Urbanism To Me

Urbanism is people-watching. Urbanism is walking the dog at night. Waiting for the bus in the rain, comparing boots and disliking umbrellas.  Streets with or without cars; paths for wheels; sidewalks for eating, or shopping, or strolling. Bundling the baby in a stroller to get to daycare on cold mornings.  Riding the train to work.  City living and dreaming of owning a yard.  Visiting relatives in the suburbs to remember it’s not worth the yard. Traveling and walking, walking, and more walking.  Skyscraper views out the window, due South.  Baseball park views due North.  Fire-escape gardens and neighborly noises.  Studying strangers on the street corner. Calculating the groceries that fit in one backpack and 4 reusables bags. Anonymity amongst familiar crowds. Parallel parking and paying to park. Big parks, small playlots, and potted plants. Towers with elevators, third floor walk-ups, carriage units, roommates in houses with envious gardens, and double-loaded corridors. I’ve had the great fortune to experience life from all of these perspectives, which has catalyzed the urbanist in me. I’d love to know, what is your urbanism?

Submitted by JS ::: This is the first in a series of short posts that intend to further shed light on each of our interests.

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“God, Country, Notre Dame” – A Live Drawing for Auction

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One of our principals recently executed a drawing live at an auction to fund academic scholarships. Only took 7 hours (socializing included). Here is the time-lapse:

http://www.vimeo.com/mglmarchitects/godcountrynotredame

Gingerbread Architecture

Guest Post by MGLM’s Gingerbread Starchitect Mallory Mecham

Dec. 24, 2013

December is a time of year filled with holiday traditions, from the religious to the secular to the…architectural?

In my family, gingerbread is a tradition we take very seriously. Each year on Thanksgiving, we’d break out the bottles of molasses and bags of powdered sugar and whip up several batches of gingerbread and royal icing. We’d make a village that included four small, basic gabled-roof houses and one large church, complete with a steeple and stained glass window.

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Over the years, my interest in architecture grew, and our villages grew more and more elaborate.

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We diversified our patterns, added dormers and chimneys, and got more creative in the styles of the houses.

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It seemed a natural progression to apply this family tradition to the work we’re doing in the office. This year I made a quarter-scale model of an Arts & Crafts house that the office had designed for a competition.

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It has a lot of great architectural elements that presented some interesting challenges for the gingerbread/icing construction method – bay windows, columns, engaged dormers, a cantilevered wing with arches and brackets – but as in full-scale architecture, it was these details that really made the gingerbread house special. The following are some photos of the process:

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And some photos of it all coming together.

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As you can see, it has its similarities to actual construction! Foundations, walls, then the roof.

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Despite a few mishaps – broken walls, misshapen edges, and a near collapse – the house came together.

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While it may not stand the test of time (it is gingerbread, after all), it brought some holiday cheer to the office and some novelty to a time-honored tradition.

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all from MGLM Architects!

Traditional Khmer Art

Now that the Mayans were proven incorrect and the world hasn’t actually ended, we thought a post on some architectural art we commissioned might be nice. Coincidentally it is of the mythical Hindu god Kala, who, according to legend, consumes all living things during the advent of winter. If you subscribe to the myth, Kala is currently consuming the northern hemisphere. Southern hemisphere – you’re next!

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Above is a sketch one of MGLM’s principals generated during a trip to Cambodia in 2011. Two MGLM principals were there to discover construction techniques and develop relationships with artisans and contractors to execute designs we completed pro bono for the Charitable Education Organization and NGO, PEPY. They are a great organization that is doing essential work in Cambodia. If you know anything about Pol Pot or the history of the country, you know how important their cause is.
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Carved onto a significant number of lintels in many of the Cambodian Temple Complexes around Siem Reap, Kala represents change. In a way, it is the Cambodian version of the Latin maxim: Carpe Diem. It is a reminder that all things come to an end, so we should appreciate and make the most of the time we have. The sketch is an interpretation of a couple different lintels, and draws heavily from the most intricately carved temple buildings at Banteay Srei. The pink/red sandstone allows for incredible detail. In the sketch, the stylized curls going into Kala’s mouth represent the world. They are covered with the traditional Pnhee Plueng – the Fire Flower. The rest of the carving also utilizes the fire flower motif.
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While in Cambodia, our fantastic guide introduced us to an artisan school which is hard at work keeping alive the traditional Khmer arts. It is located at a Buddhist Temple and run by a very well respected monk, with whom, and his head artisan, we had the honor and pleasure of an audience. The story of the meeting we’ll save for another post. We gave them the sketch and, through our guide who translated everything, described how we would like it carved in wood, and what its dimensions should be. We left there assured of how highly skilled the artisans are but not sure how the carving would turn out.
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You can imagine our delight when this arrived 6 months later! The piece is perfect. The shipping cost was not exorbitant, making this something we are pursuing further.
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The detail and depth is amazing as is the care for its overall quality. We have plans to commission a number of other carvings, and we are also accepting requests. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to take advantage of this amazing resource, but more importantly, help keep traditional arts alive.
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