Around the Garden 
I’m finally posting here again. I’m going to work a little backwards posting things from earlier this summer while keeping up with what’s current. I mean to document what experimenting in the garden is for an Architect and Dad who doesn’t have extra time or money.

Shots around the garden August 28th:

I started this garden with the three sisters (corn, beans, & squash). I then added tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melon, and flowers to attract the bees. With a couple of exceptions most of these shots are in our new section of garden formerly a gravel parking area.

Corn Smut: known in Mexico as huitlacoche; it is eaten, usually as a filling, in quesadillas and other tortilla-based foods, and soups. This happens in my garden on its own every year to a couple ears. I haven’t tried to harvest and eat yet. It’s kinka creapy looking.

Pride of Wisconsin Melon. It’s hanging onto the sunflower stalk. I’m not sure it’ll hang on growing vertical like this.

Bees love the mint flowers. The mint has been growing with the strawberries for 4 or 5 years. I guess they like each other.

A few strawberry plants have decided to fruit again. It was warm very early this year so maybe this has to do with the length of the season. Our raspberry bush gave us fruit twice last year but not this year.

Pokeweed berry clusters. These just appeared in my yard a few years ago. They’re really beautiful plants and the birds love the ripe berries. They are poisonous to mammals if not cooked properly. The berries were used by native peoples in small quantities for purging and the juice can be used to dye or write. The U.S. Constitution was written with Pokeweed Ink.

Some Daisies! These guys poked up where there were other flowering perennials earlier in season.

Zucchini Squash…one of the three sisters growing in this area (Corn, Beans, Squash). The same a few days later.

Cherry Tomatoes and Cucumbers growing with the three sisters too. We’re getting a dozen or more of the tomatos a day lately.

Finally the bell peppers are coming. I started this section of the garden late this year.

I started this Comfrey with roots this year mostly to feed to our chickens but also for its healing properties which we’ve yet to explore.

Beans growing up the corn stalk...Lima Beans growing up a trellis.

The basil loves to grow in containers.

Blue Morning Glory, compliments of the compost I bought this year.

My photographer turns the I-phone on himself.

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Summertime Porches 
It's summer again and time to think about your porch. This is impression I get from the preponderance of inquiries for porch additions and rebuilds. That and there’s nary a quiet block around. The echoing sound of nail guns that can mean only one thing, It’s Summertime! I did this sketch recently for a house in Chicago. The side setback requirements and allowances that are strangely stringent considering the narrowness of Chicago lots, heavily influenced my design. Lemons to lemonade this design would bring the lightness of flight to this top heavy vinyl box.


Another proposal for a four season enclosed porch had the same top heaviness that needed addressed. I took the focus away from the giant seemingly teetering gable down to the more comfortable human scale of the porch.

This porch is an addition where there was no porch. The focus is again brought down and the width generous. Together they are the makings for a pleasing place usable for multiple functions and numbers of users. And this house is much more inviting and cheerful don’t ya think?


Another finished project this is this replacement porch and roof brought up to the latest Chicago codes without appearing too utilitarian. This porch is awaiting paint.

I loosened up a little for this proposal as it is for a roof deck addition to an existing very modern house. Here the deck becomes an oasis in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood with vine covered vertical wood elements and flowing benches that nestle the space. Berry producing vines would bring it all together.



As a designer I am well accustomed to envisioning a project in various seasons so anything I design will work well all year round. However I do experience the feeling of renewal that spring brings. This renewal that in nature is realized in summer, I don’t think, need exclude the natural sound of the carpenters hammer. Human sounds are sometimes as natural as in this case the sound of the woodpeckers in search of food. Both mean summertime is here and there’s nothin’ like taking a little rest in the shade of a beautiful porch.

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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. 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 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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