could understand the painted horse or bull unless he knew what such creatures are like.” When we say that the blots and brush strokes of the impressionist landscapes “suddenly come to life,” we mean we have been led to project a landscape into these dabs of pigment.” -- Guided projection. Expectation creates illusion.


My other passion: Soccer, can be thought of in a similar way. What makes Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi so entertaining and successful? I have analyzed in several different situations, Messi making a decision to pass the ball and how he pulls it off. I have also looked at Ronaldo in one on one situations. Ronaldo plays a game of balance and structure with his opponent. If you pay attention to where the defender’s weight is placed in relation to the sequence of moves Ronaldo performs, you will notice that the illusion occurs when the defender is out of sync with Ronaldo. He waits for that moment and makes his move away. In Messi’s case, his penetrating through-balls are difficult to predict. Through analysis, I have found that in goal scoring opportunities, Messi typically has several options to choose from. Some of these choices are obvious, the defenders expect the ball to be played to the obvious choice. Expectation creates illusion. Messi uses the defender’s awareness of the situation as a weapon against them. Messi delays, he dismisses clear options in order to play the obscure dagger that eventually ends in a goal.

My interests in Art and Architecture can also be described as conceptual decedents from my interests in illusion. My obsession with the 19th Century Panorama is an obvious relative in its pursuit of maximum illusion and its careful calibration to the scale and perception of its audience. Even Some of the more subtle examples: Adolf Loos’ use of the inglenook in the Shueu House, framing devices in Erik Gunnar Asplund’s Villa Snellman, and the obscurity of Sigurd Lewerentz’s altar at St. Petri. The Architects are all playing a sleight of hand. Obscuring, occluding, accentuating in order to produce the illusion that has an effect or affect on the architecture’s inhabitants.


The production and exploitation of tools. I have a fascination with tools. Tools particularly interest me when they are misused for a particular reason or for experimentation. My interest in the 19th Century Panorama stems from the techniques used to create the endeavor. In order for the panoramic image to produce maximum illusion, it must be created misusing the rules of perspective: Alberti’s veil. Tools can be generic and they can do many different things. I’m interested in the possibility for tool calibration toward a desired goal.


Is it possible to rethink our tools so that they work for us? Can we abuse the tools to the extent to which their production matches our intention? What are the tools in architecture? What can we learn from them and how can we manipulate them so that they work better for us? What are the tools of architectural representation? The conventions? How can we hybridize the representational tools so that one acquires the characteristics of another? How can we push the representational tools so far that they become design tools? How can we streamline the production sequence to bring the conception of a project closer to its final realization? How can we free ourselves from Rhino-lock? What are the different ways to move in and out of our design tools? How can we move quickly and productively? How can we use the tools we’re comfortable with to achieve a result that typically comes from a tool we’re not comfortable with? How can we better identify what attributes our tools have, and use them for what they’re good for?


A Tool for Relentless Experimentation

I draw constantly. I always have. One of the nice thing about being fluent int his language is that drawing for me is no longer a simply a tool for representation. Drawing is a way of thinking, or a state of mind. Drawing is officially defined as any work on paper. I will use a painting reference to describe what drawing is to me, drawing is a way of keeping the process of design “wet”. Its a tool for relentless experimentation. When one draws, he is making decisions, measuring, calculating, editing, omitting, emphasizing. Drawing can be used to draw (like a drawer) material from one’s imagination and present it in a visual form, or it can be used to draw from the existing, what’s already on the page. I use drawing and the conventions of architectural representation to explore the design of a building, I also use the design of a building to explore drawing and the conventions of architectural representation. All of the drawings produced for the monograph studio are one-offs with the exception of a few short editions. This is intentional. It doesn’t bother me, even though a building is drawn in several different ways throughout a project, there is a line of thinking that can be tracked through the drawings. Each drawing explores something new, more, deeper. A drawing is never finished. Wait 10 years before you consider throwing a drawing out. How is your drawing working for you? What are you drawing from? Take out the trash. Do your homework.


5 PROJECTS


Theatre My strategy for the Theatre was to figure out the things I want to be better at using the things that I’m already comfortable with. I was trying to think about and design a sequence of volumes through a mode of representation that is typically used in space making: the plan. The plan was drawn as a series of enclosed shapes which describe the areas of the different rooms but it is not the way i typically go about it. Usually plans are drawings that call out solid, structural divisions. In designing the building through the arrangement of empty volumes, I have a much better understanding of the building volumes and am therefore much more comfortable in section. The theatre consists of a nested performance theatre inside of a digital, moving panorama. There are two entrances, one for the performance, one for the projection. After the initial entrance sequence (the performance entrance sequence is more elaborate) the consumer will begin climbing a stair.

The stair departing from the performance entrance provides access to a private bar and opera booths that plug into the volume of the performance theatre. The stair departing from the panorama entrance is the main attraction in the sequence, although tucked behind the extended threshold. The two stairs wind up and almost meet, playing a game of chicken. The performance stair dodges left and empties its inhabitants into the private bar and booths. The panorama stair also dodges left only to circle back on itself and begin its accent up the shell of the performance theatre and into the entrance to the panorama. As the stair winds up the entrance to the panorama, another stair is winding down, and leading to the panorama viewing platform. Where did this stair come from? Is it the one we narrowly missed earlier? If that’s the entrance to the panorama, where the hell am I going? After a few short moments of panic, the small crowd continues up the stair, only to realize the stair comes back down and leads into the panorama, it was not a different stair, it was the one we’ve been on the whole time. What the hell? Why would someone do that? I walked all the way up just to come back down? Feels good now doesn’t it?


Hotel

The Hotel has a skin strategy. This strategy found its way into the interior of the building and organizes the private guest rooms and the public program. The hotel is made of glass. It tries to achieve opacity using a transparent material. Public and private are in one respect completely separated. Layers of glass produce a thickness, refraction, reflection, atmosphere are hidden between layers of glass. In another respect, public and private are too close for comfort. There are no walls. With the exception of the channels heat contained in planes of glass, no plane of glass touches both floor and ceiling. Glass planes are anchored on one edge.

Through trying to achieve something with a tool that seems to be incapable, new evidence was revealed. Atmospheres are produced through the layering of colored, fritt, frosted, transparent, reflective, and mirrored glass. All light is soft and over filtered. Its a dark glass cave. Its a furry glass lump. Hotel rooms coat the outside edges of the hotel. The rooms live somewhere on a climbing corridor. It seems like a spiral but it is in fact a close loop, I’ve done it. Inside the private loop is an interior mall. The Gap, Uniqlo, Apple, The 3 Bars organized by color (R, Y, B), 2 Restaurants (the Up and the Down), the kitchen floor (supplies food for room service and both the Up and the Down) and a top of the lump pool occupy the hole left from the loop. Four elevators serve the hotel in the center. One elevator serves the Up and the Down exclusively, One serves the Mall (stairs included), and two serve the Hotel corridors.


Health Club The health club will take the form of a bathhouse. A bathhouse is a sensitive program, private functions take place on a public stage. The bathhouse should be a secret. It should be disguised. Taking into account the weaving of public and private in the bathhouse program, create the context for the bathhouse interior using a grand, external, public gesture. Can a private program use a grand public gesture to its advantage? How can you use an exterior strategy to create the context and possibility for a highly articulated interior? The public gesture will take the form of a grand external stair climbing 21'. The stair will attach to an elevated platform sheltered by a half structured shell. The shell contains open air apertures. This is a smoking pavilion. The building matches the height of its neighbor. The health club is built up with the public gesture in order for the bathhouse to burrow down into it. The bathhouse is accessible from the elevated platform. In the corner opposite the grand stair, a small door leads to a helical stair, with landings and overlooks but is isolated from the ground floor. The stair skips a floor where juice and yoga pants are sold. It leads to the grotto level, where individual changing rooms serve the 7 different baths. Analyze the E. 10th st. Russian and Turkish Bath's entrance sequence and locker room organization. Learn from the plan but be critical of it. Could there be an intervention in the locker room's public/private relationship in bathhouse? Is the locker room working in sync with the private/public relationship you have already established?

The (mens) locker room of the Russian and Turkish baths is organized in two equally sized rooms. One room contains shower heads lining all four walls. No furniture. This is the shower room. This room is mainly empty partly due to the showers downstairs in the bath level. The other room is lined with lockers. In the center of the room are several long benches. These benches mainly serve the lockers around the edges of the rooms. People who use the benches while also using a locker, only use the tips of the benches. Sometimes the majority of the bench (in between the two tips) is used by a man who wears two towels. One towel covers his groin and the other covers his face. A towel on a man's face is a universal sign of the desire for privacy. If the bathhouse locker rooms became separate, private changing pods, the man would have to wear no towel. The changing pods each have a small shower, a small wet area with a tip of a bench, and a larger dry area with a bit more of a bench. There are two doors in each changing pod. One door connects the dry area to a dry corridor leading to an exit. The other door connects the wet area to the grottoes baths and pools. The bathhouse continues burrowing after the bottom of the skip-stop stair. The bottom of the stair is the highest point of the bathhouse level, two meters below ground level. The entrances to the changing pods act as stair treads. The seven baths are spread along the terrain and act as landings to the slow stair. Your experience may be different each time you come back depending on which neighborhood your changing room is in. At the bottom of the bathhouse level there's a long cold pool which is split by a wall. The wall divides the bathhouse proper from the short circuit entrance from ground level. The entrance slips in behind and into the grand external stair which seems to be attached to the main volume


Section


Storage Your storage will be a permanent exhibition hall for Aby Warburg's atlas of images. The main exhibition galleries will be located in the middle of the building. Bring public attention to the gallery by identifying a large main threshold at one extreme of the building. On the other side, don't have an entrance, instead articulate the exterior surfaces at the scale of furniture. Give the corner to the public. The main door will be an extended threshold opening into a linear lobby. To access the main galleries, send the consumer through the building first. Allow the user to experience all the temporary aspects of the building: two rotating exhibition galleries, a cafe, admissions vestibule and the multiple systems of circulation, all leading to more or less the same place. Once the user has experienced the dynamic aspect of the project, try to keep him there.

The Atlas of images are 62 identical black boards with black and white reproductions adhered to the board. From a distance all of the boards are the same. The main galleries are organized as nested cylinders in plan with identical doors repeated around the cylinder. The doors mostly lead to small rooms which hold one board each. The room has a step down and two small benches to view the reproductions. Some of the doors do not belong to a viewing room but can be a short circuit to the other gallery, exit, entrance or back of house where the collector has his studio. Once the user enters the gallery and looks around a bit, he might be disoriented, not know how to get out. He must then use other means of navigation. In the large gallery, a sculpture of Laocoon and his Sons sits in the ground floor, but the sculpture is too big for the room and emerges through gallery floor above. The users will most likely use their memory and the orientation of the sculpture to navigate out of the gallery.


Elevation


Retail My retail sells pencils and paper. It separates the two because one is dirty and the other clean. The inventory is handled by trained professionals until you buy something. The inventory, held on shelving that climbs the shell of the building is experienced by many. It is seemingly infinite due to its ruthless repetition of pencils and paper. The optical devices and procedural drawing instruments are singular, independent and experienced by one. Paper buyers like to touch. Pencil buyers like to test. 10% of the inventory is designated as ‘testers’ and are housed in the central experimental core where customers are allowed to get dirty. The display of the individual devices climb the building, eventually making its way to the top, where the checkout is. This sequence teaches its users how to see through the evolution of optics in art.


Section Perspective


Panorama - Theatre The entrance sequence into the two theaters are important to you. The sequences were designed to affect the user differently depending on how far along they are. Your assignment is to cut a section through your two entrance sequences. Use strategies of cinematography to move the camera and document the building using perspective. Refer to panoramic techniques of perspectival adherence. Unroll the section in perspective. The site for this drawing is a book. The ideal site would be the theatre that you're drawing. Don't reveal the drawing on a single page. Allow the viewer to wander through the drawing.

Panorama


Theatre - plan The ambition of this assignment is to realize and draw the articulated volumes of the theatre. The theatre has nested and attached volumes that range in scale from furniture to the panorama drum. You are to conceive of the volumes using the wrong drawing tool. You are to draw them in plan. A convention that typically organizes space not volume. Using the language of the convention, develop a strategy for identifying the volumetric differences of the theatre. Instead of drawing the structure first, draw the spaces of the room as closed shapes. Identify the different volumes using techniques of abstraction. Try to abstract by simultaneously being literal. Draw the materials that the plan can show. Draw every paver.


Isometric sequence The colored contour technique in three dimensional drawing has several strengths in defining surfaces. The technique also has powerful visual effects depending on the relationship between the color of the line and the color of the fill behind.

Isometric

Use the drawing technique along a sequence of isometric drawings describing the shopping circuit throughout the paper store. Throughout the sequence, stretch the legs of the technique. Allow the technique to perform without its strongest visual effect for a while.

Isometric

Use color sparingly for you know that it will come soon. Use color diagrammatically. Identify the elements that you want to call attention to. Give the audience a chance to learn how to read the drawing, to learn the language. Begin to introduce the effect by selectively filling the space between contours.

Isometric

Isometric


Choosing a fill color depends on the desired effect. If you choose a color that isn't quite opposite in the color spectrum but has a higher saturation, assuming that the contour line is reasonably saturated, the combination will favor the fill color but the line will act as an assistant or under glow to the fill. (This is all dependent on the density of lines, the color from the line will take over especially around a curved surface. If the lines are very dense where the spacing between lines is less than the line weight, the opposite effect will occur because in this case the fill is acting as line.)

Isometric

Begin to color to everything, maintain the visual contrast. Now that the effect is at play, colored lines will fall behind as the grey lines did earlier in the sequence. Be a fauvist.

Isometric

Isometric

Isometric Isometric


Objects and Entrances The five buildings of the monograph studio were conceived using a strategy of identifying a precious object that the building will protect, hold, display and serve. The architecture was designed in a few ways. The identification of a front door, the identification of the precious object’s location in the site, and the negotiation of the user with the two elements. How does the user get to the object? What along the entrance sequence lets him know that the object exists? How does the entrance sequence provide for flexibility of experience? Secondary systems of circulation, short-circuits, exits, layovers, landings? Architecture is a service profession, when designing buildings abstractly in school, there isn’t much to really serve. In an assimilated situation, this approach provides a platform for the service of something precious. The entrance or front door play a big role in defining the facade. It’s a tool of communication for architecture. The front door directs attention no matter its form. It tells the man on the street that this is where he should come in if he wants to.


Entrances or thresholds mediate boundaries, they enable architecture to be both inhabitable and sheltering. An extended threshold can become its own space or it can be a continuation of either connection. My interest in the extended threshold is its ability to organize the room it connects and its programmatic ambiguity. A door is a bridge. Its can be an unpredictable space. In the five buildings of the studio, the objects and entrances are encased in the goo of the building. Spatial tangents to offset the rhythm of the sequence, service spaces, secondary systems of circulation inhabiting poche containing exits for the building’s bowel movements, attics, cellars, spaces of fantasy and flexibility. In a way, all the good stuff. Being aware of the spatial rhythms of the building and the entrance sequence is important. Architecture moves people, whether we are aware of this fact or not, every architectural decision made has a consequence that results in a dialogue with moving bodies. A building is a call to action in a way, it communicates through the articulation of solids that relate to the human body. Bodies can only move though voids. The solids that define those voids can act as framing devices for the attention of the user, This is most obvious in the front door.


PLATES


Theatre


Section


Perspective


Perspective


Section


Plan


Plan


Plan


Plan


Roof Plan


Split Section Isometric


Split Section Plan Oblique


Panorama


Perspective Performance Theatre


Health Club


Plan


Isometric


Plan Oblique Grottos


Plan Oblique Grotto


Plan Analysis


Plan Locker Room


Cross Section


Long Section


Projected Section Changing Room


Projected Section Stair


Stair Plans


Hotel


Isometric


Plan


Isometric


Isometric


Section Elevation Oblique


Isometric


Isometric


Isometric


Section Elevation Oblique

Section Elevation Oblique

Section Elevation Oblique


Perspective


Perspective


Perspective


Plan Oblique


Plan Oblique


Plan Oblique


Perspective


Perspective


Perspective


Storage


Plan


Plan Oblique


Plan


Main Gallery


Admissions


Model Photo


Model Photo


Model Photo


Model Photo


Model Photo


Front Door


Model Photo


Model Photo


Elevation


Retail


Elevation


Isometric


Plan in Perspective


Plan Oblique in Perspective


Isometric Sequence


Isometric

Isometric


Isometric

Isometric


Isometric

Isometric


Perspective


Perspective


Section Perspective


Isometric


Isometric


Isometric


Section Elevation Oblique


Panoramic Section Perspective


Worms Eye Panoramic Perspective


Perspective


ITERATIONS


HEALTH CLUB


THEATRE


THEATRE


RETAIL


RETAIL


STORAGE


HOTEL


Storage


Elevation

Section Perspective

Section


Projected Sections


Projected Sections

THEATRE


Projected Sections


DRAWING AN INVENTORY


Drawing Instruments Black


Drawing Instruments Black


Drawing Instruments Black


Brushes


Colors


Tools


ARCHITECTURAL DEVICES


Perspective Attached Stair


Plan Attached Stair


Perspective Attached Stair


Perspective Attached Stair


Elevation Attached Stair


Perspective Attached Stair


Perspective Engawa


Perspective Engawa


BOUNDARIES & THRESHOLDS


Guest House Addition to Gunnar Asplund’s Villa Snellman


Villa Snellman Volume 1


Villa Snellman Volume 2


Elevation Snellman Guest House addition


Elevation Snellman Guest House addition


Snellman Section 1


Snellman Section 2


Snellman Guest House addition Plan


Snellman Guest House addition Plan


5 Seconds in the Life of Cristiano Ronaldo


A Design for my Ideal Working Environment


Withdrawing Room


Plan


Section


Plan


Section


A Freegan Optical Device


Photograph Through optical device lens


Photograph Through optical device lens


Photograph Optical Device Back View


Photograph Optical Device Right View


Photograph Optical Device in use


Photograph Optical Device in use


Adolf Loos Luca Brizzio Erik Gunnar Asplund Sigurd Lewerentz Michael Graves Charles Moore Jean Labatut FAT Valerio Olgiati Alvar Aalto


Owen Nichols Monograph Studio o1nichols@gmail.com o1nichols.tumblr.com


Owen Nichols - Monograph Studio Columbia University GSAPP