Tag Archives: arts

Athens: The Way I Remember It…

I should start by saying at this point, all of this is just a distant memory. Immediately after braving the bitter, dark winter in Helsinki for a week, I journeyed to Athens, Greece where I met the rest of my family. The photos taken help jog specific memories of the trip, so this post will serve as a bank for memories saved for about 2 years.

I remember arriving late in the afternoon and having my first impressions of the city at sunset.



The city is surrounded by hills or mountains or something… This isn’t a memory, it is a description of the images above.

One thing I do vividly remmeber is the Acropolis perched on a hill in what seemed to be the center of the city. The Acropolis was literally unavoidable. It seemed no matter where we went, we ended up at the base of the hill.






This part is confusing for me, because I honestly cannot differentiate between the ruins… This city is full of remarkable sites of architectural and/or archeological significance and is a case study in historic preservation (good or bad)… 

Basically what I’m saying is everything has columns and ruins are everywhere.



I never really understood why architects insist that young architects must see the ancient masterpieces. What can be learned by seeing these things in person that is unlearnable via looking at pictures? (That is a somewhat rhetorical question, I’m sure you can always learn something. The bigger question is, is it actually worth the trip?)

In my mind, better and more significant than these areas of historical significance is the city itself. The memories that have stuck with me still are not of architecture of civilizations past, but of the places people live today. 



athens_greece_market athens_greece_citystreets03





As a whole, the city is rather picturesque.

Lots of stray cats…



But it seemed if you could get over how dirty a city can be, and how many stray animals there were, and how many restaurants had barker staff physically pulling you into their restaurants… I would go so far as to say Athens was rather Romantic.







I’m not sure if I enjoyed the trip as much as I remember enjoying the trip. But, it is a happy memory now. 

Does that even make sense? What the hell is going on here?

Eh… whatever. It isn’t like anyone reads this far through the posts anyway. Especially not when you post three times a year…

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Helsinki Files 08: Listen to the Music

Helsinki Music Centre_Exterior night 2 Cover

The Helsinki Music Centre (spelled this way because it is European) is a cool building. That’s about all I remember at this point since it has been so long since I took these photographs…

Helsinki Music Centre_Exterior Amphitheater

It is a nice series of glass, stone, and metal volumes that intersect and are cut away, bordered by a generous stepped lawn.

Helsinki Music Centre_Exterior Day

The green metal volume is a actually some kind of dimpled panel, illustrated below.

Helsinki Music Centre_Facade Material Detail

If the exterior is considered quiet, then the interior could be called loud. It isn’t crazy by any means. very clean detailing, but very nice and very interesting. You could almost call it nuanced in a positive way.

Helsinki Music Centre_Entry

In this grand, atrium type space there is a long stair that ducks under a dangerous looking sculpture.

Helsinki Music Centre_Interior Lobby

At night the reflections of colored light off of this artwork casts brilliant patterns throughout the space.

Helsinki Music Centre_Interior Lobby 2

But the entire building isn’t so architecturally loud. The halls surrounding the main auditorium are very simple and generously dimensioned (in case you were curious about the building’s dimensions…).

Helsinki Music Centre_Interior Hall

And in said halls are supporting program, like a small coffee stand and tables to eat a snack at before a performance.

Helsinki Music Centre_Cafe Seating

The glazing is held up by these interesting struts that allow the human scale space to be mullion free and could potentially be used as a pull-up bar by rambunctious Americans.

Helsinki Music Centre_Glass structure detail

The most interesting part of the music center is the interface between the actual performance hall and the rest of the building. However, it is inevitable that the most noteworthy part of the building went undocumented by yours truly.

At night the large glazed portions of the volumes glow warm green in the cold Helsinki night.

Helsinki Music Centre_Exterior night

I count five more posts about this ancient Helsinki trip before I can proceed to post about more current things guilt free. Bear with me as I get through this painfully long process. 

Or don’t… I’m not in the business of telling you what to do. 

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Helsinki Files 06: For those about to ROCK

If you name your church “Church of the Rock”, you should expect to have a Kiss track as your theme song while featured on this blog. Hit play and accept what I’ve done.

Church of the Rock_Night Exterior

Gather round children as I regale you with tails of my travels that happened so long ago that I’ve forgotten the significance of most every photo I’ve taken. This is the tail of the Church of the Rock. In the middle of this neighborhood was a giant rock. The community didn’t mind the rock, but they thought it could be something better. So, they brainstormed as to what the giant rock could be. Eventually, they decided that it should either be a church or a park. After years of arguing about the future of the rock, they decided it should be a church AND a park, so they blew up the giant rock and used the rubble to build a church with a park on its roof. 

(DISCLAIMER: I completely made up the story above. I know nothing about the Church of the Rock other than it is a nice piece of architecture)

Church of the Rock_Concrete Block

From the outside the building is rather understated (which seems typical of Finnish architecture), but the roof is a kinda lovely mix of rocky outcrop and urban park. Church of the Rock_Roof View

The interior is (like most admirable Finnish architecture) is amazing and filled with great daylight. (Apologies for any grainy photos, ISO was way, way to high!)

Church of the Rock_Altar

Structural members shoot out of rubble walls and hold up a shallow, metallic dome. The only element present in this giant space is the balcony which is a sharp, angular block that hovers in the back of the church.

Church of the Rock_Organ

Church of the Rock_Balcony 3

Church of the Rock_Balcony 2

Church of the Rock_Balcony

The view from the balcony is rather nice…

Church of the Rock_View From Balcony

Church of the Rock_View From Balcony2

But, in my mind, it is hard to beat the interesting geometries born from the colliding structural systems.

Church of the Rock_Daylighting_03

Church of the Rock_Daylighting_02


Church of the Rock_Daylighting_01

I doubt that someone would visit Helsinki and not see this church. It seems to be a tourist attraction, and for good reason.

Go here. It is cool.

I’ll try and post again soon, but I’m mostly focused on finishing one last term of grad school. And finding a job. And planning out the rest of my life. And getting rich quick so I can retire ASAP. 

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Helsinki Files 05: Design in the Details

The Talking Heads have always struck me as a very “Art/Design” group. Please enjoy this musical selection (with the strange image of a child associated with it…)

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_08

When in Helsinki, we visited both the architecture museum and the design museum. That is the end of the story. Look at all the detail photos I took:

Helsinki Architecture Museum Model Detail

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_07

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_10

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_09

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_02

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_03

This next image is my favorite of the group:

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_06

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_11

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_12

This is my second favorite image:

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_04

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_13

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_14

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_15

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_16

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_17

Helsinki Design Museum Detail_01

The architecture museum is small, but had a great temporary exhibit. The design museum had an excellent permanent exhibit about Finnish design, and a rather good temporary art exhibit.

That is it.

Sorry for the lazy post, back to school.

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Helsinki Files 04: Show your [Modernist] School Spirit!

Accounting for the length of this post and my interests in multiple styles of music, below are two options of soundtracks for your enjoyment. Choose wisely, but feel free to scroll back up and play the other if you’d like more time to browse this post:

Option 1: This is another cover (I’m having trouble finding original songs to post) by a fellow from Germany (That is close enough to Finland, right?):

Option 2: You should have seen this coming…


Because of the significant amount of work Alvar Aalto had done for this University (formerly 3 different universities, if I understand the history correctly…), this school was named Aalto University and is home to some of the Finnish Architect’s masterpieces. The most prominent of which (in my mind) is the lecture hall pictured above (and below).

Aalto University_Lecture Hall Exterior Detail

As with most of Aalto’s work, the exterior of the building is a rather simple form.

Aalto University_Lecture Hall Exterior 2

The interior is (as is typical per Aalto) clean and beautifully detailed.

Aalto University_Lecture Hall Stairs

Aalto University_Lecture Hall Lobby

Aalto University_Lecture Hall_Outside Doors

The somewhat understated appearance of the exterior and interior spaces make the inside of the lecture hall that much more miraculous.

Aalto University_Lecture Hall Interior

In case you are wondering, yes. That is a class taking a test. We quietly snuck in and distracted a hundred or so students with camera clicking and architectural “ooh-ing” and “awe-ing”.

Aalto University_Lecture Hall Electric Lighting Detail

The cove lighting in the space was fantastic too!

After seeing a good sampling of Aalto’s work, it is in my opinion that the best work he does is library work.

Aalto University_Library Exterior

I think I particularly like it because the color of the books compliments his plain white and raw material aesthetics tremendously. Also his knack for daylighting strategies compliments the program of the typical library exceedingly well.

Aalto University_Library Front Desk

Aalto University_Library Daylighting 1

Aalto University_Library Daylighting 2

Aalto University_Library Daylighting 3

Aalto also seems to have the rare ability to define rooms within a space without the use of walls (I think this may be the sign of an architectural master, like Frank Lloyd Wright and the rest of the “Typical Architecture Hero” crew).

Aalto University_Library Daylighting 4

There are also other significant works of architecture on the campus done by architects other than Aalto. The Otaniemi Chapel by Heikki and Kaija Siren is another example of a beautiful, Finnish chapel.

Aalto University_Chapel Exterior

The cross is located just outside the chapel and is framed by a wall of glazing that also captures the nature surrounding the building.

Aalto University_Chapel Interior

The star of the show is the roof structure along which daylight spills into the space.

Aalto University_Chapel Roof Structure Detail

I don’t recall what this building is or if it is even architecturally significant. Its just a cool picture I guess.

Aalto University_Interesting Building

The student union building for the university is also noteworthy. Though I am still uncertain as to whether or not I like the building, I am certain that it is unique.

Aalto University_Student Union Exterior

The interior also has… things happening…

Aalto University_Student Union Interior

However, in my mind, the exterior is easier to photograph (a good measure of the quality of architecture? Probably not…).

Aalto University_Student Union Exterior 2

There is so much more that is happening on this campus that went un-documented, but I think this post probably hit all the high points!

We’ve got spirit, yes we do!

We’ve got spirit, how bout you?!




Goooooo Aalto!!!

(Traditional Finnish school spirit chant)

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Helsinki Files 02: Aalto. Alvar Aalto.

If ever you are in downtown Helsinki, look left. Then look right. After doing so, it is incredibly likely you’ve seen an Alvar Aalto project.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_cover

The famed Finnish modernist has designed projects littered across the city. Each one is unique and varies in importance and presence, but all have a similar “Aalto-y” feel.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Facade

This is the Stora Enso headquarters in Helsinki, and already you can see some very “Aalto-y” traits: A strong modernist grid, a level of civic presence appropriate for the buildings function, and white Carrara marble. 

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Facade Detail

An interesting thing about Helsinki (at least when I was there) is that all the lights are always on. I’ve never seen this building without its electric lights on.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Street with tram

On the side of the building facing the Russian Orthodox Church you can find another very “Aalto-y” trait: Daylighting.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Day Lighting Opportunity

These little pods allow daylight to spill through cones on the interior. Then, at night, exterior lights illuminate the same cones.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Day lighting

Aalto is an example of an architect who believed in the “gesamtkunstwerk” or “total work of art”. What does that mean? Put plainly, it means Aalto designed EVERYTHING in every project.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Handrail Detail

Door pulls, hand rails, elevator portals, luminaires, furniture, etc.

The man did it all. Most amazingly, in person, you can see how Aalto considers the human experience of his work. See how the above railing transitions from brass to wood where the user would grab it? It feels good and keeps your hands from stinking of metal. Beautiful and genius.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Electric Lighting

The building also looks lovely from the Russian Orthodox Church.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Russian Orthodox Church

I think the best part of this particular Aalto project is the way the regularized window grid glows warm in the dark, cold Helsinki winter.

Very “Aalto-y”.

Aalto 1_Stora Enso Head Offices_Night Angle

Many more Aalto projects to come!

Lets see if I can’t make my own studio project more “Aalto-y”.


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Very Tall Trees


Much exploration has occurred since the end of summer term. Perhaps too much exploration. 

One of the several trips I’ve taken led my sister and I to the Redwood forest. It was my first time visiting and has changed the scale I use to understand trees forever.

vERY tALL tREES_Sunbeam through Redwoods

The forest was lush and green. We didn’t see too much wildlife, perhaps because we were too busy looking up.

vERY tALL tREES_Looking up at Redwoods

We were sure to visit the super cheesy, super tourist-y “Trees of Mystery”, which turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever seen.

vERY tALL tREES_Redwood Chapel

vERY tALL tREES_Light through moss

vERY tALL tREES_Hanging Moss

There seemed to have been a fire happening near by because the forest was incredibly hazy.

vERY tALL tREES_Smoggy Day

But, under the cover of the trees, the haze made the morning sun’s rays glow orange.

vERY tALL tREES_Hanging Flowers

vERY tALL tREES_Hollow Tree

vERY tALL tREES_green covered sign

After finishing our tour of the “Trees of Mystery”, we went on a small hike in an area called Fern Canyon.

It was very pretty.

vERY tALL tREES_Fern Canyon 1

Did you see the ferns? Growing on the canyon walls? Get it? …Fern? …Canyon?

vERY tALL tREES_Fern Canyon 3

vERY tALL tREES_Fern Canyon 2

After exiting the canyon and hiking for a short while, we were slightly frightened. One, because we didn’t exactly know where we were, and two, because we saw an ominous figure in the forest…

vERY tALL tREES_Figure in the Trees 1

Do you see it? Slightly below and to the right of the center of the image? Does that not look exactly like a hooded, bearded man? Freaky, right?!

vERY tALL tREES_Figure in the Trees 2

I was certain it was sign… A SIGN OF OUR IMMEDIATE DOOM!

But, as far as I know we are both okay and we lived on to see a lovely red sun fall behind the giant trees of Northern California.

vERY tALL tREES_Sunset

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Communication Breakdown

I like making pretty pictures.

In every good architecture presentation (specifically in an academic setting) there are a few key drawings that help communicate the design of a building/landscape/object/whatever. Site plans, floor plans, sections, elevations, axonometric drawings and diagrams all help to communicate what the building looks like and why it looks like that. But architecture is much more than just looks. Architecture also feels a certain way.

With all of that said, my favorite part of the architecture design process is creating renderings that express how a building should feel. So, I’ve decided to use examples from my summer studio to share three different renderings of (essentially) the same building done in three different styles.

Midterm Rendering

This first  rendering was made for the studio midterm. It is left purposefully abstract because… well… I didn’t know much about the building yet! It is essentially a Sketchup massing model with some light overdrawing and material overlay. Some things are strategically detailed while others are strategically covered by women on horseback or sheep in the pasture. At this point in the design process, the important thing to show was how the building sat in the landscape and the major design moves I was making (a long gabled structure intersected by projecting volumes).

If you think that is abstract, then hang on…

Abstract Exterior

I am a HUGE fan of very abstract renderings, though I will admit I am no where near a master. There is a very fine balance between what should be illustrated and what should be left out that I find very difficult to manage. This illustration is again attempting to show the major design decisions I’ve made while leaving out any design details I have yet to consider. Someday I would love to do an extremely abstract, collage-like rendering and proudly pin it up for my final presentation… but that didn’t happen this summer…

Instead, I went with my go-to rendering style:

Exterior Rendering For Portfolio

The above image has become a pretty typical rendering style for me: a basic Revit rendering for the building followed by a fairly intensive layer of Photoshop love. 

My portfolio is now filled with renderings that look like this, which receives mixed reviews. Some say, “Wow! Look at that chipmunk!” Others exclaim, “Ooh! Nice! That is the kind of meadow I want to be in! It just looks like it feels nice!” Some even say, “That looks pretty goofy…”

The point is, it doesn’t matter really what the image looks like. There are a dozen ways to represent the same project, and everyone will like a different style. What matters is what the image is communicating

In this case: This wool production facility is the most heavenly most over-rendered place on earth. If you are good, when you die you will go here.

Design Work



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Manual Panorama

Manual Panorama_Willamette Hall


adjective; (of a machine or device) worked by hand, not automatically or electronically.


noun; an unbroken view of the whole region surrounding an observer.

Manual Panorama_Franklin Boulevard

In these modern times, there are many ways to create a panoramic image. Many digital cameras have a panorama feature built in, including cell-phone cameras. Photoshop has a “Photomerge” feature that allows you to easily take any series of photos and combine them into a panorama. However, very frequently panoramas are a very wide strip of horizon that show a fair amount of lateral information, but don’t necessarily show “an unbroken view of the whole region surrounding an observer.” So, every once in a while I like to take the time to make a manual panorama.

Manual Panorama_Cave of the Winds

When manually placing and distorting images in Photoshop, you can start to build a suggestion of dimension within a flat image.

Manual Panorama_Orange Sky

Manually creating a panorama requires you to make decisions about what you want to present as important within the image. Photo color and exposure can be adjusted and layered in a certain order to create a hierarchy of elements within the image (ie foreground vs background, shadow vs highlight, etc.).

Manual Panorama_Just outside Portland

The density of placed images can make a sense of importance within the panorama. Also, excluding parts of the panorama can be just as effective.

Manual Panorama_Crater Lake

Distortion is inevitable, but again helps you to illustrate what you think is important (and should not be distorted) and what is unimportant (and can be skewed or covered up).

Manual Panorama_Crescent City

If done very carefully, manual panoramas can give a viewer an idea of what it is like to be in the image.

Manual Panorama_Gold Bluffs Beach

You can even use this technique to illustrate where the viewer is standing within the image.

If you have the patience and the time, try making your own Manual Panorama! (or whatever other name you know this technique by)

Try not to get lost in the pixels though… It is a challenge…

Design Work

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A Search for the Texas Vernacular: Episode 16

Fort Worth, Texas: The Kimbell Art Museum (Addition)

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Glulam detail 3

The original Kimbell Art Museum is a tough act to follow.

It was designed by a world renowned architect and is consistently praised as a victory for modern architecture. The quality of day-light the building provides  is legendary and has helped this specific Louis Kahn project find a place in most every architectural history course.

I cannot imagine any project that could sit adjacent to the original Kimbell Art Museum and receive a parallel amount of respect and praise in the architectural community. With that said, I think the Kimbell Art Museum addition by Renzo Piano is a respectful and delicately crafted addition to the campus that is worth a visit.

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Exterior 1

It is, like its predecessor and neighbor, a sort of  faceless building. The building is present, but by no means screams for attention or detracts/competes with the art it houses.

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Glulam Detail 2

Massive glulam beams rest lightly on concrete columns. If buildings could be in gangs that required a certain material palette for admission, this neighborhood architecture gang would certainly be known for concrete (See A Search for the Texas Vernacular: Episode 3, Episode 4, and Episode 14).

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Glulam Detail 1

This building, like its neighbor, uses a day-lighting strategy I’ve heard described as “Structural Light”, a name I think fits incredibly well.

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Main Volume

Between each of the glulam beams, diffused light enters the building and illuminates everything evenly.

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Gallery 2

The beams are lined with track lighting for nighttime illumination.

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Gallery 1

This portion of the museum links to a sort-of subterranean chunk via a glass stitch lined with outdoor seating.

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Courtyard

The roof of this “Subterranean Chunk” is a habitable, grass covered roof.

I first thought the grass roof was pointless since it seemed it would constantly be uninhabited due to the Texas heat. I was quickly proven wrong when I stepped in dog poop, which by deductive reasoning signified that it is in fact inhabited at times (though my “Sherlock Holmes” type investigation leads me to believe that this roof is used as a dog toilet…).

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Green Roof

Under the grass roof is an interesting set of stairs. Crowds of people passed through this space as I waited to take the “perfect picture”, and they each exclaimed, “Oh look! That is interesting.”

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Stairs

But, more interesting than the slanted concrete wall of the stairs everyone stops to take a picture of is the incision through the grass-covered roof, manifested as a private bench area.

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_bench spot

Which from the outside looks like…

Kimbell Art Museum Addition_Bench spot exterior

Nice, right?

This may just be my personal opinion (which I think is okay to share since this is MY blog), but I think this building doesn’t pop like the original Kimbell Art Museum. If this were an art museum in any other part of the country, it would be a stunning work of architecture that I would not shut up about forever. You’ve seen the pictures now, it is obviously a beautifully detailed place. But still… Not as good as the original…

That is all from my Texas trip I took months ago… Lets play a bit of catch-up!

Hopefully some more recent things will make a blog appearance… Unless… Is there anything new on Netflix right now?

texas vernacular

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