Dean Rowe’s MOSI museum today

H. Dean Rowe’s Museum Of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa, desibuilt in 1978, was once a lonely outpost on Fletcher Avenue just before USF.  Today it’s surrounded by strip commercial, and the museum itself has expanded. The original structure is now a science magnet school with a new museum and other institutional facilities, but Rowe’s original remarkable structure has stood the test of time and created a singular space in Florida.

Rowe's structure, viewed from the plaza connecting it to a later addition

The building itself is dominated by two very large space frame roofs.  These are supported by cylindrical columns, some quite tall, that vary in length to allow the roof to fold down on its two long sides.  Rowe’s original concept was to shape the air, thermally venting it up between the two space frames and out.

The roof planes are not massive but rather have delicacy about them.  There’s something about the way the latticelike roof structure perches on the columns that is light, rather than heavy.   It serves to de-emphasize the roof even though it is large and dominates the space around it.

Under this roof, a series of trays stack up – two on one side, and three on the other.  The walls of these trays are infilled with concrete block, and all of this is left natural unpainted.  The scale of the roof makes these components, in turn, seem human in scale.  The softly curving ramp is a sculptural element at one end.

Interior space of the museum

Exposed utility systems – ducts, conduits, pipes – crisscross and are painted different colors to highlight them, a la Pompidou Center.  The building is, in fact, a subtle reference to this iconic Rogers & Piano museum.

Later, Antoine Predock added to the building, allowing Rowe’s original work to be converted to a school.  Rowe’s museum was a terrifically hard builing to build an addition to.  The way the roof slid over the building’s edges and captured vast amounts of space on either side must have been difficult to add to.  The two buildings touch but do not have a public access between them, and the only experience of them together is the plaza on the south side.

Predock’s roof forms and natural concrete reference Rowe’s design, but are subtly different.  Concrete corners in Predock’s are completely filled, rather than cut at 45 degree angles, a more difficult task for the workers but making the forms and shapes feel crisp.  Predock used a lot of stainless steel for steps, wall, and roof material, a new material blending well with the other aesthetic.

Predock’s single expressive form is a sphere of blue curtainwall, which is partly peeled and layered, to house a movie theater.  Occuring at one end of the structure, it provides a punch.

Unfortunately, every other addition since Predock has tended to dilute the power of the earlier work.  There’s a one-story blue roof building that looks like a shopping center; a ropes course structure that looks like it came out of a catalog, and a few other structures that clump around the main building.  Most stay a respectful distance.

Rowe’s structure is very, very simple in design, but hard for a viewer to grasp.  It took a few simple rules and made very unique spaces, a singularity of design, and Predock’s museum doesn’t really make things any clearerl  Like many of Rowe’s buildings, it references little in traditional architectural vocabulary, and instead creates its own completely.  This is one of its great strengths.  Only modern materials and technologies are used, and they are used to complete advantage:  the space frame was invented to carry very large spans, and it does elegantly.  Concrete was modernized to allow for unusual shapes and it has many; and the effect is a uncelebrated icon of twentieth century achievements.  The fact that it is in Florida simply reinforces the West Coast experimentalism that started with the Sarasota School in the 1940s and extended into a new generation.

I wish they took better care of Rowe’s  building, for it is full of dust and the walls are smeared with multicolored tropical mildew and goo.  At its base, the building has acquired the accoutrements of public schools – plastic playground equipment, chain link fences, random locked storage units.  It has the somewhat desultory air of a crashed airplane, its wings drooping over the landscape and reinhabited by innocent locals.

School bus dropoff area

Dreams of Escape

Opening January 1, 2016

Stardust Video and Coffee

1842 E. Winter Park Road

Orlando, FL 32803

Soviet Air

Opening January 1, 2016

Stardust Video and Coffee

1842 E. Winter Park Road

Orlando, FL  32803

Dreams of escape

Chaos can have a healing character

if it is coupled with the idea of open movement

to channel the warmth of chaotic energy into order or form.

-Joseph Beuys

Order and form are the two rails on which architecture rolls.  The newfound vigor of chaos derails architecture into black, deadend tunnels choked with soot, illimitable delays, and colorful desultory wrecks.  At the end of nearly every day, after observing or managing chaos, I depart the scene with nothing to show for it.  Nothing, except for small drawings.

Chaos is here to stay:  meaningless bright adversity, overbearing dull beige banality, and the profligate urgent shrillness of spendthrift capitalism all create absurdity and waste beyond even Kafka’s wildest imagination.   Arising out of this disorder come small bubbles of order, moments when one hand, temporarily unoccupied by the keyboard or the legal pad, can briefly roam free and make a connection between things that are separated.

This installation is a bank, a place where I deposit my dreams of escape.  I participate in the warmth of chaotic energy without emotion; instead I invest emotions into small things, the open movement of my hand creating these dreams of escape. Meanwhile, order and form get restored.

Few, if any, of these are actual planes.  They are dreams of aircraft, sketched during chaos; they are ways out.  Tiny, quickly scratched blossoms of highly ordered objects, droplets of comfort and calm.

Left side Right side
F6F Hellcat model in cement

Bomber engine

fighter nose

British twin engine fighter

early jet air scoop

flying boat

Russian helicopter

Comically fat Russian jet

Slightly comical American fighter

Russian fighter flying overhead

Bomber

BAC Caravelle ghost

F-16 ghost

F-117 ghost

Fighter, probably Russian

Sub patrol aircraft

Supersonic airliner

Navy fighter caught with propeller

Bomber on crumpled paper

Dive bomber far away

Russian transporter tail

Eastern European jet trainer

Russian jet of some kind

Early jet fighter coming at  you

The one and only B-58

Two-engine passenger plane

Bit of a carrier-based navy plane

Bomber

Bomber engine

Early Swedish jet trainer studies

Another eastern European jet trainer

Kind of a British fighter-bomber

Yet another eastern European jet trainer

Russian turboprop bomber with Russian jet transporter flying in formation

A MiG

An air intake

Another MiG

P-38s over a house

Possibly a Tupolev under the drawing

Richard Reep
Winter Park, Florida

2016

MiG-3
MiG-15

Contemporary Tabby

Cement works update

Ancient tabby marks Florida’s sense of place.  Tabby is the colloquial name for an early Spanish colonial form of cement.  A cake of sand, lime, shells, and water created an architecture of walls and forts.  Some of this is still extant today.

Tabby wall, St. Augustine, 16th c (left closeup)

This series of contemporary tabby adds manmade materials in the same mixture.  Lime, or calcium hydroxide, is the main ingredient of Type I Portland Cement.

Contemporary Tabby 1

Shells served as aggregate in Spanish tabby.  The aggregate helps bind the cement together, increase volume.  Aggregate also helps break up clods of lime when mixing.  The Titan that I mixed for this series was pure Type I with no aggregate, and it was very laborious to mix it to a smooth, even consistency.

I harvested the shells and the manmade material from Siesta Key Beach in July 2015, off the coast of Sarasota.  The manmade portions in this first piece occur in approximately the same density as found on the beach.  This indicates that the proportion of natural-to-manmade material on the beach is pretty high.

Air

Monoliths


Coming this fall, the latest of a series of experiments in cement.

I have always shied away from judgement, but I’ve pretty much concluded that western capitalism has remade everything into a single homogenous mass.  While my day job is to articulate this mass (architect) my actual purpose I think really is to unmask it.  I feel sort of like a Robin Hood of ideas, stealing from globalism and giving to those of us starved for localism and specificity of ideas.
Monolith #3, side view
By this I mean:  I recently completed a concrete structure, and was far more excited about the structure as an expression BEFORE it got smeared with stucco and sealed up with tacky windows.
My work in concrete is inspired by many visits to urban parts of Mexico, and how they use it as an architectural finish.  So I think for the next period my body of work will be to unmask this soulless homogenous monolith that we like to think of as “globalism” in its built form.
Most people react the same way, and the easiest summary that one heasrs is “there’s a Panera’s everywhere” (which replaced the ubiquitous Starbucks a couple years ago).  Anyone who is aware has definitely noticed the homogenization of our built environment, and has reacted to it with native disdain.  This is a mark of a healthy person, one who is wary of this trend.
But just as globalization protests in 2000’s Seattle Global Trade Convference were ultimately ignored and forgotten, so too will these individualistic protests.  The Borg might just be right:  “resistance is futile.”
Monolith #1, oblique view
Most people react by disconnecting from the monolith.  I would liken tot the Kitty Genovese syndrome.  No one is intervening, no one is calling the police, and when you confront witnesses, no one has seen it.
People do not want to get involved.  Just as urban fatigue overcame the pthe witnesses to her awful 1964 murder, so too has it overcome those of us sitting forever at traffic lights, waiting in line at the store, parking in garages and walking to our cubicles.
The French writer Henri Lefebvre, who called it the “space of production,” could hardly have imagined the extent to which our society has remade itself into a machine.  The machine extends to all corners of our lives, from the bathrooms in our houses to the skyline of a city.  All are the same, differing only in small details.
Many see in this a new nihilism, a sense of meaninglessness to the life that we have created.  What good is saving energy when we still consume it with wild abandon for escapism?  Why have a biodegradable wrapping around a consumer product when that product itself has no purpose in the beginning?  The profound purposelessness of most people’s individual actions and behavior has degraded our society to the point where we may lose the ability to conceive of a future at all.
So back to the monolith:  I want to attack it, to see inside it, and to make it an object of examination.  It is NOT too large or too inevitable to be broken down into scalable bits.  It is not too homogenous to be localized, made specific to its time and place, and become a reflection of local cultrue.
Part of this will be to integrate a material into cement that holds thi skey to the future, introducing a dialectic into the monolith.

Cement Works – Mid July Update

For those interested in the progress on Cement Works, here is an update.

2015 - A

2015 – A

9″ x 12″ x 1.5″

Quickcrete (stiff mix)

2015 – A is an experiment using found object (glass).   It is cast into the concrete.  Note the sworls and patterns within the larger surface field itself.

2015 - B

2015 – B

8″ x 21″ x 2″

Quickcrete – stiff – with light kit

2015 - C "CTR"

2015 – C

7″ x 5″ x 1″

Quickcrete – stiff mix

Monogram tiles

2015 - D

2015 – D

10″ dia x 6″ high

Quickcrete mix (stiff) with bottlecaps

Cooper vacuumed these bottlecaps from Stardust in 2009 and saved them.  The intent is to create a water fountain with an aquarium pump.

The main series of 6 pieces will get uncorked from its form over the next couple weeks.  Please contact me if you would like to view any of these in person.  Demand is high so a deposit is required on a piece to be delivered later this autumn.