"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


  1. This sounds like a totally fascinating class. Thinking of kitchen tools, I remembered the film "Objectified" by Gary Hustwit, which is a terrific look at industrial design, in which they first discuss the redesign of a potato peeler. There are so many things we just don't think about that have been designed.

  2. Thanks Altoon! Almost everything has been designed in some way.

  3. I want to take your class Helen

  4. Thanks Mink. Must admit that I love taking my class as much as teaching it. It opens doors, cracks and chinks for the light to get through every week.