May 13, 2008

Service Learning Journal (from analog to digital)

Overall my service learning experience was kind of dull to be honest. The people that I worked with were nice and what I did wasn’t too hard, at times it was actually fun, but I guess I felt like I was just doing busy work all the time. Like I said sometimes I did fun stuff like make posters for a career fair, I could cut and paste things all day long. Other times I felt like a burden, I worked in a career and college advising office at South High School in Minneapolis and sometimes it seemed like it was a task for the counselor to find something for me to do. But I guess the other side of that was while I was making posters, copies, filing and what not, that was all the more time that the career counselor could spend actually talking with kids, so I guess that’s the difference that I noticed. Another interesting aspect of my volunteer time was being in a high school again. I only graduated seven years ago, but it is one of those things, the first day I was there it was eerily familiar….

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Friday May 2nd

Today was my last day volunteering at Achieve! And it was a really slow day around that place, not many students came in, it was really quiet. Anne had me work on a flier to put up around the school. It was a flier for summer job and learning opportunities. It ended up being that stereotypical school flier; you know the one on some bright colored piece of paper with a bunch of cheesy pieces of clip art that are obscured by a bad copying machine.

Wednesday May 23rd.

Today was the first day that I have been at my service learning and there have been other volunteers there. There was another student from this class and even though I see tons of people around school that I recognize from class, I have never seen him before and sadly can’t remember his name just a short period later. The other volunteers were there hard at work on the career fair which is to be held tomorrow. I spent the first half of my time there today making huge posters for the event, posters that directed students towards food, careers or colleges. After school ended for the day the other volunteers all left but I stayed around to help set up the gym for the event the next day. There was about a dozen members of the schools staff there to help set up, which consisted of setting up about ninety folding tables and chairs and then setting them up in a very specific plan according to a diagram. I stuck around for a while but had to leave to get to section, but the staff was still working hard on setting up for the career fair which begins as seven tomorrow.

March 19th

Today I did a bunch of odds and ends. I started the day by making a ton of copies of all sorts of weird stuff the career counselor Anne gets in the mail. Everything from information on colleges to summer jobs or seminars. After that I got to walk around the school and take down fliers for an event the career center had hosted. This was the most interesting part of my service learning experience thus far, walking around a high school and thinking about it in terms of its design. It reminds me of a prison, not that I’ve been in any. But the school is really confusing to walk around in, there are blocks or sections to the school and there are hardly any windows to the outside, the cafeteria is like a viewing gallery. There are hall ways that move on and off an axis; I guess it’s a labyrinth of learning.

Wednesday March 5th

Today was my first real time doing volunteer work. The first time I came to volunteer at Achieve! Career and College Center I essentially just went through the motions of being new. The first time I was met at the door by their volunteer coordinator Allison and she showed me around and went through the new volunteer orientation. Today the career counselor at South High School, Anne had me working on a data base of summer opportunities for high school students. Essentially all I did was look at a list that she had posted online and then went through these folders full of fliers, hand outs, mailers and what not and marked the ones that were not on the online list. I took me a while to do, impart because I had to look at them, I had no idea the kinds of things high school students could do in the summer, some of it was really interesting and others just had really good or bad designs for their promotional material.

May 6, 2008

Prompt Eight, Eight and One Half and Nine

To be honest, the most interesting part of the presentation in section last week was looking at how all the different groups choose to go about the task. The diversity in the projects really represented a concept we had discussed in section and that is that in architecture there are no concrete answers, opposed to say calculus where there is a definitive method for finding the solution to any given problem. So in math if one presents a problem to fifteen students one should get fifteen identical answers, in architecture one should get fifteen different answers.

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Image from http://www.greatcom.org/resources/images/questions.gif


The first group that presented in our section was looking at Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Stability, which was my second choice when ranking the goals for the project. I really liked that the group chose an issue that was close to home, they examined water pollution and hypoxia in the Mississippi River. The group seem to have done an excellent job researching the project, it was obvious that they really delved into the subject matter and they were organized in their presentation. However, I felt that their project could have been better. First of all, their presentation sounded more like a report for a chemistry class, cluttered with a lot of facts which involved long technical terms. It sounded like a science report. And second they didn’t seem to touch on the realm of response or propose any ideas towards a solution, which I thought was the purpose of the assignment. But like I said earlier, each group formed their own conception of the project.

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Image from http://www.chrisdellavedova.com

There was a group in my section that presented on Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education. This group did an outstand job all round, I must admit that I was thoroughly impressed. Focusing on sub-Saharan African, they provided a clear summary of the conditions there and proposed a realistic solution. The solution worked on several levels by looking at the problem beyond the lack of schools/teachers and towards the problem of why children aren’t going to schools. I will say that this group was fortunate enough to have somebody with some computer-drafting skills, for the diagrams they brought to their presentation were a key factor in how impressive their presentation was. Overall I thought they did a great job.

Finally I would like to talk about a group that I thought had the best and most creative methods for looking at the problem. One group chose to try and incorporate all of the Millennium Development Goals into their project and solve the problem from a holistic standpoint. I thought this was a great idea, for in reality the issues in the development goals are probably highly interrelated; the only way to reach one of the goals is to reach them all. The group discussed the ways in which the goals were related, but again it seemed like they didn’t offer any type of response or solutions to the problems.

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Image from http://www.bearoffassociates.com/nss-folder/pictures/holistic1.jpg

These are my thoughts on the presentations that stood out to me. I think that I could understand them more if I was able to read each of the groups documents. I think about my group and how in our presentation we condensed a thirty five page document into a five minute presentation.

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Image from http://www.3dnworld.com/users/1/images/UltimateEarth.jpg

April 5, 2008

On the cover........(Alerta Sete)

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March 13, 2008

Oh, the age in which we live....(herinnering zes)

Below is the content for this weeks blog. When I look at it now, it resembles nothing of what I had anticipated , but I feel
it still generally conveys the same meaning. It has been an extremely frustrating day trying to make this blog entry happen and now after many long hours, let this experiment be unleashed.....

March 6, 2008

Down by Design (Aufforderung fünf)

I’m moving. Moving is never fun, especially in Minnesota in the winter. The fact that I’m making a slight shift in my geographic local has absolutely nothing to do with school or architecture, but the shift in my home environment has indeed given my some ideas to write about. This past Sunday afternoon my band and I moved all of our equipment from my old basement to my new basement; we then proceeded to rock out until the wee hours of the night. We played well, really well. Everybody seemed really excited and in good mood, we played substantially longer than normal. I started to wonder if this new found energy and enthusiasm was a result of our new practice space. Before we had been practicing in what could charitably be described as the corner of a dingy basement. It was the type of basement with concrete floors, open rafters, cinderblock walls, cobwebs everywhere and of course that unforgettable musk. Our new place on the other hand was fully finished; it had carpeting on the floors, nice wood paneled walls, a high ceiling with adequate lighting, a pool table and in the center, a fireplace. How does ones environment affect them? Do your surroundings regulate or contribute your emotions? Whether your happy or sad? Productive or not? Can they make you optimistic or pessimistic? So did our moving our rehearsal space to a “nicer? location improve our playing and enjoyment? I think so.

I am moving for many reasons, but one of them is that my current roommate is rather messy. There have been several times that we have cleaned the whole house top to bottom and each time sworn that we are going to keep the place clean, yet it never works no matter how hard I try. My theory behind this is as such: that my room mate is the messy one and even though I diligently pick up after myself, he continues to leave a mess and that there is a direct relationship between the amount of his mess and how much I care about my own. In short, the messier our place is, the less I care about trying to keep it clean. My environment effects how I care about my environment.

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"The war I can't win...."


So what does any of this have to do with architecture? Well I hope something…..

A couple of weeks ago I was at the Universities training session for service learning. One of the concepts we talked about was poverty, more specifically generational poverty, how if you are born into poverty, you are likely to remain in poverty throughout your life. So it seems to me, based on the trivial examples I mentioned previously, that it would be worth while to examine the environment of those in poverty and see if there environment is contributing to their impoverishment. This is not a new concept in architecture, below I have posted to models for poor houses designed by Augustus Pugin in 1836, these two designs demonstrate two contrasting styles of housing, does one seem more empowering? More noble? More conducive to human comfort? One less like a prison?

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"Poor Houses by A.W.N. Pugin, 1836"


Granted there are a lot places in the world were overcoming poverty is far more than overcoming the environment around oneself, but there are places where I think it is a significant factor, like here in the U.S. Here in the U.S. there are a lot of opportunities that are just not available in developing countries, such as access to public education or other social services. But going to school and getting an education is going to be substantially harder for a student who has to return home every night to an impoverished neighborhood that could have any of the following features; crime ridden, has run down buildings or government housing that looks more like a prison than home, there is something that mainstream society doesn’t want, like a landfill or some other hazardous industrial center, or the area is devoid of services like grocery stores or parks. All of these types of things send a message to the impoverished. A message that denudates a sense of hope.

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Poverty is a phenomenon of society and thus has a place in the framework of society, for society is definitely a complex system of frameworks and clockworks. And since poverty is a re-occurring or rather constant issue, especially when viewed in terms of how poverty perpetuates itself, poverty is defiantly a clockwork within the framework of society. It is a clockwork in which design seems to be a significant cog.

February 27, 2008

The Commodity of Time (richiamo quattro)

Oh to be released! Set back into the world at large, free to roam, explore and live. The term released implies confinement, as if I’m getting out of prison or returning home from the war….. Over my adult life I have constantly attended school on and off, when I am in school I never have time to explore the other creative endeavors that are important to me, but in the periods when I am not in school for a year and I am working on such projects, I always think that I should be in school. So I’ve decided to try and make it as quick as possible, like a band-aid. But that’s not what this is about. What would I do, should I ever escape from this self imposed academic prison.

Music has been my main interest the majority of my life by now. Its a lot of fun. I’ve always played music, but I haven’t played with other people for a good number of years until just recently, but as of the last month I have been way to busy with school. Music is a universal language and a very powerful medium to influence, rally, inspire and unify people. Music has, for the most part, been used for changing and bettering society; music from the Vietnam/civil rights era, charity songs such as “Do They Know its Christmas? and “We are the World?, Farm- Aid, Live-Aid, Concert of Bangladesh, Free Tibet, Bruce Springsteen and R.E.M.’s recent “Vote for Change 2004? tour, the list goes on, not just to fllemention music’s general influence over society.

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Me as a Rock and/or Roller many years ago.

In all fields of creativity, I think that it is import to take a step back and occasionally channel that energy into something different, its good to be inter-disciplined right? I have been a fan of street art for a number of years now and have looked for it all over the world, I am particularly interested in stencils. Stencils are great because they allow an artist to mass produce a very articulate image rather quickly. So when music is burning me out, I would like to work on my stenciling skills. Because stencils can be used for good, especially when considered as a discipline with a very distinct set of rules which define the thin line between art and vandalism.

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Me as a Stencil.

Well I can’t be at home all of the time working on my various projects. So if I always wanted to be doing something worth while, perhaps I could be a traveling poet. Maybe if I tried really hard I could become poet laureate of the Maldives or Andorra……Its good to have a goal. I’m not really a poet, I’m just trying to fill the gaps in a life of pure constructive creativity. Poetry is import, I think the world would be a substantially better place if every child had to read the complete works of Shel Silverstein in elementary school.

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Me as a poet.

All of this is a complete fantasy in which I some how realize my full mental capacity, like in that John Travolta movie “Phenomenon? and I’m free from all constraints. Some day I suppose…… If all else falls and I grow tried of all this creative work, I could raise an army of super soldiers to do my good bidding. Ready to be dispatched at a moments notice to the far reaches of the globe to aid, defend and serve the good people of the planet Earth!!!(Cheesy cartoon announcer implied).

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Me raising an army.

February 25, 2008

Tell the Kids Punk Rocks (message de sollicitation trois)

I have been a lover of music my entire life, my father was constantly playing records around the house and not just “oldies? but current music, he has always kept up to date on music. When I was twelve years old I got in to punk rock or that is to say “new school? punk rock opposed to the older punk rock from the seventies that my father knew. Although I listen to all types of music punk rock has always been the most heartfelt for me and it has had a dramatic influence on my thoughts towards politics, society, religion and so forth. If I had the time I could probably create a mixed CD of punk rock songs for EACH of the millennium goals……but I guess I will just have to settle for the bare basics.

My favorite quote came to me via a punk rock record, a California band called Good Riddance had a style of putting various sound clips before songs on their albums, not every song, but a noticeable amount. Well one of the clips which has just stuck with me is a quote by Martin Luther King Jr., I know that it is attributed to him but I have never been able to identify exactly what speech this quote came from. The quote is “ When we look at modern man we have to face the fact, that modern man suffers from a grave poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance. We’ve learned to fly the air like birds, we’ve learned to swim the seas like fish, yet we haven’t learned to walk the earth as brother and sister….? This quote is very powerful I think in making a person understand the extreme contrast between the complex accomplishments of humankind versus the simpler things, such as the millennium goals, that humankind is yet to achieve.

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A band that has been one of my favorite bands for the past decade is Bad Religion, a southern Californian band who’s lyrics are rife with political and social commentary. It is interesting to note that Bad Religion lyricist/vocalist Greg Graffin received his Ph.D. in Zoology with an emphasis in vertebrate evolution from Cornell University and he currently is a professor at U.C.L.A. Of the many songs by Bad Religion (13 albums over 28 yrs) one that stands out to me in regards to the millennium development goals is song called “Suffer?, a song which reminds the listener that “the masses of humanity have always had to suffer?, that what our conception of life here in the U.S. or shall I say the “developed? world is far removed from the majority of the worlds population.

NOFX is another band which is a favorite of mine, but I fear that their social/political context is sometimes obscured by their almost immature sense of humor. Contrary to their fast distorted sound, they ended their 1995 album “Punk in Drublic? with a somber acoustic song called “Scavenger Type?. The song depicts the struggles of a seemingly homeless person who dies by freezing. A line from the song goes “a crow, a scavenger type, California redemption, provides him with his rent room and board inside of a fifth of comfort?, I have always taken this line to mean that the protagonist is collecting recyclables as a means of income and the “fifth of comfort? is a reference to a bottle of liquer. Another vivid line at the end of the song is “the coins don’t drop consistent as does the mercury? which leads to the death of the character.

One last band I would like to talk about is a band called Rancid. They are a bunch of street punks with tattoos and Mohawks, who all had heroin problems and were squatters or homeless for a period of time. But their close contact with this “underbelly? of society gave them a unique perspective and many of their songs advocate the needs of those who seem completely down and out, while exploring the reasons for this status. The song of theirs that I would like to talk about is called “Salvation? in which the verse of the song talks about living at the Salvation Army and everyday driving into a rich neighborhood to collect the old used things that the wealthy didn’t want, which they were donating to the Salvation Army, the verse ends with the line “used refrigerator for the suffering?. The simple and catchy chorus of the song asks a question about the donations, “Come on baby won’t you show me what you got there, I want your Salvation.?

I could go on and on about the punk rock songs(and other genres) which I feel have really influenced my thinking. But here I have discussed the bands which to me are the three most important punk rock bands of my generation.

February 14, 2008

Bus Stops and Bridges (aviso dos)

Upon perusing some blogs by my fellow students I noticed a theme developing rather quickly for this weeks blog prompt, homelessness. Why is everybody writing about homelessness, is that just what everyone thinks when they hear “social design problem?? Or is it that everyone really cares about homelessness? Perhaps it is just the easiest thing to write about……Anyways I don’t know, I can’t answer these questions. Probably a little from column A……and a little from column B.

Well since this is a class on architecture I thought that I would delve into the idea of design for the homeless. I have come to the conclusion that public works designed for decades have aided the homeless, unfortunately these public works are not being designed FOR the homeless, merely used by them as a secondary function. The principle feature of said public works is infrastructure, particularly transit.

The larger a metropolitan area gets, the greater its homeless population. What does almost any large city have? A bus system. So is the bus gonna commute homeless to places with more jobs/housing? Hell no. Fore with buses come bus stops, a small shelter in which to wait for the bus. When the sun goes down and the wind picks up, the bus stop can still serve as a shelter, even though the buses stopped running. The subway can also server the same function in larger cities. In my travels I’ve seen some pretty lavish bus stops………

With the automobiles rise to prominence roads have spread over the earth like a great vine of ivy covering an old house. With roads come bridges, which in turn my also be used as temporary shelters and generally the larger the city, the more complex a system of over/under passes which are used as shelter for the homeless.

The road system has played another role in homelessness/poverty which has only really become popular in the last several years. This is the practice of using the exit ramps as a place to pan-handle. It seems like an efficient idea…………There is one really good aspect to this: It forces people to confront homelessness on a daily basis, that it is something real that needs to be dealt with. It prevents them from shoving it to the back of their mind.

Trains. There is almost a sort of romantic notion surrounding the life of a hobo, one who is free from all obligations of time and space. Like almost all romantic perceptions being a person who travels/lives on a train is probably not all that great at all. Like when the train is going through the mountains and the air is to thin to breath or when its going through a tunnel and you have to inhale the trains exhaust. I guess I really don’t know very much about the “hobo? lifestyle, other than it pertains to an aspect of homelessness.

Homelessness is a real problem in the United States and the world. My ramblings in this entry do not really offer any type of solution to this problem, I just think it is interesting how the homeless populations uses the available infrastructure, especially in relation to transit. I’m not saying that people should be living in bus stops or under bridges, they should be living in houses. It just seems worthy to note the ways homeless people adapt existing designs, when there unfortunately is not enough being designed explicitly for them.

February 7, 2008

Entity, Unique (prompt 1)

Andy Goldsworthy’s art was obviously influenced by the natural world around him and built using his understanding of nature, an understanding he gained through his experiences in nature. The film on Andy Goldsworthy, I thought, seemed to emphasis a connection to the land, or at least the space that one inhabits. A primary feature of the land that was used was rivers and tides; they posses movement and rhythm, features which could represent the continuation of nature, perpetuation of time, cycles of life and so forth….

Well Andy lived somewhere out in the countryside of Scotland where he seemed to enjoy a quiet bucolic romance with the world around him, but I live in the center of a large urban community were the connection to the land is substantial different…..The question that has been posed to my peers and I is to examine the concept of energy, flow and transformation through the city. For this topic I have decided to take a look at the MetroTransit’s Hiawatha Line, better known as the Light Rail. Although the Light Rail can not really be directly connected Andy Goldsworthy’s work (at least none that I can draw), I feel that it can be used to encapsulate the ideas of energy, flow and transformation through out the city.

I will begin with the concept of flow. Rivers flow. Rivers provide humankind with a means for potable water and transit, because of this civilizations have surrounded rivers since the beginning of civilization. The Light Rail can be compared to a river and its flow for several reasons. First of all, like a river the Light Rail is used as a means for transit, transit that moves on a single linear path through the city, the same as the river. I will differentiate the Light Rail from the buses in that buses are free to move about on any path that the driver chooses, the Light Rail, like the river, is destined to move on a specific path, from point A to point B. Also buses are substantially more subjected to street traffic, which will intern effect their ability to move through the city; the Light Rail is more unobstructed in its movement, like the river (lest there be a damn), but also like the river it is confined in its movement.

What is the energy behind a city or urban area? This question could raise countless questions and debates, each with a legitimate answer, but for the purposes of my argument I will suggest that it is people who are the energy behind a city, lots and lots of people, the presence of a large population implies the existence of a urban area and vice versa. The Light Rail moves a large amount of people through out the city each day, whether it be commuters heading to downtown, workers from the city to the Mall of America or sports fans trying to get to the game, the Light Rail more than exceeded expectations for its passenger load. In short the Light Rail is a major artery for the life blood of the city: people.

Transformation. As I stated early the Light Rail is bound to maintain its course from point A to point B. The two points which the Light Rail connects stand in glaring contrast to one another, at one end there is downtown Minneapolis, the epicenter of the urban experience with its towers and bustling streets; at the other end of the line is the shinning symbol of all that which is suburbia, the Mall of America, an almost surreal city in and of itself. During the course of the trains travel from one end of the line to another it encounters several different landscapes of the metro area. It starts out in suburbia, moves past the massive complex of the airport and then into several neighborhoods. Next the train follows Highways 55 and past the rail road tacks and grain silos which remind the rider of the agricultural economy of the state outside of the urban context. From here the train works its way through several more neighborhoods terminating in the jungle of that which is downtown.