San Diego Breweries Desperately Need Design

Enjoying a beer at Rip Current. Photo by Miguel Reyes

Enjoying a beer at Rip Current. Photo by Miguel Reyes

A good beer is a good beer. I know what a good beer tastes like because I like it. I don’t need to pretend these hops and that yeast are a better combination for this Brown Ale. Nope, a good beer just feels right on my palette. I have a good understanding of the process of making beer, how can I not? This is San Diego, arguably the mecca of craft beer. But unlike bearded beer connoisseurs sniffing their own hoppy farts at the discussion table at any local brewery, I don't take my beer too serious. I respect people who do, people who are experts at their craft, people who have paid their dues and put in the work. People who have passion and have dedicated their lives at honing and evolving their recipes. Thank you, you are what makes San Diego a delicious boozy experience. I am not talking about them. I am talking about the guy who fixes motorcycles but thinks he can brew a better batch of IPA than Mike Hess. I am talking about theguy who claims his career is cross-fit but he is also a brew master at night at his mom’s garage. Or the local barfly who lives in North Park and despises every beer he drinks as “over rated” but claims his buddy’s pilsner is gonna be the next big thing. You know who you are.

In many ways beer is like design or comedy, or music, or art, or anything creative for that matter. Everyone has an opinion about it, and everyone has a preference.Some people like stouts others brown ales, although I do not understand San Diego’s obsession with IPA’s, regardless of taste everyone can agree that most breweries are not known for good design. That is not a bad thing, they should be known for good beer not for looking pretty. But as much as I hate to admit it, San Diego needs to step up the architecture of breweries in order to succeed. 

Stone brewery was a huge success because there was nothing like it around at the time. I used to live in North County and I remember going to Stone when the tasting room was in their warehouse in San Marcos. Some chairs, a bar, some barrels laid out to serve as tables, they were handy to lean on once you had a few arrogant bastards. The main clientele consisted of thirsty blue collar workers getting off work. But fortunately, or unfortunately depending how big of a micro brewery purist you claim to be, Stone Brewery was bound to grow. They had decent beer and they understood the concept of experience. They threw some money at the design of their new facility, called it a bistro, put some shitty fusion interpretation of tacos on their menu and boom! Now it is packed with soccer moms and house wives sucking down bottles of wine at noon. Who the fuck orders wine at a brewery? Any how, I’m not a Stone hater, I love what they did with the garden, I was a customer for many years before I moved out of North County. But to be fair I got over the Stone hype fast, I went to Stone to drink their guest beers, they always had good non-stone beer on tap. 

Patio Benches at Modern Times. Photo by Miguel Reyes.

Patio Benches at Modern Times. Photo by Miguel Reyes.

The point is that they focused on the experience of the customer. The beer is the main attraction but the experience and comfort of space kept people drinking longer. For example, even though they have great beer most of the time, you wouldn't catch me dead drinking at Toronado for longer than an hour in the middle of summer, sweating balls like it’s the sauna at 24 hour fitness. The cross ventilation at that place is terrible. Or Modern Times in North park, for a pretentious hipster beer their tasting room design is mediocre at best. If you are gonna repeat the ceiling lamp shades from the thousand other bars that do it at least do it right.Oh yea and their beers suck. Maybe they are not trying too hard, and that’s their whole stick, even so, at least clean the benches on your patio, I know hipsters are dirty but come on! 

Not everything is terrible of course, some breweries understand this and spend money hiring architects. Recently North Park Beer Co. opened its doors to what looks like the inside of my grandma’s closet. I might not like the design but that’s just personal opinion, the point is they are doing something about the experience. And quite successful too. That place is always packed. Ale Smith and Ballast Point, love it or hate it, are more examples of effort to enhance the user’s experience. We might not even like their designs and prefer to catch a buzz in an empty warehouse but the effort is a sign that they care. Or maybe I’m just a fool and they are just trying to make tons of money. Regardless of opinions San Diego breweries need to start focusing on design if they want to continue to grow as the great tourist destination for beer, good design doesnt have to be expensive, it just has to be good. 

Rules

Back in school trying to make this "structure" work. Photo by: Miguel A. Reyes

Back in school trying to make this "structure" work. Photo by: Miguel A. Reyes

I miss architecture school, I really do. It didn't feel so much like it at the time but reminiscing about all those late night studio sessions brings me joy. I miss that hour when it was starting to get too late in the night, when people started getting weird, when it was peaceful. Sitting there with an exacto knife slashing at some foam-core, creating, evolving, massaging, like one of my teachers used to say. It was fun man, talking about our projects with my fellow students, pushing our ideas forward. I miss the nervousness I felt right before “pinning-up” all my hard work. I miss the feeling of relief after getting mauled by whoever happened to be in the panel of critics on “crit” day. It was liberating, creating something out of nothing, developing an idea so far and putting the “final” product on the board, it felt good. 

I miss walking around checking out other people’s work. Seeing who was more “out-there” and who was more pragmatic, being a critic on my own. It was hard for me to be a critic though, I always felt like an asshole if I were to say something negative about somebody else’s hard work, because I thought everyone put in so much effort in to it. But it got easier as I grew in school. I miss the competitiveness aspect of studio, how beautiful some people’s drawings were, the intricacies of laying out a presentation board that made sense. I miss seeing a beautiful presentation, well articulated with amazing graphics that would not work for shit in the real world.

When I got my first real job after architecture school I was welcomed with a shit ton of rules. Pretty design drawings became construction drawings, theory was replaced by the building code, and presentations converted into arguments at the city’s building department. Now, I am not saying that architecture after school becomes a bore, far from it, for me it became a whole new learning experience, what I am saying is that I was never prepared for it. I am also not blaming the school for it either, I wouldn't trade the education I received for anything, I do blame myself though. I should have worked outside of school, real work, not being an intern but in the construction industry. Being on a construction site is eye opening, it helps on really understanding how everything comes together, the sequence of the work, the process of constructing a building. Touching and feeling the materials that will develop into an architectural experience. 

The most successful architects are the ones who make innovation look easy. It is not easy, it is very hard and it takes tons of work. There needs to be a thorough understanding of the fundamental rules of building. We are lacking master builders in this day and age. You can hide yourself in the mantra of a “paper architect”, teacher or theorist all you want, and that's okay. But the crude reality of the business side of it is that the practice of architecture still revolves around building and there are rules to this shit. In order to experiment we must master the basics. 

ADAPt Architects making it look easy. Via ArchDaily. 

ADAPt Architects making it look easy. Via ArchDaily. 

Image of Irrationality [im-rra]

“Over the past few decades, architecture as an idea has limited its definition of itself. Architectural styles and forms are often the seductive packaging and repackaging of the same proven, marketable concepts. What is needed desperately today are approaches to architecture that can free its potential to transform our ways of thinking and acting.” - Lebbus Woods

To design anything, it is necessary to first imagine a client a site, a purpose, or even a world. It has to be made up. This speculative approach invites the use of fiction in architecture to widen the cultural discourse and explorations in architectural design. Architecture as spatial story telling. It has a unique capacity to uncover as well as tell stories. As a language it can negotiate the threshold between matter-of-fact, reality, and mysterious spatial events. This acknowledgement of the increasingly complex and accelerated world. Im-rra intents to investigate the potential of visionary architectural representations, aimed not to create buildings, but rather to progress the discussion and mediation of architecture beyond its own disciplinary boundaries through narrative and imagery. It offers alternatives to the autonomous presumptions of architecture and to create a field of unpredictable potentials.

Im-rra is a presence that springs from the notion of the fatal inevitability of change. This idea is created through the use of narrative and image making to introduce a parasite that is in constant evolution and decay of the built form. This allows a place where spaces are prevented from being complete and are in constant state of mutation, creating a vibrant relationship between parasite (alien object), host (building), and the immune system (the user). This sets a stage for an absolute freedom and alternative ways of attacking the autonomous architecture. Here I’m also taking about the disturbing power of the image. We are not to read it with reason, we are to read it with emotion.

"Conflict Space" by Lebbeus Woods. [Exibition at SFMOMA]

"Conflict Space" by Lebbeus Woods. [Exibition at SFMOMA]

Memory Of A Brick

I live in North Park. I walk my dog every morning. I’m used to seeing trendy shops popping up every so often on University and El Cajon respectively. Steel and wood, wood and steel, with a concept or gimmick of “nostalgia”. These places are starting to feel like Starbucks popping up everywhere. You know the artisan handcrafted bullshit served or made by a guy with a beard. I don’t hate it, I like where I live, I am very happy I have these type of businesses around, they provide a wonderful world of choices. No better place to find a good cup of coffee.

Sometimes, rarely, some of these businesses stand out, but I emphasize the rarely. Not to be a dick, but because most of the time these shops look very similar, colors, fonts, logos, steel and wood, wood and steel. I was walking my dog one morning half asleep. There it was, standing rigid doing what it was designed to do, I was staring right at it, it felt like it was flipping me off. It was the separating “fence” outside Tacos Perla.

I remember I ate there one time when I was drunk, I thought those tacos were an insult to the Mexican Culture, but then again we are spoiled with great Mexican food in San Diego, it’s hard to judge. This “fence” made me kind of angry. The low wall acting as a divider/fence is made out of decorative brick, wrapped in steel. Fucking steel. The steel doesn't bother me, it is the emotional connection I have to the material. Decorative brick is embedded in my memory as a place and feeling of comfort. I didn't realize I liked this material so much, until I saw it being abused as a trendy ornament in boutique shops.  

I became infatuated with the material long before I was interested in architecture. I remember seeing it everywhere in the small town where my grandmother is from in Mexico. People had multiple uses for it, screens, fences, shelves, etc. It gave me a comfortable feeling, a feeling of being “home”. Maybe it was because my grandmother had a kitchen that was partially outdoors, divided by a screen of bricks that served as a towel holder, spice rack, dish dryer, etc. As a kid I used to run in and out snacking on whatever grandma was cooking. 

As I walked around more in the neighborhood I noticed it more often. Not in trendy places, but old buildings, neither good or bad, not trying to make a statement, but just being an ornament. There is something more to the history and presence of this material in North Park, I will find out sooner or later. For now I have to let go of the idea that this material is precious, even though it feels like the cool kids picking up shitty clothes to be ironic, pointing and laughing at the irony.  Decorative brick is not ironic, it’s a beautiful material that deserves respect! 

It is a strange sensation letting go of personal feelings about it and just letting it “be”. Louis Khan once said “we must ask what a brick wants to be”, in essence we must feel the material, we must experience the material in the right setting, when it works it just feels right, even if it’s wrapped in fucking steel. 

F U 2. Photo by Miguel A. Reyes

F U 2. Photo by Miguel A. Reyes

Respect! Photo by Miguel A. Reyes

Respect! Photo by Miguel A. Reyes

Courtyard at "El Comal". Photo by Miguel A. Reyes

Courtyard at "El Comal". Photo by Miguel A. Reyes

Photo by Miguel A. Reyes

Photo by Miguel A. Reyes

The Gates of Now (Part 01)

“I’m telling you bro! Shit’s gonna go down!” Peter frantically exclaimed.

“There is no way I am gonna survive through that shit.” Carl replied.

A rusty robotic voice interrupted the conversation: “Attention organic members of C6412, we are now conducting DNA scannings for your convenience!” 

“Come on we’re up.” Peter smacked Carl in the arm as they hustled through a mob of humans, cyborgs and mutants confusedly trying to find their way around.

Peter and Carl were at threshold 42069, the only threshold allowing them to enter the group C6412; it was a risk that involved giving up a lot of information. The two friends were okay with this, they were fed up. Ever since the government had control of most human information the notion of losing an organic piece of one’s self did not matter anymore, it was about survival more than anything.

Peter and Carl made it to the portal, it was massive; a wall and a gate composed of energy. It had monolithic features yet it felt light and welcoming. Three large cyborgs stood at the gate, they stood still and calm, staring at the crowd, concentrating on details. One of them was holding what appeared to be a rectangular device no larger than your average grimy bible at a roach motel three thousand years ago. They glided the device in front of Peter’s face, then on Carl’s. The cyborg asked them: “Where does the buck stop?”

Carl quickly replied: “The buck never stops!”

The cyborg gestured them to walk as two large openings “dissolved” momentarily to let them inside.  They disappeared as the gate regained its original form.

 

Three thousand years ago there was a war. It wasn’t a physical war, it was an information war. Humans were enamored with information technology, it was heavily relied on, and the tipping point came when people could no longer control the impact of information on human psyche. Anonymity not only helped in obscuring identities but it instigated individuals to peruse their deepest darkest desires. It wasn’t enough to seek these gratifications “online”. Pleasure, wealth, entertainment, destruction etc. moved away from the virtual world into another world. Not quite physical, not quite virtual, somewhere in between, a liminal space of entropy where hybrid mutations dwell. A social duality where there is a constant struggle.

The outcome of years of this war were changes in evolution. Not only in the natural world but in the built world as well. The grandiose city became monuments of unhealthy density, promoting incurable diseases in its population, leading to years of mutations. Human mutations did not take long to spread globally; sick mutants remained in the dense world, adapting, evolving, and getting stronger. The human population who remained somewhat “untouched” were the farmers, villagers, and the people from the fringes. The same could be said for architecture. Architecture mutations were inevitable, except for the architecture of the fringes, slowly maintaining.

“C6406 was so much better, too bad those fuckers shut it down.” Anna said while lighting up a cigarette. “Where were you guys before coming here?” She asked.

“We were at ‘Ducks and Decorated Sheds’ getting some vintage goodies.” Peter said smiling.

“That’s so fucking ugly and ordinary!” Anna said in a disgusted tone.

“Don’t knock it till you try it.” Peter barked back.

“Oh I’ve tried it alright, hated it!” Anna was agitated.

“What’s your problem? Why you gotta be so stuck up?” Peter said in an obvious pissed off tone.

“Listen, I am not stuck up, I am a realist. I actually got a few books from ‘Ducks and Decorated Sheds’. You know those things that you only heard of in some group of old farts trying to reminiscence about a time that never was. Well those little antiquated devices have primitive information written in them. Some of them talk about an idea of a utopia, everyone getting along with each other. It is the biggest load of shit I have ever heard in my life, it is ugly and unrealistic.” Anna rambled on.

“You must be fun at parties.” Carl said smirking.

 

Anna was a product of her environment. Ever since the end of the war, sickness, mutations and the domination by cyborgs, the world was segregated. Most humans only dealt with other humans, mutants with mutants and cyborgs with cyborgs. At least in the main domains. Peter, Carl and Anna like to hang out in the underground, the underbelly of this new controlled civilization. The organization of this new world is similar to the internet of three thousand years ago. The debris of flamboyant architectural explorations now just serves as a host for different environments dispersed through the landscape of the once spurious Beijing. Energy thresholds connect passages to different worlds clinging to ruins of starchitecture like parasites. Each world or “pocket” is a different experience that tests one’s senses and status in the evolutionary spectrum.

Like the archaic cyberspace, these environments have different degrees of accessibility. Three thousand years ago one had to click yes to the “terms of service” agreement in order to enter certain cyber spaces. This technology transcended into the Meta physical environment that highly evolved species now occupy.

It all started with the typology of the Plaza. The allure of comfort and commodities disguised as technological advances kept pushing people to give up more information in order to “simplify” their lives. The Plaza, was one of the last free public physical spaces, it became evident to the people in control that it needed to be “managed”. Tiananmen Square was the first example of SPSD or Selective Public Space Discipline. Eventually every public space required an analysis, an eye scan, a DNA sample, voice recognition etc. For hundreds of years it became the normal conditions of the population. Until someone figured out how to hack the system.

“So what the fuck is this new group about?” Anna asked her two friends.

“Do you even wanna be here?” Peter said.

“I do but it just seems that one group goes down and another one pops up with a bigger promise of liberation just to get shut down again, it really is discouraging.”

“Well I understand your disappointment but the only way to survive is to keep on trying until we figure it out. I heard a mutant is running this group and it sounds promising.”

“A fucking mutant!” Anna screamed. In the space full of mutants and cyborgs with almost no humans on sight.

“Shut the fuck up.” Peter whispered. “Are you trying to get us killed or are you just that stupid?”

“I’m sorry.” Anna embarrassingly apologized.

 

Petohmi is his name. Mutant revolutionary, he had a history as a problem solver, most mutants were brute and incoherent, and years of sickness had destroyed their brain’s capabilities of rationality. Mutants were physically strong but intellectually weak. Petohmi was part of a new breed of mutants who had escaped the disease infected nodes of the super cities. These mutants rapidly developed ingenuity in the fringes. It became clear to them that there was a problem of oppression in the organized system of government controlling all the population of The New Republic of Asia.

Most humans had only heard anecdotes of mutants like Petohmi but rarely had a human come to contact with one of them. Peter, Carl and Anna joined the now growing gathering of followers who stood in front of what appeared to be a moving tree, a large organic body attached to a base of energy. The crowd fell silent. There was a flash in the vast space, the tree like object slowly transformed into a large humanoid figure.

“Fellow citizens of the world, a wise man once said: ‘The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.” Petohmi enthusiastically addressed the crowd.

The crowd went up in roar.

Image by Hector Aramburo

Image by Hector Aramburo

Prisoners of Consciousness

It is no secret that materialism thrives in today’s society, especially in the American culture. We are in love with material things. These things are becoming part of us; at the same time they are becoming less material and more digital. For instance the cell phone is a constant reminder that we need to be connected, fulfilling a primal desire of belonging to a tribe. For a lot of us our lives revolve around being connected to these digital tribes. We are being controlled by this technology.

 Since Google announced the release of “Google glasses” there has been a lot of theories and speculation on the potential of this technology. As consumers we are lazy, we love commodities, the allure of technological advancements to make our lives easier is overpowering us. As technology evolves it will become more intrusive disguised as comfort.  Soon voice commands are not going to be convenient enough and we will need to be wired directly through our brains to access digital information. It will be the beginning of singularity, the cyborg era.

 Everybody is going to be walking around with accessibility to a database directly from our brains. The mere action of thinking will bring up access to infinite amount of information available through the Internet. This of course will come with the deserved dangers of misuse of this technology. In the same spirit as today cyber criminals hack into websites to steal credit card information, there will be hackers accessing our brains for different purposes. Torture, pleasure, escapism, fetishes, education and even imprisonment will be delivered through manipulation of our minds.

 Recent political events (see the NSA fiasco) have showed us that governments are not timid about manipulation of technology and information to meet a certain agenda. It is irrelevant whether justice motivates their intent or it is motivated by evil, the point is that this is already happening. They will try to rationalize this intrusiveness as a means to a justice adequate for the time. This will come as imprisonment of consciousness, the restraining of freedom through hacking the human brain.

 Hefty campaign donations will still lead to federal contracts and private companies will still capitalize on the business of imprisonment. The typology of prisons will dramatically change. There will no longer be the necessity for monolithic walls enclosing a community of criminals. Natural disasters caused by global warming will destroy the cityscape. There will still be a need to where to store the bodies of the prisoners, an incubator where they will be “connected” to their respective sentence.

 The fast and extreme changes in climate will force these incubators to be flexible and able to relocate at the drop of a dime. They will attach like parasites to any convenient remains of buildings. This architecture will have to be pushed away, far from the sight of the mass population. It will constantly be morphing, moving, re-inventing but never forgiving.

Image by Hector Aramburo

Image by Hector Aramburo

On Form

Image by Paranesi

Image by Paranesi

Here at OHMS we are masochists, we like to engage on senseless debates that are better left for the assholes in academia that love to wear black clothing. While reminiscing on some shitty critiques during school that actually sparked up interesting conversations Hector and I had a discussion on the importance of form in architecture. I won’t bore you with his insane argument, maybe you can ask him, but I will tell you mine.

The functionality of form has developed over the years; as designers today we have infinite amounts of techniques on how to create form. Is it a reaction to the surroundings or is it designed from inside out to accommodate the necessity of occupants? Is it an algorithm or pure artistic interpretation? As humans we have to engage in a connection to the environment, in essence the way we interact with each other is affected by our surroundings, in an urban setting more often than not these surroundings are buildings. The performance and interaction of this connection is very important for social existence.

Form refers to shape, visual appearance, or configuration of an object. At its core the definition of form is the shape of an object. The use of form in architecture goes beyond merely aesthetics of a building; it represents the body of that piece of work as opposed to space, which represents the soul. Not only does form determines what a building looks like but there are different philosophies behind formal expression, there is an intention to create feelings, attitude, and atmosphere, in a nut shell form influences human emotion.

The Image of...

The expression of architecture has slowly been evolving, or regressing in actuality, to a more cohesive and conventional practice. The Ideas of symbolic production, whose primary task is to construct concepts and subject positions rather than making the plausible, is slowly dying. As part of a newer generation we are forgetting that architecture is fundamentally a question of the: what is, what might be, and how it can be, it’s ultimately a blank projection open to the imagination. Architecture is limited and crippled by the build properties of a building, in this aspect architectural research is failing. The need to exalt the capacity of the imagination to create new images is crucial to break away from the convention of what architecture has become.

Image by Hector Aramburo

Image by Hector Aramburo

A Chinese Summer

This past summer I went on a study abroad program to China. It was an interesting experience to say the least; it was a different atmosphere than what I had anticipated. At an urban setting there is a lot of resemblance to Mexico City. The street vendors, the public vs. private space re appropriation battle, the ingenious adaptations to create new markets, all of these things that seem to root from the economic issues that prevail in both of these countries start to shape the urban fabric accordingly. One of the most obvious differences is in regards to public space, in Mexico the space is taken over or occupied at convenience and it transforms through time, in China there is a clear invisible boundary stating that a lot of these spaces are off limits and it is well respected among the Chinese population.  What is most interesting about the Chinese city is that there seems to be no density gradient, one minute one could be surrounded by high rise buildings and just a 10 minute drive could be the difference between Starbucks and rural farming.

Some people argue that China is where most of us as architects are going to be working sooner or later, the rapid growth of their cities is undeniable and the fearless approach of the government when it comes to building is astonishing. This notion of super-fast design and production is what China has become to be known for, but among the young architecture students there was a different feeling. As opposed to the fast paced designers that seem to be prevailing in the major cities there is a more conscious approach in the universities. The Chinese students have a grounded sensibility and respect when designing. This became almost a juxtaposition with the American students; the Americans were eager to produce the most work possible and the Chinese students were more interested in setting up a discourse among all of us to try understand history of site in order to respect it, living conditions and more importantly to truly know and understand the people living in the area.


Photograph by Miguel A. Reyes

Photograph by Miguel A. Reyes