Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Renzo Piano, Architect

1. Interior, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Among the best architects working today is Renzo Piano. He is Italian, but practices internationally. He captured my attention with his work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Another of his designs - the addition to the Chicago Art Institute - also has brilliant effects. But, most of all, I like this quote from the current issue of Time magazine. When asked what any person could do to any average home to make it a better place, Renzo Piano replied

2. Exterior, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. 

"Throw away some of the furniture, paint everything white, clean the windows and see if you can make them wider. It's about luminosity."

That is one thing you certainly experience in Renzo Piano's architecture: luminosity. Perhaps that is a quality too often lacking in most buildings.
3. Chicago Art Institute. 
1. nlamore
2. Caroline Culler
3. Amerique

Monday, June 20, 2011

Architecture and Landscape Architecture

A Legoretta-like wall frames and formalizes this garden walk.
Architecture and landscape architecture are inextricably intertwined. As an architect I am fully aware that my buildings look best when the wrapping around them contributes to the presentation. We frequently delay photographing our projects because the landscaping is inadequate or immature or incomplete. Landscape architects often join the project team too late and with too few resources. It is a sad fact that most of their work is done at the end when the budget is exhausted. Landscaping is an easy thing to do later, so, to the landscape architect's chagrin, later it often is. That does not diminish its importance.
An organic beginning with an architectonic terminus.
What would Versailles be without its gardens? Fallingwater without its lush natural setting? A contemporary home without an indoor/outdoor connection?
A tea house in the background establishes a purpose and a goal.
Conversely, landscape architecture works best with the support and companionship of architectural elements. It struck me touring the Denver Botanical Gardens last week that random architectonic elements give the landscaping a sense of place and purpose. A walk in the woods can be a fine experience, but we often seek a place of shelter or an architectural frame from which to appreciate the natural environment. Japanese gardens sometimes contain an azumaya. It is a garden-viewing-place; a small gazebo of sorts where one can appreciate and contemplate the garden itself. Every type of garden is enhanced and uplifted by architectural elements.

All photos taken at the Denver Botanic Gardens by MJK.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Architecture: The Best Phase

Architects usually describe their work process in phases: schematic design phase, design development phase, construction documents phase, etc. Another phase - the best one, in my opinion - is hardly talked about. My favorite phase is when construction has started and the rough framing is in progress. Residential architecture in the United States is still built mostly with lumber, not cold steel or lumpy concrete. We use real wood, from trees.

I love walking a job site and smelling the sap from fresh sawn wood. Southern pine. Douglas fir. Hem-fir. All woods have a sweet smell that is released by hammer and saw. I love the sound of the rotary blade doing its work. Of nails being driven into the grain. Joists and studs and blocking finding their proper places and roof beams lifted against the sky. All of this is a three-dimensional efflorescence of what previously existed only on paper or on a computer monitor. The idea is taking shape. Nothing mars it at this phase. No wrong colors, no decorating mistakes. Just pure form materializing.

Framing is the best phase of architecture.

All photos: MJK