Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Primary Elements (part 4)

Shapes are two-dimensional, forms are three-dimensional. Cubes, pyramids, cones, and spheres possess depth and therefore volume. Any structure or building has volume, but so do their interiors. Anything that has four or more connecting planes that create a form has volume. This can also be literal or implied in the way planes and lines are used to create the form in question. Perceived volume can be as effectual as actual volume in a space, and depends on the intended use or desired atmosphere.

Image credit: Kleinman, Susan. "Mid-Country Modern." Metropolitan Home. April 2006. 105. (Overlay mine.)
Volume in interiors is not limited to the areas of your floorplan, but also includes sections or zones within those areas, or even structures or furniture used within zones. Here scale and proportion are just as important as actual use; while a large conversation space in a living room may be desired, it could crowd out your equally-desired zones and uses if your created volume is bigger than intended. Considering furniture size and placement is one way to solve this problem.

Volumes can push out or enclose, and clever usage goes a long way to creating an effective and beautiful design.

Primary Elements (part 3)

Three or more lines that converge to form a two-dimensional shape is called a plane. Like lines, planes can be literal or implied, defining spaces or creating an area of interest. They are most often found in a square or rectangular shape (as in walls or corridors), but can be any other shape, regular or irregular, so long as it is flat and possesses no perceived depth.

Image credit: Bernstein, Fred A. "The Good Earth." Metropolitan Home. March 2009. 75. (Overlay mine.)
How you treat planes within a space will greatly affect your perception of the space. This frequently means walls, but can include screen dividers, furniture, or sculptural elements in a space. Emphasis or de-emphasis of a plane can perceptually open up or close off; this can be achieved through wall color, mirrors and pictures, glass or movable wall screens (such as in a Japanese teahouse), or simply via height. A breakfast counter coming off the end of a kitchen counter can provide a barrier between the kitchen and a living room while still visually perceiving both areas.

Primary Elements (part 2)

A line is essentially a series of points. In algebra, if you have two points you can draw a line. A line can be defined, with a starting point and ending point, or it can be infinite (in algebraic terms), heading off in one or two directions without end. In the latter case, it is also directional, pointing up, down, left, right, or in a diagonal. An implied line may not be solid, but still lead you (physically or visually) in a linear fashion toward a location.

Image credit: Kleinman, Susan. "Mid-Country Modern." Metropolitan Home. April 2006. 98. (Overlay mine.)
Line orientation can also have a psychological effect. Vertical lines lend height and can imply strength, definition, grandeur, or intimidation. Horizontals can lower perceptions of height; they echo or recall ground lines, which also imply stability, but can get static or boring. Diagonals are dynamic, implying movement and lending energy to a space. The number, frequency, and repetition of lines can do many things, from defining a space to changing your perception of a space; many verticals, for example, could be invigorating but could also create anxiety, chopping up the perception of space or making the user feel hemmed in. Deliberate application of line is always called for.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Primary Elements (part 1)

Every creative art has its fundamental building blocks. Writing has alphabets and grammar -- spelling and knowing how to parse a sentence gives rise to forms of communication, information, or entertainment. Visual arts, whether two-dimensional (drawing) or three-dimensional (sculptures, models, jewelry, etc.), have their own primary elements, each building on the other in increasing complexity: point, line, plane, and volume.

All things begin with a point, whether you're writing a letter or doodling in a notebook. It is a beginning and sometimes and end unto itself: a point can be a focal point, where your attention is drawn (whether it is because of color, shape of an object, its placement, etc.), or a point of departure that marks a transformation or transition (such as a parti diagram). A point can either be found in isolation, such as for emphasis, or located within a line, such as an orienting position on a floorplan or instruction manual.

Image credit: Bernstein, Fred. "The Good Earth." Metropolitan Home. March 2009. 66. (Overlay analysis mine.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sukkah City

I'm not Jewish. I know barely more about Judaism than most folks just because I'm interested in other faiths and their practices, particularly ones that have such ancient and deeply spiritual practices. So when I heard of Sukkah City back in May of this year, I had to hunt for more information about its background so that I could truly understand the idea behind the project. (This site provides a good grounding of the basics of the holiday Sukkot, which inspired Sukkah City.)

What is Sukkah City? It was/is a design competition aimed at looking at sukkahs from as many angles as possible, but centering around the idea of "temporary shelters." There's an interesting set of rules, which are taken right out of Jewish law regarding the building of sukkahs. One of them: "A sukkah may be built on a boat." Another says that it could be on a wagon. Walls and ceilings and height are mentioned, as well, including their possible porousness or complete lack thereof. Aside from these rules, designers could imagine and build the sukkah in any way, and using whatever materials, they wanted. (Michael Arad, the designer of the World Trade Center memorial, is one of the main judges.)

This week, the finalists' designs (you could also call them winners, although the final winner hasn't been announced) are on display in New York's Union Square, and as you might imagine, these structures are truly amazing and imaginative. They also look at the sukkah in many different and unexpected ways; one sukkah is made out of signs (of the "will work for food"/cardboard & Sharpie type), while another appears to be made out of wooden slats put together in a very sculptural fashion with a flame-like form. Essays are supposed to be written about the Sukkah City project and slated for publishing, and I'm extremely interested in reading what is sure to be a lot of insightful analysis and commentary.

Art meets architecture meets spirituality and spawns something amazing -- that's how I'd describe Sukkah City. It treats the rules and design principles (particularly line and volume) as toys and tools, not restrictions. It's an interstitial project that strikes a deep chord with my personal design philosophy. It can also teach us a great deal about how we could live in the future, especially if disaster strikes and destroys permanent housing. The fact that proceeds from auctioning the structures will go to Housing Works (an organization that through various projects "is committed to ending the twin crises of AIDS and homelessness") is the cherry on top. There has been mention of seeding Sukkah City to other cities across the country for next year, and so I am hoping that Atlanta will rise to that challenge.

Other links regarding Sukkah City:
* Sights and Sounds of the Sukkah City Design Competition []
* In Search of Sukkah City [Observatory: Design Observer; by Thomas de Monchaux]
* Sukkah City [BLDGBLOG]
* Sukkah City - Harvest of Shelters, Temporary by Design []

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Design is Life.

This class (Form, Space, and Order) asks us to develop our personal design philosophies. As I understand it, this is something that people develop for years; it's your chance to discover, develop, and define what your voice is, much like writing or any other creative art. It takes practice, in one way or another, over years. I've more or less developed what my writing voice is, although I honestly couldn't tell you what it is. However, I do know just who I am, and that's thanks to years of experience -- as someone closing in on 40 (I will be 39 this winter), I've seen and accomplished quite a lot, and have had many opportunities for self reflection. Applying all of this to interior design has been a challenge since I don't have experience in this area, like most of my fellow students, however, I understand that this is a starting point from the perspective of the bigger picture.

The process our class went through in developing our philosophies threw me for a loop at first, merely because I wasn't sure what was expected. I've done brainstorming before, but my particular process jumps immediately from brainstorming into developing and creating without a pause, and then editing down. I found myself grasping from exercise to exercise, and it wasn't until we presented our initial collages that it all coalesced for me. That's when it clicked and I understood, and helped me gel my ideas along with what we were being asked to do. I have since refined my collage, although my philosophy definitely has not changed; I've merely been able to communicate it one thousand times better, visually.

When it comes to interior design, I treat it as an integral way of life and not stage-setting. My philosophy stems from not just being eco-conscious, but earth-centered: being "green" is spiritual as well as ethical and an aesthetic. I am enthusiastic about life, and design should be deeply tied to it: organic, practical, beautiful, comfortable, edited, eclectic, playful and unexpected. I am committed to earthy design that isn't stuck in the mud, but rather evokes wonder and deep contentment.

We've been asked to also present several template options that tie into our philosophies. I feel that I have already come up with something that reflects my philosophy, so I am hesitant to do more. I recognize that I will want to tweak my blog's current look later, mainly because I can grow bored even with looks I absolutely love and I want change. Right now I like what I have, so I am not keen to change -- yet. What I would like to do is have some space and time to really think and consider more potential looks, which I don't really have at the moment. What I will likely end up doing is changing and tweaking things a little at a time as class progresses.

What do you think? If anyone has input or feedback for me, I would love to hear it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Although I have created an "About" page, and plan on adding general information about myself in my Blogger profile, I thought an introductory post would be appropriate to properly launch this blog. Later on I will add a post about my personal design philosophy, as derived from class exercises and discussions (photos to be included).

This quarter (Fall 2010) at SCAD, as part of my interior design undergraduate curriculum, I am taking a class called Form, Space, and Order. Over the course, according to the syllabus and materials given in class thus far, we will be studying and discussing the primary elements of design, form (solids, shapes, etc), space (planes, negative space, etc), organization (spatial relationships, types of organization), circulation, proportion & scale, and principles (axis, symmetry, transformation, etc). In this blog I'll be defining terms, relating things I've learned from this course, and sharing design I've seen "in the wild" as it relates to this course.

I'm hoping in the course of this blog that I can present the ideas and materials in a professional but entertaining manner; maybe others will get just as much out of my blog as I will.