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.

PlanCharlotte Additions

October 15, 2012

I need to write a ‘shout-out’ to our budding PlanCharlotte site! The site covers issues shaping growth in the Charlotte region.

I’ve had a part in the following articles:

May 25: Charlotte’s Great Walls. Here I examine some particularly blank and centralized walls and imagine things to do with them.

July 6: It’s Hip to be (a Water) Square. This article articulates a few of the things I learned on my Traveling Fellowship and ties our flooding condition to Charlotte. This will also roll into my thesis topic and these questions will consume my life for the next few months!

July 31: Eastland Mall, What’s Next? Some Options. Charlotte has a dead mall on it’s hands and here our research presents other now-living mall ideas.

September 11: Parking for Cars or PARK(ing) for People? I led Charlotte’s first (official- street level) PARK(ing) Day. (The first was in a parking lot in 2008 by Deb Ryan and her students.) I held it in SouthEnd and major organizing took place over just 2 weeks! It all came together wonderfully with borrowed materials!

October 3: Hitting the Streets, with Parks. This is my follow up article of the very successful event!


Up, Up, and Away!

May 16, 2012

Tomorrow I embark on a month long journey through Europe studying how cities and architecture there have given more space to water. I won a traveling fellowship through the School of Architecture and AIA Charlotte to fund my studies, which I’ll extend into my thesis year in the Master of architecture and urban design programs.

A few goals for the trip: I would like to talk to different planners, architects, engineers, designers, about how they are preparing for future changes in climate – like more flooding and storms. I want to learn more about how water is managed in cities – for example – how it is seen as a benefit, rather than a burden. I’m curious in the Rotterdam Climate Initiative and how they are building more space for water. This includes above ground storm water management (canals, etc). I’m also curious how architects are responding to the increasing possibility that water will be covering the area more frequently – are they designing floating structures? Or building up the land? Or other innovative solutions? Are there ecological solutions, like conserving the marshland and wetlands (these have absorbing powers) that planners are using in their cities?
So, I am interested in how these designs happen in architecture and also at a bigger scale in cities and future developments. I also dont know much about polders, so I want to learn about those! I’m really looking for forward thinkers who are being proactive about the future instead of reactive!
Here’s a general map of my travels (but subtract London and add Berlin)

Map of the travel stops

This is an example of the kinds of solutions I’m looking for – an idea that is multi beneficial across many needs: people, ecological, flooding protection, for example. Here’s a rendering I did of a Richard Serra sculpture in the Delaware River along Philadelphia’s coast that acts at once as a sea wall, public art, and ecological habitat.

Richard Serra public art seawall idea rendering

Richard Serra public art/seawall/habitat idea for Philadelphia I designed.

Pallet Place Farm?

April 24, 2012

Pallet fence idea for the Charlotte Urban Farm Project

When I walked out of my “home” at the UNCC Center City Building to check out what Lindsey and Allen were doing at their new farm site on the corner of 8th Street and Brevard I was immediately put to work (and seriously, how could I expect anything different?) I was tasked with designing a pallet fence. This week also happens to be FINALS week, so there is lots going on. But, because I’m a productive multi-tasking procrastinator I find useful things to do instead of the things I really should be doing, and this little project fits the bill! It was also a challenge to do a quick charrette and see how fast I could render something. With the help of fellow Urban Design student, Adam Martin, we came up with this easy-to-construct design. We’ll be doing some actual testing in the next few weeks to get the site secured.

Check out the Charlotte Urban Farm Project’s website!

I also thought it would be a good idea to do some vertical gardening projects in uptown on some of the blank walls, so I’m in the process of finding the right people to talk to to make that happen. Here are some of my ideas:

Matters of Place and Place Matters

April 24, 2012

I just recently wrote a ditty on my perceptions of place, how places “feel,” and what design elements make them feel this way. I found it to be a challenging topic – how do YOU define place? My goal is to get people to notice their environments, neighborhoods, and streets, a little more.  I’ve heard a few accounts of where this actually happened!

Read it here on


NoDa, Charlotte streetscape

Business card holders, right when you need them.

December 8, 2011

So, today I was in a quiet sort of mood. Self reflecting, wanting to make. Rain dripped intermittently throughout the day, the robins and nuthatches were active and calling, the wind was mixing the wind chimes. And so I made. I was also in a mood to give away, and mixed with the dose of practicality that I must always have when making such things, I chose these business card holders made of soda cans.. tonight was also a night when 8 of us Urban Designer grad student types acted as facilitators to a South End Charlotte neighborhood development charrette organized by Charlotte Center City Partners. One of my classmates got cards from her group members, and what a perfect place to put them in a recycled can holder! So there you have it. Here are the 2nd life aluminums that will take a new meaning in life:

Here they are, ready to go out into the world again.

They are quite handy – flexible, so you can bend them to accomodate your needs. I assure you they have not ever cut me, but I cannot guaranteed you wont do that to yourself. I do sand the edges.

Would you like one? Just let me know!



Putting the Thai Curry in Butternut Squash…

December 7, 2011

So, randomly, serendipitously, if you will, I discovered Nalena‘s (my friend and fellow colleague from architecture school) foody-type blog. And what can I say, she does an excellent job with her pictures and I just had to try out her latest recipe: Thai Curry Butternut Squash Soup.

Using only one Butternut Squash and adding some cream at the end, on top, I loved the body of the soup – it could hold its shape – which makes it extra fun to sculpt and play with…

the cream adds a dynamism

add a little cilantro

play and sculpt!

Thanks, Nalena for a great recipe that was easy and so well balanced in spice and texture!!

Fully yours,


Helping your memory, and your eyes

November 16, 2011

Who says you can’t have cheat-sheets to jog your memory for codes and such?

My dad was giving a presentation in front of the NC State Park coordinators and related folks and asked me to make a card (business card sized) to help explain the main accessibility components related to access. His passion is in accessibility and highlighting the areas to be improved. Instead of just showing the numbers, why not do a little drawing? After all, it’s much more fun to look at.

front of the card

Front of the accessibility card.


Back of the card - where the code measures come in.

I think this little card is pretty effective, and he just confirmed that it was after his meeting just the other day.

What other things could we do to make our lives easier, and more fun to understand and remember?

soup’s up (and down)

October 24, 2011

the great soup debacle

the splash

One day I thought it would be a good idea to try to save half my soup. Well, it proved harder than I thought. In short, a slip of the hand and a volume of air quickly compressing a full can of Tomato Basil soup ended rather messily. Notice the empty, clean bowl. The spray reached over 15 feet! I thought the most prominent splash was pretty great…there’s something about speed and different materials meeting that creates interesting objects. The picture that is not shown here is my sweater. It, too, was in the line of fire; I was not spared. It proved not to be a challenge to clean out, however. It’s just one of those nutty things that puts a little surprise in the day! It could have been worse…

Music to my/your/our ears

October 24, 2011

My current favorite bands that you should definitely check out are these!

Goyte (info) and LISTEN 



Here is a grooveshark playlist of some especially awesome songs by both musicians…

All at once I find these to be uplifting, engaging, encouraging, energizing…but yet they can slip into the background when more pressing work is in front of me. The videos are pretty great too!







Saving a (bicycle) life

October 24, 2011

The note

Did it work?

So the other week at the APA-NC planning conference there was a bicycle parked in Uptown and I noticed that I could take the beefy lock right off the of the seat…it was clearly a poorly designed locking strategy. And because it’s always  not fun to lose your possessions…I decided to write a little note. Perhaps this cyclist thought they were foolin? I started the note off: “dear awesome cyclist” hoping not to strike a lecture-y cord. I was going for the friendly-reminder/suggestive approach. And then there is the issue of where to put the note so that someone else who is in more need of a bicycle than I wouldnt read and take the hint…I hope this rolled approach was effective…

I always get a kick of writing random/anonymous notes in public 🙂 Hopefully it made a (positive difference) in their day.

From D to G [ Dumpster to Gift ]

October 24, 2011

I was feeling that a friend needed to get something good in the mail. So, feeling inspired in the moment I put together some found objects – a CD case I found in the dumpster overlaid with an old aeronautical map from Alaska. For the back of the cover I combined some pictures I had from New Orleans…door and window apertures can never be wrong. I also recovered a little notebook in another aeronautical chart, just for fun.





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:


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!





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!!

wallet – the wearing of…

August 8, 2011




A friend recently sent me these pictures of a wallet I had made for him two years ago. I am quite pleased to see it has weathered well! This particular one was made from a rice bag I found behind a mexican restaurant in Urbana-Champaign, IL and plastic edging from a bag from NYC. I think its interesting to see how things are worn and how they accumulate dirt. It’s fun to see where things have been. Yay! Thanks Mark!






“To-Go” bag from a Japanese restaurant in NYC?

June 16, 2011

Why yes, what a splendiferous wallet it does make!

Yushi bag turned Yushi Wallet

Another adventure in making!

I really needed to update my style – my previous wallet had one year of miles – it was made out of part of a clay bag and a lemon bag in Belfast+Bar Harbor Maine!


lemon wallet, well worn.

Collage Adventures

June 14, 2011

Here I wanted to share my work from my collage class these past few months.

Our class website is located here, and I highly recommend you check out the reading sources/presentations – good images and ideas.

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s e n s u o u s n e s s



Inspired by a bank barn and my own fragmented memories of barns.

Shadows / Time / Textures / Tempo

Buildings are instruments of time. Shadows are cast and the light uses our bodies as a canvas.

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s i l e n c e



Inspired by Splitting by Gordon Matta Clark and Joseph Cornell’s collages based in his world of imagination and use of framing.

Revealing layers, depth.
The silence of a disappearing industry.
The quiet of the left-over infrastructure, architecture.
Exposing the depth of a new world.
Curiosities of construction.
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p l a s t i c i t y



Inspired by San Carlo by Borromini and constructed geometries.
.Poche as play between positive and negative
.integration of wood’s inherent plasticity,
.weaving of geometries
.a play on re-creating volumes.
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s l o w n e s s



James Corner
.space and time as a dialogue between natural and surveyed
.(one’s sense of self and place is integral to the way we understand our context)
James Turrell
.(art of light, sky, and astronomical events)
.(distance crystalized)
focusing on:
The relationship to ground and sky, juxtaposed
perspectives, ambiguity, and fragmentation of form
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i d e a l i z a t i o n



Exeter Library (Louis Kahn)

.idealization through geometry – pure form
.understanding the organization of space
.compression and expansion of space
.constraint of materials – a building within a building
.sense of suspension
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
.diagonal lines create tension, movement, and depth
focusing on:
the suspension of space, pure geometric form. the beauty of
architecture filling a void – in this case, the voids of the form also create the diagonal lines that allude to depth and motion.
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a u t h e n t i c i t y



:identification with physical + cultural context as well as to the body and the viewer’s position in space and time
miralles tagliabue
.simultaneity of the spatial experience
.multiples of a single moment
.overlapping time
romare bearden
.abstract expressionism
.piecing together the past and the present
Säynätsalo town hall (alvar alto)
.aalto developed a cellular module with the brick that was meant to be expanded and keeping
the possibility of a larger more complete building open
.throughout the building, stitching the details of scale between regional and personal
.patterns and tactility at a human scale, then expanded.
.capture the overlapping details and gestures toward a culturally and haptically aware place/space
.building massing = responsive to social/political dynamics
.brick bonding = finnish industrial, nordic fortress building
.roof lines = landscape and forest beyong
.varied facade = woods surrounding
.windows + fenestration = patterning of the forest
.height of the chamber = rising to democracy
.fountain in the court = admiration of nature
.grassy courtyard = forest floor
.door handle = human scale/hapticity
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Now for part 2 of the class – our final project. Our task was to choose a building a we’ve been to that we feel exhibits these qualities and ideas. I chose Peter Zumthor’s Bruder Kapelle, which I had visited while studying abroad in Europe in 2008.

Many of the themes overlap and boundaries blur. The volumetrics of the space not only show plasticity, but also sensuousness, authenticity, and idealization. Time is the unifying factor, it’s meter found first in the making, then in its day-to-day acting as a canvas for the weather and it’s petina. Each collage has some segmented element, each representing a different aspect of the time so crucial to its making.

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s e n s u o u s n e s s


curious about the process of making, techniques used, and the relationships and reactions to contrasting materials, i decided to experiment at my own scale.

wood dissolves, allowing itself to be absorbed into concrete. contrasts abound. boundaries blur. dark | light

rough | smooth orthogonal | organic

process of time and materials melding. chemical reactions.

the smell of char and fresh air mingling. the bright points of light pierce the dark. the smooth exterior, at contrast with its textured landscape. the vertical jagged interior at contrast with its envelope.

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s i l e n c e


the chapel’s open oculus lets the light, rain, and stars in. the building acts as an open canvas to the landscape and weather.

there is a duality of moment and materials, the patina of time. fragments of seasons mark the meter and blending of time. humble, still, and towering, it stands in seeming quiet solidarity to its rolling landscape.

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p l a s t i c i t y


compression and release of space. verticality. even from the aproach, 300m away, the mysterious tower sits, condensed within the wide fields. upon approaching, the experience is channeled and refined. there is an inverse of positive and negative space.

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s l o w n e s s


shrinking wood, dissolving into layered concrete. 24 layers, 24 hours. time.  the wood grain canvas also acts as a marking of time,

the rings denoting the health of each year.

depicting one component of making, of process, that of the wood dissolving into the concrete.

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i d e a l i z a t i o n


built in honor of the switzerland patron saint, bruder klaus, this mystic and hermit drew an image of a circle with the structure of a wheel. The movement flows from the center outward, to return again to complete the cycle.

this chapel also has a strong presence of the fundamental elements: water, earth, fire, and air

the circles repeat to emphasize a cycle; elements contrast their surroundings, while all brought together by the bruder klaus’ drawing.

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a u t h e n t i c i t y


when i went to visit the chapel, i didn’t know exactly where it was. i arrived in the closest town that had a train station and proceeded to wander to find clues to its location. it was sunday. everything was closed. i asked 6 people where it was, until finally, at a cafe, a couple overheard me talking about it and pointed me in the right direction. i took a taxi there, learning that the next closest train station was 10km away, a bit of a walk that would have been. Arriving at the chapel, i walked at least 400 meters up a hill, steadily getting closer while soaking in the brilliant yellow of the canola.

the experience of wandering through the town, searching, experiencing the local culture first, then the excitement of the hard work reveiling the reward, at first viewed from afar, then, details eagerly sought the closer

i came. my first reaction was to run right up to it, to see what was inside, but a counter reaction wanted to explore it slowly, understanding the context, the landscape, and the form from outside. the inside was beckoning, its cool, raw surfaces were in such high contrast to the flowing, smooth landscape outside. the flow of material was slowed and stopped. the glass spheres that cap the smoke holes are reminders of a material in constant, slow motion, while their liquid visions reflect the changing skies beyond.

it is this transistion of coming to this place from a nearby town, then steadily getting closer, and finally getting to absorb the details first hand that i want to illustrate.


Thoughts? Queries? Comments?

Diorama Mapping: cities

March 13, 2011


New York City

New York City


A friend told me about this lovely mapping project by Sohei Nishino.

Nifty and HAND(made)Y

January 12, 2011

Finally tired of losing my headphones or tangling them or worrying if they are going to crack…I devised a solution. Little bags with simple enclosures. Simple is the name of the game. And Voila.

Perfect Head-phone sized


Simple enclosure


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:

Please check them out!

Madison New Media studio project

December 24, 2010

first piece of the formwork - first part of the experiment

Let me introduce you to my final models for my comprehensive studio project. (The first is a 3/8″ section model – 8″ wide, 30″ long, 24″ tall, the second is a 1/16″ full building model – 13″ x 9″ x 5″.) (I am in a dual masters program in architecture and urban design). I figured they deserve a post, as I spent oh so many hours thinking, toiling, experimenting, and hoping that the experiments would work. Having never poured concrete before, I had some learning to do. Fortunately the studio motto by many is “it takes a village” and many people were really generous in sharing their experiences, tips and tools. I used Rockite – basically a really quick setting, fine concrete. Formwork, I learned, is tricky, because you have to think of the opposite of your shape, and in my case, I needed to think of my structure horizontally, instead of vertically. These images of the formwork are the five floors laying horizontally, they will all be put together in the final images.

after the first pour - I like to think it was hatched. I completed it in four pours, so I got a lovely variation in color tones.

The one thing I dont like about this process is the waste of the formwork – foam core in my case – something for me to take into consideration in the future.

after spending 50+ hours working on how to set this up, it's finally built!

Working from a computer 3D model, then figuring things out in the “field” with exact measurements took quite a while. I decided to add another slight detail by beveling the footings which tested my ability to cut 45 deg angles by hand in the foam core and remembering to always think about how the edges will show -as every texture shows itself in this game (whether its intentional or not). In fact, I had a friend who did a pour and used a piece of foam core that had had soup spilled on it – he cleaned it off, figuring that it would work just fine. The soup had absorbed just enough to change the color of the concrete in that spot!

finished formwork for the big pour! check out all the support!

It’s hard to say if the concrete is really going to stay in its bounds, and how strong the foam core is going to hold up.

during the pour + no leaks! success!

It was a proud moment when I realized the base was level and balanced! It’s square!

texture from the metal screen I put in the formwork - I like the irregularities.

all the pieces together! (roof constructed out of wood)

detail view looking into the core - see the inlaid wood shelving...

detail showing the texture, the core, the balconies, and the LCD screens

front view showing the media LCD screens

here, the relationship between the LCDs and the viewing balconies

And now for a look at the 1/16th inch scale model. (I made tracks out of wood, so the screens move.)

top view of the full building - clear acrylic floor plates show the columns connecting through the floor plates

north facade

south facade

east facade - LCD screens

roof deck looking out to the lake to the northwest

screens can slide, allowing users to adjust the interior light; here the LCD screens are shown on the east facade

detail of the screens...gaps show the space between interior programs

the screens move! you can make your own moire effect!


Now! What to do with these things? I’m thinking the large model could be used as a book shelf, spice shelf, plant shelf…. any other ideas??

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:

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.

Summer Solstice in Maine

June 21, 2010

**Please see the comment section – a poem awaits you (complete with the audio from the author.)**

I knew I wouldn’t regret waking up at 5am on the Summer Solstice…and I’ve got some photos to prove it. (One thing the photos dont show are all the mosquitoes who also thought it would be a good time to get up and active..)

Due East

Due East. Morning look over the misty marsh

A nod to the light

Misty Morning Marsh

Sprinkled about

Structured web

morning look over the misty marsh

Pearly web

dew laden

Pearly reflections

Textured Haze

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

Map: Where Americans are moving

June 17, 2010

Yet another fascinating map showing our moving habits. I could be entertained for hours, I’m quite sure.

On the interactive site they also have the median incomes and the direction of where the people are moving (when more than 10 moves are documented from/to a county).

I’ll credit my friend Tony for alerting me to this great find.

The moving trends of Cook County (Chicago) residents

The moving trends of Cook County (Chicago) residents

Mississippi Meanders >Radical Cartography<

June 16, 2010

One of the coolest mapping sites I’ve seen yet – Radical Cartography sure gets me thinking.

(Image of the Mississippi River found below was found: Yummy>Atlases>Mississippi Meanders – compiled by the Army Corps of Engineers)

Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River

Geotagger’s World Atlas

June 16, 2010

Beautiful maps put together by many.

See their Flickr site with more cities….

New York City Geotagged

New York City Geotagged