Look who's come to slay the dragon 

How many great ideas have vanished in the mist of time? How many great designs lay flat under a pile of other designs...a lot more than are executed, but why? Within a phenomenon seemingly growing in occurance lies one of the reasons: folk’s reaction to anything unfamiliar as something they need to protect others from, others with less than their mental acuity no doubt, is sentencing designs and ideas to perpetual darkness. I know historically there have been those in power who for fear it would topple their world view set out to slay a new idea. However, I’m thinking about the “not so big” yet important ideas that exist in our daily lives. Communications nearly instant and alarming headline nature is passing on information before it’s digested and has some trying to police everyone else. There is no doubt that disseminating information has genetic roots that have helped us survive as a species. Yet the policing, this perversion of the innate teaching instinct which pervades our society, can only lead to darkness.

Experiencing is learning. Seeing something in a new light is learning. If we allow learning to take place for ourselves and others a learning curve develops. Learning curves have Fibonacci properties, ever expanding not unlike Universe of which we are all a part. To learn is to become enlightened. To be enlightened is to be free.

Learning how to interact with each other is never ending and must be given time to transpire. Learning to allow learning to take place in others as well as ourselves is in part learning to interact. The time associated with this process can be vastly different for two people or groups of people. Patience and discipline for all involved is required for synergetic learning to take place.

As an example, a contractor in knights clothing said to me recently, referring to a design detail he did not ‘like’, “You can put it on the drawings but I’m gonna talk to the owner about this.” Now how do you think that conversation will go? “I can’t put a price on that.” “I don’t see why you need it anyway.” “This is gonna put the project over budget.” “This is a problem.” “It’d be a lot easier if we left it out.”

Now these things might be true or just as easily false, clearly this contractor has no idea one way or the other. And when one doesn’t know they turn to assumptions. This all too common chain of events is perplexing. From what is the contractor trying to protect the client? The client after all is the one who is to live in, work in, and take financial responsibility for the building and spaces within. And what does it mean to ‘not like’ something? Why is someone who clearly hasn’t put themselves in a caring and informed position making such comments? More to the point, why does a person in this position garner so much control?

The control in this case was set forth by the client’s desire to build things, innate need to learn, and the instinct to cooperate. In this example the Contractor represents the master of this often latent feeling to build within us all. Always quick with a yarn that boasts his wisdom and power he dons the emperor’s clothes. While the clients role back on their heels the contractor postures down to become everyone’s buddy. The Client at this point is a tabula rasa to the Contractor. Thus blind trust ensues on the part of the client and control on the part of the Contractor. The Contractor you remember has not yet fully grokked the design...he sees nothing but frightening shadows. The result: the blind leading the blind. That is not to say that to be a contractor is to be blind. This particular example points out the need for self control and acknowledgment of the weight of ones opinion in various contexts, “What you like isn’t as important as you think it is” to quote Frank Lloyd Wright. Some say knowledge is power. Knowledge is the illusion of power. Knowledge given time for one to assimilate leads to understanding. Now with understanding one can tap into the real energy that is eternal.

This policing action is taking the capitol A’s in Architecture and replacing them with lower case a’s...or more accurately changing the word from Architecture to Construction. In a larger view this is darkening the skies of enlightenment which keeps the dragon in his lair awaiting the light of dawn.

Time healed the above situation hence all ended in agreement and it appears the project will be the best it can be after all, but it was touch and go. If more time were spent thinking on our own with all available information the best result would be more likely to occur. Constructive criticism is necessary but reactionary statements at best only serve to throw water on the flame of understanding. Indeed group energy is fueled in part by criticism, criticism that leads to thinking deeper and collectively with the greater good as a goal. Reactions magnify the fear portion of the dark unknown. Focus set on the learning portion of the unknown leads to enlightenment however great or ‘not so big’.

It is important for folks to stand firm and believe and trust themselves. No good will ever come from giving up right when it’s most important to dig in. It is necessary to take the time to reason while inputting energy to lead oneself out of the cave and into the light. And it is just as important to allow others to do the same. All the great and some ‘not so big’ ideas...and designs depend on it.

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Model as Public Sculpture 
This is a temporary sculpture worthy of public display and public money, although I’m not sure where the funding for this particular piece came from.

It’s The Termite Pavilion at Pestival in London.

www.bustler.net wrote:

The piece is in part based on the pioneering work of Dr Rupert Soar and the TERMES project, a team of international experts based in Namibia who have created the first ever 3D scans of termite mounds. Their findings have been a embraced by entomologists and architects alike, and have featured in Sir David Attenborough’s ‘Life in the Undergrowth’ series.

For the Termite Pavilion, a team of architects and engineers selected a central section a termite mound scan and scaled it up to a size which would allow humans to move through it. The structure arrived in kit form and was put together on site. It is made of cross laminated timber, sourced from Austrian spruce, for reasons of sustainability, durability and cost.

I had written, “Maybe something with life, scale, and interest would be more successful.” I believe this has all of that. Now I’m not in anyway saying this a work of great art or even art at all, it does however show a great deal of fine craftsmanship, what some life is like, what scale can do to experience, and is an opportunity to learn.

This serves to tie together my last two blog entries beautifully.

It also shows what group energy / work can bring to fruition!
This is not an example of a group struggling for pole position and thus watering down an idea. This is an example of a group with a single goal that brought all their skills into the fold thus creating something “larger” than any one could have on their own...you know synergy.

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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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