Learning Curve

Learning Curve: Architecture is Art by Atelier Drome

My second year in the Interior Design and Architecture program at University of Idaho was all about abstraction. The studio based its curriculum on discarding the notion that a building is a just a box. A building can be much more than just a box. Humans need to inhabit spaces that are much more than boxes to lead a healthy life since we spend about 93% of our time indoors (Environmental Protection Agency).

The Elements of Art are line, shape, form, value, space, color and texture. All of these can be used to make a space for humans to inhabit. Architecture isn’t only about simply making a space for humans to function properly in, though. It’s also about giving the user an experience to stimulate interest. Otherwise we would just live in boxes.

A growing body of research in cognitive science illuminates the physical and mental toll bland cityscapes exact on residents. Generally, these researchers argue that humans are healthier when they live among variety…or work in well-designed, unique spaces, rather than unattractive, generic ones
— Jacoba Urist, The Cut

Contrasting two different buildings will show how valuable art is to architecture:

Arts West, University of Melbourne

The free flowing, geometric form of the coffered timber roof and vertical arrangement gives visual interest while at the same time mediates natural daylight and assists natural ventilation. The texture of the wood that is scattered throughout the building gives a clean, natural and fresh feel to the space. Lastly, the open space in the center of the building allows for flexibility and balance to the rest of the turns and corners surrounding the rest of the structure.

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While artists work from the real to the abstract, architects must work from the abstract to the real.
— Steven Holl, The Brooklyn Rail
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Health Sciences Center, Louisiana State University

The form of this building is exactly what my second-year studio told me not to do: make a perfect boxed structure. The interpreted line that the small windows dotting the building make, make it feel like a prison from the outside: boring to look at. The color of the building is very bland and is the same throughout the exterior.

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images from Arch Daily; The Times-Picayune

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Learning Curve is an ongoing series from the perspective of our interning students who are currently in school to become the world’s next generation of designers.  

This edition is by Jessie Macomber who is in her final year in a double major of Architecture and Interior Design at the University of Idaho and will be headed on to the Master of Architecture program next year. Her continuously curious mind and love of art drew her to the design profession, and she can often be found studying and sketching everything around her.  “I looked at Architecture and Design as something that took art and turned it into something practical – something that made an impact on how people lived their lives,” Jessie says of her decision to choose a path in design. Rounding out her love for the built world and art is the importance that she places on friends and family in her life and the impact that has on how she views the ways in which design can enrich lives and ultimately help bring people together.

Learning Curve: Parametric Design by Atelier Drome

There are various ways to approach a new design. From hand sketches, to model building, collages, photography, 3D modeling, etc. Architects learn to become inspired and use various medias to convey their ideas. One growing example of an approach is parametric modeling. With computer technology gaining speed, parametric design features parameters within a program, such as Grasshopper, to clarify and encode relationships between elements.

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Designing with many iterative shapes makes parametric modeling a useful tool. It allows for quick manipulation to a specific design. Factors that may call for change and response include zoning heights and setbacks, natural daylight, shading, structural frame, floor areas, etc. All this can be instantly manipulated with a change of a number in the code script. With many factors having an impact on several iterations until coming up with the product of a final design, parametric modelling uses time efficiently to make these changes to the interior, exterior, and detailing. Therefore, designers can go through more options with a client in an efficient time period.

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As a student, what fascinates me the most with parametric modelling is the form you’re able to achieve. While most modern architecture is represented with flat planes or rectangular forms, parametric modelling can create curved, manipulated, and twisting shapes appealing to speculate by the eye.  A studied example in which parametric modelling was utilized are the Al Bahar Towers in Abu Dhabi. Aedas Architects were able to utilize parametric script to design the towers’ responsive façade screens. With the location’s direct sunlight, a sustainable approach was taken to create kinetic screens to self-move and respond to the sun exposure at various times/days of the year.  In return, this provides more shade to cool the interior and eliminate unnecessary HVAC use. The individual iterative shape of the screens themselves were derived from the “mashrabiya” which is a local traditional Islamic lattice. Here, parametric modelling became a solution to combine culture with sustainability and design.

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Learning Curve is an ongoing series from the perspective of our interning students who are currently in school to become the world’s next generation of designers.  

This edition is by Anastasia Spassennikova who is in her first year of the Master of Architecture program at the University of Washington. With a love for both math and art, architecture felt like the obvious path that would meld the two into one exciting career. Her passion for the profession grew when she realized it was a gateway to learning about people and locations in various contexts. Designing a building for a specific client allows the designer to learn more about that individual's background and interests which makes every project unique. With the rare extra time outside of her studies, Anastasia enjoys exploring the world around her through drawing, painting and actively travelling to see things first hand

Learning Curve: Designing Sustainably for the Future by Atelier Drome

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Throughout the past few years in architecture school, a major topic of design that professors proposed is how can we design sustainably? Since buildings account for 46% of total carbon dioxide emissions, and 75% of total electrical use, we as architects are responsible for creative integrative system design solutions to ensure a more positive environmental impact. One approach can be the use of energy production components as both an energy system and a visual characteristic for a building.

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A unique example includes the New Blauhaus’ that was recently completed in 2015. In its translation from German, the “New Blue House” provides a more contemporary version of bringing the public, education, and science sector together with the energy industry. The project is situated on the campus of Hochschule Niederrhein, University of Applied Sciences in Krefeld, Germany. It grew to be a collaboration between the school and NEW- an energy and water utility company to showcase the groundbreaking developments in the energy sector.

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The displayed low-resource energy system of photovoltaic panels not only brings out the sculptural quality of oppositely inclined surfaces varying between these PV panels and blue-tinged glass panel, but also performs as a low-resource energy system. The panels are arranged to perfectly cooperate with the orientation and frequency of solar radiation hitting the site and cover the full energy demand to power the building to make it carbon neutral.  Stepping aside at a distance, these panels become integrated with the architecture to give form to the New Blue House as a sculptural gem.

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images from Arch Daily


Learning Curve is an ongoing series from the perspective of our interning students who are currently in school to become the world’s next generation of designers.  

This edition is by Anastasia Spassennikova who is in her first year of the Master of Architecture program at the University of Washington. With a love for both math and art, architecture felt like the obvious path that would meld the two into one exciting career. Her passion for the profession grew when she realized it was a gateway to learning about people and locations in various contexts. Designing a building for a specific client allows the designer to learn more about that individual's background and interests which makes every project unique. With the rare extra time outside of her studies, Anastasia enjoys exploring the world around her through drawing, painting and actively travelling to see things first hand.