Archive Page 2

it’s better if you put it on wheels

The mission for this January was a furniture design/build. Considering how damn cold it is in to work in a garage in Western Massachusetts during January, I think plenty was accomplished.

Project 1: Mechanic’s Workstation
The proposal was a redesign of the storage system and the work surfaces. The storage system consists of two carts, one for heavily used tools which could be wheeled around the work area easily and another for storage of less commonly used ones. Both fit into bays under the work surfaces. To take advantage of the flood of daylight in the industrial loft space, we designed a panel with a gradient of circle perforations (dimensions were based on manufactured hole saws). Specified materials were birch plywood and 2×4 lumber.

A rendering of the perforated panel (that was done by Robert) and the L-shaped bench design

Project 2: Architect’s Workstation
We took in consideration the needs of a 21st century architecture student: spaces for digital and physical work, storage for our multitude of design books, security for our ever increasing amount of electronics. Also, there are more traditional needs such as storage for T-squares, plots, oversized rulers, rolls of trace that are usually not accommodated by conventional furniture.

The design consists of three parts: digital cockpit (the main work surface has screen, laptop, book storage), electronics cartridge (a rolling cabinet for the computer, scanner, other electronics that can be taken home during vacations), and modeling station (a cart with a higher surface, fits a 18″x24″ cutting mat, storage for modeling tools and other oversized things)

We were never quite happy with the design and have not finished building it, but we will! The modeling station is not in any of these photos.

This is a separate piece of furniture that was previously made so that we could work wherever we wanted like next to the fireplace. Notice the circular cut out that the body fits into. We kept the cockpit idea for the larger desk as well. Also, I am not at the height of my fashion prowess here. We ran out of oil and it was cold!

The desk at the moment. Robert made the dramatic bookshelf sometime last year. The idea is to make a bunch of storage trays for the space below the shelf

The cartridge has a pull out tray for the scanner. We zipped tied the scanner to the slide out portion.

Project 3:
A lockable book shelf for Robert’s studio. I contributed to the design and none of the construction for this one. I demanded that all the horizontal surfaces be plexi and I think I was right. This is finished except for a plexiglass door. The green in the back is a scrap piece of zip wall.


Bolting casters onto the bottom surface. It's more fun if it can be rolled around and much easier to transport, obviously.

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54 collections later

This week in Paris a handful of designers showed their couture collections which showcase what is supposed to be the best and most extravagant masterpieces in fashion. They explore the fantastical, the ridiculous, the unimaginable. The techniques they employ are the most advanced and detailed oriented. It is in a different class entirely from the ready-to-wear collections during fashion week. To the untrained eye (that is me), the technique reveals itself through the extravagant details like beads, feathers, fur, ruffles but the aesthetics of the over-the-top usually turns me off couture. Like a lot of fashion, it’s a strange acquired taste.

Karl Lagerfeld’s collection for Chanel this week is the first time I have been stunned by the beauty of couture and the first time I have appreciated Lagerfeld’s work for Chanel. Chanel’s fashion shows are hard to swallow because they are overdone with lace, bows, pearls in a sea of pastels. The gaudiness of ceiling height models of cake or purses distracts me from the clothes and I can only wonder why this decor and setting? But if you can get over all of that and just accept the pastels, the clothes are beautiful.

There have been many draped dresses, but few that ripple as elegantly and naturally as these from Chanel’s spring 2010 couture collection. The seams of the dress disappear and it looks as if fairies descended and draped the cloth on the models.

Dresses that flow like water. (Photos: style.com)

Cathy Horyn, the NYTimes fashion critic, wrote on her blog, ” Karl Lagerfeld said he had been thinking for awhile about how to do a seamless dress and only recently found a method that satisfied him. He said he thought this collection might be his most interesting in terms of technique. “It took me 54 collections to get there,” he said.”

Also impressive is Lagerfeld’s innovation and creativity in working with the iconic classics of Chanel. The quilt, the tweed, the black dress, the suit. It is incredible that in Lagerfeld’s 27 years at Chanel, he has started almost every collection couture or ready-to-wear with a few new variations on the Chanel suit and in doing so, has kept the look contemporary and relevant.

Variations on the Chanel suit in Lagerfeld's couture collections from fall 2006 to spring 2010 (photos: style.com)

double jacket weather

It seems that in the depths of freezing northeastern winter, when I am most in need of fashion advice, too many fashion blogs have traveled south leaving me to fend off the cold in clashing sweaters and multiple colored vests. The Sartorialist and Garance Dore are in Rio or Milan where highs are in the 40s which equivalent to spring in New England. For Zanita, it’s summer in Australia. Even those blogs located in cold countries like England and Denmark seem to be dressing for 50 degree weather. See below from Copenhagen Street Style.

That will keep you warm for 10 minutes max in a Copenhagen winter. There is no way I walk out in leggings or one layer pants in 20 degree weather. Please. Does being stylish mean that you have to look cold too? (via Copenhagen Street Style)

While I as still mastering the art of layering, a few people figured out a double jacket look that is badass and probably decently warm. When my friend Sarah came to visit me in Boston in November, she wore a tweed vintage Armani or Valentino fall coat (she also got this for under $40 on ebay) with a light velvet cinched at the waist jacket beneath. Her style decisions seem especially smart later in the night when I was huddling under a thin silk scarf because all I had worn beneath a down jacket was a short sleeve t-shirt.

I think it takes a certain amount of thoughtfulness and creativity to pull of the “double jacket”. It seems contrasting material and fit between the two jackets works aesthetically and is versatile because it gives two looks in one. At the same time, there are jackets that would never quite work. For example, most down jackets look so much like an outer shell that whatever you wear beneath is seen as separate outfit entirely.

While I have not found any inspiring double jacket combinations in my closet, I love idea because I can transform the things I wear in early fall/late spring/summer nights into something that has potential to keep me warm during dark Massachusetts winters. Some example below.

A bit more subtle. The inner and outer jackets drape off her body in a similar way which is nice. (via The Sartorialist)

Okay, so maybe she is not that warm, but she's not freezing either. Denim and leather is kind of obvious but it looks good. (via Stockholm Street Style)

design for flu season

It’s strange that I have not had a serious fever for so long (middle school? elementary school?) that I thought I was immune. Obviously this is not the case since I am officially in ‘self-isolation’ mode for flu at the moment.

The best things to come out of this experience so far are 1 – I’m being asked to drink ginger ale and 2 – super sweet disposable thermometers from 3M. Given the terrible state of hospital decor (terrible patterned/textured draperies, gloomy lighting, strange spotted linoleum), the 3M thermometers were the sole bright spot in my afternoon at MIT medical yesterday.

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The red dots turn to blue dots are the thermometer goes into your mouth. Each line is a degree (i.e. 95, 96) and each dot is a .2 degree increment. The blue dots are filled in more uniformly when it first comes out of your mouth.

Sleek, compact, and legible. 3M is doing it all with Tempa.DOT.  This makes me want to take my temperature every 4-6 hours like they said.

fashion, it is irrelevant

I am putting off Chinese homework, diagramming the uses of my building, reskimming S,M,L,XL (a canonical architecture book), scanning for thesis because I just received The Sartorialist by Scott Schumann. It is the first compilation of his work as a street style photographer and it is a bible, treasure chest, a gem, an encyclopedia, a wunderkabinett of style . Too many cheesy words come to mind.

I discovered The Sartorialist the summer after freshman year in college and it has since held my absolute loyalty and respect. Within the first week of discovery, I had gone through 2 years worth of the blog’s archives. There was some inexplicable magic in Schumann’s photographs that revealed the thoughtfulness and true skill with which these people dressed, but also conveyed, somehow, that good style was easily within reach. I remember thinking “Of course, I can do this too”. Over the course of the summer, I went from being superficially interested in fashion to completely being fascinated by the details and grammar of style.

Studying the diverse range of Schumann’s photos gave me a language with which to understand style. Suddenly  I realized that a good outfit which I previously understood as a lucky, magical set of matching clothing, could be dissected into the choice of proportions, choice of fabric/texture, and choice of color (there is much more variety than you think). Schumann’s work has been and still is one of the greatest influences on my ever changing ideas about ‘good style’. The magnitude of his influence is up there with St. Andrew’s preppiness, a handful of fantastically and individualistically dressed friends and the T style magazine.

Despite my complete admiration for his work, I do have some criticism. After two years of following the blog,  I find the proportions and silhouettes he captures too repetitive  and his photos compositionally look too much the same. Ironically, someone who does these two things very well is his girlfriend, Garance Dore, who constantly shocks me with the beauty of her images. What Schumann does consistently well, and better than any other blog, is capturing the texture of clothing. It’s obvious that he is obsessed with it and if you look closely enough, his blog is an encyclopedia of matching textures, contrasting textures, unexpected textures, everything textured.

Below is a few excerpts from Schumann’s book of my favorite ‘texture’ photos. (Sorry for the terrible quality. In fact, I’m not sure you can see any texture at all. This will be fixed later.)

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Giorgio Armani. To pull of monotone is all about getting the weight of the materials right.

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(Right) Rubber, cotton, knit, tweed, silk, canvas. He's got it all.

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(Right) This is probably my favorite. I love the lightness of the shirt dress in contrast with the kind of bag I would normally categorize as a 'winter' bag. It's perfect because the thick texture of the bag makes her shirt seem even more weightless.

A soft, fitting cotton/synthetic turtleneck with an extremely structured skirt. It's unexpected and beautiful.

(Left)A soft, fitting cotton/synthetic turtleneck with an extremely structured skirt. It's unexpected and beautiful.

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(Right) A heavy jacket with smooth light + pajama looking pants.

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(Right) Denim vest and tweed jacket? That is daring. And corduroy pants on top of that!

fashion and/or architecture

It is both frightening and exhilarating that after 6 continuous semesters under the constraints and demands architecture studio, we will next year be designing our thesis, an entity completely of our own ideas and obsessions. This fall we have started to define, research, and edit our interests, architectural and otherwise, into the beginnings of a thesis. Under the guidance of Yung Ho Chang, the head of the MIT architecture department, the thesis prep class has taken on a more architectural/physical angle than in recent years past. His approach has been a source of debate. In Yung Ho’s mind, a design thesis goes like this: define an architectural/material/physical question that interests you, then from the exploration of that architecture some greater idea, purpose, “world benefit” emerges. But some prefer the reverse: an idea that is realized through architecture. To me, the emphasis on physicality/materiality is a good and useful constraint that (hopefully) leads to more thoughtful design rather than the long, convoluted discourse that too often results in lukewarm architecture.

Perhaps I enjoy Yung Ho’s approach because the only constraint I gave myself at the beginning of the semester was to avoid any serious social, political, environmental, economic issue in my thesis and his assignments never asked me to put my ideas in a more ‘worldly’ context. Our first assignment was to define our thesis in three words: a critique on what exists (RESTRICTIVE), a physical material (SOFT), and one other word (ENERGY).  Explanation – My thesis questions whether building materials can be something besides the typical concrete, steel, glass, brick, wood. The almost universal use of ‘hard’ materials is restrictive to how we experience spaces and the kind of architecture we create. An alternative is textile or ’soft’ architecture which can provide a different way to think about space and also a new way to incorporate the technical needs (energy, ventilation, insulation) of a building and its users.

The turning point for my enthusiasm for my thesis was when Yung Ho suggested that fashion could be incorporated into my work somehow. Since then it has infused itself into all aspects of my thesis. For the first draft of our thesis proposal, we turned in a page with three words (above) and three phrases with three explanatory sentences as well as a page of sketches. Here are some excerpts:

1) Tool+ Method for initial research into our thesis
Re-stitching the Membrane – Can the fashion industry’s innovative use of textiles inspire architects to think beyond a thin membrane roof?

fashion

The idea is that I will actually create (scaled down) clothing that explores a variety forms. This is partially an architectural exploration into rethinking how ventilation, enclosure, energy amongst other things can be enhanced/reimagined with textiles, and partially a practical necessity to be familiar with sewing/patterning/(laser)cutting fabric.

2) Site for the building
Softscape/Hardscape – Hunts Point and Bruckner Avenue, Bronx, NY and/or Near Fordham University, Bronx, NY

The decision to site the building in the Bronx is completely arbitrary. It is driven solely by my desire to actually learn about the borough where I grew up but never knew. Both sites are near commercial centers in the Bronx, but the Fordham site would be an infill while Hunts Point is more free form. Perhaps both sites will be used as a way to explore the adaptability of a textile enclosure to different site conditions. Obviously siting in the Bronx brings up issues of contrast between softscape and hardscape and maybe issues of textiles as effective building security.

3) Program is architecture jargon for building use
House of Street Style – The popularity of low cost, well designed clothing from stores like H&M and the omnipresence of street style photo blogs have ‘democratized’ fashion and challenged notions of fashion as a top-down system.

The building has three uses: one part clothing exchange store, one part concept store, one part workshop.

exchange

The exchange store is in essence a thrift store, but people receive store credit for the clothes they bring in, so it is more of a barter system than a commercial store. The clothing would be curated to some extent, so that only the ones worth keeping are in the store (i.e. not Salvation Army, more Beacon's closet). The clothing collection would begin before the store opening and for the first week after opening, the clothes are displayed as an exhibit of Bronx style. Exchange happens afterwards.

feedback

The concept store is for a brand heavily worn by Bronx residents to publicize and get feedback for the newest lines of their clothing. They would also be the main financial source of the whole project (if it were real). Brands like North Face, Nike, Ecco, Adidas, Timberland etc. etc.

skills

In the spirit of the innovative textile building, the workshop also teaches about working with interesting textiles and hopefully provide underprivileged aspiring fashion designers with skills that would be difficult to get elsewhere.

As much as I would love to dwell in the world of intersections between textiles, fashion, and architecture, it’s now time to do real research + cataloging and actually create these articles of architectural clothing I keep talking about. But on the blog, at least I can continue to dwell in this conceptual architecture/fashion world and talk about how Yung Ho completely floors me every week with his extensive knowledge of contemporary architecture, how I have come to have more appreciation for Rei Kuwakabo’s clothes, the mind-blowing book from MoCA’s exhibition Skin + Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture, and the pretty badass blog, Street Etiquette, about Bronx influenced style. To be totally honest, I could forget all the architecture and just do the fashion…..

the highline revisited

Our project for the final undergraduate studio this year is titled ‘The Museum of Unnatural History’ and is sited on the High Line in New York.  More on the strange title will come later. Our studio is heading to New York tomorrow to see the High Line + other projects in New York. What  I love about traveling with professors is that they always have some in on tours and info. This time, it will be tours by members of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Field Operations, the two firms that co-designed the project.

The High Line during its period of disuse and neglect resulted in something beautiful and unurban. The juxtaposition is so strange that it looks like a photshopped image.

The High Line during its period of disuse and neglect resulted in something un-urban and quite beautiful.

This trip will be my fourth visit to the site, but this time through a more architectural and rigorous lens. Over the summer, I fell in love with the project and wrote about it as part of unpublished blog entry called ‘summer favorites’ (unpublished because it seems cheesy?).  Hopefully, I will come back from with a more balanced, critical view of the project, and its the success and inefficiencies.

One of the features that make Europe feel distinctly different from the U.S. is its omnipresent public space.  Barcelona felt like a endless series of plazas and Monselice’s square in a town of 12,000 in Italy, is buzzing with life on a weekend summer night.   After spending four weeks wandering, eating, sleeping in campos, campiellos, plazas, and ramblas, I was glad to have the High Line awaiting me when I returned to New York.

In fact, I had been waiting for the High Line since its MoMA exhibition years ago. The project was less than I expected but more stunning than I could have imagined. Architecturally, it is designed in every detail. DS+R invented a system that allows them to do everything they need for the project. My disappointments are only those differences between the subtle beauty of the renderings and the practicalities of real construction, and also that it is only a few blocks long at the moment.

The real beauty of the High Line is its spatial (sectional) relationship with New York. There exists no other place like it in the city. There are few things as surreal and beautiful as seeing people walking in the sky in Manhattan. From the street below, the pedestrians seem weightless as if they’ve defied the gravitational laws of New York. This feeling of surrealism derives from the fact that the city for many New Yorkers is a (under)ground level universe. The vertical real estate of Manhattan is an exclusive commodity usually reserved for those individuals who can pay to live there or work in places that can afford it. But even then New York is seen behind glass or from the stagnant view of a balcony, never traversing intersections in the open air like you do on the High Line. In the end, it  feels more ‘public’ than ground-level public parks  because it gives access to a previously exclusive and privately owned vertical dimension of  New York. What is also impressive is that the architecture is never a distraction. The design stays quiet without lacking complexity and power,  encouraging the public to experience the city in a way it never has before.

– August 2009

The High Line today with the tapering concrete strips and wild looking plants.

The High Line today with the tapering concrete strips and wild looking plants.


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