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Thread: Rice university

  1. #76
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    gummung I keep looking at your headstock design. I must say I love it. Would you mind if I tried to make a headstock with a similar design? No pressure, feel free to say no, I find that design quite unique and you may have intentions of protecting it as your own.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

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    Scott, I'm having trouble getting messages sent after May 4 14:36. I am new to this. Help. I want to hear more about the Rice Student Mandolins.

    Thanks, Roberta

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    I don't think anybody has been posting Roberta..., but I am still here so what is it you would like to know? All the students have probably been a bit busy packing up and heading back home. That's what I've been doing, anyhow. So, now that I'm back home I'll finally learn how to play this thing that I made!
    mandolins rule

  4. #79
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    You want to get some more discussion post a clip of your builds. More pics are good also or any comments on why you went the route you did. We like detail. I myself would still like to see some more of those posters you all made with your instruments.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

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    Hi everyone. This is David Guthrie. Although Scott has quoted a couple of my emails here, this my first official entry. First, THANK YOU! You can't imagine how much the positive response you've given us means to us. The luthier world is uniquely warm and communal.

    I'll keep this short for now, but I want to tell the story of the project here. Scott has generously offered to add a section for our mandos on this site, so I'll be working on that with him. I figure that the best way to tell our story is right here on the message board, so be prepared for some long entries. I hope you all won't mind seeing a series of short essays posted, even if they take up a chunk of your screen. I'm hoping that they will generate more discussion about the intersection of these two realms (instrument design/ construction and architecture). It's already fascinating to see many in the academic world of architecture struggle to digest this project, or even regard it as a legitimate educational exercise, while others get it instantly. I'll be explaining the pedagogy behind it all as well as describing the value of the experience on many levels.

    Thank you for the warm embrace. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens here.

    More soon!

    -David

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    I look forward to seeing your essays posted.

  7. #82
    ISO TEKNO delsbrother's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (fluidG @ May 30 2007, 12:49)
    It's already fascinating to see many in the academic world of architecture struggle to digest this project, or even regard it as a legitimate educational exercise, while others get it instantly. I'll be explaining the pedagogy behind it all as well as describing the value of the experience on many levels.
    As a teacher, I am VERY interested in this, either on or offlist.

  8. #83
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    This text in the following post is the introduction to a book I published a couple of years ago that documents the work in a class I've taught since the mid-90s. The upcoming Rice Mandolins book will have some similar traits --lots of objects floating in black space. But the mando book will also have a lot of process documentation, as well, that isn't part of the CUBE book format.

    I'm posting the CUBE text first because it really locates a major part of my approach that led to the mandolin project. It establishes my architectural pedagogy, which will make understanding the mandolin project's place in an architect's education. The mandos are basically like the cubes but astronomically more challenging. They involve immeasurably more in the way of functional, structural, and technical demands than even the most ambitious cubes. It's like a million to zero.

    The cubes (explicitly) have no function --the mandolins participate in an ergonomic relationship that is close to the most intimate humanly possible. The structural demands on the cube assembly are practically nonexistent. The difference in the challenge each project represents are too obvious to mention.

    Furniture is an extension of architecture. Nearly every iconic 20th C chair was designed by an architect --Mies, Breuer, Eames, etc. But most attempts at furniture design/fabrication I've seen in architecture school are pretty abysmal. It seems easy, but it is deceptively challenging. People think that because a chair is a manageable scale, it should be simple to create an original design. We often don't have respect for what it takes. It is extremely challenging. And I like my furniture to be comfortable, which multiplies the difficulty.

    The cube exercises were my attempt to neutralize the aesthetic and functional demands of the design process. I just wanted to get at the essence of how and why materials are placed in resonant relationships or configuarations, materially and geometrically. The Cube Project seem to be accepted as a legitimate part of the architectural curriculum. In fact, several schools are using the book as the basis for their own classes.

    So it's puzzling that it isn't obvious to anyone who takes a close look that the mandolin project is an ideal experience as part of an architect's training. I have the benefit of seeing the process first-hand. I've played the guitar since I was 15 but never had a clue about how they were made. To me, instruments were at once exotic, ordinary, familiar and unknowable. It's sort of like the laptop beneath my hands right now. Robert Pirsig wrote some great observations about technophobia (and many other ideas) in his classic "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and sequel "Lila". It has been a long time since I've read them, but I'd bet they will still resonate. Good reading for any luthier. Quality.

  9. #84
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    Intro from: CUBE

    David Morrow Guthrie

    Princeton Architectural Press
    2004


    1:1
    In architecture school, we typically work with abstractions. Students make drawings and build models that by definition refer to something else, usually a thing never directly encountered or realized. As useful as they are as tools, these abstractions have two major limitations that happen to be essential to architecture: scale and materiality. We cannot encounter the spatial and behavioral properties of the materials they represent or fully experience the physical consequences of our decisions through these modes of representation alone. This fact creates a significant vacuum in the education of an architect. It’s no wonder that architects have a notorious reputation among builders for knowing little about how things are really put together. Any tradition of architect as builder is long gone.

    Obviously, the solution is not to reduce architectural education to a kind of trade school by overemphasizing construction technique and ignoring other, more important architectural ideas and principles. But the reality is, we rarely work directly with materials at a 1:1 scale. When we do, the objects we produce tend to be fragments of some larger, never-to-be-realized whole. These disembodied construction details (typically corners or connections) are yet another form of abstraction, impossible to apprehend without their full context. The cube project is the outgrowth of my effort to fill this vacuum. The intent is to close the gap between conceptual speculation and material reality, to put aside rhetoric and lay the cards on the table. These objects are not models or fragments. Full-scale and autonomous, the cubes embody the concepts that shape them. They are it, the thing itself.


    Process
    The central idea of the cube project is to learn how to develop a system of logic, or language, within each construction that sustains a resonant relationship between form and material. This can best be accomplished by coming to terms with the material’s physical reality. Some cubes are brilliant in their logic, while others remain unresolved. These logical systems cannot be preconceived and imposed, but must be discovered through an iterative, give-and-take dialog that links the hands, the materials, and the imagination in a feedback loop. This process leads to a clearer understanding of the nature of the materials, which ultimately shapes a system —a set of rules— that integrates the part and the whole. Working solely through representation, on the other hand, distances the maker from the immediacy of physical interaction. In the cube exercises, I encourage the students to work through rough, conceptual sketches, not complete, hard line drawings, and to keep the process open-ended. Direct manipulation of material is essential to this discovery process because preconceived ideas always change when they meet physical reality. Rather than something that happens upstream in isolation, we tried to make design inseparable from the act of making.


    Architectural Analog
    As fundamental as it seems to architecture, confronting material reality is typically not a priority. It is either not recognized as essential to architecture, or just plain too difficult to approach. With the apparent triumph of the image, the idea of studying material relationships almost seems anachronistic and esoteric, even irrelevant. Easily subsumed and obscured by other legitimate issues that are more readily accessible through conventional analytical and representational tools like drawings, the tangible consequences of architectural decisions often become an afterthought. There are whole regions of architectural philosophy based on denying or avoiding material reality altogether…odd, to say the least, for a discipline anchored in materiality.

    Although I consider the cubes a kind of distilled architecture, the exercises obviously address a very narrow slice of the spectrum that comprises the whole architectural enterprise. The cubes are not intended to imply any direct, linear connection to building design or technology. Instead the exercises are analogues that isolate a very specific set of issues in order to examine the decision-making process regarding fundamental material relationships. Construction technique is just a tool whose mastery opens possibilities. The idea of working with 2 x 4s, drywall, and plywood is partly based on a desire to familiarize students with typical construction materials and methods and to demystify the building process. Hopefully this knowledge will give them both confidence and an appreciation for the craftsmanship required to work with these materials when they walk onto a job site some day.

    Constructing a resolved object of any complexity requires enormous discipline. There is no short cut or reliable formula. Other agendas like program and formal manipulation offer enticing escape routes that can avoid dealing with the simple, physical reality of how a thing is put together. In order to reduce these opportunities for sidestepping the central issue —to cut off these escape routes-— a few rules explicitly define each exercises’ parameters. The intent of these rules is to eliminate anything extraneous from the palette and isolate the fundamental issues. The hope is to leave nothing but the physical reality of the object. Then the reading of the object can be based on its factual presence, not wishful rhetoric. What emerges from this process is not a construction method, but a set of principles.


    Form
    The idea of conceiving an exercise with a prescribed shape stems from my effort to limit formal considerations. What would happen if, by being a given, shape was removed from the primary list of variables? This question is the genesis of the cube project. The central act of architecture is creating form, that is, generating a consistent set of rules expressed and embodied by materials that respond appropriately to a broad spectrum of social and practical issues. But in imagining architecture, it is easy to confuse form with shape. All forms have shape, but not all shapes have form. A shape without recognizable organization is considered “formless”. Form implies some kind of order and signifies an underlying structure.

    Although all of the cubes have identical dimensions, some are individually stunning, while others fall flat. So whatever it is that determines a thing’s quality, it must be independent of shape. The difference between the cubes that resonate and the ones that don’t cannot be easily attributed to obvious factors like the quality of materials or precision of craft. Instead this resonance is directly related to the use of materials and the coherence of their formal language. Still, this elusive resonant quality is not simply a by-product of logical consistency. Notes organized into a pattern by definition have some sort of logic, but there’s good music and there’s bad music. The patterns of great music have a certain force that seems like a living thing. Recognizing and appreciating these patterns joins our mind with the mind of the maker.

    The cubes that truly transcend the ordinary carry something else in their bones, a DNA-guided intuitive relationship between material and form that cannot be anticipated nor neatly summed up by logic alone. These ineffably attractive objects enjoy a certain affinity with nature. Even a group of individually mediocre cubes acquires an undeniable power through sheer repetition alone. Any group of cubes creates it’s own context of legibility. (The first image is of an installation of more than 100 cubes.)

    Restrictions
    Restrictions play a key role in any meaningful exploration. Our reflex response to the idea of restrictions is to think of them as inherently negative and limiting, but the opposite is often true. Restrictions define a context. An undifferentiated landscape offers no guideposts, no clues to orientation, nothing to move toward or away from. Freedom from context is paralyzing —hardly a state of liberation.

    Games are clear expressions of this relationship between rules and freedom, and chess is a prime example. Like most games, chess operates within a simple framework: a checkerboard and a few rules for how each piece can move. Judging from these narrow, inflexible constraints alone, one would hardly expect them to produce an incalculable number of mind-stretching permutations. But the masters of any game, mental or physical, do exactly the same thing: Through imagination, they transcend the mundane by exploiting —not avoiding— restrictions. The cube exercises are really games, too, and the creative leaps that happen are possible only because of the existence of established boundaries.


    16” x 16” x 16”
    When I first decided to use the cube as the formal vehicle for an exercise, I didn’t fully grasp it’s potential. Intuitively, it just seemed like it would make a simple and neutral datum. But like all fundamental things, the cube is deceptively simple. It is stable, fixed, indestructible —yet hardly inert. Because it is an absolute and immutable ratio —an idea, not a thing— the cube offers a clear and resilient context for experimenting with ideas related to materials. The cube is a fixed frame of reference, an inexhaustible palimpsest. The sphere probably works in an even more pure way, but it’s a really difficult shape to construct. The cube is obviously a much easier shape to build because it fits our rectilinear construction palette. This fact also embeds the grid into the system. The dimensions of the cube are prescribed and non-negotiable, which removes both shape and scale from the list of variables. The sixteen-inch dimension is not arbitrary. We tried making various sizes. Twelve-inch cubes were too small to sit independently on the ground without being swallowed by the space around them. The objects needed to be self-sufficient, not building blocks. Sixteen inches proved to be an ideal size because of the way it engages the body. It is the height of a chair or small table, and probably roughly equal in mass to the body, lending an intimacy to an otherwise abstract object. This familiarity subtly draws a person in, inviting contact and speculation. Although people often want to attach a function to them, the cubes are explicitly useless. This absence of use releases the maker from practical concerns and the obligatory entanglements of meaning attached to them. The only meaning that the cubes are held accountable for is their own internal logic.


    Materials
    The material choices for the exercises are not arbitrary either. Any beauty or power these objects may have is certainly not derived from the preciousness of exotic materials, but from the simple ways ordinary materials are used. Opulent materials can create another form of distraction, a substitute for quality of thought, and obstruct clear vision. The spirit of using common building materials explores the latent potential of the mundane end of the construction industry’s material spectrum and seeks to reveal the remarkable through the ordinary. Again, finding essential relationships is the primary motive for paring down the palette.


    Nature
    Exploring, contemplating, and, hopefully, beginning to understand the relationship between the artificial and nature is fundamental to my own work. There is a peculiar aspect of being human that allows us to conceive of ourselves —and especially the things we make— as separate from nature. The idea defies reason. We don’t even really make anything: we just rearrange stuff that’s already here. We don’t think of a bird’s nest as artificial, yet the notion that the things we make automatically somehow operate outside of (or even counter to) nature is deeply ingrained in our conceptual framework. We tend to see our relationship to nature as antagonistic. Our walls and fences, our streets and sidewalks, serve as buffers that temporarily hold nature’s steady, absorptive creep at bay. These things act as the last line of defense in our attempts to arrest nature’s relentless cycles of consumption. They mark the boundary of our control.

    The interplay of nature and the artificial exists on every scale that humans operate technologically, from satellite trajectories, to cultivation and urban development patterns, down to our humble cubes. Whether stamped on a computer chip or etched across the floor of a western valley, the grid defines a territory where we believe we can assert our influence over nature. The grid is a mechanism that helps us divvy up nature, and then becomes a tool to further reorganize it down to the scale of the pixel. The interaction between these forces is an interchangeable fractal pattern: We mark nature and nature marks the things we make. A coat of paint erases the reading of wood grain, but it cracks in a pattern identical to other erosion processes like drying mud. The cube project is pushed along by a desire to raise awareness of this dialog and make things that somehow engage it.


    Imagination
    Of course, working through this iterative process of direct contact is impractical for architecture of any scale. The knowledge of discovering material relationships is not the primary source of meaning in architecture. Surprisingly, this intimate and more delicate knowledge is certainly not a prerequisite for producing good architecture, even excellent architecture. Buildings can and must be designed from a distance. But the idea of the cube project is to learn something through tactile experience that can analogously influence things designed remotely and at entirely different scales. This idea is similar to the way learning to draw well by hand always improves graphic computer ability. Imagination without this directly acquired knowledge is still irrepressible, but this subtler knowledge without imagination is idle. Imagination is the key, at once our greatest threat and only source of hope.


    http://www.amazon.com/Cube-Da....&sr=1-1

  10. #85
    Registered User Jim MacDaniel's Avatar
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    <bump>

    I must say that I loved this thread, and felt compelled to reread it today when my recurring afternoon instance of BAW Syndrome arose.

    Does anyone have updates on any of these promising young luthiers? (e.g., Are any of them still building mandolins as a hobby or a side project, or perhaps have any changed their major to lutherie?



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  11. #86
    Registered User Steve Davis's Avatar
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    I'd still like to get a copy of the poster.
    Steve Davis

    I should really be practicing instead of sitting in front of the computer.

  12. #87
    Registered User Jim MacDaniel's Avatar
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    Doug Shilo sent me this slightly different version of the "13 mandolins" poster pictured at the top of the thread. While he didn't have the original giant PDF, the larger file he sent me (from which I made the smaller resized image below) is still decently sized, 1200x1800 pixels, si if anyone is interested in a copy of it to see these instruments in greater detail, for general printing as wall art, etc., please PM or email me off-line.



    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  13. #88
    Jest passin' thru... TeleMark's Avatar
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    Ah. NOW I know where my company got their new logo from... First mando on the left, top row!

    __
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    -- Hanlon's Razor

    Prescott, AZ

  14. #89
    Registered User Steve Cantrell's Avatar
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    I really enjoyed this thread. I wonder how many of these makers are now mandolin players.
    Steven E. Cantrell
    Campanella A

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    Default Re: Rice university

    Resurrecting from the depths of long, long ago, mention of this discussion popped into my inbox this morning so thought worth revisiting. The individual that contacted me has a lengthy set of photos that I'm not sure I'd every seen. Guessing there are still a few out here that remember this project.

    The link in question is: https://david-guthrie.squarespace.co.../11-mandolins/

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  17. #91
    Registered User Joe Dodson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Rice university

    It would be wonderful to play some of those different designs and see what worked and what didn't.

  18. #92
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Rice university

    A friend plays one of Stephen Marchione's acoustic guitars and it is astounding! You'll find a lot of photos on Stephen's fb page but I don't remember seeing any mandolins.

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    Default Re: Rice university

    Quote Originally Posted by RichieK View Post
    My son is thinking about applying there for college...now it's looking even better,(at least to me)!
    Richie
    I wish your son the best of luck. One of my friends fro Houston just told me a story of one of his buddies son's being accepted to Harvard ..... but not accepted to Rice. It is a great school but really hard to get in ..... probably partially due to such a small student body.

    I graduated in architecture and I love that this was a design project for the Rice students. We had some very creative professors, but none ever thought of anything this cool!
    Linksmaker

  20. #94

    Default Re: Rice university

    Quote Originally Posted by Links View Post
    I graduated in architecture and I love that this was a design project for the Rice students. We had some very creative professors, but none ever thought of anything this cool!
    I'm a design professor and I could, theoretically, do something like this. Would love to.
    But man, the thought of trying to get a dozen student's hand skills to the point where they could actually get a mandolin done in a reasonable period of time- safely...
    That would be a ton of work, even if things like bridges and fretboards were standardized, which I suppose these largely were.

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