"I note when a building is being made, free of servitude, that the spirit to be is high allowing not a blade of grass in its wake."
In his 1969 lecture to students at ETH Zurich, “Silence and Light,” Louis Kahn presents his discourse on architecture as the seeking of the most basic principles of being, which he terms “silence and light.” He characterizes design and architecture as the optimistic pursuit of man to craft their “desire for the yet not made, yet not expressed.” Kahn believed that even the materials and matter that buildings are composed of have a sort of spirit and will to express the unique desires of man.
Every work of his architecture went well beyond satisfying the basic needs of program by embodying a unique spirit of desire and optimism, crafted by silence and light. In his lecture, he briefly shares the energy of being on the construction site as on opportunity to catch a glimpse of the “spirit to be.”
Last week, our intern group had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the “spirit to be” at 6061 Broadway Office Building. While there were many things that we each took away from the experience of being on the job site, having worked on the project, I was overwhelmed by a sense of joy and gratification seeing the project on its way to reaching its full potential in service to our client.
Here are a few thoughts from the Interns that made the trip:
"Thanks for taking us on the site visit. It was very useful, especially to me. It is the first time I visited a construction site in the USA. Like I said in the intern meeting, it is very different for me to see the structural details here compared to the ones that I have seen in India. Almost all the structures in India are built out of concrete columns unlike steel structures. I personally found that concrete structure might be stronger than steel structure visually, regardless of the strength calculations of both the structures. The walls are brick walls in India. (I am sure people in India would definitely prefer not to have wooden walls because they think it is easy for thieves to punch a whole and break in—just a fun fact.) But with respect to flexibility in handling various materials, I think wooden walls work much better. Also, the steel structure takes much less time to build compared to the concrete structure."
"Visiting the site was special to me because that was the very first project I worked on at Overland. This was also my first time visiting the ongoing construction of a commercial building I had worked on. Until then, I had only worked and visited construction sites of residential projects. I am fortunate I had the chance to work and continue assisting with the construction administration of this project and also to be able to see this project (hopefully) completed before I leave Overland.”"
"The construction was at the PERFECT stage for a site visit—steel all up with the envelope just starting to be put into place. The best part was undoubtedly the presence of Alan, the very architect who oversaw the project and worked through all the meticulous details. This gave us all an incredible insight into the work that we would not have gained otherwise."
"The site visit was a really awesome experience. I’ve worked on a whole bunch of jobsites before, and you always learn something new from being there. This was my first time on a commercial site, which was totally different from residential. I’ve never seen a site with that little dust and general mayhem. I’ve been on sites that are so bad that when you try to do something, they feel like one of those slide puzzles you used to play with as a kid because everything is in your way! I don’t know if that’s because of the cleanliness of the super/contractor or because of the distinction that it’s a commercial project, but that was cool to experience.
It’s also cool to see the guts of a building before it’s all dressed up with finishes and whatnot. It gives me a little more insight into all that it takes to make a building look and feel and operate the way you want it to. It was also great seeing the application of the roofing membrane and watching the process of hot welding. There’s a big difference between knowing how details are drawn and knowing how details are physically constructed. It was also good for me to see the tiniest little window/peephole into CA world. Most of the sites I’ve been on either aren’t big enough for an architect or the architect simply doesn’t do his job, goes AWOL, and leaves us with shoddy drawings to work from. But it was good to see what a contractor/architect relationship should look like when it comes to solving dilemmas that were overlooked in the drawing phases or dealing with drawing inconsistencies like the one that Alan clarified for the contractor."
"I think that site visits are very important because you get to see construction documents come to life. I like the experience of seeing the “skeleton” of a building and being able to understand how connections work and materials come together. This site visit allowed me to see steel structure with fireproofing for the first time and have a better understanding of structure frames. This site visit was very important because it gave me a new perspective of other architect’s duties outside the office (and I loved wearing a hard hat). I learned about the relationship between architect and contractor and the importance of communication to achieve the best craftsmanship possible. I can openly say that this has been the best construction site I have ever been to and also the most exciting. Lastly, being on site is eye opening because you see the problems an architect has to deal with on site, and the best part is to see how these issues are being resolved. Thank you Overland and the team for allowing me to have this experience, because at the end of the day, people who occupy these buildings will never know what is under that shell or “skin” … I feel like that is the beauty about being an architect."
Kahn believed that architecture and design are an optimistic pursuit. At Overland, we firmly believe the same. Everything is design. Everyone is a designer. We are all in the business of optimism in the pursuit of understanding our most basic principles of being through the practice of architecture. Visiting our projects under construction is a privilege that gives us an opportunity to learn from the unique “spirit to be.