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.
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.
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.
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.
The Boeing B-1 seaplane, the first and only one built, began flying the international airmail route from Lake Union in Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia, in 1919. I drew the first view of the seaplane last year, which merely hinted at its context. The second view was drawn when a small group of urban sketchers met this past Tuesday at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) to sketch with Laurie Wigham, who was visiting from San Francisco. This time, I included a greater sense of the central hall space in which the seaplane is suspended. Context matters.
Here are two views of the Duwamish, a fireboat built in 1909 and now moored at the Historic Ships Wharf just north of MOHAI. The first is taken from the wharf itself while the second is drawn from the northeast corner window of the second floor of MOHAI. The window itself serves as a framing device for the drawing. Context matters.
Here are a few more sketches from my recent visit to Manhattan, Kansas. The second is of the International Student Center, which I studied because of its unusual inward orientation to a courtyard, unlike most of the other structures on the KSU campus.
I did this very quick sketch during a walk through the 8000-acre Konza Prarie, a former cattle ranch and now a tallgrass prarie preserve in the Flint Hills of northeastern Kansas, jointly owned by the Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University, which conducts ecological research and manages conservation in the preserve. I drew only the path ahead of me and a treeline in an arroyo between two ridges. All of that white space you see are prarie grasses, a mix of big bluestem, little bluestem, Indiangrass, and switchgrass.
Spent the 4th of July weekend with a few dear friends on Whidbey Island. On Saturday, we drove into Langley, which likes to call itself the Village by the Sea. While the setting overlooks the Saratoga Passage to the east, its heart lies along First Street with its shops, galleries, and restaurants. Along this main street, no particular building stands out from the others but together they prove the adage that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
I chose this particular view of First Street because the sun was intense at midday, the temperature was in the 80’s, and I was fortunate enough to find a bench in the shade.
A recent addition to the Freelard neighborhood is this BBQ joint at 4105 Leary Way NW. Even though the scene contains a lot of detail, I find that picturesque places like this are easier to draw since slight errors in proportion are much less noticeable than when drawing examples of classical architecture, which followed certain principles of proportional relationships. For example, drawing the Tempietto in Rome was a real challenge. Notice the comment that I wrote after finishing—A little too tall… I had exaggerated the height of the structure just a bit too much.
After the Orange County workshop, Deb and I spent a day at the Getty Center, a campus of the Getty Museum in the Brentwood neighborhood of LA. The complex of galleries, library, offices, and research institute designed by Richard Meier is situated along two ridges of a hill in the Santa Monica Mountains. The architecture is striking, but as I noted on my sketch of the museum courtyard, the most attractive and enjoyable part of our visit were the landscaped open spaces and gardens created by the architecture. Notable is the Central Garden designed by artist Robert Irwin.
Industrial architecture, through the arrangement of geometric forms, often expresses its utility, function, and process in the most direct and honest way. This example is the Fremont Plant of Lakeside Industries, a third-generation family-owned company dating from 1952. Sandwiched between the Ship Canal and the Burke-Gilman Trail, the plant processes the movement of sand and gravel between trucks and barges