AIA Lecture – Document Quality: An Audit Program to Improve Construction Documents

Document Quality: An Audit Program to Improve Construction Documents
This lecture was sponsored by the AIA Chicago chapter and reviewed the essential methods on how to improve the quality of construction documents. This lecture also explained the benefits of how better construction documents results in less exposure to litigation, reduced fees, reduced need for change orders and improved customer relations.

A list of the AIA Chicago Chapter of events can be found at:



Walter Gropius

Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (May 18, 1883 – July 5, 1969) was a German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School who, along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture.

Walter Gropius, like his father and his great-uncle Martin Gropius before him, became an architect. Gropius could not draw, and was dependent on collaborators and partner-interpreters throughout his career. In school he hired an assistant to complete his homework for him. In 1908 Gropius found employment with the firm of Peter Behrens, one of the first members of the utilitarian school. His fellow employees at this time included Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Dietrich Marcks.

In 1910 Gropius left the firm of Behrens and together with fellow employee Adolf Meyer established a practice in Berlin. Together they share credit for one of the seminal modernist buildings created during this period: the Faguswerk in Alfeld-an-der-Leine, Germany, a shoe last factory. Although Gropius and Meyer only designed the facade, the glass curtain walls of this building demonstrated both the modernist principle that form reflects function and Gropius’s concern with providing healthful conditions for the working class. Other works of this early period include the office and factory building for the Werkbund Exhibition (1914) in Cologne.

In 1913, Gropius published an article about “The Development of Industrial Buildings,” which included about a dozen photographs of factories and grain elevators in North America. A very influential text, this article had a strong influence on other European modernists, including Le Corbusier and Erich Mendelsohn, both of whom reprinted Gropius’s grain elevator pictures between 1920 and 1930.

Gropius’s career was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Called up immediately as a reservist, Gropius served as a sergeant major at the Western front during the war years, and was wounded and almost killed.

Important buildings

Gropius House (1938) in Lincoln, Massachusetts1910–1911 the Fagus Factory, Alfeld an der Leine, Germany
1914 Office and Factory Buildings at the Werkbund Exhibition, 1914, Cologne, Germany
1921 Sommerfeld House, Berlin, Germany designed for Adolf Sommerfeld
1922 competition entry for the Chicago Tribune Tower competition
1925–1932 Bauhaus School and Faculty, Housin, Dessau, Germany
1936 Village College, Impington, Cambridge, England
1937 The Gropius House, Lincoln, Massachusetts, USA
1942–1944 Aluminum City Terrace housing project, New Kensington, Pennsylvania, USA
1949–1950 Harvard Graduate Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA (The Architects’ Collaborative)
1945–1959 Michael Reese Hospital, Chicago, Illinois, USA – Master planned 37-acre site and led the design for at least 8 of the approx. 28 buildings.
1957–1960 University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq
1963–1966 John F. Kennedy Federal Office Building, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
1948 Peter Thacher Junior High School,
1958–1963 Pan Am Building (now the Metlife Building), New York, with Pietro Belluschi and project architects Emery Roth & Sons
1957 Interbau Apartment blocks, Hansaviertel, Berlin, Germany, with The Architects’ Collaborative and Wils Ebert
1960 Temple Oheb Shalom (Baltimore, Maryland)
1961 The award-winning Wayland High School, Wayland, Massachusetts, USA
1959–1961 Embassy of the United States, Athens, Greece (The Architects’ Collaborative and consulting architect Pericles A. Sakellarios)
1967– 69 Tower East Shaker Heights, Ohio, this was Gropius’ last major project.
The building in Niederkirchnerstraße, Berlin, known as the Gropius-Haus is named for Gropius’ great-uncle, Martin Gropius, and is not associated with Bauhaus



World’s First LEED Net Zero Home: Eco Kitchen – buildaroo.com


Oscar Niemeyer

Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho (born December 15, 1907) is a Brazilian architect who is considered one of the most important names in international modern architecture. He was a pioneer in exploring the formal possibilities of reinforced concrete solely for their aesthetic impact.

His buildings are often characterized by being spacious and exposed, mixing volumes and empty space to create unconventional patterns and often propped up by pilotis. Both lauded and criticized for being a “sculptor of monuments” , he has been praised for being a great artist and one of the greatest architects of his generation by his supporters. Among his numerous famous works there are the many public buildings he designed for the city of Brasília, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, The United Nations Headquarters in New York City (with others), etc.

“ Not the straight angle that attracts me, nor straight, hard, inflexible, created by man. What attracts me is the free and sensual curve, the curves that find in the mountains of my country, in the course of its winding rivers, the sea waves, the body of the woman preferred. Curves is done throughout the universe, the universe of Einstein’s curved.

Oscar Niemeyer was born in the city of Rio de Janeiro in 1907 in Laranjeiras neighbourhood, on a street that later would receive the name of his grandfather Ribeiro de Almeida. He spent his youth as a typical young Carioca of the time: bohemian and relatively unconcerned with his future. He concluded his secondary education at age 21. The same year, he married Annita Baldo, daughter of Italian immigrants from Padua. Marriage gave him a sense of responsibility: he decided to work and enter university.

He started to work in his father’s typography house and entered the Escola de Belas Artes (Brazil), from which he graduated as engineer architect in 1934. At the time he had financial difficulties but decided to work without fee anyway, in the architecture studio of Lúcio Costa and Carlos Leão. He felt dissatisfied with the architecture that he saw in the streets and believed he could find a career there.

In 1945, already an architect of some repute, he joined the Brazilian Communist Party, and in 1992 he would become president of that party. Niemeyer was a boy at the time of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and by the Second World War he became a young idealist. He is still an enthusiastic communist, a position which cost him much during his life. During the military dictatorship of Brazil his office was raided and he was forced into exile in Europe. The Minister of Aeronautics of the time reportedly said that “the place for a communist architect is Moscow.” He visited the USSR, met with diverse socialist leaders and became a personal friend of some of them. Fidel Castro once said: “Niemeyer and I are the last Communists of this planet.”



Camillo Sitte

Camillo Sitte (17 April 1843 – 16 November 1903 in Vienna) was a noted Austrian architect, painter and city planning theoretician with great influence and authority of the development of urban construction planning and regulation in Europe.

Camillo Sitte was an art historian and architect. He traveled around the towns of Europe and tried to identify aspects that made towns feel warm and welcoming. Architecture was a process of culturization for him. Sitte received a lot of attention in 1889 with the publication of his book “Der Städtebau nach seinen künstlerischen Grundsätzen” (English title: “City Planning According to Artistic Principles”). The richly illustrated book pointed out that the urban room around the experiencing man should be the leading motif of urban planning, thus turning away from the pragmatic, hygienic planning procedures of the time. Sitte emphasized the creation of an irregular urban structure, spacious plazas, enhanced by monuments and other aesthetic elements.

Sitte founded the Camillo Sitte Lehranstalt and the Camillo Sitte Gasse in Vienna, and also the magazine Städtebau in 1904. Camillo Sitte was the son of the architect Franz Sitte (1808-79) and the father of the architect Siegfried Sitte (1876-1945).

Sitte is also credited with having invented the cul-de-sac.

City Planning According to Artistic Principles (1889)

Fountain of Hygieia in Olomouc (in Czech: kašna Hygie), Camillo Sitte (plan) and Karel Lenhart (statue)The work of Sitte is not exactly a criticism of architectural form, it is more precisely an aesthetic criticism of the nineteenth century’s end urbanism. Mainly an urban planning theory book, it has a deep influence in architecture, as the two disciplines are deeply intertwined. It was also highly successful in its time. Between 1889 and 1922 it was edited five times. It was translated into French in 1902, but was not translated into English until 1945.

For Sitte, the most important is not the architectural shape or form of each building, but the inherent creative quality of urban space, the whole as much more than the sum of its parts. Sitte contended that many urban planners had neglected to consider the vertical dimension of planning, instead focusing too much on paper, and that this approach hindered the efficacy of planning in an aesthetically conscious manner. Athens and the ancient Greek spaces, like the agora and the forum are his preferred examples of good urban spaces. He makes a study of the spatial structures of the cities, squares, monuments, and confronts the living beauty and creativity of the most ancient ones with the sterility of the new cities. In general:

Sitte makes an analysis based on sensitivity aesthetics and is not concerned with the historical circumstances that generated such forms. Urbanism is to be lived today and thus must be judged according to today’s needs and aesthetics;
Criticizes the regular and obsessive order of the new squares, confronting it with the irregularity of the medieval city. “A square should be seen as a room: it should form an enclosed space”;
Criticizes the isolated placement of Churches and monuments, and confronts it with how monuments were formerly presented to the viewer;
With examples from Italy, Austria and Germany, he defines a square typology, an “enclosed squares’ system of the ancient times”. He studies from a psychological viewpoint the perception of the proportions between the monuments and its surroundings, opposing the fashion of very wide streets and squares, and the dogma of orthogonality and symmetry;
He fears that Urbanism would have become a mere technical task without any artistic involvement. He acknowledges an antagonism between the picturesque and the pragmatic, and states that these restrain the works of the artists. The building of another Acropole would become impossible, not only because of the financial means, but also the lack of the basic artistic generating thought;
He stated that an urban planner should not be too concerned with the small design. The city should only take care of the general streets and structure, while the rest would be left to private initiative, just as in ancient cities;
He Provides an example of his theories at the end of one of his books in the form of the redesign of Vienna’s Ring, a circular avenue.
His theories were widely influential for many practiticians, like Karl Henrici and Theodor Fischer. Modernist movements rejected these thoughts and Le Corbusier is known for his energetic dismissals of the work. Nevertheless, his work is often used and cited as a criticism of the Modernist movement, its importance reemerging in the post-modernist movement of the late sixties.



Taliesin – Wisconsin

Taliesin (pronounced /ˌtæli.ˈɛsɨn/), near Spring Green, Wisconsin, was the summer home of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright began the home in 1911 after leaving his first wife, Catherine Tobin, and his Oak Park, Illinois, home and studio in 1909. The impetus behind Wright’s departure was his affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, who had been his client, along with her husband, Edwin Cheney. His winter home, Taliesin West, is located in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The valley in which Taliesin sits was originally settled by Wright’s maternal family, the Lloyd Joneses, during the Civil War. Immigrants from Wales, Wright’s maternal grandfather and uncle were Unitarian ministers, and his two aunts began a co-educational school in the family valley in 1887. Wright’s mother, Anna Lloyd Jones Wright, began sending her son to the valley every summer, beginning when he was eleven years old. The family, their ideas, religion, and ideals, greatly influenced the young Wright, who later changed his middle name from Lincoln (in honor of Abraham Lincoln) to Lloyd in deference to this side of the family.

When Wright decided to begin a home in this valley, he chose the name of the Welsh bard Taliesin, whose name means “shining brow” or “radiant brow”. Wright positioned the home on the “brow” of a hill, a favorite of his from childhood. The home was designed with three wings that included his living quarters, an office, and farm buildings. Aside from placing the building into the landscape, Wright used Taliesin as a way to explore his ideas of organic architecture. The chimneys and stone piers were built from local limestone, laid by the stonemasons in a way that evoked the outcroppings of Wisconsin’s surrounding Driftless Area (the area unaccompanied by glacial drift), and sand from the nearby Wisconsin River was mixed into the stucco walls to evoke the river’s sandbars

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taliesin_(studio)


Museum of Islamic Art

DOHA, Qatar — There is nothing timid about the ambitions of the new Museum of Islamic Art that opens here next week. Rising on its own island just off the city’s newly developed esplanade, it is the centerpiece of an enormous effort to transform Qatar into an arts destination. The inaugural festivities Saturday, including a performance by the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, attracted art world luminaries from around the globe.

Viewed under the light of a spectacular fireworks display, the museum’s colossal geometric form harks back to a time when Islamic art and architecture were at the nexus of world culture. At the same time, it conveys a hope of reconnecting again.

The building seems austere by the standards of the attention-grabbing forms that we have come to associate with Gulf cities like Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Designed by I.M. Pei, 91, who has said it is his last major cultural building, it recalls a time when architectural expression was both more earnest and optimistic, and the rift between modernity and tradition had yet to reach full pitch.

The museum, which houses manuscripts, textiles, ceramics and other works assembled mostly over the last 20 years, has emerged as one of the world’s most encyclopedic collections of Islamic art. The origin of its artifacts ranges from Spain to Egypt to Iran, Iraq, Turkey, India and Central Asia.

Among the exquisite works on view at the opening were a bronze Andalusian fountainhead in the form of a doe with a heart-shaped mouth and an ornate spherical brass plate from Persia or Mesopotamia that was used to measure the position of the stars. (Both date from the 10th century.)

Taking his cue from the diversity of the collections, Pei sought to create a structure that would embody the “essence of Islamic architecture.”

He spent months traveling across the Middle East searching for inspiration. He visited the ninth-century Ahmad ibn Tulun Mosque in Cairo, a sober structure organized around a central court with a temple-like central fountain, as well as ancient fortresses in Tunisia.

“Islam was one religion I did not know,” Pei said in an interview. “So I studied the life of Muhammad. I went to Egypt and Tunisia. I became very interested in the architecture of defense, in fortifications. It is a very important piece of Islamic architecture.”

“The architecture is very strong and simple,” he added. “There is nothing superfluous.”

The result is a structure whose imposing simplicity is brought to life by the play of light and shadow under the Gulf’s blazing sun. Pei visited several proposed sites in Doha before settling on the site just off the end of the seafront esplanade.

Worried that his building might one day be hemmed in by new construction, he asked Qatar’s emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, to build him a private island so that his monument would be isolated from the rest of the city.

“I worried a lot about what will come after,” Pei said. “Even a beautiful piece of work can be overshadowed, destroyed by something else.”

For now, “Doha in many ways is virginal,” he said. “There is no real context there, no real life unless you go into the souk. I had to create my own context. It was very selfish.”

The result is a powerful Cubist composition of square and octagonal blocks stacked atop one another and culminating in a central tower. A row of giant palm trees leads to the island. Inside, 3,800 square meters, or 41,000 square feet, of galleries are organized around a towering atrium capped by a dome, with a narrow beam of light descending from its central oculus.

Seen from across the waters of the harbor, its massive sand-colored stone blocks have an ageless quality, like the Tunisian fortresses it is modeled after.

“The museum is an object,” Pei said. “It should be treated as a piece of sculpture.”


December 2019
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