Catalyst 2014 Final Projects

Molly Dalsin:

Sara Marquardt:

Christina Stark:

Sean Higgins:

Perri Kinsman:

Tyler MacNeal:

Emilie Kopp:

Theodore Wright:

Alex Robinson:

Xuesheng Song:

Lisa Zeeb:

Robert Bracko:


Keep It In Sight by Molly Dalsin


AUTHOR: Molly Dalsin

Our minds are capable of processing large amounts of information at once. To do this, however, the brain automatically reduces, categorizes, and selects certain information over other. Imagine what the brain could do if it were trained to keep large amounts of information present at once! In an attempt to understand information layering and overlapping, this architect’s book was produced.

This book was inspired from the design process used Fall 2013 for the design of the West Bank School of Music (WBSM). The project involved designing a new music cooperative for a client that has rich history and strong roots in its neighborhood of Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis. Throughout the design process, layers of information were acquired relating to HISTORY, CULTURE, SITE, PROGRAM, FORM, EXPERIENCE, INNOVATION, and COMPLEXITY, and it was difficult to keep all of the information in view. The easiest thing was to solve one problem, check it off the list, and move on to the next. However, doing so made the project become dull and lifeless. It became important to find a way to not reduce the amount of information, and to keep some ambiguity within the project to allow for serendipitous or innovative design moments to occur.

Therefore, this book becomes a tool, as well as a narrative about the design process. It layers information onto transparent pages so that the drawings, text, and images may overlap and illuminate new connections. Further, each layer is moveable in the x-y direction to adjust the conditions of overlap, and bring about a new narrative and connections. The narrative is a string of quotes from architects and theorists that may or may not want to be referenced with each other, adding just one more layer of provocation.

The work is made of transparent acrylic pages with design process categories and other information engraved along the sides. The interior of each page is filled with a hand-written quote and either a line drawing or a printed image. The binding of this book is a cedar-wood frame held together in tension with piano wire. The piano wire indicates where the acrylic pages can be slid in and out of view to manually distill information or to swap location of pages to help identify new connections.

MATERIALS: Cedar wood, piano wire, acrylic, printed paper, permanent marker, Copic marker

METHODS: Used laser cutter to engrave information along the sides of the acrylic pages. Traced photos of models, drawings, and text onto acrylic. Mounted printed images to acrylic with spray adhesive. Frame of book was built with cedar pieces held together in tension with the piano-wire page holders.

An architect’s book is not purely representation of a project, but instead is an emotional and/or evocative piece pertaining more closely to the concept of a work of architecture rather than a finished product. To me, an architect’s book is another tool to be used in the design process to understand yourself as a designer and to help elucidate complex architectural problems that cannot simply be represented in drawing, modeling, or rendering. There is something spatial, tactile, and emotional about an architect’s book. I think that it is important not to overly define an architect’s book since it is the ambiguity that allows for innovative books to be created and used for whatever purpose the designer sees fit.

The New Century Dictionary by Tyler MacNeal

In an attempt to define the “Architect’s Book” I started with my concept development from the 1st and 1st design studio in the fall. The project goal was to take an introverted existing historical building and make it a publicly accessible experience. I used light through new technical materials to create a relationship with the existing condition. For the book exploration I applied the same design guidelines and considerations in the intervention as well as the text content. I left the design considerations ambiguous so they could be interpreted through historical building, book, or other object revitalization.

Materials: The New Century Dictionary Copyright 1927-1941, acrylic, Japanese rice paper, typewriter for text, book board / cloth, white chipboard

A New Town in Town by Sara Marquardt

PROJECT TITLE: A New Town in Town

AUTHOR: Sara Marquardt


Skeleton and flesh. Structure and light.

How does the architect influence the project? In what ways do the person’s impulses and personal relationships infiltrate and guide the progression of a project? And what is that reciprocal relationship of influence a project has on the architect? Where do the architect and the project become indistinguishable?

A New Town in Town was inspired by a proposition for an addition to the West Bank School of Music. The proposal hinged on the relationship of old and new, exploring the field in which the new school would be birthed. Interplay between light and music was examined in order to find a structure for the school to grow out of. The project celebrated the legacy of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and reestablished the organization’s presence in the community.

During the duration of the project development, Marquardt experienced the deterioration of a romantic relationship. The juxtaposition of the demise of the relationship against the rebirthing of the West Bank School of Music is explored through book form in this project. All text in the book is excerpts from a journal and sketchbook kept throughout the project.

DESCRIPTION: The project takes on a traditional book form. Of a delicate quality, it can be intimately held and read front to back. Two kinds of paper are used and identify the personal and academic occurrences. At times this relationship blurs and overlaps, while in other moments the boundary is distinct.

MATERIALS: Thai mulberry paper, cardstock

METHODS: Signature binding


In examining the Architect’s Book, there are several boundaries to be defined.

(1) Is the Architect’s Book a tool in the design process within an architectural project?
(2) Or, is the Architect’s Book an object independent of an architectural project?

As a part of the design process, the Architect’s Book could be an object that serves as an emotive tool that is given to the client. As an object that can be held, studied, and read with an intimacy specific to books, the architect’s book would be a effective means to express the prevailing qualities and tectonics of the developing building to a client. The Architect’s Book would give opportunity to the client to get to know the project from a unique and intimate vantage point. Likewise, through the making of the Architect’s Book, the architect would be able to test and explore different ideas in the project and develop a language that can be documented and expressed through the book.
The Architect’s Book as a mere representational tool, however practical the application, fails in upholding the dignity of The Book as a precious object that is beautiful in and of itself. As a modeling technique for architects to employ, the Architect’s Book would divorce itself from the legacy that has encapsulated The Book.

Alternatively, if the Architect’s Book is an independent object, it could stand separate from the architectural process, responsive to architectural ideas but not constrained to moving towards Architecture. As an independent object, the Architect’s Book is free to be the end result and take on whatever content it chooses. The structure and sensibility of the Architect’s Book can pull from the established history of the Artist’s Book, evolving into it’s own medium.

What, then, differs the Architect’s Book from an Artist’s Book or any other Book? It seems reasonable to assume that the Architect’s Book would take on architectural ideas of space, materiality, and structure, for example. But the Artist’s Book is also capable of addressing each of these architectural characteristics; and indeed, the Artist Book does explore notions of space, materiality, and structure. So, is the difference simply the occupation of the creator? By extension of the same logic, a mechanic might make the Mechanic’s Book, or a lawyer might make the Lawyer’s Book. Indeed, it is possible to open the field of book making in such a way, for each professional will surely attack the Artist’s Book from a different angle. However, such a argument becomes weak in extending the definition of The Book infinitely, solely dependent on the occupation of the creator to give name to the type of book.

In seeking to give greater definition to the Architect’s Book, only greater ambiguity has been established in this complex issue. To apply the principles of Keith A. Smith, the Architect’s Book comes down to intentionality. If the book is declared to be an Architect’s Book, then it is an Architect’s Book! “Definitions are not,” after all, “ageless laws, but current understanding. They grow with usage through insight and error….” And perhaps most importantly, “Our definitions evolve” (Rothenberg 57). As such, the book, A New Town in Town, has been declared as an Architect’s Book. The definition of such a book continues to evolve, develop, and be refuted. Despite and because of that, A New Town in Town IS an Architect’s Book.

Works Cited
Rothenberg, Jerome, and Steven Clay. A Book of the Book : Some Works & Projections about the Book &
Writing. New York: Granary Books, 2000. Print.

Reading Lowertown by Perri Kinsman

Project Title: Reading Lowertown

Author: Perri Kinsman

Summary: The concept for the structure of the book is inspired by a previous studio project where we were to research and analyze Lowertown, Saint Paul, as a way to inform the design of an arts center to be located within the boundaries of the historic site. The book itself attempts so speak to my analysis by layering a series of pages bound together by the traditional accordion form, with text describing Lowertown’s past in reference to its carefully preserved and purposeful historicism. By contrast, “punch-throughs,” corresponding to abstracted wall elevations used in my final project for the arts center, are then made through each page. Written on certain of these paper flaps is text describing an alternative reading of the site: rather than as a celebratio of Sain Paul’s storied history, especially with respect to transportation and trade, the site is enigmatic and the buildings almost inaccessible and unwelcoming. There is a duality in how Lowertown wishes to be understood and how it is read in actuality.

Description: I wanted my book to take on an obvious architectural form and thus the tak at hand was to use traditional bookbinding techniques in order to achieve this goal. Each “page” is related to an abstracted elevation of the facades used in my Lowertown project and had to be able to stand upright. I employed an accordion spine in order to connect the pages, which creates a sense of depth and also enables the pages to be read from left to right, as in traditional western book form. Finally, openings, only connected by one edge, are cut through each page in order to reference the ideas of “layering” and “Movement through,” integral to the conceptual ideas behind my original project.

Materials: Strathmore paper, imagery from Lowertown site analysis, and text

Methods: Accordion spine attaches paper flaps with text and “punch-throughs”

What is an Architect’s Book?: An architect’s book is an attempt to transform, analyst, and re-animate an architectural idea, while integrating some form of narration, be it in text or visual form, in which to communicate a “new” way of reading said project. An architect’s book sould not stray far from the original conceptual underpinnings of the design project; such constraints are worthy enough for crafting the structure of the book itself. Unrelated meaning should not be imposed on the overall design, as the architect’s book is not meant as a stand-alone art piece but is rather purposefully and pointedly based on some facet of architectural deisign.

To Watch | To Be Watched by Emilie Kopp

Project Title: To Watch | To Be Watched

Author: Emilie Kopp

Summary: To approach the project of “The Architect’s Book,” the desire to utilize an existing book structure allowed for a starting point for understanding. Based on the accordian fold, TO WATCH | TO BE WATCHED allows the viewer to place themselves in the position of either artist or tourist, watcher and watched. The hope is that through the act the viewer understands that these roles cannot be so easily defined. The project ART | SPACE_ST. PAUL stemmed from a narrative of varying user groups – the public visitor and the artist tenant. The book incorporates chosen phrases from the narrative.

Description: The project can be read from all four sides; as a narrative about the character being watched, a narrative about the character watching, and the interplay between the watcher-watching and the watched-watching back.

Materials: basswood, museum board, sumi ink

Methods: Although I had originally intended on using the printing press to create an imprint on the printmaking paper, time restrictions encouraged me to look elsewhere for a similar look. The use of the laser cutter with thin basswood created an interesting “dual” image when backlit, but created very thin basswood that could not accommodate the accordion-like structure desired.

The end product is not what I hoped for, but there was much iteration in between and I struggled with knowing which materials and methods to use. It was fascinating to beghin thinking about more 2-dimensional representations of my architectural work, but I’m afraid I got stuck in the mindset of making models and would have gained a lot from more sketching.

What is an Architect’s Book?: I am still struggling with my personal definition of the Architect’s Book. The use of narrative and writing is incredibly important to my design process, and I am very much interested in the connections and overlaps between language structure and the built environment, but I feel that the Architect’s book as approached by the weeklong intensive is limited to serve a project as a representation of the final. I feel the process could aid in the design process, when approaching a project – but I also feel very strongly that this approach must be specific. I struggled with the idea of using a singular book as a “tool” for process; I don’t believe that a sketch or piece of work for the process of one project can be retrofitted or used for another project.

Light Transformation by Xuesheng Song

Project Title: Light Transformation

Author: Xuesheng Song

Summary: The content came from the project developed in last semester. The
building is located on 1st avenue and 1st street. Once being a warehouse, the
post-industrial building has a very dim light condition. In addition, the most
obvious feature is that it is a combination of three different buildings, leading
to a inconsistency in its levels. As a transformation, the new design was focused on both preservation and artistic reuse. Trying to make the building a art zone where many artists could work together, and a place where visitors have more freedom to interact with artists, I made little changes and tried to maintain the original feature of the building.

Description:  The design was mostly characterized by the light well, which was inserted
in the center of the old building. Acting as the main vertical circulation system,
it was also the most important part that invited light into the building and
provided people a orientation about the whole building. The book is focusing
on this idea. By this book, I want to extend such idea, and show the light
transformation in the building. In addition, the book has many interesting
feature when being exposed to light in different angle.

Architect’s book: In my opinion, architect’s book is a kind of book that could inform people
of the spirit of the architecture. Acting the same way as diagrams, architect’s
book could lead readers deeper into the understanding of a building, through
whatever form it could be.

UnColumn by Alex Robinson


AUTHOR: Alex Robinson

SUMMARY (FORMAL & CONCEPTUAL):  This project presents a past architectural exploration: the reconfiguration of a column to soften its presence through texture and the creation of openings. The book formally responds to the idea of classical structure transforming into a less rigid form through it’s binding. The binding starts as a typical book structure then is punctuated with complex smaller scale accordion folds. These accordion folds make the book flexible and soft in the reader’s hands. The accordion binding is brightly colored and made visible through punctures in the Strathmore. This is to contrast the black and white xeroxed content of the book – another example of how to manipulate a book’s structure to soften a reader’s experience.  These colorful punctures expand and contract depending on how the reader holds the pages – they also allow the reader to peek through to the next pages.

MATERIALS:  Strathmore, origami paper, Japanese calligraphy paper

METHODS:  Accordion binding, xeroxing, ink on paper

WHAT IS AN ARCHITECT’S BOOK?:  An architect’s book explores the design concepts found in a project as an alternative way to present the experiential qualities of architecture.  This can be done through paper type, material texture, form manipulation, binding structure, etc.  All of these choices should be based on the overarching concept as a design guideline.  Through the “book” the architect can showcase intimate details of a project that standard 2D boards struggle to convey.  The book becomes a physical interpretation of the concept at play – an interactive experience through which the reader can explore the architecture and the mind of the architect.

The Tourists Book by Christina Stark

PROJECT TITLE: The Tourists Book

AUTHOR: Christina Stark

SUMMARY: The book communicates the ideas of a design project which resulted from an exploration of cinematography and architecture. The exploration of the film Lost In Translation revealed the director’s desire for the viewers to see the city of Tokyo through the lens of a tourist. The design project proposes a new pedestrian bridge spanning a layered highway system, connecting Loring Park and the Walker Sculpture garden. The location also has views to downtown Minneapolis, the Walker and many icon churches. The design for a bridge uses sloping curve clad in colored glass. The use of color creates a feeling of unfamiliarity evoking the feeling of being a tourist in your own city. Similarly, the book becomes a lens through which to view scenes in the site, allowing the viewer to interact with the spaces and discover unusual conditions in the ordinary.

MATERIALS: Acrylic sheets and rods, printed transparencies, museum board, colored plastic, Mylar

METHODS: The laser cutter was used to cut the acrylic and then layered with Mylar on one side, colored film on the other, with museum board used to create a frame. Although I am happy with the final product, the methods used were similar to those used to build an architectural model. Perhaps this is fitting, but I had hoped to incorporate methods learned during the workshop.

WHAT IS AN ARCHITECT’S BOOK?: Unlike the artists book which operates as the main product, I believe the architects book should act a means to communicate the ideas of an architectural project (the architect’s main product). To think of the book as a stand-alone product then becomes an artist’s book.