“The Secret of Secrets”

December 31, 2009

“The Secret of Secrets” by Sant Darshan Singh is a spectacular book recommended to me by my roommate, Raji.  It is a bit tricky to find, but you can find it with a bit of digging on amazon or barnes and noble.  I wouldn’t normally post about books, but since this one is both obscure and amazing, I thought I should put it out there.

It is a great book for people who have a basic understanding of eastern spirituality and religions, but who want to get a bit deeper into it.  The book takes a slightly unorthodox structure; instead of drawing out topics through flowing chapters, Darshan Singh instead focuses on a particular issue for each chapter.  I find that this style makes for a more logical and easier read.

Star Wars Uncut

December 31, 2009

A project done over the summer with Nirav Patel: http://eclecti.cc/computergraphics/star-wars-uncut-scene-437-in-stop-motion-photography

Watercolors: Part 2

December 30, 2009

See Part 1.  These are with a bit more practice, although it may not look like it.

Watercolors: Part 1

December 30, 2009

Paintings should generally not have descriptions.  These are some watercolors from when I did not really know what I was doing.

Soapmaking: Part 2

December 30, 2009

I wanted to make soap from scratch for two reasons.   The first was already generally discussed – I knew about the ethical and health problems associated commercial soaps and I wanted to try to do something about it.  But the second reason had slightly fuzzier objectives.  I believe that true knowledge is gained from struggle.  And so going through the fundamental processes of soap making was my way of struggling with the problem in order to uncover the fundamental ideas it contained.  I always remind myself that “scientists can explain the world through science, mathematicians can explain the world through mathematics, and sheep-herders can explain the world through sheep-herding”.  Also, I think because I grew up on a farm, I tend to enjoy old-fashioned, do-it-yourself projects.

So, by making soap from scratch, I was attempting to do something that is not done anymore by most people (including myself).  I was attempting to do something the hard way.  While doing it, I spent an entire day just thinking about soap.  I think that is a pretty powerful idea in itself.  Technology gives us width and breadth in our knowledge, but it often has a way of discouraging us to go deep into one particular idea.  But if we never go deep, how will we ever continue to discover those fundamental essences that make up our individual foundations?  How will mathematicians explain the world through mathematics if they are sitting on a computer being bombarded by incalculable amounts of stimuli?  How will the scientists explain the world through science if they are out with their credit cards wading through an endless number of possible shoes to buy?  And how will the sheep-herder explain the world through sheep-herding if Monsanto just bought all of his sheep?

Am I arguing that we should all boycott all commercial soap products and go home and make soap from scratch?  Of course not.  I only argue that we should be educated and aware of the environmental, health, and ethical problems present in modern soap making.

I have to finish by saying that if I was doing this 200 years ago, I would have been laughed out of town.  In the end my attempt was only a partial success.  I managed to create soap, but not nearly the amount or quality it should have been if everything went right.  After going through every step many times in my mind after the fact, I still do not know where exactly I went wrong – it could have been the lye, or the temperature, or the recipes I used, or the purity of the fat.  However, after thinking about it more, I began to appreciate my failure.  Even with all of my technology, my books, thermometers, scales, and electric stoves, my ancestors could still make better soap than I can.

But there will be a part 3.  I am planning on buying commercial lye online to try test and see if it was my lye that was the problem.  I also want to buy some coconut and palm oil and try out some “vegetarian” recipes.

Environmental Systems: Part 2

December 30, 2009

The second project was to design and produce a complete set of construction documents for a small 1800sf house.  The house needed to be environmental, sustainable, and cheap.  It also needed to have different options for different climates.  Throughout the class we learned about a wide range of topics, from passive and active solar strategies, to thermal envelopes,  to the pros and cons of HVAC systems, to how to use and draw psychometric charts.

I wanted to produce a building that took advantage of simple passive techniques that applied to all kinds of climates without too much change to design.  The most obvious is the large overhanging roof that shades the strong summer sun and lets in the winter sun, protects from northern winter winds and directs southern summer winds, and shelters an outdoor living space.  But beyond this, I worked to incorporate sustainability into every scale of the project, from the window placement to the corner stud details.

PDF: https://johngmartin.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/envsyst_housingproject_johnmartin.pdf

Environmental Systems: Part 1

December 30, 2009

Environmental Systems with Ben Uyeda was a class that encouraged a do-it-yourself kind of learning. We learned the fundamentals of environmental system design in architecture.  Our first project was to film a youtube video that could be used to teach “lay-people” about a specific idea in the vast world of sustainability.  It was a group project, and I worked with Christine Nasir on a film that challenged the general conceptions of sustainability through the age-old battle of the Prius vs. the Hummer.  We wanted to do some stop motion, but because we were pressed for time, and because neither of us drive, we had to be creative.  We chose an approach that was a bit unorthodox, and very cheesy, but one that was short enough that we could pull it off without being annoying.  Plus we used some good music.  But really, who doesn’t like cheesy?


December 29, 2009

Because you go on Co-Ops at Northeastern, you are thrown into the job market much earlier than most students or recent-graduates.  And because of this, I needed a portfolio much earlier than most students or recent-graduates.  With a lot of drafts and some help from my graphic designer friends at Machado Silvetti, I now have a portfolio that is at a stage where it is presentable.  It will probably never be done, and will almost definitely change dramatically every time I sit down and add work to it, but at least now I feel that I can post it on the internet without too much embarrassment.  It only has work up to Studio 2 in its current state, so expect an updated version after I finish my studios and graduate.

PDF: https://johngmartin.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/johnmartin_portfolio08.pdf

Soapmaking: Part 1

December 29, 2009

Soap began as a simple technology; combine lye leeched from wood ash with water, and then add pure animal fat at the correct temperature to make soap.  But as most things in this world, advancements in technology have told us that we can do it better, faster, and cheaper.  And soap became just that: better at cleaning, easily available at any local grocery store, and cheaper.  But as this shift was taking place, names of unpronounceable chemicals began to be listed on the sides of soap packaging.   “Triclosan” is an FDA approved pesticide.  “Dioxin” is a chemical that was used in Agent Orange.  “Sodium Lauryl Sulfate” is a chemical that has numerous health risks, including cancer and infertility.  And stories of animal testing appeared on local and national news sites.  And some began to question.

Soap is just one small battleground in the larger war faced today.  I decided to make soap because it is often forgotten amongst the “Global Warmings” and the “Stem Cell Researches” that control popular discussion.  And it is a bit funny, “Who would ever bother to make soap?”

Studio 4

December 29, 2009

Studio 4 with Tim Love was by far my most academically stimulating studio at Northeastern.  Studio 4 is the housing studio at Northeastern, and this semester we worked on wood frame courtyard housing in Boston while dealing with all of the code issues that plague and inspire architects every day.  But the brilliance of this studio was not entirely concentrated in the design problems we faced, but more through the academic approach of the studio.  Instead of following the traditional practice of getting a site and putting a project on it, we instead did the reverse.  We developed a courtyard housing prototype, aggregated it to form a block, and then placed it along with the rest of the projects in the studio into a mock city in South Boston.  The end result is an instant city where we could literally count the number of pillows throughout or do FAR calculations of each block.  The profoundness of this studio is pretty obvious when you put it into this kind of perspective.

I focused on designing apartments that made full use of the light, air, and space given by the courtyard, and I did that by working through the problem of the inside corner of a courtyard.  By designing smaller courtyards within each corner that mediated the space between the public courtyard and the apartment, each unit had more light and air let into each room without sacrificing privacy.  The line of public/private is blurred however within the larger public courtyard, encouraging social life.  Each unit also has access to two exterior spaces that are both private and public for space for exterior living spaces and gardens.  I also paid attention to how residents would use their apartments, and also to how they would enter their apartments from either the street or from parking on the first floor.

As the studio progressed from designing a prototype to designing a city, the emphasis was put on the façade of the building.  I worked hard to dissolve the standard conception of a street wall by breaking apart the façade in a way that reads much differently when viewed as a prototype vs. viewed as a block.

This studio also will result in a book that we are publishing.  The book will be available at some point in the near future, and will contain each project of all three studios of my class.  Each studio has about 10 kids, so the book will have around 30 different projects documenting the project’s start as a prototype to its end as a city.  Because each studio made their own “city” made of 10 different projects placed like patchwork across the site, the book will also have information about the logic that went into each site.  Also, because we were making a book at the end of the semester, this studio was also a lesson in standardized representational techniques.