Saturday, August 14, 2010

Buildings of my past...

During my somewhat-short career as an architect, I gained an expertise in modeling with a particular piece of software. It was both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I felt like I was pigeon-holed but I was able to gain respect due to my knowledge. This was a hot software program that was to be the wave of the future: 3d modeling where floor plans, sections and elevations (traditionally drawn flat and separately in a CAD program) were all taken directly from the model. It was revolutionary because it meant that a change made in one location was made everywhere instantly, thus creating dynamic drawings. The architecture profession, however, is sometimes mired in tradition and because of this (and some software quirks), 3d working drawings (aka blue prints) are slow to catch on. I have been out of the industry for almost a year and a half now and it still appears to be the case. My knowledge of modeling may be my ticket back into the game someday. We'll see.
Anyway, today we happened to be over across the lake near a building I had done some modeling of way back in probably 2006 or so. I was not assigned to the project, but due to my project being put on a temporary hold, I had a few weeks available, so I was borrowed by another team. Our firm was the technical/coordinating architect on the project and a locally famous architect (or sometimes known more infamously) was the design architect (you didn't know there were different kinds of architects, right?). He usually does sort of woodsy-residential and small public buildings (he did Bill Gates' private residence).
The building was so complicated in design that the team had a hard time understanding what it was supposed to look like. I was asked to take the flat floor plans and create a 3d model. It was a lot of fun to model because the building (actually two buildings sitting on top of a parking garage) was crazy-funky. I actually found a picture of the model - this is the only one I have.
The tower resembled a "K" or, I thought, a knee brace. It is an intellectual-kind of architecture. The tower follows an idea that with large external columns, the floors are free to slip in and out, not necessarily stacking on top of each other. It's a cool idea. The problem with this particular building structurally is that the architect insisted that the elevator core (which usually is in a more central location of the building to help support floors and prevent twisting) be on an outside wall. The structural engineer had some problems keeping the floors from wanting to twist the building around the elevator core. It meant that those outside columns had to be HUGE.

While the tower floors slip in and out in a wave-motion, the other flatter building's floors taper upward and inward.

This building also has an extremely acute angle on the north side - it is very dramatic.
We found the courtyard to be quite pleasant. There is a huge reflecting pool that creates nice white noise since this building is right next to the freeway.

I'm not really a fan of the roof of that mezzanine, or the structure on the inside. It looks over-worked to me. That all happened after the model I worked on. At the time I was modeling, the mezzanine was sort of an ambiguous triangle.
Not bad for an apartment building, is it?
It's an interesting thing to walk through or around a building that you have modeled before it was built. I've had this experience only a few times since most of the projects I worked on in my seven years in the field were never built. It is both odd and gratifying. In one case, the model was so accurate and detailed that when I walked through the building, it wasn't very thrilling - I had been there before. This time, since the model I worked on was really only a sketch-model, I was intrigued to see how some of the issues had been resolved. Mostly, I was impressed that the architects/engineers/contractors actually found a way to make the crazy thing stand.


  1. I do agree, that part of the building is a little over-worked! I do think it's absolutely amazing to see something that started out as a mere idea turn into an actual structure that people LIVE in, and you had a hand in it! That is way cool!

  2. I've always thought that was a crazy interesting building!