Month: August 2016

Picturesque Urbanism and Kinetic Architecture in Vancouver, BC

This Pacific Northwest adventure began after arriving in Seattle, Washington with many bikes and luggage in tow. There, we toured premier architectural offices such as Miller Hull, Mithun, and Olson Kundig. We also toured the workshops of Turner Exhibits, who specializes in custom fabrication, kinetic architecture, and permanent exhibits. The designers at TE would later review our kinetic architecture studio work, offering the program their seasoned expertise and insight. All this in preparation for our destination and home for the next 11 weeks, none other than the dense, diverse, and beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Such as in Portland or Seattle, Vancouver, BC is a prime cultural and economic metropolis that embodies the principles of Pacific Northwest regionalism. Specifically, strengthening its connection to its sublime setting by preserving natural vistas along corridors, valuing its environmentalism with the rehabilitation of native ecologies, and valuing its regional artistry and craftsmanship that is manifest in its urban life culture. Nature surrounds and defines this city with mountains setting the backdrop, while ocean waves set the soundtrack.

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Situated within the thriving West End neighborhood, our hotel balcony view gazes at the city below, with it’s typical “tower and podium” buildings scattered in between single or two-story mixed-use commercial and residential typologies. At dusk, the sky ignites in dramatically warm sunset spectrums, giving the nearby beach goers an evening spectacle worth a thousand words. While some nights are full of skyline photo opps, most will be spent imagining creative solutions for the two design studios we have undertaken for this spring term.

Our main studio space and digital media lab were hosted generously by the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. ECUAD itself is located a quick bike ride or water taxi across False Creek on Granville Island, a famous case study of industrial manufacturing area turned into a hotspot for tourism, cultural arts, and creative industries. Granville Island is also the key focus of our urban studio project, which would first identify potential program, explore massing concepts, investigate structure and light, and finally refine tectonics into a comprehensive aesthetic that is representative of its place and time.

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Coupled with the main design studio, we explored the application for kinetic architecture with a second studio project, divided into small groups. In order to design and engineer working mock-ups, we needed a crash course in a few software programs unconventional to the typical architectural education: Solidworks and MODO. These programs allowed us to quickly 3D-model parts into assemblies, and animate the results, giving life to our kinetic creations. This exploration was helpful to bridge the divide between architecture and engineering, while experimenting with the possibilities of architectural visualization.

Beyond the fast and furious workload this program demanded, there were several respites with a more recreational form of education. Curling, skating, and kayaking, to name a few. We also had more professional events by visiting a premier Vancouver design firm, Michael Green Architecture. But my ultimate favorite was the guided bike tour around the Vancouver waterfront by one of Vancouver’s senior urban designers, Scot Hein. It was very inspiring and memorable zipping from one urban design precedent to the next along the city’s extensive bike lane infrastructure, gaining first-hand insight of the challenges and successes to each project.

Coming out of this program, I am emboldened with a passion for urban design and wanderlust. I have learned to look around, ask “why?” and “how do we respond to future development?” I have also learned the formative power of travel and witnessing the world in shaping my perceptions and building an experiential foundation as a designer. The history and evolution of the city was not without challenge, nor is it perfect now by any means. Vancouver is nonetheless a cherished living precedent of what nature and recreation within urban life can look like. It has captured the hearts and minds of many, including myself, and for that I am grateful.

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– Nathan Korol, 2016 Spring Architecture in Vancouver

An Unexpected Adventure in Lapland

Studying abroad was always an aspiration of mine, so once the time came for me to embark on my spring semester exchange, at Uppsala University in Sweden, I was overcome with immense excitement. I will never forget the numerous incredible people I met, who quickly became friends for life, the challenging but worthwhile courses I took part in, and the incredible countries I had the privilege of exploring. Eager to begin exploring the fascinating cities of Europe, I began planning trips within weeks of arriving in Uppsala; the city that would become a place I can now call home. Before I even embarked on this study abroad journey, I had the idea that to make the most of my time abroad I needed to travel to as many places as possible. I neglected my home country a great deal. When I had a free weekend, I almost never spent it in Sweden. Reflecting on my time abroad, I have discovered that the most meaningful memory of mine is one that took place within my home country, where I was surrounded by people that I will forever be grateful for.Photo (2)
After around a month in Uppsala, and trips to Latvia, Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic, a friend of mine suggested we go on a trip to Lapland, which is the northernmost region of Finland, Sweden, and Norway. I never dreamed of going there, I was not even aware of what Lapland was. That’s the funny thing about studying abroad; you never know what you’ll experience and that’s part of the thrill of it. I quickly agreed to the trip, and we got some of the best people to come along the journey to Lapland with us. The trip began on March 16th, 2016, and I had plenty of time before then to dream about the vast winter wonderland that awaited me.
The day finally came for the roughly fourteen-hour bus ride to Korvala, Finland. It was not as miserable as it sounds. Of course sleeping on a bus is far from pleasant, but spending time with some of my favorite people made the bus ride worthwhile. The first day of this Lapland adventure was full of firsts, which included trying a bit of ice fishing, struggling to trek through the woods in snow shoes, gazing up at one of nature’s most beautiful displays; the Northern Lights, attempting to withstand a Finnish sauna, and jumping into a frozen lake. The first full day of this trip solidified my love for the Scandinavian countries, and gave me confidence to say that choosing the study abroad program I did was the best decision I could have made.

Photo (5)We then set off to Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi Finland, then to Kiruna, Sweden. While staying in Kiruna we made dinner together and watched the Northern Lights dance about across the sky. A tour of the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden was in store for us the next day. The Icehotel was phenomenal, and one of those experiences that will forever be ingrained in my mind. This day was another day of firsts as I ate reindeer pizza, went dog sledding, and went snowmobiling. Each and every experience I had on this trip was a phenomenal one that I will always cherish deeply. The days that followed involved a visit with a Sami family and their reindeer in Rensjön, Sweden, a day of exploring the Norwegian city of Narvik, gazing upon the fjords of Norway and the Arctic Ocean, exploring Abisko National Park, attempting to cross the frozen Torneträsk lake, and drinking glogg together under a teepee. The bus ride back to Uppsala was filled with reflecting on what an incredible trip this was, and talking with people whose friendships with me grew immensely stronger through the shared experiences we had.
Trips to The Netherlands, Norway, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Ukraine, Denmark, and Iceland followed this trip to Lapland. Each trip opened my eyes to the wondrous world we live in, and each trip brought me closer to the people I went with. I will always cherish the memories made throughout the different adventures I embarked on during my study abroad program. Yet I will value my travels around Sweden the most. I discovered that exploring your host country is just as rewarding as any other country, if not more so. I realized that you do not need to travel far to make amazing memories. Most of all I discovered that the true magic of studying abroad is finding a second home halfway across the world, and the family of friends that develops along with it.Photo (4)

-Taylor Barnhart Uppsala, Sweden

 

Italy: Love at first sight

As soon as I set foot in Rome on April 11th my heart was immediately captivated, and as I continued to explore new cities and towns throughout Italy and Europe I only fell deeper in love. My program traveled around to Rome, Florence, Siena and Bologna the first 2 weeks and then we settled into Vicenza, our home away from home for the next couple of months. And it truly did become just that. We became regulars at the café down the street from our apartments and our favorite self-serve restaurant. We spent our evenings drinking spritz cocktails on the terrace that overlooked the neighborhood piazza. We would frequent the grocery stores for group dinners on the weekends and kick around a soccer ball at the local park. Class was typically outside, drawing and taking notes and when we were inside we worked on our studio project redesigning a new building and Piazza for downtown Vicenza.  Although we were finally settled in somewhere that did not mean that we were done traveling. Vicenza was a short train ride away from Venice and many other small Italian towns that we would go on day trips. Lastly, nearing the end of our time together in Europe our group went on a bus tour through Switzerland for week.

The entire 3 months that I was studying abroad I never ceasedIMG_1300 to be amazed by the architecture, art, religion, traditions and culture that seems to fill every nook and cranny of Europe. I like to think that Italy is an architect’s heaven on earth. Studying architecture there was incredible. I was able to see things in person that I had only seen in movies or text books. To be in the colosseum or the Vatican for example, places that I have spent so much of my life dreaming about was surreal. What’s more, those were only two of the countless buildings my classmates and I visited and each one, famous or not, was a masterpiece in its own wright.

Moreover, what lingers in my mind more vividly is the smaller details that make up the fabric of Italy: like the narrow cobble stone streets, the shutters, the laundry hanging outside of windows, the small alters for Mary and Jesus that are mounted on to the sides of buildings, soccer playing on the television, ordering a cappuccino, the smell of cigarette smoke, the smell of pizza being made and the lengthy greetings shared in Italian with the coming and going of every friend. These are the attributes of Italy that truly won my heart. I don’t miss the museums and the buildings, I miss getting lost in the streets of Italy and the people, sounds and smells that you run into along the way. Being immersed in a different culture is life changing. It opened my eyes to new possibilities. Traveling not only made me appreciate things about my life back in the U.S but also made me realize where IMG_2012I see room for improvement.

The people are also what last in our memories forever, more than the sites and tourist attractions. I didn’t know a single person in my program and by the end of my 3 months I can call every one of them a dear friend, including my professors. People with different backgrounds and lifestyles coming together over common interests in learning and exploring to create timeless friendships. I learned so much from each of my peers, my professors and the random acquaintances I made along the way. I feel a new sense of independence that I didn’t have before this trip. Now I have confidence in myself that I am capable of navigating the world, but this is thanks to the support and companionship of my new friends.

 

  • Eden Haskins-Dahl, Architecture in Vicenza

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