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). ;)