May 8, 2008

Service Learning Project

augsburg fairview.jpg

I realized a week ago that throughout this whole semester, I should have been blogging after every visit to my volunteer organization. Since I did not do that, this blog will serve as a response to my overall experiences there.

I chose to volunteer at Augsburg Fairview Academy on Hennepin Ave. It is a charter public high school for students in grades 9-12. When first hearing about this service learning project for Arch 1701, I was a little bit nervous. I had never done any tutoring before, and not being from Minneapolis, I had never been around such an ethnically diverse group of individuals. So I was a little apprehensive when starting this service. It seemed to take forever to get started, with all the training I had to go through, so when I finally got there and started tutoring, I was relieved. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but when I got there, it was pretty much a regular high school. The principle of the school, Heidi, greeted me happily and showed me a little bit around the school, and to the science classroom, where I was to be tutoring. There I met Mr. Johnson, the science teacher. He was a very nice guy who introduced me to the students I would be working with for the semester. He always kept me well-informed about what the subject was for the day. He would go through problems with me to make sure I understood the material before I started helping the students.

The first subject covered was stoicheometry, which I had never taken in high school. I was a little intimidated at first, but after I got a crash course in the subject, I was ready to tutor. Some of the other subjects we covered were reading comprehension and plant biology. Some of the students were quick to ask for my help, and others would have never asked if I hadn't asked them if they needed help. I liked the feeling of making the material more clear for them and helping them learn in general. It made me feel good about myself.

Overall, this experience has been good for me. I have learned that I am capable of helping others more than I thought possible.

augsburg fairview 2.jpg

May 5, 2008

Term Project Presentations

Another good presentation was the honors presentation of goal 1, eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Again, the country of focus was Somalia, which tells you just how much help this country needs. This country has a big problem with poverty and hunger for a number of reasons. Lack of a stable government is a big reason, but also conflict over territory, and limited natural resources.

Like many other African countries, a stable government is hard to find. Over time, we've caught wind of government coups and changes of power in many African nations. This has negatively impacted Somalias citizens because the government can't focus on providing for its citizens. Hunger and poverty aren't important issues for the government. Conflict over territory has also had a negative impact because war can destroy vital farmland draw the attention away from hunger and poverty. Lack of natural resources and climate are other reasons hunger and poverty is rampant in Somalia. They have nothing like diamonds or coal that they can extract for profit, and the harsh climate doesn't facilitate farming very well.

The presenters proposed a number of initiatives that include improving governmental stability with more community involvement, reverse rural degeneration, reduce aid dependence, and create new methods of income generation. I think these changes would make a big difference in poverty and hunger. With a more solid government, they can devote more time and money into taking care of the problem, and reversing rural degeneration would give more people jobs as farmers. If the UN uses these tactics in their goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, they are on the right track.


Term Project Presentations

I enjoyed listening to the presentation of goal 8, developing a global partnership for development through information and communication technologies. The two presenters did a good job depicting the issue in the country of Somalia. They realized their were too many separate issues in the country regarding development, so they chose a couple to focus on. The first was mobile phone technology. They want to provide Somalians with mobile phones to connect them with others areas. I thought it was very clever to look to Kenya as a basis for the introduction of this technology. This was a good idea because Kenya is another African country so the two countries would be somewhat similar in response to this new technology, and also because Kenya has already started to do this. They can now look at Kenya as an example for Somalia.

The next topic they chose to focus on was wireless laptops. Their goal was to provide one laptop per child. The main reason for this is to increase the quality of education. I think this was a very good topic to focus on because not only can wireless internet connect Somalia to many other countries, but it can promote the UN's millenium development goal of increasing primary education worldwide. The laptops they have chosen to use is the 100 dollar laptop made in the US. It is formatted with symbols instead of a certain language, so that anyone in the world can use this laptop. It is also equipped with educational games to help children learn.

The reason these two presenters have chosen wireless technologies instead of older ones, like landlines, is because they are cheaper. It would cost too much to lay down thousands of miles of copper wires to these landlines, so wireless would be the most efficient way to go.

The pictures used in this presentation were very striking. There were numerous ones of Somalians using cell phones, which look a little out of place. Unlike many western nations, Somalia hasn't developed through technology, they are recently just aquiring it because of organizations like the UN. So when a culture changes drastically like Somalia is, it is like seeing the merging of two cultures. Somalians are incorporating popular culture, like cell phones and laptops, into their own.

I liked this presentation overall because is shows globalization taking place. It shows the merging of the world into a uniform piece, for the common good of everyone.

cellphoneWomenusing.jpg cellphoneAfrica.jpg

April 3, 2008

Ideas for Term Paper Cover

Water Pollution cover page idea.jpg

The goal my group is presenting is goal 7, environmental sustainability. We have chosen to write about water quality issues in Poland. The above picture is an idea for the cover page. I chose this image because the cover page needs to be dramatic. It needs to catch the attention of the reader and get them interested in what they will be reading. This image is a dramatic representation of what water quality is like in some parts of the world. The text suggests that the idea of everyone having the right to clean water is being challanged by our own actions. We are polluting our water and now some people don't have the option of drinking clean water.

Water Pollution cover page idea 2.jpg

This is another dramatic representation of water pollution. The picture shows green waste pouring into the environment. It is probably coming from a factory of some sort. The text questions why this is being done to our environment. What is so important to manufacture that is would leave damaging waste behind?

Water Pollution cover page idea 3.jpg

This last idea takes a different approach. Instead of using an image to make a point, this cover just uses text which creates more of a mystery as to what the project is. The bold, dramatic letters show importance to the subject matter.

March 13, 2008

Term Project Presentation

As you've all heard already, presentation is everything. First of all, here's an example of good presentation.
magazine cover.jpg

This is the cover page for an issue of PRINT Magazine. It is done very well for a number of reasons. The clear, simple design on the cover is attractive to look at and it holds a deeper meaning than just being an eye. When people see that there is a hidden meaning they will want to find out what it is. It will intrigue them so they will buy the magazine. If it were too cluttered and full of many pictures or words, it would not be appealing to look at and people would be turned off. Good design can also be used for marketing.

My project will be done along the same lines as this. I plan to use simple pictures that are appealing to the eye. The color scheme that will be used, maybe for a border, will be relatively simple. There will be lots of white space on the pages. I plan to do it this way to practice designing a portfolio.

March 6, 2008

The Built Environment and You! (actually, me)

The built environment around us has countless effects on our lives. It defines who we are, what we do and how we do it. To start with, I will explain several oppositions to man.

The first opposition is man and physical nature. Both are powerful forces, but we need to learn to live together. Human beings are very resourceful creatures that can think and have a tremendous impact on the environment. Nature and the physical realm on the other hand is equally impacting on the lives of human beings. The relationship we have with nature is mutual. Throughout the lifespan of human beings, we have had to adapt and respond to what nature throws at us. One example of this is in California, on the San Adreas fault line. This techtonic plate movement affects how we live and build in the area. I'm sure after the devastating earthquake back in the 80s or 90s, whenever the big one was, architects learned how to build more intelligently. They started making buildings specifically for earthquake zones so that they can better stand up during these events.

Another opposition to man is climate and enclosure. Because the climate is so variable throughout the world, different cultures design their buildings accordingly. For example, the inuit peoples of Alaska designed the igloos. They are designed to be a smooth, closed form, trapping the air inside. They use little whale-oil lamps to heat the entire structure and the smooth form deflects the chilling winds of the arctic. They designed the dwelling to act against nature. Another example is in tornado zones, like tornado alley in the midwest USA, where all houses have basements. The house I grew up in, in North Dakota had a basement and if any of the houses didn't have a basement, they had a storm shelter built underground. When I took a trip to Texas a few years ago, I was shocked to hear that none of the houses in Waxahachie, a town about 20 miles south of Dallas, had a basement. But if there's no threat of tornados, then there is no reason to have one. This just goes to show you that human beings build according to their environment.

The opposition of gravity and movement is also an important one. Obviously all cultures around the world will need to deal with this one. That is why stairs are universal. They are useful in acting against gravity and can be seen in just about every culture imaginable. From the Myan pyramids to the Islamic architecture in Iraq to the staircases in our modern day million dollar mansions, stairs are used to oppose gravity.
myan pyramid.jpgspiral minaret in samarra, iraq.jpgmodern stairs.jpg

Opposition of permanance and entropy is probably the most interesting opposition for me. Entropy is the measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system. This also includes time and timelessness. Any work of architecture can be seen as a living organism. There is a beginning, from the moment it starts to be assembled, a period of use and growth and modification, in which the building changes form over time in response to different factors such as nature or man, and a time of reuse after the modification stage. This is not always the case for every work of architecture, for example, there might not be the desire or the funds to modify a building, so it may just be torn down. Architecture may or may not have a planned lifespan. The architect could intend for his or her work to last for eternity, or maybe just a generation.

The last opposition that affects who we are is the opposition of material and tools. In early civilization, the tools they had were their hands, or tools made out of bones from animals, stones, or sticks. Pretty much whatever they could find. These limited the advancement of buildings. Once our tools and material with which to work and build with advanced, we are capable of building much more complex designs. This is another example that shows how humans are resourceful and are ever-evolving.

cappadoccia.jpgmodern house.jpg

So up to this point, I have explained how everything around us reflects who we are. I felt this was necessary because it illustrates how human beings as a whole are affected by their surroundings and this leads us to build the way we do. Of course it affects me personally, but on a more specific level. My whole life is affected by the built environment. From the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed at night. I wake up to the alarm on my phone (because I'm too cheap to buy a real alarm clock) which is designed to get me up in the morning. I take a shower in the shower because that's what it's designed for, and so on (I'll spare you the torture and not go through my entire day-you get the point). But I will touch on some aspects of my life that define who I am. I am a French Horn performance major at the U, so I spend a lot of time in the music building. There are many designed elements that make up Ferguson Hall. Every room in that building has a purpose. There is Loyd Ultan recital hall which is utilized almost every day of the week whenever someone or a group of people put on a small concert. There is the lecture hall, room 225 in which all lecture classes are given. The classrooms, which are used for discussion groups or any other small class, are located in the center of the building. They are surrounded by the faculty offices. In the basement are the practice rooms. They are numerous small rooms designed for individual practice. There are several small ensemble rooms and three large ensemble rooms, used by the band, orchestra and choirs. Last but not least is the large concert hall, Ted Mann. This is where all public concerts are held. I am in almost all of these rooms on a daily basis and the design of the building as a whole makes it easy to travel back and forth throughout the building, because each room has a specific purpose and every possible room you would need, as a music major, is in this building.

During the warmer months, I like to ride bike to my classes. The layout of sidewalks and streets makes it easy to ride bike all over campus. If the roads were not paved or if the sidewalks were uneven, it would deter me from riding on them, but for the most part, they are smooth and even. During the winter months, I need to find another way to get to class because it is hard to ride bike in the snow and the freezing temperatures. The university has designed a bus system to run through campus to make getting to classes easier in the winter time. I'm sure I could find many many more examples of how the designed environment shapes who I am, but I think this blog is long enough and I hope you enjoyed it.

February 27, 2008

No Architecture School?

Just thinking about being completely released from the contraints of the architecture school is difficult to do. I mean, architecture is the way it is because of our previous education methods. People have come up with pretty amazing things with the help of architecture training, and everyone in the history of architecture has contributed to what we now teach. They might have contributed amazing buildings and ideas that shape our way of viewing architecture today, or they might have made some pretty big mistakes, but we will learn from them. If no one goes through architecture school, we are all going to be out there designing buildings, and we will all be making the same mistakes because we would not have had anyone to learn from. The practice of architecture would be slow to progress.

If I was completely released from the "contraints" of architecture school, I would begin by traveling the world. I would like to learn everything I can about design and good esthetically pleasing as well as structurally sound buildings. The way I would learn is by experience. If I was completely free to do what I wanted, to build what I want, I would probably start by designing very complex, modernistic works of architecture specifically for an underdeveloped country. I would raise the money to construct it so that the poor country doesn't bear the cost. In designing an icon for a city in a poor country, I would hope to bring much needed jobs to the population. This would also start bringing attention to this particular city and perhaps multinational companies would start to invest more in this country because I already have, by building the work of architecture. Plus, all the great cities in the world today have one defining building either dominating, or adding much needed character to the cityscape, and I would put underdeveloped countries in the eye of world.
denmark housing development.jpg

February 20, 2008

Research Project Millenium Development Goals

The three most important of the millenium development goals to me are environmental sustainability, primary education throughout the world, and the eradication of poverty and hunger. I have collected some images and other materials that will explain my views on these three global concerns.

Environmental Sustainability:
For years, I have been interested in the welfare of the planet, much more than some people. It seems to me that some people either aren't able to think far enough ahead to see the consequences of their actions, or they just don't care. I would rather it be the first, because then these people still have the opportunity to be shown what the effects will be and perhaps change their ways. If they just don't care, then in my mind it is hopeless. Pollution and the degradation of the earth will proceed and change the world as we know it, maybe not right away, but for the generations that follow us. Our children and their children will be responsible for our actions, and I just respect the future generations too much to leave them with our burden.

"The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun."
-This is a quote by Ralph Nader back in 1980. I think this is a great representation of the oil industry and how monopolizing it is. This quote is implying that the oil industry has great control over today's society. Because everyone is so dependent on oil right now, it is preventing the development of more efficient technologies such as solar power.

"There's so much pollution in the air now that if it weren't for our lungs there would be no place to put it all."-Robert Orben.
This is another quote I like because not only is it alluding to the fact that there's so much pollution now, but also that it is affecting all of us because we have to breath it. Just last week or so, I read that there was an air pollution advisory for the Minneapolis area. This didn't make me very happy because we all have a right to breath clean air and if we are infringing on that right, we need to change something.

Primary Education Worldwide:
Education in Dakar, Senegal.jpg

This is also a very important topic to me. It's disheartening to hear that some parts of the world are too impoverished for its residents to even be given the chance to learn. I believe everybody should be given the chance to learn if they want to. Think of how many people in the world don't get an education, and then think how many brilliant minds are being wasted. One of them might find the cure for cancer or HIV or even poverty. The more educated people we have in the world, the better our chances are for finding solutions to real problems. Even though the next picture is cheezy as hell, I think it is a good representation of worldwide primary education.

Education, cheezy pic.jpg

Eradication of Worldwide Poverty and Hunger:
I don't think anyone would disagree with me that this is a very important topic. If you are not impoverished and starving yourself, it can be easy to just stand back and stay out of it, but these people need our help. Many of these people didn't choose to be poor and starving, it's just how they ended up, or were born into like this little boy on the cover of the Sydney Morning Herald:


It is our duty to help those that are less fortunate than us, because if we don't then the progress of humankind will be slowed down and poverty will exist forever.

February 14, 2008

Social Design Issue

To be perfectly honest right now, my mind is shot. I've been thinking of what I would write in this blog for the past six days, and still nothing. So now, the day before it's due, I must write. Just to warn you, this topic might seem very random and it could be way off from the assignment, but to me, it makes a bit of sense. I was riding the 16 bus the other day, going downtown. Coincidentally I was going to my community service learning job for this class. While riding on the bus, I noticed this building with a steep green roof. It has a sort of tower with a large clock in it, I'm sure you've all seen it before. At the bottom of this building, on the sidewalk, there was a sign. It said caution falling snow. The steep roof with no gutter can lead to snow falling onto the sidewalk, 20 feet below, when it begins to melt. To me, this seems like an error on behalf of the designer. They should have taken into account where they were building, in Minneapolis where it snows from time to time. And no gutters? That just seems lazy, or ignorant. So is this a social design issue? It is a design error and it affects the people around it, so I think it is a social design issue. So there you have it- blog #2.

February 1, 2008

Energy, Flow, and Transformation Through the City

Design is all around us. Imagine yourself in the middle of a city. Everything you see around you is designed. Everything was thought out by some person or group of people to fulfill a purpose.


The result of any design is energy. Some more than others. The design of an object can evoke the feeling of energy. If you look at a building and don't get the sense of energy, something is wrong. It could either be the architect or your thinking that is preventing you from seeing the energy there. One prime example is the only 7-star hotel in the world: Burj Al Arab. It is located in the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It was designed by the British architect Tom Wright and it was designed to look like a billowing sail on a boat, which is not very hard to see. When I look at this building, I feel like anything is possible. Not only the design of the hotel, but it's standing on top of a man-made island off the coast. There is a white canvas of sorts on the front of the building which provides more to the image of a sail, and makes it feel more alive. The back of the building which is facing the ocean is covered in glass. When the sun sets, it creates a beautiful illumination of the building which also makes it feel alive.

Burj Ala Arab.jpg

I also like the idea that a city has flow. There are a couple different things that come to mind about flow. The first is probably the most obvious-traffic. The design of roads allows traffic flow to take place. This flow takes place throughout the entire city. Major highways allow for a faster flow while in the middle of the city, the flow will be significantly slower because of less space and more cars, but the flow is still there.

Another idea of flow is of course, buildings. The way buildings are set up in proportion to each other determines the flow of them. When you're walking down the street in the downtown area of a city, you'll notice the flow of the buildings from ground level, but the more interesting flow is from above. The skyline of a city has a distinct flow to it that is different than any other. I like how a picture of a city's skyline can tell a story. It can tell you where the business district is, and where the residential district is, and where they merge. So I definitely see how a city can have flow, and in different ways.

Chicago Skyline.jpg

Transformation can also be seen in a city. Over time, a city can be transformed into something else. Take this picture of Paris for example. In the front, there are old European style buildings that were built long ago. The old fashioned bridges also show signs of the past. Then in the background, the Eiffel Tower sits, standing out among the other buildings as a sign of the present and transformation from a city of the past to a modern metropolis. I enjoy seeing cities that contain old and new buildings coexisting because it shows the transformation that city has gone through to get to where it is now.