December 4, 2006

Comparing Gershenfeld and Kahn: PF and Light

The two articles tackled differing issues in design and architecture with Gershenfeld focusing on the future of personal fabrication and Kahn focusing on the topic of the presence of light. Gershenfeld is more of an objective article, strictly informing the reader of the future possibilities. What would a PF (personal fabricator) do to our world? If there is no need to “buy? things simply because you can “make? them yourself, what would happen to the economy? These were some of the questions that crossed my mind while reading Gershenfeld. Would there be an explosive uprising of mining and trade of natural resources such as metal, rocks, water, or whatever ingredients are needed to produce the desired item? What about cloning? Would the new organism have a soul?

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Nevertheless, the world may change from consumerism to purely an imaginative society where design concept takes precedence over anything else. Would we even have money since they will simply be regenerated infinitely as long as you provide the raw material? Though this may be far-off in the distant future (or will never be realized) there are many oppositions in its way. The amount of information and education that is required to design, program and construct such a PF would be astronomical as Gershenfeld explains (Gershenfeld pg.5). He says that a lifetime of classes for students will not be sufficient due to the lack of hands-on experience. The most notable merit from a PF is that it brings imaginations and individuality back into our realm of expression. We will no longer be restricted to what is sold in the economy because we will be able to fabricate whatever we wished, even things that do not exist as long as you have the proper design. People will simply make things that they think is necessary, cool, or fun. This is the ultimate form of self-expression because the material being fabricated is literally your desires, interests, ideas, and taste. The classic teenage obsession of “fitting in? will most likely diminish over the years with the introduction of a PF.

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Kahn touches on a similar concept of expression by relating it to architecture. His article, “Silence and Light? states that the language of man is art and it stems from something which grows out of needing, of the desire to be, to express, and the evidence of the promise of the material to do it (Kahn pg.237). I agree with this approach, since art requires no set language, and it may well be a language in its own realm. A famous painting can speak to you without ever voicing its message. Because art originates from our inner most desires of wanting to express ourselves, it touches on the deepest emotions and imaginations of humans. Feelings are universal, therefore artistic expression stemming from feelings are universal. Relating Kahn’s idea back to Gershenfeld, what is fabricated from a PF ultimately is the result of our inner desire to express ourselves. The PF will be a new realm of expression just like how architecture is a realm of expression, and so is art, music, dancing, and literature (Kahn pg.238, 247). Though the PF idea seems very mechanical and scientific, it is derived from nature: genetics. Our body functions similarly to a fabricator because our genes command the construction of certain amino acids and protein, which composes our bodily organs. The raw material used is nutrition obtained from our diet. A PF is exactly the same in function; it takes raw material and follows the guideline for constructing the desired material.
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To wrap up both articles, I would like to end with the argument expressed by Kahn about light. Kahn believes light is the giver of all presences (Kahn pg.228). Without light our eyes cannot perceive any information, therefore the object in front of us does not really exist in our perception even if it may be taking up space. Shadows exist not due to the lack of light, but because of the presence of light (Kahn pg.229). Without light, no matter what we create no one will be able to see it and experience its presence; the absence of light destroys its existence. The loss of existence means the loss of our self expression. This concept places light in a new level of superiority and reminds all of us that sun light is, indeed, the creator of all life and existence from both a scientific and artistic aspect.
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November 27, 2006

Motha of all blogs...Technopoly

Neil Postman mainly classifies societies as one of these categories: tool-using, technocracy, and technopoly. Tool-using is self-explanatory, these are the primitive aborigines. Technocracy is a society devoted to development of technology, which seeks to take over and become the culture. Technopoly, which we are concerned with, is a state of culture where technology is our mind state; we find pleasure in technology and the world is authorized by technology. With this in mind, let's look at what contributes to technopoly and perhaps figure out its origins as well.
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November 6, 2006

Mathematics in Design - The Natural Number "e"

We learned in high school that natural growth is based on logarithms and "e" or 2.718..., the natural number discovered by Jakob Bernoulli (1654-1705). Growth of population, decay, bank interest and loans, and much more use the concept of "e." And it is not surprising that logarithmic spiral is often found in nature.

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An example of the logarithmic spiral on a grand scale is the hurricane, completely uneffected by man yet following the laws of nature precisely. The ultimate example are the galaxies that continue to show growth in space on a scale that is unimaginable to us, but still follow the logarithmic spiral.

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So how does this relate to design? This concept is evident in our designed environment, and the most notible are the spiral stairs when viewing from above. The stairway mimics exactly the natural pattern of growth as you can see in the pictures below. The origin of the spiral (where the stairs begin) continues to grow outward in a circular-polar manner, extending its radius in accordance to the logarithmic rules. The same can be said about spiral parking ramps. Although in reality these spirals only seem to follow the lograithmic rule when viewed from above, when designing or planning a display of an overhead-view of a sprial complex, the natural lograithm comes into play.
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Other similar applications can be found with logarithmic equations. The example below shows a curved hallway coming to a single vanishing point if it were to extend infinitely. As you can see from the previous examples as well, the natural number "e" and its logarithmic applications are significant in architectural design and display.
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October 24, 2006

Genius Loci

When I think of a Genius Loci of a place that’s significant to me, where better to look than on campus! As a student of the U, I felt that the Mall area was the most significant to me. Personally, I love Greek and Roman architecture, so I love how the halls (classroom buildings) resemble the dominant design and scale of their predecessors. The facades of the buildings with the huge columns reminds me of the Pantheon, Parthenon, Temples of the Deities. The buildings surrounding the Mall area create a feeling of enclosure, a space within the outdoors. Coffman seems like the unreachable temple that can only be reached by crossing the bridge. However, without the presence of students walking around, studying on the grass, playing frisby, smoking a cigarette during their break, and heavy traffic on Washington, the Mall area seems life-less.

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Though the buildings and the enclosed space is still present, without the karma (life energy) of the people the area loses its significance. The buildings also carry a history, and the heavy stones used for the building of these monuments are sustainable. They were built to last and to represent its rightful place on the U of M campus for centuries. I feel "at the U" more so on the mall area than I do inside any classroom building.

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Oppositions, problems, solutions

There are many oppositions, some physical and some social. An example of a social opposition is the protests against certain projects by the community. In an age of high-rise buildings and skyscrapers, I chose to look at a different kind of monumental project. Several years ago there was a proposal by a company to build a new dam near the lake of Itasca in the Ojibwe Native American territory in upper Minnesota. Since then there have been numerous on going protests against the building of this new dam for several reasons: the dam will deplete certain rivers of water and annual flooding needed for the crops, the dam will prevent spawning of certain water organisms including some fish, and finally the dam will result in more than two dozen Ojibwe families to relocate to another reservation area. The families that will be required to relocate to another reservation area will lose their communal ties and any relationship that they have developed and sustained over the course of their lifetime. This also means a loss in jobs as well for some of the adults in the tribe.

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Environmental impact is a huge factor in this situation. Wild life that depends on the annual flooding and the flow of the river will lose their natural habitat, and hundreds of trees will be required to be taken down also. Are all these things worth losing for a dam? However, it should be noted that with the dam in place, this would create many more jobs, provide a cheaper and more efficient source of energy throughout the area, and the dam may aid in slowing down soil erosion on the river bottom. A dam will also make a good recreational area where water activities can be enjoyed. It is always crucial to listen to both sides of the story. The architect and engineers are facing a difficult decision here, but must realize that there are more negative effects than positive effects in this situation. In order for the company to build this dam they must convince the people that it is better to have the dam, but this will be a difficult opposition to overcome.

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As for physical oppositions for the architect, thousands of tons of gravel, sand, rock and water must be relocated for the construction. Wild life must be relocated as well. The water continuing to rush down the river will also be an opposition that must be stopped in order for the construction to take place. Physical, as well as social oppositions, can cause a headache for architects.

October 9, 2006

Natural Phenomenon

A phenomenon that has fascinated people is that of the St. Elmo's fire. If you have never heard of this it is a natural phenomenon, which occurs prior to a big thunderstorm. The increased electric field and ionization of the air particles concentrate around a tip (usually that of a mast or aircraft wing) and creates an electrical discharge between the object and the atmosphere, which can then be seen as a blue-ish glow of lights. It also emits a hissing sound. Sailors have feared St. Elmo’s fire. It has been said that those who witness a St. Elmo's fire during a sailing trip will never make it out alive due to the intensity of the storm, which causes the St. Elmo's fire. Prior to scientific experiments and explanations, sailors often referred to the St. Elmo's fire as a divine power where God's burning finger has reached the ship.

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September 25, 2006

Become an Advocate of a Social-Design Problem

I took a different approach to this problem and thought deeply about what a social design problem meant. It can deal not only with problems in structure and organization of buildings, but also deal with the systematics of things such as our university system. Our generation views University and post-high school education as a mere tool for helping them get into a better career, hence making more money. Although Universities were not founded for that puropose, I feel that where our society puts its attentions and the materialistic values posessed by our society corrupts the University system. This is why in recent decades, University and corporate ties have gotten stronger. More and more schools (such as MIT ) have agreed to provide corporations with research findings, results and/or discoveries in return for millions of dollars in funding. More funding will probably enhance research in the university, but this method corrupts University beliefs and its main purpose in our society. Consumerism has such a huge impact in our society today that corporations are doing whatever they can to stay ahead of everyone else, hoping to achieve a monopoly on anything new that may come around. I believe that Universities have a responsibilty towards the community because the people (tax-payers) fund the University. Discoveries and research results should be used first and foremost for improving our society and not used for profit making purposes of corporations. Relating this to architecture, architects should not only strive to meet the needs of the clients, but realize the impact it has on society from the results of their works. Having been educated by a public funded school, we all have a responsibilty to give something back to society from what we gain in our school. Therefore, profit should not be the only ambition for development and efforts put into a project.

September 18, 2006

Midtown....is that between Downtown and Uptown?

As we drove east on W. Lake st. with the sun on our back, nothing else caught our eyes more than the humongous sign that said MIDTOWN. This building towers over anything else around it, with maybe only the Abbott hospital and parking ramp next to it challenging it's size. However, they do not even compare to the size of the Midtown Exchange. Although it seemed unoccupied at the time of our visit, we could sense its significance not only as a huge symbol in this part of town, but also its relation to everything around it. An ex-business office facility, this building very much shows what a typical office building looks like: square, straight, plain and simple. The Midtown Exchange now hosts varaious markets and events, bringing back a liveliness to the dying building. The neighboring businesses are very much alive and well, with many pedestrians and travelers occupying the vicinity of the Midtown Exchange. The location allows it to be seen from all four sides, acting as a landmark, and those who care to glance at it will never forget where Chicago Ave. and W. Lake St. intersects. Perhaps the train station just outside of the parking lot explains the building as a true landmark, suggesting either a starting point of a journey or an end of one. Although it is not visually pleasing nor unique, the Midtown Exchange posesses a vibe with everything around it lively as well.
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First timer

This is my first time posting anything on the internet, so obviously this is my very first blog! Nope, I don't do facebook or my space or any of that other forum crap, sorry for the fanatics. However, this Blog will hopefully change my mindset on many of these new age way of communicating and expressing our thoughts.

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