December 13, 2006

How ACES engages the Designed Environment

Hey Derek! I apologize for not having this done by Monday. The stress of my finals made me forget, I swear! haha. Anyway, about ACES.

I had an amazing time throughout the smester volunteering for ACES. I learned so much about myslef and pondered the entire time why I had always been to "busy" to volunteer my spare time before this. It sort of made me feel guilty. The program is amazing and I have grown to respect the staff and volunteers for the service they are providing for these children. The way in which they utilize the school buildings in their existing state is, quite honestly, amazing. Some of their facilities need large amounts of improvements. Our semester projects should provide them with simple and affordable solutions to upgrade their exisitng desinged environment. They way they use their designed environment mimics that of the traditional "being in school" feeling, and mixes it with a fun and useful activities. Over time, I would love to see them be able to add physical change of their own to make the environment less school like. Introducing the artwork and small projects into the building somehow would create a more personal feeling with the kids and they would enjoy it much much more.

I want to thank you for introducing me to the ACES program. I am going to try and continue volunteering in the future and hopefully recruit some other people to join me.

December 5, 2006

Kahn and Gershenfeld Readings

I don't know about anyone else, but the last reading by Louis Kahn was extremely difficult to get through, and even to understand. So, if this doesn't make sense the way it is intneded, I apologize.

The reading by Neil Gershenfeld was very intersting. He is a professor at MIT teaching a revolutionary course called How To Make (almost) Anything. It involves the process and thoughts about sending technology to be manufactured and updated for the individual instead of being produced alike for the masses. He calls this "personal fabrication." It involves not only the creation of three dimensional structures but also the integration of logic, sensing, and display. He analyses the fact that when two dimesional computaion systems were pioneered, they weighed literally tons and filled enitire rooms. They later evoloved into structures the size of desks, then the personal computer, then the modern PC. His thinking about the new process of personal fabrication in that it will take the same steps in evolving as the modern computer and printing systems did and are still doing. He and his students set out around the world to actually test there personal fabrication theries in the field. Thier labs were put together at the various locations for a cost of about 20,000 dollars apiece. For instance, they set up a lab in Pabal in Western India becasue the people there wanted to use the lab to develop measurment devices for applications ranging from milk safety to agricultural engine efficiency. Equally intersting was how intelligentally his students used the personal fabrication labs in their own projects. My favorite was the ScreamBody, built by Kelly Dobson. It is a personal device for screaming. It was built just for her to store her screams she is compelled to release in situations that would otherwise not allow her to scream. I feel that this idea is brilliant, not only in its use of the lab, but in the fact that is really is technology developed for the individual, for her. That is the essence of personal fabrication.

The writing by Louis Kahn was very hard for me to understand. I don't know what to say about it so I'll say what I understood. He is talking about architecture, particularly building, as being designed and introduced to architecture in itself. He also talked about natural light being the reason all things are visible and how understanding a buildings plan with respect to the light is very important. He quotes in his writing, "It is my belief that we live to express. The whole motivation of presence is to express. And what nature gives us is the instrument of expression which we all know as ourselves, which is lioke giving the instrument upon which the song of the soul can be played. The sanctuary of art-I'm taking this little lesson to say that it is the treasury of the shadows."
Kahn also spoke about the university. He asked what is a university? One of his students said that he thought the Universtiy was best represnted by the central librbary, the place where the contents is offered to the mind. In a sense a kind of learning sanctuary, a sanction. This analization reminds him of the Acropolis.

I think these writings relate because they both talk about individual forms of expression. The personal fabrication labs promotes fabricating 3-dimensional technologies designed and built by the individual. This is the same idea talked about with Kahn's talk about what is a University. Man would pay a tax to build a distrinct place for learning to fullfil his desire to learn and become and individual. Thats what I got out of it!!

November 28, 2006

Technopolies

I understand "Technopolies" as a piece of technology, being electronic or by some other means, that is immediately praised and obsorbed throughout the general public, then at some later date, is picked apart by a group of critics or scholars and has all of its downfalls exposed. My favorite example of a "technopoly" is the invention of the hand-held calculator.
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This invention may have prevented future generations of math students, especially in most high school where the use of calculators is not prohibited, from learning basic mathematical concepts longhand and caused them to become dependent on the machine. Students today often ask the question, "How did people do these problems without calculators?" This statement seems to prove the fact that todays math students are dependent on the machine to solve problems.
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In my opinion, the hand-held calculator is one of the most important inventions of all time. It promotes mathematical perfection. Engineering, Architecture, Algebra, Geometry, Physics, and Calc have all become exact sciences because of this invention. The human mind was doing just fine before the calculator, but some things were still unclear. Now we have computers that assist the human mind in highly technical tasks such as engineering and design. It is still necessary to teach and to learn how to use algebraic functions and equations.
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I see technology like the claculator as a natural process of evolution. The human evolved over time, and so has our mathematical and technological abilities. It was only a matter of time before an invention like the calculator came along. Our minds are always evolving. Maybe one day we will out think ourselves and have classes on how to use calculators instead of enrolling in an actual math course, washing away mathmatics and calculation as we see it today.
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November 7, 2006

Design and Mathematics

Architecture and design utilize almost every aspect of mathematical theory. It encompasses geometry, basic algebra, proportion, symmetry and perspective. Renaissance Architecture used symmetry as a guiding principle. Andrea Palladio designed his buildings using symmetry. This picture is of Villa Americo by Andrea Palladio.
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Boroque Architecture used curved and dramatically twisted shapes in as varied contexts as rooms, columns, and staircases. A good example of this is St. Peters Basilica in Rome.
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Modern Architecture uses rectilinear geometry that utilizes the use of the Cartersian Coordinate system which makes the design and drafting of a buildings layout much easier, geomtry wise. The Schroder House by Gerrit Bietveld is a good example of design that uses geometry on the Cartesian plane.
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October 25, 2006

Oppostions

There are oppositions all around me. I noticed two while making my way to class last week. They are nothing major but still are worthy of resolution. Doing laundry in my apartment with my four female roomates can be very stressfull. We are always getting in eachothers way. One person will wash laundry and leave it in the washer and dryer for three days and prevent the rest of us from getting our laundry done. I think the solution to this problem is rather simple. All we need to do is set up a weekly laundry schedule and designate individual times during the week to get our laundry done. Like I said, not a major problem. It's just one of those little things that are very obnoxious.
Another opposition that really gets on my nerves is the foot and bike traffic inside the Washington Ave bridge enclosure. There are bike riders running into walkers and walkers trotting on the wrong side of the bridge right into oncomming traffic. You would think this would seem wrong to most people. I dont think there is a simple solution to this problem because there will always be people who dont understand the idea of two way traffic and being on different sides of the road to prevent accidents. I think the universtiy should build some kind of separating wall between the two sides. It wouldnt stop all but it would prevent some.

October 9, 2006

The Traffic Phenomena

Traffic effects all of us everyday in some way or another. It's everywhere in everything we do. If we walk to school we are surrounded by other people on foot, people on scooters, bikes, rollerblades, and skateboards. We are affected by motorcycles and automobiles, as well as airplanes. All of these things affect the phenomena of traffic.
Traffic can have many different origins. Some major ones are: accidents, congestion at on/off ramps, a popular event, rush hour congestion, construction, weather, and of course the terrible drivers. We do our best to control it with traffic lanes, turning lanes, lights, signs, bridges, etc. and somehow it still causes all of us a headache at somepoint during our day. Traffic in some places even effect the quality of the air we breath and the environment we live in.
The phenomena of traffic has an obvious heirarchy, each level is somehow effected by the level above or below it. The basic hierarchy levels are walking traffic, riding traffic, driving traffic, and flying traffic. Within these levels there exists yet another level of hierarchy. Take driving for example. Drving traffic hierarchy included little and slow things moving out of the way of larger and faster things. A compact car will merge into the slow lane of it sees and speeding semi-truck behind it ( or atleast in theory). There is also the authority figure aspect. A police officer can control traffic with simple hand signals. The levels never really end. There is always something effecting something else.
Automobile traffic is also very predictable. There is always a morning rush into the city, an evening rush out of the city, and the weekend ruch out of the city. The FRAMEWORK for auto traffic is the interstate system, freeways, highways, county roads, etc. The CLOCKWORK of auto traffic include things like rush hour, stop lights, timed destinations, scheduled road construction, traffic cops, etc. All of these somehow effect the time it takes to get to our destinations. The PHENOMENA of traffic is that it is a daily reoccurance, it is often predictable. Traffic can be effected by an event miles away. It can even cause mental anguish for individuals who deal with it on a daily basis, causing incidents of raod rage. It is the reason we must allow extra time to get places. It is everywhere, in one form or another.

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October 3, 2006

"Genius Loci"

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This is a picture of Lake Superior College in Duluth, MN. I attended this school for two years and recieved my A.A.S. in Applied Science for Architectural Technology. I got to know my professors very well, well enough for them to invite me to do some of the drafting work for the new addition that is currnetly under construction.

This place is a simple Tech. School, but its design is far from simple. The front entry of the building resembles that of a backbone or a spine if you will. This has great meaning to me. Everyday I walked into this building I would think to myself, " This building is the backbone of each of these students lives and will be the key factor in their
success." The building makes me feel like I can take what I have learned and leave with confidence that I will succed in the professional world. I also find it very meaningful in the fact that some of my work will help the contractors and architects build this building. So in a sense, I will always be a part of it. In one way or another.
The buillding looks like a sculpture of success. Its takes a great building to make you feel successful before you even set foot inside.

September 25, 2006

Sustainable Design

There are many social design issues that need attention. The one that I feel most strongly about is the idea of sustainable design. The construction industry creates a large portion of the worlds pollution and is responsible for depeletion of our natural resources. Everything from the manufacturing of steel to the harvesting of wood for building products creates pollution. Almost everything that is invloved in the construction and maintaining of a structure, regardless of its use, creates large amounts of pollution and wastes more energy than an her field. Designers and builders are now turning to other means of obtaining materials and sustaining small individual environments. The use of photovoltaics is becoming increasingly prominant in todays world. Photocoltaics utilizes solar energy and created enrgy to power our homes and businesses and heat our water. The use of windmills to create electricity is also starting to catch on on the induvidual home scale. Architects and designers can specify recycled materials and the adapted reuse of existing buildings to reduce the need for newly manufactured materials. For new buildings, things like site orientation in relation to solar angles and wind direction create immediate assets from the natural elements. There are many methods and tricksto designing a "green building." It is impossible to talk about them all. Does anyone have any further info they would like to share on this topic? Anyways, I believe that building and designing sustainable buildings will help in repairing our environment.

" I believe in a created universe where all things have place and purpose and where we humans are challenged everyday to make this a better place. I believe it is our obligation to act respectfully to all living things and to manifest an approach to live in which the dignity of all species is sustained and common interests flourish. It is my belief that we must learn all that we can about our world inorder to live upon it wisely."

-Roger Kennedy, Director NPS-

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September 18, 2006

Midtown Market

There are many different definitions for "Energy." Energy can be defined as the capacity to do work, the capacity for vigorous activity, the exertion of such power, and the forcefullness of expression. After observing the area in and around the Midtown Market, I was amazed at how much "energy" is exchanged just in this one micro-environment. I began to think of the building as a massive body and its hallways as veins and arterys carrying various forms of energy to all the different areas and organisms within the market. Anything, from the consumtion of food sold in one of it's many markets and shops to the interior design that was clearly a form of energy through the forcefullness of expression, can be thought of as an exchange of energy.