10/23/14 – 2.5D cont’d – Urban Vignettes

“Where did you get your forms?”

city of boston main drainage cross section 1 cross section 2 cross section 3

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These are more 2.5D studies, framed as ‘urban vignettes’ for an experimental music complex in Boston that I have been working on with Han Kwon and Jill Maltby.

The two dimensional ‘Boston Main Drainage Intercepting Sewers’ drawings were made spatial. They are at the same time ‘flat’ representations of underground circulation, and ’round’ sculptural experiences. Photographing parallel to each plane reduces the model to a surface, which could then be re-entered as a space. The key/legend (the Boston Main Drainage Sewers drawings) turns the models into visual wormholes, where one plane can be entered, only to find another which can act as a plane of departure.

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I’ve realized that a lot of studio work for students (myself included) relates to anxiety about form; not so much as it relates to function, but form in and of itself. Professors know that form ‘emerges’ from a project, but are quick to suggest little things that will make the tectonics ‘nice’. “Have you seen ‘x-building’ by ‘y-architect’? Just do something like that for this detail/profile/material.” I’ve wasted hours choosing to ignore form, treating it as a superficial, and base ‘material interest’, unworthy of acceptance in an immaterial world. I wanted to talk about ‘space’ only: that illusive, spiritual entity that ultimately can never be talked about without form.

[I grew up in between suburban and urban Midwest, where there was so much space I had no idea what space was; where you could see the curvature of the earth between the parking lots of Walmart and Hy-Vee. Form? Form is the shitty billboard advertising Hardee's: sculptural, flat, insignificant, or worse: immoral. 'Space' offers a way to talk about design with less emphasis on 'form'. 'Light' becomes a way to make 'space' spiritual. To be sure, there is no 'architecture' for a student interested in only 'light' and 'space'...Spirit and Absence; a place to dwell internally, a non-space. Philosophy, math, criticism: non-spaces. Places that are fun and valuable to visit, but unable to sustain physical life in and of themselves.]

These models are overtly formal, their ‘lack of function’ resolute. They look at what spaces in the city could be like if infrastructure was actually played with, rather than discussed in academic architectural circles as an ‘untapped market’ owned by engineers, waiting to be ‘designed’. The City Museum in St. Louis is all about this brash, re-organization of the stuff of the city. Of course the most interesting parts of these models and the City Museum are moving through and in-between the ‘stuff of the city’, but ‘stuff’, in these cases, is required first.

10/5/14 – Lines

A student in DSN 102 (our college’s introductory 2D and 3D design studio) recently asked me why I draw so many lines in my sketchbook.

The late architectural theorist and professor Lebbeus Woods has the following to say about the Line in his blog (which is still one of my favorites, even though it is no longer updated):

“Line is precise and unequivocal. It is here, not there. Making a line is not about accidents. Rather, it is about contour, edge, shape. It is about where one space begins and another ends. It can be spontaneous or studiously deliberate, but it always carves space in a decisive way. It has a clear ethical, as well as aesthetic, impact. The drawn line is one of the great human inventions, and it is available to all of us, a tool both common and esoteric, personal and universal.”



Leopold Lambert, in the introduction to his blog Weaponized Architecture,’states: “One line, indeed, has the capacity of splitting a milieu into two distinct impenetrable environments. One line can also encircle a body and imprison it within the space it frames.”



title page

A few of these drawings can be found in an online publication of my sketches abroad: http://issuu.com/matthewdp/docs/drawing_to_learn

I started to take photographs of my walks, specifically of my feet, between home and the College of Design. Despite the delightful glitches, these stitches show that lines are present in every frame (click to enlarge). Each stitch has a continuous line that both enters and exits the image.




The lines appear to both follow and lead to and from home. Their presence is unavoidable, and therefore worthy of study and mastery.

Maybe lines are valuable for all of these reasons. Maybe it is with love for their forms and respect for their capacities that I draw lines. Maybe it is because we, as humans, are verticals intersecting an infinite horizon-tal. Maybe it is because if our designed environments equate to nothing more than lines on a page, inscribed somewhere and forgotten in the deep recesses of an architect’s storage closet, then we might too have the capacity to transform them and alter them.

At their worst, lines are authority made physical, and to wield them is to have some authorization. At their best, lines are productive edges of confrontation, of ‘contour, edge, and shape’, where the separated directly engage their separations.

Acque di Roma – 9/5/14

Today is the 2014 Iowa State Department of Architecture’s Premiere Night in Kocimski Auditorium. The night includes a formal ‘welcome’ to new students in the program, a scholarship/award ceremony, a guest lecture by Tom Leslie (check out his excellent blog here), and a formal opening and reception for the spring 2014 study abroad semester in Rome.

I was part of the graphics and exhibition committee for the evening’s events and put together a series of posters based on our theme: The Waters of Rome.ACQUE 1





Premiere Night has historically been a joy to participate in, if for no other reason than to ‘share the harvest’ of a semester’s worth of thoughtful making. This year was especially fruitful in the arena of drawing and representation. I will try and post photos/links to the event this weekend.

7/24/14 – DIS Home Stretch Pt. 2

FINAL_Site Plan_1_500

Site Plan-1:1000


Working Elevations, North_1:100


Working Elevations, South_1:100


‘Path’ Model, studying inbetweeness and ground undulations

diffused light

Study model of offset vertical timber boards and bench

4 5 Models are tricky things.

How can something be both an ‘ideal’ and a ‘fake’?
Why do we model first in abstract white volumes, devoid of material characteristics? Shouldn’t form emerge from those now absent characteristics?

Models are beautiful things.

Every model is an instrument in the light of the sun.
A means to measure the earth (geo/earth-metry/measure).
A means to measure time.

Models are imaginary things. Physical and mental investments.

I become the man in the foreground, the child becomes my daughter.
Concept means nothing anymore, ‘architecture’ never meant anything to begin with -
I want to know where we are headed.

New space, new grounds on which to live.
Leading me through, towards light and play.


7/20/14 – DIS Home Stretch

We are entering our final studio week here in Copenhagen, making the final boards and models of our studio project: a Timber Pavilion for the King’s Garden.
Formal ORganization

My concept evolved from a series of studies combining notions of spatial tension and compression, felt in the dense winding medieval streets of the old city. I am challenging the King’s Garden’s design as one basically unchanged for 350 years even as the ownership of the space changed from that of the King’s private ownership (centralized) to public (distributed). Because the architecture failed to reflect this change, the garden’s appeal is one of a fairy tale, not unlike Tiovli, Disneyland or any other place made stale through fantasy. The city of Copenhagen (and many, MANY other cities) struggle with how to transform ‘cultural relics’ that prevent urban growth and maturation. Of course the garden is used wonderfully, and our site especially is quite popular.1
The pavilion’s strength, then, is in its transience. Up in a week, down in a few months. Enough to challenge what architecture can and should be in a city, and world, of constant change. Of course it is laden with motifs that I have picked up here in Scandinavia…each pod filled with a different quality of Nordic light. I have been looking intently at different uses of wood for the past month and a half, and am still delightfully disturbed by the universe within each knot, a magnetic resonance of imperfection.SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAplan2Plan3
1As always I am thrilled to be at the edge of my seat with X-acto, pencil, and mouse in hand…a deadline swiftly approaching, a new space revealing itself to me and the world. I will post some more updates later in the week.

Study Tour pt. 3 – Aalto/Petajavesi

We returned last Saturday from our incredible DIS study tour north through Scandinavia, stopping along the way for important works of humanist architecture. The next few posts will be of sketches and photos reviewing some of my experiences during the trip.study tour_c
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Massing diagram of Saynatsalo. Site Section and details of Muuratsalo, as well as plan reconfigurations of a previous 302 project.

inside and outside

I can’t offer much new insight on Aalto’s masterpiece in Saynatsalo. The council chamber especially is the subject of much praise. Aalto is lauded here for the integration into the immediate and larger social landscape of Finland. Loved almost universally by architects for the detailing and light qualities, I am still a little put off by his insistence of ‘total design’ in the design of a space for democracy. From what I understand ‘total design’ had come to mean ‘total control’ by the end of the modern movement. (But here it is okay, because the cold steel of industry is wrapped in the humanity of leather and twine?…The other extreme, an empty vessel to be filled with thoughts and ideas of the people, would not be okay either, so I don’t know really know what’s right or wrong here. The space feels good to be in, that is for sure.)

inside and outside

Muuratsalo, Aalto’s experimental summer house, is all about the surrounding landscape and the warmth of the interior courtyard (again, both heavily photographed and available with a quick google search). I was never particularly interested in ‘framing views’, as I had never experienced such dramatic views. The architecture here really is just about revealing something else, a ‘preparation for the experience of light’. I love the way the fire pit grounds the lake with the courtyard, in one axis of elemental power (fire, water, air, earth). Also of note is Aalto’s elevated drawing studio, a cozy space where light and creation meet.

inside and outside

The Petajavesi Old Church is a testament to northern timber construction. Today it acts as a three dimensional catalogue of fascinating wood joinery and assembly. A central plan with a beautiful Gothic vaulted interior…I was especially fascinated by the perfect triangle that emerged from the slanted roofs upon orbiting the building…a triangle that would appear above a circle inscribed in a square the following day in the Woodland Cemetery.