The Wow of Learning and the Ginormous 
I visited the Chicago Architecture Foundation recently to view the Chicago Model City Exhibition and Wow!




Why “Wow”?
There’s something about models or miniatures of anything that is mesmerizing. Who hasn’t stood wowed before a model train like this one “The Great Train Story” at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago?



The relative scale throws one into a giddy state at once childlike and religulous. You can’t deny that it’s fun to make things, see things being made, and imagine them being made. A big part of the fascination is with the learning instinct that I believe we all possess. I don’t think it’s always the novelty of a thing that inspires us to learn or that is necessary for us to learn. Novelty is fleeting at best. The motivation to learn can be brought about by the nature of a thing. So what is being learned when experiencing a model such as the aforementioned model of Chicago? I believe the mind is stimulated by interacting with the space created or perceived by the model, but that’s not all.
Models can also render us passive to the world and thus make us see the world as static observers. But when models reach a scale that is not fully perceptible from any one point of view we become active within the model and maybe this helps us to see the world as an arena for action. Not coincidentally Burnham’s motto, "Make no small plans: They have no magic to stir men's blood, and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; Aim high in hope, and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once located will not die” speaks to this idea of scale, in this case the scale of an idea.
So it’s the scale of an idea, a model, or the idea inherent in a model that stimulates an emotion that is tied with learning which in turn stimulates receptors in our brains by releasing dopamine.
This increased energy if recognized can be folded into other activities again and again. This in turn makes us active in the world which I believe is to be more socially responsible. Not everything we undertake to be active within needs to be perceivable from any one point of view or needs one point of view thrown over it.

BTW Architecture is really just full scale models.

So I said Wow to the feeling of participating with the model of Chicago and this reinforced the activity of learning as a good thing, a social thing. And I ventured out into the full scale city, eyes and mind wide open ready to learn.

Follow the related link below.
It’s a great site and has a making of the model video!


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Architectural Weirding 
This summer has had a load of great weather days which is not how it’s always been...global wierding. On one of those days recently I visited Millennium Park. I hadn’t been since they finished the Modern Wing of the Art Institute nor the temporary sculptures purported to commemorate the Burnham plan of 1909. How does one commemorate something historical within a movement that rejects history? Apparently by creative paralysis near a bridge with no terminus.

My family and I arrived into the Pritzker Pavilion by Frank Gehry and I think I saw him!


That’s his head alright! Architectural wierding, yes yes!?

Next we headed over the pedestrian bridge to the Modern Wing. The entrance from Gehry’s head pavilion is askew to everything and the terminus at either end is abrupt ala modernism. They tried to hide the park side in shrubbery...oy! However the bridge offers views never before available of the surrounding area. Its generous width allows free movement to take it all in without being run over. Its walls are mesh and thus allow little ones to see as well. It’s surprisingly high for a pedestrian bridge with relatively low walls and no safety fence. The experience had me teetering on the edge of acrophobia which was kept in check by the oversized wooden guardrail.



The sculpture terrace at the Modern Wing turned us back towards the skyline and yes Gehry’s head pavilion. The mesh over the field is fantastic from all perspectives, and it’s functional. Wow what a concept! It has scale and proportion appropriate to its use and creates a comfortable space. This terrace, I must admit to my surprise, also has scale and proportion appropriate to its use and delicately encloses while not intruding on the views available, even down to the street. The detailing of the vertical elements is also scaled wonderfully from near and far. It reveals itself in new and simple ways as you approach.


Next it was back over the bridge to experience the temporary sculptures.


Well here we are... at the van Berkel sculpture. My son felt the need to strike a pose and I joined him.


I believe this was an effort to create an experience in a “place” void of such. If “Space is the breath of art” FLLW, then Chicago is choking. Same thing over at the Hadid sculpture.


I did experience one feeling and that was regret. I should mention that these two pieces are lit up at night and are probably a lot more interesting to look at. I don’t believe that lighting would bring life to the experience, a mere distraction. They do offer good photo opts simply because there isn’t anyone there. Where are they?


They’re over here at the “Bean”! To borrow another quote from Mr. Wright, “Chewing gum for the eyes”. While the others are just wads of chewing gum. What’s more exciting than one’s own reflection? Not much. It’s a very temporary experience. You don’t take it with you. That’s why everyone needs a picture of it...oh ya the bean.


Reflection of another kind. This is another Chicago park.

I guess I’d like to see something more cultural in Millennium Park.



This is culture albeit of another culture, was temporary and I’m guessing a little cheaper. JK

Maybe something with life, scale, and interest would be more successful.



Interest is directly related to the quality of a thing.
The energy felt at the bean is a result of proximity of excited people and not within the object itself. The shine and crowds draw you near, the reflection gets your attention, and the energy is contagious for sure keeping you there for a while.
The notion that a bridge must go somewhere draws you to it and the experience is the view but there’s nothing about the trip inherent in the design. But it’s quiet when it’s ok to be quiet.
The temporary sculptures offer nothing save for the possibility of a light show. Regret I say, not just in the design opportunities missed but the environmentally unfriendly embodied energy that went into the sculptures which is abhorrent. Blobs for the mobs.
The energy from an appropriately designed thing can permeate ones soul. This energy can bring life to ones senses while engaging the mind in a balanced and life fulfilling manner. This energy is not lost when your gaze moves away. It is part of you and your growth. Architecture can be fun and exciting but it shouldn’t take when its main function is to give, its weird if it does.



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Health and Prosperity 


I saw a license plate holder the other day in da hood...sout side baby (South side of Chicago), "Prosperity is my birthright". What transpired next was straight from the Star Trek episode where a "Super God" got angry for a second and with a thought eliminated life on a planet...all life! Thankfully my thoughts have less reach. Prosperity is not a birthright...it's something you work for, something you earn, something to hold yourself accountable for with its habit of being both on the other side of the fence and downright elusive, something the government can't give you. Health however IS ones birthright and has been held hostage from LOTS of PEOPLE for way too long. I don't need the Government to take care of what is my personal responsibility (like the quest for prosperity without having to procure it at the expense of anything else) but the health-care super gods are ruining a lot of life on this planet with the absence of their thoughts. I don't see national health-care as progressive but simply getting back to the way it should be. It's like the village appointing or accepting a town doctor, medicine man (not always male), or shaman and all the people providing food and shelter for his family. Maybe she and her family get fat but the village is healthy, oh and they better be healthy or they'll poison the food they bring to the doctor, as it were. And the next medicine man in line better be at least a little leaner and a better healer.

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Proposed Design at Lake and Forest in Oak Park, IL 

The following is the "comment" I submitted to the news paper article about the proposed (pictured above) building on Lake Street (the main street) in Oak Park Illinois:

r u kidding me?!?!?!?!?!?

It's hard to overstate what a dumb proposal this is. Of the ridiculous oppressive 80’s style glass box proposal the Architect says, "we think is fresh” and will "stand the test of time" and is not "overly ornate." This banal glass skyscraper will suck Oak Park back in time to Rosemont in the 1980’s. Architecturally Oak Park is on the map due primarily to the Prairie Style Architects of the early 20th century. The Prairie Style is rooted in its relationship to the inhabitants as well as the site...its human scale and overall proportions to itself and its surroundings. The ornament is integral to the system of its design. Perhaps if more time was spent trying to understand these qualities instead of embellishing upon the eccentricities of the Architects personal lives one would be able see how negative this proposal will be for Oak Park.
It’s easy to get distracted by the computer graphics and how the proposed building looks like a shinny new toy or “cool” like the international space station. I implore folks to spend some time thinking about this proposal because whether it stands the test of time or not, it will be here for a long time. Go walk around Rosemont and see if that’s how you want to feel in downtown Oak Park.
The needs of the area can be met with a more carefully designed building contextually appropriate to Oak Park. Oak Park is a Village. This has many meanings, one of which is the quality of space that is experienced. Whether one is aware of it or not, space affects the way you feel and the positive design of space should be integral to any new building in Oak Park.
The bigger mystery may be why -- in a catastrophically contracting economy, compounded by a latent energy crisis -- anyone thinks Oak Park needs a 19 story behemoth hotel. Or why, in a disintegrating consumer context, there would be any need for more retail. Or why, in an apocalyptic residential real estate situation, anyone would want to bring 70 condos on line.
If it’s going to look and feel horrible at least require it be a “net zero energy building”...better still a “net positive energy building”! If it's going to look like the space station it should function like it.
Earth-to-Oak Park: the banal suburban glass skyscraper is obsolete not to mention entirely inappropriate for this Village.







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Sweet Spot 


Creating a sweet spot in a space or place will heighten the experience for the user. This example is a simple inlay, pre grout, one of two in a walk-in shower designed and executed by the Architect. The design and overall functionality of the space are of primary importance, but the seemingly simple act of creating a sweet spot will breathe new life into most spaces. Finding the spot is not a random process. Random processes generally result in a one time experience followed by insensate experiences. Careful design and placement of an element will make a space sing…a children’s song that brings one back to that free mind space we once experienced without trying in our youth.The price of this shower inlay was minimal relative to the overall cost of the shower but makes each experience priceless.

Sweet spots add an enduring quality that is “green” by attrition.

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