Tag Archives: Studio

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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Fire Station 2: The {Un}Finished Product

One of the perils of attending an architecture school that operates on the quarter system is that I never have enough time to refine my studio projects. Even in undergrad, I used to always take time to re-polish my projects after receiving vital feedback during my final reviews. After some refinement, the project I completed this past term will likely find its way into my portfolio. Currently, I have no time to make any adjustments. However, my lack of free-time presents a blogging opportunity:

A moment to share a project in a semi-polished state.

It is raw. It is unresolved. It is a snapshot of the design process that is rarely documented (the “almost done” phase). 

Fire Station 2:

Night Render

The city of Medford has plans to re-design many of their current fire stations, with the exception of Fire Station 2. The site and facilities as they exist are far too small for this station to function properly and serve its civic duty. So, Fire Station 2 is receiving a totally new site and calls for a totally new building.

Exterior 2

For this new site and new building, three design goals were developed and pursued:

Community: Supporting the fire station’s role as a civic building.

Home: A place where fire fighters will spend 1/3 of their lives should provide opportunities for social interaction, work, rest, and solitude.

Light: To avoid re-creating existing conditions, an emphasis should be placed on day-lighting solutions to create a gradient of spaces with different qualities.

Final Boards.indd

After organizing the program into “Public”, “Private-Live”, and “Private-Work”, they are arranged into masses as follows:

Final Boards.indd

This arrangement of masses creates a plan that orients all of the volumes from a central atrium.

Final Boards.indd

Lifting the building upon a civic platform creates a separation between the public parking and the private live/work spaces, creates opportunities for controlling or capturing storm-water run-off, and creates moments of compression and release in the public entry.

North Elevation:


An angled louver wall allows the building to become transparent from the main entrance, but closes off full-direct views of interior spaces when viewed from closer vantage points.

East Elevation:


In section, the various volumes of the building feed off of daylight from the central glass atrium that acts as a stitch between the different masses.

Section 1

The variety of sloped roofs allow opportunities for water collection, natural ventilation, and day-lighting.

Final Boards.indd

Combing the above factors and massing strategies creates quality day-lighting in spaces that would benefit from it and also creates a gradient of volumes conducive to a variety of live/work tasks.

Final Boards.indd

This spatial grain is designed with an idea about “moments of pause” in mind. This simply means that a fire fighter’s daily routine should be filled with opportunities for a kind of meditation or mental/emotional rest.

Work Space/Office:




“The Dock”/Outdoor Circulation:


Laundry Room:

Laundry Room

The entire building’s structure is designed in two parts. One part is structural walls that create space and support sloped roofs. The other part serves as structure and a day-lighting device simultaneously.

structure diagrams

The second structure, or “Fin Structure” occurs in both the apparatus bay and the central atrium. Deep, x-like forms help to diffuse direct light.

Apparatus Bay:

Apparatus Bay

More importantly, the structure has the ability to reach above the surrounding volumes and pull in-direct light down into the space.

sun study

And it helps to create this money-shot rendering:

Central Atrium: 


This project was fun and small scale, but was rushed as usual. I am pleased with what I created, but received a lot of great feedback (praise and criticism) that I think will help me to make a much stronger final product.

Since I do plan on altering a few things, feedback is encouraged and appreciated! Don’t be afraid to hurt my feelings a little bit!

Or a lot if you think I deserve it… *Gulp*

Design Work


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Home Sketch

I am now a few weeks into my graduate education and would be a big fat liar if I said I wasn’t feeling challenged. So much to do, yet so little time. I forced myself to take the night off from studio so I could get a haircut and wash laundry, so I thought I’d share a project that was made in the first week of studio.

The challenge was to create a 500 square foot home with a 500 square foot exterior space. The REAL challenge was thinking of a creative way to combine the two. I decided to choose an urban infill site in the alley between two buildings and to create what I liked to call an, “Urban Camping” experience.

infill diagram

The idea of escape from the city, within the city really intrigued me. As with previous projects, I wasn’t shy about making the living conditions a bit more than inconvenient for the clients.

space axon

As the relationships between indoor and outdoor spaces formed “blurred” spaces, opportunities to push the camping side of the project arose. Pivoting walls created zones of both indoor and outdoor spaces.  Below you can see the site plan and building footprint, along with hand drawn section and plans with a little photoshop love.


It may be strange to think that a person living here must go outside to get from the kitchen to the bedroom. Perhaps stranger to think that a person must go outside once again to get from the bedroom to the bathroom. But the idea was to emulate the camping/lodging experience within the urban context. The bathroom is open to the entire house via a wall of glazing, but is screened by a wall of bamboo. This is meant to re-create the feeling of using the restroom in the forest, during which one can never be sure if someone can see what one is doing behind the bushes. Also, the ceiling of the bedroom/flex space was designed to be perforated in a way by which light would enter through the screen and recreate the stars at night. So as not to completely remove one from the city, two opportunities to reconnect with the urban nature of the site are provided in the form of slightly perforated screens that allow people standing immediately adjacent to them to see/hear through the wall without disturbing others in the home. Below is a gently rendered SketchUp model that illustrates these architectural moments.

section perspective

Although I was pleased with the outcome of the project for the time spent on it, during a group review we discussed a MISSED OPPORTUNITY! Where the above image shows a small, man-made fire, there was an opportunity to provide a large outdoor oven that doubled as a fire-pit. That would have really given purpose to the courtyard and would have tied the entire project together.


You live you learn! I’ll get’em next time!

Design Work

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