U of Florida Midterm Crit: 4th Year Architecture

I spent March 2nd on the fourth floor of the historic Dyal Upchurch building in Downtown Jacksonville listening to the presentations of 4th year architecture students on their design solutions for one of three urban infill sites along Main Street in the historic Springfield neighborhood. I love participating in these events as an architect and designer not just because of a desire to engage with the upcoming generation of architects, but mostly because it’s a perfect excuse to sit in a room with other design obsessed students and professionals talking about design and architecture for 5 hours. Winning!

We all know that, as professionals, it’s easy to get caught up in the humdrum of daily architect-er-ing and lose some of that fervor we had in studio. I encourage all of you, if you’re not already, to get involved with your local universities and offer to either sit in on or even teach design courses. Not only do you get to pour into a whole new generation of architects, but it just might be what you need to rekindle your own inner designer.

Here are some images of the presentations taken with my iPhone. Keep in mind this was the midterm crit, so there is a fair level of resolution to most of the projects, but also a good way to go. Hopefully we helped to steer most of them in the right direction. I’m looking forward to the final crit in Gainesville in April like a starving man waiting for a steak at Longhorn. :-\ Enjoy.

This project is interesting. The student is using a folded skin that wraps the building and is bent or folded in places to create openings to let in natural light. You can also see in the courtyard rendering above that he’s even taken the skin all the way to the ground and incorporated table seating as part of the building facade. Nice touch, no?

This project has one of the most successfully designed outdoor spaces. Taking full advantage of the corner site, this student created an outdoor public space that is fully integrated with the building itself rather than being separate or an “afterthought”. One of my favorites.

Anyone who knows me knows that I get all giddy when I see physical models. In my mind any student that brings in study models, no matter how crude or rudimentary, gets a big ole gold star in my book. Surprisingly I was not only the first, but the only, one on the jury to pick up the models, look at them, turn them around and get “into” the buildings. One of the things we’ve lost as a profession, in my opinion, is the tactile connection to our buildings. The computer has anesthetized us against our buildings with flashy and colorful renderings. Design is so much more fluid and real when you use your hands to create form and use those forms to study light in the real world, even at a small scale.

Overall this crit was a huge success. As fourth year students, this group is getting ready to graduate and move on to graduate studies. This will be a more critical time in which they continue to develop and refine their own personal design philosophies. I’m excited to see what this group has to offer in the future.

And again, if you’re not already involved with a local university architecture program, get up and get involved. You’ll thank me. I promise. These kids are the future of our profession. Pour into them anything you can. We’ll all be better off in the long run.

No Meat March

This post has nothing to do with architecture (I’m sure I’ll sneak it in though) and yes, I feel fine. No, I am not hemorrhaging from the eyes and no, I have not turned into a zombie. Yet.

Today marks the start of No Meat March, a month-long event in support of a vegetarian lifestyle and in protest again the inhumane and cruel treatment of animals that we consume daily. And so, for the entire month of March I, my wife, and children will be giving up meat completely. No chicken, no swine, no Daisy the Cow, no fish. As an added challenge for myself this month I’m also giving up cow’s milk. I don’t drink soy or almond milk, so basically I’m giving up all forms of milk – except cheese, I refuse to live without cheese. I’m not a communist. Cause we all know only communists can live without cheese. :-\

Anyone who knows me will immediately think “pfft, yeah right” because I have a profound obsession with cookies and milk. It borders on obscene. I don’t think it’s any coincidence either that No Meat March happens to fall within Lent, which is of course a time when we deprive ourselves of something to honor the sacrifice Christ made for 40 days in the desert.

So, does any of this have anything to do with architecture? Why, yes, it does. A larger issue that this has me thinking about is how we use our land and resources responsibly as stewards of this planet. Whether you believe in a biblical perspective or not, being at the top of the food chain comes with a certain degree of responsibility towards the environments we all inhabit and looking around I’m sure you can agree we’ve done a pretty piss poor job of that as of late.

But, I think there is genuine hope on the horizon. As more and more people are moving back to their urban city centers, the suburbs (hopefully) are shrinking, and mass transit is on the tip of everyone’s tongue due to the out-of-control rise in fuel costs, people, in the larger cultural sense, are thinking more carefully about how they consume. And by consume, I mean everything – food, clothing, bath products, shoes, cars, bicycles, those air-freshener things you put in your car. Hyper-localism is on the rise with more cities creating open air farmer’s markets and arts markets and providing incentives for local artists, craftsmen and the like to open small pop-up shops in vacant storefronts. And this localism is spreading as people are becoming more conscious of not just what they consume but where it comes from. This leads naturally to a larger awareness of how the things we consume are produced, where they are produced and what that means for our economy, our ecology and our community.

So, as I embark on this somewhat crazy trip into vegetarianism (anyone else feel like there are too many “isms out there?), I ask everyone – do you think about the things you consume? Do you think about the impact certain things may have on your environment and community? And if not, why not? After all, we’re all sharing the same rock. We’re all equal stewards of our home, our planet, and the hope for the future.

What say you?