Friday, August 15, 2014

St. Benedict Chapel by Peter Zumthor: 1:30 Scale Model

I have to say that this summer has been the most productive summer that I've ever had.  Here's the next big project that I've finished.  This started out as the final project in my ARCH 202 (Graphic Communication) class in the fall semester of 2013 at U of M.  Each person was assigned a building to draw at a certain self-determined scale.  We were to draw horizontal and vertical sections, as well as an axonometric analysis (exploded) drawing. Later that year, many of my classmates decided to take ARCH 218 (Visual Studies) in the spring semester because the same instructor was teaching it.  Since about 70% of the class were 202 students, our instructor allowed the oldies, me included, to build a model from the old drawings for the last assignment.

There is a walk-through video in the link that I suggest checking out. 

 As an introduction, the St. Benedict Chapel was built in the village of Sumvitg, Graubünden in Switzerland shortly after a 1984 avalanche wiped out the original Baroque-style chapel.  Peter Zumthor, a Swiss architect born in 1943, took on the task of designing the new one.  Zumthor's attention to detail and consideration for materials is reflected in this construction.  This is where I found out that a similar attention to detail came second nature because I sort of subconsciously recreated it in my illustrations and in my model.  Visible in the photo above, he used wood shingles on the sides and a ribbed metal roof, both of which are common in the area.  The people in the photo also give a sense of scale in this warped panorama.  The chapel is literally less than 14 meters long because the village is very small.  I want to thank my wonderful instructor, Dawn Gilpin, not only for all of the guidance, encouragement, and pushing during the project, but for randomly matching me up with a project that suited me so well.

My horizontal and vertical section drawings, done at 1:50.  
If interested, click to enlarge, right click, view image in new tab, and magnify it.  

Shown above are my section drawings from the fall semester.  This was done on a piece of 19x24 inch Bristol paper.  I am unable to upload the full quality image of the axonometric drawing, which I'm rather proud of.  It takes up six pieces of this paper so the file size is way too big.  I spent 39 hours on the sections and 34 on the axon, which I only know because Dawn told everyone to log their hours.

This is a screen shot of the axon.  Don't bother magnifying it.  
It was done at 1:40 scale, which I had to make my own scale for out of a piece of wood.  

I chose to use the axon to depict all of the layers of the wall since I thought the sections did not do justice to Zumthor's attention to detail there. There are also huge nails that hold the walls away from the vertical members, which were too big to ignore in this drawing. They're all sticking out from the vertical members, but I'm not sure they are visible in this low-res picture. Yes, I drew all of the wooden cubes at the bottom right corner, which took six hours. It was actually the roof structure that gave me the most trouble since I didn't have actual angles to use.  The wood members were also not of even thickness or elevation.  I fidgeted with the roof for a few hours to no avail.  It suddenly all fell into place finally, much to my surprise.  I still wouldn't be able to tell you how I made it work.

Work on the model started in mid-April with me cutting and folding about 35 sections of the concrete base of the building.  This was super time-consuming.  My classmates joked that they never saw me getting anything done since most of my time was spent waiting for glue to dry just so I could put the next section on.  It took some trigonometry to stretch this to the right length since I only had the measurements from the sections, not the diagonal.  I then made the foundation that held the floor and then formed the curved walls by rubbing the paper on the side of a table.  

My classmates were to make their models purely out of white museum board but because the "sticks" in my building were impossible to ignore, my instructor made an exception for me.  After sticking the vertical members into my concrete base, I moved on to the floor.  It turns out my math was pretty much correct since the floor slid in between the vertical members perfectly.  

To the left are the pews under construction, and to the right is my model all set up for the final review.  It wasn't even close to being done.  I counted 55 hours of work after the two weeks, but that might be a conservative number because I deducted much of the time that I spent waiting for glue to dry.  The walls were hastily slapped on in the last half hour before pin-up.  

In late July, work began at home on weekends.  During this time, I was finishing up the bike project on weekdays while the parents' car was out of the garage.  Shown here is after the bad walls have been torn off and the vertical members have been chopped to a consistent height.  I also made a ground for this building to sit on and sized it to a big, old computer monitor box that I planned to store it in.  

Stationary and removable walls being built in layers.  My plan changed from having half of the wall being removable to about 1/3 of the wall being removable.  The walls were then rimmed with wood for the window panes.  

I covered the first side of the wood rim with masking tape since I had to make three more copies of it.  Two of those were joined together to form the rim of the roof.  It obviously didn't fit perfectly since the two sides are not exactly mirror-images of each other (shhh) but it was the only way.  

Some photos of the roof structure, still not clad at the time.  

Cladding of the roof.  It will remain removable.  

The last thing I did was finally decide on a way to secure the removable wall. The bend of the wall wasn't quite acute enough to match the curve of the rest of the model, which meant it didn't even match up with the wooden rim up top unless I squished it down. I ended up drilling holes with a paperclip into the basswood members on the edge and using a white paper clip to make two latches. They rotate 90 degrees to release the wall and were strong enough to hold the wall bent into place so the wooden rim could be glued on.

Photos upon completion.  Click to enlarge.  

So the fact that the base of the building was tilted to the right ... yeah, that's how it is in real life according to illustrations but it's not how I planned it. I thought it would be too hard to do but it happened anyway since something didn't dry together properly back in April. Funny how it worked out!

I estimate that about 90 hours total were spent on this project.  Time well spent! I love working with my hands.  Without a studio class next year, I'll be incredibly bored.  Well, relatively speaking ... this is college, after all.