Sunday, November 28, 2010

A new home for my building

Thank goodness for Google Earth.  After freaking out about the unsuitability of the Inland Steel Building for my project, I have found a new site for my semester project at the corner of W Randolph and N Franklin.  This allows me to remain in the heart of the Loop, which is critical to my concept.

I have created a mirror image of the Inland Steel Building to serve as the pattern for my new building.  The views won't be quite as good, but beggars can't be choosers.  Also, now that the main core will be part of the design, I will only need to work on the interiors of four floors instead of five.  I think that is a good thing....but not sure yet.  I am almost caught up to where I was before the meltdown.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dogs and Impact of Use of Space

Growing up, dogs were a constant presence in my family. However, as an adult, I never thought that I would be able devote enough time to be a responsible dog owner, and I had resigned myself to enjoying the dogs of friends. That all changed four years ago when two little dachshunds entered my life accompanied by my partner. I quickly remembered the extensive level of commitment required by dog ownership in terms of time and money. The payoff comes with the unconditional love and affection.

I set out to study the infrastructure of my dogs’ lives. I planned to examine their routines and habits. I began using digital photography to document their activities in the home and on their walks. In reviewing the photos, I discovered that even more interesting than the patterns of their lives were their impact on our routines and our home. For creatures so small, a significant amount of space is allocated to them. In addition, they have repurposed various elements in the home for their own use. Based on this initial exploration, I decided to shift my focus to looking at how the dogs use and affect our home.

I began to isolate certain areas of obvious impact. The dogs have a kennel as well as a few little beds scattered around on the floor. However, they have a fondness for napping and perching on the big down-filled cushions that form the back of the couches. They leave big dents or “smushes” in the cushions, requiring that we fluff them regularly. All the throw pillows and blankets that we so carefully selected and arranged have been appropriated for their comfort and left in disarray. I desaturated the photos of these areas so I could study the shapes. I then played with the forms by modeling them in Rhino. I also focused on geometries and textures by interpreting some of the shapes in 3D models. I diagramed the daily activities of the dogs and how the home is set up programmatically for them. Using the digital camera, I began to take short videos of the dogs during the activities I had identified in the diagrams.

I used an exercise to represent the collected information as fields in a computer model. Superimposed on a floor plan, I showed the dogs’ functional areas, where they impact the home, and the paths they take through the home. I explored my models through multiple iterations, focusing in on various elements and exploring the point of view of the dogs. In addition, I considered the effect of framing by the camera and the variations exposed by reproduction in different media. This led me to take a few extra videos to document the paths of the dogs through the home at their eye level.

The movie is comprised of video clips of the dogs in their activities, videos of the paths through the home, and still shots of the dogs and their impact on the space. The movie loosely follows the dogs through the day, represented as brief vignettes focused on particular activities. As they spend much of their much of their day sleeping or napping, I wanted to represent the episodic nature of their activity by cutting between videos and still photos. I tried to capture their positive presence in the home with upbeat music, but wherever appropriate I featured the sounds made by the dogs. The movie was compiled and edited in Windows Movie Maker. When necessary, the format of the component media was adjusted using QuickMediaConverter.


In a sense, the process of documentation, experimentation, and movie-making has served as a canine post-occupancy evaluation of the home. When the home was designed, the dogs were certainly taken into consideration. We chose durable textiles for the furniture, selected a hardwood furniture-style kennel, and designed storage areas. In reality, storage for the dogs’ food and supplies takes up about three times as much space as initially anticipated. The way that the dogs use the couches requires that we constantly have to spend time and effort to keep the place looking nice. In addition, dog traffic patterns are very different than human ones, which is not readily apparent until looked at explicitly. From the standpoint of the dogs, it can result in some “near-misses” in terms of clearance under furniture. For the humans, these paths can direct the dogs in ways that put them underfoot unexpectedly.



Thursday, November 25, 2010

A few steps backwards...

I freaked out earlier this week.  I met with a dialysis nurse to gain a better sense of how the dialysis machines actually work.  Wow....a lot of plumbing is involved.  Of course, I knew that from my case study, but it is still a bit overwhelming.  I also was thinking about a drug-resistant organism infection rate of about 20%, and she was thinking more like 80%.  As I started to thinking about this in the context of the Inland Steel Building and I just couldn't make it work.  I started panicking!

I met with my professor on Tuesday to discuss just how the plumbing would have to look to make my ideas work.  We confirmed what I suspected...it really cannot work in the Inland Steel Building and maintain the historic design of the building.  However, at this point it would be near impossible to start from scratch.

So, I'll be working on the Inland Steel Building, but not.  I will reimagining the building as a lower rise building using the same floor plates.  I still need for this to be an urban project, so I need to pick a new site for this "new building" in the Chicago loop (looking for empty lots).  I then need to review all the work I've done so far in terms of space planning, especially the use and location of the cores.  I guess it is better than starting from scratch.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Putting Research Into Action (sort of)

In Specialization Studio, we are to take what we have learned from our "case study" earlier in the semester and apply it to a design.  I had prepared a study, looking at evidence-based design for hemodialysis units.  The three factors that seemed most compelling to me were:
  • giving patients choices
  • opportunity to exercise during dialysis
  • positive distractions
I have chosen to the Inland Steel Building in Chicago as the site of my design.  It is a stunning building in the Chicago Loop, the first skyscraper built after the Depression.  It is known for its open floor plates.  The primary core is located in an adjacent tower.

Hemodialysis centers are often located in medical centers or in less densely populated areas.  I liked the idea of situating one in a dense urban area.  As people who require dialysis may need to be there 3-4 hours at a time, 3 times per week, it makes sense to me to locate a center close to wear people work and live.  In addition, I wanted to tackle the problem of implementing a complex medical program in a building that is neither a medical building nor new.