March 2, 2008

90, 5, 5

In a never ending quest to figure out the correct formula for attaining blog of the week status, Ian and I have decided to try to put ourselves on the map of ridiculous blogs. This is in no way a response to the blog prompt (which will eventually follow), but merely an attempt to follow common principles found in previous blogs of the week:

1) Post your blog early (ie: before 1 A.M. on Wednesday night/Thursday morning). Note date of publication. CHECK

2) Mention blog of the week in your blog. Easy enough. CHECK.

3) Make fun of Ozayr and/or other TAs. Rough CHECK. Although one can find plenty of photos of Derek on the internet, I could not push myself to emabarrass him for his wonderful singing. Instead, this wonderful image should bring your attention to Ozayr's leaving lecture early, skipping Baraka. I mean the door did squeek pretty loudly. Unbelievable!


4) Inisghtful, brainy, brilliant, uncanny, competent, cunning, deep, expert, gifted, good, handy, intelligent, inventive, keen, knowledgeable, pretty, qualified, quick-witted, rational, resourceful, sensible, skilled, slick, sly, smart, versatile, wise, and/or witty blog response may also help. Always in progress...but CHECK

While contemplating the idea of the built environment, I found a very interesting phrase, or rather a statistic. states that "The average North American now spends approximately 90 percent of the time indoors, 5 percent in cars, and only 5 percent outdoors." While we often think of the built environment as interiors, as containing us, consider this. 100 percent of the time we spend (whether inside, in our car, or outside) is affected by the built environment.

Though a distinction must be made between the built envrionment and the natural environment, they are often intertwined - seen clearly in the opposition of man and physical nature. This is fast becoming a favorite topic of my blog as seen in the numerous photos in previous blogs below. However, in this case, nature is coupled with architecture.

Take for example, gardens. They have become apart of residential areas around the world. Each home seems to have one in the front and/or backyard. In my neighborhood on the east side of Saint Paul, each house along the block has some assortment of flowers, a small hedge, a large bush, or a meticulously kept lawn. These things bring a certain comfort seen only in nature, a feeling of tranquility or serenity. If I recall correctly, a video viewed in Design Fundamentals I documented the development of residential neighborhoods in early America. Hear, they talked of the white picket fence front yard as apart of the American Dream. The front yard, according to the documentary, represented one's connection to nature and their ideal landscape. From my experience, I find this to be remarkably correct.


Another good example is a greater attempt to make roadways more idealistic, more natural, more appealing. Boulevards of many different varieties are appearing in many suburban neighborhoods, but also in more urban redevelopment projects. The idea of separating the streets by a natural barrier is becoming much more common. Highways now have structures intended to allow vines to grow on them to reduce headlight glare naturally. Local streets have small bushes, tall grasses, and a variety of other plants. Both instances show a focus on nature, and again the feelings it invokes. These feelings most likely come in part because of the small amount of time we spean outside in nature: a enormous five percent.


Besides a pleasant experience, roads provide another very different aspect of the designed environment which contributes to my experience. Living in the cities all my life has allowed me to experience - fortunately - numerous traffic jams. Interstate 94 and 35E always seem to provide smooth driving. Additionally, the square grid pattern seen for so long in urban residential areas has been replaced by twisting and winding roads in the suburbs. Though speculation, it definitely doesn't seem to be a plan at all. My experience in this new, built environment is not a pleasant one. I mean, you can't even refer to "blocks" anymore. It's very easy to get lost and once lost, very easy to become more confused. You cannot tell which direction you're traveling - north, south, east, west - because you're traveling in each one of them on the same road! What once was more space is becoming a bent out of shape replica of urban neighborhoods.


While I've found myself surveying the built environment outside, I'd like to refocus on the statistic I started with. 90 percent is spent indoors. Here at the University of Minnesota, it seems that 90 percent is spent in lecture halls. This is an important part of the built environment for college students and professors alike. There design fascilitates much of the learning going on and shapes the way we think of it. Unforunately, large class sizes can't help but create separation between students and professors. The seats, though, are usually fairly comfortable and the desks are adequate. The stadium seating allow all students to see and the large screens with media centers within the podium allow professors to use a variety of different modern tools in their lectures.


More to come..

February 28, 2008

leave no trace

When set with the idea of influencing my idea of architecture while impacting my environment, I immediately return to experiences in nature, though aware that many other surroundings and conditions are apart of my envrionment. While I am very familiar with my surroundings here in Minnesota, I would almost certainly travel as widely as possible in order to supplement or even develop ideas of my environment and the world.

In considering places I would like to visit, I viewed remarkable photos of structures and other buildings that were very impressive. However, the idea of environment continually reappeared in my mind and the feelings invoked by other, natural areas created effects that, I believe, are uncomparable. The following photos are natural wonders of the world; places which leave an immense impact on one's idea of almost everything.

Above: Mount Everest, view from Nepali approach

Above: The Great Barrier Reef in Australia

Above: The Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA

Above: Victoria Falls from the Zambia side

Above: The Harbor of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil

Above: The Paricutin Volcano in Mexico

Above: The Northern Lights

Above: The Galapagos Islands

Above: Crater Lake in Oregon, USA

When exploring the preceding places, giving each due time, and absorbing their overwhelming brilliance, it becomes clear that the emotion invoked by these places are, indeed, the same breathtaking outcomes designers only hope to capture in their buildings. If set free from the "constraints" of the architecture school program, this is where I would hope to begin.

After viewing some of the most beautiful places on the face of the Earth, one will almost certainly become aware of much of the same spledor in the environment surrounding them. Now, the question becomes, how will I impact the environment around me? This answer, I believe correlates somewhat with my United Nations Millenium Goal of ensuring environmental sustainability.

Personally, the idea of impact on the environment evokes memories of a trip I took in Cimmaron, New Mexico. I was a part of a group of about ten members backpacking through the wilderness for two weeks. On the trail surrounded by hills, mountaintops, trees, and open fields, we adopted a way of dealing with the environment. This idea is one I would adopt in impacting my environment. Essentially, it can be summed up as "leave no trace."

Above: photo of a mountain meadow at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimmaron, New Mexico.

Above: photo of a peak named "The Tooth of Time" at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimmaron, New Mexico.

Leave No Trace consisted of many, many practices on the trail which would greatly minimize the impact on the surrounding environment, an objective especially important when visiting natural wonders seen above.

Our first practice was planning ahead. Months in advance, we conducted practice hikes, created an itinerary, and checked equipment to make sure we were ready. Most other ideas were witnessed on the trail. Traveling in a single file line on already worn paths concentrated the impact we had in certain areas. Where no path had yet been worn, we separated in a horizontal line, spreading out the potential impact over a larger area. We were careful not to disturb and rocks, plants, or other objects, but rather leave them as we found them, only observing. We carried days of food and packed out our trash. Daily inspections of our changing campsites were thorough. Additionally, we only camped in existing campsites along the trail, making sure not to expand human impact. While on the trail, we also spent a day improving existing paths so multiple trails were not created. A group member and I dug out a large rock - previously serving as an obstacle for hikers - and flattened a trail in its place so groups would not be interupted in an attempt to find a legimate route. Each of these things contributed to the idea of "leave no trace," or rather, as little as possible.

The idea of "leave no trace" is easily applicable in a natural environment. However, it seems this idea should become a constraint of architecture. Obviously, creating a building for example would have an impact on its surroundings, but the idea that one can minimize their impact as much as possible is a remarkable starting point.

February 20, 2008

occurence, encounter, experience

United Nations Millenium Development Goal: ensure environmental sustainability

My passion for sustainability does not stem from an overwhelming concern for the future of our natural resources, but rather grows out of my many amazing experiences in nature.

Some feelings, as Joe Nichols speaks of, can only be experienced outside. The song - which follows - reminds me of my buddy's cabin, where sitting around a bonfire next to the lakeshore on a clear night is very common. Often we drift along a line of reeds in a canoe, casually throwing out our line in an attempt to catch some fish. Othertimes, laying on the beach doing absolutely nothing - forgetting our work in the cities - is the best something. It's essentially everything.

Above: the photo is an original by the author of the beach of a small island in Voyageurs National Park.

Below: "The Shade" begins my playlist for its powerful message about the beauty and value of our land. The lyrics cleverly discuss driving vehicles on four-lane highways which, of course, is a major cause of carbon emissions and global climate change - a threat to sustainability everywhere. Addtionally, it holds inherent value, specifically for architects, reminding them that some of the most beautiful elements in design are indeed free.

"The Shade"
Joe Nichols

I don't want a fast car
Don't need a four lane highway
There's not another place I'd rather be
Cause out here in the country
Bluebirds sing for nothing
And the shade comes free with a tree
Yeah, the shade comes free with a tree

The tree came with a mountain
Right beside the river where the ground makes one heck of a scene
The mountain counts for something, the view is worth a fortune
And the shade comes free with a tree
I never had a dollar that could buy me what im feeling
But im feeling bout as good as I can be
I need to be reminded when I'm lookin for a bargain
Not to overlook what's right in front of me

I'll never make a killing trying to make a living
But I make enough to raise a family
I bought a piece of heaven off county road 11
Where the shade comes free with a tree
Yeah, where the shade comes free with a tree

I never had a dollar that could buy me what im feeling
And I'm feeling about as good as I can be
I need to be reminded when I'm lookin for a bargain
Not to overlook what's right in front of me

I don't want a fast car
Don't need a four lane highway
There's not another place I'd rather be
Down county road 11
There's this little piece of heaven
Where the shade comes free with a tree
Yeah, where the shade comes free with a tree
Yeah, the shade comes free with a tree

Additionally, my playlist includes

"Message in a Bottle"
The Police
The Police

"It's My Life"
Bon Jovi

Kanye West

"Gone Going"
Monkey Business
Black Eyed Peas

In Between Dreams
Jack Johnson

While "The Shade" was included in my playlist for their lyrics, the above titles were selected for a very different reason. On July (07) 7th, 2007, each of the above artists performed in Live Earth: A Concert for a Climate in Crisis. It was a monumental concert spanning the globe in places like New York, London, Sydney, Tokyo, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg and Hamburg. According to Live Earth's website ( "Live Earth's 24 hours of music across 7 continents delivered a worldwide call to action and the solutions necessary to answer that call. Live Earth launched a multi-year campaign to drive individuals, corporations and governments to take action to solve the climate crisis." Essentially, this embodies the entire world awareness the United Nations is looking for in their goal for ensuring environmental sustainability internationally. The well-known titles included above remind me of these artists who have been active role model's in supporting sustainability.

Obviously, these songs provide an excellent reminder of one's duty towards achieving a state of sustainability, but even stronger are those images which remain in one's head. Take, for example, Voyageus National Park in Northen Minnesota.

On their website (, they tell the story: "Nearly 200 years ago voyageurs paddled birch bark canoes full of animal pelts and trade goods through this area on their way to Lake Athabaska, Canada." After visiting the area myself, paddling through the same waters, and realizing how long this area has been used and enjoyed, it has sparked a passion for the area - and the earth - which I would like to preserve for future generations.

Above: the photo shows the author hauling swamped canoes to shore in Voyageurs National Park.

Above: the photo taken by the author from a cliff shows the sun setting over islands in Voyageurs National Park.

Above: the photo shows the author cliff-jumping from cliffs in Voyageurs National Park.

The above photos continually remind me of the reasons for preserving this area. I've visited the area on three different trips and each has been equally exciting. Sometime soon, I hope to go back.

Just as I thought I was finished with this blog, a commercial by Ice Mountain bottled water concluded with a quote saying, "When we all do a little, it can add up to a lot." I couldn't help but relate it to sustainability. Individuals often do not believe they can make much of a difference, but if everyone were to pay attention to the computer paper they buy, the devices they leave plugged in, or the amount they recycle, the effect would be enormous.

February 14, 2008

minnesota nice (weather)?

Minnesota Nice: the stereotypical behavior of Minnesota residents to provide hospitality and courtesy to others.* Exactly what one would expect at a Minnesota Twins game, when visiting the University of Minnesota for a Golden Gopher football game. But where does it end? Is it limited to the citizens of the great state or does it and should it extend to its design?

The great stadium debate(s) in Minnesota have gone on for a long while, yet they have not gone very nicely.

The first Twins Stadium proposal was presented over a decade ago in 1995. Since then, fourteen other Major League ballparks have been built.+ So, after careful consideration and lengthy, lengthy, lengthy discussion Minnesota Nice has finally served us well.


Consider Minnesota Nice: also sometimes used in a derogatory way, to connote a sort of smiling stubbornness.* A stubborness that perhaps may have crept into staidum plans? The new building looks amazing and will likely be very popular, however one feature that may be missing that even the Metrodome - yes, the Metrodome - currently displays, is a ROOF. Anyone and everyone in Minnesota knows, comprehends, grasps, experiences, appreciates, hates, recognizes, and realizes that weather in Minnesota is not so nice. So why, under circumstances in which tax payers will account for 74%+, should they be forced to sit outside. Someone forgot to mention that an open-air stadium in Minnesota will be, for atleast part of the season, an open-30 degree-air stadium.

Consider, in the beginning, when the original plans were presented, the stadium included a retractable roof - yes, one that would allow both enjoyment of beautiful weather and shelter from inclement weather - at a price of $350 million. Today, the stadium has lost its roof with a new price tag of $522 million.+

Social-design issues occur when society is not being catered to. Larger issues arise when they're paying for it - literally. As beautiful as a new stadium appears - notice in sunny conditions - planning and design must be carried out in a matter suitable to it's society, its region, and its not so nice weather.


Image from:

*Minnesota nice. (2007, December 31). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:21, February 14, 2008, from

+Kessler, Pat (2006, April, 20). Reality Check: The Twins Stadium Debate., Retrieved February 11, 2008, from

February 4, 2008

energy, flow, transformation

In order to investigate and eventually document the idea of energy, flow, and transformation through the city, I began walking through it, observing my surroundings. I noticed activity or all sorts - people flooding from arenas, officers and lights controlling the stream of cars, and unlimited pedestrians entering and exiting buildings. There was an apparent energy and liveliness to the streets; a certain commotion from one place to the next. However, as one observes the same places at a different time, the streets, the buildings, the people - the surroundings transform. The progression of day and night (as Goldsworthy found with the changing seasons) changes the city. A scarcity of walkers line the sidewalks and vehicles are less numerous. Lights of all sorts - in buildings, on cars, on sidewalks, lining bridges - all appear through this darkness and change the appearance of everything. Memorials and award monuments emerge most striking in the darkness, a tremendous change from that of day (see photo). Buildings allow light to escape through their windows to indicate a lessened state of activity until the light of day reemerges and the city is once again flowing with activity and motion, transforming it back to the state first observed.

energy, flow, transformation.jpg