Archive for the 'On Thinking' Category

Common Ground and my architectural philosophy

October 15, 2012

Today, after a class discussion with David Leatherbarrow, I think I am closer to finding another piece of my personal philosophy on architecture.

Here I will try to articulate what I’ve learned. Know that I’m still in processing mode and thoughts will change, add, and grow on these issues. Many of these statements are quotes from David.

ARCHITECTURE NEEDS TO BE MORE GENEROUS. There I said it. It takes courage to give the heart of the ground floor, the heart of the building, over to the  public. (Leatherbarrow)

In Architecture we want to articulate our individuality, rather than what we share. Is there any common ground? Leatherbarrow argues that sites are not given, but constructed. The architecture project you create reveals the site.

Urban architecture, Leatherbarrow argues, should share space. He uses the word proportion, as in share the right amount. Just like at dinner. You may not eat as much as the person next to you, because you don’t have to. Good design always involves a donation of space to the public. It’s a sacrifice that makes the city better.

He gives three examples of this “sacrificing space.”

Palladio’s Palazzo Cheiricati 

ABI Building in Brazil

Tod Williams Billie Tsien’s  Skirkanich Hall

Part of sacrificing space is thickening the edge. The limit of your project should not be a line but a space.

It is this act of gift-giving of space that develops the common ground.

In contrast, Thom Mayne’s recent Cooper Union Building does not engage the public realm. It does not sacrifice for the benefit of the city. If you clicked on the link with the building, I would have to say I do not agree with the critics remarks about engaging the public. It does not. No where to sit. Barely an overhang to be sheltered from the rain or sun.

– – – – – –

About  city and society.

Richard Sennett’s The Fall of Public Man is an account of the modern attitude of our cities and space and how we interact with each other. I have not read it yet. Leatherbarrow warns us that it is pretty depressing, but we still need to read it. One way to look at cities is to see that all they are is circulation and police. We feel most comfortable at home. We have internalized the city. The car is the extension of the living room. Today, public does not equal shared, but unlimited access, accessibility.

– – – – – –

Is place a gradient then? If you set up the extremes:

Flow <- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -> Place

(circulation, continuous space)        (identity, regionalism, stability)

Many define the gradient as a blurred boundary. Leatherbarrow says it is not blurred. It is nuanced, exact, precise. There are structured, carefully constructed relationships that define space.

– – – – – – –

To be continued…and revised. I just like that architecture needs to be more giving. More in relation to its surroundings to give itself a stronger identity, and to be a good neighbor.

Advertisements

I shared a whistle tune with a morning raccoon

August 28, 2011

This title acts as a good analogy for the week I spent in Turkey Run State Park in Marshall, Indiana as a part of the Byron Fellowship. Coming to Indiana at the end of an adventurous 4 weeks on the road, I was curious about the coming week. I had no expectations. Now I can say that the week went better than I could have ever imagined. Getting exposed to new ways of thinking, learning exercises that allowed us to think creatively, and truly learning 28 people’s names in the matter of a few hours was just the beginning. (If you ever need to learn lots of names real quick, just get out the ol’ frisbee and toss it around, calling the names you know. It’s the least awkward way I’ve experienced thus far.)

Rachel writes for this long exposure in the teepee

George's hands.

After/during a lecture by Luke about place and systems thinking I sensed a feeling of placelessness. This isnt the first time it’s struck me. This feeling has come at seemingly random times, or perhaps it’s timed with when I’m in the middle of thinking about the future and how I’m currently grounded (or lack of ground.) It’s true, I had been on the road for a month prior, so the feeling is not without immediate justification, but when I think about the big picture of life, this is what causes me to feel placeless, and, sometimes it troubles me. This stirring did spur a good discussion with others, though. Harry made the point that one can carry their home within them, and I can see that to some extent. Maybe I need practice. (If you have thoughts – feel free to post!!) Place can also be a way of being…

Harry outlined PLACE as such:

Presence

Love – If you love something enough, it will reveal it’s secrets to you (G.Washington Carver)

Awareness – Notice what is stirring in you

Connection – What do I need for recovery/renewal?

Effectiveness – How can I move my life forward?

And then we went for a walk in the woods and the canyons. And I drew hemlocks, beech, stinging nettles, paw paw and the tulip poplar (state tree). You don’t really see something until you study it and draw it!

Good quotes regarding place:

“The trouble with Oakland, is that when you get there, there isn’t any there -there.” – Gertrude Stein

“If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.” – Wendell Berry

Luke in the covered bridge.

Rachel's really good at drawing with fire sticks.

I like how small Ben and Malcolm are. Birds have nested in those holes.

Mary McConnell from The Nature Conservancy came to give a talk. I didn’t know much about the organization and was happy to hear of their mission statement (paraphrased): non-confrontational solutions to conservation challenges – looking broadly at all views and focusing on being a conservation organization, not just an environmental organization. Mary finished strong calling us to “Make change become viral in a way that can be meaningful.” I wish viral didn’t have such a negative connotation – it’s a matter of language, once again.

Spider Teepee. The teepee lit from within.

Teepee Moon. This was the first night spent inside.

a place of silliness, deep discussions, and marshmallows.

Mark Boyce gave us a set of contrasting diagrams:

A. Design Priority by code (Imagine an inverted triangle here, such that the cars have the largest end.)

1 Circulation (automobiles)

2 Buildings

3 People

4 Place

B. Design Priorities required for sustainability (Now imagine that triangle righted, with the big base on the bottom.)

4 Circulation (automobiles)

3 Buildings

2 People

1 Place

Mark Timmons gave us a talk on the forest as a city, as the systems are quite parallel in many ways. Mark said that sugar is the elixir of the forest, of the world, really – sugar is what drives the competition. He also said that all these plants act in their own self interest – there is no altruism here.

found in the river canyon, one of the many pleasures of this place.

Another interesting bit of information I picked up is that the word “crisis” in mandrin is made up of two root  words: danger and opportunity. I like this characterization – it opens up the possibilities, no?

team building - blindfolded and suspended

(photo by Ian Davis) Team Building sillies.

(photo by Jen Washburn) Harry's shadow is very valuable!

We watched a short movie called “Everyday Creativity” with the National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones. He said a lot of things that struck a cord with me. He if you change your perspective you can more readily see the next right answer. You need to be comfortable knowing you’ll find the next right answer. Being present at the moment of opportunity and being in the place of most potential are also goals we should have. (Here I interject a quote I heard: Luck will visit the prepared individual.) Dewitt finds the extraordinary in the ordinary and turns a win-lose situation into a win-learn one.

This is also where Harry’s talk on creativity comes in. He gave us a framework to think about our creative process. Think of a triangle, with the large base on the bottom, the peak on the top, and these words fitting that scale:

propel – do it!

prune

play

provoke

possibilitize

prime – getting your head in the right gear

purpose – start here

my water color palate, pre-painting

my painting, at the scene of the crime.

everyone's paintings! we are SO good.

Samuel shared so many interesting insights into the Amish culture.

Samuel effectively handled our barrage of questions on education (up the 8th grade), insurance (self-insured, through the church), farming practices (organic), family (10 kids, daughter 19 miles away = 1.5 hours by buggy), history (Samuel is German and still very close to his roots), and values (forgiveness) and helping others (when a family’s home burned, the whole community came to help, and a new house was constructed and livable within 3 days!!)

Rachel Ardeel caught these eyes.

The landscape here was just amazingly dynamic, frozen in place.

Mike had many stories to tell about the Native peoples.

(photo by Ian Davis) Ian has the eye!

Lastly, our ending exercise had us forming chains of writers as we sought each other out to write compliments and reflections on each other’s backs. I didn’t read mine until I was on the plane, and what a smile it brought to me. How lucky we all were to be in the presence of such warm and giving people!

p.s. The story behind the title: On the last morning, while I was writing, reflecting, and soaking up the goodness of the tall tree canopy above me I was sitting on wooden steps that cantilevered a cliff, and I heard a rustling below me. I saw a furry raccoon and in my quiet state, not wanting to scare him, I started whistling to let him know I was there.  He proceeded to wander right below my feet. The wooden 2×6 boards of the stairs had 1/4″-1/2″ gaps between them, so, as the coon passed below me, he peered up through the crack, and I down at him. He was little more than a few feet from me and we paused at this moment, scoping each other out. He must have found me plain, for he continued on his way in a matter of moments. Still the look we shared was pretty great. Eye to eye.

Well, I think that will conclude my thoughts at this moment. Please do add comments of your memories, thoughts, and questions!!

365 pictures, starting now

January 2, 2011

Yes, I’ve officially decided I’m going to challenge myself and post a picture a day and see how creative I can get. I figure it will be a worthwhile documentary process. It is an effort to get my work out, and to start a sort of visual photo journal.

I think I’ll aim to post particular favorites to this site, but for a better organized viewing I’ll post them on a site called 365:

http://365project.org/keihly/365

Please check them out!

together steps continue.

October 5, 2010

for maryjo in minnesota. together steps continue.

One weekend I just couldn’t help but challenge my mind into composing for some people I had been thinking about. I should have been working on my studio project, but this was such a good way to practice making in another form.

It actually  all started because I found a box, a piece of material that I had been waiting for, and that set me off into sifting through my papers, looking for the perfect combination to express my inkling of each person. Sometimes I dont know what it is, but the compositions seem to fit in just the right way, visually forming  my memory of them.

And when I mail them..its like I’m throwing my work to the wind, never sure if they’ll get there or not, or when… and hoping that along the way someone will take a liking to them, and knowing, or hoping, that someone will read them, even when they know they arent supposed to.

for dad in south carolina. he likes engines, trains, and how things work.

for jenny in illinois, where cornscapes abound.

for jon in iowa who likes to know things. i figured he could learn about hot air balloons.

for sue in iowa. her delightful responses keep inspiring me.

“A Way of Looking at Things”

August 25, 2010

I recently, in one sitting, read the whole of Peter Zumthor’s book Thinking Architecture. I was reading in the quiet of the morning, in the living room, surrounded by bicycles and a soft, low light with the hum of the refrigerator a few rooms away to keep me company. Without music and only the steady hum of traffic outside the window, I was put into a contemplative state thinking about living and really experiencing good places, spaces.

From this reading, there forms within me the desire to capture the light and feeling of a place – and this house -which I’ve had mixed feelings and emotions within – there is some sense of it which just feels good. It’s that sense you cannot put a definition on.

Through his readings, Zumthor inspires me to BUILD things – to manifest them in this real world – off the paper, out of 2D, so that we may be able to explore a creation in all of its unspoken, subconscious forms.

Through his readings, too, I am filled with a driving sense to capture these living moments of the everyday – the lighting, the quiet, and how things are placed, just because its the course of life. (So, indeed, I got up and started capturing some of these moments with my new/old SLR.)

I also got this overwhelming desire to be in a quiet place, away from cars and people and noise to be surrounded by deep, quiet, forest, tall and confident, peaceful woods. There was a stirring in my heart, as if I needed to run there, but, sadly, I didnt know where to go! I need to find that place here in Charlotte. Nonetheless it was good to feel this pull.

Below I’ll interweave some of my favorite excerpts from the book.

My view of the room, the light, the quiet

“Since our feelings and understanding are rooted in the past, our sensuous connections with a building must respect the process of remembering.” (p18)

“In architecture there are two possibilities of spatial composition: the closed architecture body that isolates space within itself and the open body that embraces an area of space that is connected with the endless continuum.” (p22)

“I carefully observe the concrete appearance of the world, and in my buildings I try to enhance what seems to be valuable, to correct what is disturbing, and to create anew what we feel is missing.” (p24)

“A good building must be capable of absorbing the traces of human life and thus of taking on a specific richness.” (p24)

Through the french doors

“Why do we have so little confidence in the basic things architecture is made from? Material, structure, construction, bearing, being borne, earth and sky, and confidence in spaces that are really allowed to be spaces – spaces whose walls and constituent materials, concavity, emptiness, light, art, odor, receptivity, and resonance are handled with respect and care?” (p33)

When a building just seems to fit a site “it seems to be a part of the essence of its place, and at the same time it speaks of the world as a whole.” (p42)

I like the sequence of thresholds and the rhythm...

“The strength of a good design lies in ourselves and in our ability to perceive the world with both emotion and reason. A good architectural design is sensuous. A good architectural design is intelligent.” (p65)

“The intensity of a brief experience, the feeling of being utterly sustpended in time, beyond past and future – this belongs to many, perhaps even to all sensations of beauty. ..The flow of time has been halted, experience crystallized into an image whose beauty seems to indicate depth. While the feeling lasts, I have an inkling of the essence of things, of their most universal properties. I now suspect that these lie beyond any categories of thought.” (p72)

Morning breakfast with the book, I love the light.

“Beauty…is at its most intense when it is born of absence. I find something missing, a compelling expression, an empathy, which instantly affects me when I experience beauty…Longing. The experience of beauty makes me aware of absence. What I experience, what touches me, entails both joy and pain. Painful is the experience of absence and pure bliss the experience of a beautiful form that has been ignited by the feeling of absence.” (p80)

Postcards mark the entrance to my space, they add a vibrance.

“Architecture is the art of space and it is the art of time as well – between order and freedom, between follwoing a path and discovering a path of our own, wandering, strolling, being seduced.

I give thought to careful and conscious staging of tension between inside and outside, public and intimate, and to thresholds, transitions, and borders.” (p86)

**This is one of the things I like most about the house – the thresholds and rhythm of moving about the rooms. I dont know why, perhaps its the movement that I continually seek.

I like it's simplicity. It reminds me of a gallery space.

Postcards for the people

August 17, 2010

Postcard for Sue

So, I’ve been in the mood to make. Sometimes it just comes over me, stronger than other times, and I just can’t help it. Composing postcards from found things is the most satisfying, especially when they go nicely together with a little stitching from my 1974 Singer. I compose each with the person in mind, it makes it more fun. I like the challenge of working with scraps, odd sizes, and random materials. Sue’s postcard, above, was paper from the packaging of a fragrance, for example. Juan’s postcard, below, is from a local gallery show.

There is something about writing a postcard, too, that intrigues me. I write about the moment, current thoughts, often a stream of consciousness. And these thoughts travel openly through the mail, through several hands, right there, for anyone to read. And, its a one way conversation, receiving no response, or, at the most, a slow one. But I dont mind.

Postcard for Juan

Postcard for Juan

These, below, are from a book the French Company produced, and I got it for free at a Pecha Kucha event. A little mixing and matching combines the funky images in fun ways. I chose the images especially with the character in mind.

Postcards for Jim + Beth

Postcards for Jim + Beth

Postcard Darlene + Konya

Postcards for Darlene + Konya

I forgot to return Juan’s bicycle lock key, so I found a good way to do it sandwiched between 2 cards I used from the packaging of a fleece blanket (made in China, $7.99, thank you TJMax). The images are from a National Geographic, highlighting China, and I liked following the lines of the building to accent the crowd. I left the side slots in for fun, and later realized it would be a perfect place to secure the key. I put it all in a small clear gift bag from an earlier purchase. Now the postmasters can see the images from the outside. I hope they enjoy them.

Letter for Juan, side 1 - Chinese Factory

Letter for Juan, side 1 - Chinese Factory

Letter for Juan, side 2 - Chinese Factory

Letter for Juan, side 2 - Chinese Factory

Do you want a unique, hand-sewn, snail-mail-delivered creation? Tell me your address.

In Memory

July 30, 2010

I hate how we don’t seem to truly appreciate people until they’re gone, until its too late.

My good friend, Daniel Schreiber, 24, seemed to have the wrong timing late Monday night (July 26, 2010). Perhaps that’s all it was – bad timing.

A chocolate profile

The above is a blind-continuous-contour drawing I did one night while we were sitting out on the front porch, feasting on his usual (and my favorite) – custard pudding, like only he could make it, finished with a light sprinkling of cacoa nibs.

He could walk up to anyone and ask, “Hey, do you like chocolate?” What a smart way to start a conversation, since just about everyone has some opinion on chocolate and most everyone likes free samples. We had found these molds at the big yard sale on campus and they were in the shape of a kitty and a pumpkin, but, if you look at it fast, it looks kind of like a moon, so Dan called them “cat-moons”. They were the perfect sample size.

I first met Dan at the Mustache Ride put on by the Bike Project. He had knit this wonderful cap/mustache piece that can best be described by a picture:

Dan at the Mustache Ride with his recently knit creation.

It has historical references to a group of people (of course I’m forgetting all the details) who used it for warmth. Dan was so good at finding these little, rather obscure hand crafted things. He was always encouraging people to take up a trade or learn a new skill (he kept pushing me to build a stone house – how hard can it be?)

For stories others have posted: rememberingdan.org

For more about Dan and his whimsical creative writing, check out his blog : Artisanal Thinking

An article from Smile Politely (July 28, 2010): The man that is and always will be Flatlander Chocolate

And an article from the News-Gazette (Nov.11, 2009): UI graduate student turns beans to bars of chocolate

Looking at his photos and thinking, I can’t believe I’m writing this. I just can’t.

fathers, family, photo, fuzzy. focused.

July 17, 2010

A friend recently showed me this site. Very poetic and soft, the tone and the photographs matched perfectly.

Days with My father

Days with My Father

One of my favorite parts: “He also would have wanted people to remember his story is about the story of life. My father had no time for growing old. He was like a river. Always in motion, flowing forward with loose-limbed vigor. Sweeping past every obstacle with a smile, dancing and shimmering in the sun. Every door was there to be opened. Every window to be peered into.”

Seeing this story makes me think about how much I appreciate my family, and recalling moments when you suddenly dont have someone or something and regretting that you didnt take more time to just appreciate their presence. (Like the bit when he’s reflecting about his mother.)

It’s a story that seems to speak quietly, earnestly, and it feels powerful to me, pure. Perhaps I should think about my relationships, how I value them, how I show that I value them. And the simple act of recording, putting emotion into a piece exactly as its happening. This is the most fruitful way.

I think I’ll do some things differently now.

Speaking of moving…

June 17, 2010

I was talking with a new Couchsurfing friend tonight and we were wondering when you know how suitable a place is to live… how long does this take to figure out? Can you know in a day, in a week, in 3 years, if this is(isn’t) the place for you? What could (will) draw me to the city the most? The water? The mountains? The culture? The people? As always, it seems to be a combination of all of these things, but, really, what is the deciding factor?

As I take my trip around the country I learn to live on a new rhythm, that without them! Soon you realize all the things you used to take for granted living in one place (a known source of showers and food, for example). And there is this continuous barrage of new! new! new! that you have to get used to. But, I’ve also realized I’ve been able to live in the present moment quite frequently – perhaps more here and now than in the past. Perhaps it’s my desire to want to absorb all about this place. To be so observant – this is something we forget, or glaze over. Sure, we see lots of things, but we dont remember them, we can’t even remember what color that last building we passed was!

I was recently asked how I liked living where I was, which was an interesting question since I have no home to return to. I’m returning no where! My home truly is where I am now, which seems to be the full expression of living in the present, as it were. An interesting concept. I replied that I liked it quite a lot, where I was living now (since i happened to be in this food-and-friend-filled kitchen at that moment).

I also came to realize that my way of navigating the many highways and backroads it took to get from Washington, DC to Bar Harbor, ME without hitting more than 2 tolls is very similar to my path in life. It’s easy to get anxious and worried about the exit that didnt come when it was supposed to or the road that should have curved right but hasn’t yet. But, what I found is that as long as I kept going I found what I was looking for, and the exit appeared (the highway did change names a few times and I went from exit 76 to 14 in just a few miles, but the fact is that it changed.) By simply forging on and seeing what was down the road instead of inducing self-doubt (and Google-doubt) I have found my way. This, I now know, is how I should approach architecture and all the other side projects I’ve got going. Once I dive in and commit, I’ll be glad I’m there.

Finally, I recently made the statement to a friend that I’m not capable of being bored. What a thing to say. It’s easy to get bored, isn’t it? But, as I was walking around the little town of Belfast, ME for a grand total of 10 minutes and thinking I’ve seen everything there is to see, I reminded myself that I really haven’t seen anything, especially if I couldn’t draw each facade or even remember the colors of the buildings. This little town requires a whole new level of “seeing” – that which is supplied by a pen and sketchbook.

Thoughts on moving, living, seeing, being?

MetroBus Motion Map, North to Silver Spring, 45 min

a sewn assemblage, iowa postcard #1

January 1, 2010
Postcard

an assemblage of sorts