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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!

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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 Flickr.com. 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.

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This is a very striking picture. From alexandermalakhov on Flickr.com.

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...

http://www.breatheheavy.com/exhale/viewthread.php?tid=32539

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.

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A typical Russian orphanage, similar to the ones in Yekaterinburg, Russia, where my three adopted siblings lived.
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The whimsical imperial architecture of Moscow's Kremlin, the buildings that I loved with my whole heart when I was 10.

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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.

February 20, 2008

Blog Prompt 3: Inspiration for Term Project

Playlist:

-“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.

Quotes:

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

(from http://www.quotegarden.com/children.html)

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

(from http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/quotes.html)

February 17, 2008

Blog Prompt Two: Social Design Issue

http://www1.umn.edu/stadium/images_stadium/east_rendering_lg.jpg

Sorry I’m a bit late on this one…

Bridges Vs. Stadiums: Who gets it?

After The Bridge collapsed, there were countless issues we had to deal with in our great urban backyard of the Twin Cities. Is our infrastructure really in the great condition we thought it was? Should we brace ourselves for a death fall every time we cross one of our apparently weak bridges? Who’s fault is it that this happened? On and on…But one group of Minnesotans let out a huge collective groan when we realized just how much money we were going to have to pipe into our bridges’ conditions…

The sports fans.

It’s been a long, hard road that our hard-core football and baseball fans have been traveling in Minnesota. If you think about it, it just doesn’t make sense that a popular state like Minnesota just doesn’t have great sports stadiums for its pro teams. Every congressional session, the stadium issue pops up in the news. How likely will it be to pass a Vikings stadium? A Twins stadium? We finally got our Gophers stadium, after years of my dad getting his hopes up every time the issue came around.


It’s a difficult issue, since not everyone is going to support the new stadiums. But anyone who’s been to the Metrodome knows it’s been a temporary solution for what, like 25 years now? It was cheaply built, it’s ugly, it’s inadequate, and it houses three of our most important teams. I’m not a huge sports fan, I’ll be honest, and I’m definitely not picky about where I see the Gophers play, but I do know enough to know that putting a baseball team in with two football teams is just unacceptable.

Which is why I am always the girl telling my friends they are totally ridiculous for whining about the new on-campus stadium here. Me, I’m pumped for open-air football, even in this miserably cold state. But lots of people don’t see it as a new, exciting turn of events for our school’s atmosphere. The Gophers just anger lots of students, and I constantly hear them groan about the money it’s costing us to build a new home for them.

As if the whining weren’t loud enough already, the bridge collapse seemed to bring the anti-stadium people to a deafening level of uncertainty. Now, we are faced with the endless cost of fixing up our shockingly poor bridges. They say that our very own Washington Avenue Bridge was rated as being in the same condition as the fateful 35-W Bridge. Can you imagine all those pedestrians walking across the bridge between class, and then being tossed into the river? Ouch. But then again, the WAB doesn’t have the level of traffic the other bridge had, and it has the support of those pylons in the middle of the river. But still, it is scary to think about how much in need our bridges are of some maintenance.

So how are we supposed to decide who gets the money? The sports arenas will certainly encourage economic growth around them, helping out businesses and leading to development. But the bridges benefit everyone, and let’s face it, it would be quite embarrassing if the Twin Cities were to face another failing of our infrastructure, let alone devastated by the tragedy.

I’m from Anoka County, which is about a half-hour north of the Cities, and we’ve long been a frontrunner for the location of a new Vikings stadium. As a humble (though huge) suburban county, we have this “Who, us?!?? attitude towards the proposed stadium and we try not to get our hopes up too much. Though I really do not support the Vikings, I can see how investing in a new home for them might draw some better players and bring them to the forefront of pro football. It’s the same reason I love the new Gophers stadium: build it, and the good players will come. You need to put money into it in order to improve the team.

And so I am torn on this issue. As un-glamorous as it is, we do need to channel money into our roads and bridges. Immediately after the bridge collapse, the editorial page of the Star Tribune newspaper said, “There can be no doubt that today, the adequacy and safety of the rest of the state's roads and bridges is Minnesota's No. 1 public policy concern.? The paper said a week later that it would cost us 1.4 billion dollars to repair all our failing bridges. But if that’s what it takes in order to ensure our safety and confidence on the roads, we have no choice but to cough up that money over the next few years to make our Cities safer.

And I am confident that down the road, the Vikes and the Twins will be happy, too. There’s simply too much pressure on the government to ignore the cries of desperation from that outspoken minority of avid sports fans.

February 3, 2008

Blog Prompt 1: Energy, Flow, and Transformation

The energy and space around a material are as important as the energy and space within.

-Andy Goldsworthy

In the urban environment that we live in here at the University of Minnesota, sometimes the concept of "environment" gets confusing. Surely anyone would automatically assume that word is describing a natural setting, a wild and rural place. Is a man-made cityscape of concrete and plate glass the sort of environment we so often discuss in architecture school? Would Andy Goldsworthy consider our surroundings to be sufficiently soul enhancing?

As a naturalist, Andy Goldsworthy gravitates toward the untouched parts of our earth. But in the quote above, he uses the word "material." A warehouse is a material just like a tree is a material, so I wonder if he would ever consider working with a city as if it is a forest. Interesting. Certainly the urban forms around us have energy and space around them, as well as within them. I mean, take a look at the Minneapolis skyline. It inspires feelings in me, as well as in many others, that tell me it has a spirit just like any of Andy Goldsworthy's favorite natural materials that he uses.

Having lived in the suburbs, the city, and up north at my cabin, I can see the energy and spirit that each environment has. While Andy Goldworthy values the natural, however, I think people give a great sense of energy and motion to whatever they create themselves. As magical as a forest is, I think the city deserves some praise for how magical it is, too. People living close to one another and leaving their mark on a place, that's cool. Think of everything that goes on in the city, how much interaction goes on, and how that makes the fast city a great place to be. While I can see how the peaceful rural areas are exciting because of the small things that happen and have great effects on the rest of the ecosystem, I have to appreciate the more large scale happenings of the city. To each his own, I guess.

The video did have a big message about environmentalism, though, and it conveyed it well through its views of how delicate nature can be. It is intriguing that us city dwellers often call ourselves the hard-core environmentalists, but we stay far away from the truly green parts of our world. I like this quote from Goldworthy, because while we do want to preserve the natural parts of our world, it is the energy contained in them that is what matters the most. Lose that, and we have killed things we won't be able to get back.