Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Material Process Product - Keeping It In Perspective

 Architectural Representation-Keeping It In Perspective

The computer has become a powerful tool which enables us to sell vision with greater clarity, speed and accuracy. This capability allows us to see what we want to see. However, not necessarily what we need to see. Beneath the glossy reflectivity and seductive qualities produced by digital representation lies the fourth dimension often overlooked - the human experience.


Making a successful environment which embodies the human experience strikes a balance between the speed of digital representation and the traditional 2D representation. 2D representation is a slower, abstract and more contemplative approach. It enables the designer to clearly focus on the fundamentals of proportion, human scale, rhythm, hierarchy, mass/void relationship and detail. The art of placemaking becomes a carefully choreographed dance between mind/hand/pencil and mind/hand/mouse, coupled with a keen understanding of building material and system assembly.

Building systems, materials and their methods of assembly have always played a critical role in our practice. For us, designing a building is not about how it looks but how it works. Moreover, how it ages. Material choices and their methods of assembly can bestow a building with a richness and lasting aesthetic thus transcending the tool (digital imagery) utilized to sell the original vision. Herewith, you will find a unique perspective from Spillman Farmer Intern, Pat Ruggiero. Pat shares his experience with architectural representation as it relates to his internship in our office. Pat has been with us since High School and will soon be graduating from Syracuse University. He has spent time learning the discipline of hand drawing at The Barnstone Studios and also spent time interning with EFGH NY and Rick Joy Architect.

Towards a Process - Software Dirt
"The power of speculative drawing lies in the fact that it is open to interpretation, both prior to and after the built construct."  James Corner, Field Operations

Rendering, 3ds Max + Photoshop. Spillman Farmer Architects, 2012

Social media and applications of the computer have commoditized work-of-art images. Today, someone with little artistic background can apply preset filters to a photograph taken with an iPhone and produce something with artistic merit. The image can be shown to a vast audience and consumed instantaneously. This commoditization has led to architectural practice's emerging from a time of tension between when computer generated images were a novelty and a time when hand-produced drawings were a dying art.

Farnsworth House, Rendering, 3ds max. Peter Guthrie, 2009
German Pavilion, Interior perspective, Graphite illustration on board. Mies van der Rohe, 1929

With phenomena like Instagram and an increased media presence fueling our visual culture's appetite, there is a growing market and expectation for stunning imagery to represent architectural design. And while these types of images are immersive in atmosphere and depiction, they fail to offer any speculative ideas in the design process.

Rendering, 3ds Max + Photoshop, Herzog & de Meuron, 2012

The desire for these images has split the design process into two parallels; stunning imagery output and speculative interpretation through hand drawings.

Sketch, graphite on trace, Spillman Farmer Architects, 2012
Rendering, 3ds Max + Photoshop, Spillman Farmer Architects, 2012
This methodology is a departure from a similar demand for architectural representation in the seventies and eighties, when an economic recession limited architectural work to the practice of "paper" (or non-built) architecture.
Crawford Residence, Conceptual Drawing, Ink on paper, Morphosis, 1988
Because actual buildings were not expected, drawing became an alternative form of the practice. They collapsed the distinction between representation and the represented, using a single artifact to interpret and reflect the design, but also to communicate its purpose and intent. The resulting strain of architecture was able to both see and act to reconsidered spatial and sociological relationships.

Plug-in City, Ink and gouache on photomechanical print, Peter Cook & Archigram, 1964

The use of computer has completely expanded the relationship between represented and representation. Buildings exist digitally as full scale sets of data - a proxy for the actual built work.
Interface, 3ds max, Spillman Farmer Architects, 2012

Software manipulates this data and converts it to two dimensional representation of the building.

Interface, 3ds max, Spillman Farmer Architects, 2012

 Thus, software is the new graphite and erasers; tools for manipulating design. The key is how to use them to skew the absolute precision of the computer to produce speculative results.

Output, Sketchup, Spillman Farmer Architects, 2012

The process of the "innovation" project was an opportunity to experiment with how to exploit computer generated artifacts for design speculation, thus seeing the software, itself as a material to mold and craft. By exploiting computer flaws computer output was leveraged to establish the accuracies and givens of the design situation, but also see possibilities and relationships unable to be comprehended by only hand drawings. When necessary, the same program can produce polished imagery.

Rendering, 3ds Max + Photoshop, Spillman Farmer Architects, 2012

The result is reconsidering the process as not a means of one drawing (paper architecture) or a dichotomy of sketching vs. rendering, but of acting in the middle with software to produce unexpected results and more comprehensive layers of design.
Rendering, 3ds Max + Photoshop, Spillman Farmer Architects, 2012

1 comment:

  1. Great job Pat. It seems like lately we are dealing with the repercussions of renderings that are too realistic. Clients expect to see a complete building early in the design process, which gives a heightened expectation and hinders our ability to refine the design throughout DD and CD phases. I think you've found the balance between what we CAN produce and what we SHOULD produce.