Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The presence given off by the buildings of Rome was very important. The desire was for important structures to dominate their surroundings. This showed the power and importance of the empire, especially the government. Significant buildings and structures were most often built with open spaces surrounding them to make them seem larger. The Baths of Diocletian was an enormous, opulent building, which greatly illustrates this. According to Roth, “Roman life focused on temporal comforts and pleasures, as the Roman bath well illustrates” (Roth 2007). Also, the Romans decorated usually on the fa├žades of their buildings, giving an opulent presence without spending money to decorate the entire exterior. Likened to this is the notion of “bread and circuses”, in which the government entertained the people and gave them what they wanted and needed in order to hide the messiness of politics. The best-known place in which “bread and circuses” took place during the empire was the Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as the Coliseum, which dwarfs many of our coliseums, seating “between forty-five thousand and fifty-five thousand people” (Roth 2007), definitely a large crowd to entertain.

The Romans certainly used Greek and Etruscan structures as precedents. However, they changed them, often against their original intended use. The Romans took the orders, used by the Greeks for structural purposes, and made them purely decorative as engaged columns and pilasters, used only to show opulence. The iconicized Flavian Amphitheatre’s “stone arcades incorporated columns- unfluted Doric on the ground floor, then Ionic, Corinthian, and finally Corinthian pilasters on the uppermost, fourth story” (Roth 2007), which also creates a hierarchy and timeline, as was identified in class. Likewise, when designing, we should look carefully at precedents and use them wisely, always remembering to make what we find our own. This also applies to forms of structures and society, which have continued from the time of the Roman Empire. We use many aspects of their culture and building styles still today. We also worked with precedent images in Perception and Communication, looking at artists’ work to mimic their style in our own drawings.

In the decorated facades and interiors of Roman buildings, moments are seen which convey the opulence portrayed by them. In Pompeii, moments were frozen in time as Mount Vesuvius’ lava flowed over the city and its inhabitants, who were found in “voids filled with skeletal bones” (Roth 2007), and the buildings and artifacts were found in similar states. As morose at it may seem, the fact that this happened allows us a window to the world of the Romans, since “the destruction of Pompeii… in fact preserved a range of different house types, from small artisans’ residences to large patrician residences and expansive country villas” (Roth 2007). The entire Roman time period, from development, to rise, to fall, can be seen as a moment in which many changes occurred, both in architecture and design, and in the social/ political realm.

The Roman baths took the Basilica form. This form later became integral to Christian Churches. This form has duality, seeing as it stood for both Rome and its worldly “pagan” ways and new Christianity, in which the focus is shifted to heaven and the afterlife. Interestingly enough, however, the Christian churches were highly decorated, often the most so buildings at the time. If the afterlife is so important, why are these opulent buildings needed? Certainly, great expanses of space were needed for the growing numbers of people attending services, so much so that the focus of the crumbling empire turned to “the problem of how to house communal groups of worshippers” (Roth 2007). The decorative nature of Churches quickly grew, eventually becoming the flamboyant Gothic cathedrals so well known today. There also exists a duality between the Western Empire and the Eastern Empire.

The metric system of measurement is mostly universal, thus being a standard. The architecture of Greece and Rome both transformed into this “standard” form of the word metric. A metric can also be a system, such as the water in the Baths of Diocletian, vital to their function. Buildings became measured by the grandeur created by the Greeks and Romans, leading to the grand churches and cathedrals of Christianity

The presence of buildings and artifacts are enforced by the moments created in them, and sometimes, created by them. We can learn how to make special moments in our designs by looking at precedents, which people have done for hundreds of years. Since this has been occurring, metrics have emerged, standards which hardly seem like precedents any more because they have been used for so long. Sometimes, by combining these many voices, a duality emerges in the design, sometimes making it fail, sometimes making it interesting, and sometimes making it both.

Roth, Leland, M. (2007). Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, and Meaning. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

PA | Justification

YEAR: 1974

The East Building of the National Gallery of Art does not only contain art, but is a piece of art in and of itself. It plays strongly with angles and alcoves of sorts. The interior contains a large open space, spanning all floors, allowing for the display of a very large piece, Alexander Calder's mobile, which hangs from the ceiling. Also, natural light is able to flood this space, but not the rooms in which artwork is shown, so no light damage occurs to these pieces. The large open “court” also draws the visitor from floor to floor, since the openness creates intrigue. Having visited this building myself, I feel that for the most part it is successfully designed, with many attributes befitting its purpose.

photos by me

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Parts : Whole

The source of the projects we have been working on for Environmental Design II has been stories—fairy tales and creation stories. These sources must be abstracted in some way and then translated into a design, which must be completed using certain materials assigned to us. Likewise, architecture, and what filled the buildings, in different parts of the ancient world depended on the materials their environment supplied them with. In Egypt, most things were made of stone, since it was most readily available. In Greece, “wood was used extensively… in the construction of furniture” (Blakemore 2006). Many of Greece’s advancements and styles would become a sort of “design source” for the Romans, who took the Greek orders and other ways attributes and made them their own.


The Greek building, social, and political style served as an archetype definitely for Rome, as well as for all of Western civilization to follow. The Greek megaron, consisting of “an entry porch… a vestibule [court]… a raised circular hearth” (Roth 2007) remains a model for buildings and homes today. The columns used by the Greeks would continue to be used both structurally and decoratively in Roman buildings, and throughout time up to present day, becoming specifically important in the Greek Revival style. In Rome, they were used highly as pilasters or as fakes in front of a load-bearing wall, transforming them from the highly-important structural pieces they were to the Greeks to a decorative way of showing opulence to the Romans.

rough mossman

The orders were perfected on the Acropolis from earlier prototypes. According to Blakemore, “Both in form and in ornament Roman design was based on Greek prototypes” (Blakemore 2006). The Romans developed what Greece made perfect into something that would stick for centuries. Likewise, when, as both students and professionals, we are working on a design, an original idea, or prototype, must be developed into something more and perfected.

mossman thumbnails

Sometimes in the refining process two ideas merge into a hybrid. The three orders are Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. According to Roth, “The other major addition was the Composite order” (Roth 2007), combining attributes of the other orders into one. The simple Tuscan-Doric order was also developed as a hybrid. As Roman culture took the Grecian ideas of design, they often hybridized them into something new, making them more their own.

In most designs, there exists a hierarchy both to how it is designed, and to how it is read. For example, on the Acropolis, there is a hierarchy among these structures. The Propylia and Temple of Athena Nike serve their purpose to get a person to the Acropolis and to welcome them there. The Erechthion, as well as the Propylia and the Temple of Athena Nike, as well as nearly every other structure on the Acropolis, serves to point the viewer directly to the building that falls at the top of the hierarchy: the Parthenon. And because this structure was of such great importance to the people of Athens, it was built with “extraordinary precision” (Roth 2007).


An entourage is the grouping that surrounds a person or thing. In drawing vignettes, the entourage is very important, and often gives the context of the object being focused on. Likewise, in every application, the entourage, or context, must be considered. Why is the Parthenon executed with such precision and attention to detail? The context that Athena was the head goddess over all of Athens answers that question. Her temple, the Parthenon, is surrounded by an entourage of buildings that point and bow to its greatness. In Rome, it was important that important buildings were not surrounded with what might be called entourage so that their importance was highlighted by making them seem grander by having no surroundings.

In conclusion, as designers of today, whether designing an artifact from a story or a home in which people will live, it is crucial that we understand why design trends happen, from where they came, and what makes it all possible. Often, something popular today was popular hundreds of years ago. Buildings are made possible by the post and lintel construction used as long ago as Ancient Egypt, from which other civilizations have built off of and modified. All of these parts from the past, from a story, come together to create a new whole: something greater than what came before it, and something that can be engaged today.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Thumbnail drawings are a great way to quickly convey a space. They are small and are meant to be quickly drawn. They are like rough notes for further work.

mossman thumbnails

Mossman Building, UNCG campus

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


egyptian temple001
The scale of an object is vital to understanding the meaning of it, regardless the meaning of it is to be built and produced, or looking at something in a historical/ and/or social context. In Ancient Egypt, scale played a very important role in their architecture. The Temple of Amon at Karnak is very large and visually heavy, instilling a fear of the deities in the people as well as keeping out those who were not supposed to enter. The pyramids at Giza “were the most visible part of extensive surrounding funeral complexes” (Roth 2007), and definitely rise above the desert environment. For the pharaohs having them built, it was a competition of whose pyramid was larger, since larger scale meant greater power during his reign.

An important part of any design is unity. Lacking this attribute, a design often lacks in firmness, commodity, and delight. When parts are put together correctly, their whole can be greater than the sum of their parts. Scale plays into unity. In a design, if different attributes have different scales, the unity is greatly affected, or may become nonexistent. Aristotle, in his Poetics discusses this subject in regards to poems and plays, but it applies just as well to other fields: “… a beautiful object, whether it be a living organism or any whole composed of parts, must not only have an orderly arrangement of parts, but be of a certain magnitude and order; for beauty depends on magnitude and order. Hence, a very small animal organism cannot be beautiful; for the view of it is confused, the object being seen in an almost imperceptible moment of time. Nor again, can one of vast size be beautiful; for the eye cannot take it in all at once, the unity and sense of the whole is lost for the spectator; as for the instance if there were one a thousand miles long.” (Aristotle 2007)

cgus pats chair drafts001
A section drawing shows the inside of an object. A section is also, simply, a portion of something. A place can be sectioned off, as were the tombs of Ancient Egyptian pharaohs. Tombs consisted of a “miniature, palace-like series of room chambers”(Roth 2007), in which every thing had its own section, and place. The body of the pharaoh had its section of the tomb, while implements for the afterlife had their section. If servants or a wife of the pharaoh is buried with him, those people have their section of the tomb.

In studio, we have been working with walls, which are a form of a boundary. The Ancient Egyptians used the Nile, their source of life, as a boundary between life and death. There, “Across from the temples, on the west bank of the Nile, beyond which the sun wet, tombs were built at the edge of the cliffs” (Roth 2007). The pyramids were designed so that the sun would travel from the top down the four sides, to the four corners of the earth, or the earth’s boundaries.

drink and draw001
We have been drawing vignettes for a couple of classes. Vignettes can capture a literal scene in a coffee shop or an abstract feeling from a story. They capture small moments in time, often using a gathering of objects. When uncovering ruins, groupings of objects tell archaeologists a great deal, such as “grave goods and regalia for use in the next world” (Roth 2007) found in Egyptian tombs.

All designs must have unity. An important part of unity is scale. A section drawing can help to understand a design, and a design may have sections for different things and purposes. There are boundaries inferred in these sections between people and things, especially if there is a wall sectioning off the spaces. A vignette captures a grouping of objects, often with some sort of unity between them. There is a cycle among these words, just as there is a cycle in all of life.

Works Cited:

Aristotle, trans: S.H. Butcher. (2007). Poetics, Retrieved Feb 11, 2009, from http://books.google.com/books?id=EYuJEx4GKncC&pg=PR3&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=0_0#PPR9,M1

Roth, Leland, M. (2007). Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, and Meaning. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Drink & Draw

drink and draw001

People are so funny.

I thought I would seem like a weirdo sitting back in a corner drawing people (and even more like one sitting out in the open). I think I managed to figure out how to glance and still gather information.

I also thought at one point that an employee was going to tell me not to paint in there! She was really obsessive compulsive, going around and straightening every table and chair perfectly, quite aggressively.

I really enjoyed this assignment much more than I thought I would. I definitely think I will do this sort of thing more often now.

Fast People

fast people001
The reason I wanted to post this is because it really helped me overcome my paralyzing fear of drawing people. After this exercise, I have gotten a lot better at drawing them. When drawing quickly, I tend to look more at the subject than what I'm drawing, therefore not analyzing and thinking something looks wrong. Often, the proportions that look incorrect are correct once the whole picture is there. Each part- arm, head, leg, shoulder- must be put into its context, and then it makes more sense than the generic symbols that are easy to revert to in drawing, especially when drawing difficult subjects. I now often draw a quick sketch like these of the person I am drawing underneath or next to the final drawing.

Scale Figures

Scale figures are helpful to show the scale of a room, building, other environment, or object. Here are some different takes on scale figures and drawing the human form that I found interesting and inspires my own work:

I think this drawing is incredibly cute. Furthermore, I like the way he draws his people. They do not have too much detail, but still convey emotion.

The people in this are somewhat gestural. I also love the use of selective color, which works well with the teal-ish blue and the red coat that pops out.

Enrique Flores, UrbanSketchers.com

In this drawing, the woman at the far right expresses motion, in my opinion. The angles in this drawing style definitely help this. It is both quick and put together looking at the same time.

Though not drawing, I think that both of these methods are interesting ways to show scale with the human form.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Is Concrete Green?

Last semester, I, along with some others, struggled to find an answer to this question. Sure, it lasts a long time, so it must be green! Then again, there's a lot that goes into making it.

Imagine my joy and surprise to run across an entry on one of my favorite blogs about this very subject!

Read away:


They also give a few links at the end of the post on the subject.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


opus week two words full


illuminated objects full

Like as is the case with many words in the English language, illuminate has both a literal meaning and a somewhat figurative meaning. In the figurative sense, in our Perception and Communications class, we were required to draw five objects which were important to us. In this way, we illuminated things about ourselves as we sat in a circle and shared what these things were and why they were important to us. In a more literal sense, the pyramids of Ancient Egypt were designed to appear illuminated, with polished limestone and gold capping, reflecting the sun down its four corners. Zoser’s stepped pyramid, a precursor to the more evenly sloped pyramids of later pharaohs, was “sheathed in fine, white limestone” (i) to achieve a gleaming appearance against an otherwise bleak desert landscape.

An idiom is a phrase that cannot be translated well into another language or culture that the one it originates in. Nearly every language contains these phrases and uses of words, and we all use them every day, often without noticing. The Ancient Egyptians had the concept of ma’at, a word that is “impossible to translate into any European language, for it combines aspects of truth, justice, order, stability, security, a cosmic order of harmony, a created and inherent rightness” (ii). To the people of this civilization, this idiom was vital to every day life, since religion was tied so closely to their everyday lives.


Soulution for Pat

Materials surround us all the time. We both use them to build and design and rely on them for our desks and chairs. Our material possessions can say a lot about us, as is evidenced by the “Illuminated Objects” project. For the Ancient Egyptians we have been studying, their view of the afterlife had a materialistic facet which compelled them, certainly in regards to the Pharaoh, to lay their dead to rest with “unimaginable treasures” (iii).



It is essential for us as designers to recognize the truth in the words of Sir Henry Wolton in The Elements of Architecture: “In Architecture, as in all operative arts, the end must direct the operation. The end is to build well. Well building hath three conditions: Commoditie, Firmness, and Delight” (iv). One outstanding example of these three things is the pyramids of Ancient Egypt. They were built to outlast the builders and be a home for the dead in the afterlife. They have stood the test of time-- becoming iconic through thousands of years of wear and tear from their harsh environs. Their original gleam would have pleased the eye, connecting with the thought of the Egyptians of the day that the rays from the sun god, Ra, were being dispersed down its sides. Often, a space or structure can fulfill firmness (it stands) and delight (it looks nice), but fail in commodity. One example of this, according to Roth, is Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Crown Hall(v), which was intended as an all-purpose space, yet fails to work as such because it is too expansive. On the other hand, Roth points out, Charles Garniers’ Paris Opera (vi) realizes the social scene of the opera beautifully, and works well in this regard, fulfilling all three attributes: Commodity, Firmness, and Delight. For a structure or space to be delightful, it must connect with who we are and how we live along with how the space is to be used. When we build a model, such as a solution for Pat on her big city adventure or a dialog of bristol board and skewers, it is important that it works in all three regards.

In summary, our material possessions illuminate something about us and can tell us multitudes of a culture from thousands of years ago. As we learn, things become illuminated for us, and what may at first seem like something that does not translate well from paper to our minds becomes clear. And when we build whatever is charged on us, or when we design something simply because we want to, it should embody the three characteristics laid down by Sir Henry Wolton: Commoditie, Firmness, and Delight.

All quotes taken from:

Roth, Leland. Understanding Architecture : Its Elements, History, and Meaning. 2nd ed. New York: Westview P, 2006.
i. 196
ii. 192
iii. 201
iv. 11
v. 14
vi. 15

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Pat's Problem

Pat is a fictional (yet very real) character who moves to the big city after design school with little money and basically no furniture. Pat only has money to buy a 4'x8' sheet of 3/4" MDF, and out of this needs to make a table/server/desk/work area and a chair if it all works out. So, if I were put in this position, or were Pat's best friend helping him/her out, this is what I would do. And I built a model, and it is quite sturdy!

Soulution for Pat

I would also, if put in this position, utilize free furniture put in the back alleys by people with too much money and too little sense. You can find some really great pieces back there and by the road!


Every once in a while, I like to share some non-required sketches I do that I happen to really like. So here some are:

Hot Air Voyage of Love



uncomfortable chair

Vignettes: Black and White

Vignettes capture small moments in time and/or space. Instead of focusing only on an object, they are many objects, grouped together, either by being placed there purposefully or just happening to be there and of interest. The assignment was to draw three vignettes: one from studio, one from home, and another of our choice. Two of mine are from home, the first is from the studio. Each of them were groupings that occurred- I did not set them up. I find that naturally collected objects from everyday life are more interesting and can better capture memories and a piece of time, since they are completely realistic.

Vignette 1

Vignette 2

Vignette 3