Sunday, November 30, 2008

This Day in History: Birthday Buddies

Today is my 29th birthday. Today is also the 500th anniversary of the birth of Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio (d. 19 August 1580).

Now, if an architect wanted to share a birthday with another architect, Palladio's not a shabby option.  He is one of the most well-known and influential architects of the Renaissance in Italy and is most famous for his projects in and around Venice, including the church of Il Redentore and the Villa Rotunda.

In honor of Palladio's 500th anniversary, I have decided to re-read his "Four Books On Architecture," which was first published in 1570.  I read this book for the first time in a class on Classical architecture at Georgia Tech, and it is considered a seminal work of architectural history and theory.

Happy birthday, Palladio!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

This Day in History: Remembering Jørn Utzon

"I like to be on the edge of the possible." (Jørn Utzon)
Danish architect Jørn Utzon (b. 19 April 1918) died today at the age of 90.  Utzon, who is most famous for his design for the Sydney Opera House, won the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2003.  In their award citation, the Pritzker jury commented that Utzon "proves that the marvelous and seemingly impossible in architecture can be achieved.  He has always been ahead of his time.  He rightly joins the handful of Modernists who have shaped the past century with buildings of timeless and enduring quality."

Although I have not visited his Opera House in person, I did have the opportunity to visit Utzon's Bagsvaerd Kirke (c. 1976) back in the summer of 2006 when I was in Copenhagen for a few days on business.  I really love sacred spaces and I have a soft heart for well-designed, beautiful, and inspiring religions architecture, so I was not disappointment with my visit to this wonderful church.

In spite of the fact that the Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognizable and iconic buildings in the entire world for both architects and non-architects alike, Utzon is not a designer who is studied much in school or talked about often in the profession.  Before my trip to Denmark, I was only vaguely familiar with the Bagsvaerd Church.  I had seen in passing the plan and section of the building.  These drawings illustrate the basic concept of the free-flowing, lyrical ceiling floating within a fairly straight-forward, boxy shell.

The exterior of the building is very simple with an almost industrial in feeling.  The walls are made up of white concrete and white glazed tiles; the roof is corrugated aluminum.  Though austere, the building possesses that simple and elegant warmth prevalent in so much Scandinavian architecture.

The building comprises a number of courtyards, classrooms, offices, a chapel, and a soaring sanctuary space.  The sanctuary is by far the real jewel of the building.  Though relatively small and compact in plan, the ceiling of the sanctuary is quite high, with clerestory lighting along the rear of the vault.  In a design sketch of the ceiling, Utzon showed his inspiration as coming from the clouds.  The board-forming of the white concrete vaulting give the ceiling a natural feeling consummate with this inspiration.  The simple pine furniture in the sanctuary was designed by Utzon's son Jan and the colorful textiles were designed by his daughter Lin.  Behind the white terrazzo altar, a triangular masonry screen separates the main sanctuary from a small prayer chapel, while extensive sky lighting in the corridors adjacent to the sanctuary and from the vault above fill the building with abundant natural light.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Two Down, Five to Go

Today I took my second A.R.E.: Structural Systems. I must say, it was much better than I had expected. Going into the test, I was thinking "bloodbath," but I am cautiously optimistic that I sustained only a few minor flesh wounds in this battle! I certainly was not over-prepared for the test, but I definitely was not under-prepared either.

Now it is a matter of waiting for my score. Incidentally, I have not yet received my score from Site Planning & Design, which I took four weeks ago. While I wait for the scores from both of these tests, I am going to prepare for my next test (Schematic Design) which I scheduled for December 16th. This meets my goal of completing 3 tests before Christmas, and at the rate of 1 per month, I am well underway to being finished with all 7 of my tests by next April!