Travel Habits of an Architect

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately so in this video, I wanted to share some of my architect travel habits for sketching and photography. These tips apply even if you’re not an aspiring architect and will help you wring the most out of any trip you take, near or far. (And, be sure to stick around at 4:46...wait for it...)

GEAR

My travel kit is as lean as it’s ever been, just a sketchbook, a few drawing tools, my camera gear (more details here) and a small laptop. You don’t need an expensive camera or special tools though to do what I do. The DSLR is an intentional choice for me as it forces me to slow down when I'm traveling. It makes me think about lens selection and composition, the subject, the lighting. It’s probably the single best investment I’ve made in the past 10 years (aside from travel).

For lenses on this trip I brought a wide zoom, a medium zoom, a telephoto and a macro. And this was way too many. Lenses are heavy and to lug these things around in a backpack in the tropics is…well, sweaty. Of the four I brought along, I used the 24-70mm and the 100mm most of the time. The zoom is great because the 24mm end on a full frame camera is wide enough to capture landscapes or interiors and the 70mm is perfect for details. Then you have the right around 50mm is great for portraits. So this one lens covers a lot of situations.

You'll learn why I reject guidebooks in general, my process for observing, documenting and then cataloguing my travels and you'll see what I do in the downtime between destinations.

Time Stamps:

  • 0:22 Start Now. Don’t wait until you arrive at your destination to start taking photos or sketching.

  • 0:42 Follow 30by40 on Instagram: http://thirtybyforty.com/instagram

  • 0:49 Travel Essentials.

  • 1:28 My Routine (Shoot then Sketch)

  • 1:55 Subjects. Not everything has to be architectural.

  • 2:53 Details + Materials = Experience. Learn to observe the world this way.

  • 4:46 Wait for it…

  • 4:55 Has this ever happened to you? Relaxing on the beach and out of nowhere…!?

Sketchbook - 50pages from Strathmore (trying something new…I quite like it)

White pen - ink isn’t semi-transparent, but flows nicely, not gummy at all

Copic Marker Set (grays) - essential (this is a set of 5 and includes a non-smudging Multiliner pen too)

Blue + Tan + Green + Yellow Copics are from the blending trio sets (they’re cheaper to buy as sets)

Mechanical Pencil (a personal favorite)

White colored pencil (wood-free)

 Hallway Light + Room Numbers at The Williamsburg Hotel

Hallway Light + Room Numbers at The Williamsburg Hotel

SIDE NOTE: The Williamsburg Hotel (at 3:16) in Brooklyn, NY was designed by the London Architecture Firm: Michaelis Boyd and completed in 2017. We actually had no plans to stay here, but we arrived in NYC to an early season snowstorm and our connecting flight back to Maine was canceled. Our flight the following day wasn’t due to leave until 10pm, so at my better half’s urging, we traveled from JFK airport to Williamsburg in Brooklyn and spent the next 24 hours exploring the neighborhood and staying in this fantastic hotel. Completely worth the little bit of extra effort to get there from JFK.

 Railing Study at The Williamsburg Hotel (clever design, but, man it really whistles in the wind!)

Railing Study at The Williamsburg Hotel (clever design, but, man it really whistles in the wind!)

(Architecture) Conferences. Why Bother?

I used to thumb my nose at conferences, but this year something changed. I decided the island I've been living on felt a little too isolating; a little too small. And so, I thought brushing up against 26,000 other architects might be a good excuse to get out of my own head and see what everyone else in this profession was up to. I secured a press pass to attend the 2018 AIA (American Institute of Architects) national convention in New York City and I came away surprised by just how much I enjoyed it.

If you're an introvert - like me - it’s easy to avoid large groups of people, but even introverts need to network with others and to hear new ideas. I've learned time and again that whenever I'm able to step outside my comfort zone, great things happen and this experience didn't disappoint. I met viewers of this channel, students, interns, and architects from all around the world of all ages.

A few of the things I came away with:
+New ideas + inspiration
+Larger network of connections + contacts
+Deeper connection + appreciation of NYC
+Behind the scenes info. on buildings & systems
+Cutting-edge information via seminars + thought-leaders
+New product info.
+Some really amazing food
+Chance to meet & collaborate with IRL an amazing friend and mentor from down under.

Stick around to the end for details on how you can help shape the future of this channel and a chance at one of five, one-on-one chats with me, here's the link.

 

Learning to See (Like an Architect)

 

As architects, our job is to uncover what’s hidden...in a place, in our clients, in the materials we use. We're taught to make our discoveries visible and tangible. We're taught to give the silent a voice. To do this, we explore, analyze, consider, dissect, unearth and seek to understand the meaning of things which are often hiding in plain view. Finding a muse is one of the best tools I've discovered to teach the depth of research and skill required to become a more thoughtful designer. A muse will teach you how to truly see like an architect.

Learn more about mine here:

Be an Amateur (Architect)

Learning from the life and work of Charles and Ray Eames, in this video I discuss why it's important to approach problems with the mind of an amateur. The Eameses believed in never delegating understanding and that one must learn by doing. It's this ethos of experimentation and the use of various media types for artistic expression that's fueling my architecture practice today. And, it's positively effecting how many people I'm able to reach and impact in the world. You'll learn how I've applied the amateur strategy to release my first film and to make better architecture.
***I'm also proud to announce that my short film: A Choice to Make (you've seen it on YouTube right?) was selected to be screened at the 9th annual Architecture and Design Film Festival held in NYC (adfilmfest.com) on November 1st through 5th of 2017. I'll be there and if you're in town, I'd love to meet you there too. Come say hi and feast on some architecture films at the CINÉPOLIS CHELSEA, 260 W 23RD St, NY, NY.

Developing the Concept: Architecture Short Course (part 2)

Developing the architectural concept into floor plans, designing the form, and refining the spatial ideas are all covered in part 2 of our architecture short course.

The first step in making the abstract concept real is to sketch a floor plan and then give that plan a three-dimensional form. A floor plan is a quick way of describing the hierarchy and relationship of spaces and it begins fixing their real physical dimensions and shapes. Throughout the design process architects must continually consider the design in both the plan, or overhead view, and the sectional, or volumetric view. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to begin by sketching a plan and then construct a three-dimensional version of that plan either in model form or by sketching.

In order to get to three dimensions, we have to make some decisions about form, space, and order. When we speak about form we’re referring not only to a building’s shape but also to its size, scale, color, and texture…basically, all the visual properties of an object. Form has a direct relationship to space in that it influences both interior and exterior rooms. And lastly, order is how we choose to orient and relate the forms and spaces to each other. This directs the inhabitant’s experience of a place.

We'll review strategies for refining the floor plan, designing meaningful building forms, editing, and converting two-dimensional abstract concepts into three-dimensional buildings.

Simplicity - An Architectural Manifesto

A short musing on simplicity; illustrated with residential architecture. Simplicity builds no more than necessary. Simplicity makes room for living rather than things. Simplicity is rational. Simplicity values craft... and material. Simplicity rejects excess. Simplicity invites reflection. Simplicity appears effortless. Simplicity is efficient. Simplicity lends small gestures... great importance.

Studio Project: Plywood (as a wall finish)

My design studio acts a lab for experimentation, in this video I discuss lessons learned from installing plywood as a finished wall surface. The four main discussion points covered are:

1) Material thickness: 1/2" - 3/4" typical range. NOTE: if you're using sprayed foam insulation in your walls, the plywood covering must act as an ignition barrier for the foam - thickness will be critical. Thickness also affects: translation of framing inconsistencies to the finished surface, stability and price.

2) Panel cores and veneer faces. Steer clear of the Chinese Plywoods. Choose panels from the same lot and age if possible. Veneer plywood has a front and back side; the less banded side is the finished face. Take care when cutting to avoid material blow-out.

3) Attachment. Concealed versus exposed fastener. I recommend a concealed clip as well as a tip for aligning the finished face of the panels (it's a special fastener).

4) Finishing. Determine the project goals first, then select the finish. Mine were: - Low sheen - Preserve natural wood appearance - Easy to apply - Non-yellowing

I review oil-based and water-based finishes, Danish oil, spar varnish, paste wax, natural soap (Hans Wenger furniture), and finally WOCA oil + lye.

For a broader material discussion please see the video for part 1...

As always I welcome questions and feedback; you can reach me at: eric (at) thirtybyforty.com

Studio Project: Concrete Slab (as finished floor)

In this video I discuss five important considerations with a concrete slab that will act as a finished floor:1) Installer / subcontractor 2) Color 3) Consistency 4) Control joints 5) Reinforcing

You might also consider building a mock-up especially for large floor areas to ensure you’re getting the finish you expect.

I finish the video reviewing progress with a timelapse video of the slab placement and finishing. Framing is up next...

As always I welcome questions and feedback; you can reach me at: eric (at) thirtybyforty.com

Flat roofs and snow: 5 myths (busted)

In this video I dispel 5 common myths surrounding the use of flat roofs in snowy climates. The very notion of shelter is linked to the image of a roof above our heads. And while the elements of snow and rain may shape our living habits, advances in material technology and application now afford us a broad range of choice when it comes to the shape of the roofs over our heads. Contrary to popular belief, even those of us living in extremely snowy, wet environments are able to live beneath a flat roof. 

 

Designing a Small Studio - Lighting Plan (Part 7)

In this video I discuss the development of the lighting plan for our small studio project. I begin by discussed the (3) elements every professional lighting plan includes: ambient, task, & accent lights. I also describe a useful guideline for figuring out the amount of light required in a space as well as how I've applied the building concept to the lighting plan.I end the video by discussing a simple affordable fixture, why I chose not to use exposed conduit in spite of the aesthetics, and how to think about the location of your electrical panel (stay until the end for a cool little trick I employed).

Thanks for watching...

Four Homes Built on Boundaries

In this video I explore four homes built on boundaries. It's a look at how a home can challenge the natural environment and occupy the boundary between architectural convention and stunning natural beauty. When confronted with a design brief and an undeveloped site, architects often look to the edges of that site for inspiration and meaningful architectural solutions. These boundaries, both real and imagined, are exciting places to build. The boundary often gives rise to the form of the building, its materials and even how it’s structured.

Designing a Small Studio - Selecting Materials (Part 6)

Materials can be used to convey the underlying concept of a building or in some cases they can function as the entire concept (Peter Zumthor is an excellent example). In this video I detail the process I used for connecting the "lens for the seasons" and "barn" concepts to an attitude about building materials.

I begin with abstract imagery, then build Pinterest boards with inspirational images, then I gather and collage materials. Instead of directly quoting the Pinterest images I draw upon their essential ideas to develop the material palette for the building.

The concepts are hard to compress into a short video (my apologies) if you stay tuned to the end I talk about a quick tip for securing free material samples I recently discovered.

How to Borrow Light

In this video I discuss natural daylighting strategies anyone can take advantage of. I begin with a short history lesson which describes how daylighting actually shaped the largest of cities in the US. In 1915 the 38-story Equitable Building in New York City was the largest office building in the world. Containing 1.2 million square feet of office space, it consumed nearly every available square foot of its diminutive lot and cast an equally large shadow on its neighborhood in lower Manhattan. Its construction inspired the enactment of the city’s 1916 Zoning Resolution, which was designed to preserve access to light and air at the street level. The resolution prescribed specific limitations for a building’s envelope — its outer walls — and would go on to shape the stepped forms that you see today on many of the iconic towers in the city.

This underscores the importance that access to daylight had in shaping even the largest of cities, the individual buildings that make up those cities and, more broadly, sensible building design. With an increasing focus on sustainable design practices, the smart use of natural daylight in our homes is no longer a luxury — it has become a necessity. At the heart of any good daylighting strategy is a concept of “borrowed” light: the capture of light falling on the exterior of a home and transporting it to the spaces where it’s needed.

Designing a Small Studio - Building a Study Model (Part 5)

In this video I discuss the benefits of building a small scale, physical study model using the reference project I've been designing: my studio building. Computer models are excellent tools, but simple cardboard models allow real-time manipulation of forms and the development of ideas that don't always present themselves when working in a digital environment.

For me, model building has always been a part of the design process. They help: 1) To study building forms and spaces. 2) For real-time solar studies. 3) With envisioning scale of elements as they relate to the human form. 4) Allow one to explore a variety of material and color options, quickly and easily. 5) One can quickly flesh out ideas in much the same way a hand sketch might, however, model construction uniquely forces you to make decisions about building elements that sketching doesn't.

Future videos will describe sketchy model building hacks and tactics to more quickly build a useful avatar for your architectural project.

Designing a Small Studio - Revisiting and Integrating the Concept (Part 4)

In this video I overlay the plan diagrams on the site plan which reveals a clear favorite. I go on to describe 6 tactics I use to turn a simple diagram into a meaningful floor plan. They are:

1) Study a building precedent (in this case a barn).

2) Develop an ordering system (grid, column layout, geometry, functional). Once it's established you can decide when to "disobey" the rules.

3) Create zones: entry, circulation, storage, living. Divide public and private spaces.

4) Analyze adjacencies - group common functions and support spaces. Make sure their orientation makes sense for the plan location.

5) Refer back to the concept. In this case the "lens for the seasons" concept reinforced the barn plan typology and spurred on new ideas.

6) Create layers of meaning. Begin by thinking about the way we experience space or places and look for opportunities for the building to enhance daily life.

The next video explores the use of small physical study models for solar, material, and proportioning studies.

Designing a Small Studio - Plan Diagrams (Part 3)

Part 3 in a multi-part video series where I dissect the design process for a small studio space. In this video I sketch out the four basic plan ideas I generated for the studio and describe the benefits and liabilities of each. Designing a floor plan begins with an understanding of the site, where the sun is, the winds, the approach, public and private areas and a precise listing of the spaces to be incorporated.

A well-designed floor plan synthesizes all of this information into a simple, logical connection of rooms. The process I describe works for buildings that are extremely simple - such as my studio - as well as very complex structures.

Designing a Small Studio - Inspiration (Part 1)

In this video I discuss the inspiration for the design of my small studio and workshop here on Mount Desert Island. This is part 1 in a multi-part series I've been recording as I continue to refine the design and prepare for the construction of this project. Part 1 discusses the site inspiration and how living on the coast of Maine has informed my design process. My work is site specific, narrative based and craft-driven; these concepts appear continually in my work and I hope this video offers some insight into how these abstract ideas develop into architecture. In part 2, I sketch out the plan concepts and parse the options to show you how I typically begin a project and move through the various options.