Case Study 10

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Solar House

As we experience environments, both the built and natural environment, we must ask ourselves how these elements affect our human behavior. How might they represent a culture and create a deeper meaning to sense of sustainability?

At the University of Kentucky, we are prideful of the exploration students and faculty have taken upon themselves to conduct tremendous amounts of research and prototyping to create such installations as the Solar House. As humans we have the ability to alter the landscape both positively and negatively. The Solar House is a perfect example of a positive impact on a local level that has global repercussions. Each architectural element and material was diligently selected to create this totally sustainable structure. It represents not only forward thinking, but an ode to the past as it reaches back to nature and the unique connection to the local environment. The Solar House looks to the future in technology and furthers pushes the opportunities for sustainability on a local and global scale.

 

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Sense of Place

As we experience our environment, people are able to identify with sense of place. Being able to explore sense of place through design has lead to some interesting findings about how humans interact with space and how place relates to each individual. One large take away from the article “What is Sense of Place” written by Jennifer Cross, is the idea that people will either identify positively or negatively with a place. Some individuals may have an extremely positive experience with the community park while other may have a negative experience that continues to haunt them. These positive and negative thoughts carry through with each person and help them identify with place in the future. Sometimes individuals will interact with the environment to change or enhance their sense of place as they see fit. It is important for designers to be aware of human behaviors such as this. It can influence current design issues and design in the future. It is imperative as designers to think about all the end users of a space and how their experiences may differ between each individual. Our sense of place is made up of a combination of physical and social features. Essentially, we make up our own sense of place. The image below depicts a pathway through the Arboretum here in Lexington, KY. This images exemplifies users experiencing place and having both physical and social reactions. They were able to alter the environment, create pathways, that would enhance the experience of all users as they experience this place, creating deeper attachments to the community.

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Branded Environments

As we experience space, often times the environments that are the most memorable are the environments with strong branding strategies. Successful brands are able to implement their concept in almost every aspect of their company. Brands such as REI are known for their unique identity, as their branding concepts are carried through their products, store designs, and business practices. For those not familiar, Recreational Equipment, Inc, commonly known as REI is a retail and outdoor recreation services corporation. They sell anything from camping gear, sporting goods, to travel equipment and clothing. The REI brand is unique in the sense that they are able to stay true to their concept values. Truly unique is their ability to let their branding identity shine through as their clients experience their stores. With the use of elements and principles, the store designers consider the exterior as well as the interior experience. By bringing elements of texture, raw materials including woods, stone, and metal, users are able to gain immediate connection to the outdoors and natural environment.

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Branding can also be experienced through the principles of scale and proportion. The image below is an interior view of an REI location in Denver, CO. As you can see, there is emphasis upon a large climbing rock wall. Similar to outdoor travels, visitors can experience what it would be like to explore enormous rock formations and experience that relationship of human scale compared to the big open wilderness.

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Anthropometrics

Anthropometry is the scientific study of the measurements  and proportions of the human body. These measurements greatly influence architecture and design. With this vital information, the evolution of comfort status and craft is able to create innovative and dynamic designs. Anthropometrics also brings life to universal design. Universal design is the design for all, which encompasses ADA and beyond. The study of the proportions of the human body help better inform how designs can enhance comfort, functionality and accessibility.

Charles & Ray Eames have been on the forefront of innovative designs and the study of how the human body interacts with architecture and design. The classic Lounge Chair designed by Eames, addresses comfort, anthropometrics and ergonomics. The base is sleek and minimal to not hinder the functionality of the chair. Most commonly known for their manipulation of wood, the molded plywood is prominent in the Lounge Chair as it curves and forms to the human body. The seat base rests at the perfect seating position and allows users to recline to an appropriate angle to ensure the upmost comfort. The arms of the chair allow for users to rest their arms at the natural height while reclining. Likewise the head rest is at the perfect height for users to rest their head with ease. The ottoman also considers anthropometrics as it is slightly lower than the seat base to ensure comfort while users are propping up their feet.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has various levels of needs that when you obtain each level you are then able to reach self-actualization. The first Level of need consists of Physiological needs such as food and water. The image on the left of various fruits, is a source of survival. A basic human need for all. Not until the second level of needs does Maslow introduce as Safety. The image on the right shows a thatched roof hut, vital for shelter and safety. At the basic level, there is no need of lavish furnishings and finishes. The hut shelter creates privacy, warmth and comfort from the harsh elements of nature. Materials such as straw and hardened earth or mud are used to construct the walls and roof structure. The large opening allows light and fresh air to enter the space. The finishes and furnishings inside would probably be consistent of the materials used on the exterior. The fruit and the hut, demonstrate Maslow’s first 2 levels of Needs, Physiological and Safety.

Stewart Brand

Stewart Brand poses the question, “What happens to buildings after they’re built, when users modify the space and use it how they see fit?” Some Buildings flow with time, they flow with us and some buildings do not. Many times, architects focus on the exterior aesthetic and appearance and there isn’t much priority on how the buildings will work, develop, or grow. Change is inevitable. If buildings are difficult to change, and adapt they soon will become obsolete and inhabitable.

Materials such as glass often hinder the life of the building in some cases. With the more modern approach to office buildings and skyscrapers, it is popular to utilize glass as the main facade material. Without research of the user and environment, these buildings are notorious for uncontrollable heat gain and loss, glare, foggy visibility, and even glass panels shattering. With the push to build and construct these popular types of buildings, these failures could have been avoided if there was more research of time and user.

Some architects pride themselves on their buildings not being functional, viewing them as art pieces. This mindset makes it extremely difficult as time goes on to keep up with repairs and maintenance. The cost of these services skyrockets and further creates a burden for the users.

Evolutionary design is more appropriate than visionary design. We need to Design for time.

 

Unit 9 Summary

Representation can take many forms and media. In this unit, representation can be loosely defined as the portrayal or description of someone or something; a way to express identity. The sharing of design and knowledge can be greatly influenced by images, text, drawings, and other digital devices.

World’s Fairs are a huge influence of representation on a global level. Every few years a nation will host people from all over to the world to showcase the latest technology, design, and innovation. It is a way for countries to represent themselves and share with the world their newest advancements. It is an opportunity to come together and celebrate culture and design.

Likewise, various century old paintings observed during this unit are vital representations of the values, culture, and technological advancements during the time. It is a way to express identity and thoughts of the ever-evolving state of society and the built environment. It may be the personal thoughts of the artist or it may be the collective thoughts of the community and the artist has the ability to express how those thoughts should represented and expressed.

Representation has a great deal of influence that further continues the conversation of design. Through various medias such as writings, drawings, paintings and digital sources have a large impact on the sharing of design.

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Memorial Hall

The University of Kentucky has recently unveiled an existing mural that is decades old. This controversial piece became the center of attention when some viewers thought the visual content could be seen as offensive, as it depicts certain moments in our country’s history. In response, the university decided to cover the mural for a temporary period of time until now. Mixed emotions began to arise throughout campus. I decided to see it for myself.

As I was walking toward the iconic Memorial Hall, I began to think just how small in scale it now seems compared to all of the new construction on campus. I thought about how time has passed since it was first constructed and much history this building has witnessed. As I entered, the anticipation continued to build. To my surprise, the mural was larger than I was expecting, flowing along one whole wall. As I walked closer to the piece, I was amazed by the detail-work and hand craftsmanship. I viewed the piece as a whole and as separate smaller vignettes, each telling their own story. With no definitive timeline, the vignettes range from stories about settling in the frontier to a snap shot of people’s activities and towards the top, stories of developed dwellings and important buildings in town.

Controversially some of the vignettes depict some not so noteworthy times during our country’s past. Slavery was a very ungracious and very unfortunate practice that took place in our history, but it is our history, and we must not turn a blind eye. As I was viewing the mural I felt a sense of mixed emotion. I knew I was supposed to feel “offended” or uncomfortable because that was what society deemed appropriate. However, I did not. This mural was painted as one’s interpretation of the great city of Lexington. The artist had no intention of creating controversy, they were just painting scenes of ordinary life as they perceived. As we move forward, it is easier to look and a decipher right from wrong. As we are able to collectively agree event such as slavery was wrong, we have a duty today and in the future to not hide, but to shed light on our history. We should use history for positive change and create new learning experiences. In the future, I will continue to be knowledgable of how others will view myself and my work but also be brave to portray my interpretations.

 

World’s Fair II

In the exploration of World’s Fairs we are able to observe how those exhibitions advanced the architecture and design of the time. World’s Fairs were meant to be a spectacle, a sight to be seen, grand, and innovative. Most notably were the new technologies, inventions, and products that were unveiled to the public. Knowing these exhibitions grabbed the attention of people around the world, it was a competition to see who could present the latest and greatest.

As we look back to specific spectacles, the Great Exhibition of 1851 was very influential in the ability to advance architecture and design. Proceeding the Industrial Revolution, this World’s Fair, located in London, England was a gathering place to showcase the newest manufactured goods and products. This included new materials, modes and transportation, and construction methods. The Crystal Palace was constructed of iron and glass. To many, this structure was previously thought impossible. As visitors experienced this space, there were taken aback by the large scale and ability to work with new materials. It showed the innovative architecture of the time and how design could be in the future.

Similarly, the New York World’s Fair of 1939 was able to push forward the advancements in architecture and design. This fair was far more expansive than previous fairs and showcased the future, the model of tomorrow. It was very futuristic in design with incorporation of art deco accents. The buildings were positioned centrally with pathways radiating from the center. Unlike the White City in Chicago, this World’s Fair embraced color with open arms. As new technologies were being unveiled and showcased, and big business highlighted, the structures were streamline and pushing the envelope for design of the future. As visitors were experiencing this spectacle they were able to forget about the struggles of the Great Depression and entering WWII. People were able to forget for a just a moment and enjoy.

World’s Fairs are able to gather people from all over the world. As we observe the exhibitions over time we are able to see how they aid in the advancement of architecture and design. Time will only tell how upcoming World’s Fairs will influence the future of culture, innovation, and design.