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28 February 2011


These are some sketches I did while in Europe this summer that I have yet to actually scan and post. I used a straight object to mark out the vanishing points but everything else is freehand.

8 House by BIG Architects in Copenhagen. Pencil and India ink on newsprint - 9" x 11".

VM Houses by BIG Architects in Copenhagen. Pencil and India ink on bristol board - 9" x 11".

Street along the river in Cologne, Germany. I was sitting in the grass drinking for this one. Pencil on newsprint - 9" x 14"

Bayer Headquarters by Hurphy/Jahn near Munich, Germany. Pencil, India ink, and watercolor on cotton rag paper - 10" x 7".

Visit a Tomato Farm in Florida

During the winter holidays I visited the tomato farm where my uncle works. It's in southern Florida near Naples/Ave Maria. If I remember right it's roughly 10 square miles of land.

The plants are grown in very sandy and level fields surrounded by drainage canals. Some fields are drip irrigated and others are flooded.The soil is ploughed into raised beds and fertilized at the same time. Then they're covered in a plastic wrap to keep the fertilizer in and so they don't erode. Stakes are driven in and string is strung between them for the vines to grow on. Finally seedlings are placed and take about 2-3 months before they bear fruit. Each plant can be picked three times but each successive picking yields lower quality tomatoes.

When the alligators in the surrounding canals get to about 6'-7', such as this one is, they're "harvested." They were surprisingly skittish.

This reflective film is supposed to keep away bugs. The view literally went on for miles.

All the farm heads keep a private garden on the outskirts that are planted with cabbage, peppers, bell peppers, cilantro, etc. Everything grows at a greatly accelerated rate here because it's essentially a semi-hydroponic system powered by Florida sun.

This station filters and adds nutrients to the water. A computer does all the work and keeps tabs on everything. They know down to the penny how much of each fertilizer they're putting in every acre. Every aspect of the site is like a long term experiment.

There's also an uneasily fanatic drive towards cleanliness. Every day all the buckets are rinsed in a mild chlorine solution. Any plant that a bird defecates on is marked and anything within a 5' radius cannot be picked... it's some sort of regulation. I wonder if the scared public/lawmakers realizes that bird poo is fertilizer?

This is my uncle's solar powered shipping container tool shed/man cave.

Workers use a pneumatic air gun to press wooden stakes into the raised beds - all day long.

I felt kind of weird pointing my camera at people that I didn't even talk to. This machine is ploughing the raised beds and adding (I believe) the P value of the fertilizer (which always consists of a N-P-K mix).

The beds have to be covered quickly with plastic because the fertilizer is gaseous.

Drip irrigation costs more but yields are higher per acre as compared to flooding which requires big drainage canals every so often. Again, they can quote the cost of all this stuff per acre down to pennies and give you a back of the napkin cost benefit of plant variety, season, area of the farm, and what course of action should be taken - it's fascinating in the way that watching anyone who's good at what they do is always interesting.

Sand hill cranes. They're huge! Those are people size.

They allow a bee keeper to keep hives on their land even though tomatoes don't need pollination. There were over 20 hives.

They grow rounds, ugly (their own variety), and plum tomatoes. Here workers are picking plums and being paid by the basket; I forget how much they get paid, somewhere around 25 to 50 cents per basket and each one takes about 2 or 3 minutes to pick and haul. The foreman (the guy who's pouring the basket into the truck) gives them a token for each basket picked and the workers usually jog back to their picking spot. Every few minutes the trucks move down the isles to keep pace with the workers. They pick them green so they don't bruise prior to being sold.

Again with the hygiene - here's a mobile hand washing station.

The laborers are actually contracted out and run by someone else. The foreman owns the buses and sets the wages. The farm pays by weight picked so there's an interesting exchange there where if the yield is bad the workers may not get on the bus and essentially work harder for less, or of course the opposite can be true.

27 February 2011

Writer's Theatre

My studio embarked on a one week charett to design a 250 person theater in Glencoe, IL. My professor, Thomas Roszak, is among those submitting proposals.

These are my drawings:

And a few of the renderings:

The walls are curving cast in place concrete that radiate from a central point - the theater. To the left is an outdoor auditorium that adjoins a park. The entrance is the opening to the right.

This is a view of the entrance. There are small openings where the ceiling touches the wall to provide a light wash on the rough concrete walls.

This was all modeled in Rhino and rendered with the Maxwell Rendering plug-in for Rhino.
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Why Do Architects Geek Out Over Furniture?

Seriously, my school has a chair collection in the library. It's a relationship I don't fully understand. This is the first in a (hopefully) long series of projects that I've documented and not posted in the last few months.

So a while back I offered to make any of my friends tables and the like if they'd pay for supplies. One person, Joe, actually followed through. My first design for his coffee table is here, and the principle was to make a form that would map the flow of forces that the table would experience when loaded. I'm still somewhat interested in making that table when I'm bored but in the mean time I decided to come up with a new concept for Joe's table.

Part of being a 20-something year old these days is moving a lot, so I thought the table should be able to break down, but it should be solid too. I really dislike tables that wobble and look feeble; the finished product weighs about 50 or 60 pounds. Quality plywood, in this case Baltic birch plywood, comes in sheets that are 5' x 5' so I designed the pieces to minimize waste. The scrap was used as blocking so that clamps wouldn't scar the table.

The final dimensions were about 42" long x 26' wide x 18" tall. The proportions are close to the golden ratio while still maintaining the same height and 2/3 the length of the couches it resides next to.

The different colors represent the different pieces of the table. They're laid out to make single cuts on the table saw easier/possible.

The legs are held in by friction. They're tight enough not to wobble but can be pulled out for moving.

This is after the first coat of polyurethane.

This is a time lapse of some of the construction (about 2 min).

24 February 2011


This is my favorite Egyptian protester sign.

(Via The New York Times)

This one is interesting in the way that the numbers add up. If you're into chess 32 on the pawn side vs 31 on the other. Although I'm thinking it'd be nearly impossible to beat the pawns given their layout.

(Hat Tip: Kevin H.)

Holy Shit They're People Too?

Debate Problem:

Without using religious/god references (because we're a "religiously free country") how is it possible to defend being opposed to gay marriage without admitting prejudice?

It's cool I'll wait.

Yet supposedly all Americans care about right now is getting jobs. “People that don’t focus on pocketbook issues are frittering away their 15 minutes of attention.” - Fred Sainz

Barack Obama speaking on gay marriage:

“I struggle with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about.”

21 February 2011

Kurzweil Reading

Time has a decently long piece on Raymond Kurzweil - he's the inventor and futurist who's interested in life extension and large time scale predictions. I've been interested in him for a while now.

Also came across this organization from the article... seasteading, interesting. Piratebay.org almost bought a place a few years ago called Sealand that would have made them a sovereign nation or something. Interesting idea anyways.

Architectural TED Talks

Here's an interesting portfolio site that's trying to dematerialize portfolios called first-stop.org. There's some really great graphic work on there too.

I visited this guys firm over the summer in Copenhagen. It was pretty magical. He and some friends kind of founded the firm by accident. Him and some friends entered several design competitions in their "free time" while working at another office. They won all of them and had to basically quit their jobs and hire-up.

06 February 2011

Amazon Prime

I've been meaning to write about this for a while now. Amazon is an interesting beast to me; they didn't turn a profit for the first few years like so many dot coms, their website is very confusing and Yahoo like (see: the antithesis of Google), but at the same time they're undercover innovators.

Case in point - Amazon did some research and found that for every extra 0.1 seconds longer it took for a webpage to load their revenue went down by 1%. It makes a difference when, if I'm reading this right, you gross about $36 billion a year. They also have the Kindle which, in its current incarnation, is the first serious challenger to print. I really do mean that.

Now, what I really want to talk about - Amazon Prime. For $79 per year (about $6.50 a month) you can get free 2 day shipping on any purchase or pay $4 for overnight delivery. At first I balked at the notion, but they offer a free 1 year trial, so I figured why not? In a short period of time it changed the way I went about purchasing everyday items. So what? I now buy things from Amazon that I never would have before. Why go down the street and pay tax (over 10% in Chicago) to get one or two things when I can order it with a much greater ease, far larger selection, better price, has reviews, and get it the day after the next for essentially free? Amazon is taking market share from physical stores. They're essentially eroding barriers to online purchases. Less wait = more purchases.

Every dollar Amazon gets from a customer is another dollar Walmart and Walgreens isn't getting. Dollars are votes.

So why this photo?

I was a little confused when this over-sized box that held a single small item showed up in the mail room. It seems like such a waste, but the real waste is a brick and mortar store with lots of lights, heating and cooling, maintenance, people who work there full time, cash registers, shopping bags, the parking lots that serve them, you owning a car so you can get there, the larger urban spaces that are needed to house all this stuff, etcetera. When I walk around Chicago and see all the empty storefronts I wonder if it's due to the current economic situation or if it's an actual shift in the way we purchase goods. My guess would be a fair dose of the latter.

01 February 2011

An Architect That Can (Still) Draw

My uncle is a landscape architect in southwestern Florida with Grady Minor Associates, so I thought I'd visit his office while I was there. His niche, as far as I can tell, is that he hand drafts and renders - that is, the man can draw. Almost no one does this in architecture so I assume it's somewhat rare in landscape too. He uses Autocad and Photoshop aside from drawing but generally only at the back end of the design. For the most part iterations are done free hand. What I find interesting is that clients specifically request him because of the way he works - which isn't all that surprising to me but is of course counter to so much of what I learn in school.

An entire wall plastered with plans and sections on trace paper.

This rendering (about 2' x 3') took him about 20 hours - about the same as a computer if not less.