Monday, January 7, 2013

Professor Interviews: Pat Rand!

Welcome back!  Today's convocation marks the start of another rousing and raucous semester for the College of Design and our beloved School of Architecture!  We hope you spent your holiday in various states of relaxation, managed to see some cool buildings, and are returning ready to dive in to the icy studio waters, polar bear club style!

Back in December we were lucky enough to interview Pat Rand, FAIA, professor of many sought-after classes and the author of numerous books, with another currently underway.   We saved his interview to kick off the spring semester of the blog - hope you enjoy it!

Q: Where did you grow up? 
     Well, I was born in Kentucky, then I lived in New Jersey for 6 years during grade school, and I spent high school in Richmond, Virginia.  A variety of places. 

Q: What’s one thing you would tell your college self?
     I don’t know... I wouldn’t change anything necessarily.  I think I seized opportunities pretty well, I think I was optimally serious, but not too serious.  Maybe I'd tell myself to be prepared for the unexpected.  I think I expected to follow a certain path toward practice, and now I’m not practicing primarily.  So maybe be alert for certain opportunities, and be prepared for adjustments.

Q: Your book “Materials for Design” features case studies that exemplify different materials.  Which of the buildings you selected would you go see tomorrow if you had the chance?
     The one that’s on the cover, which is a glass house, is a ridiculous proposition; that one would build an entire house out of glass!  So I guess I might like to see it simply because of its unusualness, not because it’s exemplary.  I would never suggest that anyone do that ever again.  It’s called Laminata. 
     I was talking about the German Foreign Ministry in class just yesterday, describing some of the things that Jamie Carpenter did in the glass wall that I cannot see in even the really high quality photographs that we’ve got.  That’s one where I think he was doing some unusual things, putting in some partially reflective glass and some spectrally reflective glass that you can’t really photograph.  That’s one that would like to see in real life because I don’t think you can capture the glass qualities even with really good photographs.

Q: What’s something that surprised you while researching your most recent book?
How many really amazing projects are out there!  We picked the projects because they were engaging architecturally in general and they also used some material in some interesting way.  When you have a photograph that you keep zooming in on and it keeps revealing to you more stuff, that's inspiring.  How they invent a way to connect materials in a way that doesn’t interfere with the appreciation of the quality of the material.  Invention, by a good designer, occurs at every scale. 

Q: How do you take your coffee?
Black.  Strong and black.

Q: You have a free morning; no meetings, no student interviews, no classes to prepare for – what do you do?
     I don’t have too many of those.  When you’re working on a book it basically fills every free moment you might have.  If I have time I would take care of myself a little better, exercise a little, take the dog for a walk. 

Q: If you had to recommend a few books from your shelves to an aspiring architect, what would they be?
     Ching's "Form, Space and Order".  "The Visual Dictionary of Architecture" by Ching. They both explain concepts in a clear way.  Those aren’t terribly new books, but they do get across significant ideas and celebrate hand drawing as a way to communicate something about architecture.
Those are what I would recommend for the novice.  Start really simple and try not to scare them.  That will come later.

Q: Who is a contemporary architect whose work you look at and think “they’re doing it right”?
     These questions are so reductive, it makes it hard, because there are so many really powerful people that are doing really wonderful things.  Let’s see, the firms in the first book that impressed me a lot are a European, Despang Architekten comes to mind.  They do small, socially responsible, high quality designs that I admire.  Not over the top cost-wise, very environmentally respoinsible.  I look at their work and admire it greatly.  I really appreciate architects who tempt me with a big idea, with a big move but are worthy also at the close scale due to their rigorous refinements. 

From the new book we're writing there is an affordable housing project from South Africa that brings together a wood frame, packed sand bags as masonry, and an applied stucco surface.  The design boasts good proportions, small footprints with space to store bicycles, hang laundry, have space for a dog.  They way they built the walls, the occupants participated in packing the sand bags for their own home. It's not a textbook solution for how to make a cheap house, and it's very inventive.

Thanks so much, Pat!  See everyone at convocation this afternoon!

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