Buildings on the Edge

Bruce found a sketchbook. I remember one night after a day at work where I had been working on designing a house that floats above a steep hillside with the support of 4 large columns, I thought about structures and I did these quick sketches. It’s interesting to rediscover things we did a long time ago.

Pratt Islamic Studies – Masjid I Jami Mosque – Isfahan

Section through Dome & Geometric Analysis of
the Masjid I Jami Mosque
click on image to enlarge

The most significant work Of Islamic Architecture that survives is the Masjid-i-Jami in Isfahan Iran. This mosque was initially built by the early Muslims who arrived in the first century after the Hijra. The Abbasids rebuilt it in 840-41 CE . The Buyids, who established the first local dynasty, enlarged it between 908-32 CE.

Above is my drawing of a cross section through the dome with three geometric sketches illustrating the proportion of parts and below are sketches studying the geometric proportional systems that delineate the proportion of it’s parts. Also, using the proportions of the different parts to each other, I prove mathematically that the golden ratio was the organizing principle.

Sketches – Understanding the Underlying Geometric Proportional Systems
click on images to enlarge

The Masjid I Jami Isfahan

Related to my Islamic studies were explorations of my own geometric ideas influenced by what I was learning about in the Islamic creative tradition. The following are studies of patterns I created using and rotating the square. They were done on a Hewlett Packard main frame computer using an early CAD software program.

Pratt Project With Visiting Professor Mexican Architect Enrique Norton

Health/Gym Complex
Pratt, 1985

Scanning some projects from my past. Another Pratt project. The great Mexican Architect Enrique Norton, founder and principle of Ten-Arquitectos, was my studio professor for this one.

Enrique Norton asked us to look at structures not designed by architects but by engineers; that these structures epitomized modernity. We were to choose a structure and create a transformation of it into a conceptual building. But first we were to document the structure and draw it as a way of understanding it’s structure and how it was built.

I chose the Roosevelt Island Bridge for my transformation into a building; my building being a health/gym complex. Roosevelt Island is a narrow island in New York City’s East River. It lies between Manhattan Island to its west and the borough of Queens on Long Island to its east. The bridge is a lift bridge (center section lifts up to allow large vessels through) and connects Roosevelt Island to Queens.

I chose to put my building on Pier 51 on the Hudson at West Street and 13th Avenue. This pier was demolished and replaced with what is now called Pier 51 Playground. The irony is that the Chelsea Piers a little farther north was transformed in the late 90’s into what is now the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers.

Norton gave us a format; 11 x 17 strathmore paper. All drawings were to be done in ink. Ink is so unforgiving. A mistake and you have to start the sheet over. Yes the good old days before Computer Aided Design & Drafting (CADD).

click on images to enlarge

Context Map & Axonometric


Site Plan


Elevations and Section




Below are drawings of Roosevelt Island Bridge

Sections and Axonometric


Elevation and Plans