My First Journal

While I encourage design students to develop the habit of maintaining a visual journal while they are in school, the first real journal I kept was while I was a visiting faculty at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1992. During the month-long stay, I set myself the goal of doing a sketch a day. The result of this effort was the publication of Sketches from Japan in 2000 by John Wiley & Sons.

Since the book is now out-of-print, I am posting the first page in the sketchbook, for which I wrote the following caption:

“This is one of the main streets of O-okayama, a few blocks from the International House where visiting faculty stay while at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Drawing this established the process for the remaining drawings in this sketchbook, starting with a significant contour or shape, sized and positioned relative to the dimensions of the page, and then filling in this frame with the contours of the smaller shapes and details. This deliberate, methodical way of working enabled me to pay attention to the pattern of the whole as well as the multitude of details I saw and experienced.”

University of Central Florida

Never been to Florida until last week, when I had the opportunity to teach a group of architecture students from the University of Central Florida in Orlando at the invitation of Professor Thomas McPeek. Thoroughly enjoyed the sunny weather and sketching downtown Orlando, Winter Park, and Rollins College with the students, but most of all, I appreciated their openness and optimism—both admirable traits for those hoping to shape Florida’s future.


The Old Rainier Brewery

It’s now been twelve years since they stopped making beer at 3100 Airport Way South, the former home of Rainier Beer.

The brewing of beer in Seattle dates back to 1884, when Edward Sweeney established the Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Company in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle. After a series of mergers, Seattle Brewing and Malting Company emerged in 1893 and launched the Rainier brand of lager beer. The company ceased operations during the prohibition years and temporarily moved to San Francisco. After prohibition was repealed in 1933, however, the brewery re-emerged as the Rainier Brewing Company and relocated to this complex alongside the I-5 corridor south of downtown Seattle.

The iconic red neon R that used to stand atop the brewery is now in Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry, replaced by the green T when Tully’s was using the plant to roast coffee. The plant is now home to Tully’s headquarters, Bartholomew Winery, Red Soul Motorcycle Fabrications, a recording studio, and a number of artist lofts.

Athens, Ohio

Patrick Manley recently asked me about this spherical perspective I had drawn of Athens, Ohio, which he remembered having seen in a friend’s apartment. His friend turned out to be Steve Swisher, a former student of mine.

The story behind the drawing begins with the decision to phase out the architecture program at Ohio University. I had always admired the spherical perspectives in Ed Bacon’s book, The Design of Cities, and wanted to do a similar view of Athens to remember the place where I had started my teaching career back in 1972.

In the spring of 1976, I drew a 2-foot diameter circle on illustration board and began laying out the street pattern of the town, using as the center the intersection of East Washington Street and South Court Street, where the county courthouse resides. I used aerial photos for the rooftops, but first I had to literally walk the streets to get the relative heights and massing of the buildings and the portion of their facades that would be visible. Having Google Maps and Google Earth available would have made this drawing so much easier to do! For fun, I placed distances from the center of Athens to various points in the world along the circumferential horizon of the drawing.

Upon completing the drawing, I made a number of prints and mailed them to all of the students from that last semester in the spring of 1976 as a remembrance.

In 2007, Christine Tom of Lamborn’s Studio on State Street contacted me and expressed interest in reprinting copies for sale. I had forgotten that they had sold prints of the original drawing in the late 70’s. Of course, I agreed and so prints of this drawing are still for sale there.

The Art of Urban Sketching

Monday evening, Gabi Campanario gave a talk at the University Bookstore about the history of Urban Sketchers and the publication of his new book, The Art of Urban Sketching, which was followed by a book signing. The book is a richly illustrated and inspiring compilation of the work of urban sketchers from over 50 cities around the world. Included are a lot of useful tips for drawing on location. Highly recommended.

Inspired by Paul Hogarth

Reaching back into the past, here is a view of Cleveland, Ohio, as seen from the Flats on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, which I drew during my year’s service in VISTA in 1972. I had originally posted this image on my Facebook fan page in February, 2010, but it is now apparently missing from my wall. At the time, I was fascinated with and inspired by the work of Paul Hogarth, noted English artist and illustrator, who used his drawings and watercolors to document places and events during his many travels, a reportage style of illustration that is now being kept alive through the work of Urban Sketchers <>.

The Fremont Troll

Another in a continuing series of drawings documenting sights in Fremont. Here, the Fremont Troll lurks beneath the north end of the Aurora Bridge, clutching a Volkswagen bug in the his left hand. The writing on the plaque that I copied beneath the sketch explains the Troll’s origin:

“The Fremont Troll was designed and built by Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter and Ross Whitehead, with help from the community. The Fremont Arts Council sponsored the project, which hoped to build a greater sense of place in the neighborhood through art, and with it a stronger community…”

You can tell by the scratchy lettering it was much colder than I had realized when walking along North 36th Street to get to the site. There’s a lot of construction activity at this end of the bridge with the state seismically reinforcing the bridge supports, which I conveniently ignored.

Eames Laminated Wood Splint

It was an honor to receive the Tiffany award at the 2012 Leaders Breakfast of the Northern Pacific Chapter of the IIDA yesterday morning. An added treat was being given an original molded laminated wood splint, designed by Charles and Ray Eames and produced by the Evans Product Company for the U.S. Navy in 1943. The wood molding technology used for the splints led to the Eames’ development of several molded plywood furniture designs in 1946, all produced by Herman Miller. I haven’t yet had the courage to open the wrapping but here is a photo of the label. 

The highlight of the morning was an entertaining and inspirational talk by Ed Viesturs, author of “No Shortcuts to the Top” and one of the very few to have climbed all 14 “eight-thousanders” (peaks over 8000 meters in elevation) without bottled oxygen. He spoke of teamwork, patience, perseverance, and most importantly, passion in what we do.