Playing Favorites

I am sometimes asked what my favorite work of architecture is. Rather than name a historic or popular icon, I usually respond by saying that I like buildings that help build neighborhoods and communities. But if pressed to name one, I can only narrow the list down to two: the Pantheon in Rome and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Both are ideal in conception and outlook but also enduringly attractive in the way they have aged and adapted to different uses over the centuries. It is only over time that any design can be truly evaluated for its worthiness.

PantheonInt00 PantheonInt13

Scenes from Cappadocia

 

After the DCA–E Conference in Istanbul, we visited the Cappadocia region for a few days. This is the courtyard of the Kale Konak Cave Hotel where we stayed. Situated at the base of Uçhisar Castle, the enormous rock marking the highest point in the district, the setting offers a magnificent panorama of the surrounding countryside.

A highlight of our visit was walking through the Göreme Open Air Museum, a monastic enclave dating from the 4th through the 13th centuries. This is a view of the interior of Tokali Kilise, the Church of the Buckle, the largest of the more than 30 churches and chapels carved out of the relatively soft volcanic rock formations. Many of the sites contain frescoes still vibrant after all these years.

Istanbul Workshop

Spent a wonderful day with a group of architecture students from Özyeğin University and other schools in Istanbul. The weather was sunny and pleasantly comfortable. We started off at the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque in the Üsküdar district on the Asian side of the Bosphorus and then worked through the neighborhoods of Kuzguncuk and ended up at Beylerbeyi.

This sketch is typical of the quick demos I do when working the students, drawing either in my own journal or a student’s sketchbook. The second image was done as I was experimenting with using the Procreate app in an iPad, drawing with the Apple Pencil. I found the stylus responded really well, especially compared with stylish that I had tried.

After working with students in various countries and cultures, I have found that they are all so similar in their optimism and enthusiasm for learning.

3500 First Avenue Northwest

This office building at 3500 First Avenue Northwest reminds me of the formal, geometric modernism of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates and other firms from the 1970s. I was told that Barney Vemo designed and built the structure in that same time period. After walking by this place many times, what I recall in my mind’s eye are these fragments that I drew, not the entirety of the whole as shown in the photograph taken from across the street.

Sometimes, visual memories of places consist of single, iconic images. Think of the Pantheon in Rome or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. At other times, what we remember consists more of a collage of partial views rather than an image of the whole.

Line to Color Workshop

Thanks to all the participants in the Line to Color workshop Gail Wong and I led this past weekend in the Fremont neighborhood and Gasworks Park in Seattle. We appreciated the energy and willingness of everyone to endure the less than ideal weather conditions to draw and paint this weekend. When sketching while traveling or simply out and about, we often cannot control how hot, cold, or wet it is. We can only do the best we can.

After drawing on location for so long, I sometimes forget what it is like to be a beginner. More than a few participants mentioned how mentally tiring it was to draw all day, which, in thinking about it, shouldn’t have surprised me. Drawing, and the seeing it requires, does take effort, especially for beginners struggling to resolve the difference between what we know about something and how it might appear to the eye.

During these workshops, Gail and I rarely have the time to do any drawings of our own except for the quick demos we may do in our sketchbooks as we work with each of the participants one on one. Yesterday, to wrap up the workshop, we gathered at Seattle Center for a final session and I finally had the time to do a couple of sketches. The first is the view looking out from under the canopy at the base of the Space Needle, and the second is a contour line drawing of Space Bloom, an installation that combines art, science, and technology to enable the floral sculptures to sing and dance throughout the year.

Capitol Hill Station

Sound Transit, Puget Sound’s mass transit agency, is slowly but surely building out a true light rail system for the region. While initial funding was approved by the voters in 1996, the Central Link system running from downtown south to SeaTac airport didn’t open until 2009. These sketches are of the Capitol Hill Station that opened recently along with the next stop at the University of Washington. The Central Link line is continuing to be built northward to the University District, the Roosevelt neighborhood, and Northgate.

Because Beer Matters™

Fremont Brewing: “We are a family-owned craft brewery founded in 2009 to brew artisan beers made with the best local ingredients we can find … Because Beer Matters!” This post is to celebrate the first day of their refreshingly good Summer Ale being available. Their urban beer garden is packed, especially because it’s sunny and 70°F on April 1st.

Roxy’s Diner

With a motto of: “Real Eastcoast on the Westcoast,” Roxy’s Diner is a New York style diner and deli in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle offering all-day breakfast, bagels, and hot pastrami sandwiches. Also on Roxy’s extensive menu is its famous Restraining Order—a shot of Jack Daniels or Jameson with a slap from your server. Just to the north is Norm’s Eatery and Ale House, which is a dog-friendly bar and restaurant.

Amazon’s Spheres

At the heart of Amazon’s urban campus being erected near the Denny Triangle, just north of downtown Seattle, are these three steel-and-glass spheres. The large dome structures, which range from 80 to 95 feet in height and from 80 feet to 130 feet in diameter, contain five floors of experimental spaces for Amazon employees to “work and socialize in a more natural, parklike setting.”

As is typical with projects that veer from the norm, opinions vary as do the descriptors being bandied about—glass orbs, fly eyes, and bubbleators. While some see the spheres as a welcome departure from the geometry of Seattle’s high-rises, others are not as impressed with the audacious display, being more concerned with the public amenities (or lack thereof) being created. Only time will tell.

Subtlety and Nuance

In his review of Brushy One String’s music for North Country Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concert, Bob Boilen wrote that “Subtlety and nuance are more easily found in minimalism than excess.” I think Boilen’s observation can also apply to drawings as well. When drawing on location, we are tempted to include everything upon which we cast our eyes with every technique we have at our disposal. Something I think that is worth working toward is using restraint and suggesting more with less.