Archive for March, 2011

Rock garden at the Japanese Friendship Gardes, San Diego. Felt Tip on paper. March 22, 2011.

Ink on paper. March 22, 2011.

Felt tip on paper. March 22, 2011.

Yesterday I stopped at one of my favorite places in this gorgeous if somewhat superficial town of ours: The Japanese Friendship Garden within Balboa Park.
I always find serenity among the bonsai trees, looking at the way the light hits the vegetation around the koi pond.
This is a place for thinking, for letting go. A graceful ensemble of rocks, the shocking simplicity and beauty of it all, envelops the visitor/pilgrim.
I went with a thankful heart, I left with a sense of tender quiet. A prayer to the Japanese people, creators of so much beauty, minimal living, essential design.
First you are bent on acquiring, then the work becomes about reducing to the essential and letting go.
I saw this beautiful book and decided I wanted to take it home with me.

Japanese Garden Design by Marc P. Keane.

From the foreword by Preston L. Houser:
‘Tourists are insatiable creatures. There are basically two kinds, pilgrims and shoppers, and, in their mobile element, they assiduosly seek and devour.
Literally thousands of tourists visit Kyoto every day from different parts of Japan as well as from the far corners of the globe, and they mostly visit temples
and gardens- sacred places.  The pilgrims come to gain a sense of artistic heritage which will expand and enrich their cultural identities.  They temporarily
occupy spaces that artisans, aristocrats, and Zen masters of prior ages have occupied as if, by sharing the same “view”, a more enlightened perspective of the soul
and the world will be achieved. For the shoppers, on the other hand, petraveling is a kind of consumption, called “doing”, such as doing New York, or doing the Louvre, as if cultures can be done as one would do an amusement park or shopping mall–profane places.  The shoppers seem to revel in the hollowness of such misadventure, and their proclamation of experience invariably betrays an exaggerated sense of mal de siecle: “Been there, done that.”
Most tourists who come to Kyoto, however, are pilgrims. For them, the rewards of travel are more profound than simply being there and doing that-or so they would prefer to think.
In the spirit of a geography of the soul (peoples as places), how do we treat the people we encounter? Are we shoppers of people, or pilgrims of people?

Votive. Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, San Diego. March 22, 2011.

Bonsai. Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, San Diego. March 22, 2011.

Pathway. Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, San Diego. March 22, 2011.

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Holding On

Holding on to my ill-gotten treasures (the woman with the 1000 legs) or '1000 Leagues Under the See'. Ink on paper. March 21, 2011.






The riches of the heart of the rose

are like the wealth of your heart.

Let them out as it does:

holding them in is all your pain.


Let them out in a song

or in a great love.

Don’t shield the rose:

it would scorch you with its glare.


Gabriela Mistral 

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Mare Mosso Act III. Graphite and pen drawing by Gianni Aiello. Collage and pastel. March 19, 2011.

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Mare Mosso Act I. Graphite drawing by Gianni Aiello. Collage. March 18,2011

Mare Mosso Act II. Graphite drawing by Gianni Aiello. Collage. March 18,2011


This is another collaborative work with my father. Some of the collage images are taken from the Muji catalog. Muji is an innovative design brand from Japan.

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Updated March 15


Homeless man reading. March 11, 2011.

For about a year, I have been lackadaisically documenting street conditions in San Diego.
The paranoia towards publicly shared space, the  ordinances (no sitting allowed, no loitering), the lack of benches. Downtown San Diego is the antithesis of porosity, a built environment that refuses to be interacted with. We purchase community: getting out your billfold is the only way to experience publicness. Ok. So there is Seaport Village…but that is not the streets….urban San Diego.

On the street of the America’s Finest City on any given night you find first and third world country sharing the sidewalk (sorry am I being un-PC? I meant developing country.)

I refrained from taking photos of homeless people until now, out of respect. But yesterday I learned that politeness can be the opposite of sincerity.
The work of an artist/flaneur is (also) to look at things most people gloss over, or willingly ignore. We are walking bookmarks. So tonight I asked this man what he was reading. ‘Science fiction’ he said. ‘It was originally published in 1952.’

:: :: ::
Later on that evening

Yoga class having come and gone (again), I will take a page from Neruda the Brazilian writer Martha Medeiros and stop going home the same route. I will sit for an apple mint sheesha (hookah, as it’s known here) and purchase me some people time.

:: :: ::
Later on that week….

This is ‘Dies Slowly’ or ‘Muere Lentamente’, a poem misattributed to Pablo Neruda, from the original ‘A Morte Devagar’ by Martha Medeiros:

The poem and the English version which follows – and which I slightly modified – come from this blog

Muere lentamente quien se transforma en esclavo del hábito, repitiendo todos los días los mismos trayectos, quien no cambia de marca, no arriesga vestir un color nuevo y nole habla a quien no conoce.

Muere lentamente quien evita una pasión, quien prefiere el negro sobre blanco y los puntos sobres las “ies” a un remolino de emociones, justamente las que rescatan el brillo de los ojos, sonrisas delos bostezos, corazones a los tropiezos y sentimientos.

Muere lentamente quien no voltea la mesa cuando está infeliz en el trabajo, quien no arriesga lo cierto por lo incierto para ir detrás de un sueño, quien no se permite porlo menos una vez en la vida, huir de los consejos sensatos.

Muere lentamente quien no viaja, quien no lee, quien no oye música, quien no encuentra gracia en sí mismo.

Muere lentamente quien destruye su amor propio, quien nose deja ayudar.

Muere lentamente quien pasa los días quejándose de sumala suerte o de la lluvia incesante.

Muere lentamente quien abandona un proyecto antes deiniciarlo, no preguntando de un asunto que desconoce o norespondiendo cuando le indagan sobre algo que sabe.

Evitemos la muerte en suaves cuotas, recordando siempre que estar vivo exige un esfuerzo mucho mayor que elsimple hecho de respirar.

Solamente la ardiente paciencia hará que conquistemos una espléndida felicidad.

He dies a slow death who becomes a slave to habit, repeating everyday the same paths, who doesn’t change the mark he leaves, won’t risk wearing a new color, nor talk to people he doesn’t know.

He dies a slow death who avoids passion, who prefers black to white and dotted i’s over a whirlwind of emotions,especially those that make the eyes sparkle , rescue smiles from yawns, hearts clumsy with feelings.

He dies a slow death who doesn’t upend the table when he is unhappy at work, who won’t risk a sure thing for the uncertainty behind a dream, who won’t allow himself, at least once in his life, to flee from sensible advice.

He dies a slow death who doesn’t travel, nor read, nor hear music, who doesn’t laugh at himself.

He dies a slow death who destroys self-love, who won’t let himself be helped.

He dies a slow death who spends his days complaining of his bad luck or of the neverending rain.

He dies a slow death who quits a project before starting it, not asking about what he doesn’t know, or not answering when asked about something he does know.

Let us avoid death in gentle doses, remembering always that being alive demands an effort much greater than the simple act of breathing.

Only burning patience will allow us to conquer
a splendid happiness.

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Screenshot of partial views for SketchBloom. March8, 2011. Click to enlarge.


These are recent search terms that lead people to find me and SketchBloom.

Go ahead, take a peek.

Your stroller, your wanderer, your [purposeful] idler, your flâneuse… is not alone. 

Thank you searchers….this makes my day.

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Ink on Paper. January 2011.


As designers, architects, artists, we use the ability to first visualize then communicate  a desired outcome. Implementation means having the courage, discipline and perseverance  to  bring that vision into the physical realm. I love to write, and to write lists, but this year I am doing something different with my 2011 resolutions. I am drawing them. It sems to be working. On good days, and they are abundant here in San Diego, you can find me in the park, chasing the sun and reading. An old-school physical book.  The previous specifications is now necessary due to the variety of reading options we have (what is your pleasure, or rather, your poison: smartphone, kindle, ipad, TMZ on your laptop?). These are my immediate, must-finish charges: 

Ink on paper. February 2011.


Inchoate: An Experiment in Architectural Education. Angelil, Marc and Liat Uziyel, eds.

The Architect: Chapters in the History of the Profession by Spiro Kostof

Sketching and meditating. Two resolutions, perhaps one and the same.  

Ink on Paper. January 2011.


Pondering on drawing, as opposed to writing, resolutions led me to think about visual vs. written and oral communication.

While drawing-or diagramming-a goal may help provide us with clues, visual or other, that help us actualize it, I don’t buy the argument that ‘visual’ people can only best communicate their intent through images. This is also known as ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ syndrome. By the same token, I refuse to accept that ‘visual’ people only understand material if it’s accompanied by images and therefore should be excused if they are poor readers or listeners. That is plain laziness. There are notions and topics  in this world that cannot be boiled down to neat Powerpoints (even though, heaven knows, we have tried to even run wars through the ubiquitous slide application), but require flight of the imagination, suspension of disbelief, and the ability to follow (picture-less) complex arguments. In trying to explain critical thinking, images run the risk of appearing like obtrusive clip-arts, obfuscating rather than enlightening.

The tyranny of the visual often lets us  get away with having inferior written and oral communication skills. I don’t buy the ‘visual’ doctrine (or fallacy) with my students or my architecture colleagues. Maybe it’s because I come from a linguistic lycaeum, was an English Minor, and come from Italy, but the way a person speaks or writes is more important to me, or revealing of their character, than any imagery or composition she or he can conjure up on a board. And here I need to say that, lest I behave like a whitened sepulcher, I know I have failings when trying to communicate: typos due to late night writing, listitis (I make too many lists), lectures that tend to go on a tangent and probably what is called mild A.D.D in this country (or severe A.D.D…depending on what day you ask my students;)). Lastly the fact that, no matter how many years I live here, my soul is Italian and so is the way to express myself, and we do use lot of what here are called ‘run-ons’ in writing, and perhaps even talking. We are peripatetic, scenic-route communicators.

Ok, so I am not perfect: let the flawed still admire and aim at beauty.

I ask the person I listen to to paint a convincing, even seductive picture with their words, to evoke the sense and meaning of their process. Of course exact,clear words go well with exact, clear drawings and diagrams, but seductive images without substantive explanations or clear, logical statements leave me dry. The literary arts are for the most part lost to modern architecture students, beyond the required ‘humanities’  and enticing (but seldom frequented) advanced elective courses. The result is professionals who are literate in CAD, codes, building, or even ‘architecture’, but illiterate in the sense of the global collective written word, and therefore culture. Shouldn’t the designers of shelters for the human race understand its most lyrical expressions?  Shouldn’t they design for man and woman’s highest aspiration, rather than the lowest common denominator? We ask architects to create places of Beauty, places that inspire, to design poetic aedifices. Without knowing what poetry is, without at least having been exposed to it, that is an impossible feat. If architecture is the Mother of all the Arts, should it not contain them? Literature, philosophy, liberal arts, music…Where are you Muses in our curricula? We have modified –and are moving towards transforming–the academic requirements for the make-up of the future architect based on the needs (vocational at best ) of field practice, a large number made up by corporate building farms, where architecture is just a sign on the door. Of course we aim for graduates ready to enter the profession, but hopefully we are also aiming for critical thinkers, whole individuals who can inspire, not just perform.  What should lead, follows. The trend can only go downward. I am talking about cad monkeys, or people who are paid ‘to draw, not think’ –I was actually told that many years ago. Call me irrational,  but I call for mandatory poetry courses (mandatory poetry! an oximoron). Call me utopian, but world literature should be as much part of an architecture curriculum as world architecture. When you know, you cannot unknow. I always say that. When you are exposed to possibilities and ‘big questions’ you cannot accept passively that things are just the way they are because they have always been. Poetry and literature are democratic expressions, highly dangerous to the status quo. And therefore highly desirable.

In my quest, I ran into this book. I am collecting a body of critical readings (for myself!) and this book will definitely be included.

Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in 20th Century French Thought, by Martin Jay

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Photography and Digital Manipulation. March 6, 2011.

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