Archive for the ‘Berkeley Diaries’ Category


Hello Stranger!

In case you are wondering what happened to me and why I’ve gone M.I.A during the month of February and most of March, the board above is one of the reasons. As it happened in 2010,
our school underwent an enormous accreditation visit, which meant preparing for months collecting, documenting and providing evidences.

One of the best things to come out of the work leading to the Accreditation was that Faculty was once more asked to prepare a record of what we have been doing – outside of teaching- the past five years.
It is a monumental task to audit, select and curate five years of life, work, art – yet I welcome the chance to take stock of where I have been, for it points to where I want to go. This process of self-evaluation is a privilege not afforded to many professions, and I was thankful for the challenge.
We were also asked to write a brief narrative. I worked on this more hours than I care to admit and I am happy to now share this with you: words, drawings and travel photography — some of which hasn’t been seen here yet! Hope you enjoy it.

“The French writer Daniel Pennac describes the notion of  the passeur, of the ‘transmitter’, as intimately connected to the ownership of culture.  He considers pedagogy as a branch of dramaturgy: a great teacher is a playwright, a vector of knowledge who instills curiosity, personifies her subject, and communicates passion. As an academic, designer, artist, and poet , storytelling is central to my work.

When I was six years old, fascinated by a book of folktales of Northern Europe, I decided I wanted to be a collector of legends. Though my path took me to Architecture and Fine Arts, teaching History of Architecture brought me to travel to Latin America, the American Southwest and the Caribbeans  where I began to record the history of place through the stories of its native people, These ‘stories of architecture’ become the framework of my courses. Through drawing, urban sketching, collages, photography, and writing, my preoccupation has been with collecting, documenting, processing and communicating narratives – while letting the spontaneous unfold.”

Miti Aiello, San Diego, March 2016

Writer Update:

My abstract on my research on Storage Cities has been accepted by one of the two main Architecture academic bodies here in the U.S for presentation at their International Conference! They are sending me to Santiago, Chile in June, and will publish my academic paper. Too excited for words. If you want to get a sneak peek and read my abstract check out my academia.edu page.

This is likely a hello/byefornow.
I wanted to update my blog now that classes have ended for the quarter, and before once again leaving for Mexico, this time in Baja California Sur for a week of volunteering. Faculty and students of my school are going to help build a healing center using natural architecture in a location that is three hours away by car from the closest road. It will be very remote, challenging and, I am sure, transforming. I will document everything.

Few weeks ago I wrote that, sometimes, we don’t have time to do art because we are too busy living a life that is art itself.
That is a true blessing, amidst the inherent challenges.

Although I have not posted here, I have not stopped taking photographs, seeing, collecting, thinking. My hope of hopes is to get caught up with my posts this summer…Promises we have heard before…

“You don’t need motivation.
What you need is discipline, young lady!”


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Timing Is Everything Exhibit Poster- digitally modified.

Timing Is Everything Exhibit Poster- digitally modified.

An apropos message from the Universe tonight- in form of a collage.

This is a promising exhibit at the UCSD University Art Gallery-
up until December 6.

In my non-teaching/working hours (very few since October) I have turned from an artist to a professional architecture/art/urban design event goer, organizer, supporter, disseminator and even instigator.

I was even called a ‘charming mistress of ceremony’ yesterday {blush}.

I miss my art, poetry languishes, yet I am galvanized by the many opportunities for interconnectedness between the non-profit sector,art,architecture and public space. The potential for a seachange in the urban landscape of San Diego is finally palpable.
It is so exciting to be contributing from the Academic angle, and involving my wonderful, patient students.

Yesterday Milenko Matanovic of the Pomegranate Center spoke about the difference between cleverness and creativity, and of being an artist, and an artist who is a community organizer.

Being clever involves prioritizing one goal above others, often the furthering one’s artistic vision. It is a solo flight.
True creativity contains a collaborative element, and is welcoming and sensitive to the goals of others. It is Mindful of the collective good, of timing, and rhythms.

Creativity is like farming.

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A Moon Over Berkeley
[We Became Art for a Moment]

There is no need to seek her
For she is the Moon
Her stunning face hangs over me
Never lets a night go without
The ache of her beauty
Do you see the small star by her?

Her shadow is cast over the city
Like Brunelleschi’s cupola over all of Tuscany.
The heaviness of her copper lies
[in my mouth]
She hides under train tracks and asphalt
She peeks from our longtrodden alleys
She’s under and above me.

I have to see about a City
-I said to him-
The way others go see about a Girl.
‘The city is a girl’ he replied.

They wrote about us
We became Art for a moment
Part of the city like streetlamps
A collage of colors
Red for San Francisco cars
Mustard like her scarf
White, my fedora
Red was our debaucherous light
Her crisp apple shirt matched paintings
[gray as planes]

In Buena Vista park we laid on the grass
Fed mosquitoes and waited fairies
I crafted stories on Bechtle’s California suburbs
Stories of quiet misery and afternoon beers, for her…

Blue for too many train tickets
We sat in a room full of patterns
And listened.

Under brilliant suns we walked
To the edge of Sunset.
Faded too early in the streets of Janis Joplin
Among Tibetan jewelry stores,
Earrings and beads,
We found minstrels and poets.

Lemonade and Mate,
I told her about the weight of flowers
Narrated the geography
Of my broken heart.

It is night again
And I still choose my dandelion poetry
Over sleep
And being on time.

San Diego, March 7, 2011

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The girl with the ukulele. Oakland, Feb. 19, 2012. Ink on hand.book paper

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Various Graphite Media, depicting 'Dwelling for Imaginary Civilization of Little People,1998' by Charles Simonds. Made in clay, adobe, paint and housed in the New Mexico Museum of Art. August 2011.

Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

It is a beauty of things modest and humble.

It is a beauty of things unconventional.

Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

Photo via minecaching.tumblr.com. Click for source.

Charles Simonds began building clay villages, ruins and what he termed ” dwellings for imaginary civilizations of little people” in the 70’s, in New York.

His microscopic urban interventions at one point could be found, among others, in Paris, Venice, Shangai, Dublin.

They are now housed as prestigious artifacts in art collectors’ homes and museums (like the Whitney in NYC).

Photo via whitney.org. Click for source.

Photo via whitney.org. Click for source.

Click for more Charles Simonds’ dwellings

Watch the video: Dwellings 1972

.                         .                         .                       .                          .                          .                       .

Simonds and Sarah

Salmon kisses,

I knead  essays at night

dream perfect poems–

lost silver strands become your hair.

I make collages of languid bathroom quotes,

images and cities.

Night drunk with words,

your eyes are full of them–

nestled in the cup of your arms

like Simonds’ tiny city in a new york warehouse.

A word thief,

of raspberry essence–

the poetry of portugal:

“Your toes are

little ducks

Sita to Shiva…”

You say I’m used to you like my mandatory doppio cappuccino,

Sarah’s velvet voice,

heaven in Corcovado nights.

You say my poems always have three words:

almonds, apricot, oil.

Here you go:

Downtown is on fire

Your almond eyes float like moons

Your skin is oil on water,

Apricot lips.

Berkeley, August 2011

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Still from 'One Room in Rome'. 2011

Escape Velocity

I wake up in San Francisco.

I attained

Escape velocity

From you and your gravity

Your slate roofs

( to my terracotta tiles).

The bee drinks from the flowers in the fields


There is only

So much happiness in one day.

I lost words

They slipped by and became dreams

And in dreaming, perfect sentences

(to poems that will never be, yet exist).

I asked my own

About a thousand years from now,

and if there’s a heaven for love stories

‘If there’s delight in love’, I said, ‘Tis when I see

that heart which others bleed for, bleed for me.’

Jilynnette said yesterday

her name like Ginger Ale


our life is measured by streetlight time.

I told her about boulevards and run-on sentences

piazza, urban commas and periods.

I fell asleep reciting

Borges, Cortázar, the Center for the Art of Translation

as a rosary, not to forget.

You are gone at Harvest time

As the grains burst open

With sunshine.

Berkeley,  August 2011

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Entry for ONE LIFE | An International Photography Competition.

I decided to participate ( characteristically last-minute) to ONE LIFE, an international photography competition, in the ‘City Imagery’ category.

Click here (or on the image above) to see the entry at a higher resolution and, if you like what you see, vote and share my photograph.

The prize is $10,000 or a trip around the world. Guess what I would pick.

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Architecture Depends by Jeremy Till Book cover

On April 08, 2011 I attended Till’s  provocative  lecture on his new book ‘Architecture Depends’. Here is a review from The Architects’ Journal (UK).

Here are some quotes from that day, from my notes, which i hope to be as faithful as possible:

The book was initially titled ‘Architecture and Contingencies’. The publisher made me change it to ‘Architecture Depends’. There are problems changing the title of a book once it is finished- and structured around a different title.

This book is a polemic. Architects detach themselves.  This detachment starts here in academia. Architecture students go in as humans and come back as architects.

Architects are separate from life. Autonomy in architecture is detachment.We witness the treatment of buildings as though they are detached objects, displayed in the media as something apart. This detachment is a dissolution.

All we got is Vitruvius: commodity, firmness, delight. Recycled through the ages!

Of all the impossible task that modernity sets for itself, order stands out. How does modernity achieve order? By exterminating ambivalence. Modernity is behind the Holocaust.

Corbu didn’t invent modernity. He was a symptom of it.

Modernity cannot get rid of contingency.

Contingency is getting rid of the idea that things may turn out differently. In architecture contingency is inevitable.

Architects would be banished by Plato.

Contingency makes us have to make choices.

Abstract vs. situated knowledge.

“All architecture is waste in transit.” Peter Guthrie

Le Courbusier tried to banish domestic inhabitation.

Parametric people are as conservative as the New Urbanists, the latter caught in an aggressive past, the former in a progressive future .

Modernity: concerned with purity, the color white…modernity is this gleaning table with this aesthetic of getting rid of dirt.

‘You don’t know how wonderful dirt is.’ James Joyce’s last words, from Gideon’s biography.

Architects ‘make space’…negative space…what does that even mean?

‘Social space is a social product’. Henri Lefebvre

The production of space is not the agency of architecture alone!

Sustainability=sustain the status quo. This word has become meaningless.

Elvis Costello and Lo-Fi architecture: I heard Elvis Costello once in an interview saying that when you record in the studio you get caught up in a certain kind of environment. He would ask to have the record played back on a cheap transistor radio, because that’s how the music is going to be experienced by most people. The same with architecture. We have to have in mind low-fi, transistor radio architecture as we stay in front of the computer, believing what we see. The more it looks real the less real it is.

Architecture cannot be about aesthetic alone: it deals with the social and ethical. It has to be alert to the context.

I don’t like to use pictures in my presentations because, as soon as I provide pictures, the argument becomes about aesthetic.

Professions set themselves apart by setting up problems they are the only ones able to solve. Professors do the same.

‘Architecture and Agency’ will be my next book.

Sensemaking vs. problemsolving.

In architecture we have created phony ethics, we have associated ethics with aesthetics, morality with beauty…God is in the detail, etc.

Doing good by doing beautiful buildings?

Professional codes of conducts are an example of phony ethics: these are not ethical guidelines, they are principles for relating to the client.

You can’t be ethical by doing beautiful buildings! You have to assume an ethical stance, a responsibility for the other. If we start thinking that every line on a piece of paper is an act of social responsibility, then every line assumes significance.

I am against ‘Anyone is Anyone’ conferences.

From the paper ‘Lost Judgement’ from the 2003 EEAA Prize by Jeremy Till – and referred to during the talk:

The Other for architects is the one or ones who will be part of the social space our buildings help construct. In this way we can be the architects Unger would wish us to be, “enabling people as individuals and as groups to express themselves by changing their situations. …(the architect) lives out his transformative vocation by assisting someone else’s.”

An ethical person is a person who gathers discordant opinions and makes the best decision. Hope is with given given circumstances. Stop investing in objects.

The next project I will do will be on scarcity. Scarcity is much more interesting to me.

Architects sold out the profession to the agency of Capitalism. In building Dubai they forgot it was going to be built by slave labor. If all you offer is commodity you have got nothing to offer. Spatial intelligence will get us away from the cul-de-sac we got ourselves into. We should be gathering contingencies and make the best possible solutions.

I like to think of architects as angels with dirty faces.







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Book: Eros e Thanatos; sketch, ink on paper. April 2, 2011

History of Coffee


Ethiopian sheperds

discovered coffee

when they realized

their goats

began to dance.


Michelle Ramadan




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Ink and Watercolor on paper. September 30,2010.

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How to pin a heart to a sleeve. Ink on Paper. 2002

A Time for Everything

There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven ~
2 A time to give birth, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to tear down, and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search, and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep, and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; A time to be silent, and a time to speak.
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace.


Watch: {Buddha Bar IV – Agricantus – Amatevi  in Sicilian and Armenian}


The true nature of your Beloved.

In His loving eyes your every thought,

Word and movement is always-

Always Beautiful.”

– Hafiz

 from poetseers

“Amare, non significa convertire,
ma per prima cosa ascoltare,
scoprire questo uomo,
…questa donna,
che appartengono a una civiltà
e ad una religione diversa.
L’amore consiste non nel sentire
che si ama, ma nel voler amare;
quando si vuol amare, si ama;
quando si vuol amare sopra ogni cosa,
si ama sopra ogni cosa.”

Charles de Foucauld

 Prete cattolico e religioso che visse tra i Tuareq nel Sahara dell’Algeria


“To Love, does not mean to convert,
but first of all to listen,
discover this man,
this woman,
who belong to different civilizations and religions.
Love consists not in feeling we are in love,
but in the will to love;
When one is willing to love, she loves;
When one is willing to love above all else,
she loves above all else.”

Charles de Foucauld

Catholic religious and priest living among the Tuareq in the Sahara in Algeria


Happy Eid, Cammellino.

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Reading Gemini. Half-Price Bookstore, Berkeley, California. Photography, June 28, 2010.

 All the following images have been taken at City Lights Booktore in North Beach (Little Italy) , San Francisco, on June 29, 2010. I dedicate this post to my dear English and Literature Professor at NDSU, Steve Ward. Long live The Beats.

McClure, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsburg at the last Beats gathering, 1965.Outside City Lights Bookstore, North Beach, San Francisco.

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I always used to say to my students ‘Architecture is constructed politics’, but lately, after (re) reading Le Corb’s Vers Une Architecture, I have been known to spur on my students with my rallying whispher of  ‘Architecture is built poetry’.  As in Le Corbusier’s assertion that the plan is an expression of the spirit, as in architecture with the capital A, as in not mere construction (ok. I think by now you know my very own windmills, which I am  battling, no need to get riled up again – except to dream of a tee which says Technicians, maybe someone over at Archinect is listening)

Tees Designs. March 08, 2010. The 'tyranny of the straight line'.

In my quest to find a link between poetry and architecture, I came across some gems, and wanted to pass on my finds. As I mentioned, I have been reading Gaston’s Bachelard ‘Poetics of Space’, and there seems to be a certain zeitgeist focused on poetry and its relationship to created (architectural) space.

William Stout, the reknown historical bookstore in San Francisco dedicated to Architecture, recently published Poems for Architects: An Anthology, by Jill Stoner.

From William Stout Publishers:

This unusual anthology of twentieth century poetry is arranged into sections of poems that address issues of domesticity, urbanism, formal concepts and form itself. Each section is introduced with a provocative essay by Stoner, an associate Professor of Architecture at UC Berkeley (where else?), that develops the argument for the relevance of poetry to architecture today. Twenty-nine varied authors such as Mark Strand, Wallace Stevens, Eavan Boland, Adrienne Rich and Rita Dove, help to illustrate the point.

This is definitely on my wishlist…maybe they desk copies for faculty available ?

Make buildings that are poems.

Antoni Gaudi

I also came across this gem of a book: Le Corbusier: The Artist The Writer, by Lucien Herve (1970).

As the story goes, Le Corb was an artist in the morning, an architect in the afternoon and, at night, he would write poetry.

I have also been pointed towards John Hejduk,  an accomplished architect (his are the Wall House projects), artist, Dean and Faculty of the School of Architecture at Cooper Union (<3), author and poet.  His is  Such Places as Memory: Poems 1953-1996, 1998.

John Hedjuk said:

” I believe in the social contract therefore I teach. I believe that the University is one of the last places that protects and preserves freedom, therefore teaching is also a socio/political act, among other things. I believe in books and the written word, therefore I fabricate works with the hope that they will be recorded in books. I am pragmatic and believe in keeping records. I believe to record is to bear witness. The book I wrote, Victims is to bear witness and to remember. I believe in the density of the sparse. I believe in place and the spirit of place.”

Speaking of writing, I am going to my first ever writers’ workshop and will report back 🙂


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” I have to more or less trip over work before i touch it”

John Wesley

(thankyou Karen for giving me The Times Magazine every month, full of literary/art pearls-see pg.147)

It has been a rainy, blustery weekend–albeit mentally invigorating.
I noticed my posts come after some sort of revelation, or rumination, or happenstance. It is almost as though I cannot wait to have ephiphanies, or discover new things and share them here. But one needs to live life before commenting on it, thus the days of silence. When I am not here, I am charging, like a battery, and keeping my eyes and ears open for interesting stories, art, individuals.

Friday night I meet an oceanographer/historian of Maltese origins with a penchant for adventure, who shared a video from his version of ‘Motorcycle Diaries’.  In 2001 (or 2002, I do not remember exactly, there was wine involved) he and few companions rode from San Diego to the end of Baja California, crossing a stretch of land, called Punta San Carlo, which has never been crossed before, by literally asking some fishermen to load their bikes on their little boats. The fishermen in the boat proceeded to wear lifesaver jackets and I thought about what my father’s reaction would be if someone asked to load a motorbike on his fishing boat. Even though he has a Suzuki street bike, I chuckle at his reaction. He would take on the challenge for sure. We discussed how the oceanographer (now living in La Spezia, Italy, with his gracious wife) should put the video online: if he indeed went ‘where no man rode before’ I am sure hundreds of fellow bikers would be interested. His video was titled ‘Lawrence of Baja’ (from the oceanographer’s love of Lawrence of Arabia) and set to some pretty interesting music. Through him I also learned about Malta, the Knights, the Crusades and a book that Lawrence of Arabia wrote for his thesis ‘ The Influence of the Crusades on European Military Architecture‘ (see, architecture follows me everywhere, no rest for the weary, along with discussions about Arab architecture, civilization in Spain etc.).  I had the occasion to meet some other Maltese citizens here in San Diego and I always love to discuss how Malta is so close to Italy, yet the language contains lots of Arabic words. A land truly between two worlds.

Something to ponder upon : Gibraltar (in Italian made into the latin-sounding Ghibilterra) actually comes from the Arab word Gib’ Al- Tareq, or Mountain of Tareq, who was a condottiero, or conqueror, responsible of the ‘Opening of Spain’, or the cultural invasion of Spain which lasted for 800 years and left us some of the most beautiful Moorish architecture in the world, such as Grenada and Alhambra.

SO you might think that a motorcycle journeythrough the deserts of Baja, in a completely self-sustaining fashion (and I am talking about plastic bottles containing gasoline strapped on bikes), inspired by Lawrence of Arabia (who himself died in a motorcycle accident) is pretty adventurous, right? Well on the very same night I also met a visiting British comedian who decided to move back to England from Australia, with his girlfriend, by biking (as in bicycle) across this land, camping (as in tent) on RV camps and refilling on fuel for the gas stove by asking RV’s to share their gas —since it was sold in five-gallon canisters and impossible to carry on bikes. I do meet the most interesting people and now officially feel the need for some adventures of my own.

My own brush with Motorcycle Diaries (my long dreamed-of trip to Cuba) did not happen this Spring, due to creative accounting on the part of the IRS– apparently I made just enough money to pay more and not receive a refund, call my tax bracket a financial Bermuda Triangle…So I have been pondering how it would be to walk throughout California, from San Diego to San Francisco…and what would be my cause?

These are the thoughts that go through my head as I walk home from school, usually in the evening, usually a 45-minute quiet, starry  walk, full of dreams, prayers and stories.

These days we are fed imagination  through the media. We are not really given a lot of opportunity in our day-to-day lives to exercise our imagination– most of us aren’t–and dreams are purer imagination, pure creation: it’s as if we are producing a movie every single night, all of our own, it is completely self-created and instantly created..

Groks Science Show

Dr. Veronica Tonay

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Mies Van De Rohe's Barcelona Chairs @ the College of Environmental Design in Berkeley. Oct. 2009

Mies Van De Rohe's Barcelona Chairs @ the College of Environmental Design in Berkeley. Oct. 2009

Reading Lounge at CED Library, Berkeley. Oct. 2009

Reading Lounge at CED Library, Berkeley. Oct. 2009



My absolutely favorite part of Wurster Hall building is the CED library- which is so up to date it has its own facebook and twitter page.
In it, we find large, custom-designed tables with great lighting and comfortable wooden chairs.
Plenty of room to spread out and a wonderful atmosphere for working and studying.
I also love the sitting area with Mies Van De Rohe’s Barcelona chairs, which lends a hint of sophistication to the space and makes it really inviting. You can learn more about chairs’ design here.

A library should feel like a special place, and this one definitely celebrates knowledge and books.

These days, much is said about the future of libraries (and books), in a digital age of downloads and Kindle. Print newspapers are disappearing or undergoing big cuts, and one of my favorite Op Ed contributor at the New York Times covered the issue, saying that desperate times call for desperate measures. Last week the Times also wrote about libraries who are embracing digital lending (albeit on a reservation system).

As an avid book lover and collector, I am intrigued by debate of the future of books (and e-books- does the brain like them?) and ponder about a future in which books will be obsolete or prized collections, such as records are today.

It seems like this topic is covered everyday in one form or another, and now even art has contributed to the  fetishism of the book. Do we celebrate a form of communication right at the moment when that form is losing its relevance? Recently, I have started the whole contents of my library on LibraryThing, and , through this process, I am appreciating my books all over again.
Considering they have made the trip across the pond several times, they are all very expensive books by now, too. A point has to be made that, with the advent of e-books, I would not have to pay hundreds of dollars each time to ship my body of knowledge. I still remember how cumbersome it was to try to bring all my CDs on trip and I am, it’s true, ever-so-thankful for my 120GB Ipod.

Of course book lovers will say that books will never lose its relevance, but when the new generation is getting the book contents via the internet (legally or illegally), and even the University of California Libraries have been collaborating with Google on its mega-scanning project, we need to accept the fait accompli: a paradigm shift is taking place, whether we like it or not. The enviromental cost of printing on paper needs to also be taken in consideration.

The dream is an old one to unify all books ever printed, , in every language, and make that body of knowledge easily accessible. A sort of modern-day version of the Alexandria Library. Sure everyone knows about Google books, but do you know that the Boston Public Library will scan on demand any public domain books you request? And send you a link to download it? That is, I have to admit, incredible.

I will throw my two pennies in the fray: I spend lots of time in front of the screen, and so far, I have found the experience of reading a book (in my case, Death in Venice) online the equivalent of eating junk food. Sure it can fill your stomach, but the quick and easy fix, notwithstanding the empty calories, robs you of the ritual of eating a meal. In Italy there is a movement that is trying to save movie theathers, and it studied the difference between watching a movie in the big screen as opposed to downloading it and watching it on the computer. It surveyed young viewers who were asked to make a drawing after seeing a movie in the movie theather and once again, in the computer screen at home. The difference in the creative output is outstanding. Watching a movie on your laptop does not feel ‘special’ and I do believe some of the magic, the ‘suspension of disbelief’ is lost, when right outside of the borders of your screen you see the laundry that neds to be folded, or dishes needing to be washed. Indeed , once televisions were installed in every home there was also a cry for the ‘death of the movie theather’. As it has been said for drawng, in that case, the advent of tv dinners did not eradicate home cooked meals , just made it more special. Yes, Okay, but if reading abook becomes rarer and rare, how special is it? Could reading in front of a screen kill the magic and wonderment of a story? The e-culture, or i-culture, is exponentially more of vehicle of change than tv ever were for the movie theather. It does more than shift the paradigm: it shatters it.

The digital revolution is here, and like the Nothing in Neverending Story, it will eat the book culture we have now, to substitute it with gadgets increasingly more sophisticated and more ‘realistic’:
[Behold! Perfect imitations of ‘ Real (TM) books’]!
E-book publishers are even claiming that people are reading more now that they have access to electronic book readers.

Soon the books will go the way of music and MP3’s…and when offer is abundant , invariably the value (both economic and of personal attachment) plummets. It is the plastic culture, Andy Warhol would have loved it.

I am sure my dialectic has some holes in it, but I hope you catch my drift.

This is the end of the world as we know it (TM).


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Barcelona Chairs by Mies Van De Rohe, 1929 @ the CED Library in Berkeley

Barcelona Chairs by Mies Van De Rohe, 1929 @ the CED Library in Berkeley

This post started (two weeks ago)  as a celebration of my favorite library, the CED library in Berkeley. I was just going to show you the sketch of Mies’ Barcelona chairs and tell you how much I liked there– and how conducive the environment is to getting things done and eating your frog, and call it a day. I then found a very interesting brief history of the building this Library is housed in, which actually embodies the creation of the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley: it was so fascinating and full of great quotes, I wanted to share with you.

The ongoing debate about the relevance of libraries  and printed matter begged to be included, since this was a post on libraries. As it happened once before, the Times published great material on the topic as I was crafting this post. I hope you ejoy it and will join in the discussion.

During a recent quiet (read: my internet was down) evening I pulled out a paper I brought home with me from Berkeley, a brief history of the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley and the building it is housed in: Wurster Hall. The paper was originally written in 1984 by Sally B. Woodbridge to mark the 20th anniversary of the building, and the following is a summary of its contents (read I am paraphrasing, not all ‘flour from my bag’ as we say in Italy).

As William Wilson Wurster said in 1964:

I wanted [future Wurster Hall] to look like a ruin that no regent would like…It’s absolutely unfinished, uncouth, and brilliantly strong…The Ark  [previous Architecture building], for instance, is a ripe building; it has been lived in; it’s been used; it’s been beaten up…It’s arrived.
Our building will take twenty years to arrive.

Oral History, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library.

Detail of Interior Courtyard Elevation- College of Environments

Detail of Interior Courtyard Elevation- College of Environments

In 1984, the twenty years had passed, and, as Woodbridge says, they had left the building lived in, used, and beaten up.  The crisp mountain of concrete did not age gracefully, mainly because the university judged the building to be maintenance free: weak points such as the caulking were never redone or checked when necessary.
Woodbridge’s paper was reissued in 2009, with a new introduction, this time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the building and the college.  For, in fact, the building embodies the college, and the struggles to find unity in a name ( I had no idea that Environmental Design was a term fraught with so much political meaning) and in differences in design visions.
The issue of the name is important, because the CED was not just another college at U.C Berkeley, it was the world’s first institution dedicated to the study of Environmental Design (Woodbridge, 2).

The new building was going to be housing the City and Regional Planning, the Landscape Architecture, and Architecture Departments. In reading the essay, one realizes the power in a name, for there was a waryness of the other departments of being subordinated to the older and larger field of architecture.

Wurster, the Dean of the School of Architecture from 1950 to 1963 ,started working on the unification of the departments shortly after he assumed his academic duties, and formed a committee which met for four years, but the disapproval of the college names and disagreements over the new college led to a very poliically fraught atmosphere. Wuster disbanded the committee, and when the legislation finally approved the creation of the new building (prophetically without a name) in 1956-7, he assembled a team of unlikely-mind architects to design the new building.

It is very telling that the administration disapproved of choosing three faculty members to design a major building, but Wurster argued successfully that not choosing Architecture faculty would be a vote of disapproval. Wurster abhorred Avant Garde Design, ‘I want you to design a ruin”, he said, pounding the table for emphasis. He was concerned with consistencies of use of forms and materials. Some say he had a Brutalist approach, à la Kahn.  Unfortunately, as Esherick, one of the architects, said, the funds  at their disposal did not allow them to do the fantastically controlled concrete work that Kahn used at the Salk Institute in LaJolla.

Wurster got his wish, no regent liked the building, in fact, one of them remarked: ‘They should have not disguised the building with trees’, referring to the elegant renderings made to ‘sell’ the new design.                                                                                                                   If, as many think, the building did not age gracefully, it was and is certainly appreciated for its capacity to withstand neglect and intense use.  Wurster was of the opinion that a school should be a rough place with many cracks in it. If, as many think, the building did not age well, it was certainly appreciated for its capacity to withstand neglect and intensive use . While it took a beating, it kept the uncouth character that Wurster so admired.  Perpetually unfinished, Wurster Hall was an pen ended and provocative environment for teaching and questioning.

Right up to the exposed ductwork (sounds familiar?)

Rendering of the Interior of Wurster Hall. From CED Library, Berkeley. OCt. 2009

Rendering of the Interior of Wurster Hall. From CED Library, Berkeley. Oct. 2009

As J.B Jackson wrote: Where beauty has to be sought out and extracted from a reluctant environment, the arts often seem to flourish best. wherever it exists in profusion and variety it is likely to be accepted as a condition of daily existence, a kind of birthright calling for no special acknowledgement. American Space 1972

Extracting beauty from the environment is what the College of Environmental Design is all about.

A summary of:   Sally B.  Woodbridge ‘The College of Environmental Design in Wurster Hall: A History”, 1984, 2009

And now, for fun, or as my German teacher used to say, ‘zum spiel’, I would like to talk about that ‘brilliantly strong’ character, and what it reminds me of.

Wurster Hall. Elevation from Courtyard. Oct. 2009.

Wurster Hall. Elevation from Courtyard. Oct. 2009.


Casa Del Fascio by Terragni, Como, 1930.

Casa Del Fascio by Terragni, Como, 1930.


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The Sun, the Moon, and on there being no abstracts in life. Pencil, ink, watercolor on 4"X5" canvas.2009

The Sun, the Moon, and on there being no abstracts in life. Pencil, ink, watercolor on 4"X5" canvas. 2009

Looking For Your Face

From the beginning of my life
I have been looking for your face
but today I have seen it.

Today I have seen
the charm, the beauty,
the unfathomable grace
of the face
that I was looking for.

Today I have found you
and those that laughed
and scorned me yesterday
are sorry that they were not looking
as I did.

I am bewildered by the magnificence
of your beauty
and wish to see you with a hundred eyes.

My heart has burned with passion
and has searched forever
for this wondrous beauty
that I now behold.

I am ashamed
to call this love human
and afraid of God
to call it divine.

Your fragrant breath
like the morning breeze
has come to the stillness of the garden
You have breathed new life into me
I have become your sunshine
and also your shadow.

My soul is screaming in ecstasy
Every fiber of my being
is in love with you

Your effulgence
has lit a fire in my heart
and you have made radiant
for me
the earth and sky.

My arrow of love
has arrived at the target
I am in the house of mercy
and my heart
is a place of prayer.


from  http://jaibhakti.blogspot.com

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These orchids smelled like bakhoor .
I had to get them down in my sketchbook before they wilted away.

Orchids and the Happy Mistake. Ink and watercolor. Sept. 20, 2009.

Orchids and the Happy Mistake. Ink and watercolor. Sept. 20, 2009.

Caffe’ Strada in Berkeley has- in my humble opinion- the best cappuccino this side of Firenze. The foam (crema, really) is so thick it actually lifts up from the glass Strada baristas serve their famous cappuccino in. On a whim, I strayed from my usual cappuccino habit and ordered their regular coffee. Well, they do not serve drip coffee, so I got an Americano. You might ask what prompted me to ask for drip, or ‘Regular American’ Coffee….well, it is my recent obsession with Twin Peaks and Agent Cooper.
‘That’s a damn good cup of Joe’!

Americano at Caffe' La Strada, Berkeley. Ink and pencil. Sept.20, 2009.

Americano at Caffe' Strada, Berkeley. Ink and pencil. Sept.20, 2009.

Americano at Caffe' La Strada- Berkeley. Pencil, ink and photoshop. Sept. 20, 2009.

Americano at Caffe' Strada- Berkeley. Pencil, ink and photoshop. Sept. 20, 2009.

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The respite from teaching means more time to dedicate to looking around and showing up daily to my sketchbook.  I have been experimenting with watercolor, a medium that I am enjoying more and more since my Rendering and Delineation class, and the coffee paintings. I have been visiting Ghadah’s website daily and leaving what probably are too many comments ;). Seeing her work inspired me to compose art as in a journal, and I did always enjoy words and illustrations.  So here it is, my first in the ‘Berkeley Diaries’ series. I love leaving San Diego and visiting San Francisco when we are in between quarters, and this time of year is perfect for sailing and for long plen air painting sessions.

Her Lady in Red. Ink and Watercolor. Sept.19,2009

Her Lady in Red. Ink and Watercolor. Sept.19,2009

Berkeley Bay. Pencil and watercolor. Sept.19,2009

Berkeley Bay. Pencil and watercolor. Sept.19,2009

Amina's BCBG Shoe. Ink and watercolor. Sept. 19, 2009

Amina's BCBG Shoe. Ink and watercolor. Sept. 19, 2009

Amina reading. Ink on paper. Sept.19,2009

Amina reading. Ink on paper. Sept.19,2009

Amina Reading II. Ink on paper. Sept.19,2009

Amina Reading II. Ink on paper. Sept.19,2009

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