Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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.

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!!

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.

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