Sunday, January 25, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

Is Architecture in your Blood?

This is an excerpt from 'Like father, like son' - something I wrote discussing the proclivity of architect's children to follow in their parents' footsteps.

In a recent article in the Architectural Record by Laura Raskin writes; - “Architects begets architects, so it seems.  Eliel Sarinen had Eero Sarinen; two of Frank Lloyd Wright’s, John and Lloyd became architects.  Walter Gropius’s father was an architect.

To add  to  her list - two  of  I. M.  Pei’s four  sons are architects, Nick and Glenn Murcutt.  Not just the sons either, Moshe Safdie’s daughter, Taal is an architect. In Kuching, the children of Dato Sri John Lau, Mike Boon, Chiew Chung Yee, Juliah Sabri and Chang Jih Ren are following in their parent’s footsteps.

So, is architecture  in your blood?  

Some geneticists  believe there might be some basis in this thinking that since we inherit human variation such as hair and eye colour from our parents – there is a  genetical  context  for  creative  talent.  Furthermore,  there  are theories that artistic talent is more heritable than scientific  talent and since architecture is a curious mix of art and science – children of architects  may be more likely to become architects. But that is just a theory. (Architects are more likely to marry architects  – but that’s another story)

Many others think that it is the environment – in Raskin’s article, Taal Safdie was ‘breathing architecture’ – a heady mix of job-sites, client dinners and office  flurry, from a very young age. She spent part of her childhood living in Habitat ’67 – the Montreal apartment complex designed by her father. I have met steel fabricators  and carpenters who would have made brilliant architects had they been exposed to the ‘right’ environment when they were young.

The reasons for a child’s tendency to follow the parents’ profession are probably a combination of both nature and nurture. Although in Asia could there be a third factor - parental pressure? On second thoughts, this is unlikely since our profession commands too little pay for way too much work. No self-respecting Asian mother would want that for her child. Sam has been nudging Sean towards dentistry  “shorter   hours,  more  money,  fewer  arguments  about fees” – she is an interior designer.

Ultimately,  architecture  is  more  a  lifestyle  than  a  profession  – the love of what we do daily may play a part in sub consciously determining our children’s’ profession.

Friday, January 2, 2015 was your year?

I have been keeping a journal since I was in university. The first was more like a scrapbook than a journal, it contained my thoughts, notes to myself, lecture notes, sketches of design ideas for studio, photographs, receipts for the tax-man, notes from Sam. Since then, things have become a little more structured (but not too much) there is now a journal for my thoughts and observations, which sometimes takes the form of a sketch; there is a journal for work, jottings of ideas and sketches from discussions with my colleagues and students. And lately, there is one for each project that goes on site, for sketches to explain ideas with builders and for them to share theirs with me.

Not everything goes into these journals, there are plenty of strays ones on butter paper, back of blueprints and letters that have disappeared in between files, books and magazines, or simply been throw away.

I have just completed a sketch journal with unbleached paper which I like for its 'tooth' and the stitched spine means that the sheets do not come loose and it opens flat. I selected some pages from it to share here.
Some are 'thinking' drawings which mostly makes sense only to me - here I am figuring out how to stack the spaces of a house together and create some visual relationships between storeys. Once I think I have the scheme figured out somewhat I draw the plans up to scale (or convince an intern to do it).

Floor construction details for SSR Surau
Open House roof steel
Some are the results of discussions with a colleague - I like to sit with the book open in front of me and draw out quick ideas as we talk and try to find a solution. In this way, there is a record of what we discussed (and decided), also it provides us a clearer picture of what we see in our minds. Often, they would similarly be drawing in their sketch pads as well.

Car porch storage

Ideas for landscape at G House

SSR wall details
 I often send hand sketches to the builders - these are often a product of our discussions, about sizes, construction sequence, alternative materials and I often include a perspective just to make sure that we are on the same page. The perspective with a bit colour also makes this a passable presentation drawings for the client who is keep updated of our proposals.
The tidiness of the sketches depends on how busy I am on that day, although the OCD part of me likes to draw a 1:25 hard-line detail once in a while.

Segu Bungalow
 Sometimes, a sketch sneaks into the work journal that rightly belongs elsewhere. But it has a place as well because it influences my design process, it trains me to be more aware of how spaces are experienced and remembered.

Idea for a hotel restaurant

The proposed layout of a newsletter which I help edit.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

La Maison Bleu
Built by Cheong Fatt Tze “one of China’s last Mandarins and first Capitalists” this flamboyant masterpiece of 38 rooms, 5 courtyards and 7 staircases was acquired in 1990 with the aim of restoring it from its dilapidated state into an authentic original form. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has an eclectic style typical of 19th Century Straits Settlement architecture: a Chinese floor plan combines with Gothic louvred windows, Chinese qian-nian porcelain works with Stoke-on-Trent floor tiles, and Scottish cast iron works with Art Nouveau stained glass windows. It is said that the aura and “Chi” of the man pervades the whole building.

Ar. Lawrence Loh talks about the excellent 'chi' in the central courtyard

For architects and lovers of our building heritage, it is re-assuring to see that the restored building has found a new use and earns its upkeep as a heritage hotel and events venue. It has recently expanded its repertoire to include fine dining in the upstairs front rooms - done thoughtfully and sensitively, this form of adaptive reuse will guarantee the preservation of our heritage buildings for generations to come.

Old man Cheong would have approved of this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sharing Heritage

Last week, Urban Sketchers Kuching shared their sketches of heritage buildings with the Sarawak Heritage Society in an exhibition at the old courthouse.

The exhibition took place at the old Courthouse

They did a nice profile for our Urban Sketchers group

This lady bought my sketch as a pre Christmas present