Sunday, 21 October 2012

Masters Degree

So this comic is maybe a less angry outburst about education than I previously expressed here. But it's been on my mind a lot lately.. I know my intention was to study a vocational degree like the Masters in Architecture but I wonder if it would have been more sensible to study something with 'transferable skills' to many different jobs like history or something.

I also worry for all the people who have spent time and money on degrees where it's even harder to make a living from them. I'm thinking the likes of art, music, film studies etc. That's not to say there's anything wrong with these subjects I just know it's very difficult to convert the degree into a paid job when all is said and done. Is it ethical to be offering degrees in subjects where the market is already over-saturated with graduates, thus actually diminishing the value of the education? I think yes but it's hard to predict the future demands on the working sector I guess.. Still it makes me a little sick that if I had started my degree course one year earlier I would have only paid half the price, for what is exactly the same education and facilities, crazy isn't it!

I kinda wish I had just taken some online degree course in something cheaper, fun and useful for the time I've put in. Something like a business degree online could have made me savvy enough to realise how messed up the future of the building trade is perhaps!

Monday, 1 October 2012

University education? Great idea!

University degrees! I can't believe I went back in for the Masters Degree after seeing how the first 3 years in the initial degree transpired.. Though I guess I'm being pretty hard on myself with the torturous gift of hindsight. I would be interested though to see how other courses are run outside of Queen's University Belfast.

Saturday, 15 September 2012


I know I'm late to the party about instagram being sold to facebook for a billion dollars in cash and stock but still.. Is that not mind blowing? I mean this thing is just a couple of filters applied to your profile picture.. or your breakfast or other mundane object of your choice.. And just a combination of being somewhere at the right time with the right product really pays off. Blegh I don't get why it's so popular - but I guess I am pretty uncool. Anyway the above is my tongue in cheek verdict on the whole subculture.. Is it even a sub culture any more?

Friday, 14 September 2012


So these guys are always watching over me when I work on the PC. A modest collection of elephants that was began when I casually mentioned to my girlfriend that I enjoy these creatures. 5 years down the line and my herd is doing pretty well! My mother got in on the act too (the big white one) and they're quite a multicultural crowd. Elephants from France, USA, Morocco and different parts of Great Britain off the top of my head!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

global consciousness

So I've been trying to drive traffic to this blog primarily through linking my comics and whatnot to a website known as reddit. Thus far it has been moderately successful. I've gotten a few views out of it but nothing major. The exposure depends heavily on your content being 'upvoted' by people who like it. The more upvotes the higher rated and more visible your content becomes. Sadly most of my content does not receive a huge amount of these upvotes, which is fine because it's hard to compete against the amount of brilliant content on that website with a few poorly drawn doodles.

So why am I writing this? Well I find myself in something of a personal dilemma. While browsing the interwebs this evening I did my usual round on reddit and discovered that some clever clog submitted a comic with the same idea and gag as one of my sketches that I'm currently working on.. Of course this is a complete coincidence, but when I saw how well received the content was on reddit I didn't know how to feel...

The comic is funny (obviously I would think that as I had the same idea) so I am glad to see it get so much exposure and many upvotes, but at the same time I felt (irrationally) robbed of any credit. Should I not just be pleased that my brain thought of a gag that if I had gotten to first would have made a lot of people happy? That should be enough. And I will have to learn to live with such feelings because I doubt it will be the only time it happens. In fact I'm sure that anyone who is trying to create anything original has suffered a similar scenario before.

Makes me wonder if we are all part of some global consciousness where we mutually share almost all our ideas. I'm sure many of us have had that 'I thought of that ages ago!' moment when we see a new product, concept or idea become widely known or commercially viable. I guess the difference lies in the ability for certain people to have the motivation to see their ideas through to a conclusion. Enthusiasm and commitment are commodities just, if not more valuable than original creative thinking!

Monday, 10 September 2012

The batman theme is awesome.

So yeah I've found that having the batman theme from the dark knight rises playing makes everything better. The illustration above is one of only many examples. If I walk into my room and it happens to be playing on media player I suddenly develop purpose and direction with my entire life.. Tying my shoe laces suddenly becomes a dramatic task that has to be done with rigour and perfection or else Gotham is lost.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

More puppies!

Posting young Cooper yesterday got me all nostalgic of my other dogs when they were tiny. I still love them now of course but it was nice to be able to hold them in your arms and whatnot. The handsome pup above is called Oscar. If you've been following this blog you will have already seen him fully grown. The other dog in the image is Monty the bulldog.. I'm sure he'll get his own post soon enough!

Friday, 7 September 2012

sleepy baby bulldog

So these are photos of Cooper, one of the bulldogs in my family. He was only a wee tiny baby at the time but I stumbled across these in my photo archive and couldn't help but share them.. I'll maybe snap some fresh ones of how he looks today for some comparison!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

University competition - Current living - Conductive concrete

A few years ago during the architecture degree myself and two of my friends entered a proposal into an innovative concrete competition. Our idea was to re-envision how we think about walls as architectural components. With modern technology it is becoming more and more exciting. Just today I watched a video about turning any wall into a touch screen device by utilising sensors that can record vibration through the material - it reminded me of this competition entry and the idea that a wall can have a live layer within it, allowing you to 'plug in' anywhere. Of course there are all sorts of interesting questions about materiality and safety - we don't want to be electrocuting ourselves after all.. Still it is nice to open your mind freely to new ideas and concepts for how we can live our lives!

For anyone interested in the science:

1. Adding electrically conductive elements to a regular concrete mix
to achieve a conductive capacity to provide thermal and electrical
properties. Harnessing the potential of concrete as a “skin” to be
manipulated. i.e. In this case providing a thermal capacity, or applying
current through it to create a light source.

2. Possibility of the development of this technology to be harnessed
in all new builds involving exposed concrete surfaces – the
technology could remove the need for installation of separate
under floor heating systems, externalised radiators and even
wired light fittings.

3. Electrical conductivity can be embraced in the form of a thin layer
used to provide adequate power for lighting systems, which would
be introduced at the casting stage either pre-cast or in-situ. The mix
may be different to provide thermal capacity, but this could be laid as
a slab/screed to allow for heating benefit. The conductive concrete
can be connected to mains power, and thus a reliable light source
can be obtained.

4. The energy transmitted by free electrons travelling through the
charged concrete is changed from kinetic energy to the form of
thermal energy when it bombards the concrete molecules. This
thermal energy is stored by the concrete mass and thus it heats any
connected space by radiation/convection.

5. The inherent resistivity of concrete, which is an insulator is an
unmodified dried state, is such that it may be possible to overcome
this by providing a skim coat of plaster to the conductive surface,
while still allowing for thermal energy to pass through.

6. The production of our hybrid adds no more to the embedded
energy cost of the production of normal concrete, as the component
added to provide conductive capacity is a waste by product of the
steel manufacturing industry. Coke breeze is normally landfilled, and
using it in this way provides opportunity to turn waste material into a
new and exciting technology.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

I feel bad..

This happens far too often. I feel inspired and motivated by an amazing post about something but my enthusiasm dies before I can muster the enthusiasm the type in my overly complicated and annoying password that I thought at the time would be really secure but in reality it's just a real pain in the ass having to type it out.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Seasons changing...

So summer has finally come to an end and we're into September. I always get a little sad when the change starts to happen. The nights are becoming rapidly darker in the evenings and soon the cold bitchiness of winter will be slapping me in the face.

I mean it doesn't make a whole lot of difference in some ways.. I just swap one kind of sneezing for another (see above) but I sure do miss a healthy dose of vitamin D every day from the good old sunshine.

I also have a pretty poor record with winter time and road safety, the two times by bike has been involved in a crash have been down to black ice and December..  I'd stop riding it during the bleaker months.. but I'm just too damn renegade cool to stop. YOLO, SWAG, BAYLIFE... ETC.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Fresh cut grass!

So I was out walking earlier in the last of our summer sunshine. The delightful scent of freshly mown grass fills my nostrils and I sigh contently with satisfaction. I love that smell a lot despite the imminent hayfever induced sadness that follows later..

But then I had a worrying thought. I learned some time ago that the 'fresh grass smell' is actually some chemical compound the grass releases when it is in distress.. The scent apparently alerts nearby animals or something to come and help them. I love the idea of forest creatures coming to the aid of the grass and being a hero but I think we know that the animal would just eat the grass anyway.

Anywho I realised that despite knowing this fact about the dying grass bleeding out a distress scent.. I still enjoy it. Does that mean I am a psychopath or does it just mean that the smell of cut grass is so tantalising that it doesn't matter that it's the fragrance of plant genocide? If dead people smelt like cut grass would I start to justify the occasional homicide in my head? I don't want to know.
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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Thesis part V

Final part of the thesis I'm sure you'll be glad to read! This final building looks at a small shelter being constructed on the side of a mountain in the Mournes. (Named eagle mountain in fact, which I think is pretty cool!) The design focuses on transportability and convenience of erection on a complicated site. The shelter is cellular in nature, providing only the most basic protection from the wind and rain. In this sense seeking shelter here is more about the experience of the transit through the harsh conditions rather than anything to do with comfort.

Like all the shelters the ambition would be to have a team of 6 people be able to successfully erect one of these buildings in a matter of days, the dimensions and weights of the materials used can be comfortably carried by one / two people and the detailing and jointing are not doing any fancy engineering acrobatics (fancy as the suspension system may seem here in the third shelter.. I'll talk more about it below.) Numerous modular repetitions of these cellular structures can find places to rest on the mountain side based on how popular these sites become in the future.

In some ways this is the most ambitious of the three shelters, it's certainly in the most challenging site for one thing. However the aesthetic condition of this building differs from the others too.. the traditional policy of blending into and syncing with the existing landscape that is prevalent in the Doan shelter is not really seen here. Instead the intention is that the building announces its presence clearly and from some distance away - Think the spark of colour of an oasis in a desert. Not quite as extreme in wee Northern Ireland but you get the idea. The white EPDM plastic finish stands out in strong contrast against the dull granite of the mountainside, inviting people to journey towards the building and explore the architecture and engineering technology.

This invitation to explore the machinations of the building is actually quite important. The physical straps that brace the building against prevailing winds (details seen below) are actually in need of human adjustment during the changing seasons. The tensions of the bracing fluctuate between the different heat conditions from winter to summer time. It's accepted that nobody in their right mind will be going near this thing in the winter time.. in this way the white EPDM finish would blend quite successfully with the snow covered mountain during the winter, the whole building essentially becomes camouflaged during the time of year when it would be dangerous to climb towards it.. and reveals itself again as conditions improve and the snow melts away.

Well I'll not blather on any longer on a scheme that, again, is probably easiest realised through looking at the images.. so here they are. I hope you've enjoyed a glimpse into some of the thesis process I wasted months of my life on!

These final images are rough sketches showing the journey to the Eagle mountain site.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Shoe polish!

Word play is fun.. Apologies to anyone who can read Polish - the text is lifted straight from the first google hit for "how do you say 'how are you' in Polish" so I cannot vouch for complete authenticity!

I wish my brain could understand and speak many languages.. it would open a lot of doors! There was a sweet architecture post I saw not long ago on the R.I.B.A website looking to employ a young architectural assistant for quite a bit of money. I was all "about friggin time here we go CV time!" It was then I read that the applicant was required to be fluent in Japanese. I did consider for quite a while that maybe I could bluff some Japanese jargon on my CV and work samples.. you know just to see how far I could take the dirty lie before my inability to learn it caught up with me.

Thankfully honest Scott broke through and stopped the multi shenanigans before they spiralled out of control.. so I left the application alone and retreated into my tower of solitude.. secretly cursing all those who took the time to learn another language just to put me out of a potential job.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Almost 1337

It hurts me when I check the clock on my monitor and I realise I just missed out on being super fly.

However the great feeling I get when I hit it bang on 13.37 is worth it.

You gotta appreciate the little things, you know?

Friday, 24 August 2012

Final competition entry

For those of you unfamiliar with anything at all in that comic.. League of Legends is a free to play game that I've enjoyed playing for quite a while. I've been dappling in comic creation recently so when I saw that these guys were holding a competition for LoL themed comics I thought I may as well give it a go! Wish me luck!

Working late

Six years of working on architecture projects has conditioned my brain in such a way that it becomes most efficient during the middle of the night...

When I start working hard and gain momentum I don't want to stop so I go through to the wee hours, I wish I could train my body to enter this mindset from 9am in the morning instead!

I have been working on a comic graphic for a competition recently, (the reason for my late night tonight - the deadline is very soon.) It is my first attempt in a long time using a bamboo graphics tablet. I very recently purchased this new toy and have been having quite a bit of fun with it!

Will be posting the results of the tablet drawing tomorrow. (When I finish off the competition entry and submit it I will post it here too.)

For now...

goodnight all!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Graphic Design

So I've been thinking about making my professional skill set as versatile as possible. This has ranged from teaching myself html coding to educating myself in the field of graphic design. I've always been interested in it, and I feel there is an overlap with the design and presentation process I used during the 6 years of architecture under my belt. Is it worth going for an official qualification though? My instinct and already sizeable debt say "no!"

I could honestly say that the huge majority of what I know about architecture can be learnt from books and from actual professional work placements. Unfortunately you need the university time before an office will agree to take you for placement. I find the whole system tragically skewed in that respect. I wish we lived in older times when you could begin work as an apprentice and work under a master architect to learn what you needed.. but this rant is in danger of becoming a whole blog post in itself.

My point being that I feel I can learn a lot about graphic design from books and from actually using the skills needed of such a designer. I'm currently seeking out any and all opportunities to hone my design skill and my taste and judgement regarding contemporary tastes. I find it a lot of fun.. and hopefully there will be more opportunities to design in the graphic sense than there are in the physical buildings sense considering the comparative current success of industries that require such designers.. thank you internet!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

I love the cavehill

Hope you enjoy the lovely view above. Taken from the window of my parent's loft conversion last winter. This is the Cavehill in Belfast. She peaks at almost 370m above sea level. The hill is well known for the the outline of a head that can be seen pretty well in the photo. "Napoleon's nose" as it is called is just off centre - with the forehead to the left and chin to the right, I think it's pretty cool.

I've enjoyed running over the hill since I was a young boy. I feel pretty lucky to have a place like this so close to hand. I've found it to be a safe haven for me during times of stress and uncertainty, particularly during my degree in architecture it was often enjoyable to run to the hill to clear my head and lungs of the glue and ink fumes I had been producing making some model or drawing...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

My dog Oscar

Hello traveller

Not a lot to post today, working on some comics that I'll be posting soon, but for now you can enjoy some photos taken a while back of one of the dogs in our family. His name is Oscar, he is a Bernese mountain dog and he is highly adored by everyone in our family.  He is the biggest of our dogs... Our clan also includes 2 British bulldogs and a Frenchie too!

Enjoy the photos, he is cheekily testing how much of him is allowed on the sofa in the first pic, as for the second well.. he has no shame.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Thesis part IV

Second of the three shelters being examined today. The top of Slieve Doan was the chosen site. It offers some of the best scenic views of the surrounding reservoirs and mountains. There was also great potential to utilise the natural topography. The driving force behind the scheme became a desire for the shelter to grow organically from the existing large pieces of granite that have been carved out of the mountain over millions of years.

I've taken care with the building mass to ensure the shelter does not dwarf the surrounding granite in scale. From certain approaches the building itself is not revealed until you have reached the summit of Doan. There is a whole sketch study of the approaches and revealed views but I've tried to edit what drawings and photographs I show for the purposes of a blog. The chosen construction method is one of timber frame that is light weight and easily carried and erected on the site. The exterior finish is "Wicke's corrugated roofing and cladding sheet." It was important to me to chose materials that could be found locally and transported easily. The whole practicality and simplicity of construction and spaces is what it's all about for me when it comes to design projects.

I think the Queen's teaching establishment wanted a higher aspiration from the designs but I cannot change where my heart lies in the field of architecture, and I'm pretty happy with the result here - in the sense that I believe you could go out and build this shelter with a couple of mates and a modest budget over a short period of time. The pragmatics of this kind of construction really appeal to me. And it does not have to be limited to mountain construction. The same mentality can be applied to a brown field site in an urban centre as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, the shelter is fairly straight forward and easy to understand (I hope) from the images below. It seeks to blend with the hill but announce a clear presence when you reach the peak. There is a main sitting and viewing area looking out to the best view (first image) and there are sleeping quarters tucked in beneath this main viewing space that receive natural morning sunshine (last photograph.)

The only other thing I think needs explaining here is the hand drawn maps, they're a study of the existing ground typography and granite positions. It was the first step in the work process of easing the shelter into the existing landscape. I felt a hands on direct approach to this documentation was complemented by drawing the scales and proportions of the granite by hand. I hope you've enjoyed checking it out, third and final shelter to follow soon!