We Are Everything

In preparation for the Bay Game this Thursday, I have been researching a lot about how ecosystems depend on a perfect balance of parts. Fundamentally, every ecosystem lacks a definitive center–it is a patchwork of elements, a field in which every single detail has vital importance. It is easy to lump all the small factors into negligible side glances, but we need not forget that a well-oiled machine is a compounding of little individual pieces. A crescendo holds sound waves from  an orchestra of instruments.
A striking example of this can be seen in our nation’s own Yellowstone, where the links between animal and plant species are crucial to a harmonious balance. The loss of wolves in Yellowstone set the ecosystem into a downward spiral, tipping further and further into imbalanced chaos. With the loss of wolves came a rise in the elk population, which was no longer kept in check. The elks invaded the banks of streams, rendering the willows bald in the aftermath of their appetites. The willows that once slowed the stream flow disappeared, and the streams became more swift. Faster moving waters make it difficult for beavers to survive and build dams, so they disappear with the willows.
Grossman quotes Alan Tessier, “this research illustrates the value of long-term ecological experiments to understanding how species interactions cascade through food webs to determine ecosystem resilience.”
Scientists originally thought that simply replacing the wolf population in Yellowstone was enough to restore the balance, by decreasing elk population and growing more willows. However, the fast moving streams are also a poor environment for willows to grow in–and the beavers that used to dam up the streams and slow the current are long-gone. With the loss of beaver ponds in Yellowstone’s stream network, there has been a depletion of the moisture-rich sediment deposits that the willows need to take root.
Simply by removing one predator from Yellowstone’s ecological system caused a cascade of imbalances that we are still today working to restore. Reintroducing wolves certainly helped to restabilize the ecosystem, but there is still a long way to go:
yellowstone-wolves-species
On the global scale, more and more attention is being paid to the decline of the bee population worldwide. This will affect worldwide trade of food products, whose availability in farming is dependent upon pollination.
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This sort of problem is already being seen to happen in California, whose almond orchards are struggling to bear fruit. The European Commission intends to impose a two-year ban on neonicotinoids, which are pesticides that are suspected to cause “colony collapse disorder” (which is the inexplicable decline in the population of bees). 
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US_bee_decline1
Unnatural products that humans use on a large scale to control their surrounding environments–be it shotguns, pesticides, or fertilizers–have had significant impact on our ecosystems worldwide. I think that humans are forgetting that they, too, are a PART of the world that they so adamantly wish to control.
Last week I watched Tom Shadyac’s documentary I AM, in which he attempts to answer the questions: “what’s wrong with the world, and what can we do about it?”. Throughout the film’s explorations and interviews, the audience comes to realize that cooperation and not competition may be nature’s most fundamental operating principle. Even Charles Darwin is cited in the Descent of Man as using the word “love” 95 times and the phrase “survival of the fittest” only twice.
The most cutting-edge research in the field of science was discussed, and the studies are utterly mind-boggling. Every human brain subconsciously registers the heartbeat of everyone around them; we are connected to each other without even knowing it. Shadyac himself participated in an experiment where his emotional responses had an effect on the energy of a bowl of yogurt. We are all inherently connected to the world at large, as shown by spooky experiments about the “ordering of our universe”. Throughout the globe there are 65 random number generators whose only purpose is to do the digital numerical equivalent of flip coins over and over. In the wake of large-scale catastrophes–the most influential of which was 9/11– all of the random number generators around the world simultaneously begin to behave in a non-random manner. It seems that the elements of the living biological world not only depend on physical cooperation, but the energies and emotions rely on  each other to remain healthy as well.
I’m interested to see how human and natural components feed in to the Bay Game, especially in terms of the bay’s existing “dead zones” that I discussed in a previous post.
chesapeake_hypoxia
These dead zones are caused after a chain of events sparked by large-scale chicken farms. Chicken waste leads to an abundance of nitrogen and phosphorous in the ground, which is picked up by runoff and eventually enters into the bay. This in turn over-fertilizes the photosynthetic algae in the bay, causing algae blooms that suck up all of the available oxygen in the water. Without sunlight penetration, underwater plant life is squandered and fish are suffocated. If farmers in the bay area paid more attention to their large-scale impact in the cascading ecosystemic chain of events, perhaps imbalances such as this could be avoided.
Works Cited
I AM. Documentary by Tom Shadyac, 2011
Grossman, Elizabeth. “Declining Bee Populations pose a threat to Global Agriculture” http://e360.yale.edu/feature/declining_bee_populations_pose_a_threat_to_global_agriculture/2645/
Dybas, Cheryl, NSF. “Yellowstone Ecosystem Needs Wolves and Willows, Elk and …Beavers?”
http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=126853

Assignment 5, Music Chamber

The proposed design of the music chamber is one of lightness and sparkle, where people can enter and have a feeling of awakeness, clarity, and acuity. The atmosphere of this room is achieved from the interplay of materiality and harnessing daylight. A finned roof structure made of a bright surface (such as glazed tile or white plaster) reflects sunlight into the interior through glass skylights. This bouncing of direct sunlight off of bright surfaces takes the edge and harshness off, transforming it into a bright whiteness whose origin cannot be traced to a singular point. The interior space will be covered in light-colored glass tile, which further serves to bounce light around the space and echo or amplify musical sound. The southern facade is covered in a frosted glass panel, which also diffuses direct sunlight into a planar source of brightness. In contrast to the chapel design, which is dim and dazzling, this atmosphere is bright and sparkling, without being harsh or overbearing.

stereo music

Stereographic Overlay on plan, shows that the southern facade recieves sunlight at all times of year, and most times of day.

music plan

Plan Showing how light enters the space, and the luminance of the interior. A frosted glass screen on the southern facade diffuses direct and ambient sunlight into the space, and clerestory lighting also provides indirect day lighting.

music section

Section shows how different altitude angles of sunlight are filtered throughout the day, bouncing off of reflective roof structures and entering the interior as diffused light. The frosted glass screen on the southern facade also provides indirect ambient light.

Assignment 5, Chapel

The design I am proposing for the chapel takes advantage of the southern wall facade, the only facade that is exposed to daylight, to create an interesting, quiet, and contemplative interior environment. A chapel’s atmosphere is one of solitude and introspection, a sort of dazzling darkness that celebrates the subtelty that light can create. This chapel’s materiality is extremely important in controlling the luminance of the room. The walls and floor would be concrete, for a smooth and dim space for light to filter off of. Dark wooden pews create a certain warmth that makes people feel safe, as if the room were their own home. A dematerializing approach to light filtration serves to offset the feelings of claustrophobia of being in a small concrete box. Light in the chapel enters in indirect ways, save for at noon in June when the sun streams through a skylight in a slender white slit falling to the floor at the foot of the pews. The southern facade is broken horizontally with glass shelves, each filled with different colors of shattered glass. The glass absorbs the sunlight from outside and diffuses it throughout the interior, in dappling color. A similar program is happening on the roof, where reflected light streams through more shattered glass upon a larger skylight. The chapel’s interior is dim and quiet, similar to the feeling of Zumthor’s baths, and the light has a similar dazzling quality to the Hagia Sophia. The location of the sunlight’s origin cannot be exactly placed, serving to create a sort of other-worldly setting in which people can think deeply and spiritually.

stereo church

Stereographic Overlay on Chapel Plan, shows that the exposed South Side recieves daylight at all times of year and most times of day. Because of this, shading structures are necessary to create an appropriate internal environment.

church plan

This drawing shows the quality of light that enters the Chapel, from the linear noon slit in the ceiling to the diffuse lighting from the southern wall program.

church section

This drawing explains how light enters the chapel in section, as well as the various degrees and altitudes of sunlight throughout the day for different times of year.

The Gravity of Light

“I make spaces that apprehend light for our perception, and in some ways gather it, or seem to hold it…my work is more about your seeing than it is about my seeing, although it is a product of my seeing.”
— James Turrell

There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the fact that humans, in the 21st century, have become disengaged and almost numb to their surroundings or the environment. Technology overstimulates us with films and advertising and moving pictures too fast for us to react, and cottles us in flourescently lit buildings kept at a steady 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The fundamental beauty of our sensory experience is in a lot of ways redirected and overwhelmed in the realm of the artificial.

 
Sitting in the dark cave of a lecture room sans overhead lights or handheld technology was a jolt back into reality, a jolt back into my own existence as a living, breathing, human being. As shapes and patterns emerged from the murk of blackness, I became acutely aware of everything that was happening around me–despite my ability to fully see it–from the softly whistling lungs of a person four seats to my right, to a rubber shoe tapping faintly in the back left corner of the room. Dim lighting, I realized, forced me to come to my senses and realize the beauty in small details that I would have otherwise only seen through a computer screen or beneath harsh fluorescent bulbs. This demonstration reaffirmed the importance of light, how an architecture that is self-consciously aware of the light it manipulates can bring detached people back to their senses. 
 
There was an exhibit at the Hirshhorn Art Museum a few years ago that I was greatly impacted by, and it follows the same principle of the magic of perception. James Turrell is an artist that uses light as a medium, experimenting with light in spaces and blurring the lines between architecture, sculpture, and fine art.
 
(^the work I saw was a “wedgework”)
 The exhibit was an interactive installation, where you entered into a pitch black room and sat on a bench, staring at a sea of nothing. The longer I sat still, the more aware I became of the empty void stretching in front of me. I heard my own breathing, felt my own heartbeat. Felt the silence of the people sitting around me, felt my connection to the room itself. Slowly, a spectrum emerged on the wall across from me, as my eyes opened themselves up and adjusted to darkness. Turrell’s artwork relies on our bodies’ ability to respond to the world around us, changing light in particular. As the muscles in our eyes expand our pupils, different colors emerge as neon lights from the darkness, a once-invisible rainbow now in clear view. The installation pointed at the clear fact that the world that we surround ourselves in is a direct product of our own perception of it. 
 
Key-Lime-pi-1997-150x150 Milk-Run-1996-150x150
Architects can create this world or awareness and contemplation. There is a certain moment in Nau Hall in the morning as the sun rises, when the entire interior atrium fills with golden light. In the Zumthor Baths, the visitors are surrounded by a still and contemplative space of calm, guided by slivers of overhead daylight. In the Hagia Sophia, light enters in and dematerializes into an ambient golden glow. Humans are knocked to their senses, and their breaths are taken away. 
 
The way light quality changes and interacts with spaces has an impact on our self-awareness and spirituality. Pierre Wittman talks about the ability of art to engage our senses, how qualities of light edge on the “realm of formlessness” which awakens within us feelings of joy or contemplation or peace (Wittman). Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Chromosaturation is similar to the work of Turrell, leading people through rooms saturated in different colors of light as spaces of silence, spaces for them to return to themselves. 
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Darkness itself, as Wayne Gonzales discusses on the Hirshhorn’s Dark Matters exhibition, is a thing of magic. “Darkness is a lack, the absence of light. It evokes notions of mortality, silence, solitude, and loss. Violence may also lurk in the dark, and we dread the unexpected encounter in an unlit space. But darkness can equally symbolize the wiping clean of the slate, a renewal. As darkness absorbs light, it absorbs our gaze, engendering feelings of timelessness and infinity.”
Roni-Horn-Some-Thames-Group-M-300x202
Yesterday, I attended a Native American storytelling on the lawn. A woman talked about how much we have forgotten our histories, how much we have forgotten that we come from the Earth. In a way, the importance of light forces us to return to the place we came from. If more focus in architecture is brought upon the quality of light, surely people will put down their cellphones and return to themselves, rely on their gaze, notice a certain beauty that comes naturally. Poet Buddy Wakefield says in his poem, “The Information Man”, that
you ARE the center of the universe. If you weren’t you wouldn’t be here.”
We create the world that we live in because of our perception of it. All we need to do now is open our eyes.
Works Cited:
Wittman, Pierre, “Extra-Sensory Experience” http://www.wisdomlight.org/P-extra-sensory-art-english.html
Wakefield, Buddy, “The Information Man” http://www.buddywakefield.com/tour/journalearlyarchives/000130.php

Assignment 4 (Part 2)

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The intervention for the bus stop that I am proposing on the site is oriented with three main walls, with an opening to the South facing side. The South wall is a sliding glass plane that can remain open during the summertime, but be closed to block cold winds in the winter. People occupy this space either by participating in the stationary bikes, or sitting on the wrap-around wooden bench.

The Northern side wall functions as a retaining wall, following with my site proposal that the downward sloping earth be remolded and scooped up behind the bus stop as a sort of tidal wave. It would encompass and spill over onto the roof, but the East and West walls would be left above ground.

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The East and West walls would be designed as louvers with solar panels on them, that can be adjusted to allow for ventilation or closed during the winter to prevent heat loss. The solar panels would help to power overhead lighting at nighttime during both seasons.

The stationary bikes serve multiple purposes. The power generated by them during the summer months would be used to power an interior fan, and the excess unused power could be stored to help power the lighting at night. The power generated during the winter would go into heating the wooden benches on the East. Not only do the people on the wooden bench benefit from the energy expendature in the winter, but the people on the bikes are in effect keeping themselves warm as well.

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The scooping tidal wave earth into a green roof on the North-South axis provides for a great thermal mass, which keeps the interior of the bus stop relatively cool in the summertime and warmer in the winter. It also blocks the awful Northeastern wind in the winter.

The green roof and overhang also interacts with the solar patterns during various seasons.The combination of the roof structure and vegetation on top of it would function to keep the entire interior in shade during the hottest parts of the day during the summer, and in the winter, the lower sunpath is allowed to enter through the southern side (the sliding glass plane would probably be closed, but light can still enter and warm the space like a greenhouse).

The materials of the bus stop would be wooden benches (which have low conductivity, preventing heat loss in the winter and not giving off excess heat in the summer). A stone floor would absorb the light allowed to enter the bus stop during the winter months and retain that heat through the night. In the summer, the interior of the bus stop would remain in shadow, so the stone floor would remain cool and absorb the excess heat from its surroundings.

Assignment 4 (Part 1)

ortho

stereographic projection onto site, which shows how the buildings and obstacles obstruct the summer sun. During the summer, this site receives sunlight during most times of day.

stereo overlay two seasons

 

 

the orange color overlayed on the summer sun stereographic projection shows how winter sunlight on the site differs from summer sunlight. During the winter, Ruffin hall and Culbreth cast shadows on the site other than during a gap around midday. solar+ortho+stretch

 

This orthographic projection shows that during thes summer months, the site recieves optimal sunlight for most of the day. During the winter, the buildings and trees block sunlight save for a small window of time between noon and 3pm. Luckily for the winter months, the trees that are directly behind Campbell hall aren’t as bad of a problem because their leaves have all fallen.

 summer wind overlay   

This wind rose diagram shows the site during the summer. In Charlottesville during summer months, the most constant and strong winds are the warm winds from the southwest, which become funneled and accelerated around buildings and towards the site. Cooler winds from the Northeast are also funneled through buildings towards the back of the site.

winter wind overlay

During winter months, wind is a lot bigger of a problem for this site. The Northwestern winds are blocked by the parking garage, but the Southern winds and Northeastern winds are magnified by the curve of Culbreth theater and accelerated by the Venturi effect through the gaps in buildings. Sheilding from the wind in winter months is a major design necessity for this specific site.

 

 

 

psychrometric jul

 

 

This chart shows Charlottesville during July and August, the hot summer months. The design strategies employed here are high thermal mass, sun shading, natural and fan ventilation, and redirecting internal heat gain. Ventilation and sun shading are especially influential on how comfortable the space is in the summer.

psychrometric jan

 

In the winter months, different strategies have to be employed in order to make the space comfortable. This chart shows January and February from the hours of 7am to midnight. Harnessing solar heat, retaining it, and blocking wind are the most crucial aspects of designing for the winter.

Rivanna Adventure

I went on a super long run on the Rivanna trail, the part that runs parallel to the highway. It is a wholly different experience every single time that I visit, sometimes it looks like Narnia with overgrown vine tunnels and green light dappling. Today, it looked like a storybook I would have read in my childhood after thanksgiving dinner. Trees made gray stripes and the sun was hazy behind a whiteness of thin clouds. Yellow feathered leaves hung on branches and trembled, the ground was still wet and everything smelled clean. Leaves littered the trail, hid the rocks and roots. Leaves make every single color of the rainbow, except for blue–which the sky makes up for. It’s crazy how such a removed-feeling sanction can be in such close proximity to such a horror as 64, but the highway becomes a white noise among the trees. Headlights poke through branches and engines hum, but it isn’t intrusive. (We can still get away from civilization, we don’t have to go far)

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^collected adventure specimens