Posts Tagged 'el croquis'

physical model: book spiral

model interior spiral

In this instance the Seattle Central Library is represented by a physical model of the interior of the book spiral, the four story high floating box between the 6th and 10th floors. This model was created to show the inner workings of this space, particularly the continuity of book stacks, the relation between the rising slabs and the work stations in between. The book spiral was envisioned to be a built manifestation of the digital database of the holdings of this library, as a response to the uncertain evolution of the book collection of this library, and as a way to make as many books as possible easily and directly accessible on the stacks. Therefore, the continuous spiral ramp is the epitome of compartmentalized flexibility, since it is prepared to expand and contract within its confines according to the changes in inventory at almost the same pace as the digital database. This original addition to the architectural vocabulary of spaces, exposes the back end of data container (and its structure) in the aesthetic exercise of the cultural implications perceived on the front end, as patrons find their books catalogued under the Dewey decimal system visible on the circulation section of the ramp.

physical models

physical models

This representation consists of a few of the several physical models produced by the architectural team to experiment different possibilities for the exterior cladding and façade of the Seattle Central Library. Seemingly disconnected from the organization of the interior spaces of the library, the façade design was free to explore different solutions, from a detailed design which responded differently to the conditions in the interior, visible in the model on the left with different sized strategically positioned openings, to a general solution evenly applied throughout the building which could emphasize the difference of the spaces by their own position in the system, such as the one visible on the right model of a fine grid. For this task, the architects seem to have created a database of different possibilities for the façade and tested the different options based on the relevant factors and their corresponding importance, like if they were running an algorithm, to identify the best suitable solution for the task at hand, in this case a balance between construction cost, functionality and aesthetics. However, in the end, this sequence of models appears to abstract the building of its meaning and analyze it purely as an aesthetic object, evaluated in its overall image.

cross section

cross section

Here the Seattle Central Library is represented by a cross section throughout the entire building. These documents are usually created to describe the vertical interactions between spaces, which combined with the plan drawings allows for a three dimensional perception and abstraction of the spaces. Considering the binary system of compartmentalized flexibility at play in this building, this technical drawing allows to better understand the vertical articulation and sequence of enclosed boxes and open spaces, but also the spaces connecting different horizontal planes, like the auditorium between the 1st and 3rd floor and the book spiral connecting the 6th and the 10th floor. Therefore, this document identifies the spatial interweaving between the different floors and rooms, and by doing so it traces the spatial ecologies at work in this building. Despite their different spatial identities, rooms of this library do not exist simply as discrete spaces, but are engaged in a process of mutual stimulation and visual interaction, and this cross section allows for a potential understanding of the compositional positioning of such spaces. Moreover, the cross section is not exhausted in the interior relations, but offers an insight of how this spatial ecology relates to the exterior world, specifically on the 1st and 3rd floors.

photo: interior “urban living room”

photo interior people

This photo appeared in the architectural journal, El Croquis as part of a mopnograph on Rem Koolhaas/OMA, where an extensive profile of this building is featured. It depicts the “urban living room” on SCL’s 3rd floor.

As you can see, the landscape orientation of the photo, spreading across two pages, focuses on a horizon where the glass skin meets the floor. Shot from a high angle (5th floor) and using an extremely wide-angle lens, as evidenced by the distortion in the foreground, this is an image of the building as landscape. People move through this landscape — their movement is evidenced also by distortion — but they are clearly not the subjects of this image. All of the dramatic diagonal lines lead the eye to a center where there are no people at all.

The dominant visual feature of the images is those diagonal lines, which cover almost the entire image and give the distinct impression of a net, as if a visual metaphor for a network, which is one of the dominant metaphors for society in the information age.

This image could also be said to express Bordieu’s explanation of “the true object of social science” which is not the individual, but the field. In this image, the individuals exist “as agents – not as biological individuals, actors, or subjects – who are socially constructed as active and acting in the field.” The field here being, graphically and dramatically, the library building itself.

There is further evidence of this conception of human individuals as agents in the field that is the building in the conceptual imagery and in the video-lecture by Joshua Prince-Ramus, the architect in charge of construction.

façade section

facade section

This representation is composed of four orthogonal view drawings, two and three dimensional, which combined enumerate different components of the façade in two distinct places, namely on the connection between two planes of the façade and on the connection to the structure. The smaller images situate the detailed sections on the building’s envelope, while the larger images describe them.
The larger images represent an imaginary section and detail the intricate joints of the façade. Two components can be seen in these sections, specifically the drawn and the written information. Having as basis an abstract image, the names, dimensions and drawing conventions convert it into a precise representation of a buildable component. Without these elements, this drawing would be limited to the exercise of aesthetics (on which it also performs on its own right)and be outstripped of its functional meaning. If you can’t name it and you can’t measure it, you definitely cannot (accurately) build it. Like the map and the territory, these sections are frequently scaled one to one (when not bigger). Simulation is devised before the real; in these drawings we observe a generation by models of a real, which has been mapped before its existence, and whose ultimate goal is a physical reality.


Plan 01

This representation depicts the first floor of the library, and like all plans, it is drawn from an imaginary point in space. This conceptual view, also known as “top view,” is based on the premises of a section plan, parallel roughly three feet above the plane depicted in the drawing, in a constructed orthogonal view, upon which everything shown in the plan is projected. This sort of representation is in many ways similar to code, as it is comprised by a specific language understood by architects and other building professionals but not easily understood by people outside the field. Nonetheless, untrained eyes can still discern a general idea of some elements here depicted (a notion of space, for example). Discernment of other elements like materiality and structural integrity require another level of training. Like code, the language of such plans is highly reliant on conventions and serves as a fundamental element of the design and construction process, as fluency enables architects and builders to establish communication and illustrate ideas. However, instead of being decoded into software operations or instructions on a computer, this simple two dimensional drawing is immediately converted into a three dimensional space, firstly in the minds of all the people involved in the design and (later) in the construction process. It is interesting to note how this plan makes visible the subtle interplay between the main program (in this case/plan, the children’s section) and the “dirty realism” often forgotten or erased in similar representations with a different audience, like the multiple directional structural columns punctuating the actual space.

photo: exterior at twilight

exterior at twilight
This photo appeared in the spanish architectural magazine, El Croquis as part of a monograph on Rem Koolhaas/OMA. This photo was taken from the small public space directly across 5th avenue.

This photo is particularly telling in that it presents the building as a rather whimsical character. Although it has a landscape orientation, the centrality of the building and the very-nearly-symmetrical formal garden in the foreground, lend an air of portraiture. The severe verticality of the buildings in the background stand in sharp contrast to the asymmetry of our daring hero in the foreground who literally shines in comparison. In our hero’s reflective surfaces the sky leads its mirror-life, and he literally reflects back, from the middle of his “face” his square (literally and figuratively) neighbor, demonstrating how much younger and savvier he is.

Note, there are no pesky human figures to draw attention aware from the protagonist in this image. What is more, there is no visual indication whatsoever of an entrance or even the possibility of entrance, as if entrance is not necessary, as if the building’s presence suffices to impart intelligence like a cubist vision of Kubrick’s monolith.