May 13, 2008

Blog 10--Summertime

I'm not sure if we are required to do this blog, or if being a "freebie" means that we were getting the points automatically, but here it is just in case. We were told we could write about any topic so...

Things I’d like to do this summer when I’m not working:

1. Relax!!
2. Read lots(I recently started an official list)
3. Hang out with friends and visit family
4. Draw, do art
5. Work out regularly
6. Play tennis
7. Go swimming
8. Stargaze
9. Go hiking and spend time outside
10. Play games
11. Visit places/travel

Here's where I would love to go: (probably wishful thinking, at least for this summer)
Costa Rica!

Jaco Beach at sunrise

Manuel Antonio beach

San José

12. Learn
13. Write letters
14. Finish Costa Rica photo albums
15. Sit outside in the sun
16. Plant flowers
17. Cook
18. Play my violin
19. Listen to music and go to live shows
20. Watch movies
21. Walk around barefoot
22. Sit in the hammock
23. Speak Spanish
24. See a Frank Lloyd Wright building
25. Make juice popsicles
26. See the ocean (or at least a big lake)
27. Play tag
28. Watch baby ducks being raised

29. Volunteer
30. Shop
31. Listen to and watch a thunderstorm rolling in
32. Take pictures and make a movie
33. Go on vacation (maybe my dad will actually take off work this year)
34. Spend time on the farm
35. Have a picnic
37. Go to the zoo

.............................just a start, i'm sure i'll think of more............................

Basically, I want to have and enjoyable, fulfilling summer and relax!!!!

May 8, 2008

Critical Response 1

The presentation in our section that I found the most interesting last week was the presentation that addressed environmental sustainability. This might be partly because that topic interests me quite a bit, but I thought their presentation was well done. Their document was clear and organized, and also graphically pleasing. I liked the choice of green for a border, which may seem obvious since the environment is often tied to the color green, but it showed that they thought about how to connect all elements of the design to their project. It was very interesting to learn about some of the solutions they presented, especially that a solution so simple as water recycling can have such a great impact on reducing the use of that resource. It’s interesting to see how many different options there are to make buildings more sustainable, which makes me even more disappointed that these techniques aren’t more widely used in new architecture, although I think (or hope) that’s beginning to change. I also found their case study of the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center interesting because of its location in Baraboo, WI, a city a little more than an hour away from where I live. I’ve never pictured as a hub of innovative technology, but I think it’s a great example of how sustainable methods can be applied in any place. I had no idea that such a sustainable building was located that close, to me and I would really like to go visit it if I have a chance. I had never heard of a building having a negative net carbon output, and it’s very promising that this can be achieved. I thought the presentation could have been a little stronger if they had brought up problems with the new technologies they presented, or at least talked about possible downsides or drawbacks to using them (or maybe there aren’t very many). But it would be interesting to know why these solutions aren’t more widely used in new construction. During the presentation I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of facts and numbers they started spitting out really fast near the end, but I think they were just a little rushed for time. The numbers that I did catch really illustrated the benefits of the sustainable solutions and backed up their points.

The Aldo Leopold Legacy Center

Critical Response 2

Another presentation that I really responded to was the Honors Presentation addressing Goal 8. They presented their information in a very concise and organized layout, and presented their solutions well. The layout of the PowerPoint was well-designed and I liked how it was divided into three different types of responses that could help create a more interconnected world through technology. Their information was very focused and they also connected their solutions well to the designing for a mobile society. I thought they were one of the groups that connected their project the most strongly to architecture. At the end of their presentation they also addressed how their topic related to other issues and MDGs such as sustainable energy and political legislation, which showed that they had considered their topic in a broad context and critically analyzed how the solutions they presented affect other parts of the world, which I think is part of the point of the project and was pretty difficult to do successfully.

Overall I have enjoyed the presentations I’ve seen so far- all of the topics addressed are very relevant and important in the world and it’s a good experience to be exposed to how these problems are affecting people all over the globe. This project in general has really opened my eyes and made me think more critically about how our actions affect the environment around us. I feel that I can take what I have learned in this project and from the presentations and apply it to the rest of my life, especially my architectural journey.

April 4, 2008

A Few Cover Page Ideas

Here are three designs for possible cover pages for our research project. I tried to give each of them a distinct style and character while trying to portray the main ideas and most important conclusions of the project through the words and images I chose. I'm not exactly sure which I like best, since each has unique qualities that I think are interesting. So here they are:

Option 1:

Option 2:

I would like to add some kind of interesting background such as a large image or a collage of images to make this second one more aesthetically pleasing, but I wasn't able to find anything that worked well yet.

Option 3:

March 16, 2008

Presentation Inspiration

The success of a presentation has a lot to do with how effectively the information and research being presented is conveyed to others. A quick glance or first impression can really set the mood for a presentation, and often it is easy to tell which presentations have been planned with care and concern for the audience. It is often difficult to determine the best way to present work and research. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of presenting using the typical methods (essay, PowerPoint, or a poster) that we have seen hundreds of times. For the MDG term project my group is tentatively planning on putting together an article/book-like piece that is a combination between an essay and a portfolio. Using thorough, clearly presented information, combined with pictures and graphics that represent the text and help engage the reader or audience and increase their understanding of our research and ideas. I think that the most successful presentation are often those that have obviously required time and hard work, but more importantly present the information in a creative and unique way. Even small changes and creative additions can really make or break the presentation, especially if the audience doesn’t have a long amount of time to observe or judge the presentation.

For example, here is the cover of March 2008 current issue of Folio magazine that I thought was really unique. It is very different from the typical magazine cover and the information is displayed in a creative way. The use of a want ads clipping as the direct setting for the magazine’s main story, which focuses on the job market for magazine-industry jobs, is clever and entertaining.

I was very struck by this next image, the cover of one issue of PRINT magazine, when I first saw it. I think it is a good example of how a picture can really convey a strong mood and emotion and tell a story. This picture also really catches your eye, and you continue to notice new details the more you look at it, and more layers of interest and meaning unfold. In our presentation, I think it will be helpful to include pictures that stir emotions and provoke thought by truly representing the state of poverty and hunger in the world (specifically Ehiopia) and showing the audience why the problem needs to be addressed. The images should help to make our research on how poverty and hunger problems are being addressed more relevant, and the viewer will become more interested and able to strongly relate to the issue through the use of meaningful, provocative pictures.

This next form of presentation that I thought was interesting is a cover page and article from also from PRINT magazine. I liked how the theme on the cover page connects directly with the article pages. This seems like an effective way to intrigue the audience at first by showing the interesting cover and then connecting that original interest with the story. If I had noticed the cover of the magazine and then been paging through it, I think I would have noticed the pages with the front cover theme right away and stop and read the story. It is also a good way to help the audience or reader navigate the magazine and find the story they want. It is quite frustrating to be interested in a story on the front cover of a magazine and then have to spend five minutes finding it. This spread is also a good example of consistency of the design that is carried throughout the entire magazine, which I think is a very important thing to think about for our MDG presentation. Consistency makes the presentation much more professional and allows the audience to focus on the content rather than being distracted by different colors and fonts every other page.

Taking time on craft and making things by hand is one way to make a presentation unique. This next example of inspiration for our term project is a book written (or drawn) about the effectiveness of hand drawing and diagramming in presentations. The author, Dan Roam, is a consultant who recognized the importance of visual thinking. First this reminded me of how in the two architecture classes that I’ve had so far, we have always had to diagram or draw on tests and quizzes. Last semester the test that was literally all drawing-based, which is definitely not the same format as any other test I’ve taken. It is interesting to learn to diagram, though, and there are many situations where it is incredibly useful and helpful to be able to do. After seeing this book, I hope to include some hand drawn diagrams or illustrations of some kind in our final presentation. I think this would give a presentation a very unique appearance and feeling. As long as the drawings are neat and well-done, I think they would add a lot to our presentation. Hand-made items show a different level of work and care, and allow the audience to form a stronger connection with the presentation and engaged in the material than completely computer-generated presentations.

Overall, we will strive to make our term project unique and intriguing for all kinds of audiences by using some of the ideas above and inspiration from other areas. I believe we should try use a format that is easy to understand, but different from the usual. If we use a format based on something with which people are comfortable and enjoy reading, such as a magazine article or a children’s book, our project will be more successful. The presentation should also convey a strong mood and be interesting and enjoyable to a wide audience, which will enable us to inform more people about our research.

March 6, 2008

Products of the Built Environment

Nearly every place in today’s world is designed or at least somewhat affected by humans. The built environment in which we are born and raised greatly affects our perceptions, values, and views of the world later in life. It also influences who we become and how we view our place in the world. The environment that we consider natural from a young age stays with us and shapes many of our perceptions for the rest of our lives. Overall, our first, original built environment becomes a basic framework for understanding and comparing the rest of the designed world.

In my personal case, the first major built environment that I knew was a two-unit apartment in Madison, WI where I lived for the first five years of my life. It was a comfortable, simple apartment which I remember very well. There were several parts of the apartment that I believe have had the most lasting effects on me. Firstly, I remember large closets with high-up shelves which, at least to a 3 year old, seemed like great places to climb up and hide. These closets sparked my imagination and wonder, and I always wished I could climb up and sit on the top shelf of the closet. I thought I would encounter another interesting, magical world there. I think these closets and their importance in several of the regular stories my parents told me helped me to grow into an imaginative and inquisitive person, even if the whole of the built environment in which I lived was not especially unique. Several other aspects of the apartment that have affected my perceptions were the large bay window situated in the living room (which I ended up sticking my hand through while running around the house one day, surprisingly without leaving a scar). I think that the bay window made me interested in looking outside to the busy street out front and encouraged me to notice things about the outside world. It is possible that this aspect of my early built environment made me more interested in the outdoors and inquisitive of the world around me. I think that due to this exposure to the outside world from a young age, seeing and experiencing places away from home seemed essential and interesting. I think this increased my love for traveling and desire to experience other cultures. I am usually pretty perceptive of my environment and I’m interested by relationships and interactions between me, the outside world, and other living things partly due to the architecture that I have known.

After moving to the much smaller city of Beaver Dam, WI I lived (and still do) in a 3-bedroom colonial style house with four big white pillars out front. To a child of 5, those pillars were pretty impressive and had an effect on how I thought about outside space. The porch that is situated underneath the pillars has been the stage for many memories and activities, and it serves as a transition between the inside and outside environments. I think that having the large, open porch gave me more of an incentive to be outside and was another outlet for creative ideas and games. The porch was used for everything from home base while playing tag, to a gymnastics arena, to numerous neighborhood card and board games. It was a place where I could be observed by my family or neighbors and also where I have often sat and looked out onto the neighborhood. Having the front porch encouraged me to connect with the street and experience the neighborhood much more. This connection with the neighborhood and importance of community has had a great effect on me, not to mention the countless experiences from the neighborhood that have helped to shape who I am today.

Front view of my house and porch

The large, light-giving windows are another aspect of my house that has influenced me. Growing up in a house with lots of windows allowed me to observe the happenings of the neighborhood. Plus, I learned to appreciate natural light and the comfortable warmth of the sun coming in through the window, which often makes me wonder why we don’t take more advantage of solar heat. Places with many windows often seem more inviting and possibly even homey to me now, and I tend to like these kinds of spaces better. This is an example of the lasting power of the home environment over our perceptions of the built world. This effect on us over time also demonstrates that the built environment is a clockwork through which we live. Due to the organization and measured passage of time and life cycles that is predictable in our home environments, we expect a similar kind of clockwork to exist in all places. But this is not always true, as different cultures and people in different environments view the passage of time differently. When we encounter new outlooks towards and different means of measuring time, we have new experiences which we compare to the typical time frame to which we are accustomed.

The neighborhood that has supported and formed who I am

The way a society constructs and designs buildings often reflects quite closely attitudes and/or values held by people of that culture. When I visited Costa Rica, I was surprised by how completely open the buildings were. Where we would typically have large enclosing windows, they simply have open spaces in the wall. This really emphasized the feeling of connectedness to the outside and the weather. In most cases, there were not screens on the windows that did have glass, which was something to get accustomed to. Also, many of the buildings seemed to grow out of the landscape and the blended in with the natural setting. Materials used to build many Costa Rican home . Although these different ways of building obviously stem somewhat from the climate in the area (which is an example of the opposition of climate and enclosure), the openness of the buildings also reflects the people’s connection with nature and interest in preserving the environment. Their culture was also very welcoming and accepting from what I experienced, which reflects the somewhat less elaborate, yet beautiful and unique, architecture there.

Common area of one of the hotels we stayed at. Behind where I am sitting and taking the picture, there would normally be walls or windows in a US hotel, but there was only a low wall and the rest of the lobby was completely open. There really wasn't an emphasized distinction between inside and outside space at all.

Every part of the built environment that we experience, including those buildings which we experience frequently but don’t necessarily dwell in, impacts who we are. The built environments that we temporarily encounter have great effects on our behavior, mood, and thought, although these may be less permanent than the impact of one’s home environment. Architecture has the ability to greatly impact the people who use and experience buildings and design by addressing the six major oppositions of architecture that underlie the entire built environment.

February 29, 2008

No more 1701 lectures?!?

If we were freed from the constraints of traditional “architecture school? I would….
- Paint a mural and/or graffiti
- Travel and live in other places, basically everywhere I could, but specifically to:
o Spanish-speaking countries and especially back to Costa Rica
o Europe (Italy, Greece, Spain, England, Austria, Switzerland, Russia and more)
o Culturally and historically important places in the US
o India, Egypt, Israel, Japan, China, and Turkey
o Africa to see the nature, animals, and the buildings I chose for a project last semester
o Any place that is different from what I have seen and experienced before
- Sketch, photograph, document, and learn from all these travels
o Talk to and connect with the people there, live with them
o Visit well-known and vernacular architecture in all these places
It might seem like traveling as one of the first things on my list is selfish or wouldn’t benefit the environment, but I think that travelling and experiencing many unique cultures and places would help me gain a more globally aware perspective and learn invaluable lessons that I could apply to architecture. Of course, I love to travel, so that’s also a plus.
- Read as much as I possibly could and learn about any and all topics, current and historic
- Go to Biloxi and Louisiana and help rebuild
- Visit and experience important architecture, such as

Templo de la Sagrada Familia

Pompidou Centre

Siza School, Portugal

The Parthenon

Villa Savoye

Bath House
and many more...

- Create artwork inspired by Andy Goldsworthy
o Lie on the ground just as it begins to rain and leave a dry mark underneath me
- Study solar panels, windmills, and other forms of alternative energy so that I could help to implement them in places of need, especially low income housing and developing countries, which would help to establish a foundation of environmentally sustainable energy sources
- Study at the Rural Studio

- Volunteer and help those in need
o Try to make the needy feel needed
- Work at a construction site for a while and intern at an architecture firm
- Talk to architects about architecture and what it means to them
- Talk to others about architecture and their lives and learn how they are affected by architecture
- Make paper jackets out of newspaper and distribute them (at no cost) to the homeless and poor for extra protection and insulation against the winter weather in Minnesota

- Teach those who need the jackets how to make them for themselves so they can replace their own and teach others
- Use halogen light bulbs, conserve water and electricity, recycle, walk, bike, and take the bus whenever possible
-Appreciate nature and the environment and take time to enjoy the outdoors
-Take as many different classes as possible to give myself a broad base of knowledge that would hopefully connect together and that I could eventually apply to architecture
- Stay informed about current events by reading the paper or watching the news
- Go to art museums and interesting lectures and exhibits
- Observe studios, grad students, and professional architects at work
- Build snow castles
- Be a part of Habitat for Humanity or an organization similar to that
- Be creative and challenge myself
o Design and build models and other handmade objects
- Go on every architecture-related May session trip I wanted to (which would mean the cost of the trips would have to be lowered quite a bit)

With all these potential ideas for my unconstrained architecture education, it may be a bit challenging to find a place where I would be able to do all the things I mentioned. Overall though, I believe that all these things could be accomplished in contemporary world in which we live. Although some of these ideas may be somewhat farfetched, they are all things I would like to do if I got the chance and had the means to do them. Overall, the activities described above would potentially improve the environment of our world, so I guess the best place to do them is pretty much here and now. A few alterations would make things easier, though. For example, the perfect place would be one where traveling is free and crime is basically non-existent. Also, it would be helpful to have a positive, supportive environment and one in which the majority of people realized what needs to be changed in order to address the current environmental and societal problems we face. This would make it easier to change and improve the environment and our lives.

February 22, 2008

Sustaining our Environment

Millenium Goal: Ensuring Environmental Sustainability

I have always loved being outside and experiencing nature. Between the quiet street where I live, my grandparent's farm, and my parents' encouraging interest in nature, I was able to enjoy the outdoors quite a bit as a child. Some of my best memories from growing up involve outdoor activites, which consisted of everything from neighborhood kickball games, gymnastics competitions, and late-night freeze tag in the summer, the scent and sounds of jumping in enormous leaf piles, building huge snow creatures in the front yard, and racing grass "boats" down the "river" on the side of the curb in the pouring spring rain. These experiences were incredibly memorable and enjoyable and, along with other things, have increased my interest in protecting the environment so that all children have the chance to explore nature as I did and continue to do.
It was difficult for me to choose my first choice goal (all of them obviously address pressing and important issues), but I think that once we become improve sustainability and become more consiouss citizens of the Earth, it will be easier to fix other world problems. We need to make sure we still have a world to protect and improve in 100 years. Therefore, designing sustainable and intelligent architecture that improves people's lives is something that greatly interests me. I want to create buildings that are environmentally friendly and efficient, practical, beautiful, personalized, and affordable for everyone.

Some quotes that have influenced me:

"The best remedy for those who are afraid, alone or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel as that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature."
- Anne Frank

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you."
- Frank Lloyd Wright

" It would be helpful if we opened up ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge)[for oil drilling]. I think it's a mistake not to. And I would urge you all to travel up there and take a look at it, and you can make the determination as to how beautiful that country is."
- George W. Bush, at a White House Press conference, March 29, 2001

This ironic quote is one I came across online. It is incredibly appalling to me to think that drilling for oil in this site would even be considered, and I think it shows how twisted our values and priorities are if we are more concerned with driving our SUVs than preserving a national wildlife area.

" If we stopped depleting the ozone layer and causing global warming today, we would still have thirty years of warming ahead of us.?
- Kurt Kipfmuller, Biogeography of the Global Garden professor at the U of M

When my professor said this in class several days ago, I was completely shocked. This statement was really eye-opening and hard to believe, especially when considering the implications of what this means. Seeing as pollution probably won’t be completely stopped in the immediate future, the effects of our actions will just continue to worsen this already bad situation. The time frame of thirty years also shows how drastically our actions affect the environment around us.

"However fragmented the world, however intense the national rivalries, it is an inexorable fact that we become more interdependent every day. I believe that national sovereignties will shrink in the face of universal interdependence. The sea, the great unifier, is man's only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: We are all in the same boat."
- Jacques Cousteau, quoted in "National Geographic" [1981]

Following are some images that have inspired me:

Devastation on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina

President Bush with victims of Hurricane Katrina

The next few pictures are from my trip to Costa Rica last summer. I really enjoyed the trip and I was impressed by the way that the Costa Rican tour industry was very interested in eco-tourism. During the tours, we were often reminded about repecting the environment and how to be environmentally-friendly tourists. Also, the places we visited were simply some of the most beautiful natural places I've ever seen or experienced.

Jaco Beach at dawn

View from the cloud forest Monteverde

Overlooking the Costa Rican mountains and hills

Some songs and lyrics that have influenced me:

This is Your Life by Switchfoot

yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead
yesterday is a promise that you've broken
don't close your eyes, don't close your eyes
this is your life and today is all you've got now
yeah, and today is all you'll ever have
don't close your eyes
don't close your eyes

this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be
when the world was younger and you had everything to lose

Que Pasa by Juanes

Que paso pregunto yo (I ask what is happening)
Pregunto yo que paso en el mundo hoy (I ask what is happening in the world today)
Y que en todos los diarios yo leo las mismas noticias de horror (And in all the papers I read the same horrible news)
Vidas que callan sin razón (Lives that fall without reason)

Porque será que hay tanta guerra (Because there will be so much war)
Porque será que hay tanta pena (Because there will be so much grief)
Que será que será pregunto yo (I ask what will be)

Que será pregunto yo (I ask whay will be)
Pregunto yo que será que no hay amor (I ask what will be if there's not love)

Y que en vez de abrazarnos los unos a otros nos damos cañón (And in place of hugging we shoot cannons)
Y olvidamos el amor (And we forget love)

Porque será que hay tanta guerra (Because there will be so much war)
Porque será que hay tanta pena (Because there will be so much grief)
Que será que será pregunto yo (I ask what will be)

La gente se está matando (People are being killed)
La gente se está muriendo (People are dying)
Y yo sigo aquí sin comprender (And I continue here without understanding)

Que pasa con el mundo que esta tan inmundo (What is happening with the world so filthy)
Que pasa pregunto qué pasa pregunto (What is happening, I ask what is happening)
Pregunto yo que pasa hoy con el mundo ( I ask what is happening in the world today)
Que esta tan absurdo que esta taciturno (That it is so gloomy)
Que pasa que nada buenos nos pasa (Why is nothing good happening)
Y que la paz por aquí nunca pasa (And that peace never comes through here)
Que pasa que solo la guerra pasa (What happens if only war is present)
Que es lo que pasa pregunto yo (I ask what will happen)

This Land is Your Land by Woodie Guthrie

Country Roads by John Denver

Almost heaven
West Virginia
Blue rich mountains
Shenandoah River
Life is old there
older than the trees
younger than the mountains
growin' like a breeze

Country Roads
take me home
to the place I belong
West Virginia
Mountain mama
take me home
my country roads

Dare You to Move by Switchfoot

Welcome to the Planet
Welcome to existence
Everyone's here
Everybody's watching you now
Everybody waits for you now
What happens next?
I dare you to move
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move
Like today never happened
Today never happened before
Welcome to the Fallout
Welcome to resistance
The tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be
Maybe redemption has stories to tell
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell
Where can you run to escape from yourself?
Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna go?
Salvation is here

Two Points for Honesty by Guster

If that's all you will be, you'll be a waste of time
You've dreamed a thousand dreams, none seem to stick in your mind
Two points for honesty
It must make you sad to know that nobody cares at all
I want to be where I've never been before
I want to be there and then I'd understand
Know I'm right and do it right, could I get to be like that
I'll know what I don't know with nothin more to gain
Will I get better or stay the same
I find I always move to slowly
Can't lift a finger, can't change my mind
I never knew till someone told me that...
If that's all you will be, you'll be a waste of time
You've dreamed a thousand dreams, none seem to stick in your mind
Two points for honesty
It must make you sad to know that nobody cares at all
And all the people who've seen it all before
And all the people who really understand
Know they're right, and have done it right, could I get to be like that
I'll know what I don't know, it's harder everyday
Can't lift a finger, can't hurt a fly
I've found I always move too slowly
One things for certain, I'm insecure
I never knew till someone told me that....
If that's all you will be, you'll be a waste of time
You've dreamed a thousand dreams, none seem to stick in your mind
Two points for honesty

February 14, 2008

Where have all the homes gone?

Shortly after class on Thursday, I headed the Seward Towers affordable housing community to complete my weekly community service. I was a bit perplexed as to what social issue in the Twin Cities I wanted to document and learn about, but the answer soon showed up right in front of me. While waiting at a stop light I noticed a middle-aged African American man standing on the street corner holding a sign that read “Homeless, Please Help, God Bless.? I watched, unable to look away, as he struggled to zip up his coat, then finally took off his gloves and set his sign down in order to zip his coat. For some reason, watching him struggle with this simple act greatly affected me, and as we turned the corner, I met his eyes and saw in the pain in them. I felt somewhat ashamed for looking at him, probably because from a young age we’re taught not to stare, and also because I wasn’t doing anything to help him. I would like to think that had I walked past him instead of driven past I would have given him some money, but the truth is I probably would have been too afraid and my don’t-talk-to-strangers instinct would have kicked in. I felt a lot of pity and wished I could help in some way. It is appalling that so many people live comfortably, and even extravagantly, while over three thousand people are on the streets every night in Hennepin County. I can’t even begin to imagine how they survive the many obstacles they face, such as the weather that we are experiencing now, with wind chills more than forty degrees below zero.
I think this issue hits me a little closer to home since I work with Commonbond, which is an affordable housing provider. Many of the children with whom I work in the homework center might be sleeping on the streets if it wasn’t for organizations like Commonbond providing them and their families a place to live. The security of a home was never an issue in my childhood, and the thought that these children could potentially face life on the streets (or may have already) is incredibly astonishing. Seeing this visibly homeless person really affected me and made me think about how close and relevant the problem is. The fact that I had to personally see a homeless person to for me to really consider them and their suffering is sad in a way. It is all too easy to forget about the problems and sufferings of others until we encounter them in our own lives. Surprisingly, this was one of the first times I had seen a homeless person since coming to the cities, or so I thought. After doing some research and thinking back to the volunteer training sessions we had at the beginning of community service work with Commonbond Communities last semester, where we talked about homelessness, I realized that the majority of homeless people are not the stereotypical beggar in ragged clothes on the street corner, but are often people who wouldn’t normally be perceived as homeless. Your cashier at Target or the waitress at the local restaurant may very well be sleeping under a bridge at the end of the day.
According to an article published by the United Way in 2004 an estimated 9,000 people were homeless and 11,000 more were at risk for becoming homeless in Minnesota. This was a 10% increase over a period of just three years. Also, many members of the homeless population are working full or part-time and this number is constantly growing. Approximately 40% of homeless adults are working, 26% of them full time. The demographics of the homeless population are changing. Over half of the homeless population is made up of children and unaccompanied youth. Mothers and children and make up another large portion of homeless people, and minority groups now represent the majority over whites, who formerly made up the majority in the 1980s. During a one-night survey in October of 2000, 5,421 people were homeless and between 550 and 700 people were turned away from shelters. At Simpson United Methodist Church, a simple game of bingo determines who is guaranteed a bed at the shelter for a month-long period. Also, the average amount of transitional time from the streets to stable housing is three months, up from one month a decade earlier. This demonstrates the dire need for more shelters and affordable housing.
One might ask, why the growing homeless problem? Since the 1980s, the number of homeless people has increased, while the federal government reduced funding for Housing and Urban Development in the early 80s. Rents have increased over 20% in the last decade, while the number of affordable housing options dropped well below the demand. The cost of many average apartments and houses is drastically above the affordable limit (defined as one third of a person’s income), especially for minimum wage earners. Another factor in the worsening homeless problem is the low availability of housing. Recently, the housing market has seen the slowest rates of increase since the Great Depression. Only three of the seventy-five largest metropolitan areas in the US have lower vacancy rates than the Twin Cities, where the rate is 1.5%. This means only 1.5 housing options are vacant for every 100 occupied locations. The housing market is much more competitive because of the low vacancy rate, making it even harder for homeless people, who already face greater obstacles such as rental and background history, to get off the streets. Other hurdles that many people have to overcome are substance abuse, mental or physical handicaps, and the growing gap between minimum wage and housing costs.
This is a problem that should be addressed by the entire Twin Cities area, and one that everyone living and working here should be concerned about. A decrease in the homeless population would improve many aspects of life for everyone in the community. A reduction in the number of homeless would decrease the prevalence of social problems such as crime and substance addiction. Also, children that grow up in a stable home environment in general don’t face learning disabilities as frequently and are more likely to do well in school. This will help them obtain better-paying jobs, end the cycle of homelessness, and become positively contributing members of the community. When considering what being homeless might actually be like, it is nearly impossible to understand the hardships these people overcome each day. Improving the homeless situation can be achieved through increased funding for shelters and transitional housing, more affordable housing and reasonable property costs, higher minimum wages, support for homeless, and education (of the homeless and more fortunate homeowners) about the situation in the Twin Cities. I believe that the situation should be advocated more strongly. The public needs to be informed about the citizens of Minneapolis and St. Paul who are doing their best to put a roof over their heads, a blessing that many of us often take for granted. If the general public was aware of the severity of the problem, I believe that most people would be willing to help in some way. I know that after observing the situation personally and doing some research, I am much more aware of the problem and hope to do something to help by volunteering at a shelter, giving money when I can, or maybe just by spreading the word about this issue. As more informed citizens, people are likely to make political decisions based on their awareness of the plight of the homeless and vote to improve or change policies in favor of the homeless. As a homeless center worker wrote in an article entitled The Myth of the Homeless Person, “To be proud of the Twin Cities is to care about the welfare of everyone in the community.? At least when we are aware of the situation in our own community, we can be more compassionate towards others and thankful for what we have, which will hopefully translate into a desire to help those who are less fortunate.


February 7, 2008


Ice sculpture

another sculpture

The river

Traffic passing by the river

February 5, 2008

Ice Sculture etc. pics

When I went to the Winter Carnival this weekend in St. Paul, the ice sculptures there reminded me a lot of the ice river that Andy Goldsworthy created in the video. The sculptures were in different states of melting/breaking and showed the effect that time and the sun had on them, although they were still very beautiful and interesting. It is impressive to think of all the time, energy, and care put into creating the sculptures, especially since they are not permanent. In some ways I think their ability to change, frailty, and the way they are affected by nature makes them more intriguing and beautiful. Also, they can be remade from year to year, and I'm sure there are many different sculptures each year during the carnival.
On the way from the bus stop to the park where the carnival was centered, we walked by the banks of the river. I thought the river was another example of energy flow and transformation because it also changes with time and the weather. It was interesting to see the river partally ice-covered and looking quite still, at least compared to how I normally picture rivers. It was very peaceful and serene. I also found it intersting how the river's speed contrasted with the flow of traffic on the bridges crossing the river and the streets nearby. The pace of nature is so much different from the typical pace of human life.
The flow of cars and traffic is another example of energy flowing throughout the city that I observed. (Its also one of the first things that came to mind when I thought of energy flow throughout the city.) Traffic demonstrates a flow of energy not only because cars use and burn energy to run, but also because the way that we use cars and other transportation greatly transforms other aspects of the city. Cars transform the landscape and the organization of the city due to the streets and parking lots necessary for the large number of cars driven in the cities. Also, traffic directly affects people's lives and daily routines, which makes the flow of people and that speed at which they move much faster in big cities than in smaller towns. Obviously cars affect the natural environment in many ways, too. Roads, bridges, and cars are also affected by nature's elements, which is especially evident in Minnesota during the winter. Cracks in roads, ice and snow-covered bridges and roads, and cars that don't start are all effects of nature. In a way, its kind of like a circle because we affect and transform nature through things like cars, and over time the environment alters the cars and things we have built for them. I think this is an example of how cars have a deeper effect on our landscape than we might think at first (kindof like the sheep in Scotland from the video) and shows that things we create to overcome nature (like building bridges and roads) are often transformed and reclaimed by nature, especially if people aren't there to control or limit the effects of nature once again.

Okay, so now i'll try to post a few of the pictures of the ice sculptures and the river that I took.