Dec 21, 2005

Sad News

Early in the morning on the 17th, my Grandfather, James Oliver Perkins, passed away in Oklahoma. I was flying out that evening, and my parents were getting on a transatlantic flight from Moscow when they got the news. After struggling on for years, he couldn't hold out any longer. He had outlasted even the most optimistic doctor's expectations, surviving on will, his sense of humor, outlook, and faith. While I'm sad to lose him, I'm happy he is no longer suffering on his fraction of a lung. He had a lovely funeral service with about 300 people in attendance, which testified to how many people had had touched and befriended in his life. I saw a lot of family whom I'd never seen before, or seen only when I was a few years old.

The service was in Blanchard, near the center of Oklahoma. Grandpa Perkins was interred in Ardmore, near the Texan border. After a brief Interment ceremony, we drove with mom all the way back up to Ponca City, not far from Kansas. Thus, I saw a lot of Oklahoma. During the winter, its a cold, bleak country, with creeping fog in the evenings.
Now we're in Ponca with my Grandmother on my Mother's side. Spent the day shopping for clothes, and had lunch at Enrique's, an inexplicably good mexican restaurant in the tiny airport which serves the town of Ponca, completely surrounded by fields.

Dec 12, 2005

Almost there....

Previously on The Blazing Sun, our intrepid hero stands on the eve of a really nasty history of architecture test...

The final exam for that class was a nightmare. The professer used images from inside the cathedrals, and while I got most of them, I know I mis-identified one for sure. As these questions are 'compare at least four points about the two buildings shown', I don't know how much he will take off. The set up for the test was five image comparisons (each with a page of writing in 8 minutes) and the option for either two shorter essays or one long essay (45 minutes for this portion). I did the one long essay, which had a question which was completely unclear and deliberately tricky. I think an A is out of the question for this test, but a B is more likely. As this is a quarter of my grade, I am glad I have gotten As on my major other tests / papers. My paper on Islamic architecutre also got an A.

We were going to have dinner with Sally and Jonathan that night, but as they had just got thier power back on at 4 pm that afternoon after about a week after thier fuse box fizzled out, they had to postpone it to Sunday night. Saturday night, Jen and I went to a performance of Handel's Messiah by the Phoenix Symphony. We both dressed up, and I wore my suit. There were a lot of little old ladies in horrible red christmas sweaters there that night. Afterwards, we drove around in PV looking at the nicely decorated million+ dollar houses.

Sunday night, Jen and I went over to Sally and Jonathan's for dinner. They gave me my Christmas presents early: A box of legos and House of Leaves , an experimental novel which was highly recommended to me. Dinner was good, and Gabriel and Sara both chatter away.

Today I went in at 10 AM for my exit interview with my studio professor. The last day of studio, we had voted on which projects would go downstairs as representations of the best quality of the class. None of my projects made it, but two other excellent projects did. The number one favorite had three models at different scales showing different parts, as well as a series of a dozen hand rendered perspectives going through the project. It's tough to beat that.
However, at the interview, the professor told me that my projects were highly regarded by the other students, with a cumulative rank of fifth with all the projects we'd done. ( I think I would have scored higher, but I destroyed my really cool box model after it began to fall apart midway through the semeseter). Anyway

He liked the stuff I had done, and said that the floorplan I had designed for the library was the most mature in the class, and that I'd solved the problem very elegently. He really liked the way that even though I had turned whole building sections, the angles never created dead spaces. He recommended that I pick up a few of my favorite architect's monographs and try to deconstruct thier buildings, to read about thier process, in order to understand how the building took form in thier mind. He also recommended S,M,L,XL by Rem Koolhaus (what architect wouldn't want a name like "coolhouse"?) as a classic place to begin.

I looked through the copy we have on reserve here in the library, it looks really cool. I'll have to see if I can't pick up a copy somewhere.

Tomorrow is the last day of finals. I'm turning in my powerpoint and documentation and I'm taking the "exam" in Human Factors. I've got such a strong A in that class, I dont think there's any way I could screw it up.

Sally and Jonathan are going to take me out to dinner saturday before dropping me at the airport. Whew! can't believe I'll be in Oklahoma five days from now.

Still working in the library my evening shifts. Today I mostly reviewed the exam questions for the Human Factors Final. Friday is my last day working here this year. I told my superviser that I would not be available until school started again, so I can spend more time with family and friends during the break.

Dec 7, 2005

Reading Day and Iconoclasts

Today I got up at eight AM and went to school to take pictures of my model in the dynamic early morning light. Later, I repaired my old model and took another series of pictures. I ended up completely exhuasting my battery and taking over 100 shots. As these models are too big to save or do anything with them, the pictures will be my only reminders of them, unfortunately as that may be. Its far better to give them a quick end than to have a slow destruction by time and Suki, who will be absolutely entranced with her new toy.

Also began seriously studying for my history of architecture test. It's a reading day, the day before finals are supposed to begin, so here I am in the library with our textbook going over the chapters and buildings. I'm up to religious structures in the 9th century, and the textbook mentioned the Iconoclastic controversy, a mouthful which caught my curiosity. Apparently, during the 730's when Byzantine was the shining light in the world of the dark ages, there was a huge debate which raged for a century over whether or not religious images (apart from the cross, God, and Jesus) should be worshipped. The Holy Church councils which met reversed their decisions on this several times over this period as the head of the church changed. In the meanwhile, thousands of icons, sculptures, and paintings were destroyed, defaced, or thrown in the ocean. The Eastern Orthodox church accepted the last decision, icons are ok, and began thier split from the church after that, which is why we see so many Ikons in slavic churches. Still not sure how this all relates to the modern Catholic church and thier stance on iconoclasm- but there's still more to read. Tomorrow is another big study day before Morton's test friday.

Dec 6, 2005

last day of school

Today is the last day of school before reading day and finals. I went to a final review in Dr. Morton's history class, then went in for an hour and a half long structures final exam. I'm really thankful I took such good notes. I think I did pretty well. It felt right to me, and hopefully, if I slipped up a number here or there, he'll look at the process. I wasn't overwhelmed and I feel like I got an A on it, or a B minimum. We shall see.

We have to move out of our studios for the winter break as they're going to shuffle the architecture students around to make sure nobody gets the same teacher they had in the last class. This is unfortunate as the other two studio teachers are a lot more strange and strict. So, I spent yesterday afternoon cleaning out my desk area. I think I have about five pounds of basswood, plastic bits, and metal wire. Jen's going to let me store most of it in her desk area as the interior design girls get to stay where they are.

The last thing we have to do in studio is a documentation project. Our studio teachers havn't been keeping track of grades all semester, so this is where you put all your documentation togather of all your projects, all the photos, CAD files, and relevant sketches etc. We're putting it all in a powerpoint presentation. Here is a rough draft of mine I threw togather while working today at the library. Click here to download it. I've never really worked with laying things out in powerpoint before, and I must say that it severely lacks the power of indesign or anything else I've worked with recently.

Dec 3, 2005

the other cost cutters

Below are some of the images I presented at my architecture review thursday afternoon. They are mostly formZ renderings, with a couple of more "cartoony" sketchup images.

Last night, I rewarded myself for a successful studio project by going to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the Cine Capri in scottsdale. While it was a good movie, with a lot of great action sequences, it was definately an endurance test. The intensity of the movie was overpowering, and it could have used some quieter scenes for us to catch our breath. The acting has become a lot better, and the scariness factor has way increased since the last film. It really makes me wonder what the next few films are going to be like as the books are even darker than this one. Out of all the movies, I liked the third one best, followed by this one, and then the first and second one.

Today I also went in to have my hair cut with Jen. She was telling me about a hairstylists school nearby where they cut student's hair for $12. This is the same price as cost cutters, so I said I'd come along and get one too, as I was beginning to see the hair on the sides of my head. This place, the Carsten Institute, was quite an experiance. They took the entire top floor of this building and put in about a dozen rows of styling stations, each row with five stations back to back, so about 120 stations in all. There were about the same number of haircutting students, mostly young women and a few young men, all dressed in red tee shirts and jeans. They called up the students who were going to cut our hair and they came up and introduced themselves. I got a shampoo wash first, then I told her what I wanted (longer on top, shorter on the back and sides, and blended all around.) She pulled her instructor over, and he sketched out on her head diagram sheet what to do. It was really interesting, he called the line they cut on the "design line". The whole place had a real studio feel to it, complete with the alt rock music on the speakers in the background. Anyway, my student did a good job. She was pretty nervous, and her hand was a bit unsure with her scissors, but it ended up looking fine. She took awhile, moving cutting only a bit at a time, and pulled her instructor over twice more to make sure she was doing okay, and to ask him what to do about the hair over my ears. This was apparently beyond her skill set, because he carefully got the hair around my ears, following a curved line, and another instructor cleaned up teh back of my neck with the "buzzers." Then there was a final check out with the instructor where he asked me how she did. I said she did fine.
Jen's student had never cut hair of a client before, and had only been in the school for three months. I think this weekend was the first time for a lot of students. Jen's do was also much more complicated than mine, and the instructors did a lot for the student. Overall, it was a great deal, $12 for a shampoo and cut, although I think I'll come a bit later in the semester so the students will have more experiance.

Dec 1, 2005

Razzle Google Dazzled

Success! I went home last night, showered, shaved, and slept for three hours, getting up again at 6:30 AM. I finished my formZ images and dressed up for the review. Black slacks, tailored fit express shirt, my cashmere-wool overcoat, cap a pie. First stop was Kinkos. One person working there, asisting a person trying to mail a package to an unknown village in England. Unknown because the person wasn't sure which village it was exactly. I dropped my flash drive off and headed to school. There, I finished the model and rendered my site plan, using color only for trees and concrete. I biked back to Kinkos and picked up my pictures an hour later. While the first group of students was presenting, I added people with sharpie markers to my formZ interior shots, which was really kind of fun.

We presented five to six in a round , about 20 minutes apiece. Our reviewers were upper division faculty along with a few architects. During our lunch break, I hooked up my laptop to the projector port. No luck. Jen came down from her class, and took me through the steps. All the interior design presentations are in powerpoint, so she's done it many many times. She stayed to watch my presentation. I was really excited to see my laptop screen contents dispayed twelve feet wide. While the rest of the class and reviewers gathered, I had fun with google earth on the big screen, visiting cities and landmarks while people oohed and aahed.

At my presentation, I started with a google earth view of north scottsdale, then zoomed in on my project on the site, rolling down to see the mountains in the distance with the topography, then finally circiling the building and zooming to the entrance. I really wowed the jurors. From there I started off by talking a bit fast, but made myself slow down and talk more slowly. The people really liked my project. They commented that my sections were a little thin (they were really bad, just the bare building structure without furnature, people, trees, or a lineweight gradient, but it really only a scratch. They liked all my interior shots in formZ, and I think I just had so much other stuff, they could overlook the sections.

The main criticism was that I wasn't addressing the issues beyond the clients needs, that I was working from the data sheet requirements and not thinking about the role the library needs to play or do in the new wireless information era. Architecture should be about designing for what the client should aspire to, according to one reviewer. Overall, it was the most positive review I'd heard all day. Now its time to pack up and head home, pay bills, do laundy, and sleep.

still alive

It's 1:07 AM here on the thursday our projects are due. I've just finished my model. It looks pretty good, although I may have overdone it a bit with the trees. The small group of people working this morning and I went out for breakfast to go at the italian restaurant across the street. Had some really mediocre buscuits and gravy. Makes me miss Oklahoma. My mentor came in at 4 today to see my project. He liked it, and he gave me a lot of great advice about what to say in the presentation as well as HOW to present. It's almost disheartening how much of what architects do is selling to clients. I was reminded to speak slowly and take pauses to make sure the reviewers are following me, to act friendly, and more than anything else, CONFIDENT in myself and my project. They're going to look for someone different from the rest of the crowd which shuffles up and mumbles. This mentor is a great match for me, as I need all the help I can get with working on presentation skills. I'm a fairly good presenter, probably a bit above average, but that's really not saying much.
My mentor is pretty cool, he's an older gentleman who lives up in McDowell Mtn ranch. Despite his 40 years of experiance, he's still really excited and enthusiastic about architecture and designing. He poked a little fun at Bruder, and is completely underwhelmed by the use of rusted steel.
I'll probably go up later today and mumble and move too much, and make too many gestures, but I'll work really hard at talking more slowly, and more loudly.

Status report:
Site plan- still need to marker in trees- probably after I get some rest.
Floor Plan- Done!
Interior perspectives- just need to finish the children's room in FormZ and maybe add some people using the space before I get them printed out at Kinkos.
Exterior perspectives-Done!
Google Earth Flyaround- Done!
Model- Almost done! just need to add short entry walk from the parking lot to the area under the shade canopy. The 'trees' I'm using are dried baby's breath and they reek. I've never really understood what "cloying" meant before picking them up at Michael's.

Jen spent some time with me in studio making little trees out of the baby's breath and "planting" them in my model.

I've been here in this building almost consistantly since sunday morning. I've not even been home since monday morning. I should be able to get some more sleep today as I'm getting closer. I need to go by Kinko's anyway. A shower and a shave will be most welcome.

Back to work. Almost done.

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to, a more writing-centric website.