The Other Side

Posted in art, books, personal, projects, thesis by johnsnavely on January 2, 2009

I’ve been working on more of these Gilgamesh things. I thought before I would print them, I could publish them online somewheres. But it would be nice to have something more artsy (ahem) than a photo gallery.

Luckily, I found this great little AS3 library for making “books” with flex.

Here’s one book I made with my thesis (5mb…wait for it) warts and all!


It’s pretty depressing to see how many mistakes I’ve made… archived forever in MIT’s stacks. Double ugz.

The Uncanny Valley

Posted in movies, projects, thesis by johnsnavely on April 22, 2008

In the comments to the last post, virtualnexus pointed out an artwork that I hadn’t seen before, but (from images I saw…) I think I would really like. The piece reminds me of few things. First, Gerhard Richter’s Mirror Painting (Blood Red), a monochromatic painting in red on the back of a large, figure-sized piece of glass. I saw it at SFMoMA many years ago and, for something so minimal, it was creepy as hell….

Speaking of blood, I just watched Takashi Miike’s Dead or Alive. It’s not as good as Ichi the Killer, but it’s got the best ending in a movie since Tarantino’s Death Proof. The movie is pretty extreme so if you gross out easily, you might want to pass on this one. (I also checked out Day Watch, but I’ll save that for another post.)

Anyway, the other image that popped into my head when I looked at Richard Wilson’s piece was the opening scene of Ghost in the Shell 2. These opening credits are unbelievable! Traditional Japanese a capella frames these fetish-ized robotic Bellmer dolls. The result is a jaw dropping tour de force that I have difficulty intellectualizing because the emotional output is so raw. (Wait for the use of reflection/water in the video)

This doesn’t do it justice (you need the high res version… watch it full screen on YouTube), but you get the idea:

Anyway, the whole point of Miike and Richter and GitS2 is the mixture of sublime and grotesque that makes me think that they aren’t diametric opposites but instead separate points on a continuum that loops back on itself. (I wonder what would happen if tried to make something as gross as I could.)

Trend note, I’ve seen this resurgent interest in John Waters (and Water’s pop/gross/white trash obsession). You don’t know whether to cry, laugh, or barf. I wanted to show you this site as an example, but the photos have been taken down…

Snowed But Not Plowed

Posted in architecture, thesis by johnsnavely on December 14, 2007

(photo taken from Bryan. I neglected to take any myself.)

I’m finally finished with my thesis. The review was entertaining, which I think means it was kinda successful. Meejin summed it up by asking why this project could “still make architects uncomfortable”. She was an awesome advisor. When I thanked her for guidance she said flat out that “no one else would have let me do this thesis”. And that’s true. Bryan has a take from the perspective of an informed audience. His will be a thesis to watch.

Mostly, it’s over and I’m happy.

Next up: Book reviews of “The Story of O” and the “Ghost in the Shell” sequels. Together at last.

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Game Over, Man

Posted in architecture, thesis by johnsnavely on December 1, 2007



Today was my penultimate review. It was sort of strange. I wasn’t quite ready to present. I was missing large pieces of production (the plans mostly) that made it more difficult to explain the project than if I had done this last minute check next week. I had four reviewers: Yung Ho Chang, Andrew Scott, John Fernandez, and Simi Hoque. Meejin was away…

The major feeling was that I wasn’t being crazy enough. A failing that I’m ready to admit. I suspect that if I were too crazy the review would be the opposite. Two reviewers thought I could have a beautiful building and two didn’t see much in the project. Unfortunately, the two that didn’t see much in the project have to sign off on my thesis. But maybe in two weeks they’ll warm up to it.

Last night I wrote up another statement, it’s very short, not very well written, but is pretty much the point.

This thesis investigates the potential of opportunistic borrowing and blatant reference—a postmodern approach pioneered by architects like Michael Graves, Robert Venturi and Charles Jencks—through a renovation that reinstates a movie palace into a 99 cent store in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Instead of concentrating on the facade like postmodern architecture of the past, however, this thesis turns these techniques inward, as a way of designing the interior of the building; using an aesthetic which encourages nostalgia, that, through historical reference, can endear a design to a community, mitigate programmatic dischord, and provide unusual formal qualities. To find this nostalgic beauty, this thesis will revisit antique typologies like that of the movie palace and nickelodeon, out-dated architectural techniques like poche and pastiche, and forgotten forms of ornament. Iconography and ornamentation, rather than being mere decoration, form a membrane which acts as a cultural interface to site the building in a strong, diverse, and ultimately stubborn community.

I love the last sentence (for which I owe Bryan many thank-you’s), but my thesis doesn’t accomplish this.


See you all in 13 days.

Exquisite Cops

Posted in architecture, music, thesis by johnsnavely on November 9, 2007

Here I am in the midst of an all nighter, using YouTube to listen to music, waiting for a script to run. On any input above 10k, Rhinoscript runs really slowly. I’m trying to process about 100k points with twice that many lines. This is so slow I’m actually beginning to think it’s unnecessary. Anyway, in the meantime, I’ll write out the rest of my thesis script…

From the last post…

Since the theater and circulation are the same we can address the problem of the theaters scale. Movie theaters make money by having multiple spaces for different movies to show at the same time. A design that had several smaller movie palaces would be more successful than one with a single theater space. Here are some diagrams exploring how to balance theater, poche space, and circulation. [edit these…halfway done on my laptop]

The solution in this case was to divide the theater space into three cinemas, three hollows inside the framework of the building, swellings in the circulation. Each is a different size and has its own features.

The first theater is taller than it is wide. The space is the height of the entire building. It serves to bring light into the space which creates a large, well lit public space in center of the building. In fact, it connects to a public passageway that goes from block to block.

The second theater is the only circulation space which touches the envelope of the building. It starts at the 3rd floor and extends towards the interior. Movies are shown against a glass window. When not in use, the theater space offers a visual connection to the JMZ platform. When movies are being shown, a blurred reversed image in available to people on the platform and on the train.

The last theater is the smallest. It sits on the ramp which provides roof access. It can be adjusted for open air showings and performances.

So the next question became how to contruct these blobby structures and their ornament.


Keeping in mind that I needed to frame fairly tightly around these odd shapes, I examined ways of wrapping around an ornate curve with a truss chords or webbing. I was also thinking about a framing unit from which these spaces could be subtracted. Some of these experiments were impractical, such as a framing units based on on octahedrons or pentagonal tiling.



Eventually, I settled on two more practical types of framing units. Webbed trusses a foot deep 24 inches on center on each floor. And a 10 foot column grid… I think… I’m actually still working on this part.


Well, I think I might actually try and sleep for a couple hours; I’ve got class soon. And this 24 inch webtruss stuff looks a little silly. I’ll finish this post tomorrow.