December 15, 2006

Final Blerb

To be honest, I am having a hard time with this little one. The two other groups in our discussion section didn't focus on the actual designed environment that much (and it is therefore difficult to wax poetic on how they do). The group that created the golf course did work with the designed environment in a cerain way because they designed something and it affected the environment, but it was not about the school environment or the ACES use of the designed environment persay... I suppose if the golf course was made and it became a semi-permenant structure in the school then it would affect the aesthetics and traffic flow of the space, probably slightly changing the children's attitudes about the program, and possibly affecting the dynamics of rec. time itself. This group delt with the designed environment mainly as a backdrop to their invention. They did not seek to change it or alter it in any way besides adding a new sport to rec time, which, in their deffense, would probably benefit ACES, which doesn't have a lot of influence over the designed environments it inhabits.

...yey golf!

December 4, 2006

Promtly #8

Read the last 2 articals on the course packet. Speculate on the relationships between what Khan is saying with Gershenfeld's.

For me, though the two authors are markedly different, their core arguments are largely the same. Similar answers to different questions, on two very different levels. The subject (as I see it) is the construction of things as self-expression. The difference being that Gershenfeld answers the ‘how’ of self-expression, while Khan appears most interested in the ‘why’.

Both authors see the act of creating as universal and fundamentally necessary. For Gershenfeld, the interest lies in the future of technology as a means for personal creation, more specifically the future of Personal Fabricator Machines. Like Khan, Gershenfeld does not see self-expression as limited to its traditional ‘artistic’ manifestations (ie sculpture, painting etc.) rather, he sees it in all the things we make; in particular, in the types of machines we would make for ourselves if given the proper tools. Artistic excellence is by his definition expanded from its traditional sphere in the arts to become about “…mastery of the available means of expression? (7). We have the technology now to express ourselves and create for ourselves in ways never before imaginable, and Gershenfeld has great faith that Personal Fabricator machines are our next evolution.

Now while Gershenfeld troubled himself with the spreading of a technology that could make us create like God, Khan argues that what we create IS God. Shifting the focus from the pragmatics of a creating machine, Khan addresses the character of creation itself. In a style that is poetic to the point of being almost in-comprehensible, Khan argues that all creation comes from the spirit place- from that realm of desire which is born from our dreams (232). We create measurable things, in other words, to try and make manifest the immeasurable qualities we experience within us, (in the stillness and light in our soul/ “Commonness?). Nature gave us all the tools we need to make whatever we so desire (like a PF), and thus we are all compelled to create that which is not yet made in nature. “The whole motivation of presence is to express? (237).

Khan’s article brings us back in full circle to the first blog prompt on energy. It is that immeasurable force, that life-ness, that energy, that is ultimately the reason for architecture, and all self-expression. As Gerchenfeld discovered in the extreme popularity of his classes, we all need to create, as individuals, from our own individual energy, and in this way we are all in common.

A building without light is lifeless, just as a human without expression will be lightless…

November 27, 2006

Promt #7

In text and image, comment of the idea of technopolies (as you understand them) to an understanding of technology as an order or nature

To understand what Niel Postman was suggesting with his terms ‘technocracy’ and ‘technopolies’, it helped me to first consider ‘theocracy’ and how that manifested as Medieval culture. Postman discusses in depth the differences between simple ‘tool-using cultures’ and ‘technocracy’ cultures (or cultures used by tools) with his main distinction being in what is shaping the majority of the ‘thinking stuffs’ of that culture. For example in Medieval times, almost every aspect of people’s lives was regulated by the catholic church. Theology was the prevailing science of the time and all tools were made to serve humans so they could better serve God (essentially). Theology determined the daily life and the social norm. We call this a theocracy.

Taking this understanding of a theos or church-centered culture and applying it to modern America, Postman keenly uncovers a new motivating force: technology. The mechanical clock that was born from such pious intentions gave birth to a new era of industry and tools like never before. The Bible, as interpreted by a few well-off white men, is no longer responsible for shaping our view of reality. Thanks to TV and the internet we can now see into the lives of people all over the world, moreover, can see into the created lives of people who were created from the figments of our imagination! Cars are shaping our bodies, and our minds are adapting to the constant stimulation of new media. Music tells us of our values and our i-pods help us express that. Now, more than ever the technology that we created is creating us, shaping us, and deeply changing the planet in its wake.
Realizing the immense impact of this can be really scary. I imagine a crazy technological future where we no longer have families and are raised by advanced i-pods and take a pill to satisfy our need for love… : ) But before I get too carried away, it’s important to place our current ‘technocracy’ in the natural order of things.

Depending on how you think about it, nature has been coming out with world changing technologies since the beginning of time. Take for example, the evolution of aerobic organisms. Before these organisms developed the ‘tool’ of oxygen consumption, the world was entirely anaerobic. Human beings (though we seldom acknowledge it) are but a small branch of a very diverse and dynamic system that is constantly evolving and producing new ‘tools’ that change everything entirely. It very well could be that humans will ‘tool’ themselves into extinction, but when they do, it can be certain that some other organism (most likely one with a great affinity for carbon dioxide and nuclear waste) will take up where we left off and so the system will continue for the rest of time- whether or not there is a mechanical clock there to monitor it!


anaerobic organisms


one artist's interpretation of post-nuclear war society
...lets hope he's wrong :)

November 6, 2006

Prompt #6

This series of images illustrates the 'golden ratio' used in design. The golden ratio is a set of perportions discovered during the renaissance era that exist in almost all natural things. It is found satistically, that humans are naturally more attracted to those things which follow this proportion (for example, almost every Miss America to date has had a waist to hip ratio of 1:1.681), and so many designers use this bit of math to their advantage. While I was going to school in Italy we took a field trip walking around the center of town and checked the proportions of many of the 'great' buildings looking for the Golden Ratio and found it in almost all of them.

October 23, 2006

Promptly #5

Ahhhhh damn. Well. I have just accidentally erased my blog. Twice. Behold the opposition of (wo)man and technology!! And how will I deal with this opposition this time? I will write my blog in a word program and save the damn thing every three minutes just like I should have done each time before! Sigh. SO. On to my witty and insightful observations… again!

Diary of Oppositions
My weekend was kinda rough. My biweekly ‘Oh-god-I-am-now-living-in-Minnesota-and-it-is-cold-and-grey-and-I-cannot-go-surfing-nor-pick-mangoes-from-my-front-porch-anymore- breakdown’ fell on a Saturday night this week and by Sunday I needed a little cheering. It was looking like a dreary road ahead come Sunday afternoon- Monday morning threatened a major drawing review and I was not yet done with all my drawings. This meant a long night in the library or some other lonely location with nothing but a pencil and a heavy book in front of me. Hmm… Here I came to my first opposition: the opposition of Desire and Duty. To me, this is one of the most fascinating oppositions we deal with. Its universal (among humans at least), and we all handle it in different ways in different situations. While desire seems intimate, personal, or even instinctual at times, duty is largely culturally-determined. Compare, for example, a Japanese student who commits suicide after receiving poor grades, and your average angsty American student. Cultural. Anyway, my duty told me to go to the library and patiently draw a bunch more drawings and then go to bed at a reasonable hour so to be fresh in the morning to elegantly handle to onslaught of criticism guaranteed from Mr. Petrovsky . My desire, one the other hand, had a much more enjoyable alternative cooked up. It said, “Screw the homework and go to a fantastic dance show of a company you have been wanting to see forever!? I wanted both. This was around 6pm and the show was at 8. The resolution? I rushed home, started one more quality drawing; at 7:20, I threw on my heels, grabbed my friend, kissed my dog and my worries goodbye and left for a remarkable night of dynamic human sculpture with the Pilobolus Dance Company.

The show was amazing. The most intriguing part for me was born out of yet another opposition: that of Man and Gravity. It’s interesting to me to think about all the incredible things done in reaction to gravity. Every step we take is in defiance of a universal force that is trying to keep our feet on the ground. But look how we resolve that!...
we kitesurf agaisnt it

we dance with it
we create incredible technology to defy it…

And without it, we would not exist. So there you go. Thanks be to gravity!
So after a nightful of gravity-defying dancing, I went home happy and inspired. Finished my drawing and gave in to the desire for a hot bath. Here yet, one more opposition (several actually): Humans and the Elements, or, more specifically, the opposition of Ranier and the Cold. I resolve my body’s need to be warm and nature’s need to have a cold season, by taking hot baths and putting extra comforters on my bed.
Lovely hot bath finished, I got a late night call from someone I wanted very much to talk to, leading me to my final opposition and that it: college and the college student’s need for sleep, which seem to be near impossible to resolve. :) However, I will now try to resolve these two things for myself ending this blog now, and getting my tired butt to my glorious bed (with extra covers).


October 9, 2006

Prompt #4


A Mother's love is something
that no on can explain,
It is made of deep devotion
and of sacrifice and pain,
It is endless and unselfish
and enduring come what may
For nothing can destroy it
or take that love away . . .
It is patient and forgiving
when all others are forsaking,
And it never fails or falters
even though the heart is breaking . . .
It believes beyond believing
when the world around condemns,
And it glows with all the beauty
of the rarest, brightest gems . . .
It is far beyond defining,
it defies all explanation,
And it still remains a secret
like the mysteries of creation . . .
A many splendoured miracle
man cannot understand
And another wondrous evidence
of God's tender guiding hand.

~Helen Steiner Rice~


Phenomena: Mother's love- and incredibly strong force that can be imitated and interpreted but never artificially re-produced completely.

Framework: Fixed relationship between mother and child.

Clockwork: Life cycle of child and mama from birth to death (average life span depends on location, culture, and lifestyle among other things...). Also- the maturity and individuation of the child. Psychological theory holds that from birth to 5years old your values are imprinted; 10 years old is a major marker for the development of your beliefs. Typically you begin to challenge these beliefs (and your parents) during the teen years, and seek to establish your own during your 20's. The years of puberty are universally significant, with the hormonal and physical changes that take place, as is menopause for the mother.

Things: The mom- a woman who has typically undergone intercourse, pregnancy, and birth (although it is also arguable that one does not have to necissarily give birth to a child to feel motherly love towards it); generally 20-37years old. The child- every human, the term specifically refers to the younger years of life when the parent is most responsible (0~18).

j kissin s
the inspiration for this blog... my niecie and sister (in-law, technically) :)

October 2, 2006

Prompt #3

Choose a place that you find meaningful. Find it’s Genius Loci.
Describe it in text and image.

I really liked this prompt untill I started thinking about it. I tried to think of places here in Minnesota that held large amounts of meaning for me and started getting really bummed out. Then I read the Genius Locci piece and started to get downright depressed. In the last four years I have moved seven times, and attended six different schools in three different countries. I have seen a lot, and made more 'life-changing descisions' than most people have by the time they are 35, and been exposed to all sorts of lifestyles. It has been one heck of an adventure, and I am grateful for every bit of it, however, it hasn't left me a whole lot of time for 'dwelling'. Conversations of 'roots' and 'settling' and 'meaningful places' therefor have become something of a sore spot. In trying to figure out where was meaningful to me, and why Minneota didn't host any of those places, I realized a lot about what it takes to qualify in my mind as a meaningful place...

So. Tried to think of places around here that are meaningful to me and discovered my first principal of meaningful places and that is that (for me) they have to be places where you can really let down, relax, and let the spirit of the place in. I thought maybe MN was still too new to me, and that roots were required, and roots take time, and that's why I don't have a 'place' here yet, but then I thought of the island of Inishbofin in Ireland that holds more meaning to me than almost anywhere I have traveled to, and I was only there for under a week. So, that kills the time hypothesis, but adds an 'energetic-exchange' criterium- it has to be somewhere I could (and wanted to) let down enough to sort-of merge with the ground beneath me.

Which brings me to point #2. In almost every 'meaningful' place I could think of in memory the ground beneath my feet was just that- ground. Not cement, tile, or lanolium, but dirt or sand or grass. My favorite places are nature places. Wild nature places: the green grass spring in the mountians of Alaska, the tree where I did my daily meditation during my summer in the San Juan Islands, the long needled pines above Baby Beach... etc.

The few exceptions to the above rule have been really special homes (ie my childhood home, and my childhood best friend's home) and the occassional bedroom. These few indoor locations have been similar to the ourdoor ones almost every way except the walls and a roof. I felt safe, I could merge, I felt natural...

Extrapolating further, I guess it really comes down to places that bring back the depth in my being. Does that make sense? Places like Costco and the Mall are anti-meaningful to me because they flatten me and make me feel superficial in a very somatic way, while places like the bamboo forrest in Hana, on the other hand, expand my experience of reality and bring me back to my truest (deepest) self.

Minnesota doesn't have too many places that do that for me (yet) but I am sure with time I will find some. Until then, the place that reigns supreme in the meaning-factor for me is Maui. Maui no ka oi. Maui is the best. :) It doesn't hurt that the entire island is rich with unparallelled beauty, but it is also where I spent highschool and the home I am referencing when I say I'm homesick. The spirit of Maui, in my experience, is very sweet, but like all nature has a wildness that can be dangerous. The meaning it holds is one part beauty, one part memories, and two parts 'energy' factor I think. Some specific spots:

Makena Beach: a wild beach where we swam/walked most sunday mornings

The Bamboo Forrest Walk in Hana (makes the most incredible sounds when the wind blows)

Kaihalulu, or Red Sand Beach in Hana: a glorious little beach where you can go nakkie if you want to! (especialy if you are an old old man in a visor...unfortunately)

Oheo or 7-Sacred falls: A series of waterfalls that make for an exciting day of cliff jumping. At the end of the series there is an area of big smoothed out volcanic bolders where you can lay in the apex of the meeting salt and fresh water.

HaeakalaMarch05026.jpg This is me up in Haleakala Crater during a weekend backpack with friends. The inside of the crater has a lush area (here) but most of it looks like Mars. Its incredible.

Baby Beach/ Baldwin Beach: the topic of my first version of this blog (that i brilliantly erased). A 'local' (aka non-touristy) beach that hosted some of my favorite memories. Extra-salty water, betimes brutal waves, seaweed that clings in little scratchy bits to your thighs and makes great temporary facial hair, group of men that seem to throw horseshoes and drink beer on the back of their trucks eternally, site of a few memorable dates, many good talks, and the occassional skinny dip... ;)

So there you have it. Ranier's Maui Meaningful Places Tour. I am now so homesick I could throw up. :)

September 25, 2006

Prompt # 2

At this time last year I had the amazing privilege to live in Florence, Italy and go to school right near the Duomo in the center of town. My parents at the time were living in a tiny climbing town in northern Italy named Arco so I got to experience both the 'big town' and 'little village' design scheme 'a la italia'. People talk a lot about how different the layout of European cities is, and how everyone walks everywhere and knows everyone, but to experience this first hand gave me a new understanding of the immense impact a city's layout has on the surrounding culture. I was amazed and inspired by the feeling of community, the physical activity, and the general regional pride created by (what I will from here on call) the 'piazza mentality'.
Florence and Arco (and most other Eurpean cities) are modern towns with ancient histories. The central areas in particular are almost entirely made up of buildings and pathways that are hundreds of years old. Though much has changed since the invention of the car and the general globalization of the economy, the ancient layout of Florence has remained the same. There is a main city center where you will find the largest church and its surrounding piazza or square connecting to the piazzas around the houses of the ruling lords/government buildings, and the modern day trainstation. Moving out from this city center the city is laid out in rough neighborhoods, each containing its own piazza that generally supplies its needs. The piazzas are essentially little self-sufficient mini centers, with shops generally spread out around a central square that has some sort of monument or marker and often places to sit or congregate.
The beauty of the piazza is threefold- not only does it create an automatic community identity for the neighborhood around it, the piazza nourishes local economy, and increases the health of the people living nearby (they have to walk!). You know your butcher, you talk to the breadmaker everyday, your produce is fresh and your community is tight. Italians have fierce regional pride that makes their politics tricky but certainly seems to help the energy of their towns.

an italian piazza
Herein lies my social design issue. More and more cities are expanding from clumsy city centers to large strands of tacky suburban sprawl, with no attention to community, local culture/identity, or even aesthetic. In an effort to create quick housing for quick money, and quick shopping malls are thrown up to supply the needs of the quick housing development, and suddenly even coffee shops- a rare congregation point- have drive through windows so you don't even have to get out of your car to get your daily cuppa joe (much less know who serves it to you!). Now I can tell you first hand that the italians have it far from perfect and-rather tragically- the italian building style and layout scheme is quickly changing and adapting to the needs of the global comsumerist economy, but the piazzas remain, and the piazza mentality lives on as a lesson to us all.
Just think- what if all housing developments were built to be beautiful sustainable little communities, with centers that houses local shops run by local artisans and butchers etc. With the large amount of suburbs dedicated to housing commuter populations its hard to imagine who could own these shops, moreover, how these shops could stay in business with huge Targets and Wallmarts nearby, but even the slightest inclination on developer's parts toward a more community-focused building style would be a huge improvement. We need to take the idea of the 'community center' to a new level and make it something that truly brings together all the people in the area, creates a sense of place, and engenders relationships between different classes and races. I don't think it would be easy, but i do think it would be worth it...
If you know your grocer, are you going to steal from him? If your pharmacist is known by all her customers by name, is she likely to slight or overcharge them? If we all had to walk to the gorcery store everyday to buy just that day's food, would we have such an obese nation?
There are many reasons why mainland America has developed as it has, and many practical arguments against the time, money, and effort that would be required to design with such a community-consciousness, but do we really want to resign ourselves to the alternative? Do we want to surrender to a future of identical row-houses and strip-malls? Where everyone lives in their car, has no idea who their neighbor is, and is 50lbs overweight? Personally, the thought makes me queasy.
our local shops?
a neighborhood?
It seems to me that a few well-designed piazzas could do our country good...

September 17, 2006

Prompt #1

Prompt #1: Go to the Midtown Market on Lake street and observe. Define energy. List the ways you might create, use, and exchange energy there.

Hover your hands just a few centimeters above your knees as you sit reading this. Do you feel that? There is something very alive, very magnetic between the two body parts. Why is it that we can feel something when it's nothing's actually touching our nerve endings? Or, try staring at someone (in your least crazy-stalker/psycho-killer way) when you are stopped next to them in traffic and see if they notice. Often they do. How is that possible? More relevant to this class, go into a 'creepy' building and try and explain the 'bad vibe' you feel. WHat is that?

My opinion? Energy. It's all energy.

Unless you get deep into a field like quantum physics (weee!), or hang out too much in hippy Paia, Maui, the idea of an intangible, un-seeable, 'force' called energy is not generally accepted as a solid aspect of reality in mainland American culture. In other parts of the world, whole forms of medicine are based on it, but in western culture, energy is something we get billed for, have to deal with in tedious homework, drink in brightly graphic cans, and the word for calories on foreign nutrition labels, but otherwise has no real place in daily life.

I am going to risk sounding like a granola-eatin', hemp wearing hippy and suggest a different view of energy. I think energy IS daily life. Sounds crazy I know, but how else do you answer all those questions? If we don't have some sort of life-force/heat/chi then how is it that we can feel other people when they aren't touching us? Stand 6inches away from someone you're attracted to and tell me you don't feel something; something that you can't see but is more powerful than many things you can. Scientists say that everything is made up of energy, and that all particles vibrate at different frequencies, and though it sounds strange, I just happen to agree with them. I think it's in everything and everyone- you, me... your mom... your mom's house...

Or, more to the point, it's in the Midtown Market. Groups of people, food, commerce, all seem to create a lot of energy. In an overall sense, the amount or type of energy seems to determine the success of every type of gathering- be it a market, a party, or blind date. There seems to be an overall big energy created by the very event of the market, and then subtler energetic 'dynamics' shifting and shaping within the market. Energy explains to me why I am drawn to some vendors and not to the others and why people tend to walk in a similar pattern around the area... I think it's in every alive thing and affected by the various attributes of the surrounding environment. I can't say why, or where it comes from (I'll leave that to the astrophysisists) but I do experience it every day, and certainly felt it at Midtown.

This saturday was my first time going to the Midtown Market, though farmer's markets are a weekly tradition for me. I love the hustle and bustle, the eager (energetic) vendors, and always come home with a bounty of fresh treasures to cook with. In response to the question, I think energy there is created mainly by the people, but it is directed and affected by the whole environment of the place. The market I usually go to (by the basillica) has the vendors set up in rows (instead of the rather circular layout of Midtown) and consequently feels much more commercial when compared to the community-building atmosphere I experienced on Saturday. Midtown also had fewer people (sellers and buyers) so the whole experience was much more intimate and friendly. A successful business man once told me that money is just a form of energy, and I would say that there is a give and take of energy with each transaction that goes on at the market, be it monetary or just conversational. There is also energy created and directed by all the sounds and voices. While I was there, a great older woman had the mic and was telling a story to the gathered kids (imitation voices and all) and extolling the virtues of the farmer's market and community in general in a loud and bubbly tone. It made for a very lively and warm atmosphere. Also contributing were the colors, the people, the layout, the weather...

As architects, I'm sure that manipulating the 'energy' of a place through form, color, layout, materials etc., will become second nature to us. To me, some of the most successful architects, are successful because of their ability to foresee in the design process how a space is going to feel, and tweak their designs instinctively...

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go eat a fresh local apple (I'm getting low-energy). ;)