Happy Chinese New Year!

 

The Chinese New Year typically falls on the second full moon after the winter solstice. This year, that date is February 9 and 2016 is the Year of the Fire Monkey. The monkey is said to be clever while fire brings energy and determination to those with this sign. Among those born in the Year of the Monkey are Julius Caesar, Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Dickens, and Mick Jagger.

The Lin Shophouse on Dihua Street

Lining Dihua Street in the Datong District of Taipei are historical shophouses, many of which are selling Chinese herbs and medicines, especially for the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities. The 19th-century shophouse is characteristic of many Southeast Asian cities, combining a shop or working space facing the street with living quarters either above or to the rear of a deep, narrow lot.

The Lin Shophouse, built in 1851, is said to be the first shophouse along Dihua Street. I first drew a partial section of the front “shop” part of the structure as I walked through the spaces and then sketched an overview of the complex showing how the shop space faces the street and is separated by a courtyard from the living quarters in the rear. In the street view, one hardly notices the Lin Shophouse as it has been obscured by later shophouses that rose two or three stories high, with Baroque-style facades that were popular during Japan’s Taisho Period.

1516 Melrose Avenue

 

During the last Seattle Urban Sketchers meet-up in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, this particular view drew my attention because of its strong gestalt of a dark house, reached via a series of paths zigzagging up an ivy-covered slope. There appears to be a force field that is repelling the apartment building to the north and a remodel to the south. How much longer will the force field hold up against the forces of development?

An entirely different type of view is this busy interior of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, featuring the Probat P Series solid drum roaster.

Street Views of Taipei and Old Dhaka

After my visit to Dhaka, I headed to Taipei for another series of workshops with students of the National Taipei University of Technology (NTUT). In Taipei as in other cities there is a hierarchy of right-of-ways, from the relatively narrow “lanes” connecting wider “streets,” which, in turn, lead to broader “roads” that we might call avenues or boulevards. The day after I arrived and before the workshops started, I drew the view above of Lane 108 near my hotel.

This view, also down a lane, drew my attention because of the way it layered the old and the new, with Taipei 101—the world’s tallest building from 2004 until 2009, when the Burj Khalifa was erected in Dubai—rising in the background.

It’s interesting to compare the street views of Taipei with two I drew in Dhaka. In contrast to the relative orderliness of Taipei, we have the “informality” of Dhaka. But as one Bangladeshi told me: “Within the informal, there is the formal.” Shakhari Bazar is typical of the narrow lanes in Old Dhaka, lined with vendors and shops and flooded with pedestrians and rickshaws streaming through in both directions. Thanks to Professor Abu Shajahan and Sumaiyah Mamun for showing me around this historic district.

I drew this view to record a recurring sight along the streets of Dhaka, the large bundles of cables and wiring that carry electricity and communications to buildings.

AIUB Workshop in Dhaka


I want to thank Saleh Uddin, Arefeen Ibrahim, and the faculty, staff, and students of the Department of Architecture at American Internarional Universuty-Bangladesh for their warm welcome in Dhaka. In addition to giving a presentation during AIUB’s 10 year anniversary festivities, I had the pleasure of hosting a workshop one afternoon at Louis Kahn’s National Assembly Hall. Here are a couple more photos of the event (Thanks to Professor Ibrahim) and a few pages of explanatory sketches from my sketchbook.

Thanks to Professor Ibrahim for the photos.

Sher-e-Bangla Nagar


The above is a composite of Louis Kahn’s plan idea for the National Parliament Building in the Sher-e-Bangla Nagar district of Dhaka, Bangladesh, and a more finished plan of the assembly hall level.

While we can pore over plans and sections, study photographs, even view film of a building or place, none of these media can replace the experience of actually being “there.” And so it was a real pleasure to be able to visit Kahn’s last work while in Dhaka to participate in the 10-year-anniversary festivities of the architecture program at American International University Bangladesh.

Even though I did not have the time to sketch as we toured the interior of the complex, I can still recall how Kahn extruded the simple geometric plan shapes in the third dimension and then used large cutouts in the planes to create the daylit layers of space.

This is a wide-angle view of the exterior. I broadened the viewing angle beyond 90 degrees so that I could convey a greater sense of how the complex floats on a pool of water, reflecting the riverine nature of the country.

Section 22-6 of the City Code of St. Augustine

I was unaware that I might have been breaking the law when I did this sketch of the Plaza de Constitucion in 2014. Urban sketcher Thomas Thorspecken of Orlando, Florida, recently blogged about traveling to St. Augustine to witness a demonstration being staged to protest a local ordinance passed in 2009 banning “acting, juggling, singing, playing musical instruments, pantomime, mime, magic, dancing, artistry or the creation of visual art and wares, which includes drawings or paintings applied to paper, cardboard, canvas, cloth or to other similar medium when such art is applied to the medium through the use of brush, pastel, crayon, pencil, spray or other similar object, and the creation, display and/or sale of crafts made by hand or otherwise.”

While the intent of this ordinance was probably to control and regulate street performers and vendors in the tourist center of St. Augustine, it seems to catch in its broad net those who, like urban sketchers, simply desire to draw or paint on location in certain public spaces in the city.

A case to overturn this ordinance is currently pending in federal court.

Seattle Central Library

 

The December meeting of the Seattle Urban Sketchers took place at the Seattle Central Library, where I drew these two views of the Norcliffe Foundation Living Room. Serving as a general purpose reading area adjacent to a coffee shop and gift shop, the Living Room is part of the largest of the dynamic spaces in the library designed by Rem Koolhaaus and Joshua Prince-Ramus of OMA in collaboration with LMN Architects.

In one sense, the irregular geometry of such spaces can be easier to draw since any deviation from what actually exists may be difficult to discern. On the other hand, what is important to convey is a sense of the scale and 3-dimensional volume of the space.