November 28, 2006

The Spot (cont.)

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November 27, 2006

Technopolies

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November 10, 2006

Math and Design

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October 24, 2006

Strange Resolutions Around Downtown

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October 10, 2006

Phenomena: they are everywhere

We are surrounded by phenomena, there’s no question about that. Some people, including myself, believe that Life, the Universe, and Everything (also the title of a good Douglas Adams book) is all a part of one really big phenomenon – that being the Big Bang. The only problem is we still don’t quite understand how all this came about and today there are people who have devoted their lives to studying this. While it’s all very intriguing, I don’t have nearly enough knowledge to discuss that particular phenomenon. I’ll let the devotees figure that one out while I find something that didn’t happen millions of years ago and instead admire something a little closer to home.

One Sunday evening not too long ago (a few weeks at the most) my roommate and I went for a little bike ride. Our mini-journey took us to Dinkytown where we picked up some dinner and started to head back home. We were just across the street from the Kitty Cat Klub when I noticed the sunset just behind the city skyline. I took a picture with my camera phone (thank god for technology) and went about my evening. Looking back, I realize that I experienced a visual phenomenon:
Things: sun, clouds, red, blue, orange, white, buildings, cars
All of these things made up the frame works of what I was seeing.
Frameworks: sky, city, skyline (relationship of the buildings)
These frameworks were changing through time.
Clockworks: sunset changing colors through time, visibility of the skyline

All of these together make up my phenomenon. I caught it for only few moments while I took the picture with my phone. A rush of color in the sky, made by nature, behind the built environment of man; it was truly stunning.

If I can successfully get the image off my phone I will put it up, although no luck yet. I should mention I just ordered a digital camera and should get it sometime this week. I’ll definitely be putting up image from now on.

October 4, 2006

The "Spot"

As a Minneapolis native, I have naturally come to know my surroundings fairly well. During the last two and a half years of my high school experience I was given the privilege of attending The Blake School whose upper school campus is located less than a block away from the Sculpture Garden across from the Walker Art Center. I was highly involved in the visual arts while at Blake and made frequent trips to Utrecht – an art supplies store on the corner of Hennepin and 16th Street. People who are familiar with this area know there is a highway overpass just near here that you have to go under in order to go from the garden to the store.

When you walk beneath the overpass it appears, at first glance, like any other. There are three lanes of one-way traffic heading towards downtown, three more going the opposite direction, and sidewalks on either side. Walking towards downtown, it is hard to miss the sharply slopping wall of concrete shooting up to the supporting elements of what is I-94 West. Driving in a car it would be impossible to see this, but on foot one sees this place serves as much more than a supporting structure for the highway. It is littered with empty beer bottles, cigarette butts, ripped up blankets, lonesome gloves, socks, shirts…the point I’m trying to make here is that it also serves as a home to some of Minneapolis’ homeless. It is possible to walk across the top of this slope, compartmentalized by the beams overhead. This dark, extremely claustrophobic space shows evidence of people have been making these 15 ft long 3 ft high concrete compartments into their beds at night, the cars rumbling above. Among all this misery however there is a glimpse of what I have come to consider beauty. At the end of the overpass there is a spot where it’s possible to climb up to the side of the highway. Two people at the most can fit up here, but it is worth the experience. A dirty chain link fence, a few pipes are all that great you here. One at a time, it is possible if you stand on these pipes to watch the cars zip by on the highway as they come out from the tunnel. Maybe it’s the fear of intruding on someone’s home, or maybe it’s rush air and exhaust coming from the road. Whatever the cause, night or day, I feel an overwhelming sense of excitement when I come to the overpass I have simply come to call “The Spot?.

If I can, I will try to upload some images.

September 27, 2006

Social Design Issue: SEMI Area

The Southeast Minneapolis Industrial Area (SEMI) is located just East of campus. What was a running industrial yard is now a barren wasteland littered with grain elevators. I find it very strange in such an intense urban environment to have this much land used for absolutely nothing. It should be possible put this space to use without destroying the existing structures which I should mention, have a significant importance in the history of this city.

Fifty years ago, Minneapolis looked very different. This is a topic that comes up very often with the senior citizens who swim at the Courage Center, where I’ve been a lifeguard for just over two years. I’ve had a number of old ladies reminisce of the times when they took the train to get downtown. One of the big changes is the disappearance of the trains during the 1980’s. Minneapolis had one of the most advanced train systems of the time and somehow the city planners decided to take all the rails out and dump the steal in Lake Minnetonka. Now, about twenty-five years later we’re trying to put the rail lines back in to improve the chaotic bus system.

One possibility of the SEMI Area to good use is to build a central light rail station for lines going to St. Paul and Northeast Minneapolis. None of the grain elevators would have to be knocked down, and some of the taller structures could be turned into observation towers. The rest of the rail yard could be converted to a park maybe with a pond. There should also be an extension of the bike greenway system that follows the train lines. More than anything there would need to be a reason for people go to this part of the city and use the train station. It might not be too bad an option.

September 20, 2006

Midtown Global Market

DEAD. There might be fifty or sixty people here - including the vendors. Is it always like this? Perhaps it's because it's just after four in the afternoon on a Tuesday. In any case there doesn't seem to be much going on. Even so, I must keep looking....

For me energy is one of those words I have a hard time defining rigidly. The past two years of my University studies have been focused in the sciences and therefore I automatically associate the word energy with measurements, calculations and equations. In Physics we have all different kinds of energy. Kinetic energy, potential energy, E=mc2. The energy of the sun. The energy of an atom. Energy is something that gets quantified. We can say something has a certain amount of energy. With this in mind, I begin to wonder how many light bulbs are turned on in the market right now – how many Watts they add up to. The constant buzzing of air conditioners, refrigerator compressors, these are all results of energy. Actually everything here needed energy – in the scientific sense of the word – to get where it is now. This of course is not the only way I see energy here.

When we say someone has a lot of energy we usually mean they are lively, often in motion, excited, maybe a little chaotic. I saw a Red Bull cooler as I was walking through the market. If I drink one, I will certainly have more energy. Coffee would have the same effect. This definition of energy describes the energy outside the Market’s walls were there is a fairly busy intersection, a major bus station, other businesses that attract consumers. Inside the Market however, it is the opposite. There is very little energy. I can roam through the space as I wish, not running into anyone. I don’t have to wait in lines to buy things. This Market, I think, needs a little coffee (metaphorically, of course). A Red Bull would work too. If the Global Market were full of energy there would be hundreds of people walking the aisles going from one vendor to the other. If it were crowded, one would feel this energy as an uncontrollable force creating a certain amount of chaos in the spaces. Most interesting, is that the Market would be a suitable space for this kind of energy. I see nothing that would make people stay away from this space, and therefore don't understand why it isn't full of energy. What I don't know is if it's ever busy, or always this bare.

From what I've seen today, the Global Market needs a cup of coffee.