Saturday, August 29, 2015

Iterations (a design process): John Ronan’s the Poetry Foundation

Poetry Foundation Building, Chicago, Illinois. 2011
Photograph courtesy of the Poetry Foundation.
John Ronan Architects (American, founded 1997); John Ronan (born 1963)
The building comprises:
• a public garden
• a 30,000-volume library
• an exhibition gallery
• the Poetry Foundation’s programming offices

Presentation Model, 2008. The semi-transparent screen in front is featured.
Basswood, cardboard, and Plexiglas
Photographs taken from the exhibition Iterations: John Ronan’s Poetry Foundation.
December 14, 2013–May 4, 2014 at the Art Institute of Chicago, Gallery 24.
Architecture & Design Society, 2012
Photographs by versluis @ 2015 unless otherwise indicated.

Diagrammatic Sketches, 2008
Computer print on paper exhibition copy
Architecture & Design Society, 2012

Iterative Models, 2008
Cardboard, paper, Plexiglas, and other materials
Collage and assemblage site-plans and floor-plans.
Architecture & Design Society, 2012

Precision drawing.
Architecture & Design Society, 2012

AIC exhibition didactics state:

For Ronan, the gestation of a design begins with analog processes. After a period of thinking the ideas are quickly sketched hand, or down-loaded, in a spontaneous and intuitive manner. This set of hand-drawn diagrams reflects Ronan’s initial thoughts about how best to integrate a garden—a requisite of the project—with the space’s other key elements: a public reading room and library a performance space, a gallery, and an office. Here Ronan explored different relationships—such as interlocking or overlapping—between the building and the garden, which he then translated onto the site plan. …
Founded in 1997 by John Ronan, the Chicago-based architecture firm John Ronan Architects has made its mark with a range of critically acclaimed buildings and a thoughtful approach to spatial relationships and materials. The firm uses a distinct, iterative methodology in order to explore a wide range of options at the outset of a project. While many architects have adopted a completely digital process, Ronan sees advantages in both handmade and digital design methods; the handmade process, seen here, allows for a more intuitive and less calculated approach that is valuable in the beginning stages, while digital tools allow for the precision necessary to finalize a design.

Operating on a shoestring budget since its 1912 founding by Harriet Monroe, Chicago-based Poetry magazine experienced a surprising windfall in 2003 with the bequest of approximately $200 million from the pharmaceutical heiress Ruth Lilly. The magazine reorganized as the Poetry Foundation and decided to build a permanent home to advance its mission of raising the public profile of poetry. After a thorough selection process, the organization selected John Ronan Architects to design the building.

For the Poetry Foundation, Ronan’s design process entailed thoughtful considerations about how to integrate the required elements of the building. As seen here, the iterative approach was used throughout the design’s development-from the initial diagrams and a set of site-specific models to the presentation model-with the goal of creating a compelling spatial narrative. Completed in 2011, the building was recognized with a national design award from the American Institute of Architects. 
This exhibition has been mode possible with support from the Architecture & Design Society. 

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Erich Mendelsohn: ascending the steps of Mount Zion—by design

Erich Mendelsohn, architect, (1887–1953)
Mount Zion Temple, Saint Paul, Minnesota, (1950–1954)
View from the northeast on Summit Avenue 
Photography by versluis ©2015

Erich Mendelsohn was one of the great twentieth century architects. His buildings are characterized by sensitivity to the site and very expressive of the buildings purpose. Renovational updates of various areas of the building were completed in 2001 by the architectural firm of Bentz, Thompson and Reitow of Minneapolis.

View from the courtyard with Sanctuary in the background


Hans D. Rawinsky’s The Burning Bush (Holy Presence), 1960

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Erich Mendelsohn: synagogue architecture — an expression of purpose

Erich Mendelsohn, architect, (1887–1953).
Temple Emanuel, Grand Rapids, Michigan, (1948–1952).
View from the southeast. The automobile canopy was added sometime later. Photography by versluis unless otherwise indicated, ©2015.

Temple Emanuel in Grand Rapids, Michigan was one of the last buildings designed and built by one of the great twentieth century architects, Erich Mendelsohn. A distinguishing feature is how the architect situated the building to take advantage of a southern exposure so that generous light fills the interior space. Inundating the sanctuary with light becomes a celebration of life. As stated in Temple Emanuel’s website: “He [Mendelsohn] visualized a different approach when designing our synagogue. The tall clerestory windows high in the sanctuary allow natural light to flow in, and the movable walls permit us to divide the space as needed.”

The site rests on a gentle rise, which is elevated from the street level. The rhythms and proportions of architectural forms result in a building that harmonizes beautifully with the relative horizontal flatness of the site and verticality and energy of the trees.

Writer Arnold Whittick, in his piece about Mendelsohn for the Encyclopedia of Modern Architecture states that: “Mendelsohn’s work was characterized by a sympathetic and original use of materials, steel, concrete and glass, and by an expression of purpose through the forms of his building, .... His designs were always actuated by the principles of organic unity, so that each part by its character denotes it relation to the whole, and each building is closely wedded to its site.” (1)

  1. Whittick, Arnold. “Mendelsohn.” Encyclopedia of Modern Architecture. Ed. Gerd Hatje. 1964. 183-86. Print.

The 1000 sq. ft. sanctuary wall mural that celebrates Light of Creation (recently restored) is the work of Lucienne Bloch Dimitroff (1909–1999), 1953. Casein paint on plywood panels. The mural creates a wonderful golden glow in both daylight and with artificial lighting. Photograph courtesy of The Conservation Center, Chicago. 

View from the southeast and taken through the garden courtyard.

Calvin Albert (1918–2007), “The Burning Bush,” Bronze, 1973.
The sculpture is located between the front entry doors.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

“Streamline Moderne” — Kem Weber’s style

Kem (Karl Emmanuel Martin) Weber American (born Germany), 1889–1963
Skyscraper” night table, 1928–1929
Mirror, burl walnut, glass, painted and silvered wood, chrome-plated metal, cedar
The Modernism Collection, Minneapolis Institute of Art
photograph by ©versluis 2015
Modes and Manners

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Carl Milles: “The Vision of Peace” at the Saint Paul City Hall – Ramsey County Courthouse

The Vision of Peace (God of Peace)
Memorial Hall, Saint Paul City Hall / Ramsey County Courthouse
View from the third floor. All photographs ©versluis 2015

Sculptor: Carl Milles
Material: Mexican Onyx
Height: 36 feet, Weight: 60 tons

For Native Americans the ascending smoke from a ceremonial fire or the peace pipe signify prayers being lifted up. The following is from the label/didactics that identifies the monument:

This statue depicts five Native Americans [at the base] in a spiritual ceremony with their sacred pipes. From the smoke arises a Vision of Peace. One hand of the statue holds the sacred pipe, the other extends in a gesture of friendship—symbolic of the idea that with meeting and understanding comes the hope for world peace.

The figure [unnoticeably] rotates 132 degrees on its base (66 degrees in each direction).

Building dedicated in 1932
Building Architects: Holabird and Root
Construction: Ellerbe & Company

The left-handed God of Peace (right-handed in final version)
Plaster maquette made to scale by Carl Milles, 1930
The first three designs were not accepted. The image above is the fourth maquette submitted, which was finally approved by the commission.
From the collection of the Minnesota Museum of Art

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Henry Dreyfuss: design based on human factors

Design by Henry Dreyfuss (American, 1904–1972)
Drawing by Alvin R. Tilley (American, 1914–1993)

Designer Henry Dreyfuss’s suggestions for functional industrial design were based on human factors and ergonomics. As the graphic above indicates Dreyfuss carefully studied the proportions found in the human body when correlating product design and the user experience. The image above is taken from the exhibition Revealing the Body: The Art of Anatomy currently at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

The label for this piece states:

Three Basic Human Body Types—Profile, 1966
Black marker over graphite on gray linen

Anthropometry: in Greek, the word means the measure of man, but not only—it is the foundation of an entire philosophy that connects the human body, its proportions and movements, with the social and natural environment, and ultimately with the Universe. Henry Dreyfuss, the prominent American industrial designer, used the proportions of the body as a point off departure for his creations—for instance, he created the “Princess” telephone to fit the hands of teenage girls. His principles are deeply rooted in the core of 15th-century Renaissance thought—man is the measure of all things. 

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dürer’s systems

Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528)

Dürer’s suggestions for classical proportions in visual design were based on the ratios he found in the human body. The image above is taken from the exhibition Revealing the Body: The Art of Anatomy currently at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The label for this piece states:

Hjerin sind begriffen vier Bücher von menschlichen Proportion 
(Four books on human proportion)
Nürenberg: Hieronymus Formschneyder, 1528

Dürer’s systems were mathematical: Single parts of the body were measured and a ratio obtained, relating each of them to the total height. Another method was to divide the figure’s height into six parts, which could be used as modules for the construction of the whole being. Dürer’s manuscripts, published only after his death, set a trend and were imitated throughout the 16th century.

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