Friday, September 23, 2011

Summer in Kyoto - Part 1

I promised some photos from my summer abroad in Japan. The course was structured such that the first two weeks we were there, we primarily visited and watercolored gardens. We learned about Japanese garden design through direct observation and studies in watercolor. It's really interesting to me, how when you paint a place you learn so much more about it's structure and layers, not just it's colors, but it's textures and weight as well.

Entrance walk to Tenryu-ji temple
 The first garden that we visited was Tenryu-ji, we visited the gardens and then settled down to paint.  After about 20-30 minutes a monk came over and asked us to leave. Whoops... officially kicked out of my first zen buddhist temple. Is there some sort of achievement or level up that goes along with that?
Tenryu-ji temple entrance
 This is the garden we were painting when the quiet monk came over and asked us to leave, because we were a distraction to their visitors.

Tenryuji Gardens

So we all packed up our paints and went on a tour of the gardens instead. It was sprinkling a bit that day and the water droplets were clinging to all of the hydrangea blossoms. It was very beautiful.

Hydrangea with rain drops at Tenryu-ji

 Then we walked behind the temple gardens into the bamboo forest. It was absolutely incredible. Also, completely full of mosquitoes who wanted some exotic A+ American blood.

Bamboo forest behind Tenryu-ji
The cloudy skies and light rain created the effect of a fog or mist through bamboo. Every now and then you'd see a Camphor tree trying to compete with the bamboo. 

 The forest is maintained by the monks -- as this bamboo only had a life span of about 20-30 years. Dead and felled bamboo is removed, allowing for new growth. 

Bamboo forest behind Tenryu-ji

The experience of walking through this forest is very surreal, almost otherworldly when you realize that the bamboo is really just overgrown grass.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oh hello blog, sorry I was busy.

Oh wait!! Who's been a total and complete slacker about posting here? Oh, yeah, that would be me.

I have good excuses though, really!! Spring term was super busy and I didn't really have much to post until after the end of the term. But then I only had 10 days between the end of the term and leaving for the Kyoto study abroad program. I've spent two months in Japan which was fantastic.

I'll share some photos and paintings from my travels soon.

In the meantime, enjoy a watercolor plan view painting that I did of Jiko-in garden in Nara, Japan prior to going there. I may do a new one soon that is more accurate. YAY for accuracy!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another one done

The mid-term review at SAIF went well today. We received some good feedback--some of it rather insightful and some of it to be taken with a grain a salt. So yeah, just like any review, right?

Here are some of the sexeh images I keep promising from midterm:

Illustrative Schematic Plan

Yes, it looks remarkably similar to the last version. But there are several refinements: "plaza" stairs have been reshaped, a new connection from the building at the north to the garden, reshaping of the paths and sculpture area, etc. Also, its hella darker. I look at it and think it's too dark. But, (like a good sailor) I was following orders.

"Section 4" aka Zen Rock Garden:
The sections don't show how fantastically peaceful and secluded this space actually could be. I will simply excuse by the fact that I was required to show sections of the above and not a perspective... but I might just go ahead and do a quickie just to show how awesome it is. This design was well received by reviewers. It provides a very big bang for very little input financially. It requires some reinforced concrete formwork, fill and planting.. plus a bit of planting reorganization, but it provides an optimal use of a currently wasted space.

"Section 5" aka Outdoor Cafe

I'm seriously interested in the materiality desired on this site. Or rather, really curious. Here's why: I designed a core-ten steel and glass covered pergola. During my review, I was asked about construction costs and maintenance costs regarding this structure -- in way that was somewhat questioning the value of the materiality. But, on the poster requesting user/employee input on the type of structure desired.. this was the type of structure materiality with the most interest... so yeah. I find it interesting. I keep thinking that they (the group within the company making decisions) need to have an honest discussion with their employees about what they want vs. what they can/should provide. I just keep thinking there's something there, intrinsically perhaps culturally, that they're missing, that would help with the resolution of the design program.

I felt like the criticism that we hadn't fully integrated as team was spot on. (Dear Quad Squad members... should you read this, know that I mean it for myself as much as I do for you) I feel like we haven't all sought out each other's advice and comments on our designs. Its frustrating because I feel like the reason for this is more a result of the studio structure than part of our group structure... we've been talking and getting each other's input. However, we've been so pressured and pushed by arbitrary deadlines that we have had little time to truly collaborate.. and that very idea of collaboration hasn't been emphasized. Also, there have been several key design ideas/materiality decisions that have been made without consensus (because of the above) and that bothers me. So yeah... I guess the bottom line is that I'd like enough time to be able to actually talk as a group without having HUGE massive deadlines looming preventing effective discussion.

In the end, it was another review. Another check on the list of reviews/finals, etc.

Next up, construction details sometime around Saturday/Sunday (because really, who needs a weekend off other than maybe my kids and me)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Soooo.. close... must continue can't stop.. weasels.. something

My midterm review is on Wednesday. This of course means that we're in crazy busy, woah, no sleep mode. I finished three sections and two plan view drawings, rendered the same and declared them done. Things that still need to happen:

-materials collage
-labeling/adding items back on to plan
-scanning, composing and printing DD sheets
-planning presentation and story to tell
-perspectives (?) I don't think these are happening this time around... I'd love to... but feh, I also love sleep.

I keep promising images and not delivering... but soon, I promise, really.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Yes, as a matter of fact, I *do* want to be a Landscape Architect

Shadow Mentor Day was completely amazing. I had the opportunity to meet and talk to so many creative and influential people in just a few hours. The day completely flew by.

I spent the day following a local landscape architect -- David Dougherty, from Dougherty Landscape Architects. I have to say this was the best SMD opportunity I have had so far. David did what a lot of other firms fail to do, he actually let me "shadow" him for the entire day. I went with him to meetings with clients, visiting recent projects and performing site visits on a range of sites (from prospective to completed). I met so many interesting people and was allowed and encouraged to provide my thoughts throughout the day. I don't think I could have asked for a better mentor to shadow and I don't think I could possible thank him or his staff enough.

I fully intend to stay in touch with him, perhaps asking (as graciously and politely as possible) if he would be willing to spare 1o minutes with me to review my portfolio.

Speaking of portfolio... I really need to finish that beast. I've got a few pages roughed up in one format. I'm not particularly in love with it, but it's clean and clear. Perhaps I'll post a couple tomorrow and see what the internets think about them.

News from the Quad Squad aka Studio
I spent the weekend in studio working on items for midterm. No, really. Pretty much the whole weekend except for sleeping. But, our schematic plan is rendered and ready... now to finish all the sections and perspectives for presentation on Wednesday. Of course, there will also be a plant material collage and a lighting plan... maybe a model? Or perhaps a conceptual grading plan instead. Who knows at this point...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Courthouse Garden

I came across this video today and wanted to share it here. It's about a garden that I helped "build" next to the Eugene Federal Courthouse during the Spring term 2010. You may have heard me talking about it before because this project really meant a lot to me. Heck, anyone visiting me during Spring or Summer last year got to see it whether they wanted to or not.

The green roof I built is on the "green box" drop container that holds the tools for the Courthouse Garden (CHG). So I've spent a lot of time and effort at this site.

It was a truly inspiring endeavor and I'm so grateful to have been a part of it. Working side by side guys who were coming out of the federal corrections system really opened my eyes to how a landscape or garden can heal a person and how as landscape architects it is our honor and obligation to work for the greater good of humanity and society.

I was lucky enough to be in the inaugural class. The garden itself is located on the old Agri-pac site in Eugene, Oregon. The site sat empty for years after the packing plant closed, leaving an empty, derelict lot next to the brand new Federal Courthouse.

It was a lot of hard and dirty work. We literally built the garden beds up from a compacted gravel and/or concrete base. We laid out the locations of the planting beds, carried in several tons of soil, compost and leave mold by hand, in wheelbarrows. We installed irrigation, trellises, bean "tunnels" and even a stacked "stone" wall made out of the concrete debris on the site. We, the UO students designed, planted, weeded along side 10 guys from Judge Aiken's re-entry court. These are the people in the video above.

On weekends, Stephen and I would frequently volunteer at the CHG. I frequently brought my kids to the garden to work also. I wanted them to know about the importance of what we were doing. I wanted them to understand certain very subtle things about how we as a society treat people who have been in the correctional system, and, why the standard is just plain wrong.

After watching it again, I'm positively aching to get back out there and see how all the guys are doing.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Old news already

I worked all weekend, yet again. I'm now going into the 4th week of the term; it's been 3 1/2 weeks since I had a single day "off". It's funny, I keep thinking that my ability to complete work on time/early by scheduling and working ahead in previous terms will help me to keep up this term. But I keep being wrong. The game has changed and I need to shift my tactics.

Bad things: Working solely in CAD is a whole other ballgame. I feel like I'm on a treadmill that I can't get off of. It makes me sad that I am missing time with my kids and Stephen (and sister and nieces too.) Seriously sad. I keep reminding myself of two things: I will graduate in a year and this is showing them how important education is to me.

Good things: I can definitely say that by the end of this term I'm going to be a whole lot more proficient in AutoCAD and SketchUp. I'm also going to need some serious massage therapy for my neck and shoulders.

This week, I am excited about Shadow Mentor Day coming up on Friday. I get to go to a local firm and shadow the principal landscape architect at the firm and pick his brain about the profession, what I can/should do to make myself a competitive candidate for employment, his firm's work, opportunities in Eugene, etc. I'm hoping it will be a most excellent opportunity to start wiggling my way into the local LA network of professionals. So look forward to more happy, happy and less cranky, tired, overworked and overwrought LA student complaints. In the meantime, I'll be working on portfolio pages so there will likely be some posts with drawings/images from the last year or two showing up.

Other than Shadow Mentor Day, I have very little upbeat awesomeness to share today -- perhaps tomorrow I'll feel more optimistic after getting more than the 3 hours I got this morning.

In the meantime, here's a pretty watercolor rendering of a cool playground from a year ago:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Holy cow this term is going to be the death of me!!

The first week of class went by in a blur and then so did week two. Now we're halfway through week three and I have yet to have a single day "off". I'm really starting to feel fried. But enough about me...


(Photo by Amanda Loomis, 2011)
Our studio project site for Tech Studio is located at a commercial office building in Salem. The SAIF Corporation in Salem wants to redevelop/redesign their "backyard." On a side note, it was interesting to hear the CEO refer to the courtyard area between the building and the creek in residential ownership terms. I kept thinking about the connotations of backyard - gardens, swing sets, barbecues, parties. The only thing that happens out there is an annual event and infrequent ice cream socials in the summer time.

It's an interesting project for many reasons, the first and foremost is that it's a real site that will actually be built. There are many constraints on the project and design, including some soil issues (a buried oil tank from prior to the buildings construction 30 years ago), the adjacent creek flooded the property in 1996 and new flood control measures including a 6-foot berm and flood gate installed on site, a three-year phased budget and TONS of existing and degraded concrete that we are not allowed to remove.

(Photo by Amanda Loomis, 2011)

The established goals of SAIF Corp.'s committee for the project are to create a more usable (increase use) and sustainable landscape. The existing landscape was installed after construction of the building 30 years ago. It's a relatively standard commercial landscape for the era -- concrete plaza like area, benches that are located in ways that make them unattractive to passersby (in full view of the conference room/viewable from the CEO's office, etc.)

(Photo by Amanda Loomis, 2011)

Another interesting aspect of this project is that last year's Tech Studio worked on the same project. They established a basic design for the site, but there is a lot of refinement needed for it to work for the site. So, for the last week and half we've been working on designs for the project -- primarily making the suggested plan from last year actually work with the existing topography and site constraints.

My studio team this term is AWESOME!! Logan, Mike, Amanda and I formed a group or in studio design firm. Mike came up with the name Quad Squad, which I love. Then we developed our design firm logo for all of our work:
Top left: Amanda
Top right: Logan
Bottom left: Mike
Bottom right: me!

All three of them are great to work with -- I could have named them the dream team. They all have pretty much the same attitude towards the work as I do. Do the work well, but get the work done. Late nights are not our preferred work time, but so far have been a bit too frequent for our taste due to the pacing of the studio so far.

We've worked hard creating a new CAD file with design, survey, etc. for the site. This past weekend we rendered a new illustrative plan for the project (the colors/rendering style was chosen by the instructor):

Last night we cut out and assembled model pieces for the revised plan. It got too late and the existing model was being used last night, so I haven't taken any pictures of that yet, but I hope to later today.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On design angst

Classes just started last week and I've already had one of those moments of uh... I guess you could call it growth?

Really, it was just frustration. Sheer and utter frustration. I could go into all the details but it's really something that is somewhat endemic in this field. I often joke that design development is somewhat like being pregnant and giving birth. See, you formulate this little bitty idea and nurture it. You take care of it, making sure that when it's time to present it that everyone will LOVE it and see the brilliance of your plan. So when you actually "give birth" or present a design and it isn't received the way you expect it to be, it can be upsetting.

In this situation, it wasn't so much that the design wasn't loved, but more that I was interrupted and not allowed to share the extreme awesomeness of my idea before being told that it wasn't loved and that it was a grotesquely ugly freak. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit.

All hyperbole aside, I did spend the next three and half hours trying to revise and resolve the issues in the way I had been instructed to and ending up crumpling up all my work into a ball. Yes, there was a large quantity of angst. I felt like I made zero progress and was back at square one. The upside is that I can take away the knowledge that, like Edison was fond of saying, I now know at least a dozen ways that it doesn't work.

So yeah, quite literally, back to the drawing board.

Next post, I should have some drawings, pictures and images to share with 100% less angst.