Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chitchen Itza, Mexico. . .

This is the pyramid where the Mayans held religious ceremonies.  The corners of the pyramid are exactly at North, East, South, and West, and when the summer solstice comes the effect between the sunlight and shadow creates a giant serpent coming down the pyramid.  There 91 steps on each side, and one step up to the temple on top, making for a total of 365 stairs, the same number as are days in the year.

Temple at the top of the pyramid.  Notice the shape of a face above the door.

Glyphs on the walls represent serpents, a symbol of life.  The part that looks like an elephant trunk is actually the nose of the Mayan sun god.

Mayans were very good at making cantilevered archways.  This type of archway was used in their palace and as entrances to sacred areas.  Also known as a corbel arch, these arches were constructed using a series of overlapping blocks, each going a little bit farther inward until the archway could be blocked using a single capstone.  The voids between the overlapping rocks were then filled with smaller stones.

Although some human sacrifices did occur, they were not unwilling victims thrown from the top of the pyramid as Hollywood suggests.  Those that were sacrificed were volunteers, and the ritual took place on top of a platform about 6 feet off the ground.  Since the sacrifices were a communal event and onlookers would not be able to see the top of the pyramid, it makes much more sense for the ritual to take place in a location that allowed for everyone to see.

This is a closeup of the Mayan version of a wailing wall, where those who died in battle were commemorated by a low relief glyph of a skull.  The heads of enemies were placed on stakes above the wall.

The ball court.  One of the reasons the court has maintained structural integrity over the years is because of the verticality of the wall.  Trees and other roots tend to not grow and destroy walls that go straight up.

Relief glyphs depict the story of the games played at the ball court.  The ball game was a battle to the death, but it was the winner that actually was the one that was killed.  The Mayans believed this to be a sort of fast-track to the gods.

Observational temple at the top of the ball court.

If the Mayan ball game was like basketball, this would be the basket.  The ball would be more than 3 pounds, and made of solid rubber - and not the bouncy kind, the really hard kind.

Serpents represented life forces, and on the stairway on the opposite side of the building would be the end of the snake.  Mayans believed in "theological architecture", which meant that in constructed stairs, you never wanted to turn your back to or face directly the gods worshipped in the pyramid.  The stairs were made of a very steep rise and shallow run, so that you had to kind of scoot up the stairs sideways.

When reconstructing one of the buildings, they have a few left over they made this statue as a tribute to the Mayan sun god.  In actuality, the left over pieces were from previous periods.  The Maya were known for building bigger and better pyramids on top of existing pyramids.

The Mayan Observatory.

This building is believed to be a palace, but is still undergoing reconstruction.

The giant wood beams that supported the ceiling have rotted long ago, causing the ceiling to collapse.  It's really interesting the see the remnants of such an architecturally advanced society!

Writer's retreat. . .

My writer's retreat plan includes a public and private entrance, a space for public readings, a public space to hold conferences and meetings, a public bathroom, a private office, a private space for reflection or entertaining, private kitchen and breakfast nook, and a private bedroom and bath.  Looking at the floor plan below, the private entrance is at the bottom left.  Upon entering the church, the bedroom and walk in closet is immediately to the right, while the open space for reflection and/or entertaining is on the immediate left.  Walking forward, one enters the kitchen.  The room on the left of the kitchen entrance is the private bath with a garden tub.  The refrigerator is on the right, with floor and wall cabinets on either side.  The rest of the kitchen is galley style, with dishwasher, sink, stove, and wall and floor cabinets on the far wall.  To the left of the kitchen set up is the breakfast nook, which includes built in bench seating (and cushions) and a pedestal based table.  Turing right and walking past the refrigertor, you would see the entrance to the laundry room on the left and the entrance to the private office on the right.  If you were to continue down that hall and through a door, you would then enter the public space.

 Below are the section elevations of the writer's retreat.  Section A (top left) shows the private reflection/entertaining space.  The top right picture is the key for the elevations, while the bottom elevation shows the public reading and conference space (far right), the private office, bedroom, and part of the private reflection space.

The perspective below shows the public space as seen from the front of the building and looking back toward the private space.  I choose to emphasize the shape of the roof by covering it with wood panels.  When thinking of the word retreat, I thought of a cabin in the woods.  Since the St. Mary's Church is right off campus in a city and nowhere near the woods, I wanted to bring the idea of nature inside.  I used slate columns to support a wood panel slanted ceiling.  The ceiling gives the impression of defined space for conferences and meetings, while mimicking the slant and materiality of the actual roof.  The cabinets between the columns add to the sense of defined space, but can easily be moved to create a type of podium for a speaker to give lectures or a writer to do public readings. 
For the private space, I wanted to maintain a sense of openness to the roof while simultaneously allowing the visiting scholar to feel like he or she were in a private residence.  Using the same slated panel idea, the office, public bathroom, hall, and bedroom would have a flat wood ceiling a height right above the existing windows - about 9 feet above the floor. 
The private reflection/entertaining space, kitchen and breakfast nook would all be open to the existing ceiling and defined by half walls.  The private bathroom's ceiling would mimic the conference space ceiling, with wood panels that peeked at 9 feet above the window and slanted down to 7 feet at the entrance to the bath.

 In the perspective below, the view is standing to the right of the fireplace and looking directly across the the public conference and reading space.

 Finally, my last and favorite perspective is that of the kitchen and breakfast nook.  I used different types of wood for the cabinets with a birch butcher block counter top.  The wall cabinets are ebony stained with frosted glass doors.  The molding, window and door trim, and floor throughout the house are a natural walnut color, a shade in between the dark paneled ceiling of the church and the lighter wood paneled faux ceilings.