April 13, 2008

Reading 19: Technopoly

1. Ecological: The reading shows both the positive and negative aspects of technology. Technology is both a “burden and a blessing� (5). It also describes the effects of technology as “ecological� because it doesn’t just put something into the world or take something out of it. “One significant change generates total change� (18). The change of creating technology creates changes in many different aspects of life. For example, when the microwave was created, it did not just affect cooking, it also affected the time families spent together. The reading gives the example of the TV creating change in all of America: in schools, churches, homes, industries, etc. Because of this, it is practically impossible to consider all consequences when a technology is first invented.
2. Taxonomy: Postman describes the taxonomy of culture having three categories including tool-using cultures, technocracies, and technopolies. He explains how every culture used to be tool-using, but gradually transformed into technocracies. In tool-using cultures, the culture’s beliefs directed what tools were built and how they were used. In technocracies, it was just the opposite. He didn’t get into the technopolies in chapter two, but I’m assuming it is just when a culture is completely controlled by technology, so much so that the culture loses its authenticity.
Discussion Questions
1. Do you tend to take the stance of a Thamus, as skeptic of technology, or do you find yourself like a Theuth, viewing it as a positive influence on our lives?
2. What can we do, as architects, to make sure that we don’t become controlled by technology and let it influence us in a bad way?

March 22, 2008

Readings 16, 17, and 18

Reading #16: Biomimicry: “How Will We Make Things?� by Janine Benyus
1. Mimic. That’s the whole point of biomimicry: to mimic nature’s genius character, to imitate a quality down to the littlest detail because nature knows best. The reading gives the example of the adhesive that a mollusk uses to stick to objects under water. This adhesive is greater than any that man has been able to create. It uses fewer steps (to actually become an adhesive) and is more successful. It can even work under water! For this reason, biomimics are studying in great detail the mollusk’s adhesive to try to mimic it in their work.
2.Process. I thought it was really interesting how Janine Benyus explained how biomimics are not so interested in trying to imitate certain products of nature, but rather the process through which nature makes these products. “What we really want to do is imitate the manufacturing process, that is, how organisms manage to grow� (100). This makes sense though, because imitating the process is much more significant, a much greater feat, than just imitating natures products. If you can imitate the process, than you will know for sure that your product will turn out to be the same. This is the most difficult challenge: imitating the process.
Discussion Questions:
1. Why do you think we did not use biomimicry in earlier designs/architecture? Or is there evidence that we did?
2. Give an example of another process in nature (not given in the reading or the lecture) that could be used in architecture/design.

Reading #17: Natures Numbers: “The Natural Order� by Ian Stewart
1. Patterns. There are patterns all over in nature. They govern our universe. They are found in living and non-living things, such as seashells, flowers, and sand dunes. The two types include fractals and chaos. (Fractals are geometric repetition, and chaos is the “apparent randomness whose origins are entirely deterministic� (3).) There are numeric patterns, geometric patterns, patterns of form, patterns of movement, etc. All patterns can be observed mathematically and can help to give “a deeper vision of the universe in which we live, and of our own place in it� (11).
2. Mathematics. Patterns are an extremely intriguing part of our universe, but they are “not just there to be admired, they are vital clues to the rules that govern natural processes� (1) They require mathematics to study them in their complexities and to figure out the WHY and HOW; the answer to why they are formed and how they are formed; the reasons behind it all. Mathematics is used to “organize and systemize our ideas about patterns�, to come up with the rules that direct the patterns (1).
Discussion Questions:
1. How can understanding these patterns give us a greater understanding of our world? How can this understanding help ultimately us in designing new buildings in architecture?
2. How can we continue to further our understanding of natures many patterns? Will there ever come to be a point where we have discovered all of them?

Reading #18: The World Treasury of Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics: “Mathematics and Creativity� by Alfred Adler
1. Skepticism. I was really surprised to hear that skepticism is a major part of mathematics. However, the reading really convinced me that this is true. Because many things that seem to be true at first instinct end up ultimately false, mathematicians have learned to not believe anything unless it has been proven over and over again to be true. “The mathematician learns early to accept no fact, to believe no statement, however apparently reasonable or obvious or trivial, until it has been proved, rigorously and totally, by a series of steps proceeding from universally accepted first principles� (439). They have learned to become skeptics because it is the only way that they can do their work accurately without allowing the occurrence of a major mistake. The reading gave many examples of occurrences where something that seems obviously true has in the end been proven false, and therefore emphasizing the importance of statements and ‘facts’ to be tested repeatedly before believed to be true.
2. Exploration. “The essential feature of mathematical creativity is the exploration, under the pressure of powerful implosive forces, of difficult problems for whose validity and importance the explorer is eventually held accountable by reality� (445). Exploration is one of the most important factors of mathematical creativity. It is vital that mathematicians explore all their options and look for the most difficult problems and solve them, rather than going for the easiest ones. These difficult problems have a more valuable solution. The more mathematicians explore and the more work they put into their exploration, the greater their results will be.
Discussion Questions:
1. How can mathematics be creative? Give examples.
2. Alfred Adler gives many stereotypical examples of what mathematicians can and cannot do when it comes to certain jobs/disciplines. Is this right of him to categorize all mathematicians into these stereotypes? Do you believe his assumptions are accurate?

March 13, 2008

Reading #11

Reading #11: The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems by Fritjof Capra
1. Ecology. Ecology looks at the whole, not just its parts. The reading refers a lot to “deep ecology� which refers to the interconnectedness of all life-forms/organisms. It continually describes the importance of not just breaking down an organism (or whatever you are studying) to analyze its parts individually, but rather study it as a whole and look at the patterns/organization of the individual parts. Look at how they all relate/work together as a whole.
2. Hierarchy. One of the parts of this reading that surprised me was the fact that the author did not agree with the thinking that there is a hierarchy of living organisms. I guess because we just learned about this hierarchical organization in class, and I have always assumed it was true, I was surprised to hear the author disagree. The author explains that many people, such as Woodger, viewed living organisms as organized in a hierarchy. (Looking at the organization of organisms is ecological thinking/systemic thinking). However, he goes on to explain that he disagrees and sees them organized instead in a network pattern: networks within networks. I don’t know if I quite agree with his thinking, although I sort of see where he is coming from. I wish he would explain more though because it very much contradicts what I have been brought up thinking.
Discussion Questions:
1. How can this new understanding of life, this new paradigm (Deep ecology), give us a better understanding of architecture?
2. Do you agree with Capra’s network pattern of organisms? Or do you view them in a hierarchical organization?
3. Do you believe it is necessary to have an ecological worldview in order to truly understand organisms? Explain your reasoning.

March 11, 2008

Reading #14

Reading #14: Nature and the Idea of a Man-Made World, By Norman Crowe: “Geometry and the Primacy of Dwelling�
1. Paradigm: Crowe uses this term throughout the whole chapter. He continually describes various paradigms for today’s architecture. “Architecture and settlements served as paradigms for more structured ways of thinking, just as the natural enviroment had sered as the paradigm for the creation of the man-made in the first place.� Just as the primitive man was influenced in his architecture by nature and the way it interacted with it, their structures are precedents for architectural structures built after them. We continually see history reflected in buildings of today and therefore, nature as well.
There is also the paradigm of the universe as a whole for the built environment. In the past, and probably still today, people have constructed their houses to somehow imitate the creation of the universe in their creation of a house/building/dwelling.
2. Evolution: There is an evolutionary aspect of architecture in that we continually build off of what has been built prior. The first man had no buildings to base their structures off of. Instead they built off of nature’s architecture, so to speak. From then on, people continually modified these structures, molding them to better fit their needs as technology developed and their understanding of their surroundings/materials developed.

Discussion Questions:
1. How does the architecture in your surrounding environment effect you/your outlook on life? How does it affect your culture as a whole?
2. How can we, as future architects, look at past dwellings and learn from them and allow them to affect the way we design? To what extent should we let them influence us? Where should our own imagination come into play?

March 10, 2008

Reading #15

Reading #15: Search for Form, By Eliel Saarinen
1. Sensitivity. Saarinen explains that “the essential thing in the search for form� is increasing sensitiveness to these mysteries by means of intuition, instinct, and imagination. We must be sensitive/more aware of the deeper meaning to anything we are trying to find form in, rather than just looking at the scientific facts. In order to understand anything clearly, we must get beyond the obvious physical aspects of it. We must look into its “soul�. Sensitiveness, in this instance, is a delicate term describing the way in which we should be observing/learning about an object/phenomena/whatever it is you are trying to understand.
2. Organic order. (Sorry this is two words, but it is a term that I found important to the article as a whole.) It is the last term in the chapter; it sums it all up. Organic order is “the fundamental principle of architecture in all of creation.� It consists of two other orders: expressive and correlative. It consists of that which expresses what is behind the form and that which relates all pieces of the puzzle into a whole, making it very captivating. Both of these combined make up organic order which, when successfully in order, creates “art of nature�.
Discussion Questions:
1. Given Saarinen’s definitions of false form and true form, describe an example of a true form in your everyday life.
2. Despite the fact that our world today is in a self-conscious stage of art-development, what stage of consciousness would you say that you are in? Explain.

March 2, 2008

Readings #12 and #13

Reading #12: Architecture as Space
1. Dimension: The whole two chapters point to the fact that “space in actuality is grasped though an infinite number of paths� (59). Architecture is all about space, but you can’t fully portray it in diagrams, or models because you can’t get past 2 dimensions of a plan, the three dimensions of a model, or the four dimensions of a video. You have to actually experience the space to understand the infinite number of dimensions involved in space. Architecture involves the three-dimensional and the inclusion of man, which separates it from other forms of art such as painting or sculpture. It includes that extra dimension of man experiencing the space.
2. Experience: “Internal space… cannot be completely represented in any form…� It “can be grasped and felt only through direct experience� (23). Because of the multiple dimensions of space and architecture, one cannot completely reproduce a building in representative forms. One has to experience it in order to fully comprehend the feel, the atmosphere, the layout of space and its dimensions. You need to take part in “voluntary participation, that consciousness of free movement, which we feel in the direct experience of space� (59).
Discussion Questions:
1. According to Bruno Zevi, “The gross lack of proportion between the time spent on literature and the time devoted to the explanation of architecture has no justification in criticism and has ultimately resulted in our general lack of spatial education.� What can we do to change this, to better provide education about architecture to students?
2. What method or system do you think we could use to more accurately represent architecture in all its dimensions? (You can come up with a completely new/abstract method of representation)

Reading #13: The Idea of a Man-Made World
1. Harmony: This is the result of a balance between the man-made and natural worlds in a unifying manner, a “rapprochement between ourselves, and what we build, and nature� (19). It seems as though this might be a goal of every architect, to create a certain harmony. We have to recognize that there is distinctness between the man-made and natural worlds and work towards a balance between the two.
2. Dualism: We live in a dualistic world, with two distinct parts: the man-made and the natural. What is natural is not of our mind because we are able to think about it (according to Rene Descartes). This dualistic world is what guides our thoughts. Today, we have forgotten that these two worlds are interconnected and what we do with one affects the other. They are dependent on one another. This apathy has created many environmental problems.
Discussion Questions:
1. Our world is already so far from realizing the interconnectedness of man and nature. What can we do to turn things around if the situation already seems so hopeless?
2. How should the dependence of man on nature and nature on man affect the way we live?

February 24, 2008

Readings #9 and #10

Reading #9: The Image by Kenneth E. Boulding
1. Image – The whole introduction brings up the concept of Image, as an alternative word for “subjective knowledge� (p. 6). Because knowledge only refers to that which is truth, the word Image is more applicable to Kenneth E. Boulding’s use of the concept in this novel. Throughout the introduction, he explores the ideas that make up each individual’s image of the world, or the way they view things, and what influences this image. He also describes that it is the image that determines one’s behavior.
2. Change – Image is also explored in the changes that result from varying messages sent to the image. “The meaning of a message is the change which it produces in the image.� There are a couple ways in which the message may change one’s perspective of the world. It may add to it or cause a revolutionary change. (Or it may not change at all). Events that happen to us, people that come into our lives, and multiple perspectives on certain ideas may all cause a change in our image of the world. In many cases, “our image is in itself resistant to change,� especially if it is bad change. We are used to what life is like and don’t want to imagine it being any different.
Discussion Questions:
1. Describe a circumstance where a message caused an extreme change in your image of the world.
2. How does our image of the world affect us in the world of architecture? What might be some factors/messages in the discipline that create changes in our image?

Reading #10: “Mr. Palomar on the Beach� Mr. Palomar by Italo Calvino
1. Observation – These three chapters show Mr. Palomar observing multiple different phenomena. He would question, think, wonder, debate about his observations, looking past what most people see and spending time to actually engage in a conversation within himself about ideas of his observations. His observations encompassed more that just looking/seeing something. They brought about new philosophies of nature and humankind’s interaction with it.
2. Exist – Mr. Palomar begins by wondering about the existence of certain phenomena of his observances in nature. After realizing that they don’t exist in nature, he starts to contemplate the actual existence of nature itself. I thought this was a really interesting. Looking at the sunset, he debated whether or not the sword of the sun’s reflection in the water existed. Without his presence or anyone to see it, would it actually be there. I loved hearing his thoughts go back and forth on this topic, making me actually wonder with him. In the end, he becomes “convinced that the sword will exist even without him� (p. 18).
Discussion Questions:
1. What finally convinces Mr. Palomar that the sword exists? Do you agree with his conclusion?
2. How should we apply Mr. Palomar’s hardcore observation techniques to the discipline of architecture, or even our studies in architecture school, in a way that might positively influence our work?

February 17, 2008

Keywords and Discussion Questions to Readings #7 and #8

Keywords and Discussion Questions to Readings #7 and #8
Reading #7: “Profession and Discipline of Architecture: Practice and Education�
1. Synchronic – This word is used when describing profession. I thought it was interesting because it portrays the “profession� as the aspect of design “centrally concerned with the current structure of practice in order that it may fulfill commissions to the highest standards.� Its label as synchronic shows that the profession is only worried about the here and now of design, about doing the best at the present time with what is available. (Synchronic means the concern with something at a single moment).
2. Grow – This word is used to describe discipline. It explains that discipline is more about the growth of research and learning over time. It is concerned with the process of researching and developing new ideas. I thought it was interesting how these two factors (growth and a synchronic attribute) create a distinction between the discipline and profession of design.
Discussion Questions:
1. This article describes the importance, yet great distinctness, of both the discipline and profession of design. How do you believe it is possible to fully incorporate discipline and profession into our design in architecture? What suggestions would you have to make this intersection more feasible?
2. After hearing the importance of the profession and discipline of design, is there one that seems more important to Architecture? Is architecture today fully incorporating both or do we need to rethink our idea of architecture?

Reading #8: “All You Ever Need to Know You Learned in… 1000 Words for Design Students�
Keywords: (Although both of these words are found under the “Do your homework� point, they apply to the whole article, capturing the essence of what it is talking about.)
1. Perspiration – The whole article describes all the actions we should take as designers to become more successful. In order to achieve each and every one of these steps, it will take a lot of hard work. It will require perspiration… I think this is a good point because most good things in life need to be achieved through hard work and dedication. This hard work also magnifies the accomplishment and creates a greater feeling of satisfaction when we’ve reached our goals.
2. Inspiration – We need inspiration in order to have a reason to force ourselves to work. This can be attained when we get outside ourselves and get involved in the community, ask questions in class, work with practicing architects, work with other design students… All of these things and more give us inspiration. They are the source of our inspiration that gives us motivation to work (perspire).
Discussion Questions:
1. With the demands of school, time is a precious commodity, and sometimes it can’t always be sacrificed. What do you feel is the point on this list that provides the greatest benefit for the least amount of cost?
2. It was interesting to be reminded that the school, the professors, work for us. We are the ones paying for our education. With this in mind, how can we use this to optimize our education and experience this semester? To what extent is this true?

February 10, 2008

Keywords and Discussion Questions to Readings 3-6

Reading #3 – Genius Loci, “Place�
1. Place
“Place� is the title of the chapter, but I also found it interesting how there were three different characteristics of the word place discussed throughout. I guess I have always thought of place as being no more than a physical location, a destination, a home, a country, etc. It was really interesting to see it defined as having a phenomenon (discussing the concrete and intangible sides to the phenomena of place), a structure (discussing place “in terms of ‘landscape’ and ‘settlement’, and analyzed by means of the categories ‘space’ and ‘character’�), and a spirit (discussing the genius loci of place) (11).
2. Language
Language is discussed a few times in this chapter, first in the poem “A Winter Evening�, and later on when describing place, space, and character. When I first read “A Winter Evening,� I was wondering why in the world a poem was being put in a chapter about place. What was the relevance here? Well, I then found out that it was through the language of the poem, the describing words being used, that he was able to communicate a sense of place. Later on in the chapter, the terms place, space, and character are described in depth. What I found interesting is that it is through language that these terms are actually brought to life. “Places are hence designated by nouns.� “Space…is denoted by prepositions.� “Character…is denoted by adjectives.� It is “the very structure of everyday language [that] confirms our analysis of place� (17).

Discussion questions
1. Why is important that we, as future architects, develop a better understanding for place and all its meanings?
2. How can man relate to the environment/land, when the land is not a being?

Reading #4 – Is Design Political?
“At base, politics is about values, and design is nothing if not a means of embodying values� (1). I really thought this word was important because it is the connection between politics and design, just as this quote shows. This article is trying to get the point across that design is political, whether we like it or not. I don’t think it would be truthful for anybody to say they have no values. And, as this article states, politics are all about values and trying to protect them. So it is wrong to think that politics and design have nothing to do with each other, even though both disciplines are very different, they both find values (either expressing or protecting them) important.
2. Power
This is also another connection between politics and design. Both hold a certain level of power. I always new political power existed in the government. But I guess I never realized how much power design has, especially in my daily decisions. When I am looking around for a book to buy, I want to pick one with the best looking graphics or pictures on the cover. When I choose a snack, or a treat at the grocery store, I want to buy one that actually looks tasty. As Spiderman’s father said, “with power comes great responsibility�. With this power that design holds, it has a great responsibility. If you go into design, you probably don’t want to help get people fat. Rather, you might want to consider designing labels (or whatever) to promote healthy food choices.

Discussion Questions
1. This article mentions that design can be political. In fact, it states “The decision to concentrate one’s efforts as a designer on corporate projects, or advertising, or any other kind of design, is a political choice� (6). Is this stating that all design is political? even decorations of the interior of a home or the design on a t-shirt? If so, how? If not, why?
2. How can you relate design and its role in politics to the field of architecture? How is architecture political?

Reading #5 – Design in a World of Flows
1. Boundaries
“Professions are defined by the setting up of boundaries� (3). However, “A world of flows respects no boundaries�, and we live within a world of flows (2). Thus, in order to keep up with our world today, we must learn to break these boundaries. This chapter describes how popular it has become for disciplines to go outside their own boundaries and interconnect with others to become more successful. However, it seems as though architects have been slow in responding to this movement of other disciplines and has kept to itself. In today’s world, it is becoming more and more important for architecture to stretch out and either cooperate with other disciplines or develop the skills of other disciplines to provide more services for their clients. Even in colleges it has become popular to break the boundaries between majors and create interdisciplinary studies.
2. Responsibility
“The design professions not only need to assume some of this responsibility [for the life cycle of buildings], … but these management activities need to be welcomed into the design professions� (6). With respect to breaking boundaries, architects will need to take up more responsibilities, but this is crucial these days. The responsibilities may even include becoming “long-term counselors to their clients� (6). This interested me because I always thought you just built a building and moved on. (I guess this is probably what has been the norm up until now). However, people are finding that architects, if they take up more responsibilities, such as this, can attract more clients and keep more clients for longer. However, the quote I put at the beginning states that they can even welcome in other management activities, suggesting that the architects themselves don’t necessarily have to provide all these things for their clients. But they do have to take the initial responsibility of communicating with other professions to get them to coordinate with them.

Discussion Questions
1. In order to survive in a world of flows, one must “have learned to see similar patterns among disparate things and underlying relationships among apparently unrelated functions� (12) How is this even possible? It seems to be contradicting itself.
2. In our world of flows, if you want to “reflect the shifts occurring in our world on the one hand, and on the other to search for some sense of stability� (7), how do you know when you’ve taken away too many boundaries and gone too far with the whole flowing idea?

Reading #6 – The Redesign of Practice & Bridging Education and Practice
1. Change
Both articles are, in a way, talking about the necessity of change for architecture today. The first article states that there is a need for change in the design of the practice of architecture, stating, “the changing context of architecture in many ways defines the needs that any redesign of practice must address�(95). Because our world is different today and architecture is becoming a step later on in the process of building, it has become crucial that we redevelop the goals and duties of architecture firms. This may mean to develop a partnership with other professions. The article gives multiple other ways in which to accomplish this change.
The second article describes the need for change in our intern-development program. It gives the example of how the medical field went through a huge change when it began a teaching hospital where they could work in the hospital while going to college. There is a need for this sort of change in architecture in that we need to develop a program where students in college can get experience in the work place before they graduate. (I don’t know if the word is actually used in this article, but the concept is there)
2. Experience
The second chapter, “Bridging Education and Practice�, describes how necessary it is that students receive experience working in a firm before they graduate. Many firms are not giving recent graduates jobs because they haven’t had experience working. Well, how then are they going to ever get a job if they aren’t even allowed the experience of working? This is what many colleges are trying to work on. They want to come up with programs that give the students work experience in a real office while they are in college so they can come out of college with that basic (or more than basic) experience.

Discussion Questions
1. Do you think that it is fair to look at architecture and treat it the same as the medical field?
2. What about these articles forms a relationship between the two?