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!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Thesis part III

Some actual building for you to enjoy now!  We are looking at three sites across the Mourne Mountains in Newcastle, Northern Ireland.  Together they link through the mountains to form a passageway.  This post will be focussed on the first of the three shelters.

It is located in Tollymore forest, a well known and highly walked section of forest at the foot of the Mourne Mountains.  The building seeks to capitalise on the higher volume of users in this part of the mountains by providing a larger lodge suitable for hosting a larger body of hikers / students or fishermen for example.

Some aspects of the building brief I had decided upon were;

Be self sufficient regarding its operation and servicing.
Provide a refuge for hikers traversing the Mournes.
Provide a retreat for people wanting to stay in the Mournes for a number of days.
Protect from the south western prevailing wind.
Allow users to engage in multiple ways with the surrounding area - sensory engagement.
Cultivate an environment of relaxation, meditation and reflection.
Preserve the natural beauty of the Mournes - consideration will be given to how the building is seen and how it marks the land.
Educate people on the history and heritage of the mountains.
Take advantage of the southern sun and natural ventilation.
Be accessible via an already established pathway on the mournes.
Be close to a flow of fresh water but not interrupt its natural flow.
Offer a sequence of beautiful views.
Be accessible via an emergency services land rover.
Use construction techniques that involve easily transportable materials across difficult terrain.

The images below will outline the design process better than I could do in my own words.  The building footprint builds off an existing footbridge and seeks to connect existing passages across the Shimna River.  The ground is very uneven, irregular granite.  As such it was elected to drill piles into the granite and span steel sections from these concrete pile foundations.  From there a timber floor and frame would be built.

The building itself is simple in function. One side serves as an entrance lobby, with storage areas and a main living space with chairs splayed around an open fire and basic kitchen.  This space can be opened up further via sliding doors to connect to the southern decked area to let light flood in to the space (when we get the weather!)  The other side of the shelter is a uniform series of cellular sleeping pods.  These cells are positioned to receive morning sunlight to help the hiker wake up naturally.

A lot of the final drawings for these schemes were completed with my own hand and pens so I do not have all the finished images to post here yet at Queen's University still has the final presentation pages.  I will upload photos of the final presentation drawings when they are back in my possession. For not please make do with what I have and the model photographs!

It could be worse..

So as my job search in the architecture field continues to bear no fruit I'm finding ways to dodge demoralisation. One such tactic I have employed is to be thankful I'm not stuck in a really crap job (this observation is the motivation for today's comic shown above.) that I hate.. I know a lot of people who work in environments they don't enjoy.. because they have to.

It's always been my fear that I would wind up being 'forced' into an occupation I don't like simply because I need the money.  I've never been hugely motivated by pure financial gain.  The big deal for me was always to be doing something I enjoyed.  I know it sounds cliché to say such a thing... and I have serious issue with that. The definition of a cliché in this context is that the phrase (however wise it may be) has become so over repeated that it has lost its original meaning and effect on people. I don't understand how this has happened.. this cannot be repeated enough! I do not want to spend the prime years of my life toiling in something my heart isn't in.

If it's within my power at all to carve out a career path that is self driven and independent I would be very happy. My ambition is to work as a freelance agent - designing beautiful images and writing entertaining and educational pieces of work that add value to a person's understanding and happiness.

The idea of a standard office job makes me sad, I've tried it for a year with wonderful people during my work experience and it was fine.. but I do not want it to be my life.  I want my work to bring about a personal connection with people around the world, be it through architectural design or a beautiful poem.

So yeah that vision has always been my motivation throughout the architecture degree and masters. Six years ago I don't think I'd ever had to spell the word recession! But my peers and I all learned about it rapidly, and soon enough my vision of the young solo architect faded into the dark shroud of an uncertain economic future..  I'm of course realistic but I do not want to become overly pessimistic! If the world is trying hard to defeat your ambitions why should you lend it a helping hand in bringing you down? Screw that.

Follow your ambitions people... cling to them and fight for them because nobody else will!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Thesis Part II

The thesis seeks to mature a set of essential skills for a young architect through an investigation of the Mourne Mountains.

A sequence of elementary human shelters find their place within the landscape, forming a connected route through the terrain for hikers, and an architectural dialogue with the mountain range.

Critical judgement is exercised via selection of three building sites and the resolved architectural response to each of their respective conditions atmospherically, structurally and logistically.  This exercise of critical judgement has been something I've personally been trying to improve on in my own working process for some time now... One of the foundations for the thesis genesis was the creation of an architectural element - a door handle.  The interpretation of this was left entirely at the student's discretion.  I chose to turn to nature and apply a critical judgement to various tree branches as I walked a forest.  The idea here would be that if I could apply strong and useful critical judgement to a neutral object in nature the skill of applying this critical thinking to my own personal work would become easier and more fluid.  Images of the chosen door handle shown below for you to check out!

Pursued also throughout the whole thesis process is an adroitness in the physical representation and communication of an architectural idea both personally to the architect himself, and collectively to those who will use and build the architecture.

The sequence of shelters also explore the foundation of human architecture in the natural landscape, as discussed by an architectural theorist called Marc-Antoine Laugier (1713 - 1769.) In his writing of "the primitive hut" (image of the hut can be seen below.)

Laugier outlines foundations intrinsic to the core root of the hut...the primary element of human shelter, the basest of our needs alongside food.  He outlines that;

The primitive hut came from nature, rooted in functional and structural basis.

Like Vitruvious before him stated, the origins of architectural forms are in nature... the first dwelling was built in the forest amongst the branches and the trees.

Efficiency and usefulness are king... "One should never put anything into a building for which one cannot give a sound reason"

Buildings must be solid and designed for long life.

Solidity depends on two things: Choice of material and its efficient use

The building site must be considered to include the natural virtues available such as sunlight, views and ventilation.

The planning, both interior and exterior..must be suitable, comfortable, have good circulation an always include a courtyard.  I personally enjoy this observation about the hut, could you imagine how the urban fabric of major cities would have developed if the foundation for the human shelter's need for courtyard circulation had been honoured?

The internal communications, such as servant quarters, halls, stairways, etc. must be located for quick, efficient access.  It should be noted here that 'servant' does not simply have the ancient meaning of those paid to serve others, in fact in a contemporary it refers much more broadly to architectural elements that are doing some kind of 'work' for the building, they are serving other spaces to keep them pure and capable of pursuing spatial agendas.  For example elements such as storage, elevators, lifts, units for cooking and cleaning etc.  You get the point!

A building must be neither more nor less magnificent than is appropriate to its purpose... I enjoy this sentiment as well.  I feel a lot of contemporary architecture today feels like no matter what the function is.. that the architect should be making some kind of statement or gimmick to catch the attention of magazines and photographers. Laugier's concept of humility in buildings is so crucial.. Not every building has to make a big deal of itself, in fact if every building was striving for attention the fabric of the built environment would become garish and self centered.  I'll not go on a rant about how homogeneous design gives character to neighbourhoods and cities because that is a story for another day... I will come back to this!

"Beauty of buildings depend on three things;
Accuracy of proportions.
Elegance of forms.
Choice and distribution of ornaments"

These last factors are regarded as being quite often overlooked in contemporary architecture.  I would propose instead that these elements are still very important in the processes of modern architects, it simply does not manifest in the same classical way that it used to.

Some actual thesis buildings will soon follow this post! I felt it necessary to give sufficient background to my process before I start throwing the proposed buildings as you guys!

Back to posting!

Wedding went well!

Not a single glitch which was a nice surprise, couldn't be more relieved to get the speech over with too... There were a few rather risqué jokes in there but they were all well received to my huge relief.. for anyone who is interested you can find a draft of the speech below, I'm sure you can guess the dodgy jokes:

"Hello everyone, could I have your attention please...

...For those of you unfamiliar with me, my name is Scott and I have been bestowed with the honour of best man on this joyful occasion...

...Personally I like to think I was chosen for this important role because of my wide spread public appeal... my natural charm, classic good looks and sharp wit essentially guarantee a successful speech.. I'm afraid the reality is simply that Thom just doesn't have any other friends...

...Before I get too carried away with verbally abusing the groom.. I would like to thank Thom and Amy, both personally and on behalf of the beautiful bridesmaids and my fellow groomsmen for involving us in their most special of days together...

...I'd also like to reiterate the thanks Thom has expressed to everyone involved in making today such a success.  It's fantastic to see so much love and support for this young couple.. And I hope you can extend a little bit of that love and support for me... in the form of overly generous applause and laughter during the next couple of minutes...

...So where do Thom and I begin... I've known the man since we were in Primary School together.  Back then he was a giggling, childish, monkey-boy... and very little has changed... however he has was also an incredibly funny, honest and loyal friend... and very little has changed there too...

...Throughout our childhood together it became clear to me that Thom was....kinda special...for one thing he had the absolutely amazing ability to conceal any and all traces of the mighty Oxford University intellect that he possesses.  In fact he still routinely hides this intelligence so adeptly that I sometimes doubt if he can even spell his own name... so to see him successfully sign his name on the wedding register today was a huge relief for me...

...Thom has been involved in many of my fondest life adventures, I've seen him during his highs and his lows...quite literally.  I particularly enjoy the memory of witnessing Thom ignore all logic and advice during our Duke of Edinburgh expedition...  Thom's desperation to make a bee-line for the camp site resulted in him plunging neck deep into a stinking bog...

...He was properly stuck there like.. And was begging, me - his good friend and loyal companion for help - unfortunately I was too busy doubled over absolutely busting with laughter to provide the assistance he desperately needed as he sank ever deeper into the bog...

...I'm also actually responsible for concussing the poor boy when I tried to show him how to "properly swing a hockey stick." I'm pretty sure it wasn't intentional at the time... but I have left him with a permanent reminder of me on the side of his head...

...I actually think I'm going to stop mentioning these stories now... because the more of them I tell you guys the more I'm starting to seriously question why he picked me as his best man...

...I feel quite fortunate as best man here because I've actually had the pleasure of knowing the bride for a long time too... but I'm a gentleman and it wouldn't be right to put Amy into an awkward position here...I'm sure Thom will be doing that tonight anyway so...

...I can actually remember speaking with Amy about our young Thomas here long ago before they even got together.  I fondly regaled Amy at the time with a brief history of Thom's foolish exploits and carrying on.  Little did I know it was the beginning of a truly special foundation, and from then it didn't take long for Thom's Impish charm to ensnare Amy...and from there the pair of them have grown that into a truly strong and healthy relationship...

...And now here they sitting before me on their wedding day... Mr Russell and Miss Cooke, though of course she'll no longer be known as “Miss Cooke” but rather she'll go by  "Miss Cook-Clean-Laundry-Iron-Dishwasher..."

...I jest of course, Mrs Russell sits before us here today... a vision of true loveliness, like a shining light she illuminates this whole room with her beauty... And Mr Russell... at least you tried...

...I know tradition suggests I should provide some advice to the new couple.  So I will share with you a universal truth about love... No matter how vexed or frustrated you may ever get with your wife, just remember that life without women would be an even bigger pain in the ass...

...If I can put all my joking aside I can say with no fallacy, that Thom and Amy are two of my favourite people on this earth, each with their own unique and wonderful personalities.  My life is brighter and happier for having both of them in it.  And I cannot think of two people who are more deserving of each other...

So in closing with this sentiment of warmest wishes I offer a toast to the bride and groom:

To good health, and many happy, loving years together."

After the speech I finally got to relax and enjoy the food and drink... and music! Oh man the soundtrack was everything I could've hoped for from a wedding.. So many classics and I highly enjoyed it, I managed to track down a rare informal photo of me on the day in the middle of some serious grooving.. so enjoy that!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Reduced content being posted over next few days!

So I've been a little distracted this week and will continue to be until Wednesday.. I'm in the middle of perfecting my best man speech for my good friend Thom's wedding!

All being well it'll be a successful occasion.. trying not to worry too much about it!

Wish me luck...

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Am I the only one who suffers from this?

Seriously every time I try to write anything no matter how trivial, if there is some concept of time restriction involved my brain starts to lose control and my hand starts making his own nervous twist and jerks in an attempt to form some kind of script.

I don't envy the examination markers who have had to try and understand the nonsensical 'panic font' that I adorn all my test papers with..