Architerials author Alli Dryer writes about cutting-edge building materials not from a detached point of view, but from a personal one. "I read a lot of nonarchitecture blogs," she says, "and the ones Im drawn to are those where you get a sense of the person behind the blog."
Credit: Jeff Wilson
The online log of one architect’s off-the-clock research into the world of building products, Architerials is informed as much by the artist’s holistic eye as by the geek’s technophilic heart. In contrast to a researcher such as University of Minnesota professor (and Architect contributing editor) Blaine Brownell, whose Transmaterial books and website posts are succinct and precise, Alli Dryer writes about cutting-edge technologies and materials in a conversational way. Using the Chinese philosophy of Wu Xing—the idea that everything can be considered wood, fire, earth, metal, or water—as an informal framework, Dryer, an architect at the Dallas firm Good Fulton & Farrell (GFF), blends science with pop-culture references and personal observations: one post, on advances in graphene production, is titled “Is Graphene Elvis or the Russell Brand of Materials?”, while another, on a new HVAC product, opens with lyrics from a Journey song. “I wanted to make it humorously informative, to appeal to a wide audience,” she says.
Launched at the start of the year, Architerials is a way for Dryer, who was licensed in 2009 and spends her days at GFF dealing primarily with construction documents, “to step around some of the limitations in my job and explore new technologies and materials that I think are really interesting,” she says. Dryer has always been drawn to materials, but she first delved into them as an artist, attending Georgetown University for a double major in studio art and psychology. By sophomore year, however, she knew her career would be in architecture, thanks to a summer internship at an Atlantic City, N.J., firm. (Among her tasks? Organizing the materials library.) Dryer finished her undergraduate time at Georgetown—largely because of her love for rowing—and immediately moved on to the University of Virginia, earning an M.Arch. in 2007.
Although Dryer started Architerials as a personal pursuit, with the idea of incorporating materials research into her career at some undefined future point, the crossover is happening a little more quickly than she’d anticipated: Fellow GFF architects now turn to Dryer on a regular basis with questions about building products—and sometimes, the answers she finds fuel posts for the site. “I feel like I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit,” she says with a laugh. “I’m thrilled.”
Thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code is available for free download. It’s expected to produce about 15 percent in residential energy-efficiency gains over the 2006 version.
Political science major Michael Baldwin launched the CommonCensus Map Project in 2005 as a way to discover how people, not politicians, define where they live. Continually rebuilt from responses to a short series of questions (What do you consider to be your local community? What’s the natural cultural and economic center of your area? etc.), the map reveals local and regional “spheres of influence” that pay no respect to government-defined boundaries.
How can bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, and attention to scale transform city life? Radio talk-show host Diane Rehm chats with architect Jan Gehl; Urban Land Institute fellow (and former Pittsburgh mayor) Thomas Murphy; urban planner Kristina Ford; and Barbara McCann, executive director of the National Complete Streets Coalition.
The Photographer’s Ephemeris is a map-based tool to assist global camera-toters with their outdoor photography. The program—free for desktop download and recently turned into an $8.99 iPhone app—calculates the position of the sun and the moon based on when and where you want to shoot. Sophisticated features like compensation for altitude and the ability to calculate distance, bearing, and elevation angles help you get the best image possible.
The Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery: 1,300-plus examples of letterhead, invoices, checks, and other business ephemera (dating from 1850 to 1920) that contain images of buildings. Curious and fascinating.