Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2015 on the horizon! ....(part 2)

Here the last post of  2014 and the second part of the previous post. Year change, we all change and I think changes are always good, if we embrace them positively. This time, I am going to be on driver's seat and drive my life rather than react to the situations. I am not sure that I do that but I would like to believe that I am controlling my life rather than life controls me. So I represented my goals of 2015 in a illustration below.

Illustration by Neela Shukla

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Thinking of 2014....(part 1)

2014 year is about to be over and 2015 is on the horizon. 
Looking back at 2014, I am pondering....

credit- Neela

*Aphorisms/Proverbs/Nuggets of Wisdom with beautiful photos/graphics/Artworks
I read thousands of blurbs of aphorism, proverbs with or without graphics and photos. They were cited by famous people, leaders and scholars and even laymen and most of them  positive sounding, some philosophical and few funny and most motivational, almost all inspirational in nature. Before  email and internet, we had to make a ton of efforts to get those bites of wisdom. But in 2014, everyone is posting and sending those blurbs. It felt like people communicate in a new language.

*Expanding Perception
William Blake said once, "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite." 
I felt that I managed to expand my perception through travel. I experienced the terrain, people, food, religions, culture and architecture of countries from different continents.  This experience not only brushed up my sensations and feelings but it made me look at my life, contemplate of my actions.  I think that my perception is moving towards not infinite but in broader range of direction.  Well, I have to wait and see how long these effects are going to last!!!!

*Few challenging assignments/projects
This might be related to "Expanding Perception". I managed to accept and work on few challenging assignments and projects. To tackle these, I had to cultivate new ME, which happened or happening due to circumstance and influence of people/friends in my life.

*My relationship with food
This seem like tangible issue and does not fit here but that is not correct. I have started thinking about what I eat and why I eat that. Believe me, I do not have any health related issue! I spend time to plan and prepare interesting dishes, which is new. I improved my relationship with food. I have to wait and see that how long I continue this, I might get lazy about it.

To be continued.....

The next post will not be this abstract.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

ROAD TRIP, see one thing and discover something else!

Geography of California is screaming drought!
Since I was gone out of country for a month, I had not given attention to posting anything. So when I sat to add to my blog, I had this blank mind. Either, I wanted to say a lot or say nothing. I did not want to open a chapter of my trip because I am still digesting everything of it. To get inspired for a topic, I started browsing photos I took before I left for my overseas trip. My "Road Trip" folder inspired me to write about this. This road trip was with my daughter to Los Angeles and the photos were of  California landscape along side the road from the car.

The landscape of California was diverse and captivating. On the first observation, I was surprised to see  diversity in landscape from San Jose to Los Angeles. The colors and conditions of soil, sky, clouds varied every 30 minutes. I decided to post these photos but looking them again, I saw stories of mountains and farms, I saw environmental issues, I saw the impact of drought and water laws of California. I saw the photos of trucks carrying various items and I could see trade and economic activities. So I am posting few of the photos to share with you, which tell a lot. While we were  sharing our personal stories with each other, these beautiful terrain is telling different stories. 

Below are the photos and some brief explanation-

Listening Music, talking, discussing, sleeping - 6 hours drive

Rolling Hills reflecting morning lights, like a Painting  photo credit- Neela Shukla
Dried -up lakes, Dry Vegetation, Cracking soil, California has drought!      photo credit- Neela Shukla
My daughter was my GPS and we landed up on dirt road, Of course- short cut and stunning! photo credit- Neela Shukla 

Large Open Farm Ready for planting!
Dry Land and Lonely Cloud  photo credit- Neela Shukla
Serene Water - receding water level   photo credit- Neela Shukla
Sprinkler on few farms and farmers working,  San Joaquin Valley Regions - Lots of activities of Digging wells to get ground water, where the water table is dropping down quickly. 
photo credit- Neela Shukla

Green Farm in the middle of dry hills, water from wells.
Neglected Cows -no shade and little water, all the attention is on farming right now   photo credit- Neela Shukla
Wells Digging is trending high and soon there will not be water in
Apples, Motor home, Cars, Tires  photo credit- Neela Shukla
Road surrounded by dry hills, occasionally shaded by clouds.   photo credit- Neela Shukla
1- Water right law in California and the rest of the West is markedly different from the laws governing water use in the eastern United States.
2- In most areas of California, overlying land owners may extract percolating ground water and put it to beneficial use without approval from the State Board or a court.
For more info - http://www.sacbee.com/news/nation-world/article2594903.html
These all problems related droughts are not only the consequences of "not enough rain", but the laws regarding water rights in California.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

God is in the Detail!

This Idiom made me think of the importance of details in different fields.

God is in the Detail can mean many things but here, I am restricting my definition and describing its importance in only art and architecture field.
Details can enhance the overall concept, and when architects and planners keep them in front along with the overall concept, the project becomes experiential and memorable! Even, in contemporary art, details need to be used intuitively.
1- Architecture ( Details as materials and texture)
Getty Center in Los Angeles
The facade is covered with square stones and aluminum panels, designed to create a uniform grid. What makes it rich and unique is the texture of the stone. Architect Richard Meier has used beige colored, cleft cut square (76 cm x 76 cm )textured, fossilized travertine. To create that texture, which I see it as a  detail, his staff along with Mariotti factory owner worked for a year and designed an automated guillotine.

The Getty Center- Photo Credit- Neela Design Inc.
2- Master Planning (Details as symbolic, economic and experiential expression)
Walk of Faith, Crystal Cathedral , Garden Grove
This project is going through a major renovation after being bought by Roman Catholic group. The path lined with Granite stepping stones known as "Walk of Faith", as shown in the photo below, is going to be demolished  in the new phase. However, when I visited the campus and walked over and started reading the words engraved on the stones, I was transported in spiritual realm and elated me. Each stone has words from scriptures and chosen by individual who donated money.
I love the one in photo- "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" 
That is Detail for me.
Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove.Photo Credit- Neela Design Inc.
Walk of Faith, Words from Scriptures on Stepping Stone, Photo Credit- Neela Design Inc. 

Meier and his staff worked for a year with the quarries to invent a process using a guillotine to produce the unique finish. - See more at: http://www.getty.edu/visit/center/architecture.html#sthash.OD1TP1Jv.dpuf
This beige-colored, cleft-cut, textured,
This beige-colored, cleft-cut, textured, fossilized travertine - See more at: http://www.getty.edu/visit/center/architecture.html#sthash.OD1TP1Jv.dpuf
This beige-colored, cleft-cut, textured, fossilized travertine - See more at: http://www.getty.edu/visit/center/architecture.html#sthash.OD1TP1Jv.dpuf
This beige-colored, cleft-cut, textured, fossilized travertine - See more at: http://www.getty.edu/visit/center/architecture.html#sthash.OD1TP1Jv.dpufAn automated guillotine was created  to split the stone along its natural bedding plane.
3-Painting  of  Georgia O'Keeffe  (Details as colors)

“Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.”
Georgia O'Keeffe

Sky above the clouds series is a painting by Georgia O'Keeffe where she has represented a scene of clouds disappearing in the horizon. She expressed the recognizable forms of clouds and horizons as abstraction still the details are expressed as colors. Yes, it is an art and not a photograph, intriguing for sure! This can be even said as "The Devil is in the Details" !
credit- http://www.georgiaokeeffe.net/sky-above-clouds-iv.jsp#prettyPhoto

Friday, August 1, 2014

Wooden Structure in Residences ( Japan & Austria)

Wooden Frame Building - Designed by Toyo Ito,
The light and shadow of the wooden structure of the timber bridge from earlier post reminded me of a simple square house designed by Toyo Ito, commissioned by Tokyo gas. The client invited four architects to design the house of the future, "Sumiko Project".  Toyo Ito did not design the house with futuristic shapes or forms or technology.  Toyo Ito designed a simple, square house under 1000 sq. ft. The rectangular walls were created with geometry of hexagon shaped wooden members and the flat roof was supported by irregularly placed 4 columns. Primary materials used in this house were wood, glass and concealed steel rods. By the way, check the outside walkway to the building, shaped in the same geometry. Now this is creative design using the same traditional materials.


Wooden Frame Building- Designed by Heri & Salli
Another example of creative design of Wooden Frame Building- Designed by Heri & Salli
Vienna, Austria based architect Heri & Salli designed this office for the client "Austrian Facade System Company". The angular wooden shingle covered facades are framed in wooden post and beams. Also, as per current trend of making office fun and play activities, the wooden members are used as play props. Check out the photos below. This is really creative design rather than using tent or play structure inside the office space like Dropbox has done in San Francisco.


Monday, July 28, 2014

A stroll in a park!

It is a nice when I get a permit from the city for a project, I get some extra time to enjoy nature around I live. So here just a photo and inspired text by the scene. 

credit - Neela

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Inner life of Wood Structure!

Breathing Wooden Structure -

My fascination of  wood structures is evident from my past post on Timber bridge, I have written  before two years.  Check it here- Timber Bridge.

I visited the same bridge again on 4th of July in Santa Cruz and this time, I had its anticipation. I crossed the road and walked on dirt path amongst tall trees and I saw more than the bridge, shadows it created on dirt path, the sun was exposing and extending its structure. The beauty of the complexity was captured also in the shadow. I have not even gone over the bridge and have not seen from the top but it surely is live, it was breathing. Check the photo below.
Timber Bridge in Santa Cruz,  photo - Neela Shukla

It inspired me to capture its essence in few colors through illustrations. See few illustrations below.
Capturing the essence of the Structure, Illustrations by Neela Shukla

Wooden Structure Installation!
Again, I stumbled upon this wooden tent in San Jose between the buildings. It had its life too. Wood is a natural element and ideal for temporary and permanent structures. Check it below. The illustration below was through this structure. I had some fun capturing its essence in the art form.

Wooden Temporary Structure Installation, Photo Credit- Neela Design Inc.
Capturing the Essence, Illustration by Neela Shukla

Singing wood-
The wood can get transformed in the hands of craftsmen. There are people, who hunt in Switzerland forest looking for a tree which can sing;  ideal for crafting a perfect violin.

In North America and in Japan, architects use wood in residences, but in the next post, I am going to revisit my all time favorite architect Shigeru Ban's work of  multistory office building in Switzerland. He has used wood to its potential of beauty and strength.

By the way, the link below is a nice video of tradition design for building Chinese Wooden bridges.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Life above the buildings!

No wonder John Steinbeck said,
"You know what it is? San Francisco is a golden handcuff with the key thrown away."

 Let us just take a trip to San Francisco and see the city from different perspective.
As much I feel peaceful near the mountains and ocean, well designed man-made forms, buildings with an open vista and hustle- bustle of streets life in the cities lift my spirit up.

SAN FRANCISCO  -  LIFE ABOVE THE BUILDINGS (photo credit- Neela Shukla)
As soon as you  see rolling hills, sky, clouds and neatly stacked and tucked houses merging with the hills, you know that  San Francisco is approaching! It also means light, air, and treasured views.
The life on the streets of San Francisco is always dynamic even on a cloudy, foggy day.
STREET ART, SIGNS, PLAZA, PEOPLE, SIDE-WALKS (photo credit- Neela Shukla)
While designing buildings, lights and air laws are justified and practiced but "View"is an disputable issue which is on-going specifically in high growth developmental area and close to  natural resource such as ocean, river, mountains and even landmark features.   
(Light and air easement prevents an adjoining land owner from building any structure that would obstruct the passage of light or air from reaching the dominant land.)

CLOUDS AND GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE (photo credit- Neela Shukla)

(photo credit- Neela Shukla)


Fogs are obstacles for many people but fogs are very elusive and romantic. It makes the photos of buildings come alive. The fogs, a weather phenomenon affect every aspect of our life, arts, commerce, transportation and so on. They should be included in our life and thoughts.
The words of  Mike Pechner, a meteorologist in the Bay Area for more than 40 years: "Fog is a natural air conditioner, and it makes San Francisco one of the most comfortable cities in the world to live in. It also makes the city very romantic. I'm a fan of the fog."

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Craft of Construction and Materials!

Clothes, Cladding, Facades 
Designing a building is a complex process and involves various steps as well as many variables. I will not bore you with the steps but want to talk about the decisions involved in designing a facade or skin (exterior surface) of a building.

 It is one of the most important and exciting element of any building as it encloses space and structure of a building,giving shape/form to the building, the way the skin does to a human body or clothes fitting to a body and it can extend it to an urban level, the way exterior building surfaces do to streets. The overall form and details of the facade gives character to the building. One can not measure the functionality of the building by the appearance or materials of the exterior surface, but it surely does have a visual impact on pedestrians or drivers and now, on the web-surfers, who are on Google Earth view. They help creating even walkable, pleasant interesting streets.
Here, I am posting few photos of buildings reflecting these three things noted below. Each one has a unique story to tell.
Sizes, locations and layout of Fenestration/Openings
Materials Used
Craft & Construction techniques
The facades are capable to tell stories and reflect history.

The facade shows the construction technique by use of the materials and the openings of windows and doors. occupants or branding of the company or the history of the Materials used for clothes, construction techniques or styles and the cuts and holes at different places
Wood Paneling, Stone Veneer, Stucco, Concrete, Stones and Bricks, Metals
The Materials are of cotton, silk, polyester, nylon etc. The craft, and using materials to its which ultimately gives the building its character.
The Photo below is a part of  the Marunouchi side facade of Tokyo Train Station, which is a major commuter hub and historical building. It is restored recently made up of red-brick and stone facade.
The use of stones as window sill as well as around the windows protect windows from weather and gives the classic appearance to the building. The facade is created with the repeat of this form, as you can see in the photo below.
Repeatation of Windows, Stone sill and overhang protecting windows from rain and sun- Photo- Tokyo Railway Building- cerdit- Neela Shukla.
Tokyo Train Station - credit- www.japantimes.co.jp
Also, the use of bricks as structural elements reflect time, which was built in 1914. It was damaged in world war and restored to its glory . Interior walls show the marks of bullets reflecting  history. The space is used as a tourist center where every visitor stops by to pick up maps and brochures and gets personal assistance and information to travel outside Tokyo. On my trip to this place, I stopped for few moments to admire the space.
Tokyo Olde Railway Station- Photo Credit- Neela Shukla
The photos below on the left is enlarged to show the marks of aging on the brick wall, while on the right side, the interior walls of a restaurant show new construction and bricks used as cladding. They are on the wall surface as decoration.

Bricks as part of structure and Bricks as Cladding- Photo Credit- Neela Shukla
Dior Store- The facade of Dior Store looks like Mohair Knit, airy, light and soft fabric.  It was achieved by layering line-patterned glasses and dot-patterned sheets of thin metal membrane over it. Both the patterns express brand's original CHANGE. Layering totally different patterns creates a mysterious effect of moirĂ©. This was designed by Japanese Female architect Inui Kumiko.  The facade is a result of the construction of  skin representing brand of the company. See three photos below.

Dior Store - PhotoCredit- Neela Shukla

The facade pattern
 Facade Details- http://inmyparadigm.blogspot.com/2007_05_01_archive.html

My Favorite building is of Miki Moto's retail store, who is Japanese Jewelry Designer and uses cultured pearls in jewelery. The building is  pale pink colored,  9 story,  stretching high into Tokyo skyline with scattered asymmetrical glass windows, definitely makes you look up.
It is designed by renowned architect Toyo Ito on the concept of evoking the feelings people have when opening jewelry box. Here the description, I took it from MoriMoto's website-
"Renowned architect Toyo Ito, who was commissioned to design the building, built Ginza 2 around the concept of “bubbles forming out of a shell fostering a pearl, flower petals fluttering down, and a sense of expectation and mystique when looking into a jewellery box."

Also, the concept is not only about creating facade to represent brand, but sophisticated construction technique is used to create this building with clear, column-free space.  The load bearing walls are made up of two 12mm thick metal plates; with cut out openings, creating simple, plain exterior surface. Look at the photos below of the building and the during construction.
MikiMoto Tower - Ginza 2 Tokyo, Japan photo credit-   Neela Shukla
 Construction Technique and Materials, Craftsmanship

photo credit- http://architecturalmoleskine.blogspot.com/2011/09/toyo-ito-mikimoto-ginza-2.html
Here Toyo Ito's words in one interview-

"Actually, the sense and meaning of technology in my works is changing. In the past the technology was highly visible. It was presented in a visible way. Now it is different. Technology is now something I hide, you have to look for it, you don’t see it, you can't see it. It is an element to be used and exploited in an indirect way. Before, I used to envision an architecture that nobody could touch, impossible to grasp and hold. Now, again, it is different. Now, I want to do an architecture that you can touch and feel. Now I am working on the physical reality, on the object, on the real. This interests me now."

Just a quote-
Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society - Mark Twain

The combinations of all these facades lined up together makes the street. The variations on the facades in the street makes the street live, pleasant and walkable. All the same criteria of design applies to it, repeat of forms, geometrical patterns, organic patterns, colors, textures etc make the streets lively and interesting.
In the video below, you can see how Toyo Ito was exploring the ideas while designing Miki Moto Ginza2 tower.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Reflection of Culture in Tea Rooms! 2 - Osaka

Simplicity and Nature !
Culture and Rituals in Life and Space!

One of the highlights of my Japan trip was experiencing authentic formal tea drinking ceremony. I will have to save that for the next post, but another experience of visiting a tea room in Osaka was reflective of modern Japanese culture and this Tea Room/commercial tea selling cafe was touristic in nature to give a glimpse of Japanese Tea drinking ritual.
First of all it is of contrast to earlier Tea room of Zanzibar. The location itself is carefully chosen for Tea room. The woman was greeted with nice and calm expression dressed in kimono. The space had the vibe of  tranquility. I experienced calmness with almost subdues colors and natural elements. Tea was prepared in definitive manner with the perfect combination of green powder and water with right temperature. Check the photo below to see interior space.
Simplicity and Tea maker dressed in traditional Kimono
 Even here, like in Zanzibar Tea Room, tea was served with a tiny piece of sweet engraved with characters. Only difference is there was one type of tea, which is green tea and one type of sweet, made up of bean paste.  I did not have to think and decide which one to choose. The whole ritual of taking the shoes out and drinking Tea is supposed to be appreciating the present moments and possibly contemplate!
Simple accessories, muted colors and  natural materials
The wooden lattice windows brought in natural filtered lights through translucent  Japanese paper (Shoji screen).  The walkway leading to the Tea Room was paved with natural stones but they seem to be designed to reflect organic and random pattern.  
Photo Credit- Neela Shukla
This gives me an idea to suggest to my client for thinking of ritualistic space and I am planning to design a corner in my living room, with low seating and comfortable cushions, where I can look out in the back yard and sip a cup of tea imported from many countries and create my rituals.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reflection of Culture in Tea Rooms! 1- Zanzibar

Uniqueness gets noticed !
Culture and Rituals in Life and Space!
Tea Drinking Rituals - Zanzibar, Africa

I love drinking tea, I run to heat up  hot water every occasion I get. If someone calls me, while talking, I make a cup of tea. I need to take a break, I drink a cup of tea. Whenever I am stuck in my thinking, a cup of tea helps me. But then, I do not even sometimes remember drinking. It turns out that it is the ritual of making tea makes me more excited than drinking. Of course, I love all different types of tea. So while visiting any new country, I gravitate towards cafe and tea rooms. I came across a tea room in the streets of the Zanzibar island in East Africa. I had noticed it on my walking tour by bright color curtain and had decided to visit it the next day.

After walking in the rain with my sprained ankle in the Stone city of Zanzibar, a cup of tea in Tea Room was like I discovered a gem in the rubble. It reflected local culture and served spiced tea of different variety. They had different types of seating based on your mood. Check the photos below-

View from Outside and View from Inside
Tea Rooms
It was not only about tea but I experiencee the whole rituals of selecting appropriate cup for local spiced tea I ordered. The space and the art pieces around the walls generated that longing for tea. The server with purple, silky attire radiated politeness and sophistication. He gave me free access to Wi-Fi so I could be busy with my digital world and he went to prepare my tea.
It took some time and I could hear some chatter, starting the stove and vessels banging behind the wall. But I did not mind sitting there while  watching people outside from the window.
Each type of tea is served in its own set!
The Tea Room served tasty savory dishes along with small bites of sweets. It also sold beautifully packaged tea with locally grown spices. The uniqueness of the decor, dishes and experience made it  a memorable experience for me. Check the Display below-

Photo Credit- Neela Shukla