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Archive for the ‘Lectures’ Category

 

 

Rainer Maria Rilke writes:

Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write.

This above all — ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.

[…]
A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity. In this nature of its origin lies the judgment of it: there is no other.

In this spirit I offer you, Reader, this poem and these images, stemming from one brief November visit to the city than never sleeps – and several months of correspondence.

 

 

In a New York Minute [Glissando]

 

“If you can receive it at the wavelength is is playing at, you may love it.”

From a review of the series “Forever”

 

 

We existed

in the ellipses between

words appearing on screen

and giving up

 

Suspended above the city

you loved how I used the word luscious

 

We kissed with our souls

on the tip of our tongue

this is from Spoon River Anthology

 

You are morse code

and I need continuity

 

–when I asked if we were ships in the night

and you said yes did you notice me wiping the water

on my cheeks? I barely noticed too.

 

But then you said : “Body and heart.”

Body and heart.

 

You spoke of fire between our souls,

as if you knew about souls.

You only know about fire.

 

My tears don’t fall

I do

every single time

— how many goodbyes did it take?

 

So elegant in your detachment, like it was an art form.

Precise in your choice of words,

I fell in love with your philosopher brain.

I still fall in love with it every time — liminal.

 

A New York minute.

You were the space separating

Love and reason

 

I was addicted to a city

giddy at the thought of walking her streets beside you

how do you fly and walk

at the same time?

 

Even if you don’t see her torn feet

the effortless dance of the ballerina

is a flower bloomed out of pain.

 

Take each sentence, rearrange as you wish.

This is not to scale.

The timeline is not linear.

 

To hear you whisper, half-asleep: “When?”

Zero things better.

 

I heard that New York is the heartbeat of the world.

In that heartbeat a part of me is marked by your passage.

 

We will never go to Tokyo.

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Yesterday I was lucky enough to visit the old section of the town of Vittorio Veneto, in the region of Veneto, in Northeastern Italy. Present-day Vittorio Veneto is the result of the fusion of the municipalities of Ceneda and Serravalle after WWI. 
The photos below are of the old Jewish ghetto of Ceneda, and the centro ( center or downtown) with its villas, park and piazzetta ( small piazza). 


The Church pictured just below was a surprising find: it is the oldest churchsite I have ever visited, and dates from the IV century (!!!).  The Church you see was rebuilt in 1400, a millennium after the first structure was erected. The timing boggles the mind: in 313 CE Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire with the Edict of Milan, and on this site a church was built shortly thereafter. 



Serravalle, like Treviso, the regional center of the prosperous region of Veneto, features frescoes on the façades of buildings. This is something fascinating that I learned during this trip (from my mom, who is from Treviso) Frescoes in Serravalle- a town of Roman origin-were not just relegated to the interior of churches, but graced the buildings’ street elevations and were painted by notable local artists. Most of the palazzi date from the 1400’s. What was depicted on them? Hard to say from what remains in Serravalle. I could discern some courtly scenes  and patterns/coat of arms. Both here and in Treviso, the frescoes were plastered over during one of the bouts of the Plague, in a misguided effort to ‘disinfect’ homes. 

One of the photos depicts the winged lion of Venezia (Venice) on top of a tall pole. This whole area was indeed part of the inland empire of La Serenissima (the most serene) Republic of Venezia.

The best part for me, as a flâneuse was walking through the many porticoes of Serravalle. Enjoy my flâneuring..

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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!”

Joe

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Shift #5

Ali Liebegott

for Seamus Heaney

 

 

a box of coconut water
two cans of coconut milk

so many looking for help

some people care when a poet dies

a poem is a conscience
a report card, a confession:

today my lies were a motor that spun the Earth

how can you get truth from a hill
when I am the continent that drifts?

how can I taste what I’m mourning
when soon everything will be salt from the sea?

 

—8/30/13, Register 6
1 PM—5:15 p.m.

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Builtculture logo. Digital Manipulation. October 2013.

Happy November!

If you have been wondering what I have been up to, I have been here.
Builtculture is a project I have started last year with a graduate student, Samar Sepehri. It is finally taking off.
(If you are so inclined, and feel like Liking our page, please do so!).
I designed our logo, starting from an image of bukhoor, and overlaying over an image of San Diego.
The creative juice have been applied to community outreach, still I was happy to be making something art-like.

Related to this, I have been working on bringing speakers and workshops in the field of community and activist design, such as this:


postermilenko_web

Also related to this, I went over the border, to Tjiuana to work on an international project, make connections and do a bit of wine tasting and cultural sightseeing.

I also went to Deer Park Monastery for a Day of Mindfulness.

Photos coming soon.

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Drawing by Jackie McDowell.

I am posting the first of a series of samples of student work from the exhibit  History of Architecture: Analysis and Synthesis Through Visual Notes. Moving chronologically, today we start with the Beginnings of Architecture.  This body work was completed for the Graduate History of Architecture sequence, comprising of three courses, which i taught during the 2011-2012 school year.

I will also post some photos from the Exhibit.

These visual notes are by Jackie McDowell.

Drawing by Jackie McDowell.

Drawing by Jackie McDowell.

And here is the  paper abstract summarizing the project objectives and research purpose.  The full paper will be presented and published next Spring. 

History of Architecture: Analysis and Synthesis Through Visual Notes

Miti Aiello, Full-Time Faculty

NewSchool of Architecture and Design, San Diego, California

The need to update and make relevant the study of History of Architecture in an evolving profession and academic environment has never been more urgent: our discipline demands not only an expanded scope (mandatory inclusion of global or ‘non-western’ traditions and architecture of the vernacular), but new methods of delivery and course projects that are interdisciplinary, that bridge the divide between studio courses and history and that educate the young practitioner in reading history utilizing the same
methods learned in design practice.

Spiro Kostof, the legendary UC Berkeley architectural historian, advocated giving students “something tangible to carry away to the drafting table”.

It is possible to adopt an educational methodology that questions monumental architecture of the past and the traditional, vernacular “architecture without architects” in the same way as students approach a design problem in studio. Hans Morgenthaler’s “Chronology versus System: Unleashing the Creative Potential of Architectural History” – which served as this paper’s catalyst- denounced the inadequacy of relying on the chronological organization of history and suggested designing the History course as a series of design problems or buildings/events, illustrated through architectural drawings (the language of our profession) and not photos. History of Architecture instructors are encouraged to “occupy themselves simultaneously with the study of the past, with critique, and with invention”.

The argument for learning history through drawing, in this case in the form of student-generated visual notes based on textbook reading is related to the ‘invention’ mentioned above and supported by Morgenthaler: “This approach derives from the understanding that a drawing is capable of communicating information about buildings impossible through other means. In addition, as a subjective record, drawings could become part of the history of ideas, as opposed to photographs, which are only evidence. Moreover, drawings express the “belief in architectural precedent and typology which gave relevance to history.” Rachael McCann in her “Exploding the History Survey” also introduced ‘graphic summary pages’ as active inquiry in her course at Mississippi State University, breaking down her large lecture course in smaller sections which would investigate a question brought forth by a particular building, through visual analysis. It is clear that History of Architecture lecturers are seeking novel, more critical models to articulate the course, and better narrate “a story of architecture”.

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Another month rushed by, seemingly accelerating towards the end, as though sprinting to the finish line. The year’s end. Another year.

This past month brought also new beginnings and renewals. Just like accountants, professors measure years differently from the general public.

So this, other, new year that starts with the fall -the harvest- brought Spring in October : experimental mixed media and history courses, new energy, enthusiastic and curious students, expanded involvement, new projects and many welcome social occasions…and always, the company and camaraderie of my gentle and wise kin.
I love my job and feel so blessed. (I have just been given a Service Award for Five Years of outstanding contribution to the school, celebrate good times..)

I hosted my very first reception for my Graduate students’ work in the History of Architecture course this last week. The title of the exhibition was

‘ History of Architecture: Analysis and Synthesis through Visual Notes’.
My past students’ critical, and sometimes lyrical and poetic work –their beautifully rendered drawings, sketches and diagrams–have been gracing the halls of my school and received much acclaim. This body of work and research into this alternative method for teaching history is the topic of a forthcoming paper, which I will present in the Spring.

I am also launching a project called Builtculture, which I will be editing. This is something I have been working on for few months along with a stellar Graduate student of mine, Samar Sepehri. Builtculture is a repository for lectures and cultural events happening in San Diego and the So-Cal region, for the architecture and urban design discriminating aficionados. It exists in form of a facebook page for now, but will soon morph into a simple yet useful calendar site–as soon as I can catch my breath.

Planning to post photos of the Visual Notes Exhibit next week -need to scan few more examples and ‘teasers’- and to share Builtculture when it is ready too. I am thinking about adding an Academic section to my work site, Archistdesign, for such endeavors.

All of this to say, really, is that my full-time job and volunteering [ for community build and garden build projects , I have learned to build a deck and plaster, aka architecture for social purpose … yes!] have taken ahold of my heart and days  lately, and my art has had to wait.
I also (also!) will have my poetry published. New poems have been brewing and blooming, maybe I will share one later tonight.

I know that there are few of you who follow these ramblings of mine , who gently coax me when I have not posted for a while, and wanted to reach out and declare that I do not want this to be a ‘ travel blog’ , a dalliance…but that I also have to make peace with the fact that I am nor cannot be a a full-time writer, poet or artist, (although I would embrace these lives and crafts in a heartbeat, teaching is my calling) and that I cannot post or work on my art everyday. Life itself needs to be explored, precious work completed, books need to be read, and body, soul, and spirit nurtured daily. Perhaps, I have been given too many passions for just one life. These are heavy gifts and Chet Baker sings ‘I fall in love too easily’…

Before biding my hopefully brief adieu, here is a poem that I recently found among old correspondence.
It is nice to be old enough to have that.. Speaking of correspondence, see ‘ Young Goethe in Love’. I died.


The Undertaking

The darkness lifts, imagine, in your lifetime .

The darkness lifts, imagine, in your lifetime .

There you are — cased in clean bark you drift through weaving rushes, fields flooded with cotton.

You are free.

The river films with lilies, shrubs appear, shoots thicken into palm.

And now all fear gives way: the light looks after you, you feel the waves’ goodwill as arms widen over the water;

Love, the key is turned.

Extend yourself —it is the Nile, the sun is shining, everywhere you turn is luck.

Louise Glück

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Ink drawing of the sculpture “The Age of Enlightenment – Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breuteuil, Marquise de Châtelet” by Yinka Shonibare, MBE. Drawn at the San Diego Museum of Art, 2008. 



There are particular nights, small time frames, where everything you want, and, yes -everything you need- is given to you.

You watch your life unfolding perfectly, like a well-written screenplay of a comedy of errors, where the characters, after a series of ‘harrowing events’ and near misses, find each other at last. These nights you believe in signs, and that there are no coincidences.

I am not saying that life or love have a happy ending, but some days do.

Last Friday, the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park hosted an extraordinary event, part of their Summer Salon Series (inspired by the tradition of French literary and cultural salons). This event was a 36 Hour ‘continued’ Salon taking place in the museum’s galleries (open consecutively for 36 hours…I will never forget contemplating Egon Schiele at 2 in the morning), auditorium, and outdoors in the sculpture garden.

Needless to say, the collection of happenings taking place ranged from the superb to the surreal. Wandering in the museum galleries in the wee hours of night with other artists, revellers and cool types felt very subversive and….Big City.

A Yes Men lecture, an avant-garde play on self-loop for four hours, museum tours, German Expressionist Cinema, ambient music with obligatory trippy visualizations, live bands, a napping station plen air, stargazing on the lawn of the sculpture garden, drawing dreams and nightmares and, my favorite, a marching band in which us, the audience, were given a makeshift instrument and played (and marched) directed by the one-man band’s crazy frontman.

The general feeling of anarchy, and being caught between confusion/freedom/disbelief/engagement made this event very Dada, or something the Situationists would have conjured up…

Click to enlarge

During a lecture, I drew one of the pieces on display {above}. you can find a photo of the piece here.

From the museum’s literature: The Age of Enlightenment – Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breuteuil, Marquise de Châtelet, is from a series of five figures depicting notable philosophers from the eighteenth century. The marquise, fluent in several languages and an accomplished mathematician and physicist, personified the “enlightened” person. Her lasting legacy is the translation and critique of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica that is still used to this day. Despite the fact that the Marquise de Châtelet was a leading mind of eighteenth-century France, much of her work was overlooked because of her gender. Her most famous lover, Voltaire, described her as a ‘great man’ whose only fault was being a woman.

I like to think that the Marquise is headless because she has never been recognized for her work and her name is virtually unknown.

She has been deliberately omitted in the annals of His-tory.

The fabric of her dress also tells a fascinating story of colonialism and the fallacy of ‘tradition’.

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‘Habana is very much like a rose,’ said Fico Fellove in the movie The Lost City,

‘it has petals and it has thorns…so it depends on how you grab it.

But in the end it always grabs you.’


“One of the most beautiful cities in the world. You see it with your heart.”

Enrique Nunez Del Valle, Paladar Owner

Habana’s real essence is so difficult to pin down. Plenty of writers have had a try, though; Cuban intellectual Alejo Carpentier nicknamed Habana the ‘city of columns,’ Federico Llorca declared that he had spent the best days of his life there and Graham Greene concluded that Habana was a city where ‘anything was possible.’

ARCHITECTURE

Habana is, without doubt, one of the most attractive and architecturally diverse cities in the world. Shaped by a colorful colonial history  and embellished by myriad foreign influences from as far afield as Italy and Morocco, the Cuban capital gracefully combines Mudéjar, baroque, neoclassical, art nouveau, art deco and modernist architectural styles into a visually striking whole.

But it’s not all sweeping vistas and tree-lined boulevards. Habana doesn’t have the architectural uniformity of Paris or the instant knock-out appeal of Rome. Indeed, two decades of economic austerity has meant many of the city’s finest buildings have been left to festering an advanced state of dilapidation. Furthermore, attempting to classify Habana’s houses,palaces, churches and forts as a single architectural entity is extremely difficult.

Cuban building – rather like its music – is unusually diverse. Blending Spanish colonial with French belle epoque, and Italian Renaissance with Gaudi-esque art nouveau, the over-riding picture is often one of eclecticism run wild.

Brendan Sainsbury


















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San Diego, November 25, 2011. Third Avenue Pedestrian Bridge.

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San Diego, November 25, 2011. Third Avenue bridge and context (canyon).

Bridge, De-constructed.

” In recent years , the modern understanding of social responsibility as functional program has been superseded by a concern for context. But contextualism has been used as an excuse for mediocrity, for a dumb servility within the familiar. Since deconstructivist architecture seeks the unfamiliar within the familiar, it displaces the context rather than acquiesce to it. What makes it disturbing is the way deconstructivist architecture finds the unfamiliar already hidden within the familiar context. By its intervention, elements of the context become defamiliarized. In one project, towers are turned over on their sides, while in others, bridges are tilted up to become towers.”

Mark Wigley

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In Tea Veritas. New York City. June 2011.

Well, this is no good! August is almost here and once again balmy summer days flew by with traveling, urban escapades and some R&R…while the postings have been mighty sparse.

I have been a curious tourist in my own city and state, and, in between summer courses,  the roamings included a visit to Joshua Tree National Park, Much Ado Abouth Nothing, a tour of the Getty Villa in Malibu, an evening dreaming of Cuba and its Architecture and finally, a retro movie under the stars. There have also been some further experiments with jewelry design. And many caffe’ shakerato’s. And many of foreign movies.  And declutterings, of tangibles and intangibles. I have been busy.

I am back from my adventures for good now, just in time to be blindsided and crushed by Amy Winehouse’s death (more on this later).
I have some shots to share from my travels, the challenge now is not to turn this into a photography blog (after all it is called *sketch* bloom) so i will be back tomorrow with more sketches and plan to alternate photos with drawings and collages for the next few posts.

It’s good to be back, renewed and energized.  I hope this month was good to you too.

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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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Bjarke Ingels came to speak to our school Friday night.

The venue was the Museum of Natural History in scenic Balboa Park.

I am still blown away by the lecture and, more importantly, the message.

It was truly (r)evolutionary.  The fact that BIG’s insanely brilliant concepts not only get built but a) give back to the community in terms of urban interaction b) are socially and ecologically responsible and c) are giving him fame and making him a household name is galvanizing.

Expanding the collective idea of what is possible through architecture: this is the optimism we need after years of gloom, in face of all the naysayers and ‘pie-in-the-sky’ disablers.  Something is blooming in the state of Denmark.

What an event. My friend Alan Rosenblum told me it would be as if  ‘Lady Gaga came to San Diego’.

And. It. Was.  The students loved it. Three days later, and we are all still giddy.

I could not agree more.  Thank you Mr. Ingels.
You intensified the dialogue between students and educators, and showed us how the ‘crazy’ ideas that are developed in studio and propose new typologies for the city are not only possible but timely and welcome. This creates a better learning environment, where pragmatism actually means being part of the solution, not propagating the problem.

I had the same dilemma when working in traditional, corporate offices and found refuge in academia. BIG showed us that there is a third way, the ‘Bigamy’ way. You can have it all. You can be good and successful. You can be extremely famous
and not be arrogant. He spoke of pragmatic idealism, and hedonistic sustainability. He demonstrated how to create building that are fun to experience as inhabitants and city neighbors and yet are sustainable. He showed us the intellectual approach and use of hybridization of traditional typologies to achieve new functions and forms. To wit: the Garbage to Energy plant in the middle of Copenhagen, which will be the city’s tallest structure and will house a ski slope (!) and blow smoke rings each time one ton of CO2 is burned. These are usually ‘crazy’ projects that we see coming from the upper studio division, when we ask the students to ‘dream big’ (pun intended) and question the drab, anti-interactive reality of center cities such as San Diego. The students, deep inside, try to dream but are conditioned to think that projects such as the one we saw in the lecture could never be built due to various factors such as financial interests or politics of control, or even lack of relevance of our role as architects.

We have been liberated from all of this because we can now point to BIG’s projects. Here it was demonstrated that the only limits we have as architects and human beings are those self-imposed, or those we feel ‘reality’ has burdened us with. I know that as faculty we felt validated by BIG’s successes ( does it make sense?). The music and videos, the whole presentation and BIG’s  infectious enthusiasm, warmth and positive energy were, in the words of a student ‘AWESOME’. Another student told me he learned a lot about diagrams from the lecture.
The lecture also was a model for engaging presentations. I have been toying with the idea, but now I am committed to use music and pop references in my History of Architecture classes; I ran the idea with few students and they were all for it. 🙂 I will quote Ingels when he says that we need to ‘cease to consider the building as objects but focus on what they do for the city’ : this informs and generates a new approach to ‘sacred architectural monsters’ and teaching history of architecture (or as I like to think, architectural stories).

A big thank you to Allen Ghaida, the AIAS and all my colleagues at the NewSchool Arts Foundation for making this dream of an event a reality.

I sketched feverishly- and took down all the provocative quotes. Here are my hybrid/computer-augmented notes.

I will add all of the proper building names and location as soon as possible.

click to enlarge

…..and this was my present 🙂

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The Flâneur: A Radical-Chic Icon

The Flâneur. Ink on trace paper. February 26, 2011

The Flâneur and his turtle in the streets of Paris. Digital collage. February 26, 2011. Background photo from San Francisco’s artist David Blumin. Click for his website.



Then I heard the phrase ‘Walk with a turtle’ on NPR, during an interview with Council of Dads’ author Bruce Feiler–and had an epiphany: I, too, had been a flâneuse in my early years. When I was 9 years old I used to tie a red ribbon to the shell of my turtle Stefania/Stefano (we are still not sure) and take her for ‘walks’ around my building and in the field of olive trees nearby. This cannot just be explained by mere coincidence or a sense of equanimity (i would take my giant schnautzer Zorro for walks- or rather, he would take me- and treated Stefania/Stefano to the same). By walking the city (ok , in my case the field of olive trees) at the pace of a tortoise, we are bound to pay attention to life around us, to read the city–not just skim it from the wheel of our car or glancing up from smartphones while we traverse sidewalks. Having a turtle as a guide nudges us to stop rushing. I am reminded of the buddhist monk in the documentary ‘Baraka’, slowly pacing the street with small steps , at the sound of a bell–in the midst of a hyperactive Japanese metropolis. The realization of possible multi-layered readings on the figure of the flaneur prompted a small research.

Historical evidence of The Flâneur? Or just man waiting for his wife? Undated image from: storify.com/virtualdavis/flaneur

The  Flâneur

The term comes from ‘flâner’, which means to stroll in French. From this verb Baudelaire coined the word  flâneur, a person who walks the city in order to experience it.  The flâneur is driven  by an  insatiable  hunger  for  passion; he  seeks  the  streets and  the  city  life  for they  provide  inspiration  and  cure him of the malaise and loneliness  of  being human. He practices mindfulness, or conscious dilly-dallying. In US they would call him a ‘loiterer’, surely shoo him away…or perhaps fine or even jail him (I always tell my students there is no such thing as the word ‘loitering’ in Italian….what else would we do in Piazzas!?). My friend Bruce and I were discussing the flâneur few days ago and he reminded me of  the symbology of the turtle and this quote from Rumi:

The soul needs as much time to wander as the feet.

Rumi

 

Baudelaire writes of the flâneur:

 The  crowd  is  his  element,  as  the  air  is  that  of  birds  and  water  of  fishes.

 His  passion  and passionate  spectator,  it  is  an  immense  joy  to  set  up  house  in  the  heart  of  the  multitude, amid  the  ebb  and  flow  of  movement,  in  the  midst  of  the  fugitive  and  the  infinite.

To  be away  from  home  and  yet  to  feel  oneself  everywhere  at  home;  to  see  the  world,  to  be  at the  centre  of  the  world,  and  yet  to  remain  hidden  from  the  world

impartial  natures which  the  tongue  can  but  clumsily  define.  The  spectator  is  a  prince  who  everywhere  rejoices  in  his  incognito.  The  lover  of  life  makes  the  whole  world  his  family,  just  like  the lover  of  the  fair  sex  who  builds  up  his  family  from  all  the  beautiful  women  that  he  has ever  found,  or  that  are  or  are  not  -­‐  to  be  found;  or  the  lover  of  pictures  who  lives  in  a magical  society  of  dreams  painted  on  canvas.

 

A Process of Navigating Erudition

From Wikipedia: Flâneur is not limited to someone committing the physical act of peripatetic stroll in the Baudelairian sense, but can also include a “complete philosophical way of living and thinking”, and a process of navigating erudition as described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s essay on “Why I Walk” in the second edition of The Black Swan (2010).  A Sunday Time review called The Black Swan  one of the twelve most influential books since WWII.

Benjamin  in his Arcades further describes the flâneur utilizes the city,  which becomes an  extension of  his residence:

The   street   becomes   a   dwelling   for   the   flâneur;   he   is   as   much   at   home   among   the facades  of  houses  as  a  citizen  is  in  his  four  walls.  To  him  the  shiny,  enameled  signs  of businesses  are  at  least  as  good  a  wall  ornament  as  an  oil  painting  is  to  the  bourgeois  in his  salon.  The  walls  are  the  desk  against  which  he  presses  his  notebooks;  news-­‐stands are  his  libraries  and  the  terraces  of  cafés  are  the  balconies  from  which  he  looks  down on  his  household  after  his  work  is  done.


Some of the questions I have been thinking about are : Can the flâneur be a flâneuse? Must he or she always haunt the city aloof and alone, or is ‘Flâneurie’ an activity that can be enjoyed in small groups, maybe of separate actors, each with his or her own turtle?

The flâneur is enjoying immense popularity on the Internet and blogosphere, among the hipster and (pseudo)intellectual crowd.  He is radical chic, a gentleman stroller whose eccentricity is afforded to him by indipendent wealth. He is a man of leisure who can make a statement about the bondage of work and busyiness: he is above it and does not need it.
On the other side of the coin, we might re-evaluate the ‘homeless’ people, the figure of the clochard (sounds better in French doesn’t it) as flâneurs without means, but with the same intellect and intent.  They also make the city their living room and library.

In “American Flaneur: The Cosmic Physiognomy of Edgar Allan Poe“, James V. Werner describes how ‘ highly self-aware, and to a certain degree flamboyant and theatrical, dandies of the mid-nineteenth century created scenes through outrageous acts like walking turtles on leashes down the streets of Paris. Such acts exemplify a flâneur’s active participation in and fascination with street life while displaying a critical attitude towards the uniformity, speed, and anonymity of modern life in the city.’

Hmm…Sounds like The Situationists.

A new interpretation of the activities of the flâneur appear in the writings of Guy Debord, the dérive also being a protest against the processes of consumption and capitalism:

One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.

–Guy Debord

While the flaneurs practiced ‘aimless wandering’, the Situationists devised processes to purposefully get lost.

There is no English equivalent for the French word flâneur. Cassell’s dictionary defines flâneur as a stroller, saunterer, drifter but none of these terms seems quite accurate. There is no English equivalent for the term, just as there is no Anglo-Saxon counterpart of that essentially Gallic individual, the deliberately aimless pedestrian, unencumbered by any obligation or sense of urgency, who, being French and therefore frugal, wastes nothinincluding his time which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savoring the multiple flavors of his city.

Cornelia Otis Skinner.

Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals, 1962

Watching is the chosen pleasure of flâneur. He is an ‘urban stalker’, as Susan Sontag defines him in her 1977 essay On Photography.  Modern flâneurs, let’s arm ourselves with cameras or a moleskine . Let’s pretend we are all ‘The Sartorialist’ and many, many other envoys on particular missions. Would you enjoy the streets of your city if you thought you were spying on someone, an urban detective, privy to secrets no-one else can know? What would the intelligence gathered from today? What stories could you tell(or draw)? What stories would the city reveal to you. There is so much life out there. And buildings are lessons.

Let the urban voyeurism begin.
Here are some useful links:

And, finally, my very own books for Parisian flanerie.

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John Hejduk. Sketch from Lake Baikal, part of the Vladivostok oeuvre

John Hejduk. Sketch from Lake Baikal, part of the Vladivostok oeuvre

John Hejduk. Sketch from Lake Baikal, part of the Vladivostok oeuvre

John Hejduk has been called one of the most influential architects and educators of our time..
He was also a poet, an artist and the Dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of the uber-prestigious Cooper Union in New York.

I am reviewing couple of his books, Vladivostok and The Mask of Medusa and thought I would share some of the ear-cornered pages.  Like Marco Polo, John Hedjuk’s travels start from Venice. Some of you may know my mother is from the Venice region, Treviso to be precise, and it was endearing to find the Serenissima in this book, a fascinating fusion of East and West, and even Milano, my birthplace. From the foreword:

 

The journey I have been on for the past ten years followed an eastern route starting at Venice, then moving north to Berlin through Prague, then northeast to Riga, from Riga Eastward to Lake Baikal and then on to Vladivostok. This has been, and is, a long journey.

Bodies of water mark the trek. Venice of the Adriatic, the lagoons, the Venetian canals, the river Vitava of Prague with its echoes of Rilke and Kafka, the waterways of Berlin, the Gulf of Riga, Lake Baikal, and the Sea of japan in Valdivostok. The elements giving off their particular atmospheres, and sounds, impregnate my soul with the spirit of place, place actual…place imagined.

The works from this journey are named and form trilogies.

In Venice;

The Cemetery of Ashes of Thought                                                                                                                                  

The Silent Wtnesses and

The 13 Watchtowers of Cannaregio

In Berlin;

Berlin Masque

Victims, and Berlin Night

In Russia;

Riga,

Lake Baikal, and

Vladivostok

[  ]

I state the above to indicate the nature of a practice.

[ ]

I have established a repertoire of objects/subjects, and this troupe accompanies me from city to city, from place to place, to cities I have been to and to cities I have not visited.  The cast presents itself to a city and its inhabitants. Some of the objects are buit and remain in the city; some are built for a time, then are dismantled and disappear;some are built, dismantled and move on to another city where they are reconstructed.

I believe that this method/practice is a new way of approaching the architecture of a city and of giving proper respect to a city’s inhabitants.

It confronts a pathology head-on

John Hejduk, 1989 

Hejduk’s work is provocative, political, polyedric. Read Errand, Detour, and the Wilderness Urbanism of John Hejduk, part of  Paroles d’Architects, an excellent collection of writings on architecture.

Also Sorkin on the Mask of Medusa, in Exquisite Corpse: Writing on Buildings.

Reading this book, at the nexus between literature and architecture reminds me of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. One of the future anterior projects: to illustrate Calvino’s cities. But it’s been done.

Cultural Minister

The Minister of Culture reads the works of Hawthorne, Flaubert and Hardy.What impresses him is the extraordinary love of women by these authors. Somehow the three writers are related through the strenght of Zanobia,Madame Bovary, and Batsheba. The Minister of Culture is aware of their seductions. He imagines, fabricates, and sews the dresses they had worn. He folds each garment and places it in an oblong box and waits for sundown. He precisely selects his victim, follows her, commits his crime, redresses herin the dress from the box, and places the body at the edge of the water. At Dawn he reads from the appropriate passages in a trembling voice.

 

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Stonehenge. Detail of trabeation (Post and Lintel). Considered one of the foremost examples of Megalithic Architecture (Mega+ Lithos, or Colossal Stone)Salisbury Plain, England. C.2750-1500 B.C.E

From my Friday’s History Class.

The Beginnings of Architecture covers Stonehenge, the caves at Lascaux and Altamira, and what we consider the beginning of the urban revolution in our hemisphere, the proto-cities of Catal Huyuk and Jericho. I will share weekly  my History powerpoints, well, okay, the ones I consider complete…next I want to sharpen up the lecture on Pre-Columbian|Precontact Architecture of the Americas and will then share it here.

See/Download the Presentation:

Week2_AR761_Beginnings_Stonehenge_Final

…and don’t forget to hear Eddie Izzard’s take on Stonehenge. My students always love to hear from this ‘expert’ 😉

Eddie Izzard on Stonehenge

Click to Stonehenge (Before Stonehenge there was Woodhenge and Strawhenge...)

These are the texts I use in my History of Architecture class:


Architecture: From Prehistory to Postmodernity
. 2nd ed. Marvin Trachtenberg and Isabelle Hyman. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, 2002

A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals. Spiro Kostof. Second Edition. Revisions by Greg Castillo. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

A World History of Architecture. Michael Fazio, Marian Moffett, Lawence Wodehouse. McGraw|Hill.

A Global History of Architecture. Francis D.K. Ching, Mark M. Jarzombek, and Vikramaditya Prakash. Wiley, 2006.

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Platonic Solid Exercise. Graphite on Paper. 2007

Happy September. Post coming late today, but it is a new month and I hope this, my birthday month (yay) will be better than the last- and all summer for that matter.  Lots of challenges and growth but…they don’t call them growing pains for nothing.

In my classes today we shared links on artists, visual notes, wonderful quotes, and great books.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  Things are getting really exciting and we are all growing by leaps and bounds. Good stuff and a great feeling of accomplishment at the end of this intense summer quarter. 

Few unrelated topics that I have been mulling over lately:

1.  Working out shadows in axonometric settings, like solving algebraic equations, helps to solve ourselves and gives us mathematical certainties (certainties that cannot be so cleanly and clearly found in real life).  I always heard math is not an opinion, and I am appreciating its impartiality, its justice even. I know now its compassion.

Still, a solution is relative to the light angle  we construct a priori, a philosophical question if there ever was one.

Shadows, like math, are either ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ relative to the established angle of light;  no room for fuzzyness, approximation, guessing. How refreshing. How pure the solution.  These (platonic) objects exists in an utopian airtight chamber or world, and the light is absolute, the light of truth.

The ‘real’ world (and ‘real’ shadows), like all matters of architecture and design and their ‘solutions’, are much more subtle, nuanced, grayscale— as opposed to black and white.
And so even truth is relative in our confounded orb.

2.  I am thinking of ways to design the freehand drawing classes to transcend drawing as transposing what we ‘see’ and help it become a design tool (depicting what may be, or possible scenarios).

It is a challenge, because the basic drawing techniques still need to be mastered, but the course could be imbued with and define a research path, becoming not only a stronger vehicle for learning, but generating material for publication. Exciting stuff, now it’s just a matter of  tightening up my interest areas and plan for action.

The Freehand Drawing and Rendering and Delineation classes will meet again next summer, and I have held some meetings to design its contents(more on this on coming posts) . Some words buzzing in my head are collages/assemblages, words, poetry, architecture, grayscale abstracts, visual notes/sketchnotes, inventories, data gathering quests, urban scavenging, pattern and in-formation.

3.   The more I grow as a passive designer- passive because I have been in an observing, absorbing mode for a while now…just storing information until the right moment comes- the more drawings i do, I am realizing that the challenges of design are not additive ones, but subtractive.

Learning what to remove, what to take away, leaving just the essential, is the challenge. Architecture is a matter of reduction, not addition.    Let me try to explain myself better. During our architectural education and pedestrian work experiences we are taught to include so many details, turn in complete drawings, complete construction documents sets etc. All of this is techniciams’ stuff. It is the drafter’s realm, or the CAD operator’s realm. It is not the Architect’s or designer’s province, which should aspire to loftier expressions. Design is abstraction of thought and ideas. It is reducing your concept to your most pure expression, cutting away all the fat and the unnecessary. Even the best art, I am finding, is painfully created by reducing your concept, feelings, ideas, to the most clear image, the prime number, the denominator. Significant work is created through ruthlessly leaving out all unnecessary data, information. Including too much is just self-indulgence; the disciplined designer pursues truth as she or he defines it and does not or cannot have time for self-indulgence. The purity of the idea is what one needs to be faithful to, everything else is interference by bureaucrats, technicians, pencil pushers.

Am I sounding like Howard Roark? WellI am in the process of defining a design philosophy and given the person that I am, this definition comes first in words , which will guide the action.  As my dear friend Lamees said, one is not to do without being first.  Be first–then do– then have…it all happens spontaneously.

Part of being an architect is accepting an elitist role, necessary not to set apart one from the rest of humanity, but to preserve the purity of the design idea, its drive and execution. Part of being an architect and an artist is learning to let go of many things once thought necessary and just rendering our work in the most pure, direct, potent way.

Finally, a quote that is driving my days, these days:


“What we think or what we know or what

we believe is, in the end, of little

consequence. 


The only consequence is what we do.”

 

John Ruskin

 

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Loose Rendering. Ink, watercolor, prismacolor pencils. August 2010.



Lately, I’ve favored the watercolor and pencil technique, but want to get back to working with markers.

I found these two great tutorials on marker renderings from my blog friend and Urban Sketcher extraordinaire Suzanne Cabrera at An [Open] Sketchbook: can’t wait to share them with my students!

{ Tutorial 1: Furniture/Fabric }

{ Tutorial 2: Interior Rendering }

As usual, the wonderful Color Drawing book by Doyle will provide a lifetime’s worth of lessons.


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A rare Renée Magritte. La Poitrine. 1961

Renée Magritte. Irene.

Renée Magritte. Le tombeur des lutteurs. 1960

Renee Magritte. Eulogy of the Dialectic.

Renée Magritte. Personal Values. 1952

In my search, I stumbled upon Myriam Mahiques, who shares some thoughts on Magritte, and Immateriality in Painting and Architecture.

Instances of Surrealist Architecture and Urban Design:

Click on the images for more details and to see source.

"39GeorgeV" is an urban surrealism manifesto. It sheltered the renovation of an Hausmannian building in Paris, during year 2007. It's a life-size photographic work based on the original building, printed on canvas, enhanced with bas-relief.

The Manifesto of the 39GeorgeV project.

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels. Installation of the new Magritte Museum 2008/09

From the exhibition:Painting the Glass House: Artists Revisit Modern Architecture.The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum,Ridgefield, CT.

“]“]

Frankfurt's Bockenheimer Warte Subway Station. From '10 Of The World’s Most Impressive Subway Stations'

Iphone painting by Steve John.

Son Of Mac. Magritte-inspired Apple Macbook art vinyl decal.

Magritte-ispired art vinyl decal for Apple Macbook.

Book : Surrealism and Architecture edited by Thomas Mical



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Something eye-opening occurred at my school yesterday.

I attended the exhibit for SoCal -Ex : Exploratory Design Workshop, completed by Professor Hector Perez and his students.

Here are the specific of the Workshop:

6 Explorers

Andrea Benavides/Alfredo Melly/Henry Palomino/Charles Santamaria/Nancy Tariga

25 Days

July 12-August 5

10 Field Trips

San Diego/La Jolla/Del Mar/San Juan Capistrano/Los Angeles/Santa Monica/Culver City/Venice/Pasadena/Palm Springs

9 Progressive Practices

Daly Genik Architects/Eric Owen Moss/Estudio Teddy Cruz/Gehry Technologies/Luce Et Studio/Michael Maltzan Architecture/Morphosis/Sebastian Mariscal Studio/Smith and Others

15 Extraordinary Residences

Charles and Ray Eames/Craig Ellwood/Christine & Russell Forester/Albert Frey/Frank Gehry/Greene and Greene/Coop Himmelblau/Alberto Kalach/Ed Killingsworth/Sebastian Mariscal/Kathy McCormick & Ted Smith/Richard NeutraRudolph Schindler/Don Wexler

I spoke with Professor Perez and he told me that the analysis of the case study residences and projects were concentrated on the ‘crown’, ‘body’ and ‘feet’ of the aedifices.

Through collages, reminiscent of Superstudio and Archigram, the field trips become a venue for envisioning alternative architectural and urban scenarios (Design Workshops). I hope you’ll enjoy these images just as much as I did; each collage read like a miniature work of art, and the juxtaposition of architectural drawings and bold hand-drawn colors created fantastic, detailed, abstract constructs.  What a wonderful way to illustrate architectural drawings, and bring to life photographs.  The collages, done by hand, using cutouts, colored pencils and paint had a physical presence, a texture that a purely digital (photoshopped) images invariably lack.

I am inspired to create some more collages of my own and…can’t wait for the book 😉

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Freehand Drawing- In Class exercise. After rendering with Espresso, we use the leftover coffee to draw chair combinations, or rather, the void around the chairs, in a figure-ground setting.

Another exercise with  ‘Drawing on the Righ Side of the Brain’.  By drawing the space, not the chair, the proportions were incredibly accurate in all drawings.  The drawings can be read as Nolli Maps of imaginary cities, we can see piazzas, palazzi…we can see perspective, spatial configurations/plans, abstract paintings… I love the ambivalent water medium, the subtle, duplicitous, always multilayered  sepia tone.

From 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain' by Betty Edwards

From Page 54:

Look at the drawings on the right-hand side of Figure 4-11. Studens 1 and 2 copied Picasso’s drawing right side up. As you can see, their drawings did not improve, and they use the same stereotypic, symbolic forms in their copies of the Picasso Stravinsky as they used in their Draw-a-Person drawings. In the drawings done by Student 2, you can see the confusion caused by the foreshortened chair and Stravinsky crossed legs.

In contrast, the second two students, starting out at about the same level of skill, copied the Picasso upside down, just as you did. The Student 3 and the Student 4 drawings show the results. Surprisingly, the drawings done upside down reflect much greater accuracy of perception and appear to be much more skillfully drawn.

How can we explain this?

The results run counter to common sense. You simply would not expect that a figure observed and drawn upside down could possibly be easier to draw, with superior results, than one viewed and drawn in the normal right-side-up way. The lines, after all, are the same lines. Turning the Picasso drawing upside down doesn’t in any way rearrange the lines or make them easier to draw.  And the students did not suddenly acquire “talent”.


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Mango. Watercolor. June 6, 2010.

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The Art wall I assembled last night, right in front of Adam's Futo Coffee Cart. Sit, sip a chilled coffee and enjoy.

I spent the better part of last night ‘curating’ and putting up a small show of my students’ work.

Last quarter I promised my Neoclassic to Modern Art students I  would organize an exhibit of their art in the main foyer of our school and I am happy to announce that that’s one promise kept:)

My students had the choice to either write an essay or pick a painting of their choice, research its symbolical meaning and attempt to blow up a detail reproducing  it in the same media of the original.  It was a way I thought students of an art lecture course could get closer to the art.

You can see the results of their efforts here.  My objective was not to have a typical gallery show, but combine all the work as in a collage, interspersing the canvases with the prints of the full scale work the students provided. It was a challenge to combine different shapes, colors (art curating and gallery display being an artform of their own) and be true to some sort of grid. The wall is bursting with energy. This was an Art intervention/injection for our architecture school!

I especially loved the documentation of the process. One student wrote what looked like a blog entry, taking photos of his painting at different stages:

‘It is so strange, I found, once I started painting,

I could not put the brush down.’

Well, my work here is done.

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What you see here is a prime spot, the little urban ‘piazzetta’ we have for drinking coffee @Futo’s, hearing Adam playing guitar (or his always interesting music selection), talking, scheming etc…..

As my professor Francisco Sanin would say, this is a place for moments of urbanity.

It’s a  bit of a clandestine show, art that just shows up during the night….as I did not clear all the red tape forehand, but I am hoping we are going to be able to enjoy these for one or two weeks.

So here, to all the students that asked me in the hallway, or staircases, or doorfront : When is our show?

Here you go:)

Oh, I will be at the San Diego ArtWalk in Little Italy (where else) this weekend, with artists, musician, street performers. My kind of people.
Want to come along?

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I can't wait to design a home with a sunken garden and a wind tower. Or the italian tradition of operable windows. Both would be ideal for San Diego's breezy and sunny summer weather. Look ma, no HVAC!

Last week I had the privilege to attend two remarkable lectures. The first, on Vernacular Architecture in Persia by the Architect Simi Razavian of MSA&Associates, Inc. Architecture, was a guest lecture part of my Non-Western Traditions seminar class. Simi masterfully shared with us passive-solar techniques used in her native Iran, the lyrical wind towers of Tabas and the use of natural elements in residential design, such as adobe for construction, wet straw and water for convective cooling (in conjunction with wind towers) and gardens and fountains as evaporative cooling channels and elements of sensorial delight.

I wonder how Leed points would work for buildings that seek to return to Nature, since Simi commented that , in all the Leed lectures she attended, Passive Solar was not even mentioned (but the lates triple glazed glass was, along with ways to maneuver the artificially calculated Leed ‘points’).

Through this lecture I was reminded of of my interest in school in adobe and Pueblo construction, and of two of my favorite books, Thermal Delight in Architecture (which incidentally contains an incredible description of a Persian hanging garden) and Earth to Spirit : In Search of Natural Architecture. Notions such as these, plus genius loci and architecture as humanities-based discipline is what initially drew me to Architecture (this and Antoni Gaudi). Yet I found in practice, with very few precious exceptions, what Le Corbusier calls ‘Construction. Not Architecture’ .

Where is the poetry?

Which brings me to the other lecture I attended later that day: James Brown  of Public, one of the most ‘soulful’ architecture firms in San Diego ( I have been aware of the reputation of Public for years, and James had me at hello with his phrase on ‘spirituality of material‘, his graceful demeanor and humble approach to defining architecture and process).  The courage of design conviction, the dedication to values such as meaning and pushing, nay, nudging boundaries is the best cure for the Nothing (yes, as in Neverending Story) that is swallowing the practice here in the US.

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