December 4, 2006

architecture, a complex meaning

From Tuesday’s lecture I came to understand a new side of architecture: that of the virtual and informational realm. Emotions, relationships, feelings, desires, information, and ideas have so much more to do with architecture than I had previously considered. Ozayr’s definition of virtual reality as “designed dreams,? I believe to be very fitting towards Louis Kahn’s lecture and Neil Gershenfeld’s lectures.
Gershenfeld’s class at MIT quite literally designs dreams and therefore creates virtual reality. He explains that Information has become a huge realm of our world more so today than ever before. Physical things are made from information and with information. Knowledge is built into material that tells it how to construct itself and ultimately recycle itself upon destruction. Paradigms have been shifted from mass production to uniqueness in a building or product. The products are no longer supplied to the masses but are now being replaced by instructions, information, and tools to allow them to create their own products. This is because no person likes a product in the same manor. Ever person has their own uniqueness and should be able to create whatever they like. Gershenfeld’s class emphasizes that their fab labs create products on a “one-market based user: the creator.? Any given person’s dreams can be designed with the fab labs, and by using information and tools, virtual reality is created.
Kahn, in his Silence and Light lecture, emphasizes very much on relationships and ideas as a bases for architecture. He indirectly describes architectural works as designed dreams through all of his philosophies on what architecture really is. His first section in particular examined the idea of light as the “giver of all presences.? We depend on light to be able to see and appreciate architectural works.
Architectural works to Kahn are designed dreams that come to life first through the mind and then into actual presence. People have the desires to live and express themselves through art, which he says is the highest form of expression because it is “the least definable.? Architecture never began through practical issues so much as through the mere feeling of having a world within a world. On a different note than Gereshenfeld, Ideas and feelings are the things that create designed dreams, not information.
It is to my understanding that architecture is neither solely information based, nor solely idea and relationship based. Architecture is created through the relationship of both of these things. Architecture must be built through the mind with conscious consideration of relationships such as light, columns and other structures, and nature. It should never be built within the constraints of mass production because architecture is always an expression. Each client should be held on a case to case bases and never treated the same way as we all want different things. I find fab labs quite useful in their philosophies of the one creator as the market based user. I agree that architecture never began to be built for practical purposes but for the feeling to be “in a world within a world.? (Kahn) I would then go as far as to say architecture fits into the physical realm and the mental realm, but is largely if not all within the realm of virtual reality and information.

November 26, 2006

Technopolies and Technology as an Order of Nature

From the way Neil Postman described technopolies in The Surrender of Culture to Technology I have come to discover that there are two very definite, very different sides to technology.

In Lance Lavine’s guest lecture, he described technology as an order of nature. Technology lies within nature until it has been discovered ultimately used towards man’s liking. I understand technology in this very manor: that most technology basically changes things for the better of mankind. This optimistic outlook on technology has used nature as the basis for expansion within itself. The technology as an order of nature stems from many of nature’s own tricks. Knives for example are shaped like teeth. View image View image
Solar energy/ solar panels were most likely taken from a plant’s ability to use solar energy through their leaves. In Lance’s philosophy, biomimicry plays a large role in man’s technological advances. Antono Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia View image
takes its perfect shape from gravity as Gaudi used it to form his melting wax in order to design such cathedrals in a gravity-conscious manor.

In opposition to Lance Lavine’s look on technology, Neil Postman points out another side to technology. Power can destroy all good intentions that a technology began with. I understand technopolies to be the abuse of technology as an order of nature; perhaps in some cases technopolies are technologies that neglect orders of nature but are strictly for the benefit of mankind. With or without intending to harm nature, Technopolies always change it from its original state, often never to be restored back. Oil is power. Oil ships therefore are a technopoly. In this case, the sole purpose of the ship is to transport oil from where it once was located in nature to another foreign place to give power to man. Oil spills are not intended, but when they occur they permanently change nature for the worst. View image
Another example is nuclear warfare. Power went to the country with the most nuclear weapons until there were enough to potentially destroy the world several times over. We have to ask ourselves, were they really necessary? Did the world need nuclear warheads? This was an abuse to technology: a technopoly indeed.

It is hard for me to view technology as a hazard to nature and a hazard to our very existence. Sure, things like nuclear warheads are obvious abuses to technology as an order of nature, but I have come to understand that it is difficult to draw a solid line of what is abusing technology and what is simply and order of nature. Housing for example is a technology in which I would argue as a necessity to mankind. Within this small example also lies a fuzzy line. When did technology start to abuse the very thing that created it? Caves and other natural shelters housed the first people; man used direct nature to live in without changing much if anything at all View image. Who had the biggest house became motive for expansion and elaboration on housing and it is when this power took over that I believe technopolies to have started View image .

There are, then, two sides to technology. Technology began as an order of nature, and through biomimicry it is preserved in new inventions. Technopolies are becoming more and more common in the scientific world to cater to the “needs? of humans. It seems as though commercials today can convince anybody that they absolutely need a clearly unnecessary item in their household. A knife that can cut through a hammer to me is such an item that I saw on an infomercial not long ago. The only motivation for buying one would obviously be to show it off to other people.

I believe that architects are today’s main decision makers between technologies as an order of nature and technopolies. They decide how far is far enough and what the purpose their buildings. Architects have a lot of power and it is up to them to decide whether to create technology or technopoly. They always need to be thinking about the future and what might be the effect of their cause in an unbiased and a selfless way. Here’s a quote from Spiderman to sum it all up:

“With great power comes great responsibility.?
View image

November 5, 2006

Design in Mathematics

If a designer wants his/her design to be symmetrical, have exact dimensions, be proportionate, or be measurable he/she must use mathematics in the design. Some of the most beautiful designs around the world exude striking edges, curves, and definition directly because of the mathematics used.

Any great designer would use mathematics to their advantage while creating a masterpiece because of its already perfected usefulness, beauty, and durability. These three things after all were what the great mathematician Vitruvius believed, many centuries before our time. All of the designs in which nature has created that still exist today have lasted since the beginning of nature itself, and therefore prove themselves. Although beauty is the first thing noticed in a building, it is seldom the purpose behind the design. Let’s take the Eiffel Tower for example math design 11.jpg; it is a symbol of romance, beauty, and intimacy and its unique shape is hard not to fall in love with, however Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the designer said this about his masterpiece:

"What phenomenon did I have to give primary concern in designing the Tower? It was wind resistance. Well, I hold that the curvature of the monument's four outer edges, which is as the mathematical calculations have dictated it should be, will give a great impression of strength and beauty.? Here, the beautiful structure of this building was a simple “bonus? in the mathematics used to build the tower for its durability.

Mathematics can also be the design itself. Several logos and other various things have stemmed directly from mathematical geometry and graphs. The examples that follow are solid, precise, and proportionate designs that have been discovered in mathematics to design’s advantage: math design1.gif Common geometrical designs would be the dome math design5.jpg, the pyramid math design7.jpg, or the spiral math design2.jpg. These designs (pre-existing in nature) have been incorporated into numerous famous buildings around the world. math design6.jpg

Since mathematics stem directly from pre-existing nature, design is from nature. I believe nature to be the best ‘’go to’’ for designs for the following reasons:
1) nature has used the old age of its designs to prove itself worthy in our current world
2) nature is precise and exact as mathematics and therefore design must be
3) nature is beautiful, so “mimicking? can not only provide durability and purpose, but it can also provide aesthetics to its users.

Design is mathematics. Mathematics are so incorporated into the creation and final product of a given design that it would be impossible to try and construct a building or other design without it.

math design 8.jpg math design 9.jpg math design 10.gif

October 22, 2006

Oppositions at the U of M

Common oppositions between the life of an average college student at the University of Minnesota and his or her surrounding environment:

Opposition 1: The walker vs. the bikers.
Basically, the problem is that the walkers are often at the mercy of the bikers when crossing the paths to get to class; if the bikers don’t stop or swerve, it would be likely that an innocent walker would be severely injured or even killed.
There are several options for resolving the opposition at hand, the first being elimination. It would be possible, although tedious, to annihilate the bikes, either by some sort of explosive device, or during a large burning ceremony. Without the opposing force, there is no opposition.
Another slightly impossible solution would be to cross the opposition by bike path. This highly dangerous feat would indeed solve the problem of getting to class without being hit by a bike, but on the other hand, crossing a bike path has a huge potential risk: the walkers’ lives.
The walkers could let the opposition sculpt their path, as the walkers would have to walk along side and around every bike path in order to avoid the busy traffic and potential danger, however they would still be able to get to class.
The way most walkers decide to solve this ongoing opposition is to merely think about the probability of them actually getting hit and how many students actually get hit by a bike each day. If they decided to be totally safe, they wouldn’t walk on any road, sidewalk, or bridge after all.
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Opposition 2: the student vs. math class.
Math class is a quite annoying problem in the university world. Most students despise math class. The ones that enjoy math are still irritated by its busy daily work, and the task of attending class every day is bothersome.
Some wise students completed certain redundancies as responses to cope with math in the university setting before they entered college by taking AP classes, AP tests, CIS, and other such programs. The strategy here is that if the AP classes didn’t give them enough credit to be exempt from college math requirements, the AP tests would, and if those failed they would enroll in the college in the schools math program, and as a last resort, the opposition would take into effect.
Crossing the opposition would also work here, as many students choose to simply take the math courses in college with potential to fail. Things such as tutors can help them accomplish this task and they would be more able to overcome the opposition (pass math and never have to take it again!)
Elimination of the opposition would consist of doing whatever it takes (persuasion, ransom, bribes, terrorism etc) to talk the university in removing math classes from its requirements to graduate. This, as one could imagine, would be the most difficult of resolutions one could partake in.
Finally, the opposition could (as it sometimes does) sculpt the student into actually enjoying math lectures and/or homework and wanting to pursue a career in mathematics.
View image

Indeed it is a university of oppositions within a world of infinite oppositions, but there are always ways to resolve them. Some indeed are more obvious than others and even smarter or easier than others. Oppositions literally can be anything, and therefore there are oppositions at the university that range from obnoxious dining hall hours, to the climate changes, to the roommates, to the freshman fifteen. I find however, that our world is made up of purely oppositions and that solving others merely brings up new and interesting oppositions that the world can further live with. Oppositions in my opinion make the world an interesting, edgy, and spontaneous place to live, and i couldn't imagine anything different. It would be a reward to complete an opposition and therefore open up another whole world of possibilities through the new opposition that has occurred. For example, upon solving the problem of transportation with automobiles, there had to then be safety features. After that there must have been style/aesthetic issues, and in our current world today the focus is on fuel-efficient features. Upon solving this problem there will open up a new and challenging opposition ready to be adventured and finally resolved. It's like a comic book, a soap opera, or a movie with several sequels.

I think this is the Land Before Time 11... talk about sequels...


October 11, 2006

Iron vs. Steel

Iron is in steel, but steel is not in iron... Iron is an element and when a certain amount of carbon is added to iron, it is called steel. Steel isn't pure iron, then, and therefore cannot be interchanged with the word Iron. Since carbon is present in steel but is not a metal, steel is not pure metal. Iron is a pure metal element. That's it. They're not the same.


October 8, 2006

i heart you

Sometimes the most beautiful, extraordinary, and phenomenal things found in nature are closer than we think. We are a phenomenon because of an intricate arrangement of systems throughout our body, and arguably the most impressive of all is the circulatory system.

The circulatory system is made up of the heart and its blood vessels, it carries red blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, and plasma, and it is aided by the lungs. These things work together to make this complex system of rushing fluids that keep our bodies alive and make our world a better place anyway. Imagine what E.R., Grey’s Anatomy, or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre would be like if we didn’t have circulatory systems!

Grey's anatomy.jpg

These things are also involved in a series of frameworks. They are specifically positioned to do the right thing at the right time. They are each specialists in their own fields to create the whole operating system. This system is laid out in a very specific way-- especially the heart.

heart & lungs.jpg

The four chambers in the heart are positioned according to where the two different circulations enter and exit and where the blood from the veins is mixed with oxygen to restore and reuse it in the arteries. The valves help the pumping effect as it kicks out blood. It is also centrally located in between the lungs which supplies readily available oxygen to rejuvenate our old blood.

These frameworks found in the circulatory system are essential to the clockworks in it. The actual flow of blood through the coronary circulation, the pulmonary circulation, and the systemic circulation has a clockwork effect in order to keep us alive. It always runs in the exact same way with no room for error, or we would have serious problems functioning. The blood goes through changes as it gains and loses oxygen but always begins and ends in the heart. The veins always flow blood back to the heart and the arteries always disperse refreshed blood through all the parts of the body.

heart pump.gif

The circulatory system then is a phenomenon because it is perceived by our senses. It is a stable yet complex system that involves things, frameworks, and clockworks. It definitely has a purpose (remember Grey's Anatomy). A heart is born when we are; it and its system grows as we do, and they die when we do. It therefore has a definite beginning and end, and therefore is one of the most spectacular phenomena of our existence.

body worlds.jpg

Check out Body Worlds if you haven't had a chance to yet!

October 2, 2006

The Genius Loci of the Vermillion Falls

It would be hard to believe that several tons of rapid water rushing over the side of a cliff, a multitude of caves, and a large dense forest make me feel safe, but I am going to tell you now that these boundaries do make up the one place outdoors that I feel the safest, though others would beg to differ with my opinion.
The falls are wicked to outsiders but violently protective of people brave enough to attempt to become familiar with it like me. The best part about having this scenic yet fierce location as my guardian is that I can share a special kind of privacy with Mother Nature that I could not experience otherwise. People who are not familiar with the place do not want to take the risk of climbing down the cliff and through the rocks, so I am therefore able to escape life for a time. The falls know me as I know it, too. They know that I like to be sheltered in the rock formations and that my favorite natural sound is that of a raging waterfall. They know my favorite smell is wildflowers, and so they grow them for me each spring.
The falls never lie to me; they always give the light that Mother Nature decides to provide the earth that day. If the sun is setting, a pink-orange glow illuminates the town, and the “canyon? between the mill and the cliff and the waterfall magnifies the light as it reflects off the water and the rocks until it finally reaches where I sit on a nearby rock, and fills the “canyon? with light. In the winter, the river may freeze, but the raging current underneath is loyal and true to itself as it always wins against the frost.
The Vermillion Falls have been around before Hastings ever came to be a town, and when it finally did, the town was built around two things: Mississippi River, and the Vermillion Falls. The current residents of Hastings identify the falls as being a historical landmark for this reason, and there is now a scenic park on top of the cliff with benches and flowers by the tall forest. This park is a space for people to enjoy the overlook of the river, and is mostly for the unadventurous. Sitting up there is like… looking at a freshly baked apple pie in a glass case. There is no way to enjoy it by looking at it! In order to form a bond with the river, I feel it is necessary to let it envelope you, protect you, on its shore at the bottom of the cliff.
The Genius Loci of the Vermillion Falls are obviously protectors. They know when to be fierce and also when to show deep love. They are physically powerful, but they mentally and emotionally give the feeling of protection and love to all those willing to give it a chance to do so. They connect people of the past, with the people of today, and therefore give us security, familiarity, and self-discovery. Knowing their curves, edges, and surroundings help us all find our curves, edges, and surroundings, which makes life a little more stable and certain in the often chaotic world.
So I tell you now, I can and do feel safe in a place that most would find frightening and dangerous. The Vermillion Falls’ spirit is almost human-like I suppose, which is why I never feel the need to find someone to take down there with me. I feel accompanied while I sit by the waterfall, and it reassures me I am safe with it.

Vermillion Falls.jpg

September 24, 2006

Architecture 1701 - Social Design Issue

I have a problem with my high school. With a mere six years under its belt, one would think it had everything a student, staff member, principal, or teacher would want. Wrong.

Hastings High School is laid out in a very practical way but more importantly, it is quite beautiful. Each day was the same old boring day, though, and that is where the architect flawed: he/she should have worked with students to design the building. The core classes are all by the lockers on three floors stacked on top of each other, and each floor is broken up into three pods: A, B, and C. Each pod on each floor looks exactly the same, aside from a sign on top of the cluster of rooms that says a letter. The gym is completely on the other side of our building, and the music department has their own section away from the pods. All these things have created practicality, normality, and actually a very monotonous day. Each bathroom looks exactly like the next, and so on and so forth.

Now, I realize that our school probably didn't have the budget to go nuts with decorations and mixing things up, but architecture in my mind deserves to stay away from mass production. It deserves the respect to go beyond normal, even for a high school. It really comes down to a question of how the building was laid out. First of all, (for the interests of practicality) classes should be designed according to their typical size and purpose. To some extent that exists, there is a kitchen for instance in the food science room, but why on earth are the health classes the same size as the honors English writing classes, or the drawing 3 classes?! That is ridiculous. We barely ever fit in those tight health rooms with forty kids! And whosever idea it was to make the parking lot a thousand miles away from the high school front doors should be in design jail. They obviously have never been outside in a Minnesota February before!!

The design of this building should have been thought out more clearly. It's not as if we should have had amazing interior architectural design to create beauty and diversity, because what we are very blessed with in Hastings High School is our fine arts program. The designer (having known that if he had talked with students and teachers) should have laid out the building with this in mind, and instead of having math and science classrooms by each other, they should sprinkle in a few like drawing 1, German, photography, choir, English as a second language, ceramics, band, or something to that extent. Walking by these classes would make the day so interesting that even if the kids aren't taking those classes, at least the mathletes can socialize with the art kids and get a taste of the other side of the planet for once.

Like I said, we had enough beauty at Hastings High School to "decorate" with. We didn't need a million dollar bridge connecting the gym area with the classroom area. That was an expensive “wow this really looks cool? thing. Maybe if the bridge went from one classroom, over the drawing room, into the lunch room it would have had purpose, substance, and creativity all at the same time.

The lesson architects can learn from instances like these is that there is psychology involved in architecture. If architects keep studying practicality and "making things look cool" they will get nowhere. The two have to be intertwined. When designing a school, an architect should be diverse and knowledgeable in each specific school study (social, English, art, mechanics, choir, math, etc) to know that needs are met. If he is not, he must find a team of architects and/or students that would give him first hand experience in the matter.

This simple example of a "less boring and dull" day really seems like an unnecessary change and is probably commonly overlooked, but if the students/teachers/staff had a layout as I mentioned above, their worlds would be powerfully impacted. Career ideas would change, more people with different backgrounds would interact, and there would be more appreciation for the other subjects in school, because to get through the day you would get a taste for them all. The possibilities would have been endless, because architecture is always powerful. Architecture doesn’t have to be expensive; if it meets practicality’s needs, uses what is already given in a new way, and is pleasing to be around, it is successful.

September 16, 2006

Midtown: ironically in the middle of nowhere.

As my hour long hike from the light rail to the unknown whereabouts of this "Midtown" place, I said to myself, "Self, why is it, do you think, that we weren't assigned a nice little place on campus to observe this so-called flowing energy thing?" The answer was only a few blocks ahead of us by this point, until the gigantic building came into view at the very last second. As I entered the market, I was immediately hit with the element of surprise. It was like a juicy oasis in the middle of a long, dusty, barren, under-construction section of the city. This was exactly where I was supposed to be.

The type of energy at the Midtown Market was physically obvious, the colorful lights illuminated the otherwise dull warehouse of a place into a festive block of cultures all melted and meshed into one another. I could have sworn I had been through China, Greece, India, and Mexico all in the same two minutes. Mid chinese food, I realized that I had to observe for my blog, and not just for fun! I began to search around for different lights and decided that it was way too obvious of an answer. What had stopped me from remembering why i came there was exactly the thing that i needed to talk about in my blog! Energy was being transfered from people to people everywhere in this place! Energy wasn't all physical, but more of a feeling. This feeling was the shock I had upon entering this place, the feeling of awe I had at all of the diversity and smiling faces, and the accomplished feeling of satisfying a specific craving and hunger. As Claire and I fed off our plates, the diverse cultures and the different people feed off of eachother (in a figurative sense of course) to create a massive energy source that kept people (like myself) entranced.

After I decided my discovery was quite meaningful and probably a better answer than "colored lightbulbs" I began to think of examples of uses, creations, and exchanges of this vibrant energy. The creation took place in the hearts of people, and came out as jewelry, rugs, food, music, candy, or clothing. Starting a conversation or sharing a smile was a simpler way to create energy, and to carry out with the flowing and exchanging of it. The use of this energy was clearly to fuel other people's needs to learn about these cultures. I left feeling that I would be back very soon. It wasn't the chinese food I had been craving after all, but this conscious flow of energy in the cultural expression. This energy would be used to spread knowledge to all other cultures, and to express their pride in their history and country.

Claire and I walked back feeling amazed. We arrived back home so fast that it was hard to believe how long it took to get to the market. All of the facial expressions, friendly conversations, passionate art, and cultural depth really refreshed the part of me that was getting bored with life. The aesthetics in the place just took me to a whole new level of appreciating the little things. After all, it was only a market, for crying outloud! Claire and I were in the end very pleased with the whole day, and so I decided to make it a goal of mine to get out at least once a week an explore more places off and on campus, and just sit and absorb the little things that aren't so obvious unless one listens for them.