"kitchen and hunting tools" from the Clovis People 13,000 BC. image from Popular Mechanics

in my studio at Georgia Tech we have been studying the properties, use and composition of an everyday object. we relate it to our bodies, use, function, social acts, and motion. we try to understand a common object's history and transformation through time.

at the beginning of this 6 week study i assign objects that are very familiar, agile, and that move or operate in many ways. this year we are investigating common kitchen objects. i team students up in pairs and hand out gadgets:

an egg beater with crank, a can opener with rubber grips, egg slicer, ice cream scoop with thumb press, wine bottle opener with arms, and a spring loaded cookie scoop.

we determine the material and sustainability from the cradle to the grave. 
how is it made? manufactured? what are it's dominant positions in the hand?
we look back to images of the Clovis People's stone tools and notice that each one is carved for a hand to hold. each one has a different function. each one is perfectly intact after years of burial. we then determine that cooking may have become a social function way back then, as there are tools for grinding dried leaves. we imagine that maybe in 13,000 BC taste buds were important. ancient people may have liked to spice up their food and celebrate. we imagine that a simple tool may have helped settle a people in a fixed spot. we imagine at some point they thought it might be great to host dinner parties and spend time in a room devoted to cooking, with warmth, color and social chatter. we start to put things together in our thoughts that are integral to the making of social space.

pompeii kitchen: 1st century BC

in the meantime, we make photo diptychs between seemingly disassociated objects to make new connections. we see that between the gap of two things there is always a connection.

parallel to our class research, we learn more drawing techniques that are important in design.
these drawing types are critical to help foster the great leap that is necessary to imagine an object, a building, or space that will exist in real time. they help us think how something is held, occupied, used and functions in the world. we do not use computers to draw, as it is critical to learn to draw by hand. drawing is seeing.
we learn axonometric projection drawing in about 10 hours. (this is boot camp style...)
axonometric projection shows a skewed view of an object in three dimensions on paper. it is not a perspective sketch, as all parts of the drawing are true to size and can be measured with a ruler. this means the scale and dimensions of distant parts of the drawing are the same dimensions as in real life. 

yes we could start a little easier, with projected box drawings or something like that.
but we do not. we dive right in to the complexities of our objects of study in true dimensions, motion, and composition. we rely on the ancient rules of geometry. we remember high school math.
oh, and students are not allowed to use straight edges to make lines. everything is free-hand. they can use rulers to measure, and that is about it. drawings from class:
student work from common first year,  Georgia Institute of Technology School of Architecture. 2011



long ago a friend from europe was here as an exchange student. her parents came over and commented that *many* American houses were, in their opinion, "made of sticks" instead of the "riches of stone." even the old houses, they concluded seemed thin. we said nothing, agreeing to some of it, and concluded that lumber is readily available here and is renewable, so that one builds with what one can find. perhaps that is how a tradition of house building starts in a nation. yes, we build from sticks.

atlanta has some really old walking neighborhoods, and we live in one. a dominant style here is the bungalow set on small urban plots. the historical styles range from early victorian 4-square cottages to 1940 brick tudors. our home is very small, creaky and crooked. we have to keep up with it...never ending, it seems. yet despite it's age - 83 years old - we have a  small carbon footprint even while living in a car dependent city. most of the surfaces of our city lot are porous. we do not drive that much.  our house is a federal style craftsman. not too fancy, but each room is a square with ten foot ceilings, beautiful doors and molding and i like that.

typically old houses here are made of a wood structure, with virgin-forest pine siding, brick veneer and granite veneer (about 4" thick), but not necessarily solid stone.  yet, the old wood rafters and wall studs are so hard that they are almost as solid as stone. it is amazing to me that our old house has a structure that is petrified, yet seems so delicate and thin, like a web of sticks.  ironically, if we want to hammer a nail somewhere on the exterior of the house we have to drill a small starter hole first or else the wood will split, just like stone. i think re-using a house is vital to our environment and future.
historic houses were built to last.  re-use a house.

 The Nature Consevancy has a great carbon calculator. see how you live. 

we score 33 in C02 emissions for a household of 4. the average 4 person american household scores 110. worldwide, the average is 22.



details of finished paintings in a current series.

a paint swell is coming on. 
for me, that means a lot of painting ideas hit me at once. and it means i have a deep desire to turn off everything around me and stay inside the studio for a long time, without interruption or responsibilities. it pulls at me while i do other important things during the day and makes me want to abandon everything else. 
 i call them swells, because they come at me, like the ocean. like waves from nowhere.

a swell, in terms of an ocean or body of water, is a series of surface gravity waves that is not generated by local wind or environment. they come in a rhythm, based upon their own velocity and speed. 

so painting ideas comes to me like this. they move in fast and i try to capture them, in a note or a thumbnail sketch. i have a little black book that i carry around and i use one of my favorite architectural pens to draw a tiny thumbnail, much like i would when designing a small spatial moment in a building. 
i scribble notes about the size of the canvas, or the overall form and the rest is really a mystery. 
everything else begins later when the paintings start talking.
new page in the sketchbook.


about a line: photo essay in spatial section

above the line where space continues.

at the line, where elements meet, co-mingle and transform. 

and below the line where space continues.

this is how i think about some things. expansive. how about you?
photography by me.