Friday, December 5, 2003

Adrian Smith of SOM discusses the Jinmao Building (美國名建築師論金貿大樓)

Adrian Smith of SOM discusses the Jinmao Building (美國名建築師論金貿大樓)

Interview with Adrian Smith of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)

Adrian Smith is a consulting design partner with the architecture firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, and is one of the most recognized architects in the world. His work includes several major skyscrapers, including the tallest building in China. In the following conversation with's Director of Communications Tom Finnegan, Mr. Smith discusses his design philosophy, the economics and engineering of tall buildings, and his project history including a new world's tallest building.

Smith: Another project in Chicago called Dearborn Center was designed in 1989. Its structural system had a solid concrete core with only eight super frame columns and eight corner columns around the perimeter so its typical floor was extremely open. Although Dearborn Center didn't get built, it had a strong influence on Jin Mao Tower, designed in 1993. Except for the top, the shape and the floor plates are very similar. One of the main massing attitutes that Jin Mao borrowed from Dearborn Center and AT&T was the way the building wall steps back as it rises to the sky. On AT&T there are steps at the 15th, 30th and 45th floors. On Jin Mao, I tried stepping in 8 floor segments but determined that this was too static. So I tried modulating from larger stepped segments at the bottom of the tower to progressively shorter segments at the top. This approach solved the issue of the tower feeling complete even when the view of the lower levels was blocked by adjacent structures. The side effect of this stepping system is that it resembles the pagoda forms used in ancient China. These were actually the first form of high rise buildings. [emphasis added]

Finnegan: A lot of people have made that comparison, which I suppose comes as no surprise.

Smith: The comparison is direct. It wasn’t meant to look like a pagoda, but it was intended to evoke the memory of pagodas, much the same way I.M. Pei's pyramid at the Louvre is a modern depiction of the ancient pyramids in Egypt.

Editor's Comments:

Sometime during the conceptual or schematic design phase of the Jinmao Building, Adrian Smith apparently apprised himself of the numerological significance of the number eight in Chinese culture. That is probably why a preliminary design scheme featured a stepback every eight floors. A spokesman for C. Y. Lee, architects for the Taipei 101 Building also told reporters that their design team deliberately divided the Taipei 101 Building into eight sections for numerological reasons.

The difference is that the designer of Taipei 101 became enamored with his pet "canted section" feature, to the eventual detriment of the overall design. The designer of Jinmao on the other hand, wisely reconsidered his initial "one setback every eight floors" scheme when it became apparent it just didn't look right.

Ironically Smith was right and Lee was wrong. Smith did what ancient Chinese artisan/architects would have done -- trust one's eye. Lee on the other hand, didn't. The consequence is Jinmao looks right, while Taipei 101 doesn't. Jinmao even feels more authentically Asian than Taipei 101.

Chinese architects should be busy creating a vital and convincing modern, Chinese-inspired, East Asian architectural style. They should be doing it better than Japanese, European, and American architects, but they aren't. That doesn't mean they won't, but at the moment they aren't, and that fact saddens me deeply.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Interview with Adrian Smith of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)
Illustration(s): Jinmao Building, Shanghai: Dearborn Center, Chicago
Author(s): Tom Finnegan, Interviewer
Publication Date: November 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Monday, December 1, 2003

The Pagoda, Prototype for Modern Asian Skyscrapers (寶塔, 現代亞洲摩天大樓的原型)

The Pagoda, Prototype for Modern Asian Skyscrapers (寶塔, 現代亞洲摩天大樓的原型)

The Pagoda, Prototype for Modern Asian Skyscrapers

A previous article explored reasons why the nearly completed Taipei 101 Building is not a well-designed high-rise skyscraper.

This article examines two examples of far superior modern skyscraper designs, inspired by an Asian architectural precedent, the pagoda. Considering that the pagoda is among the oldest forms of high-rise tower in the world, modern high-rise towers based on the pagoda make perfect sense.

Jinmao and Petronas, Modern Pagodas

The Jinmao Building and the Petronas Twin Towers are superior to the Taipei 101 Building. They are superior because they embody the same visual characteristics as the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings: vertical continuity, vertical emphasis, and progressive setbacks. In the Jinmao and Petronas buildings the continuity of the primary building mass is maintained from top to bottom, allowing one to experience the building's full height. Collectively, the building's design elements underscore the building's vertical axis over its horizontal. The floor plans step inward, diminishing in size as the building ascends, giving dramatic emphasis to the building's height.

The traditional pagoda exhibits two of the three previously cited visual characteristics of modern point towers: vertical continuity and progressive setbacks. The traditional pagoda exhibits comparatively little vertical emphasis. Close examination of the traditional pagoda however suggests that a relative lack of vertical emphasis is not necessarily a defect. Vertical continuity and progressive setbacks are enough to ensure a visually convincing design.

Designers of Taipei 101 Flunk Architectural History

Taipei 101's lack of vertical continuity, on the other hand, is a much more serious matter. Taipei 101's tower is broken into sharply segmented "canted sections." These canted sections look like discrete blocks stacked precariously atop one another, ready to topple over any moment.

To make matters worse, the shape has an undesirable pop iconographic connotation. As one coworker noted, Taipei 101 looks remarkably like a vertical stack of Chinese takeout food cartons. Earlier schematic design sketches reveal that Taipei 101's designers became enamoured with this arbitrary shape starting day one and never wavered. They were presumably unaware of this unwelcome iconographic connotation, one that could make Taipei 101's image less appealing.

Traditional pagodas do not resemble separate blocks stacked on top of one another. Traditional pagodas look like monolithic shafts. Cornices or eaves, if any, look like projections from the pagoda's central shaft. Traditional pagodas, unlike Taipei 101, convey a reassuring visual impression of vertical continuity, hence structural integrity. The designers of Taipei 101 apparently, were oblivious to this not so subtle distinction.

Chinese Modern

Those knowledgeable about the sorry state of architecture in modern China may notice the irony. Taipei 101 architect C. Y. Lee is one of the few architects on Taiwan who is making an effort to integrate traditional Chinese architectural motifs into modern architecture. Unfortunately, Lee has never quite figured out how to pull it off. By grafting grotesque and historically inauthentic "Chinese" ornament onto otherwise modern buildings, Lee is truly barking up the wrong tree.

Traditional Chinese architectural themes can be successfully integrated into modern architecture. Japanese modernists have been skillfully integrating Japanese variants of Chinese architectural themes into modern architecture for several decades. So we know it can be done.

The way to integrate traditional Chinese architectural elements into modern Chinese architecture is to draw primarily on traditional Chinese architecture's spatial characteristics, and only secondarily its ornamental motifs. But that is a topic for another essay.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: The Pagoda, Prototype for Modern Asian Skyscrapers
Illustration(s): Xinghua Temple Pagoda in Anhui, China; Haibao Pagoda in Ningxia, China; Twin Pagodas at Yongzuo Temple in Shanxi, China; Jinmao Building in Shanghai, China; Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malayasia; Taipei 101 Lacks Vertical Continuity
Author(s): Bevin Chu
Affiliation: CETRA Design Promotion Center
Publication Date: December 1, 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Taipei 101, Bigger is Not Better (Taipei 101, 更大不等於更好)

Taipei 101, Bigger is Not Better (Taipei 101, 更大不等於更好)

Taipei 101 is rising to number one in height

TAIPEI -- Some time over the next few weeks, a spire rising atop a skyscraper in Taipei will inch past Malaysia's Petronas Towers, making Taipei 101 the world's tallest building.

It took more than good luck for the building to reach such an exalted height -- and its owners plan for it to stay around long after its world record is broken by other developers.

As soon as C.Y. Lee and Partners architects finished a draft design for the 1,667-foot-tall Taipei 101, which is meant to resemble the sturdy bamboo stalk, developer Harace Lin sent for a feng-shui master.

"We wanted to avoid making any mistakes," said Lin, president of Taipei Financial Center Corp., a consortium of the island's leading banks and insurance companies that helped bankroll the $1.7 billion tower that will house a shopping mall, offices for 12,000 people, and the Taiwan Stock Exchange.

Although Taipei 101 will not be entirely finished until November of next year, the 101-story tower is already four times as tall as its nearest neighbors and dominates Taipei's skyline of mostly low-rise gray concrete blocks.

A 197-foot spire to be added in mid-October will make Taipei 101 taller than Malaysia's 1,483-foot Petronas Towers.

The Taipei skyscraper also boasts the world's fastest elevators -- 34 double-decker shuttles that can zoom at 37 miles per hour and take passengers to the 90th floor in less than 39 seconds.

Divided into eight canted sections -- a lucky number to the Chinese -- the tower is sheathed by a wall of tinted glass that reflects the sky and is embellished with traditional Chinese "ruyi" symbols, spoon-like figures of fulfillment and contentment.

It also faces the South, an auspicious direction.

"We designed this building based on the philosophy of integrating with nature," said C.P. Wang, architect and project captain. "It's like a plant growing to reach the sky. This is very different from the Western idea of conquering nature."

The only feng-shui problem, Wang said, was a perpendicular road that ran straight into the building's site, which could bring sickness or bad business to occupants. That was easily fixed by adding a fountain to block off the road.

"Feng shui is part of our culture, so we built these symbols to help people feel lucky," he said in an interview.

A big challenge was to make Taipei 101 strong enough to withstand the typhoons and earthquakes that plague Taiwan.

"The environment we're facing is probably the toughest in the world for very tall buildings," Wang said.

The result is a "megaframe" for the first 62 floors consisting of giant steel columns filled with high-strength concrete. The rest is light, made mostly of steel and glass.

Lin said the tower is designed to endure the strongest earthquake in a 2,500-year cycle -- the industry standard is 400 years -- or tremors measuring above 7 on the Richter scale.

Taipei 101 can also resist the biggest typhoon in a 100-year cycle, or gale force of more than 180 feet a second, he said.

And if a plane plows into the tower, like in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, Taipei 101 "will stay up much longer for people to escape," Wang said.

Editor's Comments:

The Taipei 101 Building may be the world's tallest building, but it is not great architecture. It barely qualifies as mediocre architecture.

Good Engineering, Bad Architecture

The Taipei 101 Building incorporates leading edge technology. The world's fastest elevators rocket tenants to their lease floors at a record 37 miles per hour. Once they have arrived, state of the art tuned mass dampers neutralize potentially catastrophic typhoon or earthquake induced swaying. These achievements however are engineering, not architectural achievements. The credit for them accrues to the engineers, not the architects.

Great architecture is not about sheer size. If sheer size made for great architecture, Boeing's Aircraft Assembly Plant in Seattle, the largest enclosed space in the world, would be prominently displayed in architectural history books.

Great architecture is not about engineering prowess. If engineering prowess made for great architecture, the English Channel Tunnel or "Chunnel" would be hailed as an architectural masterpiece.

A Tall Order

Great architecture is not about either scale of construction or engineering prowess. Great architecture is the creation of emotionally resonant forms of human shelter.

First generation modern masters Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier each at one time or another, designed diminuitive architectural gems that were neither the tallest, nor the longest, nor the widest in the world. They were merely the most emotionally affecting and inspirational. Unfortunately their achievements have seldom been matched.

The ideal I describe is admittedly a tall order. That this exalted ideal is seldom achieved is why neither Taipei 101 nor the now defunct World Trade Center Twin Towers qualify as great architecture.

The venerable, seven decade old Empire State Building is not great architecture either. It is an Art Deco period piece of average quality, clearly inferior to its more stylish predecessor, the Chrysler Building. But compared with the World Trade Center and Taipei 101, the Empire State Building comes off pretty well. As I have lamented before, this is depressing evidence of declining standards.

Chrysler and the Empire State

What makes the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building aesthetically superior to the WTC Twin Towers and the Taipei 101 Building? These rival Art Deco skyscrapers combined three important visual characteristics: one, vertical continuity; two, vertical emphasis; three, progressive setbacks.

By vertical continuity I mean the continuity of the primary building mass is maintained from top to bottom, allowing one to experience the building's full height. By vertical emphasis I mean that the building's design elements collectively underscore the building's vertical axis over its horizontal. By progressive setbacks I mean that lower flanking masses help dramatize the commanding height of the central building mass.

None of these visual characteristics desirable in a modern "point tower" are present in the Taipei 101 Building. Taipei 101 lacks vertical emphasis. Each of its eight canted sections has a self-defeating horizontal emphasis. Taipei 101 lacks vertical continuity. Inappropriate horizontal design motifs at the top of each canted section destroy vertical continuity, making Taipei 101 look as if it might fracture where one section ends and the next begins. Taipei 101 lacks progressive setbacks. Progressive height-enhancing setbacks do not appear until one reaches the rooftop antenna.

The Chrysler Building was completed in 1930. The Empire State Building was completed a year later in 1931. At the time of completion, each building was the tallest in the world. The designers of the Chrysler and Empire State buildings understood that being tall was not enough. A tall building couldn't merely be tall, it had to look tall as well. The designer of a tall building, they knew, must never negate a building's fundamental nature, not even inadvertently. The designer should always acknowledge, underscore, even dramatize a tall building's height.

The 101 story high Taipei 101 Building may be the tallest building in the world, but it sure doesn't look the part. The client obviously coveted the title of "World's Tallest Building" and was willing to pay handsomely for the bragging rights. The fact that Taipei 101 doesn't look as tall as the considerably shorter, considerably older Chrysler and Empire State buildings is an embarrassing indictment of those responsible for its external design.

In all fairness to the designers of Taipei 101, the building does have one saving grace, a reasonably well-designed, reasonably attractive adjoining shopping mall, probably the best in Taipei. The nearly completely leased shopping mall is where the designers of Taipei 101 were the most successful.

The Twin Towers

How exactly does an architectural designer make a tall building look tall? One of the most obvious and effective ways, albeit not the only way, is the way a fashion designer makes a suit of clothes look long, with vertical stripes.

This is the previously mentioned vertical emphasis, but it is not quite as straightforward as it sounds. The elevations of the ill-fated World Trade Center towers were nothing but closely-spaced, thin, white vertical stripes. Unfortunately these vertical stripes were too closely-spaced, too thin, and too white to read as discrete design elements. They registered instead as one giant, blurry moire pattern. The result was the Twin Towers were immense, scaleless, boring expanses of blank wall. When the Twin Towers were completed back in 1973, critics joked that they were the discarded boxes the Chrysler and Empire State buildings came in.

Yes, these vertical stripes were essential components of an innovative load-bearing wall system. Yes, they had to be spaced a mere 22 inches on center for structural reasons. No, that does not excuse the fact that as designed they amounted to an aesthetic disaster. Sound engineering is a necessary but not sufficient condition for good architecture.

Eero Saarinen's CBS Building, aka "Black Rock," by contrast, was a success. Aesthetically Minoru Yamasaki's flimsy white mullions on the WTC didn't work. Saarinen's massive black piers did. Obviously something present at CBS was missing at WTC. That something was mass; perceived mass and actual mass. CBS had it, WTC didn't.

Ironically the 9-11 terrorist attack would affirm the intuitive wisdom that "If it looks right, it probably is right." In 1945, the Empire State Building survived the direct, head-on impact of a USAF B-25 Mitchell bomber lost in the fog. As the entire world knows, neither of the WTC Twin Towers was able to survive similar impacts by hijacked Boeing 767s.

Bamboo, or Bamboozled?

According to Taipei 101's designers, the canted sections are reminiscent of segments of bamboo. This is disingenous eyewash. Anyone who has ever seen bamboo cane knows that bamboo diminishes in cross section as it rises. Any given segment of bamboo is invariably smaller in diameter than the segment below.

Taipei 101's canted sections are exactly the opposite. Unlike bamboo, they increase in cross section as they rise. Unlike bamboo, each canted section is identical to the one below. Taipei 101's canted sections bear no resemblance whatsoever to segments of bamboo.

Far from evoking the reassuring natural resilience of a stalk of bamboo, Taipei 101 resembles a precarious stack of children's building blocks, threatening to topple over at the slightest nudge. It is no excuse to say that the intellect knows this isn't so. Good design requires more than the creation of buildings that we know are stable. Good design requires the creation of buildings that we perceive as stable. The designers of Taipei 101 conveyed a highly undesirable impression of instability. Apparently they did so unintentionally, and are utterly oblivious about the extent of their design blunder. That is the saddest fact of all.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Taipei 101 is rising to number one in height
Illustration(s): Taipei 101 from Ground Level; World Trade Center Twin Towers, before 9-11; CBS Building, aka "Black Rock"; Chrysler Building; Empire State Building; Taipei 101 next to the Empire State Building; Sections of Bamboo
Author(s): Tiffany Wu
Affiliation: Reuters
Source: Boston Globe
Publication Date: September 30, 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

San Francisco Bay Shrimp Junk Project (舊金山海灣捕蝦船案)

San Francisco Bay Shrimp Junk Project (舊金山海灣捕蝦船案)

San Francisco Bay Shrimp Junk Project

Launching October 25, 2003, 10:30am at China Camp State Park!

From March through September 2003, the Small Craft Department of San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, in conjunction with China Camp State Park, is endeavoring to build a full-scale reconstruction of a hard-working San Francisco Bay Area fishing boat: a Chinese Shrimp Junk.

These single-mast vessels, ranging from 30 to 50 feet in length, were built almost entirely of local redwood. The long and narrow junks plied the waters of the shallower regions of the Bay Area from circa 1860 to 1910. The fishermen worked large triangular nets staked to mudflats, and brought their catch of shrimp ashore to small fishing villages. The shrimp was boiled, dried and processed for shipment to Hawaii and Asia.

Working from historic photographs, oral histories, and archaeological information, the largely volunteer crew, led by San Francisco Maritime NHP curator and boatbuilder John Muir, is reconstructing a forty-two foot junk. The junk is being built outdoors at the site of one of the largest of the Chinese Shrimp fishing villages: China Camp State Park, in San Rafael, California.

The SF Bay Shrimp Junk Project boatbuilding team is reconstructing the junk using, as much as possible, original materials and traditional Chinese boatbuilding techniques. The team is hand-forging its nails, as well as mixing its own caulking putty. They are also using the traditional Chinese method of bending wood through the direct application of fire.

The completed junk will be launched at China Camp State Park in the Fall of 2003, and will then become a working sailing museum vessel on exhibit to the public and available for special historic events around the Bay Area. The junk will share exhibit time between the historic Chinese village site at China Camp State Park and the Hyde St. Pier boat exhibit basin at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco.

Editor's Comments:

The San Francisco Bay Shrimp Junk Project is a worthwhile project that will, hopefully, enhance public awareness and appreciation of Chinese contributions to ship building technology. These contributions are not limited to dusty history books and museum glass cases. As previous articles I have posted prove, they remain highly relevant even today.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: SF Bay Shrimp Junk Project
Illustration(s): Bay Shrimp Junk along SF Waterfront circa 1892, China Camp State Park Point San Pedro Shrimp Fishing Village circa 1888, The Shrimp Junk Taking Shape
Author(s): Unknown
Affiliation: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, China Camp State Park
Publication Date: October 14, 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Monday, October 27, 2003

Walt Disney Concert Hall (迪仕尼音樂廳)

Walt Disney Concert Hall (迪仕尼音樂廳)
[創意組織 ]

Catherine Fox of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution joins a chorus praising Frank Gehry's recent Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Walt Disney Concert Hall as great architecture. The editor begs to differ. Let's first hear what Fox has to say.

Architect Infuses Disney Hall with Grace, Glamour

The $274 million Walt Disney Hall complex fronts Grand Avenue in Los Angeles and occupies a 3.6-acre city block.

LOS ANGELES -- The 1997 Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain established Frank Gehry as the premier architect of his generation. He affirms his position with the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The latest incarnation of Gehry's exuberant and distinctive vision rises above neighboring buildings in a thrilling concatenation of billowing, swooping forms.

The stainless-steel roof, a mix of matte and polished surfaces, shimmers in the sun -- a little Oz, a little glamour in Los Angeles' bland downtown. And a little mystery. The unpredictability of the shapes as well as the size of the building -- it occupies a 3.6-acre city block -- ensure that visitors cannot possibly conceive of the whole composition from one vantage point. It's a structure that entices a visitor to explore, offering the possibility of perpetual surprise.

Like "Rashomon," what one sees in Gehry's graceful shapes depends on one's viewpoint. They suggest ship sails or drapery in the wind here, a ship's prow there. Some read as a friendlier version of a torquing Richard Serra sculpture. The shell over the Founder's Room might be a Jell-O mold in an earthquake.

Sculpture meets architecture with such masterful inevitability that it's shocking how little faith the Los Angeles Philharmonic trustees had in Gehry after he won the commission in 1988. The stalled project was revived only after the success of his Bilbao museum, and it took some strong individuals to go out and raise the money needed to push the project forward. Even then there were wranglings about artistic control; at one point, the Los Angeles architect resigned. Luckily, the Disney family intervened.

The $274 million hall, which fronts Grand Avenue, is actually a complex. It includes a two-story rectangular administrative building, a public garden and two amphitheaters (seating 350 and 150) that wrap around the south and west sides of the main structure. The hall houses a streetside restaurant and a cafe off the lobby, as well as back-of-the house necessities and an underground parking deck.

The fabric on the hall's seats features a leaf pattern that was designed by architect Frank Gehry. The fabric is also used in a larger-scale pattern for the carpet outside the hall.

Disney Hall is big, but it's not a bunker. The main facade, which hugs the street, has plenty of glass and a welcoming entrance. The garden, which is accessible by stairways on two sides, ought to be a popular respite from concrete and asphalt. The only jarring note there is the concrete, flower-shaped fountain Gehry designed, Its clever surface -- a mosaic of blue and white Delft porcelain fragments, an homage to the late benefactor Lillian Disney -- can't disguise its ungainly proportions. The lobby is open to the public as well, providing access to the cafe, deck and box office. Even the Green Room, where performers greet guests, is visible from the lobby.

But no, this isn't a piece of urban infill. It is -- intentionally, of course -- a landmark. Whether the hall will spur urban regeneration a la Bilbao remains to be seen. Certainly it ought to be a draw. With the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art by Arata Isozaki and Rafael Moneo's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, L.A.'s downtown is becoming a hot spot for contemporary architecture.

Though punctuated with unusual wooden columns that curve like a tree trunk and branch and terminate in a swirling, skylit ceiling, the lobby is more like a conduit to other destinations than a grand room. Gehry saves that designation for the concert hall itself, which is, after all, the heart and soul of this community of spaces. And it is a gem, a space that is both inviting and exciting. The audience is made to feel that this is a place for special experiences.

The hall is paneled in Douglas fir, a wood commonly used for cellos and violas. The fir also ripples across the ceiling. The floors are oak. The upholstery is a lovely leaf pattern in red and orange, designed by Gehry and used in a larger-scale pattern for the carpeting outside the hall. Natural light seeps in through skylights and a large rear window.

Although the hall seats 2,265 and Atlanta's Symphony Hall seats1,750, the Los Angeles room is infinitely more intimate. The warmth of the wood and the palette of the upholstery play their part, but the effect is largely achieved by the vineyard seating (in the round), which means the hall can be narrower and shorter, and more people get a closer view.

The organ is the focal, and exclamation, point. In an ebullient gesture, Gehry encases the pipes in wood and arranges them as if they are a just-flung batch of pickup sticks. According to composer John Williams, Gehry likes to call them "french fries," but they are too elegant for that.

Disney Hall should assuage any concerns that the world was in for a flock of Bilbao clones. Although there is no confusing his work with anyone else's, Gehry proves here -- and in an exhibition of projects-in-progress at L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art -- that his vocabulary is as flexible as his imagination. (Thank goodness his ungainly Experience Music Project in Seattle was a blip.)

Gehry's oeuvre is a model of how technology can be harnessed to keep pace with vision. His staff uses CATIA, a computer program used in the aeronautics industry, to draw plans from cardboard models, and it employed a global positioning system to help plot the roof's curves.

The future Atlanta Symphony Center has an architect who pushes the envelope as well. The similarities between Santiago Calatrava and Gehry don't stop there. Both are known for their distinctive sculptural visions. Both studied urban design and try to combine the "wow factor" of their iconic forms with accessible public spaces.

As in Los Angeles, the clustering of important buildings (the future Symphony Center and the High Museum -- both the original by Richard Meier and Renzo Piano's expansion) ought to create a synergy. That depends, of course, on the success of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's as-yet-undisclosed design. One thing is sure: Walt Disney Concert Hall sets the bar high.

Editor's Comments:

As much as I hate to inject a dissonant note into the chorus of approval, I do not consider Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall to be an architectural masterpiece. Far from it. Neither his concert hall in Los Angeles nor his museum in Bilbao qualify as masterpieces -- certainly not in the sense that Frank Lloyd Wright's 1959 Guggenheim Museum in New York or Mies van der Rohe's 1929 German Pavilion in Barcelona qualify as masterpieces.

Why not? Because a work of architecture deserves elevation to the status of masterpiece only if it expresses the architectonic forces that birthed it. Gehry does not even acknowlege these architectonic forces, let alone express them. The shapes of the Guggenheim Museum Bilboa and Walt Disney Concert Hall reflect neither the structural logic, nor the functional logic, nor the symbolic logic that brought them to light. They are utterly arbitary, and they look it.

What's wrong with being arbitary? Plenty. To say that an architectural design is arbitrary is to say that it need not be the way it is -- that it could just as well be some other way. It could be larger or smaller, taller or shorter, wider or narrower -- it really doesn't make any difference. Can anyone imagine a more damning indictment of a work of art than to say that the way its creator left it makes no difference?

Gehry's design comes across best on its LA Philharmonic Office and Founders' Room elevations. These elevations communicate Gehry's parti with the greatest clarity. Lightweight, brightly-polished titanium curves float weightlessly above the heavy, coarsely-textured, masonry podium below. A bold study in contrasts, right?

Not quite. Take a closer look at the street level, west elevation, where Gehry's castles in the air are forced to return to earth. How will they make contact with the podium below?

Nobody knows, least of all Gehry. Gehry apparently lost sight of a well known truth: architecture is not painting, least of all surrealist painting. Gehry might indulge his whims by drawing metallic curves floating weightlessly in mid air, but he had better not try to build them.

Is it necessary to point out that this constitutes a major conceptual blunder, and is not something any self-respecting architect can sweep under the rug?

So how was this dilemma resolved? It wasn't.

Instead, finding no solution, the modelmakers in Gehry's office furtively hid the unresolved interface behind greenery, aka "growies." Unfortunately for Gehry these fig leaves must be interrupted at the entrances.

Nor are Gehry's shapes particularly inspiring as pure art divorced from functional considerations. Richard Serra? I hardly think so. Contrast Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall with Jorn Utzon's expressionist masterpiece, the Sydney Opera House, and you'll see what I mean. Utzon's building is not only more rational structurally and functionally, it is more attractive sculpturally and compositionally.

Some may say that Utzon's design benefits disproportionately from its magnificent, breath-taking setting, poised between earth, water, and sky. Anyone who thinks this need only perform a simple mind experiment. Visualize Gehry's building situated on Bennelong Point in place of Utzon's. See what I mean? Gehry's design is not even in the same league as Utzon's. Leave aside the bitter controversy over unauthorized design changes for the moment. Uzton's forms work visually because they work conceptually. They have no growies, because they need no fig leaves.

The conclusion is depressing, but unavoidable. Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall is indeed significant, but only because it illustrates a steady decline in architectural design standards that began with the passing of first generation modern masters Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Architect infuses Disney Hall with grace, glamour
Illustration(s): Walt Disney Concert Hall Exterior
Author(s): Catherine Fox
Affiliation: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Publication Date: October 27, 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Chinese Sampan Teaches Much to Designers (中國舢舨啟發現代造船技師)

Chinese Sampan Teaches Much to Designers (中國舢舨啟發現代造船技師)

Chinese Sampan Teaches Much to Designers

C. Andrade, Jr., recently came across an old model of a Chinese sampan. It is an odd piece of work, full of interest and instructive, too. Mr. Andrade lent the model to George B. Douglas, who has taken off the lines, and these lines, pictures of the model and an article written by Mr. Andrade, are given herewith in THE RUDDER.

THE accompanying lines and sail plan illustrate a very interesting model of Chinese sampan. The model from which this was taken is an authentic piece of work, evidently made by a Chinese shipbuilder, as it contains all the peculiarities of design and construction that belong to the Chinese system of naval architecture. It is a fact not generally known that the Chinese are, and for many centuries have been, very successful sailors, and the model shown herewith is a good illustration of their ability as designers. It will be noted that the lines embody many of the refinements which are found in the most up-to-date boats in the United States. For example, the wetted surface of this model is reduced almost to the theoretical minimum for the displacement shown. There is not a single square inch of surface wasted in any projecting keel or skeg or deadwood.

The sheer line of the bottom of the boat also illustrates a peculiarity which naval architects in this country have just begun to appreciate, and that is, that the run can be carried out quite full, almost to the stern, and then come up, with a sharp turn, without hurting the boat's speed in any way. This fact has been known for a number of years to the torpedo-boat builders of England, who carry their displacement curve very full, almost to the stern. The same thing is shown on the Herreshoff small steamers of the type of the Mirage, and other boats of that class, where the keel line is carried out with an easy curve, about to the point where the shaft leaves the hull, and then turns up rather sharply to the stern. This same feature accounts for the very short overhang, with strong upturned buttock lines that are found in the last two or three years' designs of the Herreshoff sailing yachts.

There is no planking across the stern of the boat, but there is a big open space somewhat like a well all the way from the transom to the heavy after bulkhead, which is shown in the sail plan and also in one of the photographs.

I have known of this peculiarity of Chinese construction for many years, but only recently have I been able to evolve any theory which would account for it. This method of construction must have some great advantage, or the Chinese would not have adopted it originally, or having adopted it, would not have adhered to it for centuries, as they have. It is my belief that the purpose of this stern construction is this:

It will be observed that the stern of this model is very full. The half-breadth plan shows that the waterlines are carried out to their full beam, almost to the transom. This, of course, gives the model great stability, and also great ease in driving, but it has the disadvantage of making a stern with too great buoyancy, that is to say, if this boat were planked solid across the transom, and were driven off in a heavy following sea, the enormous surplus buoyancy of the stern would make her pitch to a dangerous degree, and would tend to bury her head. It is at this point that the reason for the peculiar stern construction becomes apparent, for it is obvious that if this boat is running off with a heavy following sea, the instant that a wave strikes her stern, a very large volume of water will be momentarily held in the space between the stern proper and the after bulkhead. In a large boat, this weight of water would probably amount to a ton or more, and the weight of this water momentarily holds down the stern and prevents it from lifting unduly on a following sea.

The effect is just exactly as though a very large weight of ballast were placed in the stem of the boat. Every one knows that this is the only proper and safe way to trim a small boat when running off in a heavy following sea. But the Chinese stern has this advantage over the permanent ballast, and that is, that the moment the sea has passed the water runs out of the space at the stern, and the boat is left light and free to travel with much greater speed than if she were loaded down with a ton or so of ballast at the stern.

There is quite a marked flat portion on the bottom of the hull, so that she can go aground and rest at low tide without heeling over. Indeed, the whole boat appears to be designed for this contingency, because it will be noted that she depends for lateral plane on two features; first, a dagger-board forward, which can be lifted, and, second, a very large rudder aft, which also can be housed entirely within the hull, when not in use. It will be observed that the daggerboard contains the great essential which is necessary in a member of this type, i.e., narrow width with great depth.

It is well known that the former edge of the keel, or centerboard, is what does most of the work, and the Chinese apparently have grasped this fundamental principle. Therefore, while the daggerboard seems to have a very small lateral area, it will be noted that its area is of very high efficiency, particularly as the board is located right under the fore-foot, where it works in solid water, which is undisturbed by any portion of the hull, and which is not affected by any lateral movement that would be gathered by the hull further aft. This daggerboard has two different holes and a stop, so there are three different adjustments at which it could be carried, thus changing the balance of the boat very materially, as desired.

The rudder, as is common with Chinese rudders, has five diamond-shaped holes in the blade, and the blade itself is of very thin wood. The purpose of these diamond-shaped holes is undoubtedly to permit dead water to run through to the back of the rudder blade and prevent the accumulation of dead water along the after edge of the rudder. As already stated, the rudder can be completely housed in the hull, simply by setting it straight fore-and-aft, and then drawing it up through a slot, which is cut for the purpose in the deck. This construction is shown in detail at the stern of the hull in the sail plan.

"Transom" timbers removed for clarity to show end of planks. The grey bulkhead is partially hidden behind the ends of the planks since it is located at the second section line in from the stern. A sampan will typically have a flat bow timber, often tapering from small at bottom to wider at the top - COD

It will be observed, on reference to the buttock lines, that the boat carries a long and very efficient floor practically from station No.2 to the very stern of the boat. This feature will, of course, make the boat very fast on a reach, and will make her very easy to drive.
It is quite apparent from a glance at the body plan that the boat will have to be weighted with a generous amount of inside ballast before she will acquire much stability, but as she is built for carrying weight, that feature is really an excellent one.

The anchor is an interesting detail, as it will be noted that it is quite large, in comparison with the rest of the boat, and is made entirely of wood, the only metal being on the single fluke. It will also be noted that the stock is placed at the end of the anchor, next to the fluke, and not at the cable end. As soon as the anchor strikes the bottom, the weight of the metal fluke brings it down, and as soon as it takes hold, the stock lies flush with the bottom, and makes an anti-fouling anchor.

There are a couple of little hand windlasses of primitive type, one on each side of the mast, as shown in the half-deck plan. The mast is set in a tabernacle, so that it can be lowered when going under bridges, etc.

It will be noted that the rig is very simple, and very efficient. The mainsheet rigging is quite interesting, consisting of a single length of sheet, which is rove in an unusual manner, as will be noted from the sail plan. The wooden block through which all the parts of the sheet run has a little becket at its lower end, and this becket runs along the wooden traveler on the extreme stern.

I believe that a boat built exactly on these lines, including the unusual stern construction, would make a very comfortable and useful small boat for cruising. I can see no objection to building such a small cruiser with a jib set on a stay running to the stem-head, and a mainsail which might hang over the stern a foot or so, so as to be easily reefed.

As the lines are drawn, it shows the stern a little higher than the bow. This is a peculiarity of Chinese construction, and is a feature that was common on ail old types of sailing ships, as it will be recalled that Columbus's ships, and the Half Moon, and all the sailing vessels of that time had the stern considerably higher than the bow. Many theories have been advanced for this, but modern practice, of course, has gone the other way. I suppose one reason for making the stern higher was so as to give the steersman a better view; second, so that the vessel would ride head to the wind, in case she was left to drift in a gale; and, third, to avoid the danger of being swamped by overtaking waves in a heavy sea. With this high stern, and the daggerboard down all the way, this sampan should lie head to the wind in any kind of a gale, without any sail at all. I will be glad to hear of any boat built to these lines.

Editor's Comments:

The invention of the Chinese junk/sampan hull and sail archetypes required creativity and originality. Their subsequent evolution over the centuries that followed required patience and perseverance. Modern sailing enthusiasts are the happy beneficiaries of both processes.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Chinese Sampan Teaches Much to Designers
Author(s): C. Andrade, Jr
Affiliation:The Rudder
Publication Date: July 1917
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Canadians Take a Fancy to the Chinese Junk (加拿大人愛上中國帆船)

Canadians Take a Fancy to the Chinese Junk (加拿大人愛上中國帆船)

Batwings and Bamboo

Even the dog beside me was quiet while the old man rowed his dory towards us. Minutes earlier our on-water party had been laughing. My father and I had just sailed from the Comox Marina to Newcastle Island, and our neighbours wanted to hear of our adventure. But we were silenced.

The old man looked thoughtfully at each of us.

"Which boat you in?"

My father nodded vaguely towards Nanaimo Harbour, "Not ours. We're bringing down someone else's to Sidney. Just a white boat."

Alan Farrell, builder of the legendary Chinese junk China Cloud grinned. Behind him, the colours of his orange-red and black boat shone. "Another one of those white boats with blue sail covers?" he asked mischievously.

Between Victoria and Port Hardy, Lasqueti Island and Vancouver, boat builders have embraced the colourful Chinese junk. West Coasters build modern day junk rigs because they are affordable, "beachable" and maneuverable in the water.

"A flat-bottomed junk can be built for the price of a modern day kayak," Dan Prain says. He finished his own junk rig on a Herreshoft Meadowlark hull four years ago.

"Boats of 30-plus feet [19.5 metres] can be made. Paint comes from paint exchanges, lines from government wharf dumpsters and sails cut out of plastic tarps," Prain says. While the materials can come cheap, the form of the rig varies artistically with each builder.

Michael Parker, who has built 10- to 13-metre beachable West Coast junks in a "funky" style, agrees. In 1966, Parker was fishing on a junk, The Lotus Princess, near Sooke, B.C. He was amazed at the spaciousness of it and the simple catwalk that bordered the cabin. His life has never been the same since. Junks make him feel, "overwhelmed, touching nostalgia."

Years later, when Parker was building his own junks, he was handed a piece of yellow newsprint. The article was about an old fishing boat that had come from Hong Kong. It was The Lotus Princess. Parker was astounded that the junk had come so far. This confirmed his belief in the strength of the junk form. He sums up a 2,000 year history simply: "Chinese junks are practical. Built to take abuse [and] water damage."

Since 221 BC, during the Ch'in Dynasty, the Chinese junk has dominated the world's sailing fleets. A thousand years before European ships dominated the seas, the junk was already using maritime innovations such as the balanced rudder, watertight compartment and spoon-shaped stern.

In China, spotting a junk on the horizon was considered a symbol of good luck.

Certainly for Hong Kong, the junk not only symbolized luck but also industrial and financial security. Hong
Kong has a long shipyard history, producing junks for industry and pleasure. Although fewer junks are being built there today, fishing junks are still being shaped with heat and charcoal.

Given its various forms, it is no wonder that the shape of the traditional Chinese junk remains a mystery. Chinese shipbuilding has long been recognized for an absence of written plans. Expertise was passed down between generations. This verbal exchange of instruction continues among builders in British Columbia.

"If it looks right, then it probably is right," says Prain, citing a general rule of thumb for building a junk.

Those who build junks share newspaper clippings and out-of-print books. It is this dialogue that makes the junk form stay alive.

When Prain is asked what distinguishes the junk's body, he says, "It is not so much a hull form, but a state of mind."

Steel is becoming more common in the Gulf Islands as the material of choice for junk hulls, though they are traditionally made of wood. Wooden junks on the West Coast have mostly been flat-bottomed. Sailboats generally have a keel that descends from the hull to a drop of approximately 0.6 to 0.9 metres. The longer the keel, the deeper the water needs to be when the boat anchors. Thus, a boat without a keel not only anchors easily in shallow areas, but also beaches on sandy shores. Most junks have a detachable rudder that can be raised when beaching the vessel.

Red and yellow cedar, fir and yew are the primary woods used to build junks. Natural crooks and knees are used as latches, rudder handles and joints. The Chinese junk is an expression limited only by the imagination.

The junk is environmentally safe. "I'd rather be an attraction than a detraction," Parker says of the junks beached near his home on Hornby Island. By keeping his boat on the beach, Parker avoids painting the underside of his hull with fouling agents. The more time the boat spends on the beach, the more time the bottom has to dry, warding against marine growth.

In addition, "The [lug rig] sails don't flap and all the other sails in the wind flap a heck of a racket," says Parker. He claims that a silent lug rig can be orange tarp or Dacron. Traditional junk sails are Chinese red, an orange-like mix of white, black and red, or deep green. The sail rigging uses multiple lines. The more lines there are in a rig, the less chance of stress on any one line. The battens (the crossbeams of the rig), are made of bamboo or fir. Parker insists that the sails can be put up easily in the wind, just like an "automatic transmission."

Junk rigs are used on boats other than the traditional flat bottom junk, such as Colvins' Gazelle and St. Pierre Dories.

Rolf Zarr lives aboard his 13-metre sailboat at Stamps Landing, B.C. He has had success adopting a junk lug rig to his sizable boat, making it manageable for one sailor. His initial rig plans came with a Pelican design. He had never seen a junk. When asked about first raising his junk sails, Zarr's face lights up.

"Some people don't like junk rigs at all," says Zarr, "but it suits my personality."

Junk rigs come naturally to some people. "It felt like something I'd done before. It doesn't make a lot of practical sense, but" Parker hardly pauses in his thoughts when describing the first time he saw a junk, "it felt like coming home."

Editor's Comments:

Recreational boaters in well to do countries in Europe and North America agree. The Chinese junk hull and junk rig are inexpensive, easy to build, practical, and fun. For those who have longed to own their own sailboat, but assumed they simply couldn't afford it, the Chinese junk may be the answer to their dreams.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Illustration(s): photographs by Lynn Vanherwaarden and Dan Prain
Author(s): Leanne Prain
Affiliation:Pacific Rim Magazine
Publication Date: 2000
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Blondie Hasler's Jester (名英國探險家的中國風帆)

Blondie Hasler's Jester (名英國探險家的中國風帆)

The Ship Would Not Travel Due West

The Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race

From the late 1800s until the 1960s, the development of the modern sailing yacht was an evolutionary process, occasionally interrupted by a flash of insight. Racing and cruising yachts were little more than refinements of the last sail-driven fishing schooners. In the first half of the 20th century , measurement rules and conservative owners were slow to accept the Bermudian rig or the fin keel, despite their proven efficiency. That conservative attitude finally began to change forty years ago when five daring pioneers set out from the southwest of England on an adventure that would forever change the face of yachting.

In June, 1960, with no fanfare, five sailors left Millbay Docks, Plymouth to race across the North Atlantic in the first Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race. At that time, the voyage they were embarking on was viewed by many in the yachting community as not just challenging, but practically impossible. The gale-swept ocean with its prevailing westerly winds was seen as an overwhelming force that no small yacht could prevail against for 3,000 miles, let alone a singlehander.

Most of the technologies we take for granted had yet to marketed. Dacron had just been introduced, wood was still the accepted material for hulls and spars and gentlemen sailed to windward as little as possible. A 25 footer like the Folkboat (with 4'-8" of headroom) was universally considered the ideal size for a solo ocean crossing, although this itself was viewed as a somewhat eccentric pursuit. Self-steering was a matter of lashing the tiller and hoping for the best, so solo ocean racing was simply inconceivable, a pipedream that would result in disaster and bring disrepute on the whole yachting community.

If the critics had made the effort to learn anything about the two men who were behind the race, they might have realized that this was no publicity stunt. H.G. "Blondie" Hasler and Francis Chichester knew exactly what they were getting into. When all five entrants completed the course, conventional wisdom on sailing and seamanship had been turned on its head, and the sport had entered a new era. Within a few years, Hasler's self-steering and junk rig would become an accepted part of the cruising scene, and thanks to Chichester, sponsored record breaking and radio reports would bring the adventure to the homes of millions.

Blondie Hasler: Soldier, Yachtsman and Inventor

Lt.Colonel H.G. Hasler DSO, MBE began his adventures on the water not in a yacht but in a kayak during World War II. In December 1942, he led a ten-man team of Royal Marines in a daring attack on the occupied harbor of Bordeaux in western France. They launched five folding kayaks at the mouth of the Gironde from the deck of submarine and paddled 75 miles upriver under cover of night. Only two kayaks reached their goal, a loading dock, where they attached limpet mines to four German merchant ships. When the charges went off, the ships sank at the dock, blocking access for many months.

The Germans might never have found out how this bold attack had been carried out, but the British submarine was unable to remain in the area to pick up the marines, so they were forced to find their own way across occupied France. Eight of them were never seen again. Hasler was the only one who spoke French and he and a Private named Billy Sparks managed to return to Britain via Spain with the help of the Resistance. Although still in uniform, the other eight men were shot as spies on direct orders from Berlin. (This cowardly act was later mentioned at the Nuremberg trials and is said to have ended the "gentleman!|s agreement" between the English and German high commands.)

These gallant men became familiar to everyone in post-war Britain as the "Cockleshell Heroes," the name of a book and a film about the raid. After the war ended, Hasler took up sailing, first in Petula, his gaff yawl built by William Fife in 1899. His innate curiosity then led him in a completely different direction, and he purchased a Thirty Square Meter named Tre Sang. Although it was designed for racing in sheltered waters in Scandinavia, Hasler entered the boat in some RORC races in the late 1940s and proved this low, light needle of a hull was capable of fast passages in the right conditions.

To test more radical ideas, he had another Scandinavian design, the Folkboat, built in the early 1950s. He had to patiently explain to the builders that he didn't want any form of cockpit. The whole boat was to be decked over, with just two small circular hatches in the cabin top. This was to be his floating laboratory and he called it Jester "because it was such a bloody joke." Perhaps because of wartime experience, Hasler was no dilletante, he was totally committed to making his ideas work. So unlike most nautical inventors, he rejected anything that wasn't absolutely seaworthy.

In the following years, he cruised around the Channel with different kinds of self-steering vanes on the Jester's stern and an unstayed wooden mast carrying variations on the Ljungstrom (lapwing) rig. This consisted of twin Bermudian mainsails set on a single luff. While closehauled, the two sails acted as one, but downwind the twin booms were goosewinged out giving port and starboard mainsails.

The idea showed promise and Hasler spent a couple of seasons thinking he had a workable, offshore system. But he reluctantly concluded that the risk of the booms flying out of control in strong winds was too great, and there were also two mainsails to reef. The Jester was living up to its name. He ditched the project and adopted an even more obscure rig, the Chinese junk sail.

Hasler soon proved to himself that the Chinese rig was a marvel of engineering. The fully-battened lugsail could be raised, lowered or reefed in any weather without leaving his circular main hatch, which was protected in bad weather by a small pram hood. He knew instinctively that his search was at an end; he had found a rig that could stand up to his ultimate test; solo passage across the North Atlantic without leaving the cabin. Thus began the modern junk rig movement!

With the rig questioned solved, he now was free to tinker with his self-steering vane and dream of his next goal. "It seemed that a race is always the best inducement for developing anything, and if I was to get people aiming at ease of handling and comfort, it would have to be a demanding race," he recalled in later years. "Going to windward across the North Atlantic seemed the most demanding thing to do!"

He defined the prospective race as follows: "A sporting event to encourage the development of boats, gear, supplies and technique for single-handed passages under sail." There was a dramatic lack of rules: no handicaps, no compulsory equipment, no marks to round. When asked about safety and the need to carry a radio transmitter, Hasler merely replied "It would be more seemly to drown like a gentleman."

Editor's Comments:

Lt.Colonel H.G. "Blondie" Hasler of the Royal Marines was a determined man. His audacious scheme to paddle kayaks 75 miles up the Gironde to plant limpet mines on German shipping anchored in Bordeaux proved that. But Hasler was an eminently practical man as well. His practicality was fully consistent with his determination. In order to successfully sail across the Atlantic, the second widest ocean on the planet, and to do it windward, "the hard way," Hasler knew he needed every advantage he could get. Not surprisingly Hasler chose the Chinese junk rig, the most ergonomic sail configuration ever designed.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: The Ship Would Not Travel Due West
Illustration(s): Blondie Hasler's Junk-rigged Folkboat Jester
Author(s): Peter Marsh
Affiliation: Sea to Summit
Publication Date: NA
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Friday, October 17, 2003

Modern Norwegian Yachts with Chinese Junk Sails (摩登挪威游艇裝配中國風帆 )

Modern Norwegian Yachts with Chinese Junk Sails (摩登挪威游艇裝配中國風帆 )

Modern Norwegian Yachts with Chinese Junk Sails

Arne Kverneland was unhappy with the usual Bermuda rig on his single-masted sloop Malena. He tried the gaff rig and found it promising. But when Kverneland tried the junk rig that's when he found what he had been looking for. The Malena has since been sold. Arne is currently constructing a larger boat, also junk rigged.

Svein Magnus Ueland's 50 foot ferro-cement schooner was designed by Samson Marine. Its junk-rigged sails feature stiff battens of aluminum tubing and full panels.

Nils Johan Aksdal's ferro-cement schooner is a Colin Archer design, with its topsides raised one foot. Its junk-rigged sails feature stiff battens of aluminum tubing and full panels.

Editor's Comments:

Even modern yacht hulls designed by naval architects using sophisticated computer programs can benefit from ergonomically designed, easy to use Chinese junk rigs. Long waterline, heavy-displacement sailing ships with multiple masts can be sailed with only a handful of crew members, providing they are junk-rigged.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Modern Norwegian Yachts with Chinese Junk Rigs
Illustration(s): Malena with Gaff Rig, Malena with Junk Rig, Samson with Junk Rig, Samson with Junk Rig, Colin Archer with Junk Rig
Author(s): Victor Wintherthun
Publication Date: NA
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Monday, October 13, 2003

Thomas Colvin's Chinese Junks (名美國造船技師Thomas Colvin 的中國帆船)

Thomas Colvin's Chinese Junks (名美國造船技師Thomas Colvin 的中國帆船)

Thomas Colvin's Chinese Junks

About Thomas E. Colvin

Thomas E. Colvin was born in 1925 in Chicago and, for him, life became boats. At 5 he built a boat by mating together oilcloth-covered apple and orange crates; at 6 he rigged a rowing skiff and made a sailing boat from a discarded cement mixing trough; at 7 he designed and built his own 10 foot catboat; all through grade school he worked in boat shops, starting as a handy boy, greasing machinery; on weekends, he crewed on racing boats, learning what makes sailboats go fast; he was drawing journeyman foots pay before entering high school; in his first year of high school, he sold his first professional design, a fish tug that was built and worked; at 14 he quit school for the sea, serving in sail and steam, moving up from Ordinary Seaman to Master of both. (This may sound young to have been constructively working on different projects. A surprise government inspection at my shipyard one day found my 6 year old son working on a project using the bandsaw and circular saw. My 8 year old son was welding up an art project for which he received a first prize. My 12 year old daughter was up on a scaffolding painting the name and scrolls on the hull we were building. The year before she won second prize in the national Singer Sewing Machine contest with a complete pants and jacket outfit she had made. I was informed by the man from OSHA that the children could not work in the shop because it was heavy industry, whereupon I asked when they would be allowed in the shop in order to learn shipbuilding. I was informed that it was 18 years of age. I told the gentleman that, at 18, they would be too smart to want to do that kind of work. I was correct.)

Since 1952, he has been a senior designer for the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company in Virginia; Consulting Naval Architect for Kaiser Aluminum Company in Chicago; president of Colvin Manufacturing Company and Colvin Sailmakers, Miles, Virginia; and now maintains his design office along with being president of Sidereal Offshore Logistics & Analytical Research in Alva, Florida. He has designed everything from aircraft carriers to fishing vessels, barges, sailing vessels, motor and steam vessels for commercial and pleasure use, as well as constructed vessels in his own shipyard up to 100 foot in wood, steel and aluminum alloy. At this time, he has produced over 300 designs, ranging from 12 foot to 150 foot in length. He still builds boats for his own use.

Several times during his life, he has taken time out to go cruising on vessels that he designed and built, and he also lived aboard and cruised with his family on his three-masted 48 foot aluminum Chinese junk, KUNG FU-TSE, for 16 years. He has written many articles and technical books, trying to help others to achieve their dreams. Hundreds of ordinary people who have never undertaken such a task before have built fine boats from his designs, ranging from daysailers to around-the-world cruisers. One must always remember amateurs built the Ark and professionals built the Titanic.

Chinese Junks

My junk designs encompass many families from flat bottom to multi-chine and round bottom. I have no designs for V bottom junks. They fall basically into four families.

1. Flat Bottom Junks with Pram Bows
2. Multi-chine and Round Bottom Hainan Junks
3. Cargo Junks
4. Shoal Draft Fishing Junks

Flat Bottom Junks with Pram Bows

Flat bottom junks with pram bows range from 36 feet to 90 feet in length. The smallest one has leeboards, and all others have daggerboards. These are good ocean-going vessels; however, when modified for yachting purposes, a centerboard is a more practical solution for obtaining lateral plane.

Multi-chine and Round Bottom Hainan Junks

Multi-chine and round bottom junks, based on the Hainan junks, range from 42 feet to 150 feet in length. The most popular ones are OOTHOON at 41 feet, KUNG FU-TSE at 48 feet, and LUK CHIN at 54 feet which have been built in both steel and aluminum. The 54 foot junk has also been built as a round bottom steel hull. The larger sizes are usually round bottom since, in larger sizes, most builders prefer this type of construction and are equipped to handle the bending of round bottom frames. These are excellent sea boats. The larger ones incorporate daggerboards, while on the smaller ones used for yachting I have substituted a long shallow keel which opens up the whole interior to an infinite variety of arrangements. Most of them have made long voyages and, as such, I like to keep the engine and fuel tanks very close to the center of floatation and center of buoyancy. I also use the engine room with bulkheads at each end to isolate all machinery. This provides good working conditions around the engine. Most vessels have access doors for passage through the engine room; whereas, in others the engine room bulkhead is not pierced and access is from the deck only.

Cargo Junks

Shown is an 18.5 meter (60 feet) cargo junk displacing 42 tons in ballast, which is under construction at the present time in Timor. This family of cargo junks has a distinct type of hull form that has no direct counterpart in China, but is a combination of several types plus some modifications that stress performance to windward. They are modest carriers and are primarily used in the Indian Ocean. They range from 60 feet to 90 feet on deck. It will be noted that these junks are rather narrow and deep. Unlike the Hainan type of junk, these vessels are seldom used for bulk cargoes, but instead haul refrigerators, stoves, sinks, tiles and other building materials as well as other cargo that can be packaged. The windward ability at the expense of other points of sailing was necessary because she also ventures into the islands at all seasons rather than wait for the fair winds of a monsoon.

Shoal Draft Fishing Junks

Shoal draft fishing junks range in size from 40 feet to 75 feet the more popular ones being in the 50 feet to 60 feet length. They are flat bottom and can be beached, but are excellent sea going vessels. Out of season, many of them do carry coastwise freight. Like the sharpie, there are limitations on the amount of headroom available, depending on length. In trying to compare these with Western hulls, they are sort of a cross between a dory and a sharpie. Throwing in their Chinese ancestry, they have the wider stern galleries. Most have a daggerboard, but some have found it advantageous, even though it is foreign to them, to use a centerboard since the trunk then splits the hold in half longitudinally for better stowage of ice and fish.

Editor's Comments:

Thomas Colvin is a highly respected American naval architect. Sailing ships built to his designs are highly prized and sought after, sometimes fetching more than their original cost. According to Colvin "he lived aboard and cruised with his family on his three-masted 48 foot aluminum Chinese junk, Kung Fu-tse for 16 years." Colvin is a master shipwright. He is someone who could design, build and live aboard any kind of ship he wanted, power or sail, western or eastern. Yet he chose Chinese junk-rigged sails on a Chinese junk hull. Colvin knew a good thing when he saw it. This speaks volumes, about both Thomas Colvin and the unsung heroes who bequeathed the world traditional Chinese maritime technology.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Thomas Colvin's Chinese Junks
Illustration(s): Flat Bottom Junk with Pram Bow, Oothoon, Cargo Junk, Kung Fu-tse (Confucius)
Author(s): Thomas Colvin
Affiliation: Thomas E. Colvin, Naval Architect
Publication Date: NA
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect