I should learn to sketch (properly)

Being able to sketch beautifully is an amazing skill. As with any other, it takes time to learn it. It is not something you are born with. Practice makes perfect.

And concerning sketching, I am far from perfect. Although, from time to time I do sketch. And also, quite often I do something that might be considered sketching. I communicate via sketches. Sketching is there to deliver a message. In architecture, it is a message about how the building should look like, how it should be put together, how people should see it or how it might be used. 

And many times a day, when I am asked about anything I eventually might know I reach for pen and paper in at least 60% of the time. It is usually much faster and easier to deliver the message by sketch, than by explaining in words. And even though my ‘sketches’ look bad, people usually understand what I try to tell them.


Basically, sketching is another language we might learn. The one big advantage is that even though not everybody speaks it, all understand. And that is why I see sketching as a very valuable tool and I would like to improve it. Not that I would like to do fancy watercolours or aquarelles. I would only like to take my pen, pencil or marker anytime and be able to tell anybody I meet what I intend to make or how I view the solution to a certain problem.

The sketches you see as illustrations to this article are at least three years old. Each of them hides a clever tip or interesting idea from the field of architecture. I sketched them as a reminder of an awesome book called ‘101 Things I Learned in Architecture School’. I recreated all 101 tips and interesting facts. And then eventually, from time to time I add my own. So now there are like 130 of them or something like that. 

So maybe when I reach 202 I might as well publish them. Who knows. Might it be interesting to somebody? I guess I will only find out if I try. I have many ideas, but the thing about ideas is, that if you have it, you are also the one responsible for executing it. And that takes time and persistence. Both of which I do not have much. So if I gather some willpower, maybe one day you may be able to read my book.

Would you be interested? And what do you think about my sketches? Can you guess what they might express?

Happy sketching

Ondrej

Advertisements

Tusindfryd 7 – First visit

Even though it was raining heavily that Wednesday, work is not going to wait. Our specimen, house we are going to follow during its construction process, is located in a new neighbourhood south of Horsens. The neighbourhood is so new that it is not even shown on google maps yet (proof – the area east from the church). At first I wanted to write about how much I despise catalogue houses, sure they do look neat, but so does the one of your neighbour. But then I realised that this is not really about the house itself, it is about the process and it is about real life experience.

Our teacher was kind and translated the drawings, so we have a complete set of drawings and we can compare the drawings with reality. I studied the drawings last evening and the house is quite simple. It reminded me of our first-semester project. The house looks like an archetype of a danish house, outer leaf made of bricks, low sloped roof…well the whole neighbourhood looks like that. One of the impressive things is that the house is actually going to be built in less than three months. Even though the house is small and simple, they are totally not wasting time!

This is how the house should look like once it will be finished.perspective.PNG

And here you can see the plan. I would love to point out what I do not like about this layout, but since somebody actually spent some time (more or less) on these drawings, I will keep my mouth shut. Again, the process matters.plan.PNG

This is the drawing of foundations – for those of you who can read drawings – since this is a catalogue house, the bottom part of the foundations should be made according to geotechnical report and therefore is not shown here. What you can see on the other hand is the size of the insulated block above the foundations – it is huge – I put more information at the end of the post. Another thing is that there will be a concrete slab resting on these blocks and then it goes all danish. Bricks, bricks, bricks ( I am not complaining, bricks are awesome -and I am preparing post about bricks as well !).

foundation

And I also have a lot to show about the process. Below you can see how the workers are pouring the concrete. Two guys in the yellow jackets do the heavy work, the left one is putting rebars in place with a shovel and the right one is helping with pouring the concrete. But I think that the guy in the orange jacket has pretty interesting jo. I know that it seems like he is just casually standing there, but look closer. In his hands…he is holding a joystick and he has a control over the machine. It is like playing video games all day.IMG_0376

Closeup on the rebars used. It is interesting to see how are the drawings translated. When you draw them, they are exact, linear and precise. On the drawings, everything is nice and neat, but once you get to the site, things start to get messy and foundations just take the shape of the form in which they are poured into. IMG_0381

Remember this baddas from last post?  If you are a concrete contractor – I would like to drive this one day, please.IMG_0382

And on top of this concrete, these mammoth blocks are to be placed, one of these weights 80 kg, might seems like a lot, but when you see the dimensions (1000 x 450 x 400 mm), you might be surprised. But since these are made of light clinker concrete, they are in fact very light for their size.

IMG_0383And I will end post with a useful tip.

Pro tip nr. 8 – Bring workshoes, cleaning ladies at school will be grateful.17668954_10202919284539462_768251532_o

Cheers

Ondrej

Concrete for dummies

And tonight´s star is ………(ba-dum -tssss). Concrete. We have been waiting for his visit a long time and finally he found some time in its busy schedule to tell us some interesting facts about itself.

As we all know, concrete is a mixture of three basic components; aggregate, cement and water. The aggregate is of two types; fine(sand) and coarse(different sizes of gravel and stones).

The basic process of making concrete involves mixing all the components together in a specific ratio, which influences properties of finished concrete. Once you mix components together, you have to be quick, because concrete slowly hardens. Because of the liquid nature of fresh concrete, you can essentially sculpt anything you can imagine if you have the right formwork.

371267072_4c849c28ae_b

The concert hall of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava

And now beware my reader, because now I will get all educational so leave immediately if you are bored because it will get worse, I will describe in detail all the components and its types, so it will get very nasty soon. I warned you.

Cement.

cement

Cement is a general name for a material that binds other materials together, so yes, it is kind of another name for glue. In construction industry we commonly speak about Portland cement, which is the most usual type. When water is added to the cement, it sets off chemical reactions and the cement starts to harden. Portland cement is a basic component in concrete, mortar and stucco.

Most of the production of Portland cement in Denmark is carried out in Aalborg. We can choose from standard general purpose cement which is suitable for walls/columns/beams and foundations. Another type is rapid cement, which is more resistant to cracking and is used mostly for floors. Then we have special mortar cement and white cement, which is more expensive and therefore used only for decorative purposes.

Water.

sea-water-ocean-waves

We can normally use standard drinking water for most uses and we can also use sea water. If sea water is used, the concrete develops white powdery surface, but unfortunately also quickens the corrosion of used steel, so it is generally not suitable for most uses.

Fine aggregate.

sand

In Denmark, particles smaller than 4mm are classed as fine aggregate. Choosing the right sand is essential. The usual demands are uniformity of shape, round or cubical, and also  appropriate strenght. Best sand also has a wide range of sizes (from tiniest through medium sized to “biggest” 4mm). Because of these demands, sand used is either specifically crushed stones in a factory environment or river sand. Other types (desert, beach or pit sand) are for one or another reason unsuitable.

Coarse aggregate.

index

Stones have smaller impact on the quality of concrete than sand, nevertheless, they should be hard, clean and durable. Sizes of these should not exceed one-fifth of the thickness of the wall we are pouring. Usual sizes are 19 to 25 mm.

Once you mix these, you can see our star driving around in its limo. (I would kill to be able to drive this baddass piece of machinery)Kenworth_W900S_concrete_truck

And once it arrives on a construction site. It is poured into the formwork.

DX_Groundwater_Treatment_Facility_concrete_pour_(7582956780)

Fun fact nr. 18. Since concrete quickly hardens, pouring the concrete must be exceptionally well organized, when pouring concrete on bigger projects, there are dozens of baddass vehicles arriving and leaving the construction site in cca. 15-30 minutes intervals. On exceptionally big projects, the concrete on one side might be already hardened and on the other side, a fresh batch is being poured. Also on huge projects, the concrete is actually being pumped around. See the picture below.

Concrete_pump.JPG

Well, I guess those of you who made it this far are already showing symptoms of brain-dripping-out-of-the-ear syndrome, so I am going to stop myself, since you are educated enough for today. Hope you at least found something useful.

Cheers

Ondrej

 

 

 

 

Vertzone house – Birth of an idea

Today, I would like to tell you a story, it is rather personal story and it is also an architectural story. Story about imaginary thing, story about a building which is not meant to be built, about a building which serves us as a tool to learn. Our second semester project.

This is the first post from a new series of posts about our semester project (note to myself – no more new series!)

Second semester, we already kind of knew what to expect, and we were thrown right into it. No time to waste, we started with the big project on day one. The groups were already known (the teachers shared them before the semester started) so we could just nod at our new colleagues, put together our satellite office and dive into the brief.

The brief:

Brief is a letter, which discribes the desires of the client, programming, materials, style and any other things client might request. This is our brief.

Client: Young family – John (41, working in insurance) , Jane (40, banker), Oliver (13, plays guitar, loves LEGO*) and Mia (9, gymnast and singer)

Project: They want a new, modern, Scandinavian style house built on nr. 95 or 97 Sundgaardsvej,Horsens. They want to use traditional materials such as brickwork, concrete and wood. They would also like a balcony with a view over the nearby lake. The house should also include a basement.

*who does not love LEGO?

The process:

There were more things but I want you to actually read my blog and not to get bored, so I will try to write about something more interesting.

We went to the sites to choose the right one. We have already been to this area, our first semester project site was nearby. We knew the area. Even though, when we arrived that windy afternoon in february, we fell in love with the site. Site nr. 95 was the right one. Close to the lake, good positioning and fairly large. Only asset was the slope, the height difference between south and north boundary line is little more than 4 meters. Did I just say asset? How is that old saying? One man´s asset is another man´s opportunity. Close enough.

plot

As soon as we got back to our office (okay that is exaggerated, in reality our workspace is just 4 desks and a small conference table, but I still love it) we started to brainstorm the ideas. And what come out of this was, at least in my eyes, wonderful idea. According to the regulations, you obviously cannot just place habitable areas (e.g. children bedroom) in the basement, someone could complain, start crying, or wave with their tiny fists. That is what regulations are for. BUT…in the regulations, there is also stated (in small letters) that the room with a wall sticking out from the ground more than 1200 mm is considered habitable. And when you recall the slope our site had, it just clicked together. The rules showed us the right way.idea

This is just ugly quick sketch of the idea and I made it only for this post because I trashed the original one. But the original looked very similar, it was not meant to be published, its only purpose was to quickly show the idea. Idea was all we needed. We did not need the sketch anymore.

The idea:

We are going to use the slope to essentially create three floor house. Basement, accesible from the level of lower garden for childrens, middle floor as a main living space and first floor for the parents.

Our humble office just rocks!

That is also how the house got its name – Vertical zoning, Vertzone for short. It is not the best idea an idea which clearly describes the concept behind the house. Actually, that is also an important architecture lesson, even if it sounds silly, always name it, even “Vertzone house” sounds tiny bit better than “Sundgaardsvej 95”

The end of this phase also meant that each of us had to prepare its own interpretation of the given problem. So as soon as we started, our paths were once again separated, but that´s story for another day.

Cheers

Ondrej

 

Why architects hate colors?

When you type “why do architects” into google search, things that pop out might be quite shocking, here the top 5;

  • why do architects use the golden ratio (that is not the scary part yet)
  • why do architects work long hours (here it starts)
  • why do architects get paid so little (should I change the field of study?)
  • why do architects wear black (might be a good topic for someday – note to myself)
  • why do architects hate colours (okay, I made it up, but if google showed more, I bet that one would be in top 10 searches)

And the one I made up (that means the topic today was completely made up, don´t blame me I have the best intentions) is what I would like to think about today.

See those colours? Those are tools of the interior designer, not an architect, so do not confuse yourself. If you are (or you want to be) an architect, do not worry, you won´t need these. That is so flamboyant and unnecessary (e.g. in architects dresser).

Pantone-Colour-Matching-System-630x450-630x450

But why do architects seem to hate colours? Is it something they teach at the universities? Since I do not study architecture, but rather Architectural technology and Construction Management (from now on “ATCM” since I am lazy – and yes, that is an official shortcut) I must say I do not know. All we talk about are materials, connections, schedules and numbers of all kinds. Even though I must say that for this semester project, we used EXACTLY what would most of the architects probably use. Our colour palette is very decent, just a bit of white there (Danish people love white, since they say it is rarely sunny here up north and they want to lighten up the interiors) and a dash of grey, light wood, and teeny tiny brownish hue (fancy archispeak for color) in some rooms.

Basement palette

Pallete 2

Ground floor palettepalete 3

First floor palletepallete 1

Why did we choose these? It might seem like architects are lazy or worse… BORING !!! But no wait, that can´t be true, let´s continue with analyses. What colour do you like? Do you like wearing bright colours? Do you like colourful furniture, pillows or dishware? I believe you do. And our imaginary house can accommodate your needs. I get it now! What is a space for the architect, is also the canvas for people occupying the space. Architects are the ones that are creating the stage for daily episodes of life.small-easel-with-a-blank-canvas-1385377654QWM

Architects are an observant bunch and know that everybody is different, and therefore they make sure that everybody can bring piece of themself, as a dash of brush on a canvas. Lady in a bright yellow jacket, boy in a blue T-shirt, old gentleman in tweed vest, all of them are little dots making the bigger picture, society.

Okay, I got little too philosophical, but you get the picture (insert laughter). When we are creating a building of any kind we must accommodate different programmes inside and when we want to include different colours, it is easy to make a misstep. To be on the safe side, we should only use subtle colours, no colours at all or when we want to go wild, we can come up with some monochromatic palette (i.e. different shades of the same colour), but still only on your own responsibility – I warned you.

As you can see nothing is black and white (see the joke?) and with a painful process possibly ending in failure lot of effort, you theoretically can make a nice space which will even contain some colours. But don´t blame me for sticking with black/grey/white and everything that comes in between, since I am not that suicidal brave.

Cheers

Ondrej

PS. When I will get home I will add a picture I sketched some time ago which inspired today´s big question.

Edit: Here it is, not so pretty sketch, from some time ago with a note

“Building is a canvas, that´s why architects favourite colours are white, grey and black”

img_0332.jpg

Looking for purpose

Since I started this blog few days ago, I should define why am I doing this at all. Why? Do I have such an amount of spare time? Hardly. Do I have knowledge to pass down? Pffffff, good one. Am I funny enough to amuse possible readers? Sadly, no.

Soooooo, let’s turn it upside down. I might gain the knowledge while maintaining this blog, I might gain something to share at school, I might sneak in some hilarious lousy joke from time to time. Let´s just say I have some potential and we will see if I grow and flourish or not.

What I hope will keep this in motion, is my desire to sum up my wild thoughts, so I can recall it later in my life. I would like to use this blog as a tool for my own learning. I want to have a nice blog, where I can find what I have been up to. Having a blog seems like a necessity in today’s world. Architects are no longer lonely geniuses, locked inside their studios. Nowadays, architecture is about collaboration, technologies. Drafting desk has been burned down and forgotten and mysterious abbreviations like CAD and BIM are all around. Architecture has evolved, and in order to survive, we must evolve as well. I love the idea of lonely genius, I admire Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Peter Zumthor (or as architects call them – Frankie, Corbi and Pete) and many others. But the age of those has ended. Today, we are most likely hear about the company, about the team which stands behind the project. There are exceptions, yes. But even behind the names of those starchitects are big teams of professionals and the bigger the project, the more are involved. Hence I must connect as well, even though I am cold, heartless, reserved person and since I am so easy-going, heartwarming and funny companion, I hope to join with the others who love architecture as I do and this blog will hopefully help me to achieve that.

corbiBjarke_Ingels_in_Frankfurt.20150617

Cheers

Ondrej

Modular odyssey – Introduction

One of the things architects and/or constructing architects do is that they are using modular elements to;

  • Cut down the construction cost
  • Bring harmony to chaos
  • Limit endless possibilities
  • Use prefabrication to their advantage
  • Speed up the construction

But when did all this started? Is it the phenomenon of the last decade to produce most of the elements off-site and just put them together as pieces of LEGO? I doubt it, just look at this picture.

Columns_in_the_inner_court_of_the_Bel_Temple_Palmyra_Syria.JPG

See that ?! Even the good people from antic times used a modular grid to lay these corinthian columns. That means that using modular grids is not something new, we were doing it for hundreds of years.

athens-315838_1280.jpg

Socrates might have walked below this piece of architecture which was built in 4th-century BC using modular grid! It might be coded in our genes, eve in nature we can see that most of the organisms are made from smaller segments, which are connected and operate as one.

centipede-8695_1280.jpg

As does this cute centipede (my apology to ladies). From this, we might conclude that adapting to a modular grid is a natural order and human actually sense it as a harmonious way, which has been with us from the beginning.

I would like to think of this short blogpost as an introduction to shorter series, which will cover some of the elements. I hope there is some value in what I am planning to do.

Cheers

Ondrej