30 years on from “Fundies”

It is with utter amazement that I realize that 30 years ago this Fall, I entered into Design Fundamentals One (“Fundies One”) at New York Institute of Technology.

This program, developed for entering architectural students to NYIT by Professor, is based on a “Kit of Parts”, which in turn owes much to Friedrich Froebel’s Kindergarten Blocks, which so inspired a young Frank Lloyd Wright.

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architectural process pic 1.png

I vividly recall the instructors quoting Wright’s famous statement that the “… wood blocks are in my fingers to this day”; making the point that these design fundamental lessons would live with us for the rest of our lives.

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My twenty-five year old self laughed at the idea that these “ridiculous” wooden blocks and rods would have some sort of lasting effect on my life. And yet, here we are, three decades on, and those little blocks continue to loom large as I approach any design project.

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The basic concept was to employ a group of platonic solids, with specific modular dimensions in a series of projects, each of which, developed a specific architectonic concept, and increased in complexity as each project built upon the lessons learned in the previous projects.

The seeming simplicity of these forms belie the profound interactions between each element, the space created or implied, and the elements and their environments.

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architectural process pic 1.png

Description of Design Fundamentals 1 from the NYIT website:
“Design Fundamentals I is an introduction to architectural composition and design. The studio is delivered through a series of exercises that emphasize the dual influences of intuition and investigation. As they build in complexity, the projects are meant to help students achieve the visual literacy they will need to understand the world around them, and to impart meaning to their own creative work. Students will be asked first to make an object, then a system of objects; to make a space, then a system of spaces; and finally, to make a system, then a system of systems (from objects, to fields to dynamic systems). A piece of architecture is a complex organism, and as such it is invariably embedded within ever larger and more extensive systems – of infrastructure and urban fabric, of climate and society. Whether seen from the perspective of its form, program, material and energy flows, or its contributions to an extended community, architecture is a system of systems.”

These images are renderings of several of these projects, I would like to thank my friend and colleague, Tom Politi for rendering these projects. As a fellow Fundies Alum, Tom and I share our (hopefully healthy) obsession with these little blocks.

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