A Sense of Place

What gives a location a sense of place?

Is it the coordinates at which the place is located? Is it the views one can witness in this particular location? Is it the history/memories created on location? Does it need to be unique? Does it need to be something grander? Is it due to the structure currently or previously residing in the location?

We designers often struggle to come to terms with whether or not a building needs to be influenced by the surrounding environment as failing to do so can periodically create the spaceship effect. However if taken to the other end of the pendulum, we can find ourselves in a situation where a new building lacks character, it fails to contribute to the conversation buildings have with the environment they sit in and the world in which it resides.

If you have ever visited Paris you have the tendency to feel like you are trapped in a snow globe. The new simply does not exist as it has fallen victim to maintaining the old however the sense of place is impeccable. Is there room for architects to contribute to its sense of place, or have we simply been displaced from such regions in the world?

Burning man; a massive annually held week long music festival is known as place but has been relocated several time throughout history, and is short lived. A few months prior to the festival, and a few weeks after the festival, the land on which the event is held is nothing more than a scathing patch of dirt located in a sea of sand.

We as architects should not attempt to answer the question(s) but rather use it as a guide; a broken compass. To design not what something should be but rather hold a mirror to those that interact with the project and ask “will I remember this place?”.

Inside Out House

The typical strategy for designing a home in Los Angeles starts by asking the following questions: what is the width and length of the lot, what types of homes sit in the neighborhood, what are the setbacks, where is the road, how many bedrooms and bathrooms do you wish to incorporate into the property. What if we could approached Los Angeles architecture from the inside and work our way out?

Let’s instead start by identifying the most important room in the home. Let’s say the room in question happens to be the bedroom but beyond the bedroom the entire experience of moving through the home begins with waking up from bed. We start by laying out the size of the bed we would like to place in the room. The rest of the home is designed around the functional transition between getting up and leaving for work. How much space is there on either side of the bed? How high are the windows relative to the night stand? Where is the restroom? How large of a closet do you need rather than want? Where is it relative to the restroom?

In this scenario, the setbacks don’t matter; rather they are simply a not placed on the plans to prove you are complying with the city’s requirements. In this scenario, the outside face as seen by the neighbors is secondary. How you enter the home is disregarded. What kind of home do you create?

Total Isolation – The ideal building for someone who knows it will never be seen

I often ponder how much of what we do as architects is a direct result of liberated creativity vs attempted statements or rather a dialogue comparative to either the environment the structure we are planning to erect is inhabiting or the global conversation of buildings.

Let’s take a second to imagine a world where you had the means to buy a thousand acres of land, you also had the means to build any house of your choosing, and you had the means to design the landscape how ever you saw best fit for your ideal dwelling. The only catch to all of this is nobody else would ever have the ability to see it, feel it, know of it, see photos of it, and know it would never have an impact of Architecture as we know it. What would it look like?

Would the building follow the terrain? Would the environment matter more than the dwelling? Would it be a reaction of the future inhabitants personality? Again I will point out, nobody will ever know it ever exist or existed. To you the reader and to I the creator I must ask, what is it that really matters?

At it’s absolute core, in this scenario I would argue the function supercedes all. If we do not know what the buildings primary use will be, no building could ever be designed. Therefore all aesthetics become secondary; form, style, and color.

The Singapore Experience – Sterile Environmental Architecture at its finest

Of all of cultures scattered throughout South East Asia, Singapore was undoubtedly the cleanest of them all. The clean culture translated directly into many prominent environmental and architectural features. They adopted many Korean and Japanese features as their own. Crisp clean lines, perfectly intercepted joints, and smooth material transitions.

This is undoubtedly the result of a culture dominated by business relationships, where chaos is subsided and order dominates. Unfortunately it’s greatest strength falls as a victim to its greatest weakness. One finds themselves feeling sterile as they navigate an environment as though they were navigating the labrynth halls of a high end hospital. The city struggles to find an identity unique to itself beyond the extravagant. A struggle to break free from the synthetic is in itself Singapore’s identity.

Designing the Future Home Office

You are progressing through an hour and a half long zoom meeting trying to coordinate mechanical ducts and wide flange beams while the aroma of chicken and spinach roams the air as lunch fast approaches. Your father in law is blasting reruns of WWE in the living room because of course he will. The hours turned to days, the days then to weeks and going outside has become an uncommon occurrence. The vast majority of your time is spent staring at a computer screen and a wall painted the color of someone who obviously grew up in the 80’s assuming the taste of the future will never evolve.

This inevitably leads us to a conclusion before we can fathom a hypothesis. Soundproof, breathable, non distracting, visually stimulating spaces. We can imagine the idea without seeing it. It’s as if you were on a hammock on an island off Port Barton on Palawan Island in the Philippines. But even being there doesn’t give you the satisfaction you are looking for.

What does the future home office look like? What doe it sound like? What does it feel like? What are the operating hours? Is there a separation between working out and a client calls? Does there need to be? The 1950’s version of the 9-5 has come and gone and we will need to embrace a new norm.

Designing for Wellness – A Post Covid-19 World

Today is April 29th 2020, and many of us have been cooped up at home for the last month and a half waiting for this nightmare of a pandemic to come to an end. Social distancing, hand washing, and wiping down everything you come into contact with has become the new norm. While there are many unknowns about what the future will bring us, whether it be the economy, our health, or politics. One thing is certain, once the stay at home orders are lifted and we all have the luxury of freely moving about, we will not be interacting with the same world we once knew. There was a Pre-Covid-19 world and there shall be a post Covid-19 world.

As we progress in this new world, Architecture will be flooded with innovative widgets to reduce physical contact with the physical world but we as designers need to ascend beyond the widget. We will need to rethink design to not only give the perception of cleanliness but to physically alter an individuals interaction with space. Movement through environments ought to be thought as labyrinths;  designated entrances and exits that move the body in a singular direction. The open floor plan (an idea fraught with little regard to the individual) shall be an idea of the twenty teens. The square foot to individual shall be increased 3 fold, and the conference room lose its status to the virtual.  Material selections ought to be solid  and non porous but must refrain from being sterile and tasteless. Saturation shall be the driver of experience.

 

 

 

 

 

ARCAFORMA POMONA APARTMENT RENDERINGS

 

pomona apartments architectural renderings

This apartment complex situated in the suburbs of Pomona had recently been approved by the planning commission and neighborhood council after months of back and forth design negotiations. This although standard practice now in the world of architecture poses the question as to who the real architect in new developments shaping the urban landscape are?

Many cities impose what are known as design criteria which is then evaluated by a board of often non design related professionals who proceed to tear apart every design feature added to the building. In situations such as these full realistic renderings pose the greatest harm compared to hand sketches/colored renderings. When full realistic renderings are presented before these neighborhood council boards the average Joe will pick apart every tree species a renderer has placed into the scene. Yet when presented an abstracted hand sketched rendering the public typically reacts to the building with more leniency.

As Wes Jones once told me “if you are going to make it look real it has to look the part. If not make it as abstract and fake as possible otherwise it just looks wrong”.