12 Publishers

Architecture, Art, Design, Photography, Music & Writing

Writing March 2014

NJB_Rice_1 

 the near, far and the in-between

(Neither Out Far Nor In Deep) [1]

The closest I was to Peter Rice was on the other side of a glass wall in what amounted to a gold fish bowl of an office in the basement of Norman Foster’s Office off Portland Place.  That was in 1986, a much different time and place.  We exchanged a glance shared by the Irish abroad finding comfort in recognising a fellow country man at distance.  Maybe it was some primal recognition of genetic origins, of facial traits, or bearing or maybe it was just the tweed jacket I was sporting at the time.  Nonetheless, whatever the reasons that knowing glance was as close as I would ever get to the person, a mere acknowledgment as he disappeared into the dark.  Therefore unlike some of my colleagues here my knowledge of Peter is affected by distance.  It is on this theme of distance that I would like to address the colloquium and to present a framework for understanding the work.  Rice might even like that, or to paraphrase; “once the rules are established everything else is easy”. [2]

His work had already attained cult status and his name joined a litany of great Victorian Engineers; the Brunels, Paxton, Stephenson and Telford who joined those of the modern era; Ove Arup, Robert Maillart, Luigi Nervi and Frei Otto.  The study of engineering genius was still part of the core curriculum of the late modernist school.  The work was however mediated through a few choice magazines in an environment starved of content compared to the current overload.  As architecture students we absorbed everything we could assuming that this familiarity would breed intimacy with our subject.  Nothing, however, prepares you for the real thing.

 


[1] The near, far and the in-between or to use the title of the Robert Frost Poem used in the Traces of Peter Rice Exhibition Catalogue, Neither Out Far Nor in Deep

[2] An Engineer Imagines – Peter Rice Artemis 1998

“When designing the main steel elements we had created a language of design.  We had tubes in compression, solid rods in tension and cast elements for joints.  Once these rules had become established everything else was easy.” P. 42

 

NJB_Rice_3_4images notes 4, 5

 


 

near

Though it seemed Peter was close in space that day in Fosters, the glass wall created a distance that no words could ford.  Without those words and before his insightful memoire I was left with mute buildings.  I would like to share my thoughts from that time.  When you chance upon the Centre George Pompidou it assaults your senses unlike the framed image from the magazine.  Gone from your thoughts is the contrasting colour against the 18th and 19th century facades, gone is the organising mantra of the vertical factory or the audacious externalised services.  Instead there is this urban theatre, a grand gesture opening up a people’s plaza in front of the building’s permanent scaffolding.  Before long you approach and engage viscerally with the building.  Tightrope walkers and urban gymnasts hang out of tie bars and on ropes suspended between.  At least this is how it felt ten years after its completion.   My experience was the equivalent of undertaking an autopsy on architecture; everything was revealed; cause and effect.   Nowhere could the elevation be found; eroded in favour of a dynamic composition of action and observation.  Instead an all consuming logic prevailed.  The building revealed a Victorian faith in the machine as the embodiment of enlightenment, a device to transport you to the future; instantaneously.  However this was no brutal engagement, no mere expedient construction.  Instead a hierarchy had been crafted to provide clarity to the diagram.  Each logic element had its own expression, its own weight and texture; partly polished, partly matt, partly painted with some elements cast.  Though obsessively factory made, there was an invitation to touch.  Permission had neither been asked nor given but taken by the people.  The need to reach out and touch its alien presence in the city pulled everyone closer, in the same manner you would reach out to the giant column masses of medieval cathedrals.  As if to confirm their ability to hold high vast amounts of masonry I found myself similarly placing a hand on these massive columns.  To be able to embrace and become part of the affirming nature of its promise is the search for the true nature of its expression that Rice spoke about.

“The search for the authentic character of a material is at the heart of any approach to engineering design.”[1]   If it were false in any way, if its material masqueraded as another all would be undone.  In photographs it was impossible to ascertain this truth.  In touching the thing itself it is revealed.


[1] An Engineer Imagines – Peter Rice Artemis 1998 P. 78

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far

However though we would desire it, much of architecture remains aloof or distant in time and space.  To fulfil our ambition to understand and reveal the truth of any work requires considerable effort, funds and commitment.  As a consequence, magazines and now the internet intercede to provide a simulacrum of intentions.  The extensive availability of digital photography has provided a bridge to distant places but this remains stubbornly disjointed.  That the work of Rice and the teams in which he has collaborated remains powerful at a distance is testament to the rigour with which the language of parts is conducted.  The clarity and discipline of roles within the structure becomes a signifier of sorts for Rice’s work.  Within each project the task assigned to the column, the wall, the beam, the glass, the frame are carefully described to allow them their own space within the overall concept.  The overarching conceptual framework has at its heart is a permanent scaffold that was premièred in Pompidou.  In the collaborative work with Renzo Piano this takes flight, literally in Kansai Airport and in de Menil where the ceiling articulation is like sheets (sails) in the wind.  As it was with Utzon a singular idea holds the attention from afar, directing the attention of the observer to a few memorable images, stunningly photographed.  Despite these photogenic qualities the idea manages to cross from its’ reality to the mind’s eye, even if “The sand we used was marble sand and the cement was white, which gave a sparkle to the finish of the surface,” is lost in translation. [1]  The assured dissection of the problem and distribution of elements to a system of classification is worthy of the best of the Victorian Scientists and Engineers.

The potential there is for cacophony is arrested by the desire for dialogue.  In the drawings, sketches and models the clues to the types of dialogue emerge in time to provide a platform for understanding the relevance of the work.

 


[1] An Engineer Imagines – Peter Rice Artemis 1998 P. 90

NJB_Rice_10_11

 

in-between

It is at the nexus between concept and reality, between idea and touch that the work really excels.  It is there that the dialogue between engineer and architect, between designer and builder, between client and user is resolved.  The modern propensity for segregated thinking and segregated responsibilities would be more than happy to see any attempt at dialogue framed by a system of ring fenced borders where trade is embargoed.  Rice attests to the fact that to him the border does not exist.  I am mindful of the use of these terms coming from the territory he occupied as a young man, close to where I grew up along the border invisible in life but permanent in the minds of some.  Though an internationalist he refused to be dragged across the border or worse occupy the no-man’s land as Architect-Engineer or Engineer-Architect.  He steadfastly retreated from this special category of refugee instead expanding the potential of engineer to embrace a foreign language by resorting to an international language of Architecture.  “I am and engineer, pure and simple.” [1] His efforts however provide us with a Rosetta stone made from drawing, modelling, building, testing, trying, failing and succeeding to guide us in our own endeavours.  The joint is the touchstone, a fulcrum, the point around which everything rotates.  Unfortunately the joint would later become festishised by impersonators.  For Rice though it is the resolution of parts, it is where we come to know the man that was once glimpsed at the bottom of the garden, or in the basement office, as someone worth knowing. “Often it is the expressionism of the jointing which humanises the structures and justifies their friendly feel.”  [2] This common human exchange is concretised in this final thing, the residue of the knowing glance, recognising similar traits, equal in our humanity, but different in contribution, where anything is possible if you only have the courage, “just courage, care and attention to detail, and above all belief and getting started.” [3]


[1] Traces of Peter Rice – Edited by Kevin Barry Lilliput Press 2012 Renzo Piano Quoting Rice P. 19

[2] An Engineer Imagines – Peter Rice Artemis 1998 P.26

[3] An Engineer Imagines – Peter Rice Artemis 1998  P.126

 

NJB_Rice_Last

the near, far and the in-between

(Neither Out Far Nor In Deep)

NCAD_RiceExhibit_Sydney_241013

© Noel J Brady 2013

presented as part of Peter Rice Colloquium at NCAD 2013

Image credits

hands:  http://www.centreculturelirlandais.com/modules/movie/scenes/home/index.php?fuseAction=popup&rubric=art&article=art_may2013

 geberette: http://www.engineering-timelines.com/who/Rice_P/ricePeter5.asp

 ironbridge:  http://www.sedgleymanor.com/people/abraham_darby.html

chalkboard: http://www.engineering-timelines.com/who/Rice_P/ricePeter3.asp

sydney sketch:  http://www.sydneycloseup.com/sydney-opera-house-facts.html

ibm: http://www.structuremag.org/article.aspx?articleID=476

scarpa: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/418623727834266390/

 

Architecture March 2014

Fulcrum – ARDS Peninsula Installation

The possibility of constructing architecture from standardized parts is a long held dream of the modern movement.  With a nostalgic view of the future some pioneers believed that the future could be transparent, functional, streamlined and efficient if it followed the dream of Henry Ford’s production line.  “More Ford than Marx”, went the catchphrase.   However industrialised processes in Architecture are neither new nor exclusively modern.  In ancient Rome the standardization of Brick production facilitated the building of an empire as did their standardisation of armour, currency and most especially roads.

NJBA_553_Design_Section

 

In an age of austerity industrialsed and standardised elements are often drawn upon to facilitate works that might not otherwise be affordable.  This is NJBA A+U’s entry for the Ards Peninsula competition which draws upon the limitations of material to surpass the usual.   

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The proposal sees a tower constructed of standard plywood sheeting (with minimal cuts) fixed to a timber frame and using hinges to manufacture a triangular box.  Stacked in a pattern of twos these “boxes” would form a 5 storey tower accessed by a  stair ladder.  Designed to be placed anywhere in the park area Fulcrum would enable the viewer to engage with the trees or the coastline.  

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With rudimentary skills this tower can be erected on a relatively small footprint with its own concrete foundation.  The size of the panel systems easily provides the necessary protective environment safe.  And should the structure be considered meaningful through use the elements would provide the formwork for a more permanent concrete tower on the same platform.  

Architecture is too often seen without the myriad temporary structures that went into its construction.  Here the scaffold has become permanent, the formwork without the from, the standard identifying with the unique.

Design March 2014

srid_Chainmail1button

Synthetic Reality’s collaboration with FAB all things progresses.  Chainmail is now available for the iPhone on line with other models coming on line.

Chainmail_1

Designed to simulate chain mail it is an ideal demonstration of the potential of 3D printing.  Printed in red nylon the interwoven rings provide a dynamic surface behind which the phone may still be seen.

Chainmail_3The perfect accessory for a chainmail dress, perhaps.  The concept alludes to virtual security using a more ancient version of protection.

Music February 2014

City Lights

City Lights will have its official digital release on 22 April 2014. A video is to follow. City Lights will be one of the tracks on the forthcoming “Cycles” album. The cycles album is likely to contain the track Storm Clouds over Mestre as well. More news for Oblique Projection in March.

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Architecture February 2014

This entry is the report submitted as part of the submission by NJBA A+U to the international competition for a centenary chapel at Glasnevin in Dublin.

place – the end “alpha & omega”
Death is an end and the beginning of things, to different believers. Located at the end of the cemetery between two railway tracks it cannot be any further along the path of remembrance. It is the last place that the suns rays fall in the day. This work attempts to draw attention, a full stop to that end by anchoring the chapel/temple to that place. The work points itself into the end space embracing a new and mixed landscape to provide space for visitors to halt their movements and reflect on the nature of life, its joys and fears.

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place – the beginning
From left to right (top to bottom) a place has been prepared to remember the paupers randomly interred with a cherry tree lined columbarium and meditation pool. This augments and parallels the 1916 memorial which in turn is augmented by a long plaza that projects into the new landscaped end of the site. Parallel to this is placed the new chapel/temple with its reflecting pool and garden. Parking is provided in neutral spaces across the front of the site to minimise their impact. This is a place of parallels of equality.

541_Report_InteriorB
architecture – arrangement
At the centre of the organisation is the chapel/temple. This is centred on the catafalque. Chairs are used rather than benches to maximise the individual arrangements for specific creeds. This is wrapped with a columnar space that responds to the new plaza and the large foyer. To the south a service zone for the backup functions is places. A carillon tower anchors the building to the plaza. The elements are made like four “stones” set into the landscape with a pathway binding them together.

atmosphere – light
The intention was to provide a solemn and quiet place allowing light to enter discretely as if invited. The chapel/temple (the centre “stone”) is pierced by slits in the elevation on each side. The room will be experienced differently on each visit. Artificial light will be used to augment this atmosphere using discrete fittings placed in correspondence with the main structure and in the deep walls. The stone and concrete finishes have been chosen to mute the visual spectrum to be solemn and quiet.

atmosphere – sound
The heavy stone and concrete elements are used to silence the external world. The structure of the room breaks up the sound to flatten acoustic resonance. The thick walls and roof system will include acoustic resonance panels to assist the design of the sound space of the chapel/temple.
atmosphere – temperature & humidity
A significant amount of thermal mass has been chosen to provide a stable uniform quality throughout the year. Embedded heat exchangers in the floors and walls will enable the building to be responsive to the changing seasons. The combination of concrete super structure and stone elements provides for equally stable moisture content.
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function – carillon
The carillon theme has been proposed to anchor the site and the location of the chapel/temple to this place. It is located at the entrance point for the complex to greet the mourner/visitor. Standing tall it marks the beginning also of the new plaza. This represents the first “stone” in the composition.

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function – chapel/temple
The second “stone” of the composition is the main one, the chapel/temple. As a multidenominational space it is planned to be flexible to the needs of the congregation. The space is centred in the middle on the location of the catafalque. The chairs rather than benches can be located as shown or according to the demands of specific ceremonies moved out of the way completely. This is subject to the management of the facility though. Directly accessible from the main foyer it has access on two other sides for service personal and serving clerics.
The arrangement allows for the exit of mourners to the east end of the facility into the plaza and the contemplative gardens of the work. The arrangement provides for maximum flexibility without sacrificing architectural consistency.

function – ancillary spaces
The remaining functions are gathered together as a pair of “stones”. The most important of these, the sacristy/robing spaces are placed at the eastern end of the composition with two spaces directly linked by the columnar space surrounding the chapel/temple. Next door to this a private toilet is provided along with a service room for environmental services, a storage room for a minimum of four coffins and the administration office, accessible from the secondary service entrance. To the southern side of the building this external area constitutes the service area for access by the hearse and other service vehicles. The other part of the pair of “stones” is the discrete public toilets providing male, female and universal access toilets for the use of the public. These are accessible both from the main foyer and the outside. As the last of the “stones” it frames the entrances at the front and service entrance to the side.

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function – foyer/columnar space
Connecting the four “stones” is a brightly lit columnar ringed space providing generous space for a minimum of 100 mourners with direct access to the chapel/ temple. It is close to the administration office, rear lobby and public toilets. Secondary access to the chapel temple is made available on both sides, providing a route for coffins to the south along with a link to the sacristies/ robing spaces and the universal access toilet for use of celebrants/masters of ceremonies.
tectonics
With a super structure mainly consisting of concrete piled foundations, raft floors, waffle slab roofs (to the main foyer spaces), main chapel/temple trusses the clarity of the structure is a major contributor to the character of the building. To ensure that quality is at the foremost of this decision most of this work is either bespoke or precast under factory conditions. Columns and walls are reconstituted concrete/stone hybrid and the roof is finished in either a tern coated steel or zinc.
architecture and meaning

541_Report_PerspectiveC
This work is an attempt to imbue a sense of gravitas and resonance to the making of space. Purposefully the composition is resonant of that found in St. Kevin’s chapel at Glendalough or other ancient temples. The composition is based on four “stones”, an analogy
for the landscape strategy and for the tectonic expression of its large blocks of reconstituted concrete/stone. Light enters in between these large elements conveying their quarried logic. In a field of monuments the work rises up on the same proportional grid as its graves. Anchored and anchoring the 1916 Centenary Chapel is a place of the past, for now and the future.

Design November 2013

 

 

FAB all things

Synthetic Reality’s first product is on the shelves.  Baubles are ear rings designed to be both ancient and futuristic.  The original design invovled interlocking cups but through the process of digital printing this has mellowed into these examples in nylon and stainless steel.

 FAB_Baubles_WhiteNylon

 The stainless steel version opened up a space between front and back.  The posibilities of printing metals has become available much sooner than Synthetic Reality expected. 

 FAB_Baubles_StainlessSteel

Working with FAB all things has given rise to new thoughts about old things, and dreams of new ones.  www.faballthings.com

12 Publishers

Our blog at WordPress has been a little quiet for most of 2013.  2014 will hoepfully see a new and more dynamic strategy develop where ideas are moved through this venue first. Stay tuned…..

Design March 2013

Compiling the final material for Version 12.3.1  Missed our publishing deadline for February but will be adding a new logo id and information related to Sky Horizon, see image.  This logo has been produced for architectural firm NJBA A+U for an interesting design installation.  More news on this towards the end of March.  In the meantime we will be concentrating on the Identities publication (12.3.1).  515_Logo

Music February 2013

News from Oblique Projection

New tracks added to soundcloud

Album 2 “Gardens of Kyoto” progressing slowly

Album 3 “Moods” (working title) in studio, tracks November Walk and City Lights are possible contenders.

Music

Filmed on location of Cavan Fleadh 2012. 

Storm Clouds over Mestre is a recent work by Oblique Projection.    The backdrop is Cavan Cathedral where an interpretation of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” was created by Director of Ériu Dance Company in association with Fidget Feet Aerial Dance Company it opened the Fleadh in 2012. 

Work on the sleeve notes for their first album; MEC (mechanical, electrical, chemical) is progressing to be released in Version 12.4.1 – Waterpower. As a visual companion to the album it will provide clues to the music.