Sunday, September 28, 2014


It's not an easy question.  Last year I went so far off into the left field that I think I almost gave Zack a hernia, or perhaps just a moral dilemma.  Anyway, I don't think I have either the time or the energy to hurtle even further off topic, which is probably just as well.

So IF I am going to make a pumpkin this year, I have to find a way of getting back to basics.  But at the same time it would be nice to keep the connections going, to maintain some of the themes that I have developed over the past 3 years: scalability, metamorphosis, visual illusion ,.. BIM as an art form?

So I need an artist.  I've done Archimboldo and I've done Escher.  They have beem my muses, providing inspiration and direction, something to refer back to when I lose my way, find myself going around in circles.  Perhaps it's time I chose an architect.  But who would that be ?  Has to be someone who deals in dreams and illusions.

I decided to go for the eighteenth century, French enlightenment, the grand schemes of Nicholas Ledoux and especially of Etienne Boullee.  The seminal image is his breathtaking project for a cenotaph to Isaac Newton, which he conjured up around 1785 just as the industrial revolution was taking off ... the beginnings of a transformation the scale of which even Boullee with his grandiose imagination could not possibly have foreseen at the time.

The connections to pumpkinland are obvious.  Huge spherical object.  Punctured by holes, eyes to the stars. The distorted sense of scale could almost be Escher.

So the challenge I am setting myself is to keep it simple.  Just design a building.  Try to work in the spirit of Boullee: something monumental.  Monumentality is after all one of architecture's enduring themes.  Also, I should be demonstrating the potential of BIM as a design tool. That has been a sub-text of my pumpkin work all along.  Why not bring it more into centre stage ?

I started by exploring the notions of scalability and scale.  Scalability has, of course been a major theme in all my pumpkin explorations.  If you are planning a gigantic architectural creation, you might want to start with a form that scales parametrically.  After all, it is difficult to be sure.   How big is big enough?

To begin to answer that question I thought it might be useful to model other examples of architectural giantism.  And so we have simplified, full-scale versions of the great pyramid, the Burj Khalifa, the Gherkin (not so huge, but I alread had it to hand)

And I made my "circle in a square" version of Boullee's big sphere.  I was thinking in terms of some collossal edutainment project in a desert setting, here in the UAE.  A "Tribute to the Fertile Crescent" the cradle of civilisation, where domesticated staple crops first emerged.  So this could be a place to celebrate the whole cornucopia of domesticated plants and animals, (continuing my previous themes)

I envisaged the square as a huge shading device as well as a deck on which pomegranite orchards and stands of emmer wheat could flourish.

So this is a little exercise in early design explorations.  Testing the scale of an abstracted form agains the human form, and against previous precedents.

But what would the sphere itself be?  It has to be an auditorium, I guess.  A place where magnificent spectacles take place.  And talking of grand spectacles, perhaps I should test the scale against the Zeppelin field outside Nuremberg where events took place that shook our faith in civilisation.

And while I am making abstractions of event spaces on a grand scale, how about the millennium dome.  Then again if we are dealing with grandiose landscape statements there is always Angkor Wat, and of course Versailles.

After a while, I thought it best to mass up the Empire State Building, just to keep my American friends happy.  And then from my detour into ancient Rome early this year I was able to toss the Collosseum, Circus Maximus and Piazza of St Peter's into the ring.  They are all dwarfed by the bold scale & simplicity of Angkor Wat, product of a civilization that barely gets a mention in most western history books.

But is it a fair comparison ?  Should we rather be thinking in terms of the King George Docks to the East of London ?  Or even the Suez Canal ?

It's interesting to see these huge engineering/industrial creations at the same scale as the pyramids & Burj Khalifa, but Angkor is particularly interesting for my purposes.  It bears comparison with Boullee's grand conceptions: breathtakingly simple and largely symbolic in purpose.  From a birdseye perspective Angkor has a dominating presence.

But if we view our collection in Elevation, the impression is entirely different, a reminder of the importance of viewing your design in different ways (one of BIM's strengths of course, the ability to maintain multiple viewpoints as the project develops)

So reviewing the elevation: Burj Khalifa is certainly the tallest, but there is something about the simplicity of the great pyramid that puts it "out there" in a class of its own.  As for my collections of "square ringed saturn" objects.  The scale of the largest certainly makes an impression when viewed in elevation. But the form is not yet doing anything special for me.

It's a start though, and I will attempt to build on this idea of a parametric scalable family that represents a monumental building in the spirit of Boullee.

Not much of a design at this point however.  Need to do better there.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I've been getting a lot of spam so had to tighten up comments permissions. Sorry for any inconvenience. I do like to hear from real people