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September 29, 2006

Genius Loci

There are a lot of spaces I feel deserve recognition for being full of spirit and life. Nature, for one would be excellent. There are many connections with the energy of the earth that we as human beings naturally draw off of. However, I have decided to write about a specific type of structure that has always brought me serenity, curiosity, and a most profound connection.

I am not “religious� in certain senses of the word, (however I have spiritual beliefs which are too complex to go into detail in this particular entry), but I decided one day I needed to be in a serene place to reflect on some things…. I was walking along a familiar road when I stumbled upon a small church I often walked by. It was a very cool and early morning, so the sun was just rising above the horizon and for whatever reason I felt the urge to enter the building. (There is just something fantastic about the way churches are built, they are in my opinion some of the most beautiful man-made-structures.) The church was completely empty, so I entered the sanctuary and the sun was shining magnificently over the long rows of stained glass, each a solid color lighting up the otherwise pitch black room….and there I sat, in the silence and peace of this holy profound and symbolic structure. I gathered my thoughts. I admired the woodwork and the beauty of how nature can take something already structured to be a symbol and nurture it with its own love and appreciation.

To me, there were several forces working to bring what would appear to be a still and silent structure, to life. This shows how man unaware, still relies on nature to bring full beauty into perspective. With out windows, there could be no light in the building, but without the sun there could be no light on earth. Thus, the building is created with magnificent colored windows to allow nature to come through and enhance the structure with its natural beauty. Churches are intriguing, because in America especially, they are one of the most famous examples of a structure that is built solely on the purpose of representing an important symbol. They are meant to bring life to the very belief of god and or such entities.

It is my belief that the mixture of this holy symbol and the acts of nature is what makes this structure my genius loci. It is the love of humanity for God and nature that is put into mind when considering the structure of these buildings, which in my mind is what sets them apart from so many others. I live in NE Minneapolis and I am graced with the privilege of living around so many magnificent and old church structures. Every one has its own story, its own energy that it draws all by itself and within the building it brings so many diverse people of so many backgrounds together for a similar belief, to worship the idea of peace (regardless of what type of religion it is) and that in itself, is one of the many miracles of architecture.


September 25, 2006

Consumerism, is it a social design problem?

To identify a social design problem, I took into consideration two things. First, was to find out what in the hell it really meant, and secondly to observe my surroundings. So here was what I defined social design to be: Just like a community (which also involves social design), social design in its self is constructed on a system between all people, and their environment (this includes, the places that they live, their culture, religion, beliefs, morality, wants and needs, and the list goes on….). So with this broad definition, I chose a broad perspective and I decided to tackle consumerism as a problem in social design.

What is consumerism? According to Webster, it is the promotion of consumers’ interest based on a theory that states that through purchasing, we will help our economy. This is a pro-consumer definition. So what is the problem?
According to anti-consumers on the web site “Never Enough�, they talk about things that are felt to destroy the world through consuming. An example of what they mention is global hunger and how there is enough grain to supply everyone with 2500 calories a day. Wow! No more hungry people! The problem in their eyes is the unequal distribution of food and the fact that the rich buy way more and waste way more than they need or even consume. A second issue they discuss is pollution. This is an obvious problem as well. I think the site is saying if we consume less, there is less waste and less pollution, from cars to packaged foods. A second website “Overcoming Consumerism� talks about consumerism by showing what it would be like if consuming was already controlled…
There is a problem with these concepts. They make it look like people are going to have to live in an environment between how the Amish live with a communist government and something tells me America would never be for that. Their ideas are great, but they need to realize these are the greedy power hungry eyes of America we are staring into. Its not that I disagree with anti-consumerism completely, I just think that anti consumerists think America can go from one extreme to another and that is just not feasible. People are used to having and getting what they want to some extent, and even though it makes Americans stressed out and hate their lives… they live for it. Many Americans live for money, and introducing them into a new world like this would be a total culture shock. The rich powers of the world would have a heart attack, as would any American living above the normal level. At a personal level, I care about people, I hate the Idea of people going hungry, and I care about the environment, but I am also a poor college kid. Would my opinion change if I was rich? I would like to think not. At the same time, I wouldn’t like the idea of people telling me that I cant buy what I want… hell, I don’t like the idea that I cant buy what I want now.
However, I do think the anti-consumerists have valid points and consumerism in growing America is a huge social design issue. On CNN this weekend I witnessed this story about a guy threatening another guy’s life with a gun over a damn “Tickle Me Elmo Doll�. Now, not only is that just pathetic and embarrassing, it also says something much deeper about our materialistic pro-consumer environment. Americans want what they want now, and often times will go to great extremes to get it.
So, with this said, I think we can help our consumers go back to what is truly important… but it has to start small, and people have to be a part of an overall solution for this craziness. An example to start would be perhaps less packaging in factories (Like cds and dvds it really sucks to have to spend a half an hour opening the damn package because of the wrapping and tape anyway). Another would be less reliance on transportation. Small changes like this will make a huge impact on our socially designed structure of consumerism. I don’t think this can happen alone, so I feel people need to be aware of this issue and they need to start caring to be able to help.

Read More on problems with consumerism your self!!!
Works Cited
1.Never Enough Anti Consumerism Campaign (Chayley Collis, Stuart Cooper, Paul Fitzgerald, Jane Lawson,Jonathan Purkiss, Joseph Ryan and Anna Thomas.) http://www.enough.org.uk/
2.Overcoming Consumerism http://www.verdant.net/
3.CNN.com http://www.cnn.com

September 18, 2006

Midtown Market

Energy: Energy is an exchange…because it cannot be created or destroyed, it moves from one subject to another in an endless cycle. There are several different “types� of energy. It can be described as something that causes work of any kind (moving a ball, running, a car engine, electricity). It is also known to be exchanged between people and living things. (Talking, fighting, feeling, connecting, etc.) Existing naturally in the environment, it can be in perfect balance or thrown off as it comes and goes through infinite exchanges.

Observations and Reactions:
The environment is noisy, not just in the respect of loud (people moving place to place and traffic), but also in small seemingly insignificant ways… a woman’s heels bustle along the sidewalk, a man drops his keys, the opening and closing of doors, and even in a busy city, the sounds of nature that always seem to be there, but overlooked. What intrigued me about this is that all these different types of noise that are unconnected in nature, are blended in with the environment so much that we have adapted to them. We are unaware of the sound that surrounds even the most quiet of places. We live in a loud world. Our actions have fueled the environment full of sound, which has created new energy in return.

The main thing I noticed visually about midtown are its people. Their subtle interactions, the culturally distant space they keep from one another, avoidance of eye contact, or insincere smiles. The clothes were amazing, some of them average Joe, while others wildly ridiculous, and some just unique… a silent statement of who they are. All these actions or reactions are fueled by the creation and exchange of energy, eye contact being a huge one.

The use of energy in this place is everywhere and entails much of what I explained above. Obviously all physical activity takes some amount of energy, walking, purchasing, talking, etc. Also, there is the underlying mental and emotional enery being exchanged, thoughts (spoken and unspoken), expressions, curiosity, etc. Lastly there are the actions of all things created and natural exchanging this constant flow of the enviornment. All of these things are a part of a busy city enviornment and make up what midtown really is.