Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day trip to Dresden

Tuesday we got up to catch a two hour train to Dresden. In the morning we visited Coop Himmelbau's UFA Cinema center and Behnisch's Grammar School and then spent the afternoon at Theater platz grand city center. Coop Himmelbau's cinema was one of his earlier projects, which justified the lack of detail development. The design was created before there were advanced computer programs to generate complex forms and connections. The form was very angular made with steel and glass. I took some pictures of the strange connections for lessons on what not to do. There were many unresolved intersections and most of the steel seemed overscaled for the space.

Then we headed to Behnisch's Grammar School. I enjoyed this building because there were some interesting gathering spaces created around the stairwells. Circulation was the main component that added more quality to the building where natural light flooded into the spaces. The school also had an interesting roof terrace that included green space for an outdoor classroom, the glass top of the stairwell core, and solar panels.

We all went to have lunch together at a shnitzel place. It was the first time we all sat down and ate lunch together as a class. The food was great. After finishing up lunch we headed to the Theater platz. As we were passing by plazas that were surrounded with opera houses, churches, palaces, and museums I was convienced that these Baroque style buildings were really old. The heavy masonry facade's weathering revealed an aging. Soon after we started our tour of the Opera House, we learned that these buildings were shortly over 20 years old. I was extremely disappointed, but impressed because they fooled me. The exterior facade was made with a local material, sand stone, that turned black overtime; making the building to appear older than it really is. Most of the interior materials were rendered as paintings. Instead of actually applying a material, they painted the texture of wood, marble, stone, and gold onto the wall. The quality of the craft was impressive. I don't know if you could consider this to be similar to Shinkel's use of trompe l'oeil (French for 'trick the eye') which is a technique used to create an optical illusion (wikapedia). The German's really enjoy this style of painted materials for their baroque interiors. It is actually more expensive to have these materials rendered as a painting than using the actual material. Although they are mostly used for aesthetics, the wood texture was painted on clay for fire prevention. I find the use of paintings rather than authentic materials to be disappointing, but I admire the craftsmanship.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


"Oh baby, do you know know what that's worth? Oh Heaven is a place on Earth. They say in Heaven, love comes first, well make a place on Earth. Oh Heaven is a place on Earth."

Topographies of Terror

We began the day with walking to the Topographies of Terror which was on the same street of our apartments. Before we experienced the memorial, Dr. Etheridge sat us for a discussion. We had a long 'lecture' of all of the terrible things that happened during the Nazi regime on the grounds we were sitting on. The monument for the Topographies of Terror, which was previously known as 'no man's land', was recently completed because of the heated debate and contraversy on how to memorialize something that the German's wanted to be forgotten. Before WWII, these grounds were used to interrogate and torture people. The S.S. men controlled prisoner cells located underground where they captured victims that opposed Hitler's 'perfect race'. The torturing was known to be horrific compared to some of the things that happened at concentration camps. The S.S. men would beat them, break their arms and legs and rip their hair and fingernails until they confessed or were convienced of their incompatiblity. The majority of the prisoners were Jews, which were quickly sent to concentration camps, but there were also many homosexuals, drunks, gamblers, and mentally handicap. The public could hear the screams and crys for help as they passed by these torturing cells, but they accepted these horrific disciplinary actions and were brainwashed to believe these people deserved it because they were considered inferior, subhuman, or evil. After learning about all the terrible things that happened there, we were able to walk around and see the remains of the cold and darks underground cells and also the museum exhibition. While I went through the exhibit, I started to get sick to my stomach after seeing picture after picture of the way the S.S. men treated these prisoners. There were images showing people hanging from trees in the streets, cut up body parts, piles of dead corps laying low in the ground, and many other terrible things. Most of these prisoners were humiliated by wearing a sign around their necks that illustrated their inferiority, like the scarlet letter. There was no second chances or hope of escaping for these people. These Nazi men were cruel and relentless. Although all of these images were heart breaking, the most emotional turning point for me was seeing the S.S. and Gestapo men in their pristine uniforms parade around these people laughing and enjoying themselves. It is hard for me to believe that man is capable of inflicting so much pain without any remorse. It is also scary to acknowledge it only took about 1,000 men to almost whip out an entire race. There ability to gain so much power was extraordinary because the Germans (whether prisoners or anti-Nazi) were competely helplessness. The message of all of these memorials from the Nazi regime is what lessons can be learned from the most terrible period during world history. In the afternoon we went to visit the Jewish Museum designed by Daniel Libeskind. Mr. Caldwell was all gitty when we arrived because he use to work for Daniel Libeskind and knew a lot about this museum. We got the benefit of learning an extensive amount of information. The floor plan of this building is a zig zag, which is not evident from the exterior. The exterior makes a profound statement with the windows that resemble scars and gashes in the facade. It's internal experience has a distingable theme of disorientation. The floor is on a double slope (in two directions) and there is little clarity to navigating around the circulatory paths. The museum is not meant to be experienced in an chronological order because it is about discovering the struggle and instablity of the Jews. I found the garden of the exils to be biggest struggle to walk around. The ground was on a harsh slope to where I could feel the gravity pushing me against the back wall. The main exhibits were experienced through weaving path along the zig zag where the scar like windows were revealed in various places. I enjoyed learning more about the Jewish religion and the reasonings for antisemitism. The exhibitions cleared up a few questions I had about why Jewish people have always been distinguished. Overall, the museum served as a constant reminder of the disorientation the Jewish people experienced along with their struggles and loss of identity.

Phenomenological Experience

We spent the majority of the day traveling back to Berlin. On our way we stopped in Wolfsburg to visit Zaha Hadid's Phaeno Museum and two buildings by Alvar Aalto. I enjoyed the form of Zaha Hadid's museum, but there were many disappointments the closer we got to the building. The form work was done with self compacting concrete which in many places didn't cure properly. We were told that this building served as an experiment for self compacting concrete in which the experiment failed. It is probably not evident in the photograph, but there are many plugs that were inserted into the concrete to release excess water and sealed cracks. The exterior was definitely more appealing than the interior. The foundation behind most of Zaha's buildings is form follows function, but I find that there was a lot of wasted space most of her forms. The problem with buildings that are more form based is there are a lot of unresolved details and finishings.
I was most excited about visiting Alvar Aalto's buildings because I have closely studied some of his works. This past year I applied for a traveling fellowship scholarship and he was one of the architects I planned on traveling to study. He is a Finnish architect that is well known for preserving an architecture that offers phenomenological experiences. The spaces he creates evoke a sensual awareness of space. In Wolfsburg, we visited the Cultural Center and Heilig-Geist Kirche. Both of these buildings offered a profound experience of space where a beautiful use of natural light is revealed. The way natural light alluminated these spaces was captivating. Every space we experienced was pleasant with little emphasis on the heirarchical values. He considered every element of the design of significant value where the transition from a hallway to a conference room were both well alluminated. Aside of natural lighting, he also uses vernacular materials. The columns and railing for the stairwell resembled trees in the forest. He has a beautiful was of blending the transition from exterior to interior; where the user remains intimately connected with nature as they experience the spaces. All of these elements create a phenomenological experience of space.

After finishing these tours, we hopped back on the bus and continued to head back to Berlin. We only had about 2 hours left of traveling. It felt good to get back 'home'. I was ready not to live out of a bad anymore, and have internet access.

Fast & Furious

We started off our first full day in Stuttgart with visiting the Porche Museum and Mercedes Benz Museum. The Porche Museum was designed by Delugan Meissl Associated Architects and the Mercedes Benz Museum was designed by UN Studio. I found Mercedes Benz to be my favorite because I enjoy most of UN Studio’s work. Both projects were complicated designs to show off the company’s wealth, success, and well known reputation. They also acted as good marketing through the exotic experience of car showrooms. By the end of touring both of the museums I really wish I had one of their elite car models; which was never a previous interest or desire of mine. The exterior of the Porche Museum is a heavy prism form appearing to stand on 5 legs, but only 3 are structural and the other 2 are for circulation. The faƧade was made of a reflective material that illuminated the underbelly of the structure; drawing the user inside the building. Nearly the entire interior was clad in corian. It was an open environment with colliding geometries that helped lead you through the entire building. I was impressed with the precision and craft of the form work along with the well resolved angular intersections. All of the structural components were well hidden where in other buildings you may find funky and unattractive details. The Mercedes Benz design was centered on circulation which was organized around a double helix. There was a continuous ramp along the exterior of the helix and where they crossed one another located their show rooms. The spiral ramp wrapping around the showrooms had a similar concept of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York. The programmatic organization spiraled around a central atrium which chronologically unfolded the evolution of Mercedes Benz cars. I was impressed with how well the organization worked as a continuous experience of the space, but yet allowing one to split off onto various paths. I found the spaces to be quite interesting and experiential. Late in the afternoon we visited the Weissenhoff Settlement & Museum where the multi-family housing complexes designed by Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, and Peter Behrens were located. These multi-family complexes were in high demand after WWII.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

weekend adventure 2

This is where I'm spending my weekend in Austria. Im still working on uploading pictures from the past week. Sorry, it takes forever and I'm OCD about it...that's the architecture student in me. Anyways...Ill be caught up by the end of the weekend...It's it beautiful!!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Beautiful Landscape

This morning we left Munich early to head to Stuttgart. Throughout our traveling we rode along the Austrian and Swiss border where we got to see a beautiful landscape of mountains and rolling hills covering with trees, fields of crops, and small villages. These villages were densely packed with cottages that laid low in the valleys and some along the mountain side. It was a foggy morning where the fog sat low on the mountain tops. The fog emphasized the depth of the layers in the mountains where they began to fade into the background. The village looked so inviting with their smoke stacked chimneys and church steeples rising above the fog. The cottages were all made of white stucco and tan ceramic tiled rooftops; each of various shapes and sizes. Surrounding the villages were rows of crops among the rolling hills which added an interesting pattern to the rural landscape. The composition of these patterns can be described as a quilted landscape that was patched together. We also saw many barns, pastures of cows, and people riding horses. In between these villages were grassy meadow fields with large wind turbines subtly appearing in the background. After seeing all of that, we passed through the Black Forest. Everything I saw was picturesque; I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the beautiful landscape. I tried to capture the experience through pictures, but a frozen image does not illustrate the immeasurable beauty of this rural landscape. I thought about my family the hold time because I know they would have loved to see it all. I’ve decided that it would be a good idea to design my parent’s retirement home somewhere nearby.

After being mesmerized by my surroundings, we finally arrived at our first destination, the Vitra Campus. It’s location can be compared to the ark-la-tex; except dealing with countries: France, Germany, and Switzerland. The Vitra Campus is a large company that sells and produces designer furniture, primarily chairs. On their campus was a museum designed by Frank Gehry that exhibited the original designs, a Buckminster Fuller dome, a conference hall designed by Taado Ando, a fire station designed by Zaha Hadid, and their most recent completed addition was a large showroom designed by Herzog & de Meuron to feature their latest products. There is currently a building under construction that was designed by SANNA.

All of these architects are have one the Pitzker Prize (annual architectural design award). Vitra’s vision was simply to have these famous architectural works to act as individual objects of attraction. The combination of all of these famous architectural designs was like an ‘Architecture Disneyland’. I enjoyed seeing most of the projects; but I found the randomness and inconsistency of the overall campus aesthetic to be disturbing. We got to see a lot of fun and unique chair designs.
At the end of the day we went to visit the Hohenzollern Castle. The Hohenzollern family is the Prussian royal family of Germany’s former empire. This castle was every castle little girl’s dream ‘princess’ castle. It sat on the top of mountain, standing tall and peaking above the clouds on a cloudy day. It was authentically gorgeous with elegant ornamentation, and interestingly still owned by the Prussian Prince Georg Hohenzollern who is only 34 and single. I think I found my future plans; I just need to become an aristocrat somehow. I don’t need to say much more because the pictures will speak for themselves.