May 7, 2008

presentation critiques

I'm choosing to comment on one project that I liked and one that I disliked. The one I liked was an honors presentation and the one I disliked was a presentation from our section.

ONE: First off I want to say that it was very evident the honors groups put more effort into their presentations than the groups in our section. The powerpoints they made were excellent and for the most part I enjoyed every one of them. The one I liked the most was the one about increasing communications in Mogadishu. The group did a great job putting the power-point together and it looked professional. Every aspect of their presentation correlated with their solution which wasn't the case for most of the presentations in our section. The concepts they talked about such as jumping straight to wireless communications seemed like a good idea and the presenters were great at articulating their ideas.

TWO: I felt like many of the presentations in our section were lacking in the solution department. Most of them had no mention of possible solutions which was a part of the assignment. The project that I felt was most insufficient in this area was the one about decreasing HIV/AIDS in Africa. The group presented two or three (I can't remember exactly) people's stories who are living with HIV/AIDS. There was no part of the presentation that talked about a solution to the AIDS problem in Africa. The research was there, but the group never applied it to a designed solution, which was part of the assignment. Their project could've been so much better if they would've included that part.

May 5, 2008

last day of service learning

Tomorrow (Tuesday, May 6th) is my last day of service learning this semester. It will put me up to 13 hours of volunteering at Common Bond's Skyline Tower in St. Paul. I've really enjoyed my time helping out at Skyline Tower in the computer lab. The people that work there were very friendly and easy to work with. I never had a scheduling conflict and they were flexible on the times I could go in. Overall I was pleased with the experience I had volunteering with Common Bond.

The location itself was a little less than desirable being that it is located in St. Paul and I am here at the U without a car. But I was able to take the city bus there and back every Tuesday just fine. The physical environment of the Advantage Center in Skyline Tower made it even easier to be a volunteer there. The basement, where the computer lab is, is very up-to-date and well kept. The computer lab itself is spacious and well lit which makes for a great place to spend time in. The computers are pretty new and are perfect for what the residents need.

The 15 weeks of volunteering this semester and the additional weeks from first semester have given me a little insight into what it's like for some immigrants coming to America. I do believe that I've gained some skills such as social skills when working with kids. I also enjoyed the experience because I like working with kids and they responded well to my help. Many of them would call me over just to show me something they were doing on the computer; I really felt like they respected me.

All in all it was a good experience and I would do it again. At first I kind of expected it to be a drag but it really wasn't at all. Volunteering is a good way to help other people who are less fortunate and become involved in the community. Through the time I put in with Common Bond I was able to do just that.

April 23, 2008


I did not volunteer yesterday (4.22.08) because the computer lab that I usually volunteer in was being used for something else that day. Right now I believe I have 10 hours of service learning complete so if I volunteer next Tuesday for two hours like usual I will be right in between the 10-15 hours required for the course.

April 15, 2008

catch up on service learning blogs

I was recently informed that we are supposed to blog every time we volunteer. I guess it was stated in some fine print in the syllabus but anyways, I've been volunteering for ten weeks now so I will try to describe my experiences over those ten weeks as best I can and from now on I will blog every week about my service learning.

I volunteer at the same place I did last semester in DF1. It is a Common Bond community in St. Paul called Skyline Tower. It is a high rise apartment building that houses a couple thousand people. The vast majority of people who live there are Somalians. Some of them are refugees and others are simply the result of a chain migration. There are often a few generations of one family living together - from grandparents to children, which is who I work with in the computer lab.

Every Tuesday I volunteer from about 4-6pm in the computer lab helping children. Technically speaking I'm a "computer lab assistant" who is simply there to aid the kids in using the computers, but it also requires an equal amount of having to keep the rowdy whippersnappers under control. It can get a little out of hand sometimes.

For the most part the kids are absolutely great. Most of them are between the ages of 5 and 15 but they all speak such good English I often forget that many of them are from a country half a world away. They know the computers pretty well already but occasionally there will be a child who needs help getting to a website or playing a game or something like that. Compared to their parents who I helped last semester they are light years ahead in knowing how to use computers. I was amazed and glad to see that when I started this semester.

The kids are always polite towards me and the other volunteers that are there when I am. Sometimes it even seems like they look up to me which is one of the warmest feelings in the world. "Hey, Jeff come check out this video I'm watching," or "Jeff can you help me pick out a picture for my calendar," or "I want to play the Spiderman game!" are just a few of the things I've heard over the weeks. Today one of the kids accidentally programmed his computer screen to be upside down and it took myself and one of the other volunteers about ten minutes to figure out how get it back to normal. That's just part of the fun of working with kids.

On one particular Tuesday about four weeks ago the computer lab was closed so I was reassigned to the reading room. That night I had the pleasure of reading to, and playing games with, two young children who's names I can't remember any better than I could pronounce them. That was a particularly pleasing experience for two reasons: one, I like working with young kids, and two, I got to read books and play games that I hadn't seen in over ten years. If you give a mouse a cookie was one of my favorite books!

As of today I have about ten hours of work done with another five or so to go. I'm very pleased with how the service learning is going so far and I expect things will only get better as these last few weeks pass and the weather continues to get nicer.

April 14, 2008

"when flannel and funny hats still meant something"


For a while now I've been getting into more and more grunge music. My friend recently introduced me to a band called "Temple of the Dog." Their self-titled (and only) cd released in 1991 is one of the greatest albums from the 90's in my opinion. (The band later disbanded and singer Chris Cornell went back to Soundgarden while the rest of the band including Eddie Vedder went on to form Pearl Jam - that's a pretty good lineup if you ask me.) Two songs stick out in particular as being great collaborations that could make Chuck Norris melt like a grilled cheese sandwich.

Say Hello 2 Heaven:

Hunger Strike:
(voted third best vocal performance of all time)

That's good wholesome music right there.

April 3, 2008

title pages

a few quick renderings of title pages for our milenium goals project. (forgive my lack of graphical ability when it comes to computers)

Download file

March 5, 2008

more than just buildings, really!

The designed environment consists of more than just buildings. Everything around us is designed in some way. Whether by nature or man, it is still designed. Here is an example of how nature shapes:

grand canyon.jpg

For billions of years nature has been the master shaper. Throughout that time nature has also shaped our world in various ways. Here is an example of how animals have shaped things:


In recent years humans have been shaping nature (and by recent I mean within the past 20,000 years or so). Some societies today use reciprocity and redistribution in their agriculture. What these Asian people do is clear a field of land for agricultural use and they farm it for about 10-20 years. Then they move to another nearby location and do the same thing. The reason they do this is because they don't use any chemicals when they farm, so the soil needs time to regenerate after a while of being used.

shifting cultivation.jpg

Those societies of reciprocity also represent another aspect of the designed environment - the opposition of man and nature. We need to use the land for growing foods, but only certain foods will grow there and only at certain times of the year.

But design is also more than just nature and how we interact with it. Design is also about how we interact with each other. A good example of something that's designed that allows us to interact with each other is the internet. It wasn't designed by an architect, and it wasn't invented by Al Gore either, but nonetheless it was designed. And it has revolutionized the way we interact in many ways. Take this amazingly well-written blog for example.

There are also things that are designed that affect how we interact with ourselves... Like Chinese finger traps!

bush finger trap.jpg

All said and done, everything is designed whether by mother nature, animals, or humans. There are oppositions that we need to embrace when designing everything. All of this put together uniquely shapes the world that we all live in.

February 28, 2008

if I were free (prompt #4)

If I were free from the confinements of the design school and were able to do whatever I wanted I would...


Then I would design what ever I wanted, and on my own schedule. I could avoid the teachers that I didn't like (perhaps the one that teaches the DF1 class) and get to know other ones better (say the one who teaches the designed environment). Working at my own pace always seems to result in a better final product.

Once I got bored of designing things for hours on end I'd probably win the lottery. Because then I could satisfy my material desires so I could focus more on my moral desires.

I'd buy one of these, the SWEETEST car in the world, no contest.
2008 Ferrari F430 Scuderia.jpg

As the years go by I would mature (which I can't say I know much about, I'm still a rebellious teenager) and I'd feel compelled to help others who are less fortunate. So I would spend my remaining years doing things like this:
View image

I wouldn't be able to call myself an architect if I didn't want to help others. It would be way too pretentious of me to think that life only involved myself and making myself happy. But to be honest, I see myself being a volunteer and helping people out even if I wasn't free from the confines of life's curriculum.

I really like the aim and focus of this class mainly for that reason. It doesn't seem to be governed by rules and boundaries like the DF1 class. It transcends the boundaries and goes everywhere, just like my mind. That's why the class works so well (for me at least).

February 21, 2008

put down the Whopper and read this...

"When you give food to the poor, they call you a saint. When you ask why the poor have no food, they call you a communist."
--Archbishop Helder Camara

"It is important for people to realize that we can make progress against world hunger, that world hunger is not hopeless. The worst enemy is apathy."
-- Reverend David Beckmann

It shouldn't be news to anyone that there is extreme hunger and poverty in our world today. But just in case you live under a large rock or just have your head so far up your ass that you're suffocating on your own full stomach, here are a few statistics for you:

>More than 854 million people in the world go hungry.
>In the U.S. alone one in ten households deals with hunger issues.
>Every year 15 million children die of hunger.
>For the price of one missile, a school full of hungry children could eat lunch every day for five years.
>Half of the worlds population struggles to survive on $2 a day.
>Over half of sub-Saharan Africa lacks clean, safe water.

You get the idea, I could go on for hours. Simply stated, world hunger and poverty is a huge problem that can't be swept under the rug. The efforts that are in place now are a good start but they aren't enough. I believe the problem will never be fully solved for reasons such as the fact that the areas of greatest population growth are also the highest concentrated areas of extreme poverty and hunger. It will only get worse unless the countries of this world step up and help out. But don't take it from me, take it from the many photographers and reporters that have been to the hell that exists on our earth...

Songs to listen to:
"gimme some water" - Eddie Money
"wake up" - Rage Against the Machine
"sometimes you can't make it on your own" - U2

No one has said it better than the Youngbloods back in 1967.
"Come on people now, smile on your brother. Everybody get together, try to love one another right now..."

hunger1.jpg hunger2.jpg fat man.jpg

February 13, 2008

"I'd love to go to the mall with you Preston, but I just got shot..."

Ok so thats not an actual quote from someone, but it could be. Picture this: it's dark outside, real dark. Guy walks down the street to borrow a cup of flour from his neighbor and meets a mysterious man on the corner.

Unsuspecting Citizen: Why hello there Sir.
Gang Member: says nothing, shoots the man, and proceeds to steal his measuring cup.

Crimes like this happen all too often here in Minneapolis. (and it's no laughing matter, so excuse my attempt at humor, it's what I do) In fact in 2007 there were 47 gang-related shootings in Minneapolis alone. For those who aren't good with numbers, that's about 47 too many. And that doesn't even begin to talk about everything else gangs are notoriously bad for.

Gangs (and gang violence) have been around forever, literally.

You can try really hard but you'd be hard pressed to find one good thing about gangs. Perhaps the fact that they bring people together and unite them under the greater good? Not quite... Gangs are associated with drugs, shootings, sexual violence, robbery, and much more. Now I'm not trying to "gang-bang" here, the point I'm trying to make is that gangs are inherently harmful to our cities. Too many youth are falling into the glorified life of becoming a "gangster." Well I got news for you bro, you're not gangsta when you shoot someone. You're a fucking idiot.

So what do we do? Over the years this topic has been beaten like a dog in Michael Vick's basement. So far what's been concluded is that we need to invest more tax dollars into anti-gang departments of the police force. Great; as if they didn't have enough to do already. There's really no correct way to go about eradicating gang members from the city. So how would I do it? One, fund anti-gang initiatives mentioned above. Two, keep supporting programs that aim to divert kids from joining gangs. Three, hope like hell it works because that's our best bet. It would be nice if you could go up to every person on the streets and ask them if they were a gang member and have them answer truthfully. However, I don't see that going over too well. You'd be lucky to walk away with only a stolen measuring cup...

Gang violence in Minneapolis (and all over the country) is a big problem, and we need to continue our efforts to contain it as much as possible.

stupid sign.jpg


February 6, 2008

prompt #1

Architecture isn't a blind faith; therefore, I think it is important to study how cities work. More specifically, how they flow. Flow is a very vague term, it can mean many things. In this case I interpreted it to mean how the cities come to life. Andy Goldsworthy has an idea that life flows through nature. I think this is the same for cities. Every day hundreds of thousands of people flow in and out of Minneapolis/St. Paul alone. It's like a bustling bee hive - it brings the city to life. Without people there would be no cities and without cities there would be no architecture. Seeing cities as palimpsests we can dig below the surface and look at their layers. The cultural, economic, and social layers of a city all contribute to it's existence and identity. Buildings aren't alive, people are. And when we enter buildings and cities and take in what is around us we give those places energy as if they were alive.

city traffic.jpg

January 28, 2008

about me

My name is Jeff, I'm a freshman architecture student and I love cars and bikes.