December 21, 2010

Designated Sketcher - a virtual desk crit

Too often architects and designers don't get significant feedback on their work until the design process is finished or the building is completed. Students slave away for weeks only to get their work torn apart in overly critical juried reviews. To combat this, Jeff Pastva, a designer and Philadelphia-based architect, developed a website to help rectify the disconnect between design process and constructive feedback. It allows people to receive continuous feedback on their work throughout every stage of their design development. His site - Designated Sketcher - brings the idea of the desk critique to the cloud, allowing individuals to post their ideas, process sketches, finished projects, study models, diagrams, etc., and then receive comments from a community of designers. Anyone can register and submit their work or just browse through the work and offer their opinions. It allows people to adjust their ideas, fix their designs, or reconsider certain moves before it is too late for changes to take effect. It also is a great way to start conversations about architecture and stimulate the sharing of ideas.

It is a brand new site that just recently launched. The community is growing and will only become more interesting as more work is posted, and more critics offer their opinions. I highly recommend you check out the site and offer some insightful comments on the work shown, and post your own projects.

More information from creator Jeff Pastva:
The Designated Sketcher is a website that focuses on the advancement of student projects and the documentation of the decision making process. Since the design and decision making process is the most valuable asset to the student and young professionals’ germination, the site aims to provide critical professional feedback to help bridge the gap between education and employment. In order to accomplish this, it allows users to post their works in progress, which can range from your first sketch in studio to an entire body of work, for the community to engage in the dialogue. To get the full experience, designers would be encouraged to post their own projects at inception, so that the design community can be involved with this decision making process every step of the way.

Check out the site:

December 20, 2010

Slideshow: First Nations Garden Pavillion - by Saucier + Perrotte Architects - Montreal, Canada

A beautiful building that elegantly slips through the forrest at the Montreal Botanical Gardens. The flowing roof hovers over the displays below, highlighting the history and crafts of the local aboriginal culture.

December 16, 2010

Video: Open SimSim - Daniel Dendra - TEDxBerlin

I just got this presentation forwarded me from Daniel Dendra who I collaborated with while living in Berlin. It is a fantastic idea that could have a huge impact on the future or design. Hopefully this concept will catch on, gain a wide user-base and grow to be an influential entity for our built environment.

According to the OPEN SIM SIM website:

OPEN SOURCE ARCHITECTURE – WHERE PEOPLE MEETOpen source is changing many aspects of our every day life. We use open source projects such as wikipedia for researching information and gaining knowledge. We use open source software such as OpenOffice to write letters and make presentations. We are shifting from a corporation owned consumer world to a community driven participation system where people are enjoying contributing their knowledge and time to the wider public for free.

Could architecture and urbanism also benefit from this ideas?

98% of the world wide residential building market is not designed and built by architects. OpenSource will gain credibility as well as increase market shares for the architectural community.

OPEN SOURCE ARCHITECTUREOpen source architecture is a community driven platform that enhances the architectural design and building process. Open source architecture deals with wide range, innovative and sustainable housing concepts. It provides user generated content including scripting tools and with it valuable knowledge. 

The design process and realization of architecture are defined in a contemporary way: An interested community such as architects, engineers, climate specialists, home owners, designers and manufactures are putting their input and feedback into the design. It is available to everybody who cares about the world of design and the design of the world.

The goal is to define new objectives, develop strategies to initiate activities, meet people in architecture, make the design process more transparent and create new visions. Architectural design for homes should be for free, as long it is sustainable.

The key players in the process are:
  • perspective home owners
  • architects
  • manufacturers
  • engineers and scientists 
Open source architecture is targeting smaller scale residential projects.

TECHNOLOGYOpen source architecture is operated by a simple state of the art technology. It is based on a dynamic and flexible core system which provides common web2.0 and social media features.

REFERENCESThe tool that is developed is radical different from any existing tools or open networks for architects on the internet. References to existing projects from other fields are: DIYdrones and LocalMotors.

We presented the beta version of the online platform to a broader audience. Furthermore an interactive and partly physical installation demonstrated the ideas and possibilities of Open- Source for architecture and design. 15 open source projects were featured and the visitors interacted with the sustainable design process and became part of the design community.

For more information visit the OPEN SIM SIM Website:

December 15, 2010

Video: Ellen Dunham-Jones: Retrofitting suburbia

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Parks House

LOS ANGELES, June 30, 2010 – New design talent Michael Parks is pleased to announce the completion of the dramatic remodeling of the Parks House, a modern and innovative three-bedroom, three-bath hillside home located in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles‟ Hollywood Hills. The creative ingenuity behind the year and a half transformation of the Parks House is made all the more intriguing because Parks, the owner, had no formal architectural/design education. Yet he designed and spearheaded the project himself -- an architectural metamorphosis through which Parks himself found a new career and a passion for creating ground-breaking modern design.

“After an architect presented us with a set of plans (no similarities to Parks‟) that were over three times our budget, I decided to explore the possibility of using my love of architecture and my creative, budgeting and project management skills from TV and film producing to try and do it myself,” Parks said. “It all came together in a very LA story. While getting my haircut, a stylist told me that he had a contractor/business partner „who was the best.‟ The contractor turned out to be his brother, but after meeting him I realized he was our man and I could do the project for under our limited budget.”

Parks faced countless challenges when he purchased the house: severe dry rot and termite damage to every area of the wood, post and beam-built house; windows that did not connect with their frames; a poor floor plan with little worthwhile useable space and only one proper bedroom; a kitchen where Parks actually put his foot through the rotted floor; poor ventilation with no insulation and an oddly shaped lot coupled with difficult hillside conditions. But Parks looked past the dwelling's numerous issues and instead saw incredible, unrealized potential.

With a contractor on board and with the housing market going bust, Parks had no choice but to dive in. Never one to take the easy road, Parks had just finished production on a new TV pilot; had recently planned an international wedding with his then fiancé; and was in the midst of pitching several television shows when construction began. Nevertheless, he immersed himself totally into the project and was hands-on from day one, tackling all the architecture, design, budgeting, permit and inspection approvals, getting advice from a Los Angeles plumber, as well as complex landscaping issues. (Completed Parks House Photos:

In fact, many days Parks could be seen dangling 40ft. in the air staining wood -- an undertaking befitting Parks -- a man whose vision, drive and spirit of adventure led him to ascend the treacherous slopes of Mt. Everest in 2000. “With this house, the learning curve and the difficult lot were both steep to say the least,” Parks said, “the only way to accomplish this was to make it a full time job.”

Parks' love of architecture began as a child in Washington, DC where he played in a house designed by modern architect, Richard Neutra. "I loved the spacious openness, bold lines and floor to ceiling glass, which were in direct contrast to the prevailing colonial and traditional architecture of Washington, D.C," said Parks. On weekends in Los Angeles, just for his own enjoyment, Parks found himself taking walks with his wife, searching out houses by the great modernists, not realizing he would soon be putting this inspiration to use on his own property.

The Parks House now stands as a testament to forward-thinking, sleek, open, airy and inviting modern architecture that accomplishes the rare feat of combining a minimalist aesthetic with both comfort and hip, understated luxury. With impeccable proportions and bold geometry, Parks‟ design uses the strategic and artful interplay between horizontal and vertical volumes to define the home‟s appearance -- engaging and heightening the senses of those who visit.

“There is a story for every square inch of the house,” Parks said. One standout, design-forward architectural feature, a breath-taking wall of glass that looks out into a striking tree canopy, was perhaps the most challenging design and remodeling detail of the project. To achieve this, Parks had to turn a deaf ear to many who told him that he would not be able to find glass that was energy efficient, thermal, double glaze, and large enough for his design. After accomplishing this, he was then faced with the dilemma of installation. “Due to the height, the slope of the street and the trees that surrounded the 35ft. high window opening, a crane was out of the question,” Parks said.

The solution: nine men carried the heavy glass wall down the stairs and angled it through the yet unframed front door and into the house. To create a dark, vertical, metal cladding element for the exterior, Parks thought outside of the box and used sustainable metal standing seam roofing, usually seen on large commercial buildings, cutting it into various widths to create an unexpected and beautiful, cascading design. (Glass Wall Photos:

Other distinguishing features include a stunning wood-trellised box-framed window; a portion of the house sheathed in exquisite, sustainably-harvested exterior wood cladding; and the extensive use of sustainable and eco-friendly building materials throughout. In addition, large retaining walls made of recycled concrete from old driveways; floor to ceiling glass reminiscent of its mid-century modern roots; and an outside waterfall created with small pieces of discarded slate add distinctive detailing to the house.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring aspects this project is that the creation of the Parks House, borne from a love of architecture and design, has turned into a new career for Parks, who, mid-way through construction, began taking architecture courses at night at UCLA. Parks said, “I remodelled the house and the house remodelled me.

“I heard a quote once that said 'There's how we live and that is food, clothing and shelter. And then there is why we live... and that's called art.' The goal was to create a house in which we were surrounded, inside and out, by warm, modern architecture that is art, but could be lived in comfortably.”

For more information about Michael Parks and the Parks House, please contact Marilyn Fletcher, at Fletcher Communications: Cell - (917) 547-8045 - or visit the website

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December 3, 2010

Video: Media facades: When buildings start to twitter

During the day, façade structures with their windows and material combinations grant a specific building image to the public. However, after sunset electrical light is the medium for an architectural image. The light appearance sends an atmospheric signal to the citizens like hang on in front of an asleep structure, look at an inviting but static façade or enjoy a vivid architecture sharing short stories like tweets. In the last decade, media facades have become a widespread element for luminous short messages. They establish a network between the building owner and the citizens, sometimes driven by aesthetical debates, other times by commercial intentions to avoid traditional light advertisement. The pursuit of persuasion by way of big screens gives the impression that size receives a higher relevance than content, comparable with the large amount of trivial tweets in Twitter. Various media facades appear as monumental monologues repeating a fixed animation daily. A few facades use signals from the environment and transform them into a play of light and shadow. Others emerge as urban dialogues when buildings show combined moving pictures. Some even allow people to send messages to the building to receive luminous retweets. They turn the city into a community following the dialogue and with the respective Apps may possibly even gain a following community worldwide.

- Thomas Schielke, arclighting:
- Parsons The New School for Design, New York:

December 2, 2010

Video: Interview with Ole Bouman - Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI)

From Studio Banana TV:
In this video, Ole Bouman, director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI), explains the concept and vision behind the Dutch presentation at the Venice Biennale 2010. He also talks about the role and position of the NAI as not only a museum of architecture but above all as a cultural institute which is open to the public and which uses a variety of methods for communicating about the shaping of human space.

December 1, 2010

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