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greetings youtube viewers. my name is andrew richard gipe. and today, i present to you, the illustratedpolemic which i submitted as a thesis to qualify for the degree of masters of architectureat the harvard graduate school of design in the spring of 2015. the title of this work is â€œarchitectureof community: an advocation for the preservation of cultureâ€ and it was conceived as a productof three distinct operational priorities. the first was to clarify the nature of myrelationship with contemporary modes of teaching and practicing the discipline of architecture;
to understand my position as a designer, incontext, by developing a proposition about the role and significance of my professionalcapabilities. my second priority was to propose an alternativemethod of educating aspiring architectural professionals. and my third priority was to take this coursemyself and to administer a workshop with design students from local architecture schools,implementing experimental exercises distilled from the course program. after passing out a syllabus and the two projectbriefs which constitute the whole of my alternative course proposal, i began my presentation.
it was 5pm on may 15th in room 123 of gundhall. today, iâ€™d like to explain the history ofthis course, its reason for being, and the relevance of its position to your educationas professionals, and, more importantly, to your own personal quests for self-awareness. i designed this course as a reaction to theevident deficits of contemporary architectural education, particularly here, at the harvard graduateschool of design. but before i elaborate, iâ€™d like to givesome clarity and precision to my communication. when i talk about â€œarchitectureâ€
iâ€™m talking about a human mastery, î±ïï‡î·î³î¯î±, of tectonic elements, ï„îµîºï„ïœî½ï‰î½, made possible by technology. iâ€™m suggesting that we experience architecturephysically, sensorially, as the built environment, that it first of all satisfies our basic humanneeds for survival, as defined by 20th century american psychologist abraham maslow in histheory of human motivation, for shelter, safety, hygiene, and comfort, and that when it does, we call it functional,utilitarian. architecture can also perform as a mediumfor the expression of human values, those
relationships we have with activities, concepts,or other living things which fulfill us physically and psychologically. as in manâ€™s relationship with nature. evidenced by the cultivation of the corinthianorder in ancient greece, or by traditional chinese construction methods,which, similar to their two-dimensional, hieroglyphic derivatives, capitalize architecturally onthe meaningfulness of the relationship between man and local botanies. this is ekphrasis, the greek word for thephysical expression of an idea. architecture is utilitarian when it is satisfyingbasic human needs.
and ekphrastic when it is physically expressinga human value. by the way, iâ€™m deliberately not using theword â€œformâ€ because form is an existential imperative; whereas both â€œutilityâ€ andâ€œekphrasisâ€ imply an intent. in other words, every thing has a form; butnot every form expresses an idea. the emphasis of this course will be on ekphrasis,and its relationship to human values. for the purposes of our discussion, we willconsider the culture of community to be the stronghold of human values. in the words of lewis mumford, â€œif the sciencesare to be cultivated anew with respect for a definite hierarchy of human valuesâ€¦ thesciences [architecture included] must be focused
again upon particular local communities, andthe problems which they offer for solution.â€ like a perpetual peer review of whatâ€™s rightand wrong, or beyond good and evil, culture is the product of manâ€™s collaborative attemptto define what is meaningful. itâ€™s important to note that cultural valuescan only be cultivated by a community of people. and this condition is inherent to the definitionof community. a community of people first of all sharescommon purpose and common sense. people working together because they needeach other to produce enough food to survive is an exhibition of common purpose. a homeless man returning a lost wallet fullof credit cards and pin numbers is an exhibition
of common sense. individuals in a community develop these sharedcharacteristics by regularly and spontaneously communicating and communing directly withone another. if they donâ€™t, itâ€™s not a community. moreover, a community must be limited in size. in order for people to know one another inan intimate way, and to be considered as one entity, there canâ€™t be too many of them. according to aristotle, â€œten people wouldnot make a city, and with a hundred thousand it is a city no longerâ€¦ it is quite clearthat is not possible to live with and to share
oneself among a large number of people.â€ and the reason for this is self-evident; â€œthecognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stablerelationships is around one-hundred and fifty.â€ simply put, you canâ€™t know everyone. lastly, and most importantly, in this ageof mass media, we have to be very aware and critical of thedistinction between culture and propaganda. between a community of people and a mass ofindividuals. what do i mean? well culture, is a dynamic value system, measuredat the scale of generations, and of which
a community of people is the generative medium. it is cultivated through intimate and spontaneoussocial interaction by individuals in the community, and manifested in the cultural media whichcharacterize the identity of a place. essentially, many people, in communion withone another, one entity, knowing what they want and how they collectively identify, producesa cultural expression. propaganda, on the other hand, is also a dynamicvalue system, measured at the scale of whatever turnaroundtime its technological medium is capable of (for architecture it may be years, for tvmonths or days, and for the internet, hours and minutes).
its qualities are determined by whicheverindividuals control and influence social media, so that the process is reversed. if this individual were a modern developer,for example, he might propagate his own idea about what the architecture of the place shouldbe and the people living there, though free to express their opinions about it, have littleto no influence over its outcome. jacques ellul, french philosopher and sociologistof the mid 20th century, writes in his book propaganda, that â€œwhen individuals are notheld together by local structures, the only form in which they can live together is inan unstructured mass society.â€ liberated from community, in other words,the individual is directly exposed to integration
into society, psychologically overwhelmed,and subsequently becomes an eager beneficiary of propaganda, or gets the hell out of dodge,or some combination of the two. propaganda is also intended to be provocativeand superficial. â€œthe problem,â€ writes ellul, â€œis tocreate an irrational response on the basis of rational and factual elements. then, the facts, the data, the reasoning â€“ areall forgotten, and only the impression remains.â€ the gsdâ€™s ongoing advertising campaign isa convincing exhibition of these qualities. and, very importantly, these catch phrases,and this slogan, which are intended to characterize the influence of the school, werenâ€™t cultivatedhere by the students.
they were generated by a graphic design firmin canada. which brings us back to a key point; alternatively,you have a mass of individuals, without a collective identity, facing the entire society,each on his own, sorting through answers which propaganda makes readily available. if you live in such a social context, youwill be used to hearing, â€œi have my opinion, you have your opinion. i live in the way that i want. you live in the way that you want.â€ or in the context of architectural discourse,â€œi have my opinion about what constitutes
good design. i design how i want.â€ â€œyou have your opinion about what constitutesgood design. you design how you want.â€ that, ladies and gentlemen, is context withoutculture. so what does this have to do with architecture? well today, iâ€™m advocating that architectureought to be an expression of cultural values. iâ€™m proposing that the profession furthermoreendeavor to generate its own value system. and most importantly, that these two considerationsbe taught as fundamental components of an
architectâ€™s education. on the gsdâ€™s website, are available thesyllabi of the four studios that constitute the core curriculum of the architecture program. they are replete with pedagogies which emphasizevarious methodologies but show no trace of a qualitative evaluation of the relevanceof those methodologies to human needs and values. how to design a hidden room between spaces, how to generate a coherent geometric logicby examining thermodynamic principles, how to exercise the tensions between fenestration,shading, interior room plans, and circulatory
logics, how to achieve a sense of the civic, how to increase the vitality of the collectiveecology. to name a few. why are these things important for an architectto be able to do? what relationship do these methodologies haveto basic human needs and motivations? how will these capabilities enable us as designersto express cultural values? youâ€™ve already thought of answers. i thought of some myself actually.
but this is precisely my point. these questions and the speculation they provokeshould be explicitly addressed in the core curriculum of this profession. or we stop claiming to have influence in areasfor which we have no deliberate professional and academic training or experience. because we canâ€™t seriously address the inequitiesbetween the rich and poor nations of the world, for example, by parametrically designing ahidden room. can we?
maybe. letâ€™s talk about how. the importance of re-considering the relationshipbetween architecture and the needs and values of the people it purports to serve is paramount. consider the anecdote of the architect andthe hallway. a client seeks out an architect and asks himfor help with a problem. â€œiâ€™m the superintendent of a school,â€the client says. â€œand every day at 3 oâ€™clock,â€ â€œthe hallways fill with students and theresult is chaos.â€
you can barely move through the hall.â€ â€œdonâ€™t worry,â€ the architect says. â€œiâ€™m the right guy for you.â€ the architect studies the hallway. in plan. in section. in elevation. in cognito. (site-visit).
and finally, he presents his designs. â€œwe could expand the hallway,â€ he says. â€œwe could raise the roof to let in morelight. students could see more clearly and get aroundbetter.â€ â€œwe could consider parametric surfacingon the interior walls to discreetly convey a sense of urgency.â€ â€œwe could build a second hallway!â€ â€œand divert some of the traffic from thishallway, to that one!â€ â€œwe couldâ€¦â€
â€œactually,â€ says the client. â€œwe donâ€™t need your help anymore.â€ â€œweâ€™re just going to change the studentsâ€™schedules so their classes end at slightly different times.â€ â€œthanks anyway.â€ â€œif the only tool you use is a hammer, youtend to see all your problems as nails.â€ the ability to creatively problem-solve constitutesthe essence of a designerâ€™s professional identity. today iâ€™m advocating an educational methodin which this creativity conceptually engages
social needs, even before itâ€™s certain thatthe â€œsolutionâ€ is a building. this anecdote also recognizes that our clientsmay not always understand what they want, or fully comprehend the nature of the â€œproblem;â€ as iâ€™ve pointed out, in a social contextsuch as this, that is mostly the case. or, and consequently, our clients may askus to design something superfluous, environmentally detrimental, unethical, and so on. which is why, architects need a value systemof their own. in 2008, in athens, greece, in the neighborhood of exarcheia, a parkinglot became public property.
since 1972, this parking lot had been temporarilyleased to a private parking attendant from the athens city government. the government, in the meantime, was tryingto figure out what to do with the space. by 2008, public officials had decided theywere going to erect an office building and started looking for an architect to designit. the residents of exarcheia, on the other hand,had, for over three decades been petitioning their representatives to demolish the parkinglot and to create a park. they didnâ€™t want an office building; theywanted access to light and air and an open space to socialize and interact.
put yourself for a moment in the positionof the architect for hire. whoâ€™s your client? how do you begin to evaluate this situation? would you have accepted this commission fromthe government? if you think â€œsure, why not?â€ youâ€™rein good company. in any case, the community of exarcheia didnâ€™twait around to find out. on the 7th of march, 2009, before the governmentcould break ground with their office building project, residents of the neighborhood, removedthe asphalt themselves and planted a variety of vegetation, transforming a government parkinglot into a public park in less than 12 hours.
thereâ€™s a lesson here. the amoral technocratic heroes of this professionwho have witnessed the death of cultural identity in their lifetimes and done nothing, continueto be celebrated, acclaimed, and emulated. when i interviewed inaki abalos, the chairof the gsdâ€™s architecture department, he insisted that the school â€œshouldnâ€™t tryto have an impact on the morality or ethics of its students; it should teach themtechniques; and they can decide for themselves how to use them.â€ to clarify his position, he had this to sayabout hitlerâ€™s architect albert speer, and quickly added, â€œbut he was a terribleperson.â€
consider the difference between saying thisand saying instead, albert speer was a terrible architect, but he made some impressive designs. when i interviewed mohsen mostafavi, deanof the gsd, about the relevance of teaching pure parametric form-making, he stated â€œwecan afford to have studios that have nothing to do with a social agenda and thatâ€™s okay. any forms we make here could have some futuresocial application.â€ is there such a thing as an architecture thatdoesnâ€™t have a social application? can form-making and the practical and politicalrelevance of those forms not be addressed concurrently?
should they not? if i ran a structural engineering school andi told you â€œwe can afford to have classes that have nothing to do with gravity,â€ wouldyou consider my method wise? the materialist claim is that design shouldbe divorced from a conceptual evaluation of cultural values; because those values areimplicitly embedded in the material conditions of a place. i assert that this claim is naã¯ve and untrue. visit the fifth floor bathroom here in gundhall. youâ€™ll find toilets, sinks, and an automatedhand dryer.
the materialist implies therefore that theculture of a fifth floor bathroom user, like me, is to use the toilet, wash his hands,dry them, and to leave. but actually, until a few months ago, insteadof an automated hand dryer, there was a paper towel dispenser. so that another aspect of the culture of fifthfloor bathroom-use was to wash your hands and your face, to dry them both with a papertowel, and then to leave. the reason that the culture of fifth floorbathroom users no longer includes washing of the face, is not because no one on thefifth floor wants to wash their face, which is the materialistâ€™s conclusion, seeingthat the material culture of the bathroom
doesnâ€™t permit this activity; in other words,you canâ€™t dry your face with an electric hand dryer, but because building services replaced thepaper towel dispenser to save money. even the value of academic exploration isusurped by the severity of this separation. so that when, instead of being encouragedto engage in dialogous experimentation, to create a design while simultaneously consideringits social application and value, we are frequently urged to experiment, to design, and to post-rationalizeour work. one is the way of culture, of the technically-adeptartist, the other of propaganda, of the overstocked salesman.
the pedagogy that iâ€™m proposing today re-focusesthe relationship of the architect with the people he serves and brings political, philosophical,moral, and ethical questions to the foreground of academic discourse at a time when itâ€™smost needed. here is a summary of how this pedagogy isactualized. the curriculum that i created for this year-longstudio course, which iâ€™ve entitled â€œintroduction to architecture,â€ challenges students todesign a school for a group of aspiring eutopians. the school is located in a context with atraditionally strong sense of community, in this case, naupaktos, greece, and is intendedto be a medium for its clients, this group of eutopians, to popularize their ideas byintegrating themselves into an existing social
framework (i.e. naupaktos). during the first semester, students work collaborativelyto generate a preliminary design proposal for the entire project, without consideringthe social context of the community into which they will eventually integrate their schooldesigns. their focus, instead, is first of all on themselves;assignment 1 is an investigation of theoretical and tried utopian value systems, which challengesstudents to consider the relationship of historically diverse cultural contexts to how we live today. then, for the remainder of the first semester,students focus on their relationship with
their client; for assignment 2, they are givena list of activities for which they must derive program by directly engaging the relationshipbetween space and human activity, and are furthermore encouraged to propose new programin accordance with the principles and prospective ambitions of their clients. and finally, for assignment 3, they are introducedto their project sites for the first time, and must spatially adapt and resolve the programmaticrelationships they generated in the previous assignment, culminating in a preliminary designproposal. two important notes: firstly, for the durationof the course, the professor represents the clients; he is a mouthpiece for their ambitionsand the reservoir of their principles and
ideologies. and secondly, the school itself, its program,is divided into two parts, within walking distance, one of the other: site i is located in the city proper, as anurban infill project and site ii is located in a natural setting,at the summit of a small mountain. this dichotomy obliges students, throughoutthe year, to consider the relationship of both man and man, and man and the landscape. during the second semester, students may chooseto work collaboratively or individually, but must, at the end of the course, present theirprogress independently of one another.
semester 2 emphasizes the relationship ofthe first semesterâ€™s design work with the immediate social context, in this case, withthe community of naupakto. it begins with a comprehensive site analysis,ideally performed on-site (assignment 4) and immediately transitions into two detail-orientedstudies: students first choose specific locations withintheir design proposals from semester 1 and develop an agenda for how the design of theselocations will integrate the school into the community (assignment 5). they then zoom in even closer to scrutinizethe material and structural characteristics of each space according to their proposedagenda (assignment 6).
in the last six weeks of the semester, studentsdevelop and prepare their work for a final presentation which is delivered as a reflectionof the entire course sequence, i.e. â€œthese are the cultural values thatinterest and inspire me,â€ â€œthese are the conceptual and spatial ambitions of my client,â€â€œhereâ€™s how our team resolved them,â€ â€œthis is the context of our design proposal,â€â€œthese selected spaces emphasize the integration of our proposal into the community,â€ andâ€œhereâ€™s how they do so.â€ and, as with each phase of the studio, theâ€œsuccessâ€ of student designs is measured by how thoroughly what they create, embodies,enables, or expresses the cultural values of the eutopian community they represent.
so that if, for example, i were presentingassignment 6, and my studio were set in the community of portsmouth, new hampshire inthe late 18th century, (bear with me) i might explain the relevance of my proposalâ€™saesthetic characteristics to the contemporaneous predominance of the georgian style in colonialamerica; the popular preference for a particular proportional system or repetition of elements. but i would also present a conceptual evaluationof the communityâ€™s values. i would tell you that at this period in history,portsmouth is a community of ship captains, of merchantmen, who are often away from homefor long periods. and that when they return, they desire tospend time with their family for several weeks
without being disturbed. i would explain that every merchantman inportsmouth encounters exotic goods in his dealings, and is familiar with the pineappleand its associated meanings of hospitality and welcoming. and finally, i would propose the design ofa doorway with a pedestal on the lintel above the door and tell you that this pedestal remainsbare to signify that a captain has returned from a voyage and is spending private timewith his family. and that when he is ready to permit visitors,he inserts a golden pineapple in the molding above the door and the community is made awareof his intentions.
a formal, architectural device cultivatedby common behavioral characteristics and a shared evaluation of the importance of family;by the way, this was a real project. this is consideration of design in context. and it follows in the fresh footsteps of current,cutting-edge educational paradigms that challenge the notion of subject-oriented learning witha carefully-composed cross-disciplinary methodology. before i open up to questions, iâ€™d liketo close with one last, reiterative perspective. when i defined architecture in the beginningof this presentation, i parenthetically mentioned the position of technology, as a means forachieving a mastery of tectonic elements. borrowing from these literary authorities,we might define technology as the terminological
heading for all the knowledge, skills, andarts derived from industry or implicated in new technics, which are embodied in toolsand machines to facilitate and abridge human labor. the modern provisions of these tools and machineshave so thoroughly accessorized and empowered us, and especially architects, that judgingsolely by what man is capable of doing at this period in our history, itâ€™s almostdifficult to classify him as a human being. but the power of advanced technology possessesan inherent risk. it makes the satisfaction of an outcome soconveniently available that we are tempted to act, to do,
without deeply understanding why, or whatfor. michel serres, contemporary french philosopher,likens manâ€™s relationship with modern technology to the legend of st. denis who, after he was decapitated by the romans inthe 3rd century ad, half way up the road to the peak of montemartre in paris, picked up his head, washed it off, and carried it the rest of the way up thehill to be sanctified at the church of sacre coeur. serres says that the 21st century man is alsocarrying his own head,
in the form of high technology, â€œit is a full head,â€ he writes, â€œbecauseof its enormous stock of information, but it is also a well-made head, since its searchengines bring up texts and images at a momentâ€™s notice, and its programs process huge amountsof data faster than we could ever do ourselves. we are holding, outside of ourselves, a cognitionthat used to be inside us, just as st. denis held his head severed from his neck.â€ as architects and designers we depend on thissmart, severed head, more now, than ever before; as a platform for generating drawings andfor exploring three-dimensional space, as a tool for more quickly and accurately creatingphysical models, and now, even as a substitute
for the architect. but the relevance of these capabilities, astechnically precocious as they may be, remains unresolved until they are touched with a senseof human values. did you know that since the construction ofagia sophia in the 4th century ad, greek orthodox churches have dimensioned the elements oftheir interior spaces according to the physical dimensions of members of their own community? when the church of the hamptons in long island,new york was being designed in 2013, the tallest man in the congregation was askedto hold the ceremonial cross, which traditionally leads processions through the doorway betweenthe nave and the narthex, and the distance
from the top of the cross (plus a few inches)to the floor determined the height of the door. why is it this way, you ask? because the greek orthodox have cultivatedthe idea that every member of the community should be able to participate in the churchâ€™sliturgical ceremonies. consider the difference between dimensioninga doorway by designing it like this and dimensioning a doorway by, instead, selecting one froma digital database. a mastery of tectonic elements isnâ€™t possiblewithout technology; it is therefore by defining the terms of our dependence on technologythat we understand our relationship with architecture.
so, what then, is left between our shouldersafter our miraculous beheading? i suggest to you today, that for the 21stcentury architect and designer, it ought to be a deeply critical understanding of andrelationship with cultural values, why it is that we design, what it means to us, andits relevance to the people weâ€™re designing for. thank you very much.