Coffee Sketch Podcast

097 - Hybrid Landscapes and the Performative Design

February 06, 2022 Kurt Neiswender/Jamie Crawley Season 4 Episode 97
Coffee Sketch Podcast
097 - Hybrid Landscapes and the Performative Design
Show Notes Transcript

Thank you for listening. We both hope that you enjoyed this episode of Coffee Sketch Podcast. Our Theme music is provided by my brother who goes by @c_0ldfashioned on Instagram and Twitter. Our podcast is hosted at coffeesketchpodcast.com find more show notes and information from this episode. And finally, if you liked this episode please rate us on iTunes and share us with your friends! Thank you!


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Follow Jamie on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/falloutstudio/

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Kurt’s Practice - https://www.instagram.com/urbancolabarchitecture/

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Kurt:

Hey, Jamie, how's the coffee down there?

Jamie:

Well, it's probably a little warmer than up there. how are you doing?

Kurt:

yeah, it is cold. Today was a little, there's a little warmer today. I,

Jamie:

was, it was a bomb, cyclone cold, like, like these new meteorological

Kurt:

bomb cycle and we, well, we missed the bomb cycle and that, that swung all the way to the east coast. I thought they used to call those things nor Easters, but there's probably some other slight variation to the definition to why it's called a bomb site.

Jamie:

I heard a new one, that I shared with my dad and he thought it was pretty funny. He thought it was just making it up. and I could have been, but, Saskatchewan screamer

Kurt:

for the, for the Canadians. I mean,

Jamie:

it's like, it's like when a meteorologist goes to a creative writing class and they're like, okay, so, bring this back to your broadcast.

Kurt:

Yeah. That's it starts to sound more like marketing than meteor meteorology. Yes. But sometimes meteorology is more like an astrology.

Jamie:

Maybe. I think I'm thinking that there's maybe something kind of coming off that green screen that's affecting the brain. but I'm not sure.

Kurt:

I think it's in their ridiculously oversized clickers. I mean, we can have, you can fit a whole lot into like, like something the size of a pen. And tap it. And they usually have these giant boxes that they are advancing, whatever digital slides that they have from, from scientific map to scientific map, which is completely accurate. Anyway, that's repeating up on the meteorologists here. So did your parents get, oh no, not your parents, but anybody that you have back in Canada, Montreal? Not that I'm aware of the bomb. Cyclone, Saskatchewan screamer. Yeah, no one,

Jamie:

no one has raised their hand and said, Hey, but, at the same time, they're sort of, I think, used to that kind of weather, I think from, it's always there that from the outside, you're looking in and, like they're always concerned about us in Texas, whenever it's, tornado time or, or if we get a crazy winter storm, They're more worried about our, I guess, our fragility and those would

Kurt:

they call that a Dallas doomsday?

Jamie:

No, that's probably just something about the Cowboys. So the

Kurt:

Austin anomaly

Jamie:

alliteration

Kurt:

is this thing on, so I'm, I'm being like, but in a serious note regarding comedian comedic comedians jokes, make it funny. Louie Anderson died this past week. Are you familiar? Oh yeah. I always liked him. I thought his humor was pretty good. it's a little different, probably not for everybody.

Jamie:

Right. it's I think the thing that I always appreciate about comedians. Style, and not necessarily his style, but I think of a certain style is that when there's a shrewd way that they have of putting a lens on their view of the world, like very, I think the term would be a stewed observations. And then, and then putting a little bit of a, a wrinkle or a spin on it, that kind of a student observation kind of dialogue or banter I've, I've always enjoyed it. So,

Kurt:

yeah. And it, yeah, so here's here's to Louie.

Jamie:

Cheers. Cheers. So what's in the cup.

Kurt:

No, nothing actually. Just kidding. It's not a problem. That's bad luck. That's bad luck. That's not true. I have, I have real coffee. This is we don't, we don't, we don't pretend on coffee sketch podcast. No, we don't. We don't just go halfway. We go all the way. It's not props. Know these aren't props, you want, do you want me to, to spit it out on the microphone? it's still, I've still, have not exhausted my, my, my rotation of Guatemalan Honduras, and then the little city. So I think right now is some of the Honduras beans, which is near the end. I think actually I just ground up the last of that one. So those two from the, the grocery store. In what is the town next over, but they, they roast, they roast their locally.

Jamie:

So the town next over is Detroit. I

Kurt:

mean, no, not that far. It's scrambling, the suburb of Flint called grand Blanc, which, I try not to it, nothing against Grambling, but it's

Jamie:

Flint represent. Yeah.

Kurt:

I try, I try to keep, keep close to keep it local. So what about you?

Jamie:

actually I got some new, little city. I tried, I tried a new one, and I don't know. I think it might be, how I was telling you, they have some seasonal ones that they, they bring in from partners. this one is called Finca, Fatima. it's from Mexico. and it has a. It's supposed to have a peach tone to it. I don't really taste the peach, but it it's also supposed to, in the description that drew me to it was that a Carmel and nutmeg and you can really taste that. and so, yeah, it's pretty good. Sounds good. Did you only just got it? So this is the first batch,

Kurt:

so I think so what is there, a logo think as a farm right. Or field in Espanol and Fatima is usually associated with like the Virgin Mary. Right? Right. So is there any graphics or description on the, on the bag now? It's a cool name though. I dunno what they drew that from, but yeah. Sounds, sounds tasty. What we, what we were thinking of today, right. We were going to dig into this, go back a little ways. Cause we, we, we, skipped over the sketch. So let me, let me pull it up. And we didn't because we didn't want to miss it. So we, that's not that old, it's just, just around the, the Christmas times a month ago. so anyway, so Jamie has a figure drawing on top of, and I'll just do a little intro of what I see first, but a figure drawing, something that we've seen before similar before, figure drawings with these sort of, abstracted sort of, well, I wouldn't say backgrounds necessarily because it's interacting with the figure, the figures kind of sitting on or within this. Scaled background. but it's kind of this abstract composition of, of elements, shapes and forms. I, I don't know what to, I don't want to, I'm trying to stay away from too jargony of a description cause I just want to keep it simple,

Jamie:

but like looking into the jargon it's okay. If you need to, if you need to, if that's where your I'd say

Kurt:

so. Yeah. So, well anyway, so a lot of sort of randomized per perceived, randomized shapes lines, volumes and forms, that, that are kind of scattered around the, the figure drawing, which is much. Realist, right. we have, an actual sort of human form that you can make out, but then this sort of abstraction or what we used to sometimes call a dystopian landscape, right. Or a hybrid, a hybrid landscape of some kind. And, I dunno, I always liked these cause these, these sort of random forms always remind me of, some early MorphoSys architecture drawings, not even necessarily buildings, but maybe like the studies or sketches that lead to buildings, like little fragments or components that, that kind of find their way into a design that MorphoSys, executes, into a real, into a real building and actually. Well, we had recently talked about Tom Maine, then, in an episode and I, there was one other thing that I didn't mention in rewatching. Some of these old lectures is, that, that Tom mien as the head of MorphoSys, he, he mentioned some of his early days and this lecture that I watched is, I dunno, six or seven years old. So it's not that current. And, and so he reached back to some of his first projects and, and how they didn't have, like some of those early projects didn't have the budget to sort of embellish the, the abstract or avant garde kind of design that he's known for across the entire building. So they would do. Sort of what he either said fragments or, just segments of, of the building with this with sort of more of the detail and then the rest of the building a little more simply right. Like simple, simpler design. And then he even said that like when they built the models, so he would only build the. You could read it this way, that he would only build the model of the inter interesting parts of the design, the sort of abstract avant-garde stuff, and then not build the rest of the building in, in this physical study models. Yeah. That's just

Jamie:

over there. That's the, that's just the over there part. Yeah,

Kurt:

exactly. And then, and so, but then the Mo this is a

Jamie:

model that you're looking for,

Kurt:

right? Yes. This is not the architecture it's, you're concerned about these Jedi mind tricks. And so

Jamie:

Tom Maine, teaches architecture using the Jedi mind trick. Excellent.

Kurt:

So back when, so back when

Jamie:

the, so Cal, Southern California school. Yeah.

Kurt:

And I think actually, I think some of that, if you want it to go down, if I, you let me go down that road, you can see some of that in, in Erica and Moss. Early career, these sort of gestures within, a more regular design, or let's say irregular, irregular building intervention, and then these sort of smaller gestures within that were the, more explorative design design, spaces. But anyway, so, but just with Tom main. And so he, if before, before a lot of digital technology rates, they built models and models and models, physical models. And so they photographed these models and, and you kind of, as a student, I remember, getting sort of inspired by how they built the model, how they presented the model, used it as a tool for presentation, as much as, analysis or spatial development, So the. Intercut sort of cutaways and things like that. And so almost like he treated the, so for some of his early work, right. That never got built. I mean, he treated the model as his almost final, the completion of the project because the budget would never hit and then it would never get built. So then he had this, this model that represented the, I wouldn't say he, he wouldn't say the completion of an idea because I don't even think he thinks his finished buildings are complete. Right. But at least a sort of snapshot of, the arc of an idea in, in, in the, in the physical model or in the finished building. and then, so he carried that on to some of the work, sorry. And then he carried that theme on and showed how it manifested. Into his later work.

Jamie:

Well, and I was just going to say, I think that, kind of hearing where you were going with it is I think that that's, that's, quite literally what some of these sketches that I do, are in that, in that same mindset or vein is that they are an arc an idea. and so it's, not to use jargon-y terms, but it's accurate is it's, it's juxtaposing a, an image of a figure, against a backdrop that is also form like whether it's foreman plan, elevation section, larger landscape, environment, and, and it, and so there's this intersection of the form in the field and that the form itself, when you start to look at the. And sort of figure drawing as an exercise like we've described on the podcast before is it is form shadow, light line volume, texture, and weight and gravity and, and how some of those intersections of, of objects really starts to inform the way we are looking at space and how we inhabit space. And so I take that in this exercise of I'm drawing something that's very, very recognizable as a form. And then there's this level of abstraction of the environment around it. And so that your, the lines of the form of the body start to set the lines of the space of. So they're, they're both start starting to interact with one another. And so there's in this particular case, yes. Are some grids of this, figure in a field and, positive and negative study. But then at the same time, there's some parking forms that start to get generated out of the body, that rests on the page. And then you start to look at the whole page and the, and the boundaries of the page almost as a way to kind of set that environment. And at that point it becomes a larger composition. And then you're, you're, you're looking at it in artistic terms, but at the same time, how you're sort of generating how you're generating that, is sort of from the impetus of an idea. It's how, how do you take a, a figure and put it in a field and put it in an environment that doesn't exist in a photograph? It doesn't exist in real life. It's only coming from the imagination. and. And that's what I think these exercises are, are interesting for both me as a creative, but also intended to be interesting for the viewer, so that you're kind of intrigued by the nuance of a figure in a field, but then also how some of these forms maybe do get generated and sort of, there's a level of introspection for the viewer as well as for the creator in this. and it's, I think this whole idea of, is it intuitive, or is it intentional? as we draw and I think in this particular case, it's a little bit of both and that's, that's being completely transparent and honest about it. it's, it's not just all planned. and we've just, we've described some of it over sketches that, kind of where my hand sorta jumps to space in these particular sketches as well, where the form is sort of generated that way of figure. There is an effort, even as I'm drawing the figure, sometimes I will jump out to the negative space on the page, knowing that I'm going to start to set up some lines based on it. For instance, if you look at the leg that's lower in the picture, you can see that the thigh, the bottom of the thigh really aligns with that kind of marked form of space starts to jump out almost like a surface that somebody's sitting on, that sort of squiggle, gets generated almost first. And then there's, then there's an armature of geometry and, almost materiality of those boxes. That, you could almost imagine those as, fragments of a building or fragments of space that are sort of hung off of this, this spot, this line. and so there's some of that happens as I'm generating the figure, but they're just scratches on the page. And then it's you go back in and start to develop it as, as a, the first part is a little bit of intuition. And then, then after that, going back in is the intention.

Kurt:

Yeah. And, and actually, there was a word that you mentioned and now I forgot, but it was in the, in the development of the sketch that you, you said something like, it's, an exercise or you, you called it an exercise. And I think the idea of treating it like, a practice or, But the target or starting a drawing that has no necessary target that you're calling a finished finished piece and the, the, the juxtaposition, or you said, of the human form to the abstract form, I think is, is kind of like this idea of the known what we, what we know and what we don't know. Right. These, the realm of, the human form, which is a familiar thing. And then the space that interacts, or that could be an interaction between. And I think, it actually, subliminally who knows. I do remember Tom Maine, in a lot of his early stuff, say the smaller scale projects, he mentioned, a lot of the things are. This is about the human experience inside a space. So maybe even more interested in the interior environment than the exterior environment, like to him, the exterior, I think winds up becoming more performance-based as far as energy is concerned, and the interior is about who's the occupant, how many occupants, how many people are in that space? So what's this, what, what size and shape and form, like, how has that space manifest after studying the

Jamie:

user? It's it's, it's the idea of designing and section, and which is probably from the earliest stages of a design school or design education, designing and section that whole just, just, full stop designing and section is, is the one thing that you're trying to transmit to somebody who's unfamiliar with. the way we work. and once you start to, accept that our work is designing and section then, and that's where the core of our work is. because it's, it's thinking about the human experience or the experience of space. it's at that point, then you can have these tangents of thought where you're talking about efficiencies and, new processes and, skinning a building or skinning a space from the outside and sort of what, what is the emblematic aspects of, of a particular project look like, in a, in a larger context. but at the end of the day, it's still about occupying that space, whether interior or exterior and, and how we interact with it, and all that happens in section and. and when we say section, for, for the non architects listening, it's, it's literally understanding that it's, you can't just draw something and plan it out in a plan, where this room and this adjacency work, you have to be simultaneously thinking about what it looks like in terms of, what's that ceiling doing? What, how do the walls feel? that relationship of the space, are there steps, what's the movement through that space? How do I move through this space? What do I experience? So it's, it's the connection of perspective the world in which we live and occupy with the architecture and the structure of it, in, in a multitude of drawing forms. And so section really gets, gets to the core of that, where you're. Literally, and there are drawing exercises where you're literally understanding that the building is generated not just by a plan or not just by a facade and an elevation, but the interaction of those two things. And, and when, when, and that interaction is really where the interesting motivations, and discoveries, really start to occur for me when I'm trying to work through creative block, I tend to go back to drawings like this because it forces me to both begin with a little bit of a plan, but then let my imagination start to go and, and lead me into the drawing itself. without necessarily an end product in mind. and what hopefully happens with the ones I think that are more successful, and, and tend to be the ones that. Respond to better are the ones where there's a distinct point in the process of me drawing this and this drawing. For instance, it's only about 10 minutes long. somewhere in that process, it clicks. And I can start to see where I'm going with the drawing and not necessarily knowing what it's going to look like completely at the end, but I have a really good sense of, of where it's headed and when to stop. and sometimes that, that point in the process takes many, many, many minutes to get to where you're getting that comfort level. the, when it takes longer and longer to get there, there's a lot of anxiety, of that you're almost trying to work through. so I, I use these as a means of that process of discovery. and so when you talk about. Morphosis and, the so-called school of architects and, and those, case studies and things, and, manifestos and portfolios that we looked at and use as sort of reference points in our own education. Yeah. Those images of models and multimedia expressions, where they were drawing and using collage and all these types of things to kind of get at an idea, you could see, you could see in the work that they were searching for something. And I think that that for me, that resonated the most, and, and helped me at the time when I needed it. as I was learning about architecture to believe that I had a place in this process. Yeah. that, and because it wasn't, I could learn history, I could learn the mechanics of it, just like everybody else. But how was I going to fit into it? Yeah.

Kurt:

Yeah. That's a really good point. And actually, I think it might make a good segue to the next, which actually is a little rarity for us. We're not actually going to talk about a Jamie sketch. We're going to switch to a tweet that he, or, was this yeah. Twitter, Jamie retweeted and, Michael tweet, which is so, so, so the segue that I was trying to make though, is that, so if we read Mike over attendee's quote here, what if our imagination unfolds at the rate, our hands move and, and I think your point on finding your own voice or finding the way that you fit into the, the design process and or the design. Well profession of architecture, but through the, learning and practicing and sketching and, and moving through, those, those, those motions. So it's not just the motions, but like, how do you think, you're thinking with your hand, right? Or the, the hand-eye the brain connection. And so, so you tagged me in this, last night, and then it got me thinking that like, in certain cases, if you flipped the entire question around it, I was thinking, what, if our hands moved at the, the rate that our imagination moves, So sometimes I think that with me, my I'm thinking through, especially as I progressed from student to, to working professional, as I gained experience and understand. Development of spaces from plane to section and elevation and so on, as we all continue to learn, I can think in my head right of a floor plan, if I'm, and then maybe before I even start sketching, then I may start thinking about what I would do to the section right. In that three-dimensional space in my imagination. And, and then maybe I'll start sketching things. Like if you look at Michael sketches here, right, he's got a variety of different plan section, even diagrams, right. It's just not even a, an actual building per se, but a diagram or even a thought of an idea or a thought of a building in an idea. Right. And, sometimes the hand may not be cooperating with what my brain is doing. And so, anyway, it just got me, I thought of provoking. Reverse question back to you and seeing if, if you can read it Michael's way with the imagination of holding up the unfolding at the rate of our hand movement or the, the reverse of that. So I think,

Jamie:

what it is, I think the way I read his proposition, as a question was, it's, it's that idea of insight and about sharing, and revealing a little bit and being transferred. about what's going on inside your head, in an age where, we don't share enough. we don't connect enough with folks, but everybody's on social media and things like that to connect with people and to connect, I think, this kind of quote in my mind goes to the hardest, some of that is, is the act of drawing or a creative process and revealing that, is that giving a little insight into your own imagination. and I would agree, I would say that that's, that, that through line of thought makes sense, but I like your proposition of turning the question on its head and saying, is, our is our own imagination limited by the speed at which our hands move. it can, can, Can the expression of our thoughts and either words or actions or, activity, limit in a sense, the thoughts that are in our head and, and, like you were just describing your processes that you think about a proposition or a problem as a designer, and start to come up with ideas. And then at a moment as these are starting to formulate and crystallize, maybe not end solutions, but crystallize, then it, then you try and sketch and and what you didn't say, but is very true about myself and probably yourself as well as, you get frustrated because the idea in your head, at some level, is difficult to communicate. you're not able to, how many times have you said I can't get it down on the page? I can't get my thoughts. I can't describe it well enough. I can't draw it well enough, and what, as a creative, what I can, as a, somebody who's taught and who mentors and, and works with others in a collaborative environment, what I've always said is just get the ideas out, keep going, even if, even if they're not perfect, even if they're, even if they're messy, even if they're not right, they're not representing exactly what you're thinking, get them down on the page. and, and keep going. and, and that's, and that's a difficult thing to do because at that point there was this fear of failure and, and you're almost self-assessing yourself. and I, I, I shared with you when I have my creative blocks, it's very difficult for me to get things out on the page. and, and, and I'm very critical of that. Self-critical. But I have to remind myself and I, I, that's why I sort of, I think I appreciated this quote, and this discussion, is that it's a reminder that as a creative one who draws even is that I have to draw like, it's that I just have to do it, even if it's the only

Kurt:

way out is through

Jamie:

the only way out is through. Exactly. And, and that is not, they're not always going to be the best ideas. They're not, you're not always going to find the solution very quickly, but by trusting yourself and believing, and then having a little bit of self-belief in that, th there's, there's something to be said for, leaning into your own process and your own skills and who you are. Hmm. Sharing it, and, and getting a little bit of feedback, not for ego sake, but sharing it to see if, is this resonating with people, or, or sharing it with a design colleague and saying, this is kind of what I'm thinking, and it's a community it's at that point, you're having a conversation about design and that conversation with somebody, as you even describe your own work, you start to realize the things that you didn't get down on the page, and, and there's, and accepting that the drawing itself isn't sacred. it's part of the process is, is a really, it's a valuable lesson that is not, not to say that it comes. You have to be old to get it. It's just that you have. mature yourself as a designer and be a bit vulnerable. so I think that there's, I, I liked this just because it's sort of, it's a loaded question, I don't think. And it's, I don't think it's, completely indicative of, of reality.

Kurt:

Well, there's no, I don't think there's some metric that you could, there's no data point, but I think one, one thing I never, I wonder if he ever heard this anecdote and I think, we can, you can wrap up after, pretty quickly here. I'll let you have the last word, which is always best. You may have the last word, but, but just one other thought too, to provoke the conversation was so, since I studied in, in, in Los Angeles, I had a couple of faculty that worked for Michael and then I had a classmate that wound up working for him, and I heard that at his office, he has, like the conference table or his sort of community. He has this giant table. I don't know, one end is, it's bolted to the end of the table, a, a roll of trace. And he, they, they grab it. Yeah. And they, they drag it out all over the table and everybody sitting around the table draws collaboratively. Right. They work together. I mean, this is an, nowadays we talk about collaborative this and collaborative, it's, it's such a collaborative, format, but this is, 20 years ago. And probably even more than 20 years because that, I learned that, when I was approaching the end of my schooling, 20, 20 plus 20 years ago. And, and so he'd probably been doing it his whole. Yeah. Ever since he established his office. And so the idea that like, there was no hierarchy of like lead designer to intern or whatever, but everybody who had the ability to think, and a pen or pencil could contribute to the development of the process. And, and so, and also like, like you were saying, if you hit the block, it, it was right there in front of everybody that could maybe help you push through those sorts of things. So you knew about this as you were, because you already knew, cause you're cranking, like you're doing this crank motion, which that's what, one of the faculty that I had as this. Yeah. He, he told me that and he would, he demonstrated is like, yeah, we just keep cranking the drinks and it would, I mean, could you imagine, I hope I would imagine he's archived all those roles. But, what that would look like. That

Jamie:

would be, that's a, that's a mental image that I think is, is one to leave everybody with, because I think that would be kind of interesting. It's. I mean, how many times have you seen people take pictures of their sketches, namely myself and others, or their pile of sketchbooks, and, for this it's, it's, it's completely something wholly different. that is, I think there's, there's something beautiful about just all of those drawings, because it's, it's not just the drawings, it's like you're saying it's the conversations, it's the thoughts, and going full circle to when you were talking about Tom Mayne and these, fully realized or half realized ideas and a model, whether it's ends up being built or not. it's the expression of an idea and, and the exploration of it that I think has really. part of that process and being able to talk about it, and get closer to describing it is something that is valuable for anybody as a creative. and hopefully some of this conversation, helps people think about it. Maybe a little different.

Kurt:

Yeah. Thanks.

Jamie:

Thank you.