Communicative Shapes

Removed Reflection — Forbes and Bouquet (8/30)

(Our assignment was to observe our chosen street corner, write about what we saw and how we felt, and then take photographs representative of our writing)

This intersection is a busy one. It’s in constant motion: cars rush through on Forbes, people walk and talk, sit and stand, and even bike in and through this space. There is an energy about it that is exciting.

Each corner of the intersection presents a very different picture, contribuitng to the intersection as a whole having an unusual, yet intriguing theme: contrasts. The first is a contrast between, yet unity of, old and new. I sit on the southwest corner of the intersection, so the most prevalent example of this contrast is directly accross the intersection from me. There, on the northeast corner, is an old, ornate, castle-like stone building. Tan stone of a rough texture makes up its face, its rounded drum towers. It’s not imposing, being only two stories high. The history it must have interests me, especially when I notice what it has now become. Jutting out ostentatiously from just above its entryway is a large black cantilevered mass, clearly a modern addition, with a bright pink T-Mobile sign on it. Furthermore, the weatheredd side of the building, exposed to Bouquet, houses two large LED light displays. These flash nonsensical bunches of color at passerbys.

The castle

Here, the old and the new clash in a spectacularly strange fashion. I enjoy looking at the building, but not so much because of any mastery in the integration of modernity into the old space. I like that the two can clash in style and still have a new, single function together. To like this building feels strange, but this is fitting, as the combination is strange.

The contrasts continue in looking at other buildings on the various sides of the intersection. Old and new remains one of the most obvious, but it is rivaled in significance by the contrast evident between the sizes of the buildings. In my corner, the southwest, there is the behemouth Barco Law building of UPitt. On the northwest, a large brick office space towers just as high. Both are clear examples of modernity. The Towers at UPitt rise even higher accross the intersection, yet do so behind the older, smaller buildings that hug the street. While at this intersection most of these smaller shops and eateries are on the east side, they appear to be ample on the west as well just north of here.

The buildings at this intersection vary hugely in size

The large buildings all around me make me feel like a small part of a large community. This is because their potential is visible in their scale. At the same time, the smaller builidngs that so starkly contrast these large ones seem to be more welcoming. I feel intrigued by them, and want to go and see what they have to offer me, a member of this new place.

Another major contrast in this place, the one I find most endearing and aesthetically pleasing, is that between the natural and the artificial. There is a pleasingly significant amount of plant life occupying this space. I notice too that the plant life here, like the buildings, vary between old and new, large and small. There are large canopies from massive trees, smaller clusters of green from the fledgling trees across Bouquet, even a array of plant and flowers in a round space off the southwest corner. And, of course, grassy spaces, particularly in the afformentioned corner with the large trees and round planter.

A tree and grassy space sandwiched between two structures

I am sitting now under the largest tree. It is old and serene, with a calming and conforting beauty. It is great to be in a piece of nature, albeit manufactured, while still in this active, urban setting. In keeping with the theme of this place, I feel a strange, yet endearing couple of juxtaposed feelings. I am in a natural setting immediately, so I feel relaxed and calm. Yet, at the same time, I am in a lively, exciting city, and am therefore inclned to feel both lively and excited to experience it as so many other people I have seen are. This juxtapostion of feelings, while odd (but certianly not unpleasant) seems so fitting in a place of such gloriously orchestrated contrast. Here, small buildings stand before towers, cell phone providers inhabit castles, history and modernity coalesce. There is too an encouraging diveristy in the poeple. Like the buildings or the plants, they are of many different ages, sizes, colors, and shapes. Yet they all call this place, a part of which I have observed, home.

As I have been watching, it has grown dark. The lights are ostentatious now, which seems appropriate. They bring a new kind of excitement to the place, almost as if in the day they were featured in a song you hear on the radio, and now at night they are performing their own hit singles live. Two different experiences: both you notice, but only one is significant, exciting, memorable. This great contrast in their function and energy at different times too is fitting for this place.

The lights had a variety fitting for the intersection

While I would be content to sit in this clean grassy patch for much longer, listening to the cicadas scream and then whisper, or to the cars humming and honking by, or to the snippets of conversation, I feel again the urge to get up and become again a part of this scene. To be excited, to have a plce to go and explore and learn about. I feel, as I look at all this place has to offer, a sense of momentousness that I know will stay with me. That has been this place’s effect on me.

Cutout Assignment (9/1)

After making our observations and taking our photographs, we were asked to choose the ten photos we thought were most representative of our corner. These we were asked to print. Then, we were asked to choose the one that most exemplified our impression of the space. I chose this one:

The corner that I sat at while writing my reflection

I chose this image because it represents my two favorite aspects of the corner: the contrast between natural and manmade, and the energy and liveliness of the area.

We were then, finally, given the details of the assignment we would be doing involving our corner. We were told to make a layered paper cutout of the image: each item in the image would be translated into a contour shape that would be cut out of white paper and then pasted onto a white background. We were given total autonomy in deciding how abstracted the image would become, and how exactly we would layer our cut pieces.

Work on First Cutout Iteration (9/2–9/5)

I began by doing a contour tracing of my imagine using a lighbox. It was at this stage that I determined how abstracted to make each part of the image — the trees, the building, the people, etc. Keeping in mind that the different parts of the image would be overlapping pieces of paper, I drew lines into the building as they would appear were it not overlapped by trees in the picture. This way, I would have a whole builing which could be overlapped by trees in the cutout.

My first tracing of the picture

I then used this drawing to trace shapes onto my white paper for the layered cutout. I cut the pieces out in the order that they would be glued down. The building was first, follwed by the sidewalk, and then by the granite sides of the grassy areas and the round group of flowers. Then came the trees, the background pieces down Bouquet, the signpost, and the poeple (and car) in the forefront of the image. As I glued pieces down, they overlapped different thicknesses of layers. Here was the final result:

Critique (9/6)

Received critique of my work. Was advised to make telephone pole parallel to borders of the composition. Was also told that in some areas where one piece overlapped areas of very different thicknesses of paper, the overlap looked awkward. We were told to do another white paper iteration in which we addressed the issues in the first. We were also instructed to crop the composition to either 7"x7" or 6"x8".

Work (9/6–9/7)

Made underlying pieces to address issue of awkward overlaps, and rotated the composition so that the telephone pole is parallel to sides. I decided to keep the building and two trees rising vertically in the composition, as the juxtaposition of the two is my main focus. Here was the result:

Next assignment (9/8–9/12)

Next we were assigned to translate this iteration into a grayscale version. We were given four shades of brown:

In order to try out some different color schemes, I uploaded this contour line drawing of the composition into Photoshop:

I then did some different gradient mock-ups. I chose the following because it presents a good contrast between the natural and manmade, and because I found it most expressive of my impression of the space in general:

I then made the paper version, using the same techniques as I did in making the previous all-white iteration. Here’s how it turned out:

Critique (9/13)

Critique of grayscale iteration. Received no negative feedback or major suggestions for changes. For our next iteration, we were instructed to choose one of the shades of brown in our grayscale composition and replace it with one of these colors:

Work (9/13–9/14)

Decided to replace trees with a green to make them stand out. Chose the darker green because it kept the contrast between dark and light with the building. Also, I found it more pleasing to the eye in general, as it is not so strikingly flashy and neon as the lime green.

Here’s how this iteration, the final one of the project, came out:

And, finally, here is the whole succession together:

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