Furniture Class

Over the summer I took a woodworking class (at IIT) with Frank Flury. He's been at my school/in the US for about ten years and he runs a design build studio. Here was his last project which he and his class won an AIA award for. It's beautiful. Needless to say he's pretty okay at woodworking and building in general.

This walnut box with maple splines was built in 2 days.

The dimensions are: 7" (17.5 cm) wide, 9.5" (24 cm) long, 6" (15 cm) tall, and the walnut is 1/2" (1.3 cm) thick.

These are just some scraps from wood world. It cost less than $10.

It's hard to overstate how easy it is to screw up in woodworking. One wrong cut and you have to start over and lose money. Marking everything out, taking your time, not cutting corners (no pun intended), and staying organized are the only way to screw up less.

I had to buy one of these. It's a digital angle finder. If only I knew these existed when I was pipe fitting/building concrete plants.

A good glue joint is actually stronger than the natural bond between wood fibers.

This is the spline jig.

In this application the spline doesn't add too much strength - you really need thicker boards to have a big effect. The idea is to add more gluing surface and in another direction.

The maple splines are cut off with a japanese saw and the box was sanded and finished with teak oil. After a few coats of oil I alternated between #0000 steel wool and teak oil. The result is a buttery smooth finish. The lid is a little warped but oddly it acts as a kind of spring to keep the action of the lid semi-tight.

This is actually the first thing we built. It's a somewhat simple chair. It's called an Ulmer-Hocker Stool and was designed by Max Bill. It's red oak with finger jointed tops and sides, dominoed feet, and a polyurethane finish. The original dimensions are 40 cm x 28.5 cm x 45 cm and was made of beech and spruce.

The dimensions are: 15.5" (39 cm) wide, 11.5 (29 cm) deep, 19" (48 cm) tall, and the oak is 5/8" (1.7 cm) thick.

Dr. King Legacy Apartments

So I went to take some photos the other day as spec work for an architecture firm and I noticed that my widest angle lens was going off at about 1/60th for a 1 second shot... The great thing about old school manual cameras is that they can be repaired (unlike newer far more complex digital models). The bad news is... that they're complex.

I haven't gotten my color 4x5 film developed yet, but hopefully will soon. The rest of these are from my digital SLR.

This is the west elevation of the Dr. King Legacy Apartments by Johnson and Lee Architects.

Southeast corner looking west.

Northwest corner looking south.

This building is built in a not so great neighborhood - it's at roughly 16th and Kedzie. What makes it interesting is that the architects were able to stretch their dollars so well. The facade is basically just brick with a little bit of limestone and what I assume is some sort of aluminum or steel cladding around some of the windows. The spacing is even throughout, so no added cost there. The facade is fairly flat and the change is color is just different brick. This is public housing so you can imagine they weren't splurging. So again, I commend them for being able to produce something this pleasing on a budget that permitted little more than a brick and concrete box.

Lathe Table

I just completed another table that's been in the works for almost two years now. We had to clean out my familie's warehouse the summer before I started grad school so that it could be demolished - really sad. We scrapped and threw out dozens of semi-trailer loads of steel, stainless, aluminum, brass, lead, copper, etc. (in ascending monetary value of course) in the process. That place was a true treasure trove or potential projects.

The legs are cast iron, although because of their age there's probably a good amount of nickel in them making it more like steel or so I'm told, they came off of a working lathe. This is it sitting on the flat bed - it's probably the frame of a Toyota or rebar buried in Mumbai now; or something else equally undignified.

The dimensions are 48" L x 32" W x 26" H, the tabletop is 1 3/4" thick, and it weights around 250 pounds (I'm guessing tabletop 100 lbs + 75 lbs for each leg - I'm going to weigh it soon). UPDATE: the table top is 88.0 lbs, the legs are 78.0 lbs and 78.6 lbs, and the bolts are 1.6 lbs giving it a total weight of 246.2 lbs.

The wood is jatoba and is also known as Brazilian Cherry even though it's not part of the cherry family. The wood is insanely heavy and literally twice as hard as oak (2300-2800 on the Janka harness scale, oak is around 1300-1400). It will darken with time too. Some other random specifics: it's finished with several coats of semi-gloss polyurethane (I kind of fought doing this but it does protect it so well); the bolts are 5/8" stainless; the tabletop is what is known as a "glue-up" which means that the pieces were joined, glued, and planed into a single slab; and I sealed the cast iron legs with boiled linseed oil, it's the same stuff that artists use to seal oil paintings, which gave it a great kind of lacquered feel that will keep it from rusting.


These are some sketches I did while in Europe this summer that I have yet to actually scan and post. I used a straight object to mark out the vanishing points but everything else is freehand.

8 House by BIG Architects in Copenhagen. Pencil and India ink on newsprint - 9" x 11".

VM Houses by BIG Architects in Copenhagen. Pencil and India ink on bristol board - 9" x 11".

Street along the river in Cologne, Germany. I was sitting in the grass drinking for this one. Pencil on newsprint - 9" x 14"

Bayer Headquarters by Hurphy/Jahn near Munich, Germany. Pencil, India ink, and watercolor on cotton rag paper - 10" x 7".

Writer's Theatre

My studio embarked on a one week charett to design a 250 person theater in Glencoe, IL. My professor, Thomas Roszak, is among those submitting proposals.

These are my drawings:

And a few of the renderings:

The walls are curving cast in place concrete that radiate from a central point - the theater. To the left is an outdoor auditorium that adjoins a park. The entrance is the opening to the right.

This is a view of the entrance. There are small openings where the ceiling touches the wall to provide a light wash on the rough concrete walls.

This was all modeled in Rhino and rendered with the Maxwell Rendering plug-in for Rhino.
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Why Do Architects Geek Out Over Furniture?

Seriously, my school has a chair collection in the library. It's a relationship I don't fully understand. This is the first in a (hopefully) long series of projects that I've documented and not posted in the last few months.

So a while back I offered to make any of my friends tables and the like if they'd pay for supplies. One person, Joe, actually followed through. My first design for his coffee table is here, and the principle was to make a form that would map the flow of forces that the table would experience when loaded. I'm still somewhat interested in making that table when I'm bored but in the mean time I decided to come up with a new concept for Joe's table.

Part of being a 20-something year old these days is moving a lot, so I thought the table should be able to break down, but it should be solid too. I really dislike tables that wobble and look feeble; the finished product weighs about 50 or 60 pounds. Quality plywood, in this case Baltic birch plywood, comes in sheets that are 5' x 5' so I designed the pieces to minimize waste. The scrap was used as blocking so that clamps wouldn't scar the table.

The final dimensions were about 42" long x 26' wide x 18" tall. The proportions are close to the golden ratio while still maintaining the same height and 2/3 the length of the couches it resides next to.

The different colors represent the different pieces of the table. They're laid out to make single cuts on the table saw easier/possible.

The legs are held in by friction. They're tight enough not to wobble but can be pulled out for moving.

This is after the first coat of polyurethane.

This is a time lapse of some of the construction (about 2 min).

Peotone Rail Station

I was talking with a friend last night and realized I hadn't posted any renderings from my latest project - A high speed rail station in Peotone, IL. The first two images are just to give some context. The third is just a birds eye view, and the last is an interior shot of the stairs/ramp system.

All the renderings are done in the Maxwell plug-in for Rhino. There's still a lot more to post but I'm letting some of the renderings run for a day or two to clean up all the noise.

Preliminary orthographic drawings of the structural system - it's missing the cabling that runs from the base of the arches to the other side and instead has foundations.

Exploded axonometric drawing of the wooden parabolic arches with cabling.

I'll explain more of this later but basically the structural idea going on is that the canopy structure is 120' wide and 40' tall (1:3 ratio). The arches are parabolic and self supporting (angled to support one another) and are a closed system in that their ends are tied together with steel cable running underground. The arches themselves are glue-lams, which is engineered wood that resists bending, warping, etc. far better than solid timber. The glue-lams are 2' deep and 1' wide. The whole thing is covered by 7 ETFE (ETFE is a polymer developed by DuPont that has a tensile strength of 6,000 psi, weights 1% as much as glass, lets in more light than glass, is not made from oil, is completely recyclable, and is not affected by UV damage - sort of, the take-away is that as far as anyone can tell it has an indefinite lifespan) pillows which run about 320' long, 18' wide, and at their deepest are about 2' thick. They're kept inflated by a low pressure air compressor that uses about as much energy as a 40W light bulb. The ETFE is held by aluminum extrusions which are supported by steel cabling to prevent uplift and bending due to gravity. The arches are supported by brick and concrete steel reinforced piers... that's all for now.

Plywood Table

These are some screen shots of something I've been working on recently. It's a design for a table that I plan on building soon. It'll be made of varying thicknesses (1/8"-1/2") of baltic birch plywood. The design is an expression of how the table deals with loads - it's also overbuilt to withstand young drunken men - but none the less the design incorporates very little extraneous material.

The table top will be all ply facing vertically. I plan to file and sand quite a bit to give it a less rigid look. Plus, forces don't like to go around sharp corners - it stresses them out (our structures teacher loves to drop that one).