Month: January 2014

01/31: Site Analysis

At PennDesign they make an effort to introduce architecture first at the scale of object, furniture then space, with the second studio starting with the scale of the city and working down to the scale of a building. Half a semester is dedicated to studying site analysis and the neighborhood context of the site.

bridge overlook DSCF2816


The site given is a parking lot at the intersection of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, I-95 and Old City. Given all the people passing though the site, I mapped out circulation through the site as potential audiences, perhaps for the billboards currently on site. How does advertisement define the area? Billboards are plentiful, buses bring ads, and websites like yelp! try to document all the local businesses in the area.

achrati analysis


In this way I tried to map the potential audience for a building on the site. Where is it visible from? When and how would people interact with the site?

achrati strategy


In this way a the building could be understood as catering to a captive train audience, a distracted highway audience, bus riders, bikers or pedestrians. The qualities of these modes of transport, especially the speed at which each operates, impacts greatly how a building needs to communicate to the people around it.

01/30: Visualizing Roman Cities

Professor Tom Morton of Swarthmore College came to the Penn Museum today to give a talk about his efforts to document and digitally reconstruct Roman settlements in North Africa. He spoke on  Timgad and Carthage, in present day Algeria and Tunisia, respectively. Both sites are UNESCO world heritage sites, and he and his students have modeled portions of both sites using SketchUp. His process uses archaeological data, historic documentation, and some creative thinking to help recreate 3D representations from ruins.

image of Rome reborn project

image of Rome reborn project

image from Wikipedia

image from Wikipedia


image from Wikipedia

image from Wikipedia

The process of digitizing and modeling of both Timgad and Carthage allowed for experimentation with how the city was intended to be seen. For Timgad, questions about the location of the Capitolium and the low number of temples in the forum (only one) were investigated by modeling the important buildings of the settlement and moving around within digital model space to see how these landmarks lined up visually. The process raised a number of interesting questions about how we think of cities today with all manner of technology at our disposal, and how the Romans visualized their plans. In Carthage the location of the main baths in particular and the orientation of many avenues suggest an importance placed on how the city was viewed from the water. Given the importance of the harbor and probable maritime traffic, this hypothesis gains credence. All credit to Professor Morton and his students, and given the over 600 Roman settlements in North Africa there is the potential for much more scholarship to come.

I think there is a huge potential in using computer modeling and photo-realistic rendering techniques in the world of both archaeology and historic preservation. I would personally like to see some images of what Philadelphia would look like today if the “gentlemen’s agreement” keeping all buildings below William Penn’s statue on top of City Hall. What would the city look like if 99% of the buildings were 4-5 stories max? Could a compelling argument for such a density be made from renderings?

01/29: Endless Library

A brief note on a project with plenty of potential but one which did not materialize by the time the semester ended.

Achrati Exercise 3 2 Achrati Exercise 3 1

I had wanted to mix part of the movie 2046 (even after watching it 6 times I am not sure what exactly is going on) with a Jorge Luis Borges short story about an endless library (The Library of Babel). Add to this a desire on my part to make a 3D space out of folding a flat page in upon itself (folding and origami are both very interesting but not easily thrown into a partially cooked studio project). Is the endless library the internet? Who knows?

This project still registers as a cautionary tale about intention and planning. Sometimes the question “what am I trying to get out of this?” is stifling and counterproductive, but most often it is a question which demands answering.

01/28: A Place to Sit and Read Pt 2

During the summer after the first year of grad school I wanted to keep tinkering with the idea of a rocking chair/shelf mix. Around that time a student group at PennDesign called Co+Lab fabricated a counter-top installation for the lobby of the School of Design.


Photo courtesy of Co+Lab

I switched tactics and decided to pursue a similar design language for the chair, with a lattice of plywood providing structure, and a dozen or so plywood edges providing minimal surface for the seat.

DSCF3574 DSCF3604

This became the basis for a scale model, constructed with 1/16″ chipboard in lieu of 1/2″ plywood.

DSCF3595 DSCF3610

The assembly was solid enough, but did take up a good bit of real estate and seemed bulky, likely to be too heavy in full scale form.

DSCF3616 DSCF3607 DSCF3614DSCF3605

As it stands one chair would need two sheets of plywood. Moving forward I would like to slim down the pieces, nest the plywood cuts better, and see if such a chair could be made out of one 4′ by 8′ sheet of plywood.

01/27: A Place to Sit and Read

As my schedule settles down I hope to put more time into these posts. For now I am running through grad school, starting with a small project intended to analyze a habit or routine.  I chose to document the way I read a book, the way I turned a page. This led, though some arbitrary decision making, to surfaces which implied seating arrangements.

achrati 02_1000achrati 03_oman on surface_1000

When this surface is given some thickness it can become both seat and shelf, a place to read and a place to store books. If the seat is free to rotate like a rocking chair, the weight of the books on the shelves can act as a counterbalance to the weight of a reader. Heavy reference material stored on a shelf behind your shoulder can keep the chair reclined until you decide to flip through that heavy text book. Then, the weight of the book tilts the seat forward for your reading pleasure. In theory.

plan sections_27_1000movement diagrams_1000vessel board-01_1000