May 5, 2008

Service Learning Reflection

Well, as I am wrapping up this semester of school, it also means that I am wrapping up my service learning part of the course. For my service, I worked for Plymouth Youth Center, an alternative high school in North Minneapolis. I worked as a tutor and helped students with their math problems. At PYC, the students have either returned to school after dropping out or just deciding that they cannot suceed in public school. At this alternative high school, there are small class sizes, of no more than 10 or 15 students. It seems to be a much more personal place than a public school because there are not a lot of students. I went in for at least an hour a week to tutor. The kids that I helped wanted to be tutored, so they were prepared and wanted to learn. I didn't have to deal with students that didn't have the motivation to learn. i enjoyed working with these kids, I felt like i was actually helping them out, and they seemed to appreciate the help. As for the idea of an alternative high school, I must say that i am somewhat against it. I have gone to public schools all my life, and seeing an alternative school was something that was completeley different compared to the system I was educated in. After working there for a whole semester, I cannot see how this is helping the kids. Students could show up when they wanted to , halfway through class just strolling in with some food from McDonalds or maybe just not showing up at all. It looked to me that they just showed up late, got a pass, and strolled into class without any sort of punishment. A couple times I sat in on a math class, and what I saw was pretty much conversation hour. Most of the kids didn't do any math problems, they just sat and talked with their friends for the 50 minutes that they were in there. Im not sure how they earn their GED's, but by the looks of it it doesn't take much. I felt like this was not preparing kids for the real world at all. As far as I know, you can't show up halfway through your work shift and somehow keep your job, and you really can't get far in life without hard work. It seemed to me like this alternative high school is showing kids that they can show up whenever they want, do whatever they want, and be just fine. This really makes me upset. I grew up in school with the idea that you need to go to class on time every day, and you need to do all your work to suceed. This seems to be the opposite of what I saw at PYC. There were some students there that seemed to really want to learn and do their work, and I was lucky enought to work with those kids, but I also saw a lot that seemed to do nothing productive or beneficial there. I felt like I did make a difference to the kids that I helped, because they were motivated to learn and they really did appreciate my help. That was very rewarding for me. The idea of providing service to others is one that I hope to continue throughout my years in school and also into my architecture career.

MDG Presentation Reflection

After listening to the honors class present their Millenium Development Goal projects in class, I feel like i can respond to a few of them in different ways.
The first one that interested me was the group that had a goal of improving Minneapolis slums through sustainability. One of the things that really interested me about this project was the vicinity. I am interested how they planned to change something in Minneapolis. It was also interesting how they chose the Cedar-Riverside Apartments, which are just a couple blocks from the West Bank Campus. I was suprised that when these apartment buildings were built, they were used by high and middle class occupants. This is obviously a far different clientel than what occupies the building now. These apartments are now pretty low income apartment. There are multiple problems with trying to build low income housing. First of all, there is always the sayuing "not in my backyard", which means that nobody wants low income housing around them, and the problems that low income housing may bring. Also, apartment buildings which may be affordable are being made into more expensive condominiums that are far out of the price range of low income families. These are serious problems that lead to the shortage of low income housing. Looking back at the Cedar-Riverside apartments, the goup brought up different ideas on how to make the apartments more sustainable. Many ideas were thrown around, with water and energy conservation leading the ideas. Simple things like energy saving light bulbs and conserving shower heads are things that could help save resources. They also talked about replacing all the random colored plywood on the exterior to make a uniform facade. One other suggestion was to put in more efficient elevators, because the old ones are slow and don't always work. When I was listening to this presentation, I kind of thought that all this group had really done is gone on the energy star website and looked at products that saved energy and said "lets put that in the building". I felt like they really didn't put too much thought or effort into the solution. I also wondered about who would pay for all these changes, considering it is a low income apartment building.

One presentation that I thought was very good was the presentation on child mortality. Even though the video they made did not work during their presentation did not work, I looked at it afterwards and I was very impressed. The images were very powerfull and the music fit very well with it, and the text they had in it was very nice. I just thought this was a step above a presentation on powerpoint, and it brings the message across in a different way. I also thought that the layout of their presentation was very strong. The images were powerful, and it was not cluttered with too much text. They brough out very good stats and it was overall a presentation that caught my attention right away. The area they decided to concentrate on was Sierra Leone, and the numbers for child mortality there are just unbelievable. For every 1000 children under the age of five, there are 270 deaths. This is just horrible. I thought that they did a good job of showing what was being done right now, with the organizations like UNICEF and Action Against Hunger working to help this issue. Their solutions were very sensible and realistic, with ideas of immuniztion, mosquito nets, and promoting health habits. These are not expensive things to do, and I belive that these actions could really help to reduce the child mortality rate. Overall I thought this was the best presentation of the day, with the images and the whole layout really catching the audience's attention.

April 2, 2008

Possible Cover Pages For Project

Here are some possible cover pages for our research project on the UN millenium goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.

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There are some different styles, some that are less cluttered, and some that have more images in them. A couple are designed to be less chaotic, and more pleasing to the eye.


March 12, 2008

Presentations: Styles or Methods

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Oh, the fun of presentations. For some people it is a walk in the park, and for others there is nothing worse. The way a project is presented can be done in many different ways, good or bad.
One of the most obvious and common used methods of presenting is powerpoint. I think that power point is ok to use to an extent. There is deffinateley too many options on it, I mean we really don't need the words flying in with spaceship noises to accompany it. I think it is best to keep it simple. Simple white background, not a lot of clutter, and slide that are pleasing to the eye and not overwhelming. Powerpoint can be a great tool for presentations, just as long as it is used in moderation.

The use of visual aids is something that is very helpful to the audience and also to the presenters. Visual aids can really help bring a point across. I like to see pictures of objects on white or black backgrounds, it really helps bring out the subject. There is nothing distracting the eye from the piece that the presenters want the audience see.
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Something that I found really intersting is how many different ways a research portfolio can be layed out. Whne looking at our T.A.'s portfolios in class, no 2 were the same or even close to the same style. Some pages run together, some have 1 picture, some have a series of multiple sketches. It seems as if the possiblilities for presentations are endless. I think that as long as the displays are simple and pleasing to the eye, the presentation will benefit greatly from it.

March 5, 2008

How am I affected by my enviroment?

We are all affected by the enviroment that we live in. Obviously, there are a lot of different things that affect us. I will touch on a few that I believe have affectd me.

1. Money
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This framework affects all of us in a way that almost controls our lives. Everything you look at has some sort of relationship with money. Why do I go to school? To earn a degree, so I can go off and find a career that will make me enough money to alow me to live a comfortable lifestyle. Why do I work so much in the summer? To make money to pay (or try to pay) for school. Money controls the way we live. Try walking around for a day without using money or anything that is associated with money. I do not beleive it is possible, at least not in the world that I live in.

2. Population
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I come from a small town, an outer ring suburb of the Twin Cities. I have always had a fascination of the big city. Whenever I made the trip up to Minneapolis, I was always somewhat in awe of the big city; the big skyscrapers, all the people, just the feel of the city. Has that influenced me to go to school at the University of Minnesota, located in this city that I have always looked at in a sort of awe? I believe it has. One of my favorite things about this school is the urban feel. I just enjoy the feeling of being in a city, where there seems to be an energy flowing through it.

3. Humans and Nature
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It is interesting to look at the human race and how we leave a footprint on our environment. How do we work with our environment, how do we alter it to fit our needs? How does nature react to the prescence of our work? I believe that the way humans can adapt to is fascinating. We can either flatten everything out, or find a way to work with nature without altering it. We find ways to use these natural forms to actually make our projects even better than they would be without them. The ability to use nature and our enviroment or try to harness it is something that has been a part of mankind from the beginning.

There are multiple thing in this enviroment that have affected who I am today. You can probably see that the idea of technology has not affected me in a very positive way, considering I still cannot figure out how to change the size of the pictures on this blog....

February 27, 2008

Freedom to Choose

I have to admit, this question was a tough one for me. "What would I do if I was completely released from the constraints of the "architecture school" program that would still have an impact on my environment?" Wow. Honestly, I haven't thought much about what I would do with my life if I wasn't in an organized school program. That has pretty much been my life for the past 15 years. Who knows, maybe I would do something completeley different from architecture. I've always been a big outdoors person, growing up the son of parents who love the Boundary Waters, the North Shore, and pretty much anything nature. I guess i have been influenced pretty deeply by my dad and my tree-hugger mom...(I'm just kidding mom, you're not that big of a tree-hugger). Maybe I would do something like working for the DNR, helping preserve our great environment for generations to come.
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What else could I do to have an impact on my environment? Well I don't own my own car, I either walk, bike or ride mass transportation, so I guess that could be considered helping the environment.
What could I do architectually outside of a traditional architecture school? I have thought that an apprenticeship would be an interesting way of learning. I mean, it would be pretty cool to learn from a master of the trade. I think I could learn a lot from a person like that.
This is something that I would have to think about for a lot longer than a week. I mean, it took me a very long time to think of a major in college, who knows how long it would take for me to decide to do something completeley different than what I am doing right now.

February 20, 2008

Influences On My Choice of a Millenium Goal

After looking at all of the UN's Millennium goals, one of them stuck out in my mind more than any of the others. This was the goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. I feel like this is one of the biggest problems that face the human race. The extreme poverty and hunger that covers this planet is a problem that needs to be addressed. No person should have to live in an area with no drinking water, no food, and no clean or safe sanitation. As a country that is wealthy and has many resources and power, the US should be a frontrunner in trying to help and solve this problem. The developed nations have a responsibility to make this world a better place for the future of all mankind.
There are some quotes that I found that should really help motivate and inspire people to this goal. One of the things I believe in is that any wealthy or able person that can should be helping people who are stuck in poverty. There are some quotes that I have found follow this same idea.
"The honest poor can sometimes forget poverty. The honest rich can never forget it"
-G.K. Chesterton
"We are rich only through what we give; and poor only through what we refuse and keep."
-Madame Swetchine
There is an unbelievable amount of money spent by our country, and maybe there are better ways to spend it.
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children . . . Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
Music can play a strong role in influencing people, whether it is good or bad. There are some songs that I believe can make a person feel as if they should help out in the cause, or at least that is what I felt when listening to these songs. Here are a few, listen to them and see what affect they have on you.
"Fix You" -Coldplay
"Everyday" -Dave Matthews Band
"Hole in the World" -The Eagles
If a person does not know the horror of and shock of extreme poverty, there is one way to bring a very shocking view of it to them. They say that a picture says a thousand words, and after looking at these pictures, I don't believe I need to say much more.
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There is not much more that I can say, hopefully after looking at this you realize that we need to reach this goal. The problem of extreme poverty and hunger is not one to be taken lightly, and without meeting this goal, who knows what will become of this planet. I will leave you with a quote; one that I think will strike a chord with you readers.
"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."
-John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 20th, 1961

February 13, 2008

Social Design Issues

When thinking about social design issues in the Twin Cities, I was having a hard time bringing up issues to talk about. One issue that came to mind was the idea of buildings standing vacant and run down in the cities. I think that this is a problem with any city. Vacant buildings make a city look run-down and dirty, and at the same time can be a place where crimes can take place. If there were no vacant or run-down buildings, the city would look much better, and people would feel much safer in it too. If this was less of an issue, more people would either live or visit the city. There seems to be this perception that the city is all bad; there is all this crime and someone's going to end up getting mugged or hurt. If there were less run down and vacant buildings, I think that this perception would change, or at least be in less people's minds. This is a social design issue that I believe could help bring more life into the city.

February 6, 2008

Energy, Flow, and Transformation Through the City

What do you think of when the word energy comes up? Is it a literal meaning, like the power lines that line the streets, or is it more of a symbol for something else that occurs in the city? There are different ways that energy can be seen or interpreted. When I was thinking about energy, I thought about it in different ways. There is that literal meaning, with power lines, or there are other ways of seeing energy that have nothing to do with a physical presence of power. One thing that came to mind for me was an energy brought about by the people of a city. When you are in a crowd of people or an area where a lot of people are present, you can feel a sense of energy from that place. It would be a much different feeling if you were in a deserted town, or out in an uninhabited area. There also seems to be a sense of flow throughout the city. Blog 1-6.jpg
When I look at my area of residence, The University of Minnesota in the city of Minneapolis, I see an area that is controlled and dominated by flow. The flow of buses, cars, trains, even students walking down the sidewalks to class. There are different types of flow that occur around my every day life. The majority of flow that I see is what I like to consider a constricted flow. This type is something that really controls where people move, like being corralled and moved through a certain path. Whether it is riding a city bus or walking down a sidewalk, we are told where we are to move, and usually we stay on those pre-determined paths. Rarely in the city is there a place of true free flow, where a person has complete control over the decisions of where they move. Even on campus, in the Mall Area, there are walkways that cross between the large grass areas between the different buildings. Even though there is no fence keeping people on these paths, most people stay on them. It is this type of controlled flow that I see everyday. Blog 1-1.jpg
When I thought of transformation in a city, I thought of a literal meaning. The transformation of a building or object that is different from the original. One building that came to my mind was the Mill City Museum, Which is located inside the Washburn A Mill on the Mississippi River right beneath St. Anthony Falls. The original mill was built in 1880, but over time it has crumbled. Instead of tearing down this historic building, a museum was built inside of the crumbled walls. This includes a large glass facade that faces the Mississippi River, and is located inside the original walls of the mill. Every time I see this building, I look at the transformation that has been made, and how that transformation has made the original building look even better. The glass facade inside the crumbled walls make this building one of a kind, and it wouldn't look half as good if the old walls were removed. The Mill City Museum shows how we can use transformation to make something that incorporates both the old and the new, and make it truly amazing. Blog 1-4.jpg
There is always a feel and presence of energy, flow, and transformation not just in the city of Minneapolis, but cities all over the world.