Friday, May 8, 2009

Humana Building Essay

The Humana Building in Louisville, Kentucky was designed and built by Michael Graves from 1982 – 1985 in what some say is a staple of the Postmodern movement. This skyscraper building is one of Graves’ most well known, due to its twist on classic features and the unique materials he used. It is 26-stories high and sits on the Ohio River. The Humana Building was made for the Humana Company which specializes in health care. There is actually a combination of many classical forms, from multiple time periods utilized in the design. Also, this building is unlike other skyscrapers due to the fact that, although it is a large rectangular box similar to other skyscrapers which surround it, each façade differs in a combination of style, shape and color.

The heavy appeal to the façade connects this building firstly to Romanesque architecture, where the front façade is considered the most important. This is a significant comparison because the building is putting on a show for the viewers who walk past, and the detail put into it makes the building more important to those simpler ones surrounding.

At the top of the building, or what is the conference floor, it shapes into a form similar to that of a ziggurat*; a Ziggurat is a type of temple. This once again connects the viewer to the grand feeling and gives of an air of importance about the company, and it helps to make the building intimidating.

At the base, the bottom eight floors of the building are made of large columns which are so wide and tall they will intimidate any customer. The idea of columns originates from Greek and early Roman design, and I believe is utilized by Graves to, once again, express the importance of the building.

The mix of these classical elements – a ziggurat from the Egyptian time, columns from the Greek and Roman period, an important façade from the Romanesque period – all occupy two reoccurring themes. These are, as I have mentioned, intimidation and importance. Healthcare is very significant to people in our country, it is difficult to live well without it. In this way, I believe Graves chose these significant features because they related to the point of the company. They also were easily recognizable and respected. The second factor, intimidation, was key in Graves design because health care itself is no easy thing. Unrelated to the business however, I think Graves also used these obvious designs because in the time of post-modernism, when it was considered okay to borrow from the past but American designers were still searching for what “American design” was, he wanted to put a twist on classic elements, making that statement and connecting the past to the present.

The building not only harkens back to classic designs, but it emulates the surrounding buildings which were previously in existence. He created the 8-story loggia – an Italian design – to sit with the small buildings and shops on the street front (to the right it you face the building), though he still made it taller reinforcing his buildings importance once again. The remaining 18-stories were built up into a skyscraper which places it on the same level of importance as those skyscrapers surrounding it, but most noticeably the tall skinny one to the very left.
Although it has the loggia, making the base almost square, the majority of the building is a rectangle, being vertical in shape. The building has these strong verticals, once again relating it to classic designs where buildings reached up ‘as far as the eye could see.’ This works especially well since most of the surrounding buildings are short – with the exception being the before mentioned tall, skinny skyscraper. It is definitely set apart from this building as well, and that is by the materials which were used to construct the Humana Building.

The skyscraper to the left is made of what seems to be steel and glass, popular during the revolution, while Graves’ Humana Building is made from unique pink granite. Most of the windows are small, differing once again from the other skyscraper which is basically all windows. Graves chose the pink granite** specifically because he wanted a unique material that was this pink color and texture, though it did cause uproar, because of where it came from.

Graves probably did not consider the three factors of commodity, firmness, and delight, but he did a good job incorporating them. The building has a unique design, provoking people to notice, to stop and look. The material is not widely used, and because of this it is very appealing to people walking by; it provides interest. It was functional and commodious, for example, because the columns at the base help to keep the structure standing, while also serving as a grand entrance way. There is also a large, open curved space near the top which serves as an observation deck. This deck allows for a wonderful view of the Ohio River as well as other surrounding buildings – accessible, though, only to those who attend the meetings, or those of importance, once again creating the superiority of the building.

When compared to the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, one can see many obvious differences; I chose it due it the subtle similarities. The uses of the buildings differ and, though the Proximity Hotel it quite large, it is not as tall as the Humana building. They are different classifications all together, one is a skyscraper. The similarities, though, are the geometric shapes seen through the facades of both buildings. The Humana Building has varying façades, but down to its basics the windows are all squares that follow in straight rows and columns, through the whole side of the building. The Proximity Hotel is the same – it has rows and columns of square windows which never vary in size or placement. They both also have an X mark on a window, or in the place of a window, which furthers the geometric pattern.

Personally I find the Humana Building by Michael Graves to be a very intriguing building. He combines many classic elements, as well as new modern one to create a place for people to enjoy. I believe he blends the elements together nicely, and I appreciate the way in which he designed all the façades differently. Last, I believe he designed the building well in comparison to its use – a calming yet complex place that deals with things that aren’t so simple such as healthcare.

Michael Graves: Buildings and Projects 1982 – 1989; Princeton Architectural Press
Kings of Infinite Space: Frank Lloyd Wright & Michael Graves; Charles Jenks

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Opus 14

Architects wanted their buildings to have meaning. They wanted to give back to the community with an attempt at architecture being “exalted to become rich and meaningful.” (Roth 608) These designers created environments for groups of people, living and working together in traditional ways (Roth 607) – they were not designing based on what they wanted in particular. They wanted to create places of less monotony and more life, establishing clear identities. Also at this time a main influence which affected the community was sustainability. There are some exceptions to this, but by and large, the issue of sustainability has grown in importance on a global level, and also for the whole of the design community. (Massey 219) This has affected multiple aspects of design; renewable resources are being used, making some ‘exotic’ materials – such as ebony – banned, and there is a more careful thought out use of energy, the use of natural light for example. (Massey 219-221). An example of a design excelling in this is Yeang’s Menara Mesiniaga Tower. It has separations between the floors and an open service core allowing air flow; the windows which face the east and west are shaded to prevent the use of excess air conditioning. (Roth 609) This is just one buildings example, however, in how the entire design community is working to decrease the amount in which they negatively affect the land, and increase sustainability.

This issue of sustainability - which some say is the main issue of design at this time – I have already mentioned is a way in which designers have displayed stewardship. They are trying to improve the effects of their buildings and designs for themselves and others present, the future inhabitants of the earth, and the earth itself. They are picking products which require “less intrusive extraction of the raw materials and less toxic production process” and yet they are still maintaining a wonderfully designed building which also “depends less on the consumption of nonrenewable energy.” (Roth 608) This list, along with what I have already given expresses how designers and architects are trying to make the world a better, cleaner place to live.

With a new century comes new inventions, and new ways of thinking. I have already described one building, the Menara Mesiniaga Tower by Ken Yeang, in which he uses innovative ideas to create a more sustainable building. There are other aspects of design, however, where designers create new, modern, innovative ideas. The use of minimalist designs are seen throughout modern buildings – the Prada store in Tokyo has a minimal quantity of clothing on display, but a futuristic design with digital databases of the clothes in stock (Massey 235). Another example, the 4-you Youth Savings Bank in austria, by Burgler and Petrovic, utilizes a baseball themed design to attract young people to the bank.
These two designs have little to do with the functions of the building, but are new ways of expressing the meanings. Also, another design being utilized recently is that of music being blasted through stores and buildings. This music creates a feeling, similar to that of the buildings meaning or location perhaps, but not necessarily to what is actually seen in the design of the building. (Massey 239)

At this time in design, I see it as difficult for anything to be authentic, or perceived as authentic. Many designs emulate pre-existing designs. Even if a designer or architect has a new innovative idea, chances are it was already in use in some way at some time. This can be difficult to judge, however. Take sustainability for example – although it is a design aspect that has recently become popular, the first sustainable designs can be linked back to when people used local materials which were in abundance, large windows, or the weather to their advantage, the even if it was unintentional.

This week I have learned through the discussion and reading that community has lead to less ‘crap in the suburbs’ housing being built, though it is still being built quite a lot. The consideration of community has also brought forth the aspect of sustainable design and how designers and architects have been trying to become better at sustainability. All of these considerations have created new (somewhat authentic) innovative designs to our community, local and global.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


There was a concentration at this time of 'less is more' as Mies Van Der Rohe put it. It was a meditaion on what the building was about and a celebration of the building itself. There was less of an impact of what was in the building and the focus was the building - that was the art. This 'less is more' attitude also allowed for concentration on the small, important details of a building, and not the overwhelming, distracting things that may be put into it.

This 'less is more' also created a juxtapositioning. Take Mies van der Rhoe's barcelona chair, for example. It transposed what one was expecting with the juxtapositioning of materials. It was as if the chair was floating due to its thin metal frame. This cold frame however was paired with a comfortable leather seat - this then marries the use of machine with comfort. It is a chair made for the human form, one which you can slide right into. It also has a hand-made curve in the metal, which contrasts the machine feel it has.

As we discussed last week, and hit on again this week, there was a bold flattening of space in which geometrics was key, and things were reduced to basics. This was both literal - the forms used to make the buildings were not at all hidden - and abstract in that the ideas were new and, still being worked on. Take Crown Hall at IIT, a college campus, by Mies van der Rhoe for example. It was abstract because he created 16 identical buildings which were difficult to tell apart and in abundance. These were literal though, because they were basic buildings which allowed you to focus on small details.

During this time of 'less is more' there was also a strong impact of light, and the shadow it created, on a space. Some homes that were built had large windows which allowed for light to enter in, and in turn created shadow. These small details were not overlooked, and were utilized by the designers.

There were many things we discussed this week concerning modern designs and what is to come next. Some challenges to Modernism were historic preservation, where designers prefered to look back to the past for information, technology, which allowed for things such as deconstructivism (not at all a minimalist design, it has many details) and locality, or the use of what materials and building designs were already there (or the opposite - international). All of these factors led to the post modern movement.

Sunday, April 19, 2009



Shape: This week we focused mainly on the early 20th century. We learned that what was happening in art began to shape what happened in architecture, and vise versa - they effected each other greatly. In art, the loss of perspectuve and flattening of space was widely used - fauvism and cubism were two techniques, and they also employed neutral colors and geometrical shapes. (friday massey reading) These elements were reflected in architecture - minimal colors were used, and there were cleanly shaped walls with little to no decoration.

Speculate: At this time, designers and architects alike speculated about the future of architecture. There were multiple interpretations which included fauvism, cubism, futurism, expressionim, and art noveau. The first two included a flattening of space, with geometrical patterns and neutral colors. The next two involved bright, colorful geometrical patterns, flattening space, and frozen movement. Destijl involved abstracting down to the basics. Of course, there were more explorations into art and architecture at this time, but these were examples to express the common factors - flattening space and geometry.

Compose: I have already mentioned that the artists and architects at this time composed their designs, usually, using geometrical shapes and flattened space. All of these designs, at the time, were modern. In the Modern Movement, however was the institute of design known as the Bauhaus, which was created because Gropius merged two schools - the School of Arts and Crafts at Weimar, and Weimar Academy of fine Arts. (Roth 522) Here, the designers were concerned with their products being "cheap, durable, and 'beautiful'" in order to be functional, according to Gropius. (Roth 524)

Stretch: The new ideas brought by members of the Bauhaus, as well as other modern designers at this time, were stretched to new heights. The Chrystler building, for example, as well as the Empire State Building, were modeled after what was popular at the time - the speed and form of the automobile. Also, buildings and objects weren't being created only for the rich - America was becoming a country revolved around consumerism. More and more things were being created to satisfy the need people felt at this time, stretching the function and quality of products.

Through this week we discussed The Modern Movement, and other modern buildings. We explored the flattening of space, use of geometrical patterns, use and lack of color, and the complete stripping of surface decoration as well as the exposed systems.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Unit Summary: Reflections

The refections unit of this course took place duirng the 18th and 19th centuries. It dealt with rewriting the rules again - it relfected both classical and renaissance designs, while still incorperating present day. There was also more communiction at this time, by way of transportation and media, which cause news to travel faster, therefore it was easier for nations to eplore other nations' designs. Due to this, there was a linkage between west and east; it brought the exotic, ideas closer. There was also much mixing of cultires through decoration.

At this time east meets west also meant The United Stated copying England - during trade, the classical world came in conatact with the US; this was before the revolution. For example, houses in the US were being built in rural and suburban areas, with plain decorations, small windows, and were constructed almost always out of wood - this resembled English designs taking place at the same time.

After the revolution took place, North American design became more about classic revivals than copying england, and these ideas were used across the nation - Roman buildings were used for Washington, and Greek deaigns were used for other governmant buildings.

During the industrial revolution, design bacame all about the use of glass and iron. These elaments were seen in multiple countries, and they were often competing for the the largest or best use of them. These materials also allowed for fast, easy construction (iron) and a smooth, clean, airy appearance (glass) - together they spanned large distances, and were able to control the environment, connecting the exterior and interior.

The term Japonisme meant the Japanese simplicity of form - using only line to define features and nothing else - which was first visualized in comic book pages. Soon after, people in the US began to imitate Japanese forms, as well as other popular western forms - Egypt, and China mostly, as well as the continued imitation of European forms.

This was the start of experimentation - then people began to question it, some thought immitation of other places designs was inapproprite, and that designs should stick local. Regardless of this, designers began to feel that anything was possible due to the increase in technology. This increase brought forth a new question - should things be handcrafted, or done by machine? This began the arts and crafts movement which lasted a while. In the end, however, classicism was still the number one design chioce in America.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Roots: Similar to source, roots can mean the foundation of a buildings design; not the literal foundation which keeps a building standing, but the other ideas and elements incorperated into its design. The roots of the Trinity Church in Boston, for example, harken back to Romanesque Buildings. The Romanesque style was actually very prevalant in the 19th century because designers were linking to the past. As we didcussed in class, the Romanesque style was Roman revival, and this time was Romanesque revival. Some of the United State's first real designs are linked to Wright and the Greene brothers, as well as many others, who helped to create a post-modern era where any classic elements used were then fiddled with and re-created to be their own.

Concepts: Due to the influx of designers with new, different ideas (those specifically located in or around Chicago, California and New York) different concepts were being used in the design and construction of buildings. For example, there was a race for height. There were also new elements being used; concrete, steel and glass changed the way arches were built, now with a lighter frame. Other concepts, such as the importance of specialized rooms in a house - specialized for comfort of privacy - became more apparent as well.

Materiality: Along with the new materials (steel, glass and concrete) being new concepts for design, they were very important to the revolution. The sense of materiality was imperative because designers were looking for "the new modern" and that is just what these materials gave them. The use of these materials also aided in connecting people with nature and the outside. Full glass walls were used to experience the outside inside, and certain iron work is used in sich a curving way that it mimics actual natural elements.

Congruents: When something is congruent, it is the connecting of two or more angles in a geometric way. We saw this in class with William Jerry's Home Insurance Building in Chicago - he used horizontal spandrels to connect the vertical window lines, making it appear continuously horizontal, though the windows went vertical. Congruants may also be, I suppose, a connection of two or more ideas, desings or even times; connected in a logical way, by materials, designer, or time. At this time in the 19th century, there had been much change which occured quickly, and many felt a need for meaning, which is why designers took time to study and emulate the "romantic past" which people longed for.

Compression and Release: After the classical revival, postmodernism began. I believe the classical revival was the compression - compression of ideas and designs (though new materials were being used, and some designs had new twists, it was still similar) - and postmodernism was the 'out-of-the-box' release that we all sensed was comming. With this wave of new designs, some elements remained the same, but there was a sense of more private space, and, as I have mentioned, new materials, and a connection to the outside. Buildings and rooms were holistically designed, and things were brought into a space to be complements, not complete matches. Texture also played an important role at this time, as well as rooms made for a specific purpose - not with multiple purposes.

This week we discussed more about the 19th century - how the classical, romanesque elements were revived, and how post-modernism changed many peoples outlook on design. There were new elements encorperated, and people were building vertical again, instead of horizontal. There were still roots back to classic designs, but with a modern twist.