Monday, March 21, 2011

Colonial Expansion Impact on Architecture and Design

   The US is a country made up primarily of immigrants; people coming from all around the world.  Appropriately called the "melting pot" of the world, the US prides itself on being a country made up of many different people, cultures, and ideas, all with one thing in common- freedom.  It was because of freedom that the first immigrants came from Europe to America to escape religious persecution and make a new life for themselves.  With this transition, people brought over crops, disease, and the knowledge and experience they had previously acquired to build a new world.
Conch Style House in Key West, FL
    Since the expansion, the US began to acquire new buildings that sang distant songs of familiar buildings to the newly transitioned European peoples.  One example of colonial expansion affecting architecture is the conch style, known for wrought iron porches and a spanish style, found mostly today in Florida, the Carribean, and the spanish area of the French Quarter in New Orleans, LA.  The conch style is thought to stem from Spanish influence.  The name came from the origin of the mortar used to build the houses, where people used burned conch shells in the mortar mix.  The houses are found plentifully in southern Florida because they are built to withstand rough weather conditions.
Presidio de Santa Barbara

     In the late 18th century the Spanish began building small presidios, small forts, in Northern California to resist Russian and English colonization.  These presidios were built in San Diego, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco.  Today, the presidios that are still standing are open for visitors and educational purposes.

Examples of minimal wooden structures in Jamestown, VA
      The Spanish were not the only influential architects, as many of the settlers of the colonies were from England.  The English influence on architecture was recognized by simple structures, reminiscent of farm and small village homes.  The homes and buildings were made up of materials readily available to the settlers; wood for the houses and brick or stone for the chimneys.  Houses had small windows due to the unavailability of glass to the New World, even after England began manufacturing glass America did not catch on to expanding windows for another hundred years.  Because the houses were so bland and minimal, residents decorated their houses by creating decorations with nails on their front doors; the more nails, the more elaborate the decoration.
Massachusetts State House
      In 1773 the Congress of the US issued the Declaration of Independence, but it was not until 1783 that the Treaty if Paris Recognized the new states.  Though ties to England were not as strong as they had once been, the Georgian influence of architecture was still heavily influencing the new states.  When federal buildings began to be built, the Georgian influence showed through the use of columns, domes, and pediments.  With the wave of freedom came a new wave of living like you are staying, rather than building new things and developing colonies, with the introduction of architectural magazines into circulation.  The federal style began to create its own path, branching away from the Georgian style and moving towards a newly developed American style.  The American style of architecture was seen through elongated rectangular houses, with subtle decorative details like garlands and urns.  The federal style of architecture was constituted through white wash walls, bright interiors, high ceilings, emphasized rational elements as well as domes inside with paintings or gilded ceilings.  The federal style reminds me of a Greek or Roman influenced style, with less focus on the wide open spaces and more focus on the power the style resinates.
     Colonial expansion is the reason the US is so diverse in everything it does, whether it be culture, food, architecture, style of dress, mannerisms, whatever it is, it was probably adapted from somewhere else.  It is the combination is mixing of the many styles from around the world that makes America so unique and a place of vacation for people around the world.  And we thought we were the melting pot because of our skin colors!

Photo Sources:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Practicing Scales

Top 3 Lines- Pencil
Middle 3 Lines- Pen
Bottom 3 Lines- Marker

    These sketches illustrate my exploration of shading using three different mediums- pencil, pen, and marker. All are in black and white and were made as an exploration of color and creating the illusion of texture on a flat piece of paper.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happiness in Architecture

Inside the Tree, Near the Trunk
Entrance into tree
     On Friday, February 25th, groups in my History of Design class wandered around the campus of UNCG looking for places and spaces that make us feel happy.  Our group first chose to go to the tree with the tire swing inside, located near the Faust building and Spring Garden St..  The tree is very large, and upon walking up to it you will notice an opening in the branches (pictured left).  As you walk into the area the branches create, you almost immediately notice the amount of sound the leaves and branches around you absorb, because it is noticeably quiet in the space.  We could all easily gather inside the tree area, where everyone was busy looking up and all around through the branches.  The branches and leaves create a secluded area, away from the hustle and bustle of College Ave.  Though it is not the place on campus that makes me most happy, the ambiance and feeling of the tree absorbing you with it's branches is very soothing and would make a great reading spot on a sunny day.
Observing the Pond Area
     From the tree we moved on to the circle pond area behind the EUC.  The pond is a nice area, very relaxing with the constant sound of the water, and a great place for an on campus lunch with outdoor seating sprinkled around the area.  The area is a generally pleasing area on campus, but by far not my favorite, even among outdoor areas.
Above Entrance of McIver
Eerie Whitewash Hallways in McIver
     From the pond area we moved back towards the Faust building and walked straight towards one of the more unappealing buildings on campus, the McIver building. It may look interesting from the outside with the assortment of different sized rectangles decorating the front entrance, but upon walking into the building, you are hit with bright fluorescent lighting and the odd lingering smell of old hospital.  The eerie quite and stillness in the building is no help, which let our group to about face almost as quickly as entering the building.  The experience
      actually made me more greatful for having a more aesthically pleasing building to work in than McIver.
     We next went into the Faust Building, probably because more of had not been inside than had, and most of us were just curious of what was inside.  From the outside the building is a beautiful red brick with small attentions to detail, all coming together to create an old Victorian-stylesque-castle-house.  The house turned office is very interesting, and makes one think about all of the old staircases in the house leading up.  In the entrance way of the house is a conservatively decorated foyer, with a detailed molding around the floor and the ceiling.  When you walk around the room you notice the creaking and vibrations under your feet, and realize that under the generic wholesale carpet lie beautiful old hardwood floors.  Though the Faust building is very interesting and often makes me wonder how many memories and bits of history the building holds, it is still not the place on campus that makes me the most happy.  From the Faust building we led our "tour de campus" back to the artsy-fartsy area we iArc students love and know so well (Weatherspoon Art Museum and Gatewood area).
Space under dome area
Dome area from below
      As we entered the Weatherspoon Art Museum, the silence absorbed the sound of the group's entrance, and the stillness of the museum grabbed everyone's attention.  We had finally arrived to the place that makes me the most happy on campus.  The group stood in the entryway of the building, many people slowly floating towards the open space under the dome area.  The area grabs each person who walks through the building door's attention, forcing them to look up.  The skylights create a starry night feeling ceiling, that I find very calming and curious.  Until walking around campus, I could not decide which place on campus made me the happiest.  It is funny that it took the experience, before I could finally make up my mind but it makes sense; it is not the actual space that makes me feel happy, it is the feeling the space evokes that makes me the most happy.  I enjoy the Weatherspoon as a whole, not only because of the space inside, but because of what it is, an ever changing sharing of ideas and stream of consciousness from creative people old and young put into form or onto paper.  When I first transferred to UNCG the Weatherspoon was a place where I would spend my time between classes, just walking around, taking in all of the art.
     Happiness ties to architecture in the way that that particular space or room or area makes the observer feel.  Whether it be a dimly lit table top or a bright, sunny patio, every space is different for ever person that observes the space.  Individual's personal experiences and memories help them determine what kind of space and places make them happy or sad.  For me, it would make sense that an art museum with open spaces and things to look at from the ceiling to the floor would be a place that makes me the happiest because I enjoy spaces, light, and art.  For another, art may be boring and he might light darker places that make him happy.    Happiness can be found in architecture, as can sadness, and many other emotions, which is why architects and artists alike create; to make us think; to make us react.