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10x10x10 Recap 09.29.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Reviews.
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D+A Studios San Juan Chanel House

D+A Studio's San Juan Chanel House

Well, another year and another 10x10x10 has passed.  It was a great time and a great venue.  (Confidential to no one: SPL Downtown is one of the most interesting pieces of architecture standing.)  A quick recap of the night’s highlights:

D+A Studios presented the home of their principal, Anne Hamilton.  Unique about this context driven project on San Juan Island: sustainability through program adaptation.  As the family changes, the building is flexible enough to accommodate new relationships.

Batt + Lear let us into their own home as well, in the midst of renovation.  They brought up an ominous foam insulation debate that has been going on in the NWEBG circle and showed us their plan to heat their home with…a $360 water heater.  Inspirational, and we’ll be interested to see if it works, come next year.

SMR Architects showed us the Kenyon House, green housing for the homeless in South Seattle.  Crazy that green has gotten into public projects given the overall initial cost.  We guess that these projects probable only happen in places like Seattle.  Christina Bollo did a great job of demonstrating that delegation between lots of disparate parties (the City, subcontractors, consultants, neighbors) is hard work, but really does work.

These highlights aside, the evening made it clear that green building is still based on run of the mill checklists.  Presenters were content, in a crowd of industry professionals to list off the fact that their homes had radiant heat, grey water recycling, or native plants.  Native plants?  C’mon.  These are all no brainers.  The projects that stood out were those that did something new, different, or (if you had radiant heat run off an old clunker of a water heater), exceptional.  We worry that green building is being dumbed down to satisfy checklists disguised as certifications instead of doing what it was intended to achieve, buildings that allow inhabitants to live harmoniously with nature.

Ok, off the soapbox, it was evident the NWEBG is maturing nicely.  Jim Burton, the current president has given the guild an air of legitimacy that had been lacking for years.  And, if the 10x10x10 was any indication, he’s also brought in new members.  I’m looking forward to future events, and hopefully some more guild outreach.  Good job guys!


10x10x10 This Friday! 09.21.2009

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Seattle designers and builders will be interested to know that the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild is hosting it’s annual 10x10x10 slam this Friday, September 25th downtown at the Seattle Public Library.  10 presenters from right here in town are given 10 minutes to show 10 slides of their contribution to green building.  Also, if the event is anything like a couple years ago, it’s going to be a rowdy and wine-fueled free for all.  Is there drinking in the library?

List of presenters, here!

Tix, here!

NWEBG of Central Puget Sound, here!  Check out their monthly education classes, some interesting topics for professionals and homeowners alike.

Burning Man Shelters 09.14.2009

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While webcams at Burning Man are akin to the Fonz’s water skiing escapades, here’s a cool blog post with some of the shelters found in Black Rock City.

Thank you Tiny House Blog

Can you tell I’m hard at work on construction documents today?

Styrofoam Art 08.24.2009

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Don't you just want to cradle it?I was first introduced to the work of Matt Neyens at the esteemed Lighthouse Roasters here in Seattle.  Now, three years later, I have four favorite pieces hanging on my walls.  Each oil painting is a different perspective view of the same styrofoam packaging piece.

Initially what jumps out of each painting is the simple almost ‘pop’ depiction of subject.  Next, is the subject itself: styrofoam.  trash.  It is here that the work becomes deeper because the observer is faced with the questions of “Why?”

Styrofoam is not one of the more regularly depicted objects of the time (any regular visit to Etsy reveals hundreds of birds, power lines, ships, bears, wolves, trees, etc.) but it still elicits a nostalgic and emotional response.  I remember the childhood struggle to save styrofoam forms from the trash (where they never fit) through reuse; as building blocks to complement cushion forts or as massive spaces in which to deploy my Battle Beasts.  Somehow though, these big, light, clumsy objects always found their way (awkwardly) into the trash can.  I was faced with the truth that they were only good for their original use, to house the object that they contained.

Neyen’s work gives styrofoam a second respectable use, as subject.  He does so by depicting it as pure form through gray-scale planes and edges.  Variation in tint (especially in the edges) is subtle, drawing the careful observer into the work.  Looking deeper, we realize that these broad strokes that create edges must hide construction lines.  These drawings are in fact meticulously constructed in perspective.  Such construction transports his work out of the school of pop art and into something else.  Classical?  Architectural?  Perhaps both.

One thing is certain, the depth of Neyen’s catalog betrays his passion.  His work is not limited to styrofoam reproductions, nor oils.  A quick browse reveals renderings of containers, bottles, people, compact discs, and more of the most mundane everyday objects.  Artists performing this level of study are rare in today’s artistic age, where the market demands that work is made quickly so that it may be sold cheaply.  Neyen’s work is quality, and worth taking a look at.



The four perspectives at home

Reinmiller Veranda 08.17.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Portfolio.
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View from house

View from house

The clients wanted to enclose their favorite outdoor patio space so that they could enjoy their Cougar Mountain views year round.  A simple corrugated metal shed roof served as the perfect design solution.  The roof, which will eventually oxidize to a rustic finish is oriented to provide maximum shade during hot summer months but is tall enough to let a low sun in during winter.  The structure is composed of clear cedar posts, beams, and rafters.  Ornamentation is simple and discreet, relegated to cut beam ends and cast steel post to footing hardware.

Phase II work will consist of a custom outdoor fireplace.

View from interior

View from interior

View from yard

View from yard

What was Missed… 06.22.2009

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While we were in New York we missed another fine public art display from Free Sheep Foundation.  Blast.  These are the folks of Motel Motel Motel.  With installations by Bread and Buttress’ favorite local artists, Lead Pencil Studio and Awesome!, Moore Inside Out must have been stellar.  Anyone get there?

Stranger Article

Walking the High Line 06.22.2009

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An old railroad becomes a parkBread and Buttress was in upstate New York this past weekend to celebrate the nuptials of our college roommate.  Congrats to the Leaders!  We also had the good fortune of being able to spend a day in New York City which we filled with, you guessed it, pastries and architecture.

The focal point of this visit was the brand new High Line Park in Chelsea.  A long, linear park, its foundation is an old elevated rail line that runs for eight blocks, three stories above the pavement.  Gardens and walkways weave their way along the steel structure, mingling with the occassional railroad track or switch.  Paths are created with long and tapering precast concrete blocks, emphasizing the linear nature of the park.  Stopping points are plentiful (lounge chairs!) and allow for great views of the Hudson between Chelsea’s old brick warehouses.

The place was packed with people at 3pm on a Friday.  Most were doing as we were, satisfying their curiosity.  Though midst the gawkers, others were enjoying meals, romantically strolling, or getting exercise.  This place is getting some use!  Our plus one even remarked that it would be a great place for a wedding reception.

All in all, a successful project that does what a city park should, provide some nature and relaxation for its inhabitants while maintaining a connection to the urban fabric.  Chelsea is a great backdrop for the High Line, the old factories mixed with new eyepopping projects show the evolving dialog architects are having with the city.  (side note: some architects aren’t listening too well, while others have been more successful.)  The design team of the High Line gets it.  Props to DS+R et al.

Freshly planted garden should look nice in a few yearsDangerous curves ahead

Frank Gehry, look what you've done!Benches emerge from the pavers, slick.

Chelsea streetscapeTakeout from Donuts Lunchonette, Brooklyn.

Obvious Metaphors Afloat at Venice Biennale 06.15.2009

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American artist Mike Bouchet has a great idea for the Venice Biennale, but…


Take a moment and watch the Youtube vid.


Le Corbusier: A Life 06.01.2009

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It's the cover!We could write a lot of words about France’s most famous architect of the 20th century, a much-rued modernist who’s ideas still inform public housing and structural technology today.  And we certainly will write a lot about him over Bread and Buttress’ lifespan.  For now, let’s take a moment to plug a book about Le Corbusier by writer Nicholas Fox Weber.

But first, an aside.  From the start of their education, architects are taught a history of buildings and the personalities (mostly men but thankfully that is changing) that designed them.  This history not only a pretty comprehensive overview of the theories and methods for creating architectural space but also how to depict space so others (mostly architects and hopefully builders) can understand them.  Architects absorb this history and, in turn, become that history.  What seems to be lost in this history is the humanity of the personalities that have designed the world.  We seldom hear much about their other passions, their insecurities, their loves, their families.  This is unfortunate because all architects possess a life outside their work.  It is this life that ultimately informs their architecture above and beyond whatever broader notions govern their designs.  Moreso, knowing intimate details from the likes of Wright, Boromini, Olmstead, and others only serve as an example to young architects with lives of their own.  But, we’re getting too autobiographical…back to the book.

Weber succeeds in taking the reader into the mind of Le Corbusier allowing us to see what drives the man born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret.  While opinion registers a little too strongly in Weber’s assessment of the architect, he provides a breadth of information about the architect’s life that would be exhaustive if I didn’t admire the architect so much.

The largest source of documents that are available to Weber are letters, hundreds it seems, exchanged between Le Corbusier and his mother.  Weber paints an almost Freudian picture of their relationship: a son tirelessly vying for his mother’s affections; a man that can dominate all people in his life except his family.  The writing elegantly weaves these primary documents into the narrative of Le Corbusier’s chronology, giving us a means to identify the man behind the architect.  For a project that was to be one of his masterworks, Ronchamp, a chapel in rural France, Weber analyzes Le Corbusier’s relationship with his mother and the public via one such letter.  He writes:

Yes, it's a church.“The letter was both a boast and a supplication.  At [Ronchamp’s opening] ceremonies on Saturday‘, Le Corbusier told ‘ma chere Petite Maman,’ ‘Everything was cheer, beauty, spiritual splendor.  Your Le Corbusier was honored to the highest degree.  Considered.  Loved.  Respected.’
“Then he explained how delicate the situation was.  For Ronchamp was a revolutionary work of architecture – radical in its approach to the Catholic rites and ritual: ‘By my architecture,. Worship is raised to the highest degree, purified, restored to the Gospels.’ The best priests acknowledged this cheerfully.  The opposition did not.”
(Weber 685)

He was by no means a sensitive man, but rather one who was driven towards a goal.  There were few that would be able to impede his drive.  Although, we are told, ultimately he never felt as if he succeeded to the extent he desired.

This is a book for architects, specifically those infatuated as I am with his work.  Corbusier was a master of functional spaces that were more human in feel and proportion than most of his modernist successors.  He could also use concrete, heavy and cold, and create airy light filled rooms and weightless sensual rooflines.

It is also a book for anyone struggling against their world to create in the way that they know to be right.  When forces internal and external impede the mastering of a passion, one need only look at the life Le Corbusier lived and take note of the choices he made.  Not all his choices were the best, but that’s not the lesson.  The book offers a solid model of one artist’s path for the reader to judge and, hopefully learn from.  After all, here was a man, who only felt that he was beginning his life at 67 when he wrote an acquaintance:

Round glasses = architect.“Dear friend, I’m blooming or fructifying (as you choose).  I prefer blooming.  Blooming like an apple tree in spring.  For this is just what’s happened: if you live your life severely but strongly, youth comes to you, everything blooms.  Not a maturity, a harvest, but an authentic flowering.  Of course, this doesn’t keep my hair from falling out.” (Weber 625)

Rad.  For more on Le Corbusier check the links:

Foundation Le Corbusier

Great Buildings Online – a great source for his portfolio

Architect bio via Wikipedia

His visionary Unite d’habitation project in Marseille

Weber’s Bio at Random House

Sketching Golden Gardens 05.01.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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View in the North treesSeattle has a number of beautiful and unique parks.  I’m sure all of you have your favorites.  At the top of my list is Ballard’s Golden Gardens.  I was there on a recent Saturday reflecting on why the place is such a draw.

On any given sunny day, the park will fill with folks enjoying the saltwater beaches and picnic sites.  It’s a place for all ages and all activities.  Kiteboarding, weddings, frisbee, drum circles, sandcastles, bench sitting, cruising, dog parking, making out.  My best friend was married in its bath house and recently I’ve been attending underground culinary dinners in its more quiet corners.

I can’t say what draws other to the park, but for the architect in me it has always been one thing, rhythm.  The park possesses these distinct, rhythmic layers along it’s linear site.  Some are placed by man: the masts at Shilshole Marina, the bonfire spots, and the trees.  Others are natural: the profile of the Olympic Mountains, the waves, the trees.  Others (and this is my favorite) are always moving: people, trains, boats, clouds, tides.

Those sunny days are sensory overloads.  Those sunny days call me to the park.  Usually I find myself sketching trying to express the dynamic rhythms of the place.  Usually I fail.  I think someday I’ll get there because the park, always changing, stays interesting from one sunny season to the next.

How do you draw beach sand?  I'm frusterated.View looking towards the Olympics

For full res images please visit BnB’s Sketchbook.