December 6, 2006

JSV Pamplet

The pamphlet made by a group in our discussion section was very curious when compared to the other projects. It pointed out what was existent at JSV in a good way, while the other projects dealt with things that were found to be "wrong" with JSV. It interacts with the designed environment in a different way, too, because it is an informational handout that both current and new residents will receive, rather than suggestions to fix a "problem." It informs the residents as opposed to telling them they are doing something wrong. This has a very positive effect on the community at JSV.

December 4, 2006

Gershenfeld v. Kahn

In Fab, Neil Gershenfeld discusses a course he instructed at MIT about personal fabrication. In this course, pupils created inventions that they had always wanted, but each device was usually only useful to its creator. For instance, one student wanted to be able to scream whenever she wanted, so created a scream box. Gershenfeld says that personal fabrication would be useful because it creates the ability to make things specifically for oneself, rather than society as a whole.

In Silence and Light, Louis Kahn states that architecture is spiritual and creates "spaces which serve the institutions of Man." These things serve society as a whole, rather than the individual. Kahn argues that things we design become part of our spirit. Kahn agrees with Gershenfeld in that objects should be designed to serve each individual. But in doing so completely, society would not be productively advancing its knowledge of technology because everything would be too personalized.

November 27, 2006

Technopoly

As I see a technopoly, it is a civilization formed around some piece of technology. Before this technology came to be, the civilization was different. Upon the discovery or creation of this technology, there is an abrupt change in the civilization. Everything becomes based on the technology. As for Lance Lavine's view of technology as an order of nature, many technologies fit into this category, as well as that of forming a technopoly. As an order of nature, technology exists naturally and awaits discovery and harnessing by man. The most obvious technopolies I can know of are time (and ways of measuring it) and mangetism. As we have discussed time in class, I will discuss magnetism.

As an order of nature, magnetism is a natural phenomenon. The planet Earth acts as a gigantic magnet, with two differently charged poles.

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http://www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/science/astronomy/cbrown/aurora/earthMagnetWeb.jpg

Man discovered and researched magnetism at least as early as 600 BC in Greece. After magnetic properties were realized, it dawned upon man that these magnets could be used for orientation on the Earth.

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http://www1.istockphoto.com/file_thumbview_approve/1013007/2/istockphoto_1013007_vector_compass.jpg

Using a compass and a map, a person can find their way to any other location. After magnetism was discovered for orienteering, men could more easily navigate the world and travel to discover unknown areas became safer. Nowadays, streets are oriented along lines defined by the compass.

Although the compass, through magnetism, changed the world into a technopoly based upon itself, magnetism has other uses. One practical use of magnetism is for security. Powerful man-made electromagnets can keep doors and windows secured more strongly than any other sort of lock. Other uses of magnetism include electric motors and generators (two more technopolies), telephones (a technopoly), and computers (yet another technopoly). Magnetism is the ultimate order of nature which, after discovery, changed the world with many technopolies and continues to do so to this day.

November 6, 2006

Mathematics and Design

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In mathematics and physics, a triangle is shown to be the strongest polygon (as a supportive shape).

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It has also been shown that a dome (or any curved structure) is the most energy-efficient shape, as far as heating and cooling.

Norman Foster used these principles when designing the Swiss Re tower.

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October 23, 2006

Oppositions

This week, I have observed a few oppositions and how they were resolved. I first considered the Mississippi River, which divides the U of M campus. We have resolved this opposition by building the Washington Street bridge, as well as many other bridges. These bridges envelop the opposition by clinging to the riverbanks. Another opposition we face is the bitter cold of winter. Crossing this opposition, we have designed double-paned windows, which insulate better than single-paned ones. This makes our buildings more suitable to the environment in MN. At the other end of the temperature spectrum, we also face brutal heat during the summer. When people don't have air conditioning, they open up the windows. However, when windows are open, things move freely between indoors and out. To stop things, such as mosquitos, from entering the house, we have screens. Screens cross the opposition by putting a barrier between indoors and out. It is also difficult to communicate over long distances, so we have invented telephones, and more recently, cell phones to cross this oppostion.

October 9, 2006

Seasons

As the seasons pass, there is a spectacular natural phenonmenon that is neglected by far too many people. This amazing phenomenon is the cycle that leaves follow. Each spring, leaves burst forth on all trees (except evergreens) and stay green throughout the spring and summer. Come fall, however, things change dramatically. As winter approaches, trees need to shed surface area so that snow does not accumulate on them and break their branches. To accomplish this task, trees drop their leaves. But it is so much more than this.

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When trees drop their leaves, the leaves change from green to brilliant shades of yellow, orange, red, and purple. After perfoming this feat, they begin to fall and blanket the earth. Trees remain barren throughout the winter and then, again, begin to grow new leaves in the spring. The leaves from the year before can be said to, in essence, live again as new leaves the following year, as they deteriorate and provide the tree with nutrients. This phenomenon is amazing.

October 2, 2006

Centennial Lakes

One of my favorite places in the Twin Cities metro area is Centennial Lakes in Edina. I love going to Centennial Lakes when I need a break from the city and when I need to just sit back and relax. It is a beautiful park with large ponds connected by a canal and beatiful walking trails. There are also countless varieties of flowers and other flora, including my favorite of all trees: the weeping willow.

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The genius loci of Centennial Lakes resides in nothing material, but rather in the fact that it is merely fifteen minutes away from downtown Minneapolis but seems infinitely removed from the city. Although it is surrounded by condominiums and office buildings, the design of the park somehow creates an illusion of this complete reinsertion into nature. I love Centennial Lakes because of this very fact. It is easily accessible and quite close, yet generates as much peace and tranquility in me as a visit to the Boundary Waters would.

September 25, 2006

Turf Wars

I have noticed that a big problem with our social design is the distribution of people in different neighborhoods. By this I do not mean concentration of people, but distribution of various ethnic groups in each neighborhood. I speak namely of the lack of it.

Most Caucasian people live in the suburbs or in secured skyrise apartment/condo developments that become communities in and of themselves. Most ethnic minorities, such as Latinos or Somolians, are concentrated in their own neighborhoods without many Caucasian counterparts. This is due in part to the ignorance of, well, White America. This is a big problem, as we are told that certain areas are dangerous due to this lack of cultural understanding. We stay away from the "dangerous" ethnic neighborhoods and this leads to further problems, as cultures get further and further from mutual understanding and coexistence.

In order to combat this, I encouraged one of my good friends to really look into living in Riverside Plaza, a place known as "Little Somalia" to some, "The Crack Stacks" to others, and even "The Ghetto in the Sky." She had called about openings and was hesitant to actually go, but I went to see the place with her and she fell in love with it immediately. Her apartment is very spacious and very well-maintained. I then proceeded to move into a downtown location, The Balmoral, and my building also has many Somalian residents. These are small steps, but it at least helps me to understand their culture more fully and shrink some of my own ignorance.

September 16, 2006

Midtown market

This morning, I went to the Midtown market on Lake Street and found a world I didn't know existed. I had seen the building countless times before, at night, and wondered what could be inside. When I entered the building, I was confronted by three mosaic sculptures. As I proceeded into the market itself, I was bombarded by stimulation. What I saw helped me realize what true energy is. Energy is a product of human interaction, innate human curiosity, and the whimsical exuberance of youth.

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Initially I observed two men playing chess and socializing together. As I wove my way through the market, I saw food and goods from all cultures. In this one location, I found restaurants ranging from Greek and Lebanese to Mexican, Chinese, and American. Shops were equally as varied. I found a Mexican bakery in addition to a shop in which I could buy traditional Mexican piƱatas.

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I also discovered a shop full of Tibetan goods, as well as stores selling African masks.

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This merging of so many cultures leads to infinite possibilities to create energy. Each person in the market has countless stories to tell. Shopkeepers also have in-depth knowledge of the culture they are from. This encourages discussion between shoppers and shopowners, leading to energy generation and exchange due to innate human curiosity. This energy is then exponentially multiplied as stories and cultural knowledge pass from person to person throughout the market. The energy passes from the bakery owner to the bright-eyed children, to the children's parents, to the owner of another shop, and so on. Eventually, this energy can be felt simply by entering the market.