May 16, 2008


I figured I should post our MDG video on my blog:

May 7, 2008

Classmate Response

I was fascinated by Broc and Kelly's presentation on using communication technology to improve the quality of life in developing countries. I loved that they focused in on one aspect of life in those countries that we don't usually think of. We just assume that they have more immediate concerns than whether their citizens have cell phones. But like they showed in their presentation, cell phones and computers gave the people of Somolia a better life. It's interesting to consider the potential for them to skip analog communication and just leap frog into the digital world. This makes a lot of sense to me, and I think there is no major reason why that can't happen. It will take some large scale global initiatives to make it happen, but with organizations such as the UN, the world can work together to bring communication technology to poor countries.

Technology truly has improved the quality of education in developed countries. We have always taken for granted the computers we have always had access to. Our generation is the first one to have grown up computer literate for our entire lives. It comes so naturally to us, we hardly can imagine a world without our technologies. If you think about it, though, our education has been affected by computers forever. I think the Hole in the Wall schools are a good idea. It was smart of Broc and Kelly to focus on this simple, specific solution in their proposal. With a discreet area for your donations to go to, I think people will be more likely to give money to these sorts of causes. Proposing it in this way would attract philanthropists, since the outcomes of these computer kiosks are very clear. The hundred dollar laptops are a good idea as well. Since there is a difficulty in managing quality schools in Africa, these self-teaching tools are going to prove invaluable in the future.

May 5, 2008

Volunteer Journal

This was my second semester volunteering at the Minnesota Internship Charter School. Last semester, I was an after-school tutor, but this semester I was put in two classrooms to help the teachers. I would love to say that my time there was endlessly wonderful, but the one I really learned a lot from my students happened last semester. I was tutoring a girl I often worked with, when we started talking about our families. She told me that she had been married in Somalia when she was fourteen. They'd had two children, then her husband died. She came to America after that and left her children with her mother. She was going to school at MNIC and working at Target to save up enough money to bring her children over to America. The story broke my heart. I will never forget hearing that story told to me personally. At nineteen, she had gone through far more than I will ever expect to go through in life, and she was so brave. She graduated in January, so I haven't seen her in months, but she had a major impact on me.

This semester, I was placed in an Art class with a charismatic Mexican teacher, Mr. Veyez. He often stumbled through the English language and would ask me how to say certain words. There was never anything to do in those classes except do silly art projects with the students. They conversed among themselves for the most part, but once in a while I could chat with them. I observed bullying last time I was there, so ended up sitting with the bullied girl and hopefully I improved her day a little. I wish there had been more around-the-classroom things for me to help out with. With the few supplies they had, there were never many dishes to rinse or papers to sort. I tried asking the teacher if he had anything for me to do, but often I felt like I was a burden more than a help. The students were very unenthusiastic. The art class was obviously a requirement none of them wanted to fulfill. The teacher often had to raise his voice at the disrespectful students. It made me sad that these mostly Somalian students, who were spending a good amount of their family's money on getting a high school degree, treated their education with such disrespect.

After that hour in art, I would go to a class that was sometimes math and sometimes grammar. Like before, the students were badly behaved, especially for high schoolers. I did help out a lot in this class, though. I usually helped them get through their assignments. I was exhausting, teaching the students the same things over and over again. After I left every day, though, I felt that maybe I had put in some worthwhile work. The teachers were obviously overworked in that school, so whatever I could do was appreciated.

So my experiences volunteering this semester had rewarding parts and aggravating parts. Like all volunteer work, though, it does give you a sense of accomplishment in the end. I definitely will remember some of the students I tutored over the year. However, I think my volunteer job as a campus tour guide will be the one that suits me the best.

May 4, 2008

Architecture and Technology

After studying architecture and technology for several weeks, I have come to the conclusion that the tech revolution should not be viewed as an inherently negative thing or an inherently good thing. After listening to our guest lecturer's lesson, I was even more in awe of digital design possibilities than I was before. I am in Design in the Digital Age this semester, though our curriculum barely scratches the surface of the world of digital design. We learned about the amazing possibilities of Google SketchUp, though we didn't get much into the abstract shapes that make Franky Gehry famous. I think progress in any field is necessary, particularly so in the field of design. The potentials for the future of design are endless, thanks to the computer programs involved in architecture these days. The shapes we can make are incredible, and should be valued as quality architecture.

However, the tried-and-true methods of design should never be abandoned. While the modeling of your design on a computer is useful for seeing your building in 3D before it has any solidity to it, hand drawing the plans is still an important way to understand your building. Our graphics may be getting fancier, but the essential elements of design have always stayed the same, and should continue to stay that way.

We can't say that the tech revolution is the whole future of the design field. It is an addition to the methods of design that have been used for thousands of years. SketchUp makes our designing easier, but at the end of the day, it is our hand-drawn designs that will determine our success.

May 1, 2008

Sorry It's Late!

I was having technical difficulties getting my title page designs up. But here they are!

Download file



March 30, 2008

Reading 16

innovation: As are many of our readings, this reading was about innovation. It is an important topic in the design world, obviously, and this reading was incredibly interesting in its propositions. To learn from nature about how better to live our lives is a stellar idea.

scientific: We don't get many readings about science in the architecture major. I think this writer did a great job making it interesting and entertaining, rather than a drag to read. It got me a little bit interested in biology, in addition to biomimicry. The way she used specific examples from nature to prove her point was very effective.

Questions: How do we go about using biomimicry at this point in our education? We learn a lot about sustainability, but we never actually learn how to design sustainably. Are there really set rules for sustainability, or is it pretty much about innovation and trial-and-error at this point?

March 24, 2008

Blog Prompt 5: Layouts

Sorry I'm late! Spring break was hectic...

So I was a little confuzzled about what to put into this blog prompt. After discussing it in section, though, I think I'm getting it. I wanted to work on this prompt with my term project partner, but it didn't happen, sadly.

I think Adobe InDesign is a fabulous program, one that I got a little bit familiar while making a portfolio last semester. I adore graphic layout programs, and this one was fun, fun, fun! It is so much fun and surprisingly time-consuming to layout a presentation, but the effort is worth it once your project looks totally amazing. I think our goal needs to be to come up with a nice motif that we can use throughout our PDFs in order to give it flow and a cool look. I'll have to discuss this with my partner a lot.

For images, our TA encouraged us to get familiar with Just flicking through there quickly gave me some ideas already. As always in design courses, images are as important, if not more important, than the text. This is good for me. I love to write, but I believe in quality over quantity with my words. Images, however, speak a thousand words.

As far as colors go, I think it would be cool to go with some African colors, like sand, brown, and burnt orange. We are focusing on Africa, and their tribal art is way cool. I would like to use that as a motif potentially. Remember the striking image of the rising sun from The Lion King? That is one sharp graphic.windowslivewriterlionking-df21lion-king221.jpg

I just wanted to show how it looks, not that I'm going to use it or anything.

This is a very striking picture. From alexandermalakhov on

March 13, 2008

Blog 6 in Progress/Superheroes

Hey, so sorry this post is going to be late. My group and I were supposed to work on them before class today, but we weren't able to meet. I will post tonight.

In the mean time, I was thinking it could be cool if we did a superhero theme, like Britney's new video. Captain Save the Dying Children! I don't know...

March 10, 2008

Reading 15

anti-history: I have been in architectural history courses this whole year, and it always seems like the philosophers are either advocates of copying antiquity or totally against it. Saarinen can't stand the imitation of historical forms, which I think is a little sad.

single-minded: Saarinen just doesn't want to admit that anyone else could possibly be right in this matter. I think this hurts him, because I am such a huge enthusiast of historical archictecture. Argument-wise, he might lose his readers early on as he lost me.

Questions: Everyone is very single-minded when it comes to historical forms. Would it be possible to carve a niche stylistically by combining modern concepts with the classical forms of the past? Would he think that studying architectural history is a bad thing for students? Isn't that invaluable to our education?

Reading 15

anti-history: I have been in architectural history courses this whole year, and it always seems like the philosophers are either advocates of copying antiquity or totally against it. Saarinen can't stand the imitation of historical forms, which I think is a little sad.

single-minded: Saarinen just doesn't want to admit that anyone else could possibly be right in this matter. I think this hurts him, because I am such a huge enthusiast of historical archictecture. Argument-wise, he might lose his readers early on as he lost me.

Questions: Everyone is very single-minded when it comes to historical forms. Would it be possible to carve a niche stylistically by combining modern concepts with the classical forms of the past? Would he think that studying architectural history is a bad thing for students? Isn't that invaluable to our education?

March 5, 2008

Blog 5: Environments That Shaped Me, As Opposed to the Other Way Around

I think it is inherent in being an architecture student that you are prone to noticing environments much more than most people do. I always have. That’s probably why we are architecture students. While the others don’t notice their surroundings with the precision that we do, we feel that we should give them nice surroundings nevertheless. There are two main things that have shaped my feel of self, when it comes to the built environment: traveling (in particular, the trip I made to struggling Russia) and works of fiction (those environments of the mind can be amazingly concrete).

Bring a ten-year-old suburban American girl to a Russian orphanage and she will never forget what she sees. There are babies screaming, chained to the corners of their playpens, overwhelmed caretakers, and a bland environment that is obviously trying to look like a home. The whole of Russia is that way: trying to recapture its old prosperity, pre-Soviets. As a ten-year-old, the architecture of imperial Russia enraptured me like nothing else I had ever seen, but I didn’t realize yet that I was a budding architecture enthusiast. That trip to Russia stands out in my mind as the time that I subconsciously realized the effect that aesthetically pleasing environments make a huge difference in how you feel at any given moment. The hotel we stayed in was grand, but the shanty towns on the side of the highway were horrendous. At such a young age, the frameworks of economic status were being formed in my mind in the most extreme way imaginable. The physical things around me during that trip still teach me things about that country that I hadn’t realized when I was ten years old. You carry those images with you until your life experiences have given you the proper frameworks to understand them.


A typical Russian orphanage, similar to the ones in Yekaterinburg, Russia, where my three adopted siblings lived.

The whimsical imperial architecture of Moscow's Kremlin, the buildings that I loved with my whole heart when I was 10.


The second thing that has shaped my understanding of the importance of environment has been works of fiction. I read A TON, and atmosphere plays heavily into how much I like a book or movie. It was through fiction that I first experienced Versailles, industrial-era Chicago, and the blustery moors of England. One major thing I’ve learned is that bleak surroundings often accompany bleak stories. It is an utter phenomenon that a place can be so vividly rendered into words that the reader is essentially in that place, rather than sitting on their couch or whatever. I believe I have actually learned more about environment and atmosphere from stories than I have from the real world. I’ve probably learned more about life in general from stories than I have from the real world. The stories give me frameworks and meanings and clockworks, and day-to-day life just reciprocates that.

March 3, 2008

Readings 12 and 13

Okay, here's my third try...

Reading 12

renderings: This piece discussed the difficulties in accurately rendering our architectural designs and concepts. In our 2D presentations, it is really hard to depict the essence of a building.

frustration: The author was endlessly frustrated with all the possible ways to render a design on paper. He decided there was no truly great way to depict our designs.

Questions: In the modern age, do computer programs such as Google Sketchup negate this issue? Shouldn't architecture schools spend more energy on bringing their students to famous buildings that they study?

Reading 13

environmentalism: This reading had a strong eco-friendly lean. It dealt with the ethical questions of nature and man-made nature. It discussed how our values must be totally re-evaluated if we want to change the impact we're having on the environment.

questioning: The reading asked us how much we should control nature in order to please ourselves. It ultimately decided it is a personal question and is subject to our values.

Questions: How much should we dominate or influence the environment? Where is the line between dominating and influencing? Is it worth it to have a pretty landscape?

February 24, 2008

Readings 9 and 10

Reading 9

Phenomena: This big theory was very appealing to me, at least the way it was explained and analyzed. It was a great Reductio ad Absurdum argument, which is the type of argument paper I am studying now. Ozayr’s lesson on phenomena seemed very relevant to this theory, where all experiences are interconnected in your “image? of the world. I loved it.

Webs: The way all was interconnected in this paper in this paper made me think of giant webs of intangible associations we make for all the tangible things we encounter. It was a nice way to think of our world.

Questions: How does this affect our thinking as designers? When have you encountered something that caused a fundamental change in your “image??

Reading 10

Over-analysis: While this reading does have its bits of wisdom, I felt like it sounded absurd at times. Obviously, we don’t exist purely because the sunset’s reflection needs someone to look at it. The over-analysis in this reading made it lose its credibility with me.

Questioning: The character in this piece, Mr. Palomar, questions his surroundings with insane detail. Personally, I’m glad I can just look around me and accept my surroundings. I would rather accept them and let them add to my “image,? as in the first reading.

Questions: The part about the topless girl at the beach was very interesting, even in its paranoia. Doesn’t this prove that you can’t remove the emotional meaning of an object and treat it apathetically? What is the value of trying to do this? This all proves Ozayr’s lesson on phenomena. Can a thing ever truly be disconnected from all its frameworks?

Blog Prompt 4

Historically, some of the world’s most famous architects have been self-trained. It sometimes makes me wonder why there are such steep requirements to become an architect, especially when you are allowed to just get a master’s of architecture degree regardless of your undergraduate education. I mean, if the math majors and the dance majors are going to catch up to us in grad school anyway, why are we even putting ourselves through the intense undergraduate major of architecture? So if I was freed of the obligations of design school, would my heart be broken? No, I might actually feel more able to pursue the other things I want to devote time to en route to becoming a majorly successful architect.

First: writing. I believe my strongest skills lie in writing, and that is where I have the most opportunity to change the world I live in. Professor Angelo Volpe (we just call him “Volpe?) has trained me for three semesters now in expository writing and argument. My first semester of college, he was the one who started me down the path of social awareness. The papers I write are always on topics that interest me, usually having something to do with the messed-up relationship skills of my generation. It certainly is a far cry from the work I do in architecture school, but I know my writing classes has benefited me as a person to a huge extent. I think people don’t realize that a good writing teacher doesn’t teach grammar or style, but they teach their students how to think. Combined with my passion for story-telling, I think my expository skills could lead to a second career telling stories with significance, with meaning. I live for good stories, and I know writing them will always be a part of me. No matter how time-consuming my career in architecture may be, the writer inside me will never stop coming up with characters, plots, settings, and life lessons. I think since it takes so much training to become an architect, the world will always consider me an architect first and a writer second. To me? Maybe it will depend on the day.

Second: traveling. There’s no way to learn about the architecture that already exists on our earth better than to experience it firsthand. It truly takes a three-dimensional experience to discover a building’s essence. Architects need to know historical precedence like the back of their hand. An architectural history class can only get you halfway there. Wouldn’t it be super cool if architecture school consisted of traveling around the world for four years with an architect and studying famous and vernacular buildings? Maybe that would just be too cool. Everyone would want to be an architect.
A picture I took of Le Mont St. Michel in France. I definitely learned lots about architecture just from a day trip to this extraordinary village.

Third: hotel designing! I’ve always had an insane obsession with hotels and resorts. Someday, I want to design them for a living. I know I’m supposed to say my ultimate goal is to create affordable housing and sustainable buildings, but why not work those things into my true passion: the hotel industry? The Four Seasons on Koh Samui by Bill Bensley has been hugely influential on my future career. Bill Bensley got onto Architectural Digest’s 100 top designers list by designing this ritzy resort that doesn’t interrupt the environment in any way. He literally built the cabins around the palm trees. They come right up through the bedrooms, bathrooms, lobby, etc. How more exotic, yet obviously sustainable, can a resort be? I want to be that kind of designer when I grow up.
Bill Bensley's totally amazing Four Seasons resort that I wish I had designed.

Another of my secret ambitions is to design for Disney. Yes, it's sad but true. I want to be a more whimsical Michael Graves. If it were allowed, I would make a semester at Disney World be a mandatory part of architecture school. There really isn't any other designed environment in the whole world to make you deliriously happy. Every inch of Disney World is highly designed to be beautiful and fun.
A picture I took at Disneyland Paris. You can see the magical architecture that is absolutely lovely.
Michael Graves' corporate Disney building in Burbank, California.

February 20, 2008

Blog Prompt 3: Inspiration for Term Project


-“Hello Helicopter? by Motion City Soundtrack: This song has a pretty strong message about how war messes us up. It’s about how no one wins in war, which is one of the highest contributors to child mortality.

-“What a Wonderful World? by Louis Armstrong: Has there ever been a song that better inspired us to preserve our world for the children who are growing up in it?

-“This Land? from The Lion King: Sierra Leone has the highest rate of child mortality in the world, and this instrumental song beautifully captures the essence of Africa’s landscape. It makes you feel like you are there, witnesses the sadness of that place as well as its energy and beauty.


Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.
-John W. Whitehead, The Stealing of America, 1983
Children are one third of our population and all of our future.
-Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health, 1981


Do, or do not. There is no 'try'.
-Yoda ('The Empire Strikes Back')