THERE IS ONE THING THAT GEHRY AND I AGREE ON, WE COULD NEVER LIVE IN THE FARNSWORTH HOUSE. JUST THE UNLOADING OF MY POCKETS AT NIGHT CREATES MAJOR MESS. SO WHEN THE MANDATE CAME DOWN FROM MY WIFE, “NIGHT TABLES”, I KNEW THEY HAD TO HOLD MAGAZINES, BOOKS, WATCHES, PENS, PENCILS, CHANGE, SCREWS, CARDS ETC.
BEING A SYSTEMS MAN, I MADE ALL THE SHELVES THE SAME. THE VERTICALS COULD BE VARIED TO HANDLE THE SHEAR AND SPIRE UPLIFT. THE POINTED TOPS WERE FOR A LOOK AND HANGING STUFF ON. CROWNS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BED, SINCE THE BED WAS KING SIZE ON WHEELS. IF ONE GOT FRISKY AND STARTED JUMPING AROUND AND CRASHING INTO THINGS THEY WERE AT RISK OF BEING PIERCED BIG TIME .
MY SON BROUGHT ME LOADS OF SCRAP WOOD FROM JOB SITES UNDER CONSTRUCTION. THE 5/8 INCH PLY WOOD WAS USUALLY LEFT OVER FROM THE ROOF DECK. TRIANGULAR IN SIZE, THE USA CONTRACTORS COULD NOT BE BOTHERED WITH THESE ODD SIZES. LABORER’S TIME IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN RECYCLED WOOD. EXCEPT FOR DRYWALL SCREW ATTACHMENTS, THIS IS LEED CERTIFIED GOLD.
MY EYES SEE FORM, AND ACTUALLY ENJOY THE ROUGH PYWOOD EDGES AND WEATHERED PATTERNED SURFACES. BUT MY WIFE AND FAMILY WOULD ALL PREFER FINISHED POLISHED SURFACES. SO THE ONLY WAY I COULD PULL THIS OFF WAS FROM NEED AND PLEADING BROKE. WHEN WE MOVED, I PUT THESE IN THE GARAGE SALE, NO TAKERS FOR $15. ORIGINALS FROM GLEN HOWARD SMALL GO BEGGING.
THE TABLES BROUGHT ME A LOT OF JOY FROM LOOKING AT THEM AND USING THEM. A MINI UPLIFT AT SEEING THE FORMS IN DIFFERENT LIGHT AND ANGLES – NOT STAGNANT. THE FINISH THING INHIBITS ROUGH CONSTRUCTION, THUS RESTRICTING BUILDING FAST AND ROUGH FOR FORMS SAKE. WHAT A PITY, BECAUSE WITH VERY LITTLE EFFORT MOST DESIGNERS COULD SURROUND THEMSELVES WITH THEIR DESIGNS AT NEXT TO NO COST. ALLEYS AND TRASH DUMPSTERS IN THE USA HAVE TONS OF BUILDING SUPPLIES BEGGING TO BE USED. VISITING LAND FILL DUMPS TO ME IS TORTURE. I FEEL CONNECTED TO MATERIALS AND SEE THEIR POTENTIAL AND REALIZE THEIR DEATH BY THE IGNORANT AS A HUGE MISTAKE. I FEEL THE MATERIALS HAVE A SOUL.
IN CONTRAST, NICARAGUA USES TRASH. CARS ARE REPAIRED AND RESPECTED. NEW IS A LUXURY, SO FIXING IS A NATIONAL JOB AND IS BOOMING.
TALK ABOUT WASHING DISHES, THE ENDLESS NEED THAT IS REPEATED OVER A LIFETIME, SHELVING COMES IN SECOND. I THINK MY FIRST TRY AT IT WAS SOME SUSPENDED SHELF SYSTEM WHILE GOING TO COLLEGE. ALVIN BOYARSKY OF AA FAME, MY PROFESSOR AT OREGON, TOLD US TO SURROUND OURSELVES WITH DESIGN OBJECTS. THE PROBLEM BEING THAT THE TENSION SHELVES I CREATED FLEXED WITH WAVES OF MOVEMENT WHEN I REMOVED A BOOK.
USING THE PLYWOOD SCRAPS FROM CONSTRUCTION SITES, I MADE VERTICAL SHARKS TEETH THAT COULD BE ENDLESSLY REPEATED, THE BOTTOM ONES BEING A BIT LONGER. THESE VERTICAL ELEMENTS MADE GOOD BOOK SUPPORTS AND ALSO CREATED VARIED AREAS TO DISPLAY THINGS, THE SHELVING WAS A SCULPTURE TO USE PRACTICALLY.
THE SYSTEM IS BOX BEAMS STACKED ONE ON TOP OF EACH OTHER, THUS BEING ABLE TO CARRY HEAVY OBJECTS LIKE BOOKS AND OLD RECORDS. NOTHING LINES UP. THIS ALLOWS DRY WALL SCREWS TO ATTACH. IN A LATER VERSION I USED TWO BOTTOM TEETH MEETING THE GROUND INSTEAD OF THREE. THE LENGTHWISE SHEAR IS HANDLED BY THE VERTICAL SUPPORTS MOUNTED ON THE BACK. THE SYSTEM WAS SELF SUPPORTING AND STABLE.
THE SHARK TEETH SHELVING INFLUENCED THIS SCHEME FOR A FIVE STORY HOTEL. IT CREATES PRIVACY AND STRUCTURE . THE BALCONIES ARE FLIP FLOPPED EVERY STORY TO CREATE THE HORIZONTAL MOVEMENT.
THE OREGON COAST VERSION OF SHARK TEETH SHELVING TRANSFERED TO A REMODEL CODO PROPOSAL. THE PROJECT WAS SHOT DOWN BY A GREEDY NEIGHBOR OWNER THAT WOULD LOSE PART OF A PARTIAL VIEW OF THE OCEAN FROM A COUPLE OF EXISTING UNITS, BUT STILL HAVE OCEAN VIEWS. THE GAIN A GREAT UNIT WITH FANTASTIC VIEWS AND UPGRADED NEIGHBORHOOD.
THE EXISTING SHACKS WERE GIVEN A NEW ROOF BY SOME BUILDER, AND EVERY TIME I DRIVE BY THEM I SHUDDER. JUST PART OF BEING AN ARCHITECT AND SEEING WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN.
THE UPSIDE IS I GOT BACK TO DRAWING.
THE OBVIOUS POINT ON THIS PROJECT IS THAT A PATTERN FOR SHELVING CAN TURN INTO A BUILDING, IT IS ALL ABOUT SYSTEMS. THE SCALE CHANGES AND DIFFERENT NEEDS ARE MET.
WHAT MY WIFE AND I BUILT IN A FEW HOURS. THE NIGHT TABLES AND SHARKS TEETH SHELVING FAST TRACK FURNITURE CAN BECOME MAJOR BUILDINGS.
THIS IS ALL ABOUT THE DESIGN WORLD. I KNOW YOU SKIM THE PICTURES AND READ THE TEXT, SO I AM BAFFLED THAT YOU DO NOT SUBMIT COMMENTS. I LEARN FROM THE EXCHANGE OF IDEAS AND OPINIONS. FURNITURE IS NOT SAVING THE WORLD, BUT BEING VISUALLY ORIENTED IS A HUNGER THAT NEEDS TO BE CONSTANTLY FED TO THE DESIGN SENSITIVE PERSON. IN A WAY IT IS AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB THAT FEW NORMAL PEOPLE VISIT, AND WHEN THEY DO, WE CALL THEM CLIENTS.
WISHING YOU THE BEST,
The most enjoyable class I’ve ever taken related to architecture, and the one I learned from the most, ever, is Natural Structures, taught by an architect by the name of Glen Howard Small.
How appropriate it would be, in this “green” world of ours, if this new environmentalist movement* incorporated natural structures. It is not simply about the materials and how they’re harvested, transported, used and recycled, but also about the form itself. We know that a beam does different things all along its length. Different forces act at every inch away from the bearing points. Different things happen when the beam is connected in line with other beams. Different things happen when there are point loads Vs. uniformly distributed loads. This variation happens to every structural element in our buildings. Yet look at a simple beam. It is extruded from steel, milled from wood, or molded from fiberglass and resin. A uniform shape that is designed to be exactly the same at the point of least stress as in the point of most stress, hence, a terrible waste of material and the associated energy to produce it.
We do not see this in nature. We see additional material where it is needed and lightness where it is not. We see rigidity, flexibility, elasticity, transparency, armor, insulation, ventilation… all where appropriate. It is simple and it is beautiful. This is what I walked away with from Natural Structures.
I was excited when Glen asked me to work for him out of his house in Venice, the passive ecological house he and Milica shared. Yet I had my first disagreement with Glen when discussing the garage of a condominium he was designing nearby in Santa Monica. I told Glen in response to a particular detail, “but that is not a natural structure!” I don’t remember the response, exactly, but it was along the lines of “do as I say”. That was the first of many disagreements. I see in Glen and particularly in the Biomorphic Biosphere something wonderful that no one else is doing or has done before. I see in the 2007 Oregon Condo Remodel and other similar structures, including the Intercontinental Hotel Managua in which we worked on for over a year, the complete antithesis of Natural Structures.
Yes, there are some hints of what could be, but largely they’re dressed-up boxes where the structure must be resolved in much-despised moment frames and the all too common and unnatural post and beam. How else is shear resolved in these buildings? The shelving concept with the panels in the back works but not as a structural model, because the “floors” and “walls” of the shelving are so strong in proportion to their size that no material has been invented yet that could replicate this in a building. Try instead to build a model of the Oregon Condo in thin cardboard, and apply lateral forces along its length, the end that is open with all the glazing will flex.
So my point in all this, why Glen, do you compromise? If clients run away from you when you do a decorated box, why not do what you do best, without compromise? At the very least you end up with another beautiful work. There are so many ways that nature’s architecture responds to the forces that affect it, all dependent on the very forces of nature and on the size and use of the particular element. Gravity, wind, temperature, location climate, etc. Myriad influences, myriad responses. One might end up looking like the Biomorphic Biosphere, another like a bee’s nest, another like a strand of bamboo. When I hear you teach and when I see your work that attempts to bridge into the built world all I can think about is LOST IN TRANSLATION.
*a somewhat more refined and infinitely more bureaucratic development of what we used to call the “Ecological” movement.
GET OFF MY BACK.
YOU WANT EVERYTHING TO BE NATURAL STRUCTURES.. FINE GO BUILD THAT WAY. WHICH I DON’T THINK YOU DO, OTHERWISE YOU WOULD CELEBRATING AND SHOWING THE WORLD..
THE IDEA OF A BOOK SHELF MADE OUT OF RECYCLED SCRAP PLYWOOD THAT WAS BOUND FOR A LAND FILL HAS MERIT. I LOVE PLYWOOD BECAUSE YOU CAN CREATE CURVES AND HAS STRUCTURAL PROPERTIES. THE STRUCTURAL SYSTEM I USED ON THE SHELVING CREATED BOX BEAMS TO HOLD THE WEIGHT OF THE BOOKS WITH REGULAR SPANS AND CANTILEVERS. THE WHOLE BOOK SHELF ACTS AS ONE LARGE BOXED BEAM SEVEN FEET LONG AND THREE FEET HIGH. PLUS IT LOOK DAMN GOOD, AND EASY TO CONSTRUCT. YES THE THICKNESS WAS THE SAME, BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT I WAS BUILDING WITH. I COULD HAVE CUT ROUND HOLES TO LIGHTEN THE STRUCTURE, BUT THAT WAY BEYOND WHAT I WANTED TO DO. I WAS NOT BUILDING AND AIRPLANE WING. I BUILT THESE SHELVES IN FOUR HOURS.
I WOULD THINK YOU COULD SAY, HOW BEAUTIFUL AND SIMPLE.
THE CONDO PROJECT ON THE BACK SIDE IS WAVY SHEAR WALLS RUNNING HORIZONTALLY WITH STRIPS ACROSS. SORRY I CAN NOT SHOW YOU, BUT IT WAS STRUCTURAL AND LOOKED COOL TOO.
I RESENT YOUR COMMENTS OF NOT DOING REALISTIC BUILT NATURAL STRUCTURES. THE ACOUSTICAL SHELL WAS ENGINEERED FOR ACOUSTIC PLUS THE STRUCTURE WAS A SPACE FRAME THAT WENT WITH THE SHAPE AND WAS ALL TIED TOGETHER LIKE SOME NATURAL STRUCTURE TRUSTING ITSELF UPWARD.
WHAT I GOT FROM TEACHING THIS CLASS WAS AN UNDERSTANDING OF STRUCTURES THAT ALLOWS ME TO BE VERY ADVENTURESOME. MAN BUILDING INSTEAD OF A TERMITE.
YOU REFUSE TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE TASK AND MATERIALS AT HAND. AND YET WITH YOUR LOW INCOME HOUSING SPEAL THAT IS ALL I HEAR.
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