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polish national home / george c. arnold building

October 19, 2009 at 5:43 am

I am working on too many projects at once but THAT IS OKAY.

polish home drawing

This is for a commissioned print of the Polish National Home, in my neighborhood, that has been renovated by Olneyville Housing Corporation, the local community development non-profit, for use as their offices.

I got to see the original blueprints for this building, and even some preliminary proposal drawings for it. In the preliminary drawings, it had an art-deco style chain-hung metal-and-glass awning over the door… then by the final blueprints, there is this totally awkward neo-classical pediment thing going on. Why? I don’t know.

polish home drawing detail

Ink is going onto mylar over the super precise pencil drawing. I forgot how much fun making this kind of drawing is.

It was great to figure out the geometry and composition of the front door corner facade: reminding me again that even a strange little building like this one has a proportional rhythm to it. The perspective looks wrong because the building is on a hill: the street to the right goes up steeply, but it looks like the line where the building meets the road is receding too sharply. Any suggestions about how to solve that problem?

The blueprints have great hand-lettering on them. At some point soon I’ll try & post some pictures of them and of other old blueprint lettering that Rob C. & I found recently…

… on the sad end of the spectrum, I suspect that the George C. Arnold building, aka “the skinny building”, is about to be torn down. The owner was grudgingly beginning to address its structural issues, and had put up some scaffolding along the back wall (which is windowless) when there was a suspicious fire. Last week, the scaffolding was taken down… which, to me, seems to bode ill for the building’s long-term survival.

george c. arnold building, providence, ri

It’s on the corner of Washington & Mathewson streets, in downtown Providence. Go visit it, pay homage, take some beautiful pictures, ask yourself again why the heck they ever built a building that is only ONE ROOM WIDE, maybe call the preservation society even though they are generally kind of ineffective these days… I don’t know what course of action to recommend… If it is demolished, a lot of people will miss it greatly.

If I had more time and was less project-schizophrenic and in a super-intense emotional state all the time, I would sit out there downtown, even in this cold October weather, and make some awesome drawings of it, probably crying giant tears the entire time… Things being as they are, I just took a bunch of pictures (crying giant tears the entire time) that will hopefully be able to serve as photo-reference for some drawings and prints in the future.


[no longer] !

June 25, 2009 at 6:19 am

1) I am drawing? It is good. I am engaged, staying up late, forgetting to eat. (That doesn’t sound good, but it’s better than getting distracted by making cookies.) It looks like a house? Kind of, getting there.

advancing the drawing

The way that this happened was that Andrew OOO came over and sat at my second desk tonight, we drew at the same time. THANK YOU AO. (That also means that both my desks are cleared off. Also, not coincidentally, the floor is clear of clothes and the cat litter is freshly changed. This is a big deal.)

2) Yes, I am more or less where I was at 11 months ago.

I think that’s okay? or at least it’s gotta be.

3) Yes, this is the print series print #2. all right. it is, for real, happening.

4) And, francis d.k. ching‘s Building Construction Illustrated is the best book ever. Clearest explanation of everything he explains, of anybody I’ve ever seen. Plus the whole thing is HAND LETTERED. god damn.

5) best acronyms of “out of order” sticker:

messes up the formica

medical condition

band name?

colloquial translation

so they cheered Muntadhar al-Zaidi

somewhat overblown operatic production


my favorite.

thanks to cross-country internet architect friend Eric for the [brackets]!

making challah at the all-night art lock-in at New Urban Arts

April 20, 2009 at 9:17 am

late Friday night/early Saturday morning: while others were sleeping, we were making challah bread. Thanks everybody!

10:34 pm. Mixing the dough:


10:35 pm. “Can I use my hands?”


10:36 pm. It feels soft, squishy, and good.

crazy hands!

10:39 pm. Kneading:

kneading part 1

putting materials together, to make useful things: part 1.

November 1, 2008 at 9:42 pm

This past week saw a great burst of work on the kitchen up in Worcester!

Here, Anna and Andrew are dismantling what’s left of the old counter on last Friday morning. The old sink used to be to the left of where Anna is standing…

anna and andrew taking apart the old counter

When the old sink’s plumbing and faucet totally broke down a couple of months ago (after a year+ of malfunction) Andrew and others went ahead and set up the new sink (scavenged from the Cohasset town dump by Nick’s mom) where you can see it in this photo under the window. He had tiled the counter, but because the backsplash tiling didn’t get completed, and the sink didn’t get caulked down, water splashed out over time, and had dislodged the tiles and also wetted the lath and insulation behind the sink… no good. Because of this, and for a couple other reasons (the old counter was 3-4 inches too low, the old plywood was not re-usable because of broken mortar and grout, it protruded awkwardly to the right of the sink, the space underneath it was dingy and gross, the plaster wall behind it was crumbling… etc) we decided to take the whole thing out and build it anew.

Thus the main focus of our work this past week was the sink area, getting it as far as possible along towards having a well-installed, fully-functional, completely-waterproofed sink and counter!

This is where we were at, early Sunday evening:

andrew working on the new counter

In the photo we are gluing and clamping a small piece of plywood onto the edge of the newly installed counter to form the understructure for an overhang and ‘drip edge’. (The crumbling plaster has been replaced with plywood.) Later in the evening (and way into the morning!) we mortared and tiled the plywood surface, using re-purposed tiles in two colors that were, by necessity and choice, cut and arranged into awesome patterns. No pictures of the final stages yet, that’s gonna be part 2!

I came back to Providence Monday evening. Then Thursday morning back to Worcester to do 2 more days of work. Now I’m back to Providence for a while, to work on prints for Craftland. Though I may go back to Worcester for a day or two, to keep the momentum going!

The intensity of the kitchen work kept me from finishing my ‘bread baking’ poster in time for the ‘sustainability art show’. It was actually a good thing I think: I would have been glad to be part of the show, but working on the kitchen, which will actually affect people’s daily lives! is more important to me. Getting to build things: to start with ideas, drawings, and discussion, then to put them into action and construct useful objects, was a crucial reminder of what my purpose in the world is. As far as I can tell!

More photos of last weekend’s work in progress follow: (more…)

sucked in

July 17, 2008 at 6:28 am

…These past weeks have seen lots of work on the ‘privacy’ print.

Looking back over my notes on Edward Tufte, thinking more about the organization of the whole print, I figured out how I am going to lay it out. There will be an axonometric drawing of a living space on the bottom half of the print (this one will be kind of like a ‘dollhouse view’, we will be looking in from above & be able to see all the rooms and how they are connected). From every place (‘moment’?) where an interesting dynamic between personal and shared space is created, there will be a line leading up or down to a smaller diagram or perspective drawing, plus some text describing how each spatial connection does what it does. This is exciting, since it lets the different doorways and connections exist in a context, related to each other, rather than floating in space — it gives them an added layer of meaning.

[early stage]

This also implies that I need to actually draw a building. This is: “Scary!! (fun?)” as I wrote on my large brainstorming sheet of paper a week ago… The building I’ve been working on is kind of theoretical, since it is only one story, even though any living space of this size (5 bedrooms) in a city (small lot sizes) in New England (cold climate) would almost definitely be a 2-or-more-story building. However, when you have more than one story, it’s relatively straightforward to define private spaces, since the stairs can be used to create the separations between private and public, and even make subtle refinements within those categories… Last week, one of the subscribers told me about figuring out how to use the space in her house: she put her bedroom and office on the second floor, and then created a “guest zone” on the third floor, so that her guests can feel like they have their own special place, and not feel like they are getting in her way or invading her personal space when they visit Providence and stay with her.

So both for graphic purposes, and to deal with the more difficult problem of creating privacy when the whole living space is on the same floor, I’m going with a slightly unrealistic 1-story building.

[later stage — “I broke the drawing”]

… to make it more realistic, though, I am working on making a believable structure and roof plan…


… and because I couldn’t figure out the roof issues to my satisfaction by drawing it on paper, I let myself be persuaded by Andrew to make a model on the computer.

[early in the process…]

This involved me cursing at the screen for a couple of hours while conquering the learning curve on Sketchup, then getting pretty psyched about it (though still frustrated occasionally…)

It’s been an interesting drawing experience, since I haven’t used a computer drafting program since a long time ago in school. Skp doesn’t have a very intuitive interface for moving your point of view around, or moving the model around — I’m using key shortcuts and a mouse, very awkward, so it feels like inventing a new way of moving in space, like learning to walk from scratch. However (or maybe because of this?) I find myself almost physically connected to the building I’m drawing: I’ve found myself craning my neck to look around a corner… it’s very strange.** Sketchup is probably most satisfying when you accidentally jump into the wall of the building itself and things get glitchy… suddenly you are making nice Thom Mayne or Zaha Hadid drawings, congratulations! I’ve been taking lots of screen captures. It’s three days later, now, though, and I still haven’t finished the roof plans. A fruitful distraction.

… in other news, I am moving my sleep schedule back four hours, so that instead of going to sleep at 10 am and waking up at 6 pm, I can go to bed at 6 am and wake up at 1 pm. Tonight I’m a little late… but working towards it. !

* the green cardstock = cutoffs from those wedding invitations I printed a while ago!

** I’ve never experienced Second Life, but I find myself wonder what Sketchup would be like if the interface, for navigating in space at least, was something like the one shown in this slightly weird but fascinating video from the makers of SL…

show opens today. . . .

May 4, 2008 at 9:02 am

and it’s almost ready.

[The back room/drawing room mess pile. I will document the show & put up some better images — for now, if you want to see any of this in focus, well… you gotta come to the gallery!]

I finished the brand new “57-59 Curtis St.” print at around 4 am — printed a third color on a bunch of copies of the “Ruins” print (aka “Pierre Van Passen Interviews Buenaventura Durruti, Aragon, Spain, 1936”) — washed the ink out of that screen — now to take a shower while it dries. Out of the shower — set up the screen again and print the fourth color. Then — done! and, sleep.

There will be other logistics to think about (for example, it’s raining, so I’ll have to find a ride to get my stash of posters over to the gallery), but if I can get that last color printed and looking all right on at least one copy of the print, I will be happy and feel that my somewhat perverse last-minute determination hasn’t failed me, at least not this time.

Today, Sunday, May 4, 4-7 pm, AS220’s project space (on mathewson, off washington, downtown providence). map & street view here. Come by & see the multiple reasons why I am so darn sleepy right now.

[front gallery, friday, before adjusting the lights, obviously. Stephen’s work is to the left. This is the part that looks like an “art show”… as I guess it’s supposed to? no logic here, sorry, too sleepy!]

Oh and yes, it is 9 am, and yes, I’m still awake!

the last night of the fruit & produce warehouse

March 25, 2008 at 8:29 am

Last Sunday, and another Sunday a couple of weeks before that, M— & I got up early(ish) and met up to go visit the old fruit & produce warehouse on Harris Ave. It’s being torn down, “legally”, in the same way that all demolitions of historic buildings in Providence are legal. Art In Ruins has the whole story, more links, many photographs, and comments from various people. Here‘s the ‘street view’ of it from last year, though who knows how long that link will last…

The demolition of this building is a shame and a crime. Along with a couple of way-too-large, brightly-lit branding/signs on redevelopment projects, golden retrievers being walked up & down Broadway, and the city’s Department of Arts, Culture, and Tourism (yup, those all belong together, folks!), it is one more reason on my list of reasons to leave Providence (which somehow hasn’t gotten long enough yet to a point where I actually leave…).

(image from Art In Ruins!)

When we were there on Sunday, I brought a measuring tape and went around measuring some of the construction details. When the warehouse was originally built, it was 965 feet long (about 100 of those feet were shorn off in 1998 when they built the Rt. 95/Rt. 6 & 10 interchange, which was also when the warehouse was finally closed). Though functional and utilitarian, and built on a massive scale to accommodate the trains and trucks that would pull up next to its loading docks, the building is clearly designed to be used by humans, at a human scale. It was a distribution center for fruits & vegetables, and though the building itself was huge, many small produce companies rented two or three or five of its 15-foot bays, and all had the same connection to the same regional/interstate network. Deep rigid awnings covered the docks to protect people and produce from the weather, but the first floor ceiling was extra-high to make room for a wide window above the awnings (seen in the photo above) which would light the spaces in which the workers spent their time. Compare with modern distribution centers — I couldn’t readily find an image of a really huge one, but you’ve seen them all over the countryside — there’s a massive BJ’s warehouse on Rt. 146 between here and Worcester if you need an example.

The basic function is the same (loading docks, trucks pull up, stuff comes in, stuff goes out) but any kind of details or proportions that would give the building dignity, rhythm, or identity has been cost-adjusted out of the plans — except for that nice white stripe. Natural light is dispensed with (making and maintaining a window is more expensive than making a wall, plus the building is easier to climate-control). The location (somewhere outside of the city) and the ownership structure (centrally owned and operated) both dictate that each warehouse will be accessed and used by one company only — the larger the company, the cheaper their costs will be, the huger a warehouse they can build, the larger a share of the regional economy they can control. The old Providence fruit & produce warehouse was significant not just because it was ‘historic’, and beautiful not only in its decay: from its beginning, it was a structure that fostered a different way of doing business — small-scale instead of massive, local-connected-to-regional instead of national-dominating-local, concerned with human life and experience, instead of concerned with spending less money. It was built by a city that had as its aim fostering better access to food and better business and work opportunities for its citizens — not by a company interested in increasing its market share and profits. All these things are not only political or idealistic: they were, from the start, built into the structure and the proportions of the building itself.

I was interested in paying some closer attention to some of these dimensions and details: what was left, at least. Drawing is pretty much the best way for me to give something my extended attention, comprehend the details, and make sense of connections between different things. Photos are helpful as reference after the fact, especially when time is limited, but the process of making a drawing is crucial to actually understanding something. M— is working on an epic drawing (which is probably going to be about 30 feet long!) of the entire length of the building, so she was also looking for details (of the rubble, as well as of the structure…). On Sunday, only three of the building’s 71 bays were left, and the last remaining cast-iron staircase had been pulled down out of its opening, so we had no way to go up to the second floor (besides a risky climb up a rubble-filled elevator shaft…). Most of the measurements of the upper floor could be inferred up from the facade at the ground floor, or counted off from the regular dimensions of the cinderblocks in the wall that had been built to close off the shortened end (at right in the photo below).

However, we were getting all nerdy and attempting to figure out the dimension of the bricks which were used to fill in the lower part of the walls on the second floor. We found some bricks sitting around the rubble, and measured those, and the widths of the mortar that remained attached to them… but then realized that they were the not the same bricks, but instead were bricks from the elevator shacks that had sat on top of the roof, and were (may have been?) added later… thus probably had a slightly different dimension. (They had a different texture, were a different color, and also most of them were hollow inside.) We scouted around for some of the other bricks on the ground, and found one big chunk, but the side facing up was the inside of the wall (much less even in spacing and mortaring than the outside), and it was too heavy to turn over. As I was trying to measure it, the cops pulled up and we decided to cheese it (of course, at an extremely leisurely and relaxed pace).

Well, tonight, Scøtt and I went back, at around 5 am (still too dark to take decent pictures) and found only one bay of the building remaining. The second floor of the second-to-last bay was falling down at a slope… and underneath it, sitting on the rubble pile, below a broken piece of concrete dangling precariously by a couple of strands of rebar… a large section of the 2nd floor bricks that we had wanted to measure.

  • length: 8″
  • length with mortar: 8 1/4″ to 8 1/2″
  • height: 2 1/4″
  • height of horizontal mortar strip: 3/4″
  • so, height of brick course including mortar: 3″

goodbye, building.

Here are the rest of my measurements from last Sunday.

a spicerack is born

January 9, 2008 at 2:59 am

In September, the wall on the stove-side of the chimney looked like this:

the forbes kitchen with plaster walls and shelves full of stuff

From almost the same point of view, here is Andrew working on patching the old stovepipe holes in the chimney that was within the wall. (Saturday Jan. 5)

the same wall, minus its shelves, with no plaster and a chimney revealed behind the wall

Sunday morning, Jan. 6 — the studs have been removed (note the props to L & R of the chimney) and the masonry repairs are complete.

the chimney stands alone

Sunday evening — The new wall/spicerack is in place, Kelly puts in screws to secure it to the ceiling joists.

a new wall, of 2x4s and plywood, is being put in in front of the chimney

Sunday night: it is structurally complete — though missing a bunch of smaller shelves.

the new wall has an alcove that will hold shelves for spices

Kelly & Anna demonstrate the sweet (if slightly tight on the right side) fit of the Forbes St. spice jars on the rack.

the bottom shelf of the spice rack holds five jars of spices across...

Anna, Nik, and Kelly are going to add the rest of the shelves for spices — next weekend we work on dismantling and rebuilding the other bearing wall on the opposite (sink-) side of the chimney.

nothing as promised

December 28, 2007 at 2:50 am

Well, a lot got done, but nothing got finished, so there was nothing of mine at the Millcraft sale, which was probably okay. Now I’m in another city (holiday and family time), not drawing or printing anything, but reading:

  • The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (I finished The Golden Compass/Northern Lights in 2.5 days)
  • Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
  • Anarchy and Order by Herbert Read, who also wrote a book called Art and Alienation which I obviously need to track down so I don’t re-write it
  • old issues of Wired magazine (1994-1995, 1999) which I saved ‘for some reason’ when I was in high school

Everything is pretty great, and the His Dark Materials series has me fast in its relentless grip, but the old copies of Wired are really the standout. In 1999 there was already ebay, and Wired had already become more consumer-oriented and easy-to-read. In ’94 and ’95, though, it’s like a publication aimed at people involved in a specific trade…. which it was.

The magazine’s graphic design is combative and challenging (but interesting!), each section and article uses a totally different graphic language, the ads are either laid out like those you would see in any other trade magazine (then or today), or are trying to employ something like cutting-edge (ie. really bad and illegible) design. Almost all the ads are for computer or internet related things, jobs, machines, software, etc (notably unlike the Wired magazine of today). Internet service providers are offering Mosaic for looking at images on the World Wide Web, many many interactive CD-ROMs are for sale (the ones made by the Residents get really good reviews), and Disney is putting in quarter-page ads for programmers and computer-type people to come work for them.

It’s fascinating, in the relaxing-in-a-time-warp way that coming back to this house at Christmastime is all about. I’ll put up some pictures tomorrow.

writing html = procrastination

November 30, 2007 at 5:50 am

I went away for the thanksgiving holiday, brought my computer with me, and worked on the web site. Now that I’m back, I’m continuing to work on it… for just a little while.

Website facts:

  • It’s so not done.
  • It is completely distracting me from doing “real work” aka: drawing and printing.
  • I know very little about making websites, and am continually learning in the “figuring it out as you go along” method.
  • It is infinite, fascinating, and could be worked on endlessly.
  • Progress is made very slowly.
  • It is extremely satisfying when something works right (in the phrase of my 9th grade QBasic teacher Matt Zipin, when I was able to tell the computer to do exactly what I wanted it to do).
  • There is nothing more exciting than knowing nothing about something, then five hours later, understanding (more or less) how it works and how to implement it towards your goals. Yeah learning!

screenshot of gallery in progress

Screenshot of new web site format, showing the gallery page (in progress).

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