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meeting notes: August 29

For everyone who couldn’t make it (or the people who did come and forgot what was said) here’s what happened last night at the weekly jamboree. We planned to come with the first assignment so that we could get some feedback and focus our ideas before class.

Wonder of wonders … people actually brought their work and ideas to the meeting tonight. Keep reading for a very rough paraphrase of each person's idea and then notes on the discussion we had following it. Also, next week our brave students face a new challenge – the return of formal class schedules – whatever shall they do? Find out at the end!


Hypothesis: American cities suffer from placelessness – they lack identity while hyper-focusing on the future at the expense of the past. The industrial centers which were once the corner stones of burgeoning cities have now been abandoned leaving empty shells. How can we reactivate these spaces to engage with the urban fabric? Critical regionalism lacks in its criticism by focusing on form and context and negating these qualities of a more phenomenological approach

Thesis Statement: "On a building and urban scale, architecture can increase the awareness of a regional identity by selecting projects that highlight the past and point to the future."

Suggestion/Issues: Thinking about things beyond the visual creates a new avenue of research in critical regionalism that addresses the issue in a new way. Might start with a review of the literature but then can move beyond the Framptonian form-focused discussions into the reasons why something is unique to a place. Perhaps dig into the functionality that created a form in the first place. Industrial sites are interesting for this purpose is that they were created for very practical purposes which no longer exist and have left behind shells that need to be dealt with in a new way.


Hypothesis and Thesis Statement: see the full text from yesterday below – I can’t be expected to transcribe and talk at the same time.

Suggestions/Issues: My problem is that my intellectual focus is on waste management and my emotional direction is affordable green housing. How do the two meet? After much brow beating re-concluded that I have to simply state that my interest is based on housing but I have chosen to focus on the waste stream management branch of it.

How can the architectural aspect of this be informed by the perspective of the contractor – when you meet with the GC as an architect you'll have more insight into their point of view and lead to better communication and results of the collaboration. “All built product is waste in transit? – find that quote – FIND THAT GUY!!!!!

Another question raised: what part of the waste stream am I focused on. Can I think of it as the ecology of the building – they whole food chain from everything that goes into it and everything that comes out. Look into the industrial design field of supply chain management– horizontal organization: owning all of one part of the production or vertical integration: controlling everything from raw materials to finished product.


Hypothesis: Based on experience of Biloxi and the aftermath of Katrina, he became interested in the idea of providing architecture services to those not usually able to afford them. How could a humanitarian practice of architecture function in Minnesota?

Thesis Statement: "The praxis of architecture can provide design services that help to meet basic human needs for those unable to pay for those services."

Suggestions/Issues: Service needs to be more of the practice part of the practice of architecture. That doesn't even mean that everyone has to do it but it becomes a greater part of the practice of architecture. Who are the public defenders of the architecture world? Meeting the
humanitarian needs of the world isn't part of the main stream in architecture right now – its just something people do for fun on the weekend if at all. Oddballs and non-architects like Cameron Sinclair may propose it but there is no stream of eager young architects coming out of school to pursue a practice in designing for the under-privileged. It’s simply not in the system. How can it be?

Also, how can this address the rural landscape? Most of what is done in affordable housing is done in an urban context. How about ten people living in a trailer on an Indian reservation? Maybe the focus needed for this topic is a specific group of people that need serving. That doesn't fail to acknowledge the greater problem of activist architecture but it gives a specificity that nods to the EIGHT MONTH nature of this task. Acknowledge the constellation of service problems in the world or America, then choose a specific one to tackle.


Hypothesis: "We have only two modes, complacency and panic." The US, at war with our largest sources of oil, is creating enormous problems that we have as yet neglected to address. We need to deal with peak oil. Our American freedoms are seemingly all dependant on the power of the automobile and the assumption of cheap oil. What is the role of architecture in changing the minds of Americans, who seem to have no idea of how unsustainable their lives are.

Thesis Statement: Now cities are contracting again with people returning to city centers to inhabit new condos and redeveloped loft areas. Minneapolis is an excellent example of this with its revitalized warehouse districts. But residential areas adjacent to the city must also be addressed if the trend is to succeed. Transportation can and should have an impact on res architecture. "This thesis proposes that the architecture of communities on the fringe of the modern city will express the most hopeful aspects of transportation while addressing the needs of the globe through higher density as well as the concerns of the modern American family."

Suggestions/Issues: Basically the suburbs are beginning to collapse back into the city into new and exciting urban neighborhoods. Suburbs themselves are attempting to revitalize and address urban problems. The area that remains unaddressed are the urban fringes; the houses with yards within bus range of downtown (along the former streetcar routes) need architectural advice. What kind of public/commercial building can revitalize those neighborhoods? How can we make that area a viable option between the blossoming high-rise life and the conventional American-dream suburb.

OK, folks, so that’s what we did tonight. At the end of the meeting we concluded that we want to keep this up, at least through the beginning of the semester and that Wednesday night is provisionally a good night to do it on, although subject to alteration. We are going to have a change of venue – stay tuned for email updates.

For next week: assuming that we turn in our first assignments and then get a week to stew while they’re read and commented upon, we can still bring something to the meeting. Justin suggested that we all try to complete a SWOT analysis of our own idea. See last weeks notes if you don’t know what that is. Everyone’s welcome folks. It’s a great schedule too – you’ll be sticking around after studio to got to the reception at the Weismann, then you can just hop on over to meet and pat yourself on the back for having already turned in the first part of your thesis. Look forward to seeing y’all there.