December 12, 2006

Bruno Zevi- Architecture as space.

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The ideas presented by Bruno Zevi in the assigned reading “Architecture as Space� clearly define the architecture as an experience and not just the dimensions and “structural elements that enclose the space but the void itself�. Architecture has been depicted through out history as a series of elements or facades put together to create structures. History has treated the different elements independently and analyzed the parts separately instead of look at a structure as a whole. The true understanding of architecture comes from experiencing it; being within the form whether it is an interior or exterior space. There are some comparisons of architecture to art and Zevi’s description is very to the point when he stated that architecture is “a great hollowed-out sculpture which man enters�. Architecture is an art that surrounds you and involves all of your senses while art only can be experienced by one or two. The true real meaning of a church or other religious buildings can not be experienced in photographs, drawings, descriptions or the plans; it also cannot be experienced by the wealth of its contents but by walking around in it and viewing the structure from different points. The sprit of a building includes the light and shadows, windows and column, floors and ceiling and many other elements put together in one package.

My personal experience of this phenomena happened first in Belgium at a cathedral in Antwerp. This was my first experience in a cathedral and the beauty and mysticism overwhelmed me. I sat in that cathedral for over an hour trying to absorb all that I could and I do not believe in Christianity. I later thought how the Priest and monk that worship there can concentrate on the written words in the bible when the true spirituality surrounds and engulfs them. I finally came upon the painting of Pieter Pauwel Rubens “Descent from the Cross� and it was truly stunning sight. After taking this class I wonder was the cathedral built to frame the painting or was the picture painted to enhance an already beautiful church.
My next experience was with the Taj Mahal and it was equally impressive. Here love was the motive for the building but my reaction to the site was no less. I could not have felt the same magnificence seeing the Taj Mahal in a photograph or capture the splendor of the surrounding gardens from a painting; or look upon its misty presence from the distant Red Fort.
Since my first experience I have gone to many other place and experience structures as Bruno Zevi’s has described.

December 11, 2006

Khan and Gershebfeld

There are many parallels that can be made between the Khan and Gershenfeld readings. There is truth to Khan’s claim that “the language of man is art� and “art being the language before� any other languages because man has an innate need to create. And Gershenfeld with the personal fabrication (PF) program put that power back into the hands of the person that needs the thing the most. If the need exist for just one person than why should that person not be the designer and the user at the same time? However, the PF can also dissemble and reuse materials and this is very prudent and teaches to consume only what we need. Furthermore, the students in the MIT class on “how to make anything� were willing to share there knowledge and leave there findings behind for the betterment of others. So many time designers (meaning all designers not just architects) tend to be proprietary with their knowledge because of the big payoff at the end $$$ or recognition.
But if necessity is the mother of all inventions than is need inspired by imagination? Khan’s thought on inspiration, as I interpret it, was that when we let go of the common means of solving a problem we will be inspired to find or imagine a unique solution to every problem. Khan also mentions the need to be an architect is instinctive and when the designer finished design a space for someone the design should be thrown away and not reused and in this way keeping the design personalized

A short digression
Science fiction has played a part in inspiring invention, think of the female character in the Star Trek series with the portable computation device and now think of the portable workstations used by large companies with radio frequency (RF) technology to download data to their super computers. And my favorite is in the Back to the Future I movie when the professor uses garbage as fuel for the time machine which just happens to be a Delorean. Do you think that will ever happen? Finally, from the Matrix the down load of information needed to fight off the bad guys or do some thing outrageous can be compared to the “just in time� learning process in Gershenfeld’s reading.

December 4, 2006

Technopoly: Good or Evil

The Neil Postman reading is very thought provoking and we can clearly see how the ideas he presented about technopolies can be applied to most aspects of our lives today. Our lives are so dependent on the technology that sometimes we are not even aware that we are using them. The reading also brought up the point of the intent of the inventor and the manipulation of the invention by those who control it. Furthermore, the affects of technopolies on the evolution of our culture and a good example is Alexander Bell’s telephone. With the invention of the telephone everyday life changed for ordinary people everywhere. The change started slowly and took about 75 years from the time it was patented in 1876 to the time most home had a phone during the 1950s. Communication with friends and family was easier and quicker than the mail. So, we went from:
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Sure it’s has made communication with family and friends easier but the invention has also been used as a sales tool to invade our privacy by the telecommunication companies.
How many times had dinner been interrupted by a salesperson calling to ask if you need a new mortgage? Now my pet peeve is when I am with a friend in the middle of a deep conversation and their cell phone rings. Or even worse, when you are at dinner and someone at the table next to you is having a loud conversation. So the intrusion to our lives as far as phones are concerned is 24 X 7 now. This is not limited to phones but also instant data communication. In the past we would plan ahead but now we have an artificial need to remain connected at all times. So my question is do we really need to be this accessible all the time???
And how does this accessibility affect our culture?

Please do not misunderstand my point of view; I too own a cell phone and need it to be available for my children and my elderly mother.


November 8, 2006

Mathematics and Design

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Blog Prompt #6


Mathematics and Design

Well the obvious choice is the Pantheon, one of the few buildings to survive from antiquity. The design is a sphere inscribed in a cube. The geometric plan of the Pantheon is an impressive inside and out. The patterned domes with an oculus in the center and as the light that move through out the day make an impressive and mystical experience. The height of the dome equal to the base lends to the symmetry of the design. The architects used geometric patterns throughout the interior and exterior are an inspiring use of mathematic.

Traffic

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Blog prompt #5-Oppositions and possible solutions

One problem I encounter on a daily bases is the traffic around the Twin Cities. I have spent many hours on 394, 494 and highway 100 and wished we had a transit system like New York and Washington D.C. to ease the problem around the cities. However, transportation has been under funded for years and road repair has been limited. Even when a highway is expanded to accommodate more traffic by the time it is finished the volume of traffic has also increased making the road expansion ineffective. One very successful solution to the traffic problem is the Light Rail like the one from Downtown Minneapolis down Hiawatha Avenue to the Mall of America and finally to the Minneapolis Airport. The demand for the Light Rail has steadily increased since its start but funding for transportation continues to be cut. The question that begs to be asked is why don’t we expand the Light Rail to the rest of the city? The cost is the overwhelming objection but when we look at this from the standpoint of inflation; the price tag for transportation is not going to get any cheaper in the future. In fact if we were to factor in the effects of greenhouse gases, time spent on the road, the stress from sitting in traffic, cost of road repair and economics the Light Rail seems like a bargain. An example of an unsuccessful road construction project is the stretch of 694 near Maple Grove which affects the residents of Elk River, Rogers, Maple Grove, and Long Lake. The approval for the Northstar Rail was almost 100% funded by the Federal government and was rejected by Governor Pawlenty for no apparent reason. Until we can check our politics at the door and work on the traffic problems in a bipartisan manner we will not be able to accomplish much.

http://minnesotapublius.com/2006/10/22/pawlenty-spites-northern-mn-for-no-good-reason/

October 11, 2006

Phenomena of Electrical Storms

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Phenomenon is all around us and it was difficult to decide which one to choose. However, several weeks ago I was awaken by flashes of lighting at about 10pm and looked outside there were high winds but the air was dry. I watched an electrical storm for about half an hour. The flurry of activity created by the storm was like watching fireworks on the 4th of July. Remembering this experience when trying to thinks of something creative for the blog prompt motivated my further inquire. A Google search yielded this brief explanation off the website:

The same way you get static electricity on you from rubbing
carpet etc. on a dry day - the friction of processes
in the atmosphere and between the air and the ground results
in charge being separated and a lot of energy building
up, which eventually gets released in a storm.
Author-Arthur Smith
http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/phy99/phy99138.htm

This phenomenon covers most of the topics covered in lecture of Frameworks and Clockworks. The electrical storm was framed within the realm of my experience.

October 4, 2006

The Cabin

The Family Cabin

Over 17 years ago my husband took me to the family cabin near Park Rapids Minnesota and it was love at first sight. The cabin is located on a small spring feed lake, so small in fact that on the Minnesota map it is labeled “pond�, but it is very picturesque. I just like to sit and read a book, watching the birds at the feeders or go for long walks along the shore. I would have to say that my “Genius Loci� has more to do with how I feel when I am at the cabin because the cabin calms me and lifts my sprits at the same time. The cabin is not a very big or glamorous place by most cabin standards now a day. The small cabin did not even have indoor plumbing until 1988 which was very strange for a person born and raised in a large city and don’t get me started on the bugs. However, I have been able to get use to the bugs and the cabin has been since remodeled. Now we are able to take our kids to a place were we all can have a wonderful time. My children are able to swim and fish off the dock; we go canoeing, boating and biking on the Heartland trail through northern Minnesota. The cabin has been in my husband’s family for over 40 years and most of the residents are pastors and minister. Not a party lake just a great get away.


September 25, 2006

Cedar Riverside now low income housing

The Cedar Riverside apartments for low income housing.

What started out as an ambitious project by some of the most respected community leaders to build urban housing is now nicknamed the “slum in the sky� and “the crack stacks�. The joint venture was funded by Gloria Segal and Keith Heller, and designed by our very own Ralph Rapson. The Cedar Riverside apartments replaced dilapidated homes, stores and bars in an urban renewal and was a logical project because it was convenient central location. This high rise building is typical of modern design in the 1970 consisted of 1300 units and quickly turned into an urban nightmare for the residents. I believe the project failed because when so many people of different income, ethnicity and cultures are grouped together they tend to cluster and become isolated. But smaller groups of diverse ethnicity are more likely to get along because now they have to find some thing in common with their neighbor besides their culture. Perhaps it would have been better if the design was more open and consisted of smaller building. Also if the design included overlooking courtyards so neighbors can keep an eye on who came in and out of the buildings. This info was research on the web at http://www.mspmag.com/feature.asp?featureid=3040 . During my search I came across a group called the Central Community Housing Trust (CCHT) http://www.ccht.org/ which worked on a smaller scale but renewed old buildings and worked more to create an environment for a more favorable community. I am really excited about this organization please look at the website and all their projects.

September 18, 2006

The Midtown Market

The ground floor of the old Sears building is now the Midtown Market and is fashioned after other famous markets as Fanneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston or Pike Place Market in Seattle. Although the Midtown Market just opened in May it has become a hub of activity for the neighborhood. I visited the market two times this week and both experiences were very different. On a weekday afternoon the market is buzzing with excitement. As I walked around to the various shops, grocery stores, and restaurants I was able to sense the diversity of the patrons. The experience was a refreshing blend of cultures so I went back to the market on Saturday at about 6pm for an evening meal with my family. I was very surprised by the subdued atmosphere for a weekend. As I walked up to the building there were very few people in the market and walking around I was surprised at the lack of energy. So I decided to have dinner and wait. My daughter and I ate at an Asian restaurant and realized they did not have a children’s menu and neither did the most of the other restaurants. The market had not considered families with children and this was very disappointing. I expected the energy to pickup as the night progressed; I quickly realized the market closes at 8pm and the market fell short of my expectation for a vibrant international market. This brings to mind similar projects in the 1980’s that tried to be the hub of a community but fell short, such as Riverplace and Calhoun Square. What is it that makes projects like this succeed or what makes them fail? I realized now that Midtown Market does not have the same energy and rhythm of the other markets. The surrounding neighborhood was active and just getting started when the market closed.