The Process Portfolio

This past week, I finished my second term at architecture school!
(BUT, I’ll have more on that later).

At that time, I also finished my Process Portfolio for the term, AND I rebound my old B1 (first term) Portfolio to match my new one. This helped tie the two together, and make it easy for the “year end review” committee.

To summarize, I’ll quote the Dalhousie School of Architecture on the Process Portfolio:

“Design portfolios are records of your design work, research interests, and design abilities… Assembling a portfolio can help you reflect on your strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, and interests. In the BEDS program, the main portfolio is a “process portfolio.” It is a thorough record of your design research and analysis, your design work-in-progress, and your finished design work during a single term.”

Although it is a full term later, I’d like to share the huge amount of work you produce as a student of architecture in a single, 3 month term. This week I’ll be offering up my B1 [First Term] Portfolio – and next week I’ll share B2 (when I finish that video).

You can view the B1 Process Portfolio video with very short commentary here:

 

Cheers + Stay Creative,

- Matt

Profound Moments

The past three weeks have been marked by a few very important moments.

Beginning over a month ago, I have been challenging myself to draw a parti (defined here) of as many of my classmates designs – and ideas – as possible. Without going into too much detail, this has really trained my mind to reduce things to their ‘big idea’. It kind of goes like, “okay, so it’s really like this [insert drawing here].

So I’ve started having these moments where I’m reading something, usually for a long time, and then an illustration is provided that very clearly explains everything with a few simple lines. Take this for instance: I’m reading a book, and the idea of Euclidian geometry comes up. I’m not aware what it means, and so I do some research and find this blog entitled “Non-Euclidean Geometry, or Even Cthulhu Has an Angle“.

So I’m reading, and reading, and reading, and then I see this diagram:

As simple as that, it’s very clear what it means.

Now I’m not saying that this is a great example. I’m not even saying that this type of learning works for everyone.

However, as someone with an undergraduate in Anthropology and Folklore, I’m trained to write and understand writing. So for me, these past weeks have really opened my eyes to the discipline of architecture.

The moment you realize that a single drawing can literally represent 1000 words. A profound moment in architecture school indeed!

Stay Creative,
- Matt

B.E.D.S Term 2

Christmas break went by quickly…
All of a sudden it’s January and it’s time to fly back to Halifax and begin my second term at Architecture school.

Flying into Halifax

Flying into Halifax

The flight was very early in the winter morning, and most of the time in the air was spent chasing the sunrise. Flying over Nova Scotia and into Halifax was rather nice.

Term 2 started out with a bang. After a meeting in the lecture hall, we learned that we would be working with Brian MacKay-Lyons this term, and both Niall Savage and Brian will be leading this term’s design studio together. Each student was given a well designed, design pamphlet that outlined our work for the semester (seriously – the design book was authored by Niall who has a graphic design background).

Term 2 in BEDS is: “The House”.

Over the next week we are introduced to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, a real place where our ‘fictional’ design interventions will take place over the term. Soon after, we organize as many cars as we can to get 60 students and our design tutors and instructors out of the city and down the coast to Lunenburg.

Upon arrival, we begin to tour the town, take photographs, make drawings, and talk to people.

Waterfront of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Waterfront of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

We spend the whole day there.

One of the highlights of the day was eating lunch with Brian MacKay-Lyons and Cristina Veríssimo. We were sitting near the window at a local restaurant. The sun filters into the room through horizontal blinders in the windows and spills over the tables. Each table has a white paper that covers it, and only minutes into lunch Brian begins sketching as he talks, right on the table. While I did’t take a photo of the drawing and I don’t feel the need to explain everything we chatted about, it was a very memorable afternoon.

The second import highlight was travelling to Brian’s farm in Shobac area that evening for a design session. Being in the Ghost studio near the ocean and looking at all the Ghost projects around us was inspiring (to say the least). We finished the evening near the very prominent hearth of the studio chatting about architecture and architects.

As the first part of the semester unfolded, design with Brian was fun and memorable.

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BEDS Term 2 – “The House” is broken down into Three Major Parts: 1) “Situation”, 2) “Dwelling”, and (3) “Detail”.

The first part of the term, as described above, I worked with Brian in a group of 11 other students. It was primarily concerned with finding our site and implementing an urban design strategy for our group. Our houses (our housing development) would then come out of this urban design strategy.

For our first Design Review ‘Critique’ each of the five studio groups (my group of 12 plus four other groups) all built a model of our waterfront sites in Lunenburg and placed a massing model of our designs on the site with all the other existing buildings (note: a massing model shows an approximate size and shape- it’s a kind of ‘placeholder’).

Incredibly, Barton Myers attended our crit, along with Brian and the other tutors. On top of that, David Bowick of Blackwell Engineers also participated in the critique. Here is part of my class all stood around the 1:100 model of the entire Lunenburg Waterfront!

Critique One - BEDS 2

Critique One – BEDS 2

It was a long day of critique, but it was a very memorable day indeed.

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Lastly, then, I’ll leave you with a photograph I took one morning as I prepared my first cup of coffee.

Morning Ritual

Morning Ritual

Next post will cover the second phase of the term, “Dwelling”.
Stay Inspired,
- Matt

Term 1 Ends + Winter Break

It’s been a while since I’ve updated…

Champagne Veuve Doussot to bring in the New Year

Champagne Veuve Doussot to bring in the New Year

The end of Term 1 became so intense I was unable to post. On top of everything, in my last 4 days of the term I had to pull 3 all nighters…

Truthfully I’ve been hesitant to revisit the end of Term 1 – not because it wasn’t amazing – but rather it was a lot. A lot happened, a lot of work was made, and there is just so much to recount. Rather than retell everything, I’m putting a placeholder here (that holds an imaginably large amount of work).

Instead I’d like to say that Term 1 was relatively abstract. It was meant to be overwhelming – and, more importantly, immersive. It’s like an introduction to architecture on steroids. There’s a lot to do and a lot learn- and when you’re not learning or doing, you still have to learn.

Lastly, is the Process Portfolio. This is a record of all your original work. At Dalhousie, the format is 24″ by 36″ (that’s 2 feet by 3 feet!). Included are your drawings, sketches and just about everything else you can think of. This is not a graded portfolio, nor is it used to apply for work. The Process Portfolio is simply used to hold your work and allow your architecture tutor to look through it. It also helps the critiquing professors grade your work, as well as help (or hinder) your promotion to the Masters of Architecture program. And, last but not least, it allows you to see and learn how you work – your process (as the name suggests).

I’ll get an update about the first month of Term 2 up shortly.

Stay Creative,
/ Matt

Journey to the Ghost Ghost Laboratory: November 16-17 Build Day

For many, many years now I’ve admired the Ghost Architectural Laboratory. In fact, the project heavily influenced where I wanted to study architecture and why I wanted to study architecture. Thinking back, it was over 4 years ago now I bought the book. Yet it doesn’t seem that distant…

Reading 'Ghost: Building an Architectural Vision' one morning with a coffee.

Reading ‘Ghost: Building an Architectural Vision’ one morning with a coffee.

When I arrived at Dalhousie’s School of Architecture and discovered Brian MacKay-Lyons would be teaching us later in the program, I began to revisit the book again. This time around, I recognized some of the names in the book, including Christine Macy (now the Dean of the school).

Yet, it gets better.

Brian’s son Matt MacKay-Lyons is one of my classmates. In fact, I’m grateful to have the diverse class that I have. Thankfully, the opportunity came up to visit the MacKay-Lyons land and help rebuild an old schoolhouse. Not exactly part of a Ghost project, but nevertheless, a chance to participate in something I’ve admired for so long.

Given the end of the B1 term was so intense, I’m only now able to publish some of the photographs and the experience. Below is a series of photographs of the long weekend with Matt and some of our colleagues.

Car ride with some students (and coffee).

Car ride with some students (and coffee).

The road in.

The road in.

Arriving at the MacKay-Lyons property, a 'Ghost' looms in the fog.

Arriving at the MacKay-Lyons property, a ‘Ghost’ looms in the fog.

View from one of the cottages looking back out towards the road we came in.

View from one of the cottages looking back out towards the road we came in.

The frame of the School House is already up.

The frame of the School House is already up.

Some of the guys walking to the site.

Some of the guys walking to the site.

Early in the construction day.

Early in the construction day.

The site and looming 'Ghost'.

The site and looming ‘Ghost’.

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iPhone panoramic on top the School House.

iPhone panoramic on top the School House. Looking back towards the road we entered from.

iPhone panoramic on top the School House.

iPhone panoramic on top the School House. Looking in the other direction.

iPhone photo from inside the wall.

iPhone photo from inside the wall.

iPhone photo from inside the wall.

iPhone photo from inside the wall.

Colin and Nathan having a look.

Colin and Nathan having a look.

Working away.

Working away. I’m in the orange hat and plaid shirt!

Sean and Will.

Sean and Will.

End of the build day, nearly dark.

End of the build day, nearly dark.

We headed back to the cottage to get some food, and then went out again to explore some of the Ghost project sites, and have a fire.

Midnight fire.

Midnight fire.

By the fire.

By the fire.

The next morning, after a stay at the cabin, we headed out to explore yet again.

But not before coffee!

Morning coffee.

Morning coffee.

Charles Moore inspired renovation - the cabin we stayed at.

Charles Moore inspired renovation – the cabin we stayed at.

iPhone panoramic leaving the cabin.

iPhone panoramic leaving the cabin.

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iPhone panoramic from on top of the above structure.

iPhone panoramic from on top of the above structure.

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Looking towards the School House build site and the cottages.

Looking towards the School House build site and the cottages.

I’ll finish with a great photograph Nathan shot of me inside one of the walls:

Me inside a wall working away.

Me inside a wall working away.

Many thanks to Matt MacKay-Lyons for the chance to visit and help out.

Stay Creative!
/Matt

2+ Months of BEDS

Context: It’s the middle of November. I’ve been living in Nova Scotia now for almost 3 months, 2 months in my current home, nearly a month now with my girlfriend Jess and our dog Spencer all officially living in Halifax, and over 2 months enrolled in the BEDS program.

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The month of October was a whirlwind. It’s starting to become difficult to describe my experience here at architecture school – there is so much to talk about, yet there are little words to articulate the whole thing. At the most basic level, the amount of stuff I’ve learned is so large it’s very difficult to explain. The environment in the studio is a catalyst for you to push your boundaries, and push everyone else’s. You quickly learn who’s invested in the program because you see their faces over and over, every day, and all day. You design, you study, you go to class, and you talk architecture. And when you aren’t doing any of those things, you still study (design software, architects, architectural history, reading, watching, thinking). Many times during the day I find my mind wanders and starts to think about design again. You live architecture, and you breath architecture.

The biggest lesson I learned this last month is that design is hard. The reality is, unfortunately, that design is not a romantic endeavour – design is messy, and it’s a lot of work. In fact, just last week I hit a total wall during my own design. Let me explain…

The final project for the term is to design a response pavilion to a site we studied earlier in the term. For example, I studied Peter Zumthor’s Therme Vals (Thermal Bath) in Vals, Switzerland with 3 other class mates. For the remainder of the term, we each design a small “dwelling” (loose term) that responds to the architects design and the site. So my crisis struck after studying the site in depth for weeks, presenting our findings to our classmates, and then studying further. Nearly 10 days after design began, I had tons and tons of drawings and ideas, but nothing solid for a design – not real concept. Night after night I’d toss and turn in bed, thinking, thinking. I started to see why people drop out of the program, and I really started to see just how much work design actually is. The thing is, design is not a solo pursuit. At least once a week (usually more) we talk amongst our studio groups about our design ideas, and we are guided by a design tutor (professor). However, nobody can give you the answer – only direction. So where I found frustration was that there is no guidance to be given when there is no idea there to nurture. I just had to work through it. I had to keep drawing, thinking, reading, and looking.

[more content after the photos]

Case Study Models

Case Study Model (in progress)

Case Study Models

Case Study Model (in progress)

Case Study Models

Case Study Model (in progress)

Case Study Models

Case Study Model (in progress)

Case Study Models

Case Study Model (in Progress)

Architecture isn’t designing for the sake of designing. It tells a story, shapes a space, and while it may draw on local building techniques and materials, architects have to give more than a pretty building. This, like the above, does not have a definite answer and the criteria is often debated.

To wrap up, as I write this I can say with certainty that I already see progress in my overall body of work this term. Frankly, I can almost go back and laugh at my very first project work, not unlike the difference between year one at university and year five when you look back. Every day I toss and turn in bed thinking about architecture, and then I awake to the thoughts of architecture –  this is every day of my life. Even when I’m not at school working or in class, I’m there talking with other students. Furthermore, when I’m not at school I’m off at art or architecture lectures, or watching design movies and TED talks. I often find myself cruising the internet looking at architecture and design content.

The key (well, for myself anyway) is to live a conscious life. I like to ride to school on a fixed gear bicycle where both my mind and body are focused on my bicycle and enjoying the ride. I love coffee, so when I’m at school and I want a coffee I use a hand grinder to grind my coffee beans, and then I brew it up in a french press and decant it into a handmade ceramic mug. I’m not saying you need fancy possessions, I’m just saying it’s important to enjoy what you’re doing, so take your time and do that. The best way to do this is to prioritize. Some days I forget about real life while I’m at school (in class or designing), forget to eat for hours on end, and so on, but I’m never afraid to stop for 5 minutes and make a coffee. That’s my thing, that’s my vice. It’s like a reboot for me.

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Speaking of reboot, it’s past 3am and I need to get some sleep.
Stay creative.

/ Matt

First Month of BEDS

All of a sudden it’s October. In fact, it’s already a week into October and the autumn season is full swing!

IMG_2257This first month at architecture school has been insane. So many interesting people, so much excitement, so much to learn, and so much work to be done. Seriously, I’ve learned as much in this last month as I’ve learned in my whole life (only a slight exaggeration).

At it’s core, the program has 5 courses much like any other program. However, they all overlap quite a bit – thus the professors are able to overload you with even more work and expectation. The heart of the program is “Design” class where we sometimes listen to lectures, work with groups, or other – but most importantly, we work with a tutor who helps structure our work. Think of this as a mentor (I know I do).

The biggest advantage is that all 60 students in the program are subjected to the same crushing workload, all at the same time. On top of this, the 60 people are all divided into 5 studio groups. There is Studio East (group 1 & 2), Center Studio (group 5), and Studio West (groups 3 & 4). So, let’s say you are in group 3 in studio West: first and foremost, your group mates you see all day every day; secondly, you see the West side altogether a lot; and finally, you see the other groups a little less. However, all 5 groups take all 5 classes together at the same time. We are already becoming cohesive and like a family.

Without getting too much into my personal work, I also wanted to highlight the fact that long hours are indeed needed. People don’t joke about this idea for no reason. While the days are usually long (10+ hours each day), as it nears a deadline it can get much more intense. In the last week leading up to a deadline I spent 17-18 hours every single day at school (not including the bike ride there and back home), and the last 2 days leading up to the deadline I spent 20 hours at school a day. Seriously.

BUT, it’s a matter of LOVE. I rush to school every day, excited to get back into a project and work. There is much to learn and so little time. My tutor told me last week, “you only get out whatever your willing to put in” (paraphrased), and that struck a chord with me. You have to challenge yourself – immerse yourself.

I couldn’t leave out the fact that coffee is still very important to me. In fact, some days the only break I take all day is to sit with my hand grinder, grind up some beans, load my freiling french press and brew a delicious cup of coffee. I’ve really been digging on Anchored Coffee these days (which thankfully is roasted in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia). It’s rock and roll; consistently fantastic every time. I get stoked about each cup I drink, so thanks dudes at Anchored.

I’ll leave you with some snaps from the past month…

First Week - Setting Up

First Week – Setting Up

First Week - Setting Up

First Week – Setting Up

Out in the field sketching

Out in the field sketching

TIBS Macc

TIBS Macc

Making light models

Making light models

Halifax Harbour Front

Halifax Harbour Front

More TIBS

More TIBS

Technical Drafting

Technical Drafting

Pin Up for Critique

Pin Up for Critique

Morning Macc at Steve O Reno's

Morning Macc at Steve O Reno’s

More Drafting

More Drafting

 

Weekend TIBS Excursion

Weekend TIBS Excursion

Even if biking these days is only to and from school!

Even if biking these days is only to and from school!

Stay creative,

/ Matt

First Days of School

The first days of school have been a whirlwind… so many new things, new people, and plenty of excitement.

Hand grinder, scale, french press, and Anchored Coffee

Hand grinder, scale, french press, and Anchored Coffee

Thus far, there still haven’t been any official classes – those start next week. This week, Wednesday through Friday, has been comprised of  orientation, presentations, and conversations with older students. However, selecting our studio space, gathering materials and getting prepared both physically and mentally has been fun.

My days begin with the best coffee I can prepare or get my hands on, followed by meetings and workshops, and already I have many things to work on before I head to bed. Right now my days run from about 8:30am until about 1-2am. Last night I had the luxury of heading out to a nearby pub with a fellow architecture student from Newfoundland, Mark. I was so wired and hyper just on the excitement from the day at school I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway. Two pints and a short walk home, it was a nice release for the day… I’m guessing it was somewhere around 2am when I arrived home with a 9am rise.

I can already tell there is a shift in the way I’m thinking – creativity is returning and there is much to think about. After school today I attended two gallery openings in Halifax: one was mostly photography, and the other mainly jewelry made by NSCAD students who had spent 3-4 months in artist residencies.

As a side note, I’m living between homes right now. Thankfully I’m able to stay with two fantastic friends as I get my things together. I can’t explain how grateful I am for all the things I’ve been given and all the people surrounding me, much love rides with me and I feel extremely lucky.

Just yesterday I was unlocking my bicycle getting ready to leave the school for the day. I looked up, the sun was shining and I turned to face the school. I couldn’t help but think that for almost 4 years now I had wished over and over I could be inside Dalhousie as an Architecture student… and now I was.

All for now. I’ll try and write about my experiences as they unfold.
I’ll leave you with a quick snap from my iPhone outside the first gallery we visited this evening:

After the rain

After the rain

“Free Sketching Session”

This past week, I stumbled upon a poster for a free all day sketching workshop (thanks Mark!).

Sketching in the Park!

Sketching in the Park!

Great I thought! A nice primer to get me thinking about school that’s quickly approaching. It was also a nice chance to hang out with a fellow Dalhousie student and Newfoundlander Mark White, as well as trying to learn to shed those ‘sketching in public’ nerves.

But it went even deeper than that. Either it was great coincidence (or the stars aligned) but this sketching session was both architecturally themed, and headed up by Dalhousie professor of architecture Roger Mullin.

The outdoor sketching session focused on orthographic sketches (or representing a three-dimensional object in two dimensions) and ran from 10:00am – 5:00pm. It was a joint effort project funded by the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Architects with the Canada Council for the Arts, and was all draw together by the good folks at Woodford Sheppard Architecture (Chris Woodford and Taryn Sheppard).

“This workshop invites participants to draw views directly as a means to represent architecture and space in detail, form and context. The session will begin and end with an introduction, drawing review and discussion.

The architectural sketch remains one of the most energetic and agile means of representing architectural space and form. The goal of this workshop is to study and appreciate the complex conditions landscape and building that make up beautiful architectural structures in the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

All necessary materials will be provided. “

(via rogermullin.wordpress.com/project-description-background/)

The morning started with an hour lecture. From there we were all given large wooden boards and 10 sheets of some nice paper. Here we are walking along on the way to the park.

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Lunch at Fixed Coffee & Baking just next door:

Fixed Coffee

Fixed Coffee

The first and second half of the day ended with everyone spreading their work out and chatting.

The Groups Work.

The Groups Work.

I really enjoyed the afternoon, as well as Roger Mullin’s thoughts and ideas [build and design process]. Perhaps I’ll write more on that another time.

Thank you to everyone who organized.
What a great way to kick things off!

/ Matt