17 January 2012

Intoxicating trip down memory lane





Getting settled into our home....finally.....has prompted me to go looking for a few pieces of artwork, photographs, and keepsakes that have been boxed up with the idea that some day they would adorn our walls. Most of these are kept in a long tote in the basement. I pulled it out the other day and then my trip down memory lane began.


When I finished the trim in my office I created a photo shelf off the top of the door across the wall. This allowed me to display a couple of pretty slick black and white photographs from college; each of which has special meaning to me. When I went to find them, I found a few other pieces of paintings from college-4 decent ones that I've kept all these years-and I took the best of the lot for my office and told the kids they each had to choose one for their rooms. No one wanted the alien-looking guy climbing toward infinity.


Then I came across "the ugly picture" as my wife refers to it. It is a chromolythic print that hung in my great x3 grandmother's kitchen, from the late 1800s. It was given to me maybe 20 years ago and has been in storage ever since. I've sized it up for a frame but my wife says no way will that hang in our kitchen. I don't see this as a closed case-stay tuned for more on the ugly picture.


But what I finally landed on, and spent a fair amount of time reminiscing over were the drawings from my thesis while in the school of architecture. Your thesis project is supposed to exemplify everything you've learned in school and culminate with a kick-butt project. Your class is given a redevelopment site and you select a building site and program within that context. The year before us went to California for their project; the year behind us went to Alaska. We, well, we went to Milwaukee.
But that's ok. Milwaukee is a unique, blue collar, down and dirty rugged sort of city.......and it led to the inspiration to design a building that both embraced the industrial nature of the city, but tried to capture the spirit of progress in its downtown. The building program I created for the building? A micro brewery with loft style apartments. How does that not scream Milwaukee? My project site was along the river and next to a massive old power plant, and in the shadow of several national brewers. I'm not a beer drinker, and my parents probably would have been mortified if I had told them what would represent 5 years of college education. Regardless, I began to study the brewing process, and the research became an integral part of the thesis project. And for precedent, at least with the building form, I went out and photographed every grain elevator I could find in a 50 mile radius. And while on a college trip in Oregon that year, we stopped at a micro brewery in Mt. Angel for additional "research".


Did you know that beer first arrived on America's shores with the European colonists? The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in December of 1620, because, in the words of one diarist aboard the Mayflower "we could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer." What did George Washington, William Penn, and Thomas Jefferson all have in common? They all brewed beer on their plantations.

By March of 1996, with graduation just a few months away, the program and general form of the building was set. I created a large "vault" between two massive brick end walls that contained the loft apartments. The vault was the brewery. A restaurant was dockside on the river and I created large dining rooms cladded in copper to give the effect of brewing vats. The plans and elevations were drawn with graphite and colored pencil. The model-I was always jealous of my buddies who did great models-explored materials as much as rusted steel to mimic cortin steel, copper, wood, and glass. And yes, the "vats" are tuna cans painted with copper paint. I even honored my two professors that year by depicting their faces on one drawing of two monks holding each side a a giant vat. Yes, my colleagues pointed it out to them.



The only thing I remember from my presentation.....which I cleaned up on......was that the jury thought the drawings were "intoxicating" and that it would have only been better had I served beer to the jurors. I made a mental note of that, but to this date have never served beer to my clients. Maybe one day, when I am a multi millionaire, I'll build it myself.

1 comment:

Troy Sherk said...

I like that building a lot, and I've actually become a bit of a beer drinker over the past year. I like the craft beers, and usually just have one or two at a time. They're much better than the typical draft stuff, but it's really all about finding what you like. Stouts used to be my favorite, but lately I've really begun to like doppelbocks, which are a German type. Set up a brewery for me to make my own doppelbock.