Daily updates from the Intensive in Classical Architecture: Los Angeles
The Professional Intensive in Classical Architecture: Los Angeles takes place at the historic Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills. Follow the ICAA daily from October 14-21 as students learn how to draw, render, and compose with the classical language to form an understanding of the basic tenets on which the classical tradition is founded.
October 19th, by Ryan Widell
This morning we arrived at the Beverly Hills Women’s Club to find our watercolor paper completely dried and stretched from the night prior. Today's lesson was taught by architect Danielle Murphy from the firm Ferguson & Shamamian, based in New York City.
Today was a welcome break from our final projects. Transitioning from observational drawings and our composition project to the soothing methodical process of wash rendering was very enjoyable. Danielle’s shading techniques, based on David Genther’s method, allowed us to gradually build layer upon layer of ink sediment which highlighted the curvature of the column. She then showed us how to properly add shade and control the direction of the light, with every brush stroke adding more and more depth until our flat drawing became three-dimensional.
The delicacy of watercolors was relaxing, yet still required a certain level of patience and attention to detail. In the end everyone's paintings were unique, playing on different levels of grayscale. This technique is useful to anyone in any field of design, or anyone who just enjoys sketching who wants to bring their work to life.
The second half of the day was spent back at the Greystone Mansion where we continued to fine tune our composition. After a day of subtle brush strokes, jumping back into our seats using our sharpest pencils was quite the juxtaposition of style. Yet, the connection of the two disciplines is something we are very excited to have learned. When given the opportunity, it will be very useful to use these watercolor techniques with not only our final composition, but other renderings in the future.
October 18th, by Drew Gander
Today we began the esquisse project. Meaning sketch, this term came from the historic École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. A rough design concept would be established quickly, and then further developed afterward in greater detail. For our purposes, we were introduced to an academic exercise for each of us to design a tripartite classical garden pavilion located at the Greystone Mansion. This will give us an opportunity to employ components of the classical language we have been studying.
We began by ascending the existing manicured terraces until we reached the intended project site, perched atop the hill and overlooking the pool terrace and main house below. From this vantage point you can see downtown Los Angeles, the coast, and mountains beyond. It was a breathtaking view. Here, we established the approximate pavilion footprint. Before the clock started for us to begin the timed design challenge, we measured various other architectural details at the Greystone to give a comparable sense of scale to our designs. After working quickly to develop our esquisse, we informally presented our ideas to the group. We primarily shared our driving concept, the orders we used, and any significant design features. It was inspiring to see all of the varied solutions to the design problem. Over the next couple of days, we will continue to develop and refine these designs.
Continuing today’s École des Beaux-Arts theme, we were introduced to architectural wash rendering. This method of representation uses graded values to suggest light and to describe three dimensional form. Working with an ink wash, we practiced various techniques. Very similar to watercolor, the ink wash is a transparent medium, and darker values are achieved by adding multiple successive layers. We also went over the process of stretching watercolor paper to prevent bubbles and ripples when water is added. It’s a long and intricate process, but can result in fantastic architectural representation.
October 17th, by Drew Gander
Today we traveled to sunny Pasadena, where architectural tours and field sketching were a wonderful complement to our studio coursework.
Marc Appleton guided us through the Pasadena Public Library and City Hall, where we discussed the successful marriage of architecture and urbanism. We took the opportunity to sketch City Hall, and had no trouble finding inspiration in the Mediterranean-inspired architecture. Marc noted that City Hall was primarily built for the people to enjoy and take pride in; government office space was a secondary program function.
Next, Stefanos Polyzoides led an enlightening walking tour though the California Institute of Technology campus. We discussed architect Bertram Goodhue, master planning, and the challenge of successfully integrating buildings built during different periods of time. Stefanos mentioned that architecture is never “finished;” it’s always “happening.” Some of the more lovely structures on campus seemed successful because they participated in the master plan and politely responded to existing neighboring buildings. Some buildings featured Mesoamerican iconography and other architectural motifs that recall Pasadena’s link to the American Southwest. A few of Bertram Goodhue’s buildings still remain, but his beautiful domed library as the crowning centerpiece to the campus was unfortunately never realized. Nevertheless, the California Institute of Technology still boasts many wonderful buildings and showcases how classical architectural language can be poetic and flexible.
Tucked away deep in an unassuming Pasadena backyard, we found ourselves at the Hale Solar Laboratory, designed by Greystone Mansion architect Gordon Kaufmann. We had the treat to explore the building and the historic telescoping instrument up close. Hale, a groundbreaking astrophysicist, also had a fascination with ancient Egypt, and Kaufmann appropriately incorporated an Egyptian sunburst and hieroglyphics as part of the ornamentation of this observatory.
We spent the afternoon at the Huntington Art Museum and Botanical Gardens. After briefly stopping in the rare books library, we toured the main residence, which now displays a vast fine art collection. The Beaux Arts architecture was a great source of conversation, showcasing the classical features we have been studying.
Lastly, John Russell Pope’s mausoleum for the Huntingtons proved to be a great case study to end the day. In addition to sketching the structure, we field-measured the Ionic columns to compare their proportions and discussed details of the order as applied to the tholos form. The more we observed, the more we appreciated Pope’s mastery of the architectural language. We left Pasadena with tired feet, yet we were full of inspiration for the days to come.
October 16th, by Stephanie Jazmines
Similar to the previous days, we started the third morning with exercises in the Ionic order, spending time to learn the proper construction of the volute. The Corinthian was the last order we tackled, allowing everyone the opportunity to try their hand at properly sizing acanthus leaves on the capital while listening to the myth of how the form came about.
In the afternoon, we saw the return of Domiane, who led us in observational sketching exercises outside. The evening concluded with a brief lesson on the analytique, leaving us to sketch our own compositions featuring ornamental pieces inside Greystone.
Now, almost halfway through the Intensive, everyone has the fundamental knowledge of the language of classical architecture. With a design charrette at the end of the week, we’ll hopefully be able to say something with it.
October 15th, by David Vaszquez
On Day 2 of the Intensive, ICAA Instructor Domiane "Dom" Forte gave a talk on the Theory of Proportion. There were a lot of geometry and math equations, which seemed to revolve around a unifying theme. That theme was the Mean and Extreme Ratio, better known as the Golden Ratio in today's conversations. This ratio demonstrates how one component of a part is in proportion to the sum of its parts, and this exact ratio exists everywhere in nature. Examples including a pine cone, bee, sunflower, and even the human hand, can all be explained by this ratio. One examined part can be linked back to the whole and explained mathematically - everything is in harmony.
For the drawing portion of the lesson, we all returned to our desks and learned how to graphically construct accurate center points of lines, a bisection of an angle, an equilateral triangle, a square, a pentagon, the golden ratio, and even the logo of the television station by utilizing the very simply geometry of lines, circles, and intersecting points of these lines and circles.
Marty was back to continue teaching us about the Orders. This time it was the Doric Order. Similar to what we learned with the Tuscan Order, the Doric Order shares the exact principles of proportion and how everything ties back to "D." We learned that we do not always have to start drawing at the base diameter, instead, we can start with the entablature if we so choose and work our way down. We did not draw this order top down, but we were led to understand if we know the ratio and proportion of one element to the next, we could do so and it would be correct as if having started at the base. The Doric Order is slightly taller than the Tuscan and has a few key features which help identify it at a quick glance, particularly the triglyphs located on the frieze of the entablature. We drew in real time in our sketchbooks as Marty skillfully demonstrated every stroke on the whiteboard. One page on the sketchbook was dedicated to the column, and one page to the entablature.
In the evening, Marc Appleton of Appleton Architects spoke to us about some of the master architects of Southern California. To name a few, he mentioned George Washington Smith, Gordon Kaufmann, Arthur Kelly, Wallace Neff, and Paul Williams. We viewed a slideshow of some of the homes these great architects created, which helped shape the landscape of Southern California. We will have the opportunity to go visit a few of those that were mentioned on our Wednesday field trip to Pasadena and the surrounding communities.
Today's class concluded with a walking tour of Greystone Mansion. Led by one of the park rangers, we explored the entire house, from the second floor to the basement, master suite to servant's quarters, entertainment spaces (like the bowling alley and hidden bar) to kitchens. There was even a meat locker where fresh game could be hung. We learned about some of the darker history that took place at the home including some of the deaths, which leads some to believe the mansion is haunted. The park ranger explained that every so often she gets a feeling of something around her - she quickly steps outside, takes a few breaths, and returns into the house with the feeling having passed. On a brighter note, this residence has been featured in many movies including Austin Powers in Goldmember and The Big Lebowski. Having been built in 1928, this home has a fascinating timeline, and I and few others in the class mentioned we would need to come back to take it all in.
October 14th, by David Vazquez
Today we started the Intensive in Classical Architecture: Los Angeles at the famous Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills. Our classroom is set up in the ballroom, adjacent to the room where the one-time owner Edward Doheny Jr. was found murdered, if you believe one version of the rumors for his mysterious demise. We started our day with introductions from the eleven students taking the Intensive, followed by a welcome from Edith Platten, the ICAA's Education Director, and Michael Mesko, ICAA Education Committee Chair and Board Member.
Michael gave us a brief presentation of photos explaining how classical architecture is rooted in simple post and beam construction, helping set up an understanding of how the classical language is used to express a purpose. We saw examples of the individual classical components, which, when assembled together, make elements such as a column or entablature. Proportion and hierarchy are used convey a level of importance and how a particular element is meant to be perceived. Everyone was ready to get started, eager to begin their drafting journeys.
The first lesson of the day was a study of the Tuscan Order. We all made our ways to our desks, sharpened our pencils, and opened up our sketchbooks. Here we were introduced to ICAA instructor Martin ‘Marty’ Brandwein. Marty used a whiteboard to teach us how to construct a properly-proportioned Tuscan Order while we each followed along in our sketchbooks, mimicking his every direction. Perhaps the most important thing we learned is that everything is in proportion to ‘D,’ or the base diameter of the column. By knowing this one dimension, the entire drawing order can be constructed by simply following the proper proportions for each component of the order.
Our final instructor for the day was architect Erik Evens from the ICAA Southern California Chapter. There was an overview presentation for what we were about to learn next - measured drawings in the field. This is where we step away from our desks, go out into the world, and find something that we can get close to for measuring and documenting in our sketchbooks. For our first field assignment, we had to measure the base of an Ionic pilaster located in the main hall of residence. We began with a very quick and small freehand sketch that captured all the moldings of the base so it could be referenced when a larger, to-scale version of the exact base was drawn up. Everyone had different ways of freehand sketching and making notes of the dimensions we measured. But this proved to be a useful technique that quickly allowed for the more precise, to-scale, larger version of the exact base we so intrinsically measured. As Erik pointed out to all of us, "measured drawings allow you to see and absorb what you are looking at with great detail that you may have missed if you didn't break it down into its individual pieces."
We finished up the day with a second and final measured drawing of a pedestal for an Ionic column located on the exterior of residence. The same techniques were applied that we used for our first field assignment, the only difference was that there was more to measure and draw to fully capture the pedestal. We called it a day as the sun was setting and daylight grew dim. It was a fun day full of learning and sketching, and we all can't wait for tomorrow's class.