Perusing my sketchbooks, one might discover many small notational drawings that I have used to understand and represent certain aspects of the places visited. When drawing from observation, we can capture not only what the eye perceives but also what the mind conceives. We can use the drawing process to think about, visualize, and explore in imagined and imaginary ways the conceptual basis for the environments we see and experience. These notational drawings may be simple plan or section diagrams or more complex three-dimensional studies but in all cases, they attempt to encapsulate the essence of a place or structure.
The Hotel Hotel Hostel is an example of a healthy renewal and reuse of an existing piece of urban fabric in the center of a vibrant neighborhood, within easy walking distance to shops, restaurants, and buses. Established in 2011, the hostel offers reasonably priced accommodations in Fremont, ranging from private rooms with private baths to private rooms and dorm rooms with shared baths. In addition, there’s a fully equipped kitchen and TV room to share and a pizza bar on the street level.
Check out their website at <http://hotelhotel.co/hotel_hotel_hostel> for more info.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.