Friday, March 27, 2009

The Architecture of Happiness

Analysis by Jackie, Rachel P., Jovana, Gabe and Emily

This book documents the role of architecture as a profession over centuries in shaping our environment and the rationale behind the decisions they have made.  I do not think any architect purposefully sets out to create an ugly structure.  Sometimes the best intentions do not pan out.

 We should acknowledge that the question of what is beautiful is both impossible to elucidate and shameful and even more undemocratic to mention.  The Architecture of Happiness (hereinafter Architecture), pg. 71 

Who is to say what is beautiful and what is not?  People respond to architecture in different ways based on prior experience.  A person might not like a gothic building because it makes them feel small.  I believe a building to be desirable or offensive on the basis of what it talks to us about.” Architecture, page 73. It seems reasonable to support that people will possess some of the qualities of the buildings they are drawn to. Architecture, page 18.  For centuries, classical architecture went unchallenged because it made sense to the user.   There was symmetry, order and beauty.  Symmetry makes sense to human beings because we, in fact, are symmetrical in form.  Architecture styles have come into being because we, as humans, allow exterior forces, such as religion, to shape our environments.  We are sometimes drawn to architecture that makes us feel better about ourselves or want to be better people.  After WWI, Modernism emerged because we wanted to make sense of a world gone mad.  We surrounded ourselves with function and order.  Ornament became a thing of the past. 

The properties of a room can directly affect the emotions of the people within.  An ugly room can coagulate any loose suspicions as to the incompleteness of life, while a sun-lit one set with honey-colored limestone tiles can lend support to whatever is most hopeful within us. Architecture, ppgs. 12-13.   Botton connects sadness with the ability to truly appreciate beauty.  He believes that someone who has experienced profound sadness will react more strongly to architecture.  It is with a dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value. Architecture, page 25. 

Our love of home is in turn an acknowledgement of the degree to which our identity is not self-determined.  Architecture, page 108   According to the author, we allow culture to define who we are and what our surroundings should look like.  How our neighborhoods and cities should look goes unquestioned because we allow culture to dictate to us.  The greatest changes in architecture came from revolutionaries that were both artistic and practical.  This book can be applied to the rapid growth in green design taking place today.  Architecture needs to respond to the practical and emergent problems that need to be addressed in order for our planet to survive.

Poetics of Space chapters10 Phenomenology of Roundness

"He had been told that life was beautiful. No! Life is round." Van Gogh
Life is a continuum made up of natural cycles. Bachelard uses the example of a bird on page 237. The bird takes branches, twigs, and moss to create its home,, molding them into a spherical shape which becomes its nest. It is this encompassing nest that protects the round offspring. The birds then give back by reseeding the earth to complete the cycle in which they first started. “One can neither see, nor even imagine, a higher degree of unity.” P.237 Bachelard also speaks of the world as a whole. “The round cry of round being makes the sky round like a cupola . And in the rounded landscape, everything seems to be in repose.” He puts forth the idea that roundness encompasses our daydreams. “For a painter, a tree is composed in its roundness.” P.239 “The world is round around the round being.”p.240 This idea relates to a permanence by illustrating our existence. The circle is a never ending process that either allows us to change our environment or for our environment to change us. By talking about these processes in the natural sense Bachelard alludes to humanities role in our built environment, and how the architecture of that environment affects the universe as a whole.

The Poetics of Space Chapter 9 Dialectics of Outside and Inside

“But what a spiral a man’s being represents!  And what a number of invertible dynamisms there are in this spiral!  One no longer knows right away whether one is running toward the center or escaping.”  (p. 214)  A person does not always know where they are in themselves, they are not completely exposed on the outside and are not totally at center within themselves.  They are constantly in a spiral going back and forth and never completely still in their emotions and intimacy.  “Being does not see itself.  Perhaps it listens to itself.” (p. 215)  The person who is always changing and running to and from the outside world can not physically see where the center is and know where they stand.  One must take what they know and feel within themselves and decide where they are in life.  When a person begins to realize this they can start to figure out where they are in the spiral of inside vs. outside.

As we study ourselves and our surroundings -

“Intimate space loses its clarity, while exterior space loses its void, void being the raw material of possibility of being.  We are banished from the realm of possibility.”  (p. 218)  Intimate space, though small and personal does not ensure complete understanding of self and its universal placement. It is commonly more beneficial to explore situations and spaces in their entirety, encompassing surrounding elements and structures that would trigger internal growth. If we limit ourselves to intimacy and do not embark on elements that could assist in our learning and development, as a result we could then become the exterior that is void.

Poetics of Space Review Ch8 Intimate Immensity:

(once upon a time….)_

“Immensity and the intimate domain of intensity, and intensity of being, the intensity of a being evolving in a vast perspective of intimate immensity.” Pg. 193

 “As soon as we become motionless, we are elsewhere. We are dreaming in a world that is immense. Indeed immensity is the movement of motionless man. It is one of the dynamic characteristics of quiet daydreaming.” Pg. 184. In our everyday life we focus on the micro aspects and when we are daydreaming we are putting down the magnifying glass and allowing ourselves to loose control in the larger picture and the vastness of the world. Bachelard speaks to this in reference to the immensity of a forest, which is a limitless world, there are no seeing boundaries and there is the want and the desire to go deeper and deeper within this limitless space. Within the forest you don’t know where you’re going, there is no right or left, but there still that inquisitiveness that keeps pushing you forward in the space. An example of this is when Bachelard uses this quote:  “If we do not know where we are going, we no longer know where we are.” (Pg. 185).

“The word vast is a metaphysical argument of which the vast world and vast thoughts are united.“ pg. 192.  Bachelard explains that this quote would best be used in the realm of intimate space, however, you can create an intimate space within the vast realm you are in. Going back to the forest, there truly are intimate spaces within; when standing between two trees, one is truly experiencing intimate immensity

The Courage to Teach by Parker J. PALMER

"Knowing is how we make community with the unavailable other with realities that would allude us without the connective tissue of knowledge. Knowing is a human way to seek relationship and, in the process, to have encounters and exchanges that will inevitably alter us. At its deepest reaches knowing is always communal." (p. 54)

Knowing is synonymous with learning, as we grow as a community, we understand cooperative group interaction. Palmer guides individuals to understand their integrity and identity, and how these elements apply to the aspect of community overall. The Courage to Teach breaks down the successes and failures of procedure and practice, while providing ground notes for physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual spatial requirements.

The literature is successful in its approach because it shows Palmer's ability to be a "...good teacher, not limited to technique..." (p.10) Through his exploration of teaching styles and accommodating various learning abilities, Palmer's search for a "mentor", inspired his thought to become a mentor, inevitably progressing towards the publication of such a learning tool. A learning tool that gives voice to both students and professionals, assisting with the understanding and enactment of positive group interaction. Following the basis for group dynamics, Palmer suggests to maintain boundaries of space, keeping the floor open to all participants, and deal with conflict creatively.

Applying the overall concepts obtained from the text read, helps our studio to practice and initiate beneficial interaction, in return we will flourish into professionals capable of pro-active listening, intimate teaching, and most importantly the ability to combine the two by "...hearing people to speech..." (p.47 ) The most prominent example of these qualities in action would be our meeting with the first year students earlier this semester. The experience overall displayed our ability to teach through action, and express our past experiences through the learning of others. "...As we learn more about who we are, we can learn techniques that reveal rather than conceal the personhood from which good teaching comes." (p. 25)

Home From Nowhere by James Kunstler

Home From Nowhere, Remaking Our Everyday World for the 21st Century, explores the growing movement across America to restore the physical dwelling place of our civilization.
Kunstler advocates a return to traditional modes of city and town planning that has been labeled the "New Urbanism." And he casts his eye about America, critiquing cities' attempts to remake themselves.
“Charm is a quality of place that helps people to see relationships among things and invites participation.” (Chapter 4) Kunstler writes about the idea of a close knit utopian city where everything can be reached within 5 miles. He believed this unity which was forming became abandoned after World War II when many soldiers came home and began to live in urban settings. This quote establishes his reasoning that public space is important and communities should connect their businesses and residential homes together to form a closer bond. Zoning laws have created this anti-social community in which the freedom and mind-set of individuals have become isolated through an unconscious segregation.
This isolation has altered our appreciation for nature and its spontaneity. Suburban lifestyle is defined in the reading as unreality because of its uniformity and restrictions. “Now, why would a casual observer viewing this tranquil scene want to jump out of his skin and shriek?” This reminds me of another book, The Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, in which three children transported to an alternate world in which suburban life was the only form of community. It showed the extreme living conditions where every house, yard, street, and family looked and acted exactly the same. For example, at a certain time during the day, a child from each house would walk out and bounce a basketball with exactly the same rhythm. Then the mother from each house would call to the child for him to come inside. Can you imagine watching this scene? This is how Kunstler views the future of suburban lifestyle. It is an eerie and shocking unreality that in a way, Kunstler is describing.
“Americans love Disney World back home [as opposed to Disney World in France] because the everyday places where they live and go about their business are so dismal that Disney World seems splendid in comparison.” (pg. 35) Disney World possesses this public realm which is open to everyone. It contains homes, businesses, small scaled cities, attractions, theatre and a lifestyle that anyone can freely roam through. “Public realm is the connective tissue to our everyday world.” (pg. 36) “The true public realm then, for the sake of this argument, is that portion of our everyday world which belongs to everybody and to which is therefore a set of real places possessing physical form.” (pg. 36) Why then do we build homes and streets that isolate us from the rest of society?
In the later part of the book, he speaks of personal interactions with communities and the problems that exist within them. He describes the lack of civil artistry and the unknowledgeable people that lead and design these communities.
In conclusion, Kunstler gives seven major suggestions on how to solve the crisis of collapsing communities. He offered to make a radius of five miles out from the center of communities which would contain residences, public buildings and business. This radius would help communities connect, interact, grow stronger, and care for one another through their public realms.

Poetics of Space Review Ch7 Miniature:

Chapter 7 Miniature:

“To use a magnifying glass is to pay attention, but isn’t paying attention already having a magnifying glass?” Pg 158 This is the idea of focusing on the micro instead of the macro. “The tiny-ness paves the way for everything to happen” Pg 164 This quote makes senses because all of the micro aspects of design build up to create the macro world. Thinking in miniature is not so much thinking in smaller scale but it’s imagining a world within a world. “This apple is a little universe within itself.” Pg151 The chapter is focusing on the idea that smaller objects always make a bigger entity. For example when Bachelard speaks of the botanist who explains the flower in a physical manner but then is able to psychologically examine how the flower relates to the world. “All small things must evolve slowly, and certainly along period of leisure, in a quite room, was needed to miniaturize the world.” Pg159 “Distance, too, creates miniatures at all points on the horizon, and the dreamer, faced with these spectacles of distant nature, picks out these miniatures, as so many nests, of solitude in which he dreams of living.“ Pg 172 This quote helps the reader see the smaller picture on the horizon but as you approach the picture becomes bigger. Having something miniature is where we would want to spend our time by daydreaming of the world and the smaller aspects our imagination is creating a bigger picture. “Miniatures are the refuge of greatness” Pg 155 

Thursday, March 5, 2009 bout COLD-LANTA

Note: please read the following in an English accent.

It all started off with the southern snow storm of 2009, causing build up on the high ways, panic in the drivers and well..some simply left in the snow. The fourth year’s trip to “HOT-Lanta” (cough) rather, COLD-Lanta, minus three, spent three days gallivanting around the city visiting design firms and furniture showrooms and tasting the cuisine hot – lanta had to offer.  

Day 1: Our morning started off bright and early at 9 am – SHARP.  Herman Miller was the first of the day, we enjoyed juices, coffee, pastries and fruit while engaging in casual business conversations with our colleagues. Betteye Russell, the women of the hour(s) started off by giving us a brief tour of the Herman Miller Showroom and had a wonderful speaker who gave us helpful tips, hints and suggestions on life after i.arc – yes, there really is a life after i.arc. 

We then braved the cold, and traveled to our next destination point, while some made it there quickly, others opted to take the scenic route (1201 E. Peachtree St.)  Lord Aeck + Sargent greeted us with warm coffee, tea and a quick tour of their studio space and a brief insight on their historical preservation projects. With tummies growling and faces numb, the fourth years headed off to HOK. Hungry, everyone indulged in yummy cookies and canned soda and had an opportunity to get off their feet and chat for a while. HOK gave us a tour of their space and showed us the multitude of projects in which they had been embarking on. A question session closed the tour, and again, many helpful hints were shared.

Pause- “okay see you @ 11 am tomorrow.”  “, try 9…” (everyone growls at Patrick and Betteye) The rest of the evening was up to students to explore the city, relax and enjoy good food and company.

 DAY 2: 9 am came wayyy too fast. Bearing the cold, the heels and a slight “headache” we once again embarked on a long, exciting day of firms and showrooms – this time however, included a lunch break! Knoll was the first stop on the agenda and this gave us an opportunity to finally sit in the chairs we had been drawing on index cards for a full semester, thanks to “P”.

 We left with our brains filled with knowledge on the designers and textiles and headed off to TVS- Designs. TVS- Designs gave us the opportunity to learn about research in design and how crucial it is; from there we were given a brief tour of their space which left us speechless and worked from exploring their four floors of studio space. LUNCH TIME. Excited we had an opportunity to eat this day we all ventured to different locations for lunch and enjoyed a couple hours to get off our feet and relax and ponder everything we have experienced thus far. Last and final trip was to Perkins + Will where like TVS-Design we were greeted with an alum from i.arc…how exciting! Her and her colleague gave us insight on their institutional and healthcare projects and answered our last questions.

 We then ended the trip with one final group shot – and embarked on the long journey home.