Monday, December 29, 2014

JVA's Twin House, Oslo

Professor Jarmund Vigsnaes brought the Density in Trondheim Studio to look at progress on his firm's "Twin House".  The house, a cantilevering structure overlooking the fjord, contains a mirrored program for a pair of successful, yet seemingly inseparable identical twins.  While only two units, this type of packaged-program could easily expanded on in a different context.  The architecture, just like the twins, allows for points of deviation that is bounded by a unifying structure.  

A view from inside the western unit's combined living-room/ kitchen. The book shelf to the right follow's the diagonal strut of the structure's wooden truss system.  In this manner, inside living is bound to the tectonic expression of the house's exterior.

 The exposed wooden framing system provides opportunities for uniform, yet nontraditional window shape.  On a whole, the effect creates a type of half-timbered expression defined by the lightness of void rather than compression of masonry.  

Here is the chopping block floor of the house's upper level, a simple but variegated texture almost good enough to eat off of.

JVA Writer's Cabin Outside of Oslo

  A new cabin touches down from the future in suburban Oslo

As our studio came to a close, the class took a tour of some selected projects around the Oslo.  Though small in area and not particularly urban, the first project is an example of a nuanced approach to compact space.  This recently completed writer's cabin offers a retreat from the main residence.  The singular volume of the interior shifts to create a variety of spaces, ranging from a lazy loft to focused study area.  

above: approach and interior of loft window

 a retreat from the quaint, old and new profiles, paces and spaces

above:  window facing the end of the yard with train station beyond

with an fully glazed opening, natural light floods along the angled interior creating.  This view and light source looks out upon a neighboring train station.  The marked difference of the main residence and this cabin in design is further drawn-out by each building's respective orientation.  The red-gabled house possesses a warm and insular quality, while the cabin opens in view to a neighboring train station.  At the desk, the energy of arrival and departure is pulled through the cabin's volume.  This orientation at the very least offers a complementary respite and periodic flash of color to the insular focus of writing.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Back to THE FUTURE, phenomenology i Norge and the many moods of a boot

Then I began, as though  I had never seen my shoes before, to study their expression, their mime-like movements when I moved my toes, their shape, and the worn-out leather they had; and I discovered that their wrinkles and their white seams gave them an expression, provided them with a face.   Something of my own being had gone over into these shoes they struck me as being, a ghost of my “I,” A breathing part of myself.- Knut Hamsun, Hunger 1890....

I am writing a paper on Phenomenology and its role in the 
development of a specific Architectural quality within northern latitudes.  In this work I am also borrowing from my reading of one of the first modern novelists, the Norwegian Knut Hamsun.  This particular passage regarding a resonance between artifact and human nature just NOW reminded me of a drawing I did all the way  back in 2011.  Now I can firmly match the lines and words together.  This passage reaches much farther than the protagonist's impression of his footwear, but then again it is also about shoes. I was drawing these boots over and over again while on the Fishing Vessel Mt. Royal in South East Alaska.  In there various states of rigor its not impossible to read more than rubber seam, and while you may not be able to empathize with them as objects, perhaps their look might be able to smell.

The Coolest Dorm in Trondheim

The second half of October has been going well as I continue my studio work with JVA's Hakon Vigsnaes and the study of vernacular Norwegian architecture with professor Mathilde Simonsen Dahl.  The above schematic drawing of my project depicts a sectional overlapping of the new and old Trondheim.  The project, a high density student dorm, aims to embody the new possibles and efficiency in timber construction, while remaining rooted in the city's sense of place.  The below model is one of three that is being developed as massing tool. AHO the school has a strong Industrial design component and working with the staff I have been using their CNC milling machine to bring my digital models into physical form.  Though of course there is a huge separation in scale and scope, it is fitting that a project which would be realized in components of Milled-timber should also engage with the formal properties of the technology at schematic stage.  I think this is one of the strengths of UW's CBE and the architecture school at AHO, but the integration of new fabrication techniques needs to be pushed further to help realize new possibilities and efficiencies in construction.  From a pedagogical standpoint it seems problematic that the qualities of what could be are often predetermined by the technologies of the much smaller scale of model making. Are purely rectangular solids the best fit for many sites, or is it rather that these built works are a reflection of the ease at which one cuts these shapes by hand in foam?

This week I am beginning  a programmatic push-back on the ordered tectonic model that has been built.  Its all a big ebb and flow!

The following graphic is an exploded tectonic drawing of the scheme seen in the model above with an addition third wing.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Bergen Fish Market by Eder Biesel Arkitekter.

I spent almost two days at this building in August.  It was raining, of course, and it is from underneath this building that I drew a view of Bergen as seen in an earlier post.  This Structure has simple and tight sectional qualities that are perfect for this site's edge conditions.  While the building stoutly holds its volume, it also allows people to pass through and underneath it; moving from street to harbor, transit to statis.  As far as the program is concerned, the messy business of fish and produce is located below on street-level, while an information center sits fully enclosed atop this bustle.  Perched over the eastern-most extent of the harbor, the whole top-tier commands a generous view of historic Bergen.  The area directly towards the north east of the building is a nexus of activity where pedestrians and the modern movement of Rt. 585 pinches the water-bound trade routes of the Hanseatic League.  
Literally and in an extensional sense, this energy moves through the fish market's spaces.  In a cadenced move, Eder Biesel Arkitekter colored the building's  louvers a mustard yellow, rich burgandy and crisp white in an allusion to Bergen's Historic Bryggen.  While this modern building openly engages with the Brygeen buidlings across the harbor's inlet, it also confronts the use of Miesian motif in Bergen's centrally located Grieg Hall.  Along the glass facade of Grieg hall, taught steel members are drawn down in that familiar functional-ornamental fashion.  The Fish market posses a quite similar rhythm and proportions in its facade, however the tempered use of color makes the cold universalism of the modern detail both, present and warm.  Though the louvers are functional, they are also a loaded symbol.  By painting them in their historic colors, these member are made reposed; becoming a symbol upon a symbol in a rich interplay of historicism.      

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Space Between: In and Out Historicism in Stavanger.

Lessons to be applied in the Trondheim Project; Sketches of Helen and Hard's Finns Bakery.

Project Site Analysis and non-scalar MENTAL MAP of Trondheim

SITE PLAN: block at the north-east  corner of Olav Tryggvasons Gata and Nordre Gata

The Dura I II are massive NAZI U-boat Bunkers for the 13th Flotilla built with 5 meter thick walls to withstand aerial bombing.Das Boot i Norge  Now Germans just come to Trondheim to buy things not on U-boats, but Cruise ships. Speaking of other shifts of empire and ideology, the Nidaros Cathedral of Trondheim, was built of the burial spot of King Olaf.  The former King is now Saint, for having died in battle with a sword in one hand and the Cross in the other.  death of a king 

Though centuries later, the Roman-Catholic Cross was brought to area a mere mile from the foothold of continental power's twisted-cross.

Maybe Space Group's hotel is the illegible-Gehry distorted/extruded cross of global late-capitalism.  LOL!

But, seriously, the horizon has weight.  

my site is in [YELLOW]

Ol' Trondhiem

 Fall has come early this second half of September, as to be expected at 60 degrees North.  Studies at AHO have been going great as the Trondheim-Vignaes studio begins to pick up steam.  Along with the studio project, which charge has been to create a new Timber-based density within the historic city of Trondheim, I have been taking a history of Norwegian Architecture elective.  While broad reaching and aimed at the theoretical deconstruction of "Norwegian" Architecture, this class has had a strong phenomenological underpinning and allowed me to further digest my summer travels through the lens of Christian Norberg-Schulz.   
The program for the studio project is part dormitory for Trondheim's NTI University, part community center.  Though geared specifically for students, the project is part of a greater effort to approach density with a softer edge so that Trondheim might become truly Urban in its layers, usage and richness.  Below are early sketch proposals which intend to show an organization which allows the historically relevant timber buildings to hold their ground and edge, while at the same time through a glazed facade and gutting permit the new housing project to emerge both over and through its context.

                           MATERIAL ORIGINS

The formal genesis of this project has grown out of the amalgamation historical of styles present at the specific site, and for that matter greater Trondheim as well.  Seeking not to merely reflect the messy and somewhat disjointed layers of material and time present throughout the block, the project’s  tectonic order, spatial qualities and structure must be resolute and undoubtedly of the PRESENT.
Like any center of learning or modern city, the collective consensus is not perfectly elemental, but rather an evolving body of diverging and converging perspectives.  Likewise, this project is so too a unified volume, yet one comprised of fragmented and cascading obliques.  Within the work, shifting orientations create a fluid formal rhythm that moves beyond the stasis of traditional timber construction, as well capturing the present condition more fully than the tired, monolithic, geometry of the CUBE.

In this sense, the tectonic order of a timber-walled  building currently on the site, offers an intelligence in its relationship to part and whole that can be applied on a grander spatial scale.  In the corner union of the timber elements, beveled notches and shifting planes are part of a system that allows discrete parts to form a regular whole.   The aim of this project and the challenge of the present is an inverse of this relationship established by the timber joint. In seeking an economy mitigated by the need for nuance, the charge of this project is to not make a regular volume out of dynamic parts, but to rather, to realize a dynamic volume out of regular parts.  In this manner, this project will serve many, well, through spaces derived from and in a continuum with local building technology.   


The site on a whole possesses an unbalanced character.  To the North, a massive modernist cube along with a weighty masonry building anchor a comparatively light timber grouping of structures that reach out towards Nordre Gata. In other words, its as if the three little pigs built all their houses successively from South to North.  At present, there is discordant tension with the scale, material and approach that characterizes the Northern and Southern extremes of the site.  It would be overly-romantic and shortsighted to remove these large non-timber buildings because of the density they offer.  Similarly,  The challenge of urban-timber construction is not to simply evolve out of current wooden buildings, but to rather rise sharply to meet the economy, scale and modern possibility currently present only in steel construction.  It is not out of the rejection steel construction that timber will reach its full potential, but rather it will only remain relevant through a process of engagement with the scale and processes of industrialization.  That being the case, in order to save the relevancy of timber in principle, this project calls for the removal of a band of wooden structures in example, so that a NEW-timber can mitigate the scalar shifts of construction and craft.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An American built a monument to an unrepentant Nazi-supporter/Literary genius in Norway, and it's Spectacular

above: view through the negative volume that links the tier-like floors.  through a window, light ripples across painted board-form concrete to create an effect based on light and value, not material hue.  

What is more fitting for a brilliant, yet controversial figure than to have a museum in his memory that also contorts in tension, its design so to dividing opinion.  My visit to the Knut Hamsun Center in Hamarøy  , by Stephen Holl completed in 2004 was a noted break in my study of Vernacular-inspired architecture.  Located north of the Arctic Circle, the buildings volume provides a space to interpret the rise of not just modern-literature, but also the loss of a romantic world that comes with modernization itself.  The now-dormant bucolic landscape pokes through a clerestory of windows; juxtaposing expressive formal shifts with the head-down practicality of illiterate farmers.  

It is a jarring break in the cadence of the soft hills and timber buildings. For all of its being out of place, the building is also invaluable to an historic understanding of place. Without its unrepentant and modern posturing, the region that shaped one of the 20th centuries greatest authors might now suffer from an overly-romantically type of Potemkinism.  The aim of the structure is not lionize Hamsun's view or mimic his reality, but to provide a spatial lens with which to interpret it.    

Its tectonic order, defined by load-bearing concrete is loosely solid and unlike Sverre Fehn's use of the material.  In Fehn's notable museums, the use of concrete make the rooves in their weight feel like a piece of the earth that has been lifted.  Holl's enclosure and walls are certainly of the same mass, but not nearly as weighty.  The building is solidly sterometric (the stacking of stone), yet so too posses a materialization of mass ussually only seen in tectonic (light framework) orders.  Frampton writes on the ontological meaning and implication of these modes that, 

"Framework tends towards the aerial and dematerialization of mass, where as the mass form is telluric, embedding itself deeper into the earth.  One tends towards the light and the other towards the dark.   These gravitational opposites...may be said to symbolize the two cosmological opposites to which they aspire; the sky and earth."


Henningsvær, the town that cod built (TorskFisk)

Along the steep coasts of the Lofoten Island,  fishing communities were carved out of inlets where existence, much like this structure, tenuously grip.  Now the archipelago draws as much artists and tourists as it does fishermen.  The gentle quality of its northern light and its hardscrabble past create an atmosphere of a contradictory air. The narrow chain of Islands and the traces of a way of life here are quintessentially coastal and Norwegian.  Boathouses, and structures of all types possess an honest
  ad-hoc quality that is almost Modern in their material practicality.  Some of  the buildings have gradually expanded, lumbering along aggregating and shedding material;  never really becoming complete.  In these working buildings, the unfinished surfaces and additions project sense of continued possibility, even though the fishing fleets have long since modernized.
In this manner, built works of a certain organization and tactile approach can be inherently vibrant, holding traces of past activity.
The character of these raised boat houses certainly are a product of their time and place.  In the sketch above, the wooden piers come down to meet the rocky ground each at their own imperfect and hand-measured height.  Had dynamite been available on the islands, would it have been cheaper to blast away and make all the members of uniform, the geometries forever perfect and taught?
The lateral reinforcement seen here in the angled members are playfully irregular, if slightly unstable.  Of course they are inefficient, but their continued existence they speak to the stewardship of their inhabitants.   Where the form sags, it is sured-up by diagonal struts in an as-needed approach.
 The uneven rocks, rising tides and ice warp the vertical piers to create horizontal stress and an uneven platform.  These forces are then resolved by placing an opposing diagonal beam within the framework in a process that is the product of a relationship that is call and response.
While we would not build in that manner today, much can be taken from the variegated material and the responsive, asymmetrical balance of these structures.  In their imperfect angles and clustered densities, the piers appear to truly hunker up against the earth to shed the sea and wind.

Cistercian Monastery, Island of Tautra

Cistercian Monestary, Jensen Skodvin Architects
 TAUTRA ISLAND, 1.5 hours north east of Trondheim 
63' north

Before heading towards the Island of Vega and then further beyond the artic circle, I made a stop at the Island of Tautra.  Located within the protective fold of the Trondheim sound, the island had been the location of a medieval monastery.  Though comparably humble in scale, Tautra island and the monastic tradition here had a broad reach in the northward expansion of Christendom.  From this spot theology was studied, then spread with along with trade and the seed national consciousness.

The new monastery, completed in 2006, has much lighter disposition than the thick bulwarks that remain of the original monastery. Instead of the vertical rhythm of the Romanesque arch, JSA's building opens with a spectacular horizontality.  Left structurally open, the interior of the chapel opens to a sparse altar.  In a move that connects activity of insular reflection to the outside world, the enclosure beyond the altar is simple glazing with a view to the shore, sea and sky.  The spatial organization in the interior is divided into two realms by this projecting view. The clean and open ceremonial space is compressed by the structural virtuosity of the enclosure's wooden beams.  In its framing of the outside world and openness, this modern Chapel brings the horizon line into the interior space.  Here, the built work possess a quality in the similar conceptual vein of Sverre Fehn's metaphoric use of a boat to explain the forces at play along the water's edge.  When elevated above the foreground, a structure meets the horizon in buoyant dynamism, or as Per Olaf Fjeild writes in, "The Construction of Thought", a material element can serve as, "a kinetic link between the sea and sky." 

The unadorned, but thoughtful framing system of the roof, elevates wood making it a precious material.  The sharp angles of the beams' differing orientation catch light in its varied intensities and moods.  With a clear weather barrier for the roof, the wood is allowed to gleam with and cast sensuous warmth.  This nuanced vernacular style serves the function of both structure and the communicative charge of stained glass, thus acting as a truly sustaining structure.

In a final move, the busy vectors of the triangulated beams act to almost compress the clean glazing that opens the altar to the sea. When looking out to the water, the depth of the sea and sky are compressed under this busy interlocking, creating a view that flirts with two dimensionaity.  The structure flattens the landscape with the weight and temporality of light, creating an effect not unlike a lived-in Cézanne.