December 11, 2006

Architecture as Space...or the lack there-of.

Reading Zevi's Architecture as Space article brought many interesting things to light to me; Zevi describes architecture as not only the building, but it is actually the extension of the world around it. It is quoted in fact, "...content of the internal space as important as the outside...the interior space and all the surrounds or includes us is the basis of our judgement of a building." It's interesting to think of the contents and details of an area as the actual definition. I like the idea of Architecture as the environment; not something singular or alone, but as a collective whole and interconnected between space and tangible objects.

When I try and apply this concept to architecture as I know it, it makes a lot of sense. Like, the use of space between old roman pillars...that is using the lack of area between physical columns. Maybe if we thought of architecture as too inclosed, it would be considered too much like art (or sculpture, looking at it in the 3-D sense). We are adding more dimensions, more factors in the equation than just the aesthetic. It boggles my mind to think about the complexities of which the building becomes. Does this mean that interior decorating addresses the emotional issues of how a space functions? Or is it just a more shallow version of combining colors and fashions? Does that mean architecture is the manipulation of space and the physical entities inhabiting it? There are a lot of interesting ways to look at this...and just goes to show when you are researching a location for building (or building for remodeling), there are so many outter intricacies playing into the situation.

So, then, does this diminish the existence of architecture without an interior space? Does this even count as architecture? Where does it cross into art? But then again, architecture can also be considered as art itself. Maybe this could be the branch into landscape architecture, or the manipulation of outside space (without an interior area). Anyways, I'm not entirely sure there is a definite answer to this speculation, or that it can even really be defined. Does any relative philosophical conversation really have an answer? Not really. I expect this is one that will continue.

December 4, 2006

The Idea of "Architecture"

The first article I managed to force myself through was by Neil Gershenfeld on the revolution of innovation that is sweeping our technologically focused country (the more and more we adapt to a computerized life). The article, "Fab", verbalizes the tools we are creating, why we are creating them, how it is being done technologically, and what we hope to accomplish because of it. I am completely intrigued by the idea that we create in the name of what we *want*, and not necessarily by need. I love that we can cross the boundary between being technologically challenged (as artists or the rest of us who have limited knowledge in the math and science area) in order to make inventions. I also like that our inspiration is personal--the best thing for you is created by you (for no one else can anticipate your needs better).

But really...this idea could hold the possibility for great things if you think about it; we have third world countries that we struggle to provide aid for...but what if we allowed them their own technologies to come up with innovations driven by their own needs? As Gershenfeld states in the article, "...the learning process was ddriven by the demand for, rather than supply of, knowledge." I also think about the pity of how impersonal mass produced objects are; what happend to the home-spun knit sweater that grandma used to make (but was not always the most popular item in the closet)? You think about the most expensive items of clothing, that are "engineered to fit your body type," which needless to say, isn't particularily true. Or perhaps like in Ozayr's lecture on Architecture and Technology when he mentioned the fight between grandma's home-made donuts and the Krispy Kreme empire. When you think about it, creativity is kind of like an economical process as well (with the supply and demand aspect).

The last article I read was by Louis Kahn, and frankly, I never thought I would reach the end of the article. Thick with intellectual jargon, I felt like I was wading through a pool of philosophy, fishing for random meaningful phrases. Titled "Silence and Sunlight", I found myself trying to imagine the architectural significance behind their definitions. Repeatedly, it is mentioned that silence is the feeling from which man's desire to express themselves. It's fascinating to think that profound thoughts belong to those that are not always the most vocal--what if we got more accomplished by trying to think through things more thoroughly, rather than trying to jump the gun right away? Have we lost the time and patience to think things through? It is possible, then, that architecture is the freedom of expression in the most physical form (hence, Kahn's definition of architecture as being an idea rather than something existent). Or at least, that being the idea he's trying to convey.

Light is then best depicted created by the structure--or the giver of all presences. It makes sense, when you think about it. We "see" objects because of the reflection of light. Without it, we would be in darkness. But even then, you wonder at how we can still see darkness with light all around (also known in layman's term, shadow). The shadows seem to belong to this concept of light as well, for they are cast as the spaces between lighted things. Yet again, architecture does not exist without the light illuminating it's presence; in darkness, what can we truly see? And is it there if it can't be proven? The notion sounds ridiculous...and really...I could be making this stuff up and pulling it out of the air...or I have just seriously overanalyzed the refraction of light on buildings. Or both. Have I seriously accomplished any original thoughts? Probably not beyond anything that hasn't been thought of before. I like the idea of being able to see as the "release of light," rather than the perception of the eyes. It seems a slightly more artistic definition.

November 21, 2006

Technology: Good vs. Evil (vs. Equal!)

Technopolies comes across as a very interesting concept to me: there is no good/additive, there is no subtractive/evil, there is only change. It's what that change is *about*, or *why* it is. Unlike the readings before it, I rather enjoyed the philosophy coming from Mr. Postman's points of view (or likewise, Thamus).

As quoted, "...once a technology is admitted, it plays out its hand;it does what it is designed to do... Our task is to understand that design...[and] we must do so with our eyes wide open." This is pretty insightful, if you think about the crushing reality of how nuclear weapons (or any weapon for that matter) were created in the name of technology and have no other purpose but to destroy. Worse than destroy; incinerate, thus removing all of existence. Isn't that kind of what that means? So I have to wonder; what crossed the mind of the scientist(s) who created it? WHO...in their right mind...thinks "hm. I think I'm going to create something that will change the world of mass destruction AS WE KNOW IT...let's have no regard for human life, all in the name of technology." Ok...so maybe I'm being a bit biased, but I feel like in this case, the technopolies at work are portrayed as truly evil. At the same time, it is not on strictly evil basis; without the atomic bomb, there might have been no America after WW2. But why at the cost of lives in Tokyo? It is all drawn back to the point of "change" rather than black or white- there are so many perspectives to look at, to argue.

Technologies are constantly propelling us forward, constantly innovating what we know. I think perhaps Postman is a bit against the idea of technopolies, and in part, he is right. But I can associate a lot of "good" things with change as well.

As from Mr. Lavine's lecture, I have learned technology as not only this cultural change-over, but something found in nature as well. Nature has it's own technology; gravity, the change of climate, sunlight, etc. A quote from Postman's article that I particularily like to draw parallels with this idea is "..technologies create the ways in which people perceive reality." We cannot deny what gravity is. What it does. But what we can do is decide how we want to *look* at gravity, and how we are going to address it in what we build (of course, structures being the one of the most subject physical things on earth to gravity and the laws of physics). People look at the architecture that challenges these technologies and perhaps think it's "different", and since "different" is associated with "bad" in most cases (because we do not like what we can't understand) we come back to the idea of technopolies. Does architecture defy what has already been done? Can it, then, be classified as a technology within itself?

In the book "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand, the young main character challenges architecture as seen by his "superiors," which ultimately labels him as dangerous (or wrong). While obviously there is a lot more to this book (and I would suggest it to anyone even remotely interested in architecture), we can sympathize as an outside perspective that is not emotionally involved with the situation and can draw unbiased conclusions. Which is something I think can be applied to architecture critique today.

Anyways...here are some before/after images of how technology has altered our culture.
16cc.JPG.jpgmini-digital-camera.jpg

Man_woman_horse__buggy.jpgbmw_z4.jpg

And last, but not least...my favorite application to the technopoly images- technology destructive by nature.
cavemen.jpgflamethrower.jpg

November 5, 2006

Mathematics + Buildings = Beautiful!

Ok...so it's a really cheesy title. I'm lame and I'm sorry (but not really). Anyways, when I was a junior in high school, my mother and I went out to Washington D.C to see one of her sisters; so, of course, we also had to check out every historical landmark that existed within a 25 mile radius. In downtown D.C there is the Washington National Cathedral, and at the time, it didn't sound too thrilling. The truth was, this building was remarkable in size, beauty, and meaning. The stainglass windows were of holy value, and the stone masonry must have taken a hundred years (no kidding; the cathedral literally took a hundred years to finish building). This doesn't even cover the intricate pathway of underground tunnels beneath the church, as easy for me to get lost in at 17 as it would be if I were 7. What better example of historical architecture can you find, if not in a church? These pictures are from pieces of the church that provide what I think is a good example of mathematics applied in the world of architecture. Not necessarily the kind of math you might expect, but in the most beautiful sense that can represent how architecture uses it.

cathedral4.jpg

national_cathedral_3.jpg

MVC-186F_s.JPG

I mean, just look at the stainglass windows; the projective and disciplined geometry creates a tangible kaleidoscope. If this isn't purity in the realm of reality and measurement, I don't know what is.

October 25, 2006

Wonderful

Some great pictures in a Nat'l Geographic I got ahold of this weekend.

Nat'l Geog. Pics001.jpg

Nat'l Geog. Pics002.jpg

The caption for this one said it was shot right here in Minnesota. Go figure.
Nat'l Geog. Pics003.jpg

October 22, 2006

Man vs. Nature

We are surrounded. 76% of the earth is infected, and 65% of our bodies are made up of it. What is this formidable force that we cannot seem to escape?

Water.

That's right. H2O. It's everywhere, and as homo sapiens, we fight it with great vigor. As much as it gives us life, and is such an important aspect for anything (and everything), we are constantly in opposition with it. Such an unpredictable element, it is something to be reckoned with. When I visited Seattle this summer, I noticed how sprawling the city was, and how much of it was right next to the water. There were ferries, and boats, and other ways to reach from one side of the straight to the other, but I noticed the lack of bridges. Why? Because there's no way that concrete or anything else can stand up to the weathering/unpredictable effects of the water.

While traveling through the various parts of the city and state, I did notice a couple of bridges. I was quite curious as to what made these unique and able to withstand where other bridges have failed. I discovered later from local sources that they were actually floating bridges; concrete structures, reinforced with rebar (just like any other structure), but weighted down to the bottom of the water with anchors and cables. The actual pillars of the bridge were made with a porous cement, allowing it to sit a certain level in the water and float, but the cables allow for the wear and tear of the shifting waters. It was fascinating, really, to drive over these bridges that sit so low in the water, and to wonder if I could actually feel it moving beneath me (just for the record, I did not...but who knows?). I love that the people/engineers of WA were able to adapt to their conditions, not trying to "swim against the tide" (in a manner of speaking), but going with the flow. Perhaps it's another example of Biomimicry, humans working with nature instead of trying to oppose it. It's inspiring for future design.

*I'm terribly sorry for the use of puns...I simply cannot resist*

October 16, 2006

TREES.

I was looking a lot at trees this weekend...and I normally like to sketch people instead. I don't know...it was a hybrid. I started a couple of others (like a willow and birch woman).

Tree1

October 8, 2006

Seasonal Phenomena

I cannot help but be so obvious in choosing my favorite phenomena; especially when it is at the ideal time of year. All deciduous trees change color in their leaves, and drop them; a natural occurence, in the scheme of things. My favorite to watch is the red maple; it amazes me how the color red appears, such a supernatural shade in the eyes of nature (where browns, yellows, and greens reign supreme). I'm constantly fascinated by nature, and I hardly believe any man-made object can rival it.

The first aspect of a phenomena involves "things"; in this case, leaves. A fairly ordinary object that we take for granted (especially being fortunate enough to be located in the Midwest, where trees actually exist). They occupy space, have a size, are measureable/tangible, and can be categorized.

The framework is obviously the tree itself; trunk, branches, and twigs. They make the skeleton, and provide structrue for everything. It's an example of designed uniformity, "things" working together to provide a home for the phenomena.

It isn't all put together until you use time to tie everything. The red maple doesn't show its' greatest assets until the fall, and even then it is a fleeting moment of a couple of weeks at best. It lies dormant in the winter, bare branches braving the cold of winter in the Midwest (for the most part). Spring brings buds, the new growth of the tree branching out (sorry for the pun). Summer harbors those buds, bringing them out as leaves and letting them grow for the warmer couple of months that we'll ever have. Then fall comes; a blur of colors mixing in the deciduous forest. To look at it in a pessimistic point of view, the leaves are dying. They are turning color because they are losing life to the harsh climate of Minnesota, and in a sense, dropping what makes them trees.

japanese-red-maple.jpg

The phenomena? Finding such a precious color, one that represents so much life and vibrance in the season that so much "death" occurs. Maybe you can apply it to *our* life, in a manner of speaking. Maybe it's a sign, that when we die, we have the opportunity to leave this world with a bang; to be known, remembered, or noticed. Not all of us possess that courage and identity to distinguish our lives, but there are some of us who meet death and say "this was my life; I loved it, and it is still wonderful now". I like to think that even, in a way, that the changing leaves could mean some sort of reincarnation. We grow (springtime), thrive in life (summer), and then our soul "sheds" its' exterior (fall), and we go through a period of dormancy before the sould is reborn again. I know it sounds crazy, but religious beliefs have been based off of much less. I like to think we can find answers and knowledge in nature; it brings me comfort to think we are as much a part of this earth as it is.

Again, call me crazy, but it astounds me what stunning life this world has. That is why I love the fall so much; watching these trees change, and stepping slightly off the path in order to crush a particularily crunchy looking leaf. If you can't think of a phenomena, maybe we just aren't looking for them in the right places.

October 1, 2006

No place like home...or is there?

By definition, "Genius Loci" is part of the Roman concept of every place having its' own independent life, or spirit. In this case, it pays more attention to what an object is, or what it means to people. So, in retrospect, when I refer to Genius Loci, I am mentioning it as less of an actual place, but more the feeling of what this space means to me.

My own Genius Loci? Up at a rustic cabin in the middle of the Chequamegon National Forest, northern Wisconsin. This is an easy answer. I would have had this answer at 8 years old, nevermind that I probably would not have understood the concept. But that's what makes my answer so right, because I don't have to understand old Roman beliefs in order to know what place has the most spirit and meaning in my life. Ever since I can remember my family makes trips up to the cabin, the most remote place in the world that I can think of. This historical background obviously contributes to my nostalgic longing, a place I was born with and raised with. The cabin is located on a tiny lake, surrounded by few people and miles of national forest. The trees, the heart and soul of my Genius Loci, are a transition mix between deciduous and coniferous. The cabin itself is very small, no running water, no air conditioning or heating, and very old. Although I could launch into detail, describing every tree/bush/square inch of this place, I will refrain for the sake of whomever has the misfortune of reading this.

Every object and space triggers some sort of feeling or memory; it is almost an overwhelming sensation, trying to organize it all. For example, the lake; a small, isolated body of water colored a dark amber brown from all the mineral deposits that flow into it. The bottom of the lake was always mucky and weedy, and it never got particularily deep (even in the middle). I think about swimming in it when I was a kid, squeamish about the leeches I knew I'd be extracting from my feet later, or imagine the fish nibbling at my toes. I entertained all sorts of horrors in my imagination, but yet I kept diving in (and I still do...still afraid of the leeches though). There were the summers, where our trips to the cabin were the most frequent- the bugs are so terrible, that often we were forced to stay indoors on the most beautiful of days because we'd risk getting eaten alive otherwise. I would come home after the weekend trip, covered in itchy welts and sunburn. My cousins and I would take out the orange canoe, a virtually indestructable piece of plastic that would guarantee not to get you anywhere very quickly. We'd fish, even though I hated fishing, and we'd tip the canoe, even though we never quite figured out how to flip it back over. In the fall, which is the best time of year, the leaves change and the ground in the clearings are covered thick with a rust, brown, red, orange, and yellow carpet of leaves. I remember hunting with my dad, crawling through the reeds and cattails on a stalk on one of the duck ponds. My dad always worried about me getting cold, and even when I did, I wouldn't admit it. I hated thinking that he would feel bad about the fact I was cold. I still have a hard time admitting I'm cold, even when I'm not hunting. Winters isolated the cabin even worse with the massive amounts of snow. The roads were so rural they didn't get plowed, and we'd have to haul all of our stuff in on snowshoes and sleds. It was easily a 3/4 mile walk one way. We'd go snowshoeing across the lake at night, the moon reflecting off the snow so brightly we could see herds of deer running half a mile away. Nighttime at the cabin scared me (cougars, bears, porcupine...whatever tortured my imagination), but my parents, aunts, or uncles would be so comfortable and loud I couldn't help but feel safe.

My memories, thoughts, and feelings are endless on my Genius Loci; I cannot exactly say that they are all as nicely categorized as the above. Since I have no idea where to end, I will do so here, and keep most of my private moments to myself; in a way, it is too revealing to share these innermost thoughts. I think it is the mystery in the spirit of a place.

September 24, 2006

I'd like a glass of un-pasteurized, non-homogenized milk please!

I've spent most of the week trying to define "social design issue" in my own words, and I have failed to come up with a concrete definition. It could mean a number of things- using the word 'social' implies it consists of human interaction in some way, shape, or form. So, of course, I have been given free reign to explore all the social issues that I support and have been an advocate for; oh GOODY! The possibilities.

I can't exactly decide if this could be considered a "social" kind of issue, but I have found that lately I am supporting the purchasing and growth of organic foods (this includes co-op grocery stores). Our foods are becoming more and more processed, with hormones injected into our meats and animal products (unless you are a vegetarian/vegan, this does not necessarily apply), refined sugars in snacking foods, and chemically engineered produce coated in pesticides. What happened to the natural, nuturing growth? When did it become too much of a burden to let things evolve at its' own pace, and why are we to sacrifice our health for it?

The local farmers/gardeners are getting forced out by mass production by coorporate farms and factories. I come from a very small town in Wisconsin where the loss of family farms hits our community the hardest, and I watch my friends, neighbors, and their families struggle for a new life. This is slightly off the topic, but 5 miles outside the village limits in my hometown, they have built an ethanol plant; this corporation has promised to buy local crops and provide local jobs. The plant is conveniently located near the rail-road tracks, and the agreement to buy local crops is only valid for the next two years. Already, workers have been brought from the outside, and I know few people in the area who have actually been hired. Despite the fact it takes *more* energy to produce ethanol than the ethanol can provide back, it is not environmentally sound and has polluted the air with an irrepressible stench. I cannot help but feel like our country is slowly selling out, and screwing the small guys in the process. This isn't just on the issue of farming, but on any kind of business in modern American culture today.
So here I am, a poor college student, scraping and putting together all my pennies to afford to walk down the more expensive "organic foods" isle...why? Because even though I walk away broke, I feel like I have at least contributed something towards what I believe in. I can feel good about myself, not just for buying food without pesticides/hormones/anythingelsethatmightbecancercausing, but doing a small part to fight that corporate America that has a hand-hold over pretty much everything else. I can visit homer on the weekends and eat steak that came from the family farm that I run past every Sunday just outside of town. It may be quaint, humble, hick...whatever you want to call it, but I think it will become the revolutionized future of a smarter society(after everyone decides big business is not always good business).

Take it for what for what it's worth, but these are merely thoughts and observations I come across in my everyday life. You may agree with me, or you may not. But what you can do is respect me for engaging in something I believe.

September 16, 2006

Midtown

Hearing the word "market" puts me in mind of open areas filled with foods of any color, in all shape/form/box that you could ever imagine, and the purfume of ripened fruits thickening the air. I wasn't completely wrong, and I wasn't completely disappointed to find that Midtown Global Market fit my description almost perfectly. What I *was* disappointed in was my own narrow-minded beliefs of what a market actually entails.

Midtown Market has a lot of food, sure... but it involves and represents so much more. It's a building, a cultural swimming pool, global goods, housing, business, and not to mention local history. While most of the building is comprised of mobile vendors with tables that move from spot to spot, there are also a number of diverse food establishments like Greek, Chinese, Mexican, Jewish, and of course, the American java hut.

A market isn't truly a market until you add the people. I'm not talking about shopping drones shuffling from place to place while looking over goods with glazed eyes, but real people. Active, and putting as much energy into looking at unfamiliar items as they do communicating with each other (whether it be neighbor to neighbor, vendor to customer, ect.). This means asking questions, trying new things, and being immersed into cultures of all kinds. The flow of customers moving around and through the many isles and walkways between (in some cases) temporary walls.

Scope_sketch5-23-04_l.gif

As I understand, the Midtown building also used to be the Sears tower. Until recently, the building had been unused for almost a decade. Most of Lake St. has been going under reinovation, so that explains most of the construction within and around the building. Much of the space in the market area is empty, and in some respects, the area does not flow as well as it could. Just like the stock market, the economy goes through highs and lows, and I feel like the building is a great example of this pattern. Right now, it is coming back from a recession. I think that this new energy is growing, progressing every day, bringing more and more people. It was interesting to see and experience after seeing the Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA. Although I have never been very comfortable in large crowds or cities, I find the market bustle invigorating. Perhaps it's the involvement of all the senses; the sights, smells, touching, tastes, and sounds. It could also be the shopping. I do enjoy seeing all the different possibilites the world has to offer.