Monday, 25 October 2010

Architectural Graphics: Francis D.K. Ching

I could have scanned every page in this book. Ching's drawings are excellent, informative and are usually self-explanatory. As a resource tool for university, the book is useful in ways such as explaining how to draw doors, windows and materials correctly; but it is also useful in stimulating the creative mind in terms of layout, and of different ways of drawing the same scene.

For instance, in the image below, Ching has shown the differences between hatching the foreground and hatching the background of the same section.

It seems obvious now, but I never used to follow the section cut into the sub-terrain level when I used to draw sections, instead I just treated the building as an individual object, (wrongly) floating in space rather than in context with its terrain. Both drawings show the spatial arrangements of this building quite clearly, but the drawing at the bottom has the added benefit of using the hatch pattern in the background to act as the sun's path into the building, distinguishing the shaded areas and the areas receiving the most natural light. However by treating the foreground section cut as negative (white) space rather than the background as negative space, labelling text can only sit in the white space underneath the main building mass. It makes sense then to use the first image for labelled diagrams and the second image to show spatial arrangements.

Ching also uses white space to highlight important areas within drawings. The drawing below shows the important part of the scene (which lacks hatching or shading) being framed by a dark foreground. I really have to try this contrasting light on dark drawing technique in future... I really admire it as a way of focusing in on an area of architectural or spatial significance:

The light building on dark background also helps render parts of the scene as a sanctuary - a location you desire to arrive at. The dark areas in this simple sketch below imply stormy seas and grey skies. The house (I presume) below on the cliffs in the foreground already starts to look like a refuse from the unfriendly environment around it, just by the simple use of hatching.

Ching also made me think about the use and positioning of trees in my designs. Before reading the book I would place trees in my designs without too much thinking about their location and the effects they would have on the environment and the people inhabiting the neighbouring spaces.

The image above shows trees being used to 'define outdoor spaces' and to 'direct movement'. Why would I need to design boundaries to enclose an outdoor space when I could just plant a few trees? I'd much rather sit in an outdoor area bordered by trees or vegetation than one enclosed by (for instance) bricks and mortar!

I learnt something from every page of Ching's book, so it's been hard keeping this blog entry short. But this last image shows something that's been weak in all of my presentations... people! I have always been criticised for not inhabiting buildings properly; using unsuitable silhouettes in peculiar positions, and not relating them to the environment in which they are placed.

The people in this drawing all seem to relate to their environment. A figure is leaning against the wall, a woman has her hands over the edge of the balcony, and a man walks down the stairs. The figures on the top levels even appear interested in what's happening below them. These aren't silhouettes either - they are correctly proportioned, three-dimensional people. Silhouettes have their place in two-dimensional drawings such as sections or elevations but a three-dimensional drawing needs to be populated with three-dimensional people. I find it easy to relate to the people in the bottom level because the head heights are all on the horizon line, which is clearly shown. This seems to make it easier to draw the perspective correctly (by starting with the heads and drawing down) and ultimately making the scene more believable.

I've placed an order for this book on amazon as it's definitely one for my bookshelf, not just a book I take out of the library every so often for inspiration.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Archibald Leitch - Football Ground Designer

I really enjoyed reading 'Engineering Archie' by Simon Inglis (can be found here)  - a book that looks at some of the early football grounds designed by architect/engineer Archibald Leitch. One of the more interesting things about the book was that it was sponsored by the architects HOK Sport. The foreword by Rod Sheard (of HOK Sport) reads:

'I started my career as a football stadium designer 25 years ago and from my very first project to my latest, Archie's fingerprints have always seemed to be present... I have on several occasions had to extend, modify, build around or even demolish Leitch's stands, and in that time I have come to appreciate not only the quantity of his work but also the quality and sophistication in his designs'

It was probably only a matter of time before HOK Sport started noticing Leitch's designs, as they've (I'm currently browsing their website) been responsible for developing numerous UK stadia. I think it's a great mark of respect to Leitch that HOK are sponsoring a book about him, and it would be interesting to know at what stage HOK started noticing similar characteristics in the stadiums they were developing. 

Quickly the book takes a sour turn. A few of Leitch's stadiums had disasters, involving collapsing stands and barriers that led to supporter injuries, sometimes deaths, and a lot of bad press for the architect. 

This graphic picture shows the 1902 terrace collapse at Ibrox, where the wrong (weaker) type of wood was used, resulting in 80-100 injuries. You can see where the wooden terracing has collapsed (due to weak joists) and where the corrugated fencing has been torn down to reach the victims who fell almost three storeys. Luckily the stand was only at twenty percent capacity, and amazingly nobody died in the accident. 

I was not only surprised at how football clubs still wanted to employ Leitch after each disaster but also at the personal battle Leitch went through with himself to make his grounds safer and safer, rather than throwing in the towel. This was a time when architectural/engineering accidents were common; when suspension bridges were collapsing because of wind pressures, and when buildings were never fire-proofed. In the early 1900s horses were still being used to assist construction.

I was glad to read that Leitch picked himself up and developed safer and safer stadium designs, including writing requirements for terracing materials, safety (crush) barrier distances and shorter staircases with more landing space that allow for safer movement of supporters. Needless to say, some of Leitch's terracing requirements were ignored leading up to the infamous Hillsborough disaster of 1989 (although the disaster was the sum of many factors). This resulted in terracing being outlawed in the UK and HOK Sport being asked to redevelop some of Leitch's stadiums. 

In the (post-Hillsborough) redevelopment of Ibrox Park, the architects chose to keep the listed grandstand intact and to add another tier on top of the existing double-decker tier, when it would have been much simpler to knock down the old grandstand and start from scratch:

It was a shame to see so many black and white photographs of demolished stadiums in the book when Ibrox Park decided to celebrate Leitch's designs by building around them. I'm interested in the relationships between all old and new buildings, and I strongly believe that architectural preservation is a better solution, and has much more architectural merit, than demolishing a historic stadium with so much character, full of memories, for a 'sole-less bowl' - an expression often used to describe modern football stadia. 

I hate seeing historic buildings in a state of decay, but I really dislike seeing pictures of beautiful stadiums that have been demolished for bland boxes or bowls in their place. In the current state of multi-million pound football player transfers and multi-million pound stadiums, I find it quite fun looking at historic pictures of men with moustaches kicking leather footballs on muddy pitches, in front of Leitch's pitched-roofed terraces and their iconic gables.