NICARAGUA PART FIVE

SITE PLAN

I WAS BROUGHT DOWN IN EARLY 2000 TO DO A MASTER PLAN FOR THE LAKE FRONT AND CULTURAL PLAZA WHERE THE POPE PAUL HAD AN OBOIST. WHEN THE POPE HAD SPOKEN 500,000 HAD GATHERED. HERTY LEWITES HAD BEEN ELECTED MAYOR AND WANTED AN ACOUSTICAL SHELL FOR FREE POPULACE GATHERINGS AND ENTERTAINMENT FROM THE SAME SPOT WHERE THE POPE HAD SPOKEN ON THE PLAZA. A CONCRETE EARTH MOUND WITH SEATING, ORIGINALLY DESIGNED FOR REVIEWING SANDINISTA’S TROOPS: A MEXICAN ARCHITECT PEPE DID THE DESIGN. MY SCHEME WAS AN EXPLODING ONION. THAT WAS REFINED TO A FLAME REACHING SKYWARD.

THE SITE PLAN WAS DONE IN TWO WEEKS. LAKEFRONT DEVELOPMENT WITH SHOPS AND RESTAURANTS, BULL RING WATER PARK, BOAT PIER, A HORSE SHOE PLAN AROUND THE PLAZA CONTAINING CULTURAL RELATED MUSEUMS, SCHOOLING AND PERFORMING AREAS. AND BRIDGING OVER TO THE EXISTING STREET TO THE EXISTING OPERA HOUSE AND PRESIDENT’S HOUSE. THE ANCHOR BEING THE PLAZA WITH AXIAL PLANNING BETWEEN THE POPES OBOIST AND ACOUSTICAL SHELL. THE PARKING ON THE PERIMETER AND GROUND LEVEL BELOW THE BARREL VAULT BUILDINGS FORMS THAT ALL FLOWED TOGETHER . THE MODEL SAT IN THE MAYOR’S OFFICE FOR FOUR YEARS TO ENTICE DEVELOPMENT.

PROPOSED RESTAURANTS

SUDDENLY AN UGLY RESTAURANT SPRANG UP AT A CRITICAL POINT OF THE MASTER PLAN ON LAKE MANAGUA. A LOCAL STRIP JOINT OWNER, POLANCO WAS RESPONSIBLE. HERTY PUT A STOP ON CONSTRUCTION AND I DID A DESIGN OF A RESTAURANT. AS WE WERE TALKING ABOUT IMPLEMENTATION, POLANCO DID A SECRET RUSH JOB OF COMPLETING HIS ORIGINAL DESIGN. UGLY UGLY UGLY. HE PAINTED A SLEAZY PICTURE OF MY DESIGN ON THE FRONT WALL AS SOMETHING IN THE FUTURE AND OPENED HIS RESTAURANT. AT THAT POINT I REALIZED HOW DIFFICULT IT WAS TO HAVE DESIGN CONTROL IN NICARAGUA. IT WAS SIX SHOOTERS OF THE OLD WEST. THE LAST TIME I SAW POLANCO HE WAS DANCING SOLO IN FRONT OF THE ACOUSTICAL SHELL OPENING NIGHT. HE ENDED UP DEAD IN SOME MURDER SCENE AFTER I RETURNED TO THE STATES.

THE ACOUSTICAL SHELL WAS GIVEN THE GO-AHEAD TO PRODUCE CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS AND GET BIDS. OUR ENGINEER’S ORIGINAL ESTIMATES OF CONSTRUCTION COST THAT WERE REASONABLE SKYROCKETED WHEN WE GOT SERIOUS. A BELGIAN FIRM STEPPED FORWARD THAT SPECIALIZED IN SPACE FRAME CONSTRUCTION AND PROMISED QUALITY SPACE FRAME CONSTRUCTION AT VERY REASONABLE COSTS. BUT WHEN THE DETAILS OF THE CONTRACT EVOLVED, THEY OFFERED NO SECURITY AND WANTED A LOT OF UP FRONT MONEY TO CONSTRUCT THE PROJECT IN EUROPE AND SHIP TO NICARAGUA. WE WERE IN A TIME CRUNCH AND SAW NO WAY TO ASSURE WHAT THEY DELIVERED.

WE DECIDED TO BUILD LOCALLY. AFTER AN INTIAL DISASTER WITH A LOCAL ENGINEER, WHO DESIGNED THE STEEL WAY OUT OF REACH, I DESIGNED A SPACE FRAME MODEL WITH MY GLUE GUN AND WIRE, IT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT MODEL I HAD EVER BUILT. WE GOT A PROFESSOR ENGINEER SERGIO OBREGON, WHO COULD SPEAK ENGLISH AND HAD GONE TO THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON FOR A THESIS ON SPACE FRAMES, AND WAS COMPUTER LITERATE. HIS ORIGINAL ESTIMATES WERE REASONABLE AND REDUCED TONS OF STEEL, BUT WHEN HE GOT INTO THE PROJECT HE WAFFLED BETWEEN TRUSS DESIGN AND SPACE FRAME AND CHOSE LARGER MEMBERS. A LOCAL STEEL FABRICATOR TOOK ON THE ACOUSTICAL SHELL. I LEFT THE FIRST MODEL IN THE TRUNK OF MY CAR FOR A FEW HOURS ON A HOT DAY, AND THE GLUE MELTED AT THE JOINTS. THE SECOND MODEL WAS NEEDED ANYWAY BECAUSE CHANGES HAD BEEN MADE. WE WARNED THE STEEL FABRICATOR ABOUT NOT LETTING THE 2ND MODEL GET HOT. HE WENT ON VACATION AND HIS OFFICE HEATED UP AND THE 2ND MODEL WAS TOAST. BY NOW I WAS EXHAUSTED BUILDING THIS COMPLEX MODEL, BUT BUILT A THIRD MODEL. IT LASTED TILL CONSTRUCTION WAS COMPLETED, BUT MET THE SAME FATE WHEN SERGIO LET HIS HOUSE GET TOO HOT.

THE FOUNDATION TOOK FOREVER AND THE ENGINEERS INVOLVED WERE SCARED TO DEATH AND OVERBUILT. THE REBAR WAS A SOLID MASS BELOW THE TOP SLAB. IF AN EARTHQUAKE CAME WITH A MAJOR SHAKE THE SHELL WILL FLEX, BUT NOTHING IS GOING ANYWHERE.

THE SOIL ENGINEER DURING A MEETING MENTIONED HIS FATHER HAD BEEN IN THE ALEMAN REGIME AS FINANCE MINISTER. THE REGIME WAS NOTORIOUS FOR MONETARY CORRUPTION. I STATED THAT THE CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS UNDER ALEMAN SKIMED OFF SIXTY PERCENT OF THE MONEY. THE ENGINEER ABRUPTLY INTERRUPTED AND SAID THAT WAS NOT TRUE THE FIGURE WAS ABOUT FORTY PERCENT.

CONSTRUCTION WAS A COMBINATION OF INTENSE LABOR AND A FEW CRANES AS NEEDED. HAND MIXING OF CONCRETE AND BUCKETS USED FOR SPREADING WITH ROPES .

THE ACOUSTICAL SHELL WAS A FAST TRACK BUILDING PROCESS, WITH DRAWINGS DELIVERED JUST DAYS BEFORE CONSTRUCTION. PATRICK WAS THE TAIWANESE CONTRACTOR AND MONEY CONTROLLER. THE TAIWANESE WERE PAYING FOR THE PROJECT IN GRATITUDE FOR ALL THE SWEAT SHOPS THEY HAD IN NICARAGUA. ONE DAY PATRICK CONFRONTED ME BY SAYING MY CONSTRUCTION DRAWINGS WERE SKETCHES AND NOT DRAWINGS. I WAS IRATE AND ABOUT READY TO TAKE HIM APART WHEN ROGER STEPPED IN AND SAID HE WOULD HANDLE PATRICK. AFTER THE COMPLETION OF THE PROJECT PATRICK WENT OFF TO THE PHILIPPINES AND DIED TRAGICALLY FROM MALARIA.

KEEPING THE SCAFFOLDING UPRIGHT

STEEL SPACE FRAME WITH CONCRETE SKIN

THE ACOUSTICAL SHELL WAS ORGANIZED AROUND BUILDING IN LAYERS, THE STEEL FABRICATOR DECIDED TO BUILD IT WITH CONTINUOUS VERTICAL PARTS. WHEN THIS HAPPENED I WAS CONCERNED THAT THE SYMMETRY OF SHAPE WOULD BE COMPROMISED AND A LOT OF THE DETAIL LOST. WELL, SURE ENOUGH IT WAS. THE PROCESS IN NICARAGUA IS TO SAY YES AND THEN DO IT THEIR WAY. AFTER THE MAJOR STEEL FRAME WAS UP IT WENT EVERY WHICH WAY. I HAD DONE A REALISTIC RENDERING THAT EVERYBODY WAS EXPECTING THE ACOUSTICAL SHELL TO LOOK LIKE THAT EXPRESSED THE STRUCTURAL SHAPE OF THE SPACE FRAME DESIGN. THE STRUCTURAL SHAPE CREATED THE BEAUTY OF THE SYSTEM. WELL THAT HAD BEEN BLOWN, SO I TOLD MYSELF I COULD THROW A FIT, OR I COULD DEAL WITH WHAT HAD HAPPENED. ONCE SOMETHING IS PHYSICALLY BUILT IN THE FIELD, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO CHANGE, SO I ADAPTED TO WHAT THE STEEL FABRICATOR PRODUCED.

THE SKIN WAS MADE OF PERFORATED STEEL MESH AND FINISHED WITH CONCRETE. I SET ABOUT GETTING THE SKIN TO LOOK LIKE THE ORIGINAL RENDERING. I USED THE DiSTORTED STEEL FRAME TO WELD OFF OF. I SAT ON AXIS IN THE PLAZA IN A DIRECTORS CHAIR AND DIRECTED THE WELDERS THAT WERE HANGING OFF THE STRUCTURE. SOMETIMES I SLIPPED THEM A LITTLE MONEY TO GET THEM TO DO IT MY WAY, BECAUSE I WOULD CHANGE MY MIND AND THEY WERE GETTING PAID PER ITEM AND DID NOT GET PAID FOR CHANGES. THE WELDERS AND I GOT TO KNOW EACH OTHER AND WOULD YELL GREETINGS AND INSTRUCTIONS. SINCE I DID NOT KNOW ALL THAT MUCH SPANISH I AM SURE THEY VOICED THEIR TRUE FEELINGS. THE WELDERS PAY WAS $7 DOLLARS A DAY UNDER EXTREMELY DIFFICULT CONDITIONS. WITH SPARKS GOING EVERYWHERE AND THE BUILDING FRAME BEING THE GROUND FOR THE ARC WELDERS. ON THE SIDE OPENINGS AND REAR RIBBING I LITERALLY SHOWED THEM ON SITE HOW TO BUILD. ALL THE GATES WERE MADE OUT OF REBAR WITH A SIMILAR PROCESS OF ON SITE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION. THE SIDE AND REAR OPENINGS CREATED A DRAFT THAT PROVIDED A COOL MOVEMENT OF AIR EVEN ON THE WORST OF SWELTERING DAYS. IT WAS THE PRINCIPLE OF A SMALL OPENING ON THE WINDY SIDE DRAFTING AIR TO THE BIG OPENING ON THE OTHER SIDE. LITERALLY NATURAL AIR CONDITIONING.

I WAS DRIVING HOME IN MY 1989 TOYOTA TWO DOOR WITH RETRACTABLE HEAD LITES WITH CHRISTIAN FROM THE BUILDING SITE AT NIGHT WHEN I WAS STOPPED. I HAD HAD ONE BEER AND CHRISTIAN WAS HER ATTRACTIVE SELF. WHEN I TRIED TO BUY OFF THE POLICEMAN WHICH IS THE USUAL PRACTICE HE THREATENED TO TAKE ME IN. I CALLED ROGER, AND ROGER EXPLAINED WHO I WAS AND HOW IMPORTANT I WAS. THE OFFICER SAID, I DID NOT LOOK IMPORTANT WITH MY CAR. HE DID TAKE THE MONEY AND I DROVE ON HOME.

HAND CRAFTED

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  • eric chavkin

    Glen

    I posted this on Archinect part of it is a rewrite of an earlier post.

    Two things I like about Glen’s work: The forms, which are simple and direct in shape; and Small’s eco-logic that determines the environmental strategy.

    Smalls architectural shapes remind me proto-developed organisms, like worms, tadpoles, embryonic shapes. Un-defined lifeforms and full of potential. Philosophers like Henri Bergson and psychologists like Wm Reich call these ‘shapes vitalist’, meaning life producing and see these shapes as symbolic precursors towards freedom in all its later forms.

    Along the lines of Eros and Civilization, philosopher Herbert Marcuse believed that the only revolutionary society is one that is sexually liberated. And that a repressive society represses sex. Small’s work is an antidote and the architecture a therapy. The work is revolutionary in spirit and design.

    That is part of the attraction, part of the power in the work: a sensuous simplicity that borders on nature mimicry. There is an explicit emphasis on sex and sensuality in Small’s works that is liberating. This is not a semantics based architecture but a physical one, whose main design parameters are environmental based.

    The environmental eco-logic takes this to another level; beyond the individual and integrates design and mankind with nature in eco-conscious developed forms. Nature is form determiner of the architecture.

    The radicalism is in the design that is NOT based on private property, family or the church or state. Nature alone is the design justification. That is Small’s ideal.

    eric chavkin

    Also did you read my postings on Coy Howard’s work and exhibition at SCI-arc?

    http://archinect.com/features/article.php?id=101781_0_23_0_M

    and a review

    http://archinect.com/news/article.php?id=102057_0_24_0_C

    • GLEN HOWARD SMALL

      RIGHT ON ERIC,

      IT IS ALL BUNDLED UP IN THOSE FORMS, WHEN I VARY FROM SENSUOUS I GET CONFUSED ABOUT WHAT TURNS ME ON AND WHAT TURNS OTHERS ON. THE PARTY USUALLY IS THE DECORATION INSIDE, BUT MY PARTY IS IN AND OUT.

      LOVE THAT NATURE.

      THANKS FOR THE COMMENTS.

      GLEN