December 10, 2006

Blog # 8: Gershenfeld and Kahn...Man's inner desire for innovation

Upon reading the two passages by these two separate authors, I was able to distinguish a sense of possibility in their writing. Both of these men clearly believe in a deep need for further knowledge, of understanding and creation. This concept is a difficult one to communicate, and each writer presented the material in an interestingly distinct way. Following the suggestions of these men, I may make the observation that the writings themselves were works of art, and ultimately manifestations of their inner will for higher understanding.
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Gershenfeld’s passage was understandably easier to interpret, and personally very intriguing. After offering the course, ‘How to make (almost) anything,’ and receiving an overwhelming response from the student body, he was somehow surprised. I, however, see this from the point of view of the lesser informed student. Those of use who are not at the level of intelligence in creation as Gershenfeld have a completely different view of the course than he himself. I believe that the inner drive to innovate and physically create productive things exists in us all. The fact that one is able to see and experience the fruits of their very own labor instills a sense of satisfaction in this kind of work that no other kind can bring. This theory follows that of Gershenfeld. He is driven to creating and making innovations that will bring more creation, even more technologically advanced than ever before. Gershenfeld also communicated his faith in man and his desire to think further and always advance. Machines would only bring new machines as people expanded upon the old, outdated versions. Man, however, is always the innovator.

In contrast, Kahn wrote of his belief that the creator and innovator would always be God, at the highest. Man, he suggested, can indeed create and has a deep desire to manifest their new ideas and artistic thoughts. In his article, Kahn presents an idea of the omnipresence of this chain of progression. Much of what he believes involves the reaction of one thing to another thing, which in turn sets off one more. For example, he states, “Actually structure is the maker of light. When you decide on the structure, you’re deciding on light.? He relates these examples not only to architecture but also the complex way that the world itself functions. Kahn suggests that this ever present chain is the same as how technology itself works. One thing only spurs the innovation of a more advanced creation, and continuing on these lines.
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I came to the conclusion that both writers had a general idea of the relationship of the world and how it functions to man and how he is incorporated. These ideas were very similarly related in that they build upon the continuous chain of innovation. Man follows his inner desire to create, and does so in expanding upon the ideas he has previously thought of. All things follow an order similar to this, and in their creation comes higher creation. Both Kahn and Gershenfeld reflect upon some aspect of teaching and learning; Gershenfeld and his MIT class and Kahn in pondering what the meaning of a university is. Both conclude that it comes down to man, and his drive for higher learning. Gershenfeld’s class is filled with students who have no prior experience and do not belong to MIT, but who only want to learn. This proves the desire for knowledge. Kahn asks for the meaning of a university, which is answered by the fact that it cannot be defined in words and definitions, but in the meaning of the places (to its people and students) it includes in it. This also reinforces the fact of man’s inner drive and desire for further learning and innovation.
In the words of Kahn, “..an undeniable desire on the part of all of us that a place be for learning..?

November 27, 2006

Blog # 7: The Black vs. White of Technology

I have a confession to make. I truly despise new developments. The very product of this career that I am supposedly pursuing is the subject of my disgust. I was born in the same small town that I live in now, although today it can barely be called a town. As I was growing up, my mother took pride in telling us kids that we were the town “With just one stoplight,? one of a mere 5,000 people. The simple task of getting groceries at the store on Main Street was a complete social event. Seeing someone you knew was inevitable when going anywhere in town, and the polite chats were more of in depth conversations about that black sheep of the family or an interesting rash. Everyone knew everyone else, and we as kids could walk anywhere we wanted to go.
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Today, the view coming around the curve of the highway into town is filled with bulldozers, retaining walls, open earth, cement mixers and busy traffic. I cannot say exactly why this sight upsets me so deeply, but I truly detest this sprawl. The city has not only made additions to the hospital, two elementary schools, the high school, and two local churches; a new middle school/community center, beach and park area, gas station/strip mall near the high school, grocery story/strip mall, pharmacy and church have been built. A new water tower nearly three times the capacity of the current one is under construction, along with the approved proposal of a SuperTarget and strip mall at the town’s entrance. This is to say nothing of the thousands of new homes that have sprung up in new developments all around the city. My poor small town has become the victim of the fast-acting urban sprawl, leaving people like me in a whirlwind of settling dust.

I realize that this is all inevitable, and in a sense quite essential to the survival of my beloved town. Taking Neil Postman’s analysis to heart, I must take this new technology for the good it brings, not only the bad. As he states when commenting on Thamus’ prediction of writing’s strictly negative outcome, “We may learn from this that it is a mistake to suppose that any technological innovation has a one-sided effect.? Lance Lavine elaborates on this idea in his proposal that this innovation is a part of the natural order of nature. Through these advancements, architecture has helped us live more comfortably in the elements. They have enabled us to expand upon their very proposals. It is only through these advancements and enhancements that we have come to live as we do today.

In reflecting upon the way of life merely 200 years ago, one who is especially anti-technological advancement may wonder why life cannot be as simple as it once was. How, though, can this person make the assumption that life was simple then? Only when juxtaposed with our life today does the environment then seem this way. As Lavine states, these technological advancements are an order of nature, of inevitability. Two hundred years ago the people might just have easily looked back yet another 200 years and wondered this same thing. Although it seems as though the advancements today come at the speed of light, I believe it is completely relative. The people of each era have all told their children the same tale; one of a time during their own childhood that was much more difficult than the current children could ever imagine; that they suffered such hardships without this modern technologies that the children could never dream of. However, technology is in the eye of the beholder.

The assumption of a one-sided result of this technology is undoubtedly unfounded when analyzing today’s society. We live in a world in which people rarely interact without some form of intermediary, be it cell phones or the internet, and this is shaping the way we interact with one another in face-to-face contact. It is also changing the way we think about things. With this comes new technology, building upon the old.

In analyzing technology and its advances, one could make this diagram:
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Each advancement in turn inspires its own ideas and new ways of approaching problems. Like architecture, technological advancement is not linear. As the drawing depicts, some of these advancements may emerge sideways, or unfit.

Advancements do not have completely harmful or completely beneficial effect. They simply have absolute effect.

I realize, upon reflection, that my small town’s development is actually advances. They may appear negative in some effects, but of course bring benefits along with them. The beauty of technology is that no one must decide good or bad, but embrace the change in positive and in negative. We are creating our future, and must realize that with each new advancement comes a complete result. Things may not stay as they were, as in the small town’s case, but things were in a sense never as they were. Technology is and was ever changing and ever constant.

November 5, 2006

Blog # 6: The Interconnection between design and mathematics

When faced with a problem or question, nearly every solution is proposed within the imagination. However, in order to apply this proposal to the concrete world, mathematics is needed. Summarized, mathematics basically converts imagination into substance. Therefore, it is deeply interconnected with every kind of design.

In this instance, we will analyze the design of a windsurfing board. The hydrodynamics of a water board depend on many small adjustments. The rate of performance is directly related to these adjustments. Faced with the problem of designing the board, we need to take many factors under consideration.

-The outline of the board has much to do with control in a small space. A board with a more drastic outline curve will give the rider a much larger turning radius in a small area, but will decrease the ability to track upwind.
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-Wetted surface area is another way of referring to the amount of the board on the bottom that is in contact with the water. A larger surface area will be beneficial to beginners because of the ease during ‘planing.’ This is the low speed riding time when the rider is able to simply stand on top of the board without keeping a hard edge (focusing most of one’s weight on their heels, in this instance). The drawback of a large wetted surface area is reduction of maximum speed. For this reason, most racing boards have a more convex bottom, enabling them to track upwind and maintain high speeds.
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-Another important element is the ‘rocker.’ A rocker incorporates rough water conditions into the design of the board. If a board was completely flat on the bottom, there is no doubt it would be fast, but only on an equally flat plane. The rocker of a board will help maintain the speed through waves. When considering wave riding boards, the most rocker possible is beneficial. Slalom boards need less rocker, as they rely more on sail power to propel them.
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Evidently, there is much to take into account when designing a windsurfing board. This is equally true when designing anything. The precise mathematics of each of the contributing factors decides the performance and quality of the end product. In this way, mathematics is an essential part of design.

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October 22, 2006

Blog # 5: Opposition

Upon evaluating this week’s prompt, I was a bit overwhelmed. The question seems all encompassing, “Document and observe some oppositions and their possible resolutions around you.? Obviously many oppositions are presented to me daily, but which of them to explain clearly enough to be understood is a difficult matter. Furthermore, after leaving my discussion section on Friday, the meanings of these oppositions and their resolutions were still unclear to me (sorry Matt.) However, after re-reading notes from professor Ozayr’s lecture and trying to decipher the meaning in terms of a common civilian, non-designer/philosopher, I’ve come to halfway understand the main idea. At least I’d like to think so.

Many of the readers may not be able to personally identify with the following opposition. In order to help those of you understand more fully, I will try to stress the difficulty and satisfaction of its resolution.
This is a specific example of an opposition of materials and tools. During my career as a member of a high school show choir, one of the many requirements of the women was that of setting sponge rollers. The point of this was to have these women set sponge rollers in their hair the night before the competition. This meant trying to sleep while twenty or more plastic sticks were being pushed up against the scalp. The desired result came the following day, when the rollers were removed and the hair, previously straight, was now exceedingly curly and voluminous. For those who have never done so, the process is a tedious, lengthy and quite painful one.
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(Notice the expression of concentration on the setter's face. Also note the false expression of content on the hair owner's. This is conjured for the camera.)

The material presented, one’s hair in this case, was in opposition to the tool applied to it, the human hand and the sponge roller itself in this case. The person setting these rollers may be the person to whom the hair is connected to, or an outside volunteer. Regardless, the hand is required, with the help of such tools as sponge rollers and mousse, to take numerous small sections of the hair and roll them tightly around the rollers. Depending on the length of the hair and the amount of complaining by the hair’s owner, this process can take up to an hour. In this case, the body is a dynamo, as professor Ozayr presented to us. It is working against the raw material of the hair in order to create some sort of pattern, similar to hands weaving with looms. I would personally like to point out to all of you who have never experienced this, that it is not easily achieved without highly skilled participants. The amount of precision in the setting of the rollers is directly proportional to the amount of desired volume and “beauty,? and the owner of the hair’s happiness.
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(Do not be deceived by the smiles of these girls. They are in tremendous pain, and will be for another 12 hours.)


This opposition is fairly complex, having seemingly two parts. The resolution is easily explained in this second part. The following day, these twenty five or more sponge rollers are removed from the hair. However, the desired effect is not instantaneous. The hair, upon removal of the rollers, is too curly and full of volume for the owner’s taste. The resolution or “falling? of the hair solves this problem. We will use the resolution of allowing the opposition to sculpt form. In this case, let the opposition be between gravity and the material, or the hair. Compared to the sail of a sailboat where the wind determines the results and shape of the sail, gravity will determine the results and shape of the hair. As time increases, the volume of the tightly curled hair decreases, and its shape changes. The result is a more “naturally curly? look of the hair, as opposed to the Shirley Temple look when first removed.
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(She also appears to be "happy." This could very well be the case, in which she is demonstrating her thankfulness and relief after the curlers have been removed.)

In reflection, I hope to have grasped the meaning of this concept. I truly analyzed this opposition as best I could, and believe that it can be applied to this situation and prompt. Let me also emphasize once more the skill, patience, time and dedication setting sponge rollers is. If you who have never achieved this, happen to see someone whose hair looks suspiciously extra curly, be considerate enough to compliment them. Thank you on behalf of all of us who have slaved through the ordeal.

October 10, 2006

Blog # 4: Phenomena

Stay with me while I reflect a bit before my blog entry:
I've found myself beginning to believe, for the most part, one of the concepts that have been continuously manifested to us as students in Arch 1701. If supported and documented sufficiently and passionately, any solution to any problem can hypothetically be accepted. We've begun to be trained as creative thinkers, and through this train of thought, we will develop the realization that there an infinite number of answers to the infinite number of questions. Designing, as I have come to understand thus far, is a matter of communicating ideas efficiently between people. If one represents and supports these ideas and solutions adequately, any idea may be accepted as a solution. The fact that our current research projects have no set structure only reinforces this concept. We, as designers, are slowly being trained to reject the mindset of a lower level of education, where there are only two answers: right or wrong. Essentially, this concept is the hardest to teach.

I'll admit that lately I have been questioning my decision to enroll in this course. I wasn't able to understand the reasoning behind the lectures, much less the readings. I found myself wondering what I'd gotten myself into, whether this was actually a philosophy course in disguise. However, after talking to an architecture student in the graduate program, I realized that this introductory training is necessary. We are learning how to think in a different way, and this is truly the hardest thing to teach. In order to do so, most ideas we have had about education until now must be reevaluated.

I still am unsure as to whether I am going to become Boots' dad when I grow up, but now that I have a better understanding of the concepts, I can make more informed decisions about my own future. And now, to the assignment and task at hand.

Phenomena:
In accordance with the above mentioned concept that anything properly documented and supported can be accepted, any one occurrence could technically be considered a phenomena. However, the connotation of the word phenomena implies something more impressive.
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The eruption of a superheated, pressurized stream of water 130 feet into the air classifies as such, in my mind. The act of a geyser erupting is undoubtedly one of the many natural phenomena, and can be broken down into the subcategories of things, frameworks, and clockworks.

Things:
The physical distinctions of a geyser can be measured by the senses. Geysers are openings in the earth's crust, visible as small pools of hot water, usually with billowing steam being emitted. Geysers themselves are made up of various things including water, minerals, rocks, and steam. The minerals built up around these openings make the surface rough, and the water hot and sometimes scalding to the touch. Geysers have a distinct smell which is often described as similar to rotten eggs. This is the mineral sulfur, much more potent at higher temperatures.

Frameworks:
A geyser itself is a thing, and can be measured and arranged among all other things. It can also be measured among geysers itself. In all shapes and sizes, the most famous (although not the largest) is undoubtedly Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park. Old Faithful is the most well known because of its frequent eruptions that bewilder and surprise observers. It generally lasts from between 1 to 5 minutes, emitting some 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of water in that time. Each geyser is different in these elements, and each can vary drastically. The framework of a geyser is that simply of an opening in the ground that emits powerful streams of hot water, due to superheating beneath the earth's crust.

Clockworks:
A geyser is caused by an intricate series of events, which repeats itself constantly. The length of this repetition depends on each geyser, but can be explained as general clockwork which applies to all. Cooler water from the earth's surface makes its way down, close to the liquid magma that makes up the earth's core. When this water reaches the rocks heated by this magma, the pressure begins to build below the surface. This pressure is sealed at the very top, where the cooler water in the geyser sits, "capping" the hotter water and gas below. When the water below the surface becomes superheated, it forces the water in the whole "tube" of the geyser to rush to the surface, emitting a hot jet of steam and water. These intervals may take, in the case of Old Faithful, every 50 to 100 minutes to repeat themselves.
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The phenomenon combines all three of these subcategories in itself. It can be perceived, measured, and modeled. It can even be predicted, from duration to size and characteristics. Although it can be classified and measured to such extents, this event is still astounding to observe.
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October 2, 2006

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Blog # 3: Genius Loci--The dock on Burandt's Lake

As I hurriedly find my way down the steps winding through the backyard woods, I can hardly contain my excitement. I know what I will find upon my arrival, and yet each time it overwhelms me in a wave of inexplicable emotion. Part of this seems like uncontainable excitement, and part seems like pure joy. I like to think though, that mostly what envelops this place is the spirit of possibility. There are really no words to describe the feeling of potential. Not only is the location itself a picture of complete beauty, but the urges and emotions it triggers do so much more to contribute to its being.
Walking to the end of my dock on Burandt's Lake, the night is calm and the water like glass. I know that in these precious minutes before the sun sets behind the trees, I will decide what comes to this serene picture. With one small flick of my wrist, I can alter the whole picture, creating a ripple that will continue all the way to the other edge of the lake. Or I can slowly sink my feet in, letting them be enveloped by a soothing, cool touch. As I hear the motor of a boat, however, I remember the primary reason for this exaltation. The lake is butter, and it's time to wakeboard. Cutting out as hard as I can, I glide across the surface like a knife and reach down to let the tips of my fingertips graze the water. Here, you are only as much as you want to be. Persistence and determination drive you, and as you squint against the setting sun you know there is nowhere else you would rather be. A night like this is priceless.
As my feet touch the dock once again, the sun slips away into the dusk. The dock and beach are just where they were when I arrived, nestled in among the thick trees and bushes. But now this place hosts another feel. As I look around, it is in appreciation this time. The feeling of urgency and haste to make use of the disappearing light is now fading from me, and being replaced by satisfaction and peace. The slight chill in the air quickens my pace from the edge of the dock to the shore, but not before I look back once more, taking in the panoramic before going back to the real world again. This place is a sanctuary, a safe haven and a world of possibility. While I am here, nothing can touch me and my only job is to give as much as I can. Without me, this place would still be here; but without this place, I don't know where I would be.

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September 30, 2006

Blog # 2: Social Design Issue

The social issue of poverty is one that has existed for quite some time and continues to grow. Poverty is an ominous problem that continuously fails to be fully addressed. Since it is an extremely wide and varied field, I chose to focus on one area that particularily speaks to me.
Although slums exist all over the world and are serious concerns to everyone around the world, the most famous and perhaps most dangerous exists in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After living in Brazil for a year and seeing this issue first hand, I personally feel more connected and compelled to address it. The slums, or "favelas," are ever expanding clusters of makeshift homes, built onto the hillsides surrounding the city of Rio. These neighborhoods began when a large population of newly freed African slaves were shunned from the city. While the slaves and refugees were clearly unwanted within the city, they still needed to have access to the jobs it offered. Thus, the favelas began, and have only multiplied from then on.
Many of these "homes" are hardly fit for inhabitation with no clean water or access to bathrooms. Much of this waste is directed to large ditches that run openly down the side of the hill and end up in large heaps at the base. The city is supposedly required to remove this waste, but rarely follows through. This alone poses a large health threat to the people within the favela. Fresh water is also a problem, usually available only from pipe lines that run by the base of the hills. Many of the inhabitants toward the top need to make day long trips to provide enough water for their household. Another major problem is constant erosion and collapse of these small houses. Due to deforestation and the heavy rainfall in this area, these neighborhoods are subject to violent wash-outs that often end in many destroyed homes and even worse-off people. This environment fuels crime, gangs, health and drug-related problems. These people do not deserve to live in such conditions, and steps need to be taken in a course of action.

Although this is definitely not the only area in which the slums exist, it is one that should be addressed. Sanitary waste disposal systems, fresh water pipelines and more widespread food distribution within the favelas are just some of the problems that require immediate solutions. Considering the drastic difference between the extreme wealth and those living beneath the poverty line, it is a wonder that more is not done for these people. I believe that this issue deserves more attention than it is currently receiving. Not only in Brazil, but throughout the world.

September 29, 2006

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September 19, 2006

Blog # 1: Midtown Market

This is a place which makes one feel a sense of welcome and comfort. It is a place of diversity, not only in people but in what it has to offer. This diversity is all brought together for the common need of every person: food and nutrients. Not only can everyone identify with this, but they are able to bring an element of their own culture and individuality along with them. This environment fosters a sense of diversity and enjoyment while accomplishing the daily activiy of purchasing food neccesities.
This exhange of energy can be helped along and promoted by encouraging such diverse activies and the sharing of differences in culture and food. Goups raising awareness or teaching the public about important help programs could be fostered well in this environment. An area for performances of local students or entertainers would also help to keep the atmosphere light and have a positive feel in the area.

September 13, 2006

The Past Year

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Continue reading "The Past Year" »