In my last studio I worked with an architect Glen Small: he has worked mostly in California and Oregon, with some significant projects in Nicaragua. Glen is an uncompromising character, with clear opinions and no fear of expressing them. I found him to be an excellent teacher, because he not only has a passion for architecture, but is very clear about what’s working and what is not.
He’s publishing a blog (for which I’m acting as webmaster, for my sins), that tells the story of his life. It’s worth reading.
One of his most interesting speculative projects was the “biomorphic biosphere”—an organic megastructure that he developed some years ago. These ideas are beginning to re-emerge as architects and planners consider more vertically-oriented approaches to city design.
Digital morphology is the study of form using computer tools. We did a project last semester to explore the creation of new forms that might have architectural uses, with Autodesk’s 3dsMax software as the basic tool.
My exploration started with the way sails move in a wind field as boats tack into the wind. The movement of the sails was the starting point, and then we looked at ways of perturbing the surface, based on the characteristics of parts of the surface. I think this is still an early exploration, but I learned enough that with a suitable project I think I could use these tools to create something interesting and relevant.
After many, many years away from architecture, I’ve enrolled at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco for a M.Arch degree, with the intention of practicing architecture in a couple of years. It’s a tough schedule, with classes three days a week and work two days a week, but it seems to be sustainable.
The school is a bit unusual in that all the academic staff are practicing professionals. This give the school a very down-to-earth flavour, although there is still room for theory. It’s interesting and fairly challenging from a time perspective. So far it’s a lot of fun.
I’m taking three classes: a design studio, a theory class looking at what architecture is and how architects work, and a class called “Computer Generated Morphology” that looks at using examples from nature, coded in a 3-D modelling environment, to generate architectural forms. These kinds of ideas are behind some of the things we’ve seen recently, for example the Beijing athletic stadium (the bird’s nest) and the Beijing Aquatic Center (the water cube). Both of these buildings used computer models to generate the actual structure of the buildings.
As time goes by, I’m hoping to post a bit about the classes and what I’m learning, but time is short with this schedule!