December 6, 2006

Service Learning Projects

I'd like to comment on the work done by the group that made the scale models of the rooms in the Community Center at Jackson Street Village. Wow! That was outstanding work and a great presentation. The end product shows that with out a doubt there was some serious time spent constructing and researching this product done by this group. The degree of detail in the existing models was amazing. With that said, if I had one critisism it is that there did not seem to be any consideration about budget. While I do not doubt that the changes proposed would improve the function of the community center, some were most likely not feasible. I feel that it would have been better served looking at low-cost modifications that do not require significant demolition or construction costs and that can be done in short order so as not to disrupt the use of the facility as it is very critical to the success of JSV.

December 3, 2006

Two Guys Agree....but Differently

In their articles, Louis Kahn and Neil Gershfeld both speak of the importance of creativity and innovation...but in different ways. The most obvious difference is that Kahn's article is about the MIT class 'How to Make (Almost) Anything' and the personal fabricator while Gershenfeld speaks more of design in general and teaching. The other difference that I noticed while reading was the voice of the authors. While not related to the meat of the articles, Kahn speaks much more as a poet and his ideas glanced off of me a bit more than the straightforward journalistic style of Gershenfeld. That is not to say that I did not appreciate the musings of Kahn and his speaking to the fact that as designers we must push to be innovative, look within ourselves to find motivation, and look to the past for inspiration and to teach what we have learned. I am saying that I would recommend Gershenfelds article before Kahn's. I think I would also recommend the class...even without taking it. I wonder if you can register as a non-degree seeking student at MIT and take classes like you can at the U of M?

November 25, 2006

My Thoughts on Technopoly

Whether you believe in creationism or evolution, the end result is the same…man is the worlds greatest living species. While one of the newer species, man has achieved the levels of thought, ability to communicate, use tools, and create that no other animal has been able to achieve. No creature on earth could possibly overtake and overthrow man from the thrown that he sits in…except man himself and the technologies that he creates. In this way, technology has become the alpha of the entire animal kingdom.

The movement of technology taking over the world has been a slow process, in terms of man’s time on earth, but has picked up the pace in recent decades. From the automated factories which no longer require human workers to produce goods, to cars that are parking and indeed perhaps soon driving themselves. These inventions are meant to be for the greater good of mankind, but all leading toward machines that think for themselves and humans being used only as an energy source living only in a dream world with a few “free? minds living in underground cities hiding from the ever-present hunting machines. If that day winds up happening, I think I might opt for the blue pill.

technopoly copy.JPG

November 11, 2006

What Came First, the Math or the Architecture ?

Just like with the chicken and the egg, it is impossible to say which came first between architecture and math. Back in prehistoric and early historic times, cavemen designed the environment. Not to the extent of today, but they still had to alter the environment to provide suitable dwellings…making fire-pits, altering rock arrangements, etc. While this is not Architecture, it is architecture in the simplest definition of the word (altering the built environment). At the same time, these same activities involved math. While I doubt that the cavemen were thinking in terms of numbers and angles, they had to deal with the implications of them in shape, weight, angles, etc. So it is impossible to say which came first, the math or the architecture.
Not knowing which came first does not change the fact that the two are forever linked, whether they like it or not. Architecture can not happen without math. One simply needs the elements of geometry, trigonometry, measurement, physics, etc. in order to construct anything. Louis Kahn’s National Assembly Building in Bangladesh is an excellent example of how Architecture is created with geometry. And math can not exist, or would not exist without architecture. There would be no need. While math is not always used to change or shape the built environment within the physical realm, math is dealing with the designed environment within some realm, physical, informational, or virtual realm. If it were not altering or understanding some designed environment, math just would not have a purpose.
Maybe which came first is not a good question. How about, why did architecture and mathematics cross the road?

Bangladesh - Dhaka National Assembly web groot.jpg

October 22, 2006

Oppositions Resolved....Eliminated.


The weather will always be at odds with those who live in the midwest....unbearably hot and humid in the summer....bitter cold and windy in the winter. The weather here creates an opposition in daily life that has been overcome in downtown Minneapolis by the use of skyways. These enclosed walkways eliminate exposure to the elements of nature and provide a constant climate year round for pedestrians. By this, the oppositon was resolved by simply eliminating the opposition...creating a barrier between the two combatants.

October 8, 2006

Phenomena not starring John Travolta


I was walking home from class when I was thinking about what phenomena to write a blog entry about and waiting at an intersection for the light to turn so that I could cross the street. I was halfway through the intersection when I realized that I just witnessed a very common phenomena.....people stop their cars when a traffic light turns red. Yes, this is a phenomena. There is no force that stops people, just the sight of a red light and people stop. The lights change through there cycle of red, yellow, and green on predictable timetables, the lights, poles, lanes and markings and cars are all set in a framework of space and are things.....this is a phenomena. My problem of coming up with a phenomena was solved. Now if I could just figure out a way to counteract the phenomena of forgetting to write my blog entries right away.

October 2, 2006

My Special Place


On June 17th of this year I was married in the Fort Snelling Memorial Chapel. This place has taken a special meaning to me because of this ceremony. I made the greatest connection of my life there, and I can't help but to say that I made another spiritual connection with the chapel itself that very same day. As I stood at the front of the chapel waiting for my bride to walk down, I could feel the energy speaking to me...calming me. It is a beautiful and quaint church built early in the last century. Standing before the altar, you are given a magnificent view no matter which direction you look. Forward is the altar itself, flanked by a viewing gallery to the left and the massive organ pipes to the right. To your right and left beyond the pews are circular vaults that connect you to the rest of the building....bridal rooms, basement, offices, etc. And behind you is the seating area of the church....25 perfectly aligned pews split down the middle by a central aisle, and protected from above by a marvelous post and beam ceiling and banks of unit flags from the service branches that call Fort Snelling home.

September 24, 2006

Section 42 and the Built World

Section 42 of U.S. tax law provides tax breaks for new apartment buildings that provide reduced rent to low income individuals and families. What exactly constitutes low income is spelled out exactly in this provision, and varies from one city to the next. This variation is caused by the determining factor being the median income for each city. For example, the median income is $72,600 in Minneapolis and $62,800 in Saint Paul. One might think that this would have no relevance to the built environment and only be interesting to accountants, but on the contrary, this mandate makes the construction of new buildings much easier for developers. With the help of this fairly unknown provision, old and rundown, perhaps even not up to code, buildings can be replaced by modern energy efficient buildings that also help ease the burden of those in the low income brackets. This is one program that fights back for the shrinking middle class.

September 18, 2006

Photo from Midtown Market


September 17, 2006

Energy at the Midtown Market

Even before you arrive at the midtown market, you can feel and hear the energy. There are several vendors pedaling their wares and many more people browsing and buying. Once onto the actual lot that holds the market, the hustle and bustle of people is almost like a bee hive, a subdue non-threating hive, but nonetheless buzzing. There are people excited to be selling, excited to be buying, some just looking, and others telling and listening to folk tales. The storyteller's tent in particular is a great place to feel energy. The woman with the microphone was so animated that all of the kids around her, an myself were thoroughly engaged in the story and on the edge of our seats or toes depending if we were sitting or standing.

While taking a picture of this venue, a man approached me and asked what I was taking a picture of. We had a short conversation about what I was doing there and what I had seen and felt. He explained that this event used to be much larger, filling the bigger section of parking lot, but still had the same overall feel. He also pointed out the safe feeling that you get even though you are in the middle of a very crime ridden neighborhood, this is a feeling that I had not noticed until his comment.